The following are random thoughts which popped up as I was reading The New York Times on Friday. This occurred at Starbucks, so a latte was involved, my reward for a workout at the gym. (Otherwise I would never be so self-indulgent; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
The right has no monopoly on seeing everything falling apart and wishing for older and better times. Any day’s newspaper will confirm to the rest of us the sad state of the nation. For example, gun sales soared in Newtown after the Sandy Hook massacre. In Michigan, a white man shot and killed a black woman who came to his door, apparently seeking help after an auto accident.
We incarcerate more people than any other supposedly advanced country, many for life for minor crimes. Alleged Democrats are deserting the foundering ship of health care reform while Republicans attack a conservative program and pretend that the U.S. has a good health care system.
Serious problems are not an American monopoly. Paul Krugman’s column about European economics demonstrates that others are as ideologically self-destructive as we. I used to think that Germany was better at learning from its mistakes; no longer.
Art sales, bringing incredible prices, demonstrate that some people have way too much money and no taste. The Times’ art reviews also demonstrate the latter, and the ads on pages 2 and 3 demonstrate the former and often both.
One of the sellers in the recent auctions was a hedge fund billionaire whose wholly-owned company has pled guilty to insider trading, illustrating the manipulative nature of the financial sector. Income and wealth are concentrated in the highest percentages of the population, or fractions thereof, at the expense of the rest of the citizens and of the national welfare. Hedge fund managers have bizarre incomes. Actually, the problem isn’t so much their income. If investors are silly enough to allow compensation of that magnitude, often for below-market performance, so be it, but we should not further reward the managers — and rob the public coffers — by taxing their fees at capital gain rates.
There is a source of brief respite from this depressing scene. In May, we saw "Top Hat," in October "Anything Goes": lots of energy, good music, great dancing. It’s impossible not to feel better during and afterward. Note the age of the shows: popular music was better in the Thirties.
Also, we coped better then, with greater challenges, and were more nearly united, despite carping which — so little changes in some ways — included cries of "socialism" and attacks on the President. The latter, though, are more barbaric today. (I seem to have drifted back to the dark side. It doesn’t go away for long).