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October 19, 2008

Economic values

Weeping for America

I recently read some very pertinent articles from the Investor’s Business Daily editorial page of Sept. 24 by respected columnists Robert Samuelson, Michael Cosgrove and Thomas Sowell. They all three discuss our current financial crisis, and they almost make me cry.

Where have our members of Congress been while this current crisis was building? Where was their “reputed wisdom” to hold their elected office? And worse, where were we, the constituents?

The real power for change rests with the Congress. But Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid seem to be out of touch in their zeal for partisan politics — let the American people be damned; I’m getting mine first, and the Democratic Party second.

There will be a long, dark period ahead of us before any sense of normalcy returns to this country. And now we, the electorate, face an election of our next president and Congress. The choices are bleak.

Those standing for office show no sense in their campaigns of the problems ahead, nor of how to bring personal, national, and fiscal discipline back to the forefront of this country’s actions.

Where are those who would speak for such a move? I weep for us.

Robert E. White
Bonner Springs

Stop putting money first

The financial and economic crisis we face brings to us the opportunity to recreate a system that corrects some of glaring deficits of the latest economic regime. The environment and human rights must be integral parts of the new economic order that we create.

No longer can we accept an order where monetary capital takes precedent over human rights. No longer can we accept economic equations where environmental impact is ignored or minimized. No longer can we devour the planet’s resources with impunity.

We must learn that a good, simple life is not only possible but desirable. We all lose in this resource race that ravages the place we call home.

Finally, we must learn to share. We only have this place to call home. There are a lot of us here. It seems self-evident that if we expect to continue living here and want a decent existence, our only chance is to learn to share and get along with each other.

Ken Gates
Overland Park



Wake Up America
I am an American citizen and a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. For too long I have witnessed our country slowly decline, but for those looking for the usual scapegoats of big business and President Bush, the current economic crisis is a sign of much deeper problems and one only need to look in the mirror for the root cause. Though I will certainly feel the indirect effects of the current economic crisis, I attribute the lack of direct effects to the values of discipline, respect, personal responsibility, and self-reliance I learned growing up and from my time in the military.

The sad truth no one wants to admit is that we are to blame. Our self-indulgent culture emphasizing a live for today mentality provides us with the near-term gratification of cars and vacations at the expense of long-term savings and paying for things as you go. My father-in-law is a bank VP in a small Nebraskan town of 20,000 people, yet he estimates 75% of the people entering his bank for loans have around $10,000 in credit card debt compared to the national average of $8,700 and as many as 30% have $30,000 or more. I vividly remember my childhood, including many years I lived in a trailer in Oklahoma. I learned a degree of humility and thrift that carry with me to this day. It’s the reason I’ve refinished four used dressers for my children at a fraction of the cost of new ones or why my wife and I repeatedly shop at thrift stores despite being well off otherwise. One of the core ingredients of any military unit is discipline; something I believe has helped insulate me from the current crisis and is the only true correction to self-indulgence. People should quite blaming “deceptive lending practices” and decide whether they can really afford a $300,000 home on a $50,000 a year income based on simple math. Discipline is why I have over 20% of my income from each pay check immediately invested and the reason I don’t carry a credit card balance. It’s also the reason I lived in base housing at my first assignment because I couldn’t afford what I wanted off base.

I attribute part of this self-indulgence to the continued break-down of the American family. It’s easy for people to have kids, but much different to be a parent. Not enough people are instilling basic values in their children, due to parents not being involved in their children’s lives. It seems fewer and fewer kids are taught the importance of hard-work and saving for the future. Basic values of respect for other people and personal responsibility are an afterthought. Whenever something goes wrong, people are quick to point to external factors as the cause rather than look internally. It’s always someone or something else’s fault. I believe it’s also the reason we so quickly seek lawsuits in order to cash in on the perceived injustice. My uncle worked for an insurance company. He relayed a story of three boys who ignored warning signs, climbed a fence and scaled an oil storage tank. When they decided to use a match to look inside the tank’s hatch, all three were killed instantly, yet somehow the oil company was at fault. While certainly not perfect, the military does an excellent job of demonstrating responsibility through accountability. I’ve repeatedly seen examples of military members taking responsibility for their own actions and others being held accountable for their mistakes. It’s something we pride ourselves on that actions have consequences and results, positive or otherwise, must be addressed. Yet somehow these ideas seem to be increasingly absent in our society.

