There are a lot of words and phrases kicked around these days that I don't like. Poster child. Holy grail. Kick the can down the road. At the end of the day.
Another one that I hear a lot is "the new normal." I'm not sick of it yet, but it seems like its use is growing. I think that's because people are beginning to realize that our recent (or current, depending on your point of view) recession is so very different from those of the past and, let's face it, most Americans can't stand the idea of getting by with less.
Our "old normal" consumer-driven economy only prospers when people are buying stuff. Lots of stuff. So, if you're one of those people who fill their house and garage with things you don't really need, you're one of those star-spangled Americans who keep the economic engines purring. If, on the other hand, you limit your purchases to the basics, the necessities of life, you might be a good world citizen but you're a few stars removed from the U.S. Top Consumers ratings.
Politicians point to the 16 percent poverty rate in the U.S. as a black mark on this country, yet most of our country's poorest look positively affluent when compared to some of the world's truly poor, people who don't have access to healthy food, basic medical care, sanitary toilets or safe drinking water.
With so many countries aspiring to improve the lot of their citizens on a planet growing by 200,000 people every day, it should be obvious that competition over global resources will only get tougher as we go forward. Plus, consider that fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas - are finite resources. Once they're gone, they're gone and they're not coming back. Truth be known, no one knows for sure how much is left so we don't really know when we'll run out. We do know, however, that using these fuels has a terrible effect on our environment. So why do some push for using up these resources even faster than we have?
Is it any wonder that all sorts of investors - including hedge funds and super-rich individuals - are grabbing up land in Africa where the cost is cheap and the profit potential is huge?
It might be helpful after all to refer to our current economic situation as "the new normal." This sorting out process has been a long time coming. In a world with finite resources, a growing population, an ever-changing climate and the persistent human longing to do better than previous generations, it should be obvious that the consumption patterns that Americans have practiced since the end of World War II are unsustainable. Add to that the crippling and expanding income inequality that is pushing the United States ever closer to being a true plutocracy, and it's evident that most of us will have to get by with less.
The lifestyles of previous generations that carried them through the Great Depression and World War II are more consistent with what lifestyles should be today. For the most part, those Americans did just fine as they joined together in a spirit of cooperation and shared sacrifice that gradually faded through the prosperous post-war years and were virtually gone within 20 years.
To get back to the unity and common purpose of those times should be the real American dream.