How to Save America

October 30, 2009

In which our intrepid social commentator boils down all the challenges facing our great nation into a relative handful of simple—but not simplistic—solutions.

 

Step I: Stop Buying Crap

China owns us. And do you know why they own us? Because we keep throwing money at them in exchange for junk we don’t need, doesn’t last and usually has more lead and mercury and fish guts in it than the law allows. Which isn’t a problem, of course. Now that they own us, they can change the law.

It’s very simple, really. We give them dollars and they give us chatchkes. After 20 years, they have all our dollars and we have a booming landfill industry. And self-storage industry. And online crapselling industry. Sorry. Not crapselling Collectibles. Now, doesn’t that sound better?

And don’t go blaming the Chinese, or Barack, or Dubya, or anybody else for the fact that your retirement plan requires selling your foam finger collection on Ebay for $2 million. Whether it’s a wall plaque with a singing fish or an inflatable Santa who looks like Elvis (or maybe Rod Blagojevich, I can never tell them apart) it’s all the same. We’ve refined impulse shopping to such a fine art that people will buy cow chips if they’re encased in plastic and have an LED display. (Hmmmm….gotta remember to patent this idea!!)

Yeah, I’ve done it, too. I bought a dozen pairs of socks that, I swear, began unraveling while I was still at the checkout counter. But they were 12 pair for fourteen cents.

Who could resist? As of this moment, we can. If we were willing to pay an extra ten cents for a pen or five bucks for a barbeque grill, maybe we’d still have guys in this country making pens and barbeque grills instead of lattes.

So that’s step number one. We stop buying crap, the environment improves, the landfills fill up more slowly, our debt levels go down, the dollar gets stronger and all those former laborers and business execs can finally take off all the silly aprons they have to wear at Starbucks.

Win-win. Win.

Stay tuned for Step II.

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Thoughts on Life: The Guy with All the Answers

October 10, 2009

So I’m meeting with this guy and I start to tell him about a current project. And I’m not 30 seconds into the story before he says those dreaded words:

 “You should…..”

I haven’t even finished telling him what I am doing, what I’m thinking of doing or whether I plan to do anything at all. And already he’s telling me what I SHOULD be doing. Which means, of course, that my share of this conversation is over and the floor is now his.

And I’m wondering why he’s doing this. I haven’t asked for advice, so it’s not as if he is responding to a request. Maybe he’s bored with the conversation and he wants to end it, so he decides to plop some crap in my ears and move on. Perhaps he thinks I’m so dumb I won’t think of anything on my own and he must save me from myself. Or maybe he just likes the sound of his own voice.

Whatever the case, I’m now nodding as I listen to a series of generalities about things I already considered and initiatives that have little payoff. “Thanks,” I say. “I’ll think about that.” Except, of course, that I won’t think about it at all, because I already have enough work to do and I SHOULD stop wasting my time.

It did remind me, however, that guys who tell you what “you should do” will almost never, ever, ever suggest something that THEY can do FOR YOU. I’m still waiting for the first guy to say, “You should get your book promoted on Oprah. No, wait. Let me take care of that for you.” 

I suspect I’ll be waiting a long, long time.