I believe this increasing vacuum in values has translated into the growing entitlement mentality among far too many of our citizens. The government safety net has become a hammock with far too many all too comfortable to use it rather than relying on their own abilities and determination. While I certainly support limited government assistance to help people in need, it can’t be something that people abuse or utilize endlessly. My mother-in-law overheard a lady in a nail salon discussing when she would pick up her WIC benefits as the lady got her nails done. Where are this woman’s priorities and more importantly, where is this person’s sense of right and wrong or personal pride? Though my wife has been “entitled” to unemployment benefits each time she lost her job as we relocated to another military base; she never collected a single cent. Not only are these entitlement programs helping to bankrupt our country; they weaken our moral fiber and remove individual initiative. I don’t believe social security will be available when I ultimately retire, thus I’ve being saving roughly 20% of my income per paycheck since I was 24. I’ve forgone many of today’s wants for tomorrow’s needs because I don’t expect government to provide my retirement.

Not everything is a lost cause, but I worry less about terrorists attacking America and more at the weakening values and overspending that are undermining this country. It doesn’t require a spectacular attack to kill an elephant, a 1,000 paper cuts will suffice. It’s quite clear that socialistic policies don’t work in the long run, yet we continue to embrace them through various forms of wealth redistribution. It’s also clear a significant part of why Britain, France and Spain are second rate powers today is they became over-extended and over spent themselves. Our $10 trillion debt will come back to haunt us. I do believe in this country and know enough of the positive remains to carry us through this situation, but unless we arrest this slide we will become as marginalized as those countries mentioned above. The solution: take back your government and take back your country. Our democracy and way of life are fragile; if we continue this apathy and complacency we can lose this democratic experiment. The silver lining of this current crisis is a possible reemergence of basic values of self-reliance, personal responsibility, a refocus on families, and a new appreciation of a simpler life. We need people to realize that to correct our personal and government spending will require sacrifice from everyone in the form of less government handouts. Unless we do so, we may look back in 50 years and wonder where it all went and why people think of us as the “worst generation.”


Ken Gates is speaking idealistically. Surely we're not so cynical as to deny the fact that our current system isn't perfect. Gates is speaking in reaction to the recent troubles. He's a bit naive in tone and no he doesn't offer any concrete solutions (who could in 150 words?), but I don't think that when asking that we place more emphasis on the planet and the people inhabiting it he is advocating Communism.


Transferring economic control from a free society to an authoritarian government is the definition of a fascist, socialist, communist or generally collectivist form of government.

If we were to create a new economic system that doesn't include the freedom to choose how and to what extent we participate, then we are no longer free. If we are no longer free, then we are slaves of a collectivist state and are subject to the control of the government regardless if the government is elected by 51% or is a military dictator.

That is why his letter wreaks of communism.


Economic and environmental rights are protected under our current government. Just what changes does the writer want? The letter does not outline or suggest just what changes he has in mind. In the past those who have used his type of rhetoric have also been pushing communism or some kind of collective society. So when we hear these words that in the past have been code words, isn't it only logical that we assume they mean what their users have always meant in the past?


"The part about creating a new economic order."

Is it the word "Order" that has you scared? Every time a new economic or tax policy is enacted, a new economic order is created.


"The environment and human rights must be integral parts of the new economic order that we create. What is Communist about that I ask?"

The part about creating a new economic order.



From the letter, "The environment and human rights must be integral parts of the new economic order that we create."

What is Communist about that I ask?

And you still haven't explained how this guy, when asking that we take human rights and environmental health into consideration when making policies, is an advocate for the Communist countries you say have such poor environmental and human rights records.



From the letter, "The environment and human rights must be integral parts of the new economic order that we create."

What is Communist about that I ask?

And you still haven't explained how this guy, when asking that we take human rights and environmental health into consideration, is an advocate for the Communist contries you say have such poor environmental and human rights records.


"However, he also asks for policies that are SOCIALLY and environmentally RESPONSIBLE. There is nothing communist about that."

Thanks for the laugh, repete.



Ken does use the word "share", so I can understand how your knee jerked and the charge "communism" came out. However, he also asks for policies that are socially and environmentally responsible. There is nothing communist about that. What part of the letter confused you?


Other countries have tried your system, Ken. It is called communism. I would like you to compare the U.S. record regarding environmental impact and human rights to any communist country. Good luck in finding factual support for your cherished economic system. You're going to need it.


Hey Ken, you know where I can get some 'shrooms?

I could almost hear the Yanni playing in the background.

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