The challenge facing our country over the next couple of years, at least, is a government that will be asked to do so much: bailing out banks; bailing out other financial institutions (include American Express to the list of corporations asking for help); bailing out states; bailing out the auto industry; creating an economy based on the manufacturing of something vs. consumption.
A year or so ago, when we were marveling at a rapidly rising stock market and scoffing at anyone who suggested that it was basically an uber pyramid scheme, it was suggested that poor people needed more self discipline, a greater concern for family, more accountability and they needed to correct misplaced priorities. Now we find out that one reason we are in this mess, because working people, financial institutions and other corporations, needed to exercise more self discipline, more accountability, greater (more realistic) concern for their families' financial future and better priorities.
At first, we questioned whether it was the government's role to bail out consumers whose decisions got them in such trouble that they were losing their homes. Then we decided that corporations had to be bailed out because the economy was threatened. Then we decided that we couldn't bail out corporations without bailing out the middle class (i.e. consumers).
Can government do all of that?
Another question: do we now have greater sympathy toward those who were poor before the collapse and remain poor now? I mean, all of us who made poor decisions and exemplified misplaced values - bought homes and cars we couldn't afford; sold or bought 'derivatives' without knowing how the value was calculated and what value was left in them before they were bought or sold? Those of us who sucked the equity out of our homes to pay for vacations, or second homes? In other words, all of us who now need, ad hope for, government help?
Someone questioned (before the collapse), whether or not 'these people' should be taken care of by churches and charitable organizations. After all this was their mission, the writer opined, this was the reason they existed. This was not the role of government.
Take a look at what John DiIulio, the former director of the Federal Office of Faith-Based Initiatives said in Dallas in 2001, "Even if all 353,000 religious congregations in America doubled their annual budgets and devoted them entirely to the cause of social services, and even if the cost of government social welfare programs was magically cut by one-fifth, the congregations would barely cover a year's worth of Washington's spending costs." If we were to place that burden on churches and other religious institutions we would, according to DiIulio, "...abdicate the legitimate responsibility of government."
I wonder how many of those who blamed the values of the poor on their poverty feel the same way now - now that we all, directly or indirectly, are on welfare!
Should the government be doing all of this? The government is us. We don't have anyone else. We really never have.