Our "Make It Look Good" Economy Has Failed
(May 29, 2014)
When rigged numbers are the basis of our success, we have failed.
The essence of the U.S. economy is make it look good: never mind quality or long-term consequences, just make it look good today, this week, this month, this quarter: make the pink slime look like meat, make the company look profitable, make the low-quality product look good enough to close the sale, make the unemployment rate low enough to justify re-electing the toadies currently in power, make the body count of bad guys look good, and on and on--just makes the numbers look good now, the future will take care of itself.
This is, of course, an attractive lie: the future is a direct consequence of present decisions and actions. It is remarkable how quickly we latch onto the notion that an endless parade of lies, manipulations and deceptions will magically produce a warm and fuzzy future of organic growth fostered by sound investments.
Alas, an economy that relies on an endless parade of lies, manipulations and deceptions has only one possible future: failure--abject, total, undeniable, devastating. Equally remarkable is the current conviction that absurd extremes in manipulation--the billions of dollars of corporate buybacks pushing stocks higher, the socialization of the U.S. mortgage market, where privately issued mortgages (unbacked by government guarantees) have virtually vanished, the ginned-up unemployment number (remove enough potential workers from the count and the unemployment rate is soon near-zero)--will magically lead to an economy that no longer needs extreme manipulations to sustain itself.
All these lies (if we are bold enough to call a lie a lie) and manipulations cannot possibly herald in an economy of honest reporting, market discovery of price and sound investments.
This is equivalent to doing nothing but eating junk food while playing martial-arts videogames for months on end and then expecting to beat Tony Jaa in a real-world sparring match. Only people who've lost touch with reality would think that getting fat and wheezy playing videogames while eating Happy Meals and Ho-Hos would create a future that required an entirely different set of decisions and disciplines.
America is completely out of touch with reality: gaming statistics and making credit free to financiers doesn't create jobs, any more than stuffing one's face with junk food and playing videogames prepares one to avoid getting beaten to a pulp in a real martial arts match.
The misguided individual who reckons that foisting make it look good cons will magically create productive investments soon discovers that cons, lies and manipulations are all one-way streets: a make it look good con has only one future: a bigger con, to cover up the disastrous consequences of the initial con.
The U.S. economy won't fail in the future: it has already failed. Just as the delusional coach-potato who stuffs himself with Happy Meals and Ho-Hos to prepare for a real-world sparring match failed at the first bite, so too have we failed with the first lie, the first gamed statistic, the first Federal Reserve manipulation, the first fudged "profit."
Liars often entertain the fantasy that the initial make it look good illusion can eventually be replaced with real numbers and real integrity: but that too is a lie, a lie the liar tells himself. A house of cards constructed of lies, manipulations, fudged numbers, ginned-up statistics and cleverly constructed deceptions cannot suddenly become a structure built on integrity, accountability and honest reporting of facts; it will always be fragile, for a single truth and a single unvarnished fact can bring down the entire contraption.
This is where our endless parade of lies, manipulations and deceptions has led us: to a future of more lies, manipulations and deceptions because untruth is a black hole; once our first manipulation pushes us past the event horizon, there is no way back to honesty, accountability and factual reporting.
Officially sanctioned lies, manipulations and deceptions erode trust in institutions and the bedrock belief that honesty, integrity, accountability, hard work and productive investments are the keys to advancement.
Once a people have been trained to swallow an endless parade of lies, manipulations and deceptions in order to get their share of the system's swag, they lose the ability to practice accountability, integrity and honesty. Their own complicity renders them incapable of trusting the system or anyone else playing the make it look good game.
Eventually they lose the ability to even recognize accountability, integrity and honesty, much less live them.
America's economy has already failed. It failed when our leaders turned to lies and manipulation to make it look good, and it failed when we bought the lies because it was so much less risky than demanding a factual accounting.
When rigged numbers are the basis of our success, we have failed.
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