A couple of weeks ago, Frontline kept me up late when I got sucked into their four-part expose on the 2008 financial meltdown, Money, Power, and Wall Street. As always for Frontline, it was an incisive examination of the topic, revealing nuances that the mainstream press mostly overlooked. And it doesn’t appear that anything substantial has been done to repair the damage. The government threw (and continues to throw) lots of money at the problem, while any teeth of reform have been filed down by lobbyists.
I, like most Americans, have my own life to live, and can’t obsess about how big money is corrupting our republic. I have moments of clarity like cold water being splashed on my face, then I bury my head in the sand again. (Which means the sand is going to stick to my wet face. How’s that for mixed metaphors?)
Then my wife and I were talking about generational differences last night, started by a seminar a week ago by a rather good presenter speaking about the challenges of teaching to the Millennials/Generation Y/whatever the hell they end up being called. I had a few quibbles with his generational divides, based mostly on my reading of The Fourth Turning many moons ago. Which got me wondering how Strauss & Howe viewed current events, and if they thought things were lining up for the Crisis period that they had predicted.
Neil Howe believes that the Fourth Turning began with the 2008 financial crisis. Makes sense to me.
A comment on that post led me to a blog called the Burning Platform, where the proprietor has written up a very long analysis of the current Crisis in three parts, entitled You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. His politics appear to be a bit askew (from mine [though so are Neil Howe's]), with a dash of conspiracy theory thrown in, but the vast majority of his points appear sound to me. (Just, for God’s sake, don’t read the comments! 9/11 nuts, crazy fundies of all stripes, and New World Order gold-standard bearers, oh my!)
I’m fairly convinced that the chickens are going to come home to roost over the deregulated banking industry sometime in the next eighteen months. Perhaps appreciably sooner. The news about JP Morgan Chase underscores that these banks are still engaging in risky behavior and are too big and too dumb to stop it. Perhaps when the debt ceiling looms again later this year it will be the breakdown that leads an authority figure (presumably the President) to step forward and take extraordinary measures. I know that it’s cliche to bring up the Nazi’s in totalitarian rhetoric, but I hope that whichever President has the reins then is not a Hitler, or a Caesar crossing the Rubicon, but an FDR, a Lincoln, or dare we hope, one(s) who has(have) the mettle and foresight of the Founders. I worry how Obama will perform in such a crucible, but perhaps the last four years have given him the on-the-job training. Romney thrown into such a crisis I suspect would be an unmitigated disaster, but he has been such a cipher to this point that it’s near impossible to judge what his true leadership would be under extreme pressure.
Being a (more or less) liberal, I think Obama’s stated values (some of which have been compromised over his first term) would be better for the continued health of the country, post-Crisis. But perhaps it will not be this President who will be the great leader who will save us or destroy us during the Crisis, but the next one. After all, we’re probably in this thing for 10-15 more years.
I would like for this to all be conspiracy theory, but historical cycles are clearly real, and the timing looks too convincing to ignore. Must not stick head back in sand…
The good news (assuming Strauss & Howe’s cycles are correct) is that now is the time when we can achieve great solutions to the conflicts of our day and forge a new, better consensus. But no one says it’s going to be easy.