Sunday, June 19, 2011

Same Can be Said for Americans

This article struck me today. It argues that the problems of Mexico has to do with the traits of its citizens.
Which country holds the record for the tallest artificial Christmas tree? Mexico. The biggest taco? Mexico. The greatest number of people kissing each other for the longest period of time? The most people dancing together to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"? Mexico and Mexico.

You could view this obsession with getting into the Guinness book of world records as a charming national idiosyncrasy. But there is also a more disturbing explanation. As a people, Mexicans shun genuine competition. Claiming Guinness records is a way of winning something without actually having to compete one-on-one. No one really loses because no other country is actually out there trying to cook the world's largest tamale.

The anti-competition trait pops up in other ways that are far less benign than simply trying to get into the record books. Consider what happened last month in Michoacan, one of the country's most beautiful and historic states, and a place that has seen skyrocketing levels of violence in the wake of President Felipe Calderon's ill-fated war on drugs. Leaders there floated what they billed as an innovative idea. Instead of a robust competition for votes among the three main political parties in the upcoming governor's race, they proposed having the parties agree on a single candidate, thus avoiding polarization and opportunities for the drug cartels to try to corrupt the process. LAT
The same could be argued about the U.S.--our problems are rooted in the traits of our citizens. Namely greed and entitlement. Our quest for more stuff and bigger stuff led to the recession. Our recession, which arguably triggered a global recession, was caused by the collapse of our housing industry.
It came straight out of Elizabeth Warren's mouth: If proof of income were required to buy a house, we wouldn't have had a recession.
In my opinion, we wouldn't have gotten the tea party either. The tea party popped up in response to the call to bail out homeowners who irresponsibly bought their homes. Many people bought homes because they felt entitled. Many bought more home than they could afford. Many had no business buying a home at all. That irresponsibility had a ripple effect of mass layoffs and subsequently brought down responsible homeowners and the population in general. Of course, the poorest among us are always affected the worst.
Sure, you could say people were tricked by mortgage companies, but ultimately, it's the buyer's responsibility. A home purchase shouldn't be taken lightly and there are many financial considerations involved. Another American trait: financial and economic illiteracy.
Nor should homeowners haves squeezed their homes for that third car or that bigger TV.
In my opinion, there's been a lot of rightful blaming of Wall Street, which exploited our greed, but Americans continue to deny that we had any responsibility whatsoever. Now people are blaming "corporate America" for not hiring and blaming the government for not "creating jobs," as if it could.
I don't see any signs of Americans reckoning with the fact that we've lived beyond our means for too long.