Think back to four years ago.
Spurred by a corrupt housing market and easy credit, the economy was in a nosedive amidst credible fears of a total collapse. By October 2008, billions of dollars of wealth had disappeared, a lot of it from the already modest retirement accounts of everyday people.
The world of work was about to be profoundly affected. Job losses and layoffs started mounting quickly, first in the private sector, then in the public and non-profit sectors. Within a year, the official unemployment rate would edge on double digits. Those fortunate to keep their jobs would experience added stress at work and, very possibly, reductions in pay and benefits.
The presidential campaign was occurring against this backdrop. There remained the looming question of whether America was ready to elect a black President. Sarah Palin would experience a meteoric rise and fall, the latter with a big assist to Tina Fey. The Tea Party and Occupy movements weren’t even a part of our vocabulary.
For me, before the Fall of 2008 looks a lot like September 10, 2001: The day before our world changed.
Four years later, we’re still paying for the greed, excess, and irresponsibility that led us into this mess. And I challenge anyone, regardless of political affiliation, to find anything genuinely uplifting in the substance and rhetoric of the current campaign season. As for many of our business leaders, they continue to rake it in — the wealth gap in American keeps widening — while they vigorously oppose regulatory safeguards intended to prevent yet another meltdown.
I honestly don’t know how we’re going to chart a new course, but I’m certain that we must if the coming decades are to be good ones for the vast majority of people. As I’ve suggested before, for a lot of reasons — political, economic, psychological, environmental, spiritual, you name it — we’re at a fork in the road, choosing between a New Enlightenment and a New Dark Age.
I fear the latter but hope for the former.