do americans have the stomach for belt-tightening?

I was just reading this Metafilter thread on the pathological “optimism” of our Commander-In-Chief, and how it manifests itself in his carpet purchases, and there were a few comments that resonated with me on the subject of how much Americans would be willing to sacrifice if called upon to do so. (Metafilter threads often take interesting detours like that.) Anyway, as it’s a subject that we’ve talked about here before, I thought that you might find them of interest.

The first comment I’m going to share was written in response to another Metafilterite who had said, “Gore would have a better chance with a campaign based on ‘Together we can fix global warming’ rather than ‘The Earth is about to die and we need to do something about it’.”

I hope that would work, but I suspect otherwise. My earliest political memories are of Jimmy Carter calling for shared sacrifice, austerity, conservation and we’re in this togetherness. Reagan countered with empty-headed proclamations of “morning in America”, and offered tax cuts for the wealthy and deficit spending. Carter is still to many, “the worst president of our lifetime” (when he wasn’t really that bad), and Reagan is damn near canonized by a significant portion of the population.

I realize that it is all in how you frame an issue, but I think any candidate that asks for any kind of sacrifice or belt-tightening is going to get his or her ass handed to them, at least until the next Great Depression.

And, here’s the second comment, which was written in response to the “they’re going to get their asses handed to them” quip I just posted.

And any candidate that suggests anything that could be construed as America losing or retreating from battle will get the same treatment.

It’s not easy to tell America the truth. America wants to overeat and lose weight, overspend and be rich, overstretch and be strong.

So, how much reality can the American people take? And, how much of a sacrifice are the American people willing to make, and for how long?

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  1. dr. teddy glass
    Posted April 25, 2007 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Americans have been adding holes to their belts at regular intervals since 1945.

    If you want a real eye-opener, go to a history museum and try to fit your ass in a subway seat, or a bus seat from the early 1900’s. It can’t be done.

  2. Posted April 25, 2007 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I know this isn’t the popular view, but when I hear about politicians “asking” me to sacrifice, I can’t help but think of that old Rand quote:

    “The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.”

    So in a sense, yeah you right, a politician with that message isn’t going to appeal to me.

  3. mark
    Posted April 26, 2007 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the honesty, Dave. I suspect that a majority of people, like it or not, would be put off by such talk. I think that there are occasionally opportunities, however, when the door opens and makes such things possible. That’s what pisses me off so much about the way Bush handled 9/11. He could have taken advantage of that moment, when we were all willing to chip in, and make real, significant change. Instead, he used it to take us to war in Iraq… Hopefully, we won’t have another opportunity like that in the near future, but, if it does happen again, I hope we don’t squander the opportunity…

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