9/11 And The Seige Mentality In The Economy

My latest American Issues Project column delves into the American psyche. I think the overspending spree that both individual Americans and then the banks and ultimately the Fed partook in the last few years can be traced back to the 9/11 attacks.

I’m interested in what you guys think about my theorizing. Here’s a bit of the article:

I’ve heard and have said myself, that there is a character flaw, typically American now, where people expect to live at a kingly level on a pauper’s wage. And that might be partly true. When my housekeeper has thousands of dollars in video games and equipment and seems mystified that I wouldn’t have those things because “I can’t afford them,” something is off in the psychology. Need and want are all mixed up.

Still, I don’t think this character flaw completely explains the problem. And even more importantly, many people don’t have this problem and the people who have lived within their means, or below, are now being asked by banks and corporations and fellow citizens to foot the bill for the collective. It’s not going over so well, thus the Tea Party movement is born.

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President Bush was criticized for not asking Americans to sacrifice, but people have short memories. I remember the parking lots around the Doctor’s Office building and it was empty. People were paralyzed. Afraid. The Twin Towers stood out like two beacons (or eye-sores depending on your aesthetics) in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district. Osama bin Laden knew exactly what he was doing when the Twin Towers were targeted. Capitalism and freedom were being attacked and every American knew it.

So General Motors, to shore up the economy, offered, for the first time in my living memory (I’m a GM brat and grew up around cars and the car companies) 0 percent financing. We all sat around discussing this anomaly. Someone is paying that interest. How long can this last? Well, it lasted, alright, a lot longer than anyone imagined. Americans got accustomed to cheap credit and due to the competitive nature of things companies would lose money in order to gain or keep, or in GM’s case, lose market share.

I believe 9/11 shifted the American mentality and that there’s a shift back, a correction, now. It has less to do with a changed external threat reality, and more to do with the fact that a person and a people cannot maintain that level of high alert indefinitely.

And, by the way, I don’t think any of this has anything to do with Barack Obama. He just happens to be the President. He is, however, creating a situation where he is perpetuating, inadvertently, the problem.

Cross-posted at MelissaClouthier.com

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