Friday, November 21, 2008

Patriotism and Bailouts

I was reading an article by Rev. Jim Wallis [Sojourners] about his prayers for the workers in his hometown of Detroit and the question came to mind: "What does patriotism mean when it comes to economics?"

I recall a day, three decades ago, when a worker from Chrysler that I personally know refused to speak to my ex-husband because he'd bought a Subaru. Some younger people might say "How odd." But back then it was true - if you bought a foreign car in the '70s you were looked at with resentment by American auto workers. I'd witnessed a long friendship hanging in the balance over one friend's challenging another about his consumer-choices. I think that it's only now that I've come to a full realization regarding the fears of that Chrysler worker back in 1977.

The economic survival today of so many American auto workers who are innocently caught up in the great leveling of the global playing field is dependent upon our government seeing the pitfalls and fault-lines of pure Capitalism and government's acknowledging that they have failed in their hesitation, for politics' sake, to stem the tide of the ever-rapidly and inevitable outsourcing of American business. In the early years of globalization, responsible regulation by government would not have had to have been legislated in the spirit of cutting off free markets, but to show responsibility and goodwill intent to protect the American worker - and the Middle Class from which he or she was a part - from undue hardship. To be patriotic today wouldn't be to leave millions of workers at risk in a culture of inevitable greed that came with the global markets opening up and too little regulations and laws to protect the Middle Class.

When it comes to the current debate about bailing out the big auto companies and securing millions of jobs, the problem our elected US legislators face is the inability to reconcile their past failures of realistic leadership with what appears to be a move - this bailout proposal - that defies their hard stands on respective economic philosophies.

It's understandable to question the fairness of the bailout in the current global market. But is it fair to the American worker who was never realistically led by her government to responsibly be able to track her realistic economic path and its pitfalls on her personal map? After all, as an average citizen, she wasn't required to be an intellectual, a sociologist, an attorney, or an economist. Is it fair to the Middle Class in America to suffer undue hardship, by simply allowing milllions of jobs to be sucked under with the tide of poor past political leadership? What about more citizens who will lose related jobs while investors lose more confidence and citizens lose more faith in their leaders?

When it comes to patriotism and our American communities great and small, either we citizens are in this together or we shouldn't be in it at all. Now's not the time for harsh judgments about the auto companies' failures. Instead, it's the time for vision and for the greatest leadership possibly ever seen in US history -- the kind of leadership that will inspire us to see that America is strongest when we, especially our leaders, humbly admit past mistakes and invite us all to work together to correct them without unduly punishing ourselves. Most important, the time for politicians and pundits holding on to extreme economic philosophy is over in a country where the Middle Class is economically imploding and the world watches for America to lead.

Note: Warren Buffett says, [..] any automaker bailout package should include a business solution, and be negotiated by the president, not Congress.[..]