September 20, 2009

Why is the U.S. such a short-term thinking country?

I’ve noticed this for years and years and years. The U.S. builds for obsolescence and then we buy new stuff to replace the “old” stuff. Part of our consumer culture. Part of our “right” as U.S. citizens to have whatever we want, whenever we want, and regularly.

Our leaders avoid short-term pain that would produce long-term gain. We aren’t aggressively dealing with global warming and alternative energy because the short-term pain is too great. And elected officials want to be re-elected.

We give big bonuses to CEOs based on short-term profits. But (as Paul Krugman notes in his New York Times “Reform or Bust” op-ed, 09-21-09), we don’t punish for longer-term losses and closings.

We adopt protectionist economic policies, appeasing immediate fears, but disregard the longer-term results. Just read David Rockefeller’s op-ed “Present at the Trade Wars,” New York Times, 09-21-09.

Why is the U.S. such a short-term thinking country? Gutless? Unwilling to face tough issues and fix them? Naive? We just keep thinking that things will get better – or won’t be as bad as it’s likely they’ll be?

I don’t know why. But I do know that short-term thinking is screwing up this country.

“Innocent Until Executed. We have no right to exoneration.” Article in Newsweek by Dahlia Lithwick. The U.S. Supreme ruled that a prisoner doesn’t have a constitutional right to demand DNA testing – even if the prisoner pays the cost! Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the decision: “A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man.” So the U.S. will execute people – even when we can use DNA testing to prove that the person is guilty or not – even if the prisoner would pay the expenses. Surely this decision by the Supremes is morally wrong, should be criminal.Off with their heads (the Supremes)!

“Free Speech by the Millions. Corporate cash plots a comeback,” by Howard Fineman, 09-21-09 Newsweek. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing the case right now. Corporations want to give however much money they want to give to candidates. Free speech, right? But corporations have more money and, hence, can speak louder than individuals. As the article author says: “Let corporations spend money to praise or oppose candidates. But put limits on how much they can spend, a concept the court has sanctioned in other contexts. That way, corporations can speak, just like the rest of us, but not so loudly that we can’t hear ourselves think.” By the way, read this book or watch this DVD, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, by Joel Balkan.

“I was a teenage death panelist,” by editor Jon Meacham, 09-21-09 issue of Newsweek. Meacham talks about how he and family members talked (and decided) whether to continue unusual healthcare interventions for dying family members. Talking about death. Coming to terms – family members and patients – about what to do. How can this be a bad idea? We have to become comfortable with death; that’s life. And the absurd panic and lies coming from people – citizens and elected officials – is shameful. Watch that video I told you about in a previous rant.

“Obama’s Squandered Summer,” by Frank Rich, 09-13-09 New York Times. Obama should have spoken up earlier about healthcare. “Obama’s deliberative brand of wait-and-then-pounce leadership let him squeak by – barely – through the summer. The real crises already gathering won’t wait for him to stand back and calculate the precise moment to spring the next “Do-or-Die Speech.” Stop the bipartisan passive leadership, Obama.

“The Recession’s Racial Divide,” by Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad in the 09-13-09 New York Times. Yes, there is racism. Yes, the poor are more black than white. Just because we have a Black President doesn’t mean racism is over. Have you read Ehrenreich’s books? Try these: Nickel and Dimed – On (Not) Getting By in America, Bait and Witch – The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, This Land is Their Land.

Filed under: Social Commentary

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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