The topsy-turvy financial and political events of the past two weeks have demonstrated the irrationality of our thinking at a time when clear thinking is what is most needed.
We rail against greedy Wall Street’s effect on Main Street as the DOW bounces around like a knuckleball without realizing that the two intersect. Yes, Main Street has traditionally supplied the workers for the companies traded on the Stock Exchanges – workers who’ve often been given the shaft by those companies, which are seeking greater profits and higher dividends for their shareholders. (See the excellent recent “The Gilded Age” – a not-so-distant mirror – on PBS’ “American Experience,” my favorite program.)
But Wall Street is also the tide that lifts all boats. Wall Street enabled me to care for the beloved aunt who raised me when she was dying of her dementia, restore and improve our house after it was hit by a tree in the nor’easter of March 2010; buy my car; and fund my dream of being a novelist. In doing all these things, I have employed others. That’s the ripple effect of investing. So it’s not either/or.
We need Wall Street just as Washington needs New York. (Remember the words of that ultimate New Yorker, Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury: “Power without revenue is a mere bauble.”) Yet at the same time you can’t ride a tiger. That’s why most American presidents, unlike Donald J. Trumpet, divorce themselves and the economy from the stock market’s day-to-day fluctuations. They realize as Jay Carney, President Barack Obama’s personable press secretary (oh, for those days) tweeted: “You claim the rise, you own the fall.” Economics is more nuanced than a Trumpet blast.
So is politics. Trumpet wants a parade for the military like the one he was treated to by French President Emmanuel Macron on Bastille Day last July 14. (One of the effects of narcissism is a weak, damaged ego that is so insecure it jumps on the last idea presented and on any chance to show off.) We have days to honor the military, principally two – Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. We don’t flaunt our military might precisely because we have it. We’re not the French, who haven’t been a military superpower since the 18th century, or the North Koreans or the Russians, who live under totalitarianism. We’re Americans.
Instead of wasting millions on a parade of military might, why not use the money to improve the lot of our service men and women and veterans? Rather, those of us who oppose the parade will be put in the same camp with kneeling NFL players and the Democrats who sat stone-faced during the president’s “Kumbaya” State of the Union speech. We’ll be branded as unpatriotic. But patriotism is not blind allegiance.
It’s unfortunate that the world now sees everything in black and white, because some of us resisters are that vanishing breed – moderates. After the Super Bowl, critics lambasted Dodge for using the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in its Ram Truck commercial. I’m never in favor of crass commercial exploitation. But I looked at it the same way that I saw Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” overture as the soundtrack for NBC’s Winter Olympics promo – high art meeting popular culture. Just maybe there were football fans out there who never really stopped to consider King’s words or Mozart’s melodies before.
And maybe, just maybe, they stopped and listened.