Chris Yandek and I had been speaking over the last number of weeks about the economic challenges facing America. There’s high unemployment. There’s a gigantic federal budget deficit and debt. Some states in the U.S. are in particularly dire straights, dealing with their own deficits and debts.
There are unfunded liabilities, stuff like Social Security and Medicare, which have been promised to folks. Notably absent, is enough money needed to make completely good on those promises.
The United States is actively involved in military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The loss in terms of human life and injury is incalculable. Yet, beyond those horrific losses is the monetary cost of sustaining those actions. Then there are the 120 or so countries around the world in which the U.S. has military stationed.
Once you’ve disgested all that, and that’s plenty, there are the current challenges facing Greece, as well as the European Union. In a globalized economy, difficulties in one place can have impact somewhere far off. In this case, think America. Bad winds might blow in. That would not be helpful.
Capping off our discussion, Chris and I agreed that these are tough times we are facing. However, we also agreed that Americans are resourceful, ingenious and resilient. I guess you could say our joint response to the situation was, “We’ll get through this.”
Yet, to get through the challenges facing the nation, we need to know what is at the bottom of them. I’ve often railed to Chris about how the so-called mainstream media spends so much time on personal scandal, while in, relative terms, spends so little time on the true challenges facing us all.
I’ve been wondering over the last week or so what would happen if leading media outlets spent as much time highlighting the economic challenges, and how they can be met, as it has on the now resigned Congressman Anthony Weiner. Whatever anyone’s opinion of Mr. Weiner, let’s ask ourselves, “Does his behaivor rise in importance to that of America’s economic future?”
With the clock running on raising the U.S. federal government’s debt ceiling, I couldn’t help but think we are all kind of fiddling while Rome burns. “Why don’t we pay attention to what’s really important?” I’ve continually asked myself. It’s frustrating.
I get the feeling that what passes for major headlines in big time press outlets are, more times than not, stories of limited significance. Why for example, instead of chasing a Congressman for comment about his personal behavior, don’t big media outlets – with their major access – consistently and continually press members of Congress on whether or not they’ll cut their own salaries as a sign they’ll put their own money where their mouths are when it comes to the budget deficit? Leadership in this area could drive real change.
To make sense of all this, Chris set up an interview with psychotherapist, Dr. Robi Ludwig. Robi’s been on all kinds of well known television programs: Larry King, Oprah, The View, The Today Show, etc. Chris Yandek has interviewed her before and I’ve been fortunate enough to have participated in one of those interviews.
I wanted to know why we can’t seem to get our priorities straight when addressing the nation’s challenges. I wanted to know why the media doesn’t focus more on highlighting how Congress can lead by example, to help America surmount its challenges.
In the interview – it’s much more of a conversation than a question and answer – I went on about all the stuff facing the country and how so much time gets spent on things like what happened with Anthony Weiner.
Dr. Ludwig patiently listened to me, no doubt, my frustration apparent. And she offered some rare, sage insight tying together what Congressman Weiner did, along with the economic circumstances facing the United States.
I’ll sum it up this way: [You can and should listen to the audio below to reach your own conclusion.] Anthony Weiner’s behavior was narcissistic. It had “look at me,” written all over it. In the United States, there has been an ethic of “look at me” for some time, an ethic which has driven our spending patterns. In great measure, this has led to the economic circumstances and financial obstacles we now face.
When people spend more money than they have in order to cultivate an image they feel can be admired, they are acting out of the same narcissistic impulse that drives a powerful person to put themselves in the kind of situation Mr. Weiner got himself into. When a nation overspends and overspends and overspends, yet at the same time insists on proclaiming its greatness, that too is a part of the same narcissistic theme.
Now, I paraphrased what Dr. Ludwig and I went back and forth about. But in essence, I think I’ve summed it up fairly. To put it a different way, the United States has become more interested in image than substance. We have become a bunch of attention starved individuals begging to be looked at. And we have wasted tons of money doing it.
Again, Robi Ludwig’s analysis is enlightening, wise and sharp as can be. It is well worth a listen.
Listen to the entire interview with Dr. Robi Ludwig: