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Rethinking our economic values

Gabriel Sistare, staff writer

President Bush, Treasury Secretary Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, continue to reassure us that the financial crisis we are experiencing will end soon enough. Behemoth financial institutions are merging, and activity on Wall Street seems to be getting more and more centralized. Stimulus after stimulus is being injected into the economy in hopes that trust will be restored in Wall Street firms, but on the New York Times Business page, day after day, the little red arrow teases the public, showing the consistently declining stock market.

Though the economy is one organ of society I do not consider myself an authority on I am aware of a human reality bound to the ineptitude of Wall Street.

On television, political talk shows, and in the op/ed section of most newspapers, there has been a debate on whether or not this is an economic crisis that can be likened to the Great Depression. I often hear individuals say that the 6.1% current unemployment rate is far less dire than the depression-era rate of 25%. And though this is true – few figures match any of those during the Depression – the excuse that we have not yet reached that point so we should worry little, is ridiculous.

A 6.1% unemployment rate roughly accounts to 9.1 million people. We cannot consider this to be only a fraction of the 305 million people that live in the United States, or of the 154.7 million existing jobs. Nine point one million people is roughly the collective population of the cities of New York and Philadelphia. This is too large a number to disregard. Whether we have reached a new depression or not, 9.1 million is too large a number to not consider dire.

We need to start thinking about how the pains from this economic collapse can be alleviated. Politicians and economists need to restrict themselves from making any comments about how this crisis is not as bad as economic collapses in the past. This is an escapist method and takes the accountability away from those individuals who should have been watching out for the general public.

Perhaps it is time to rethink the general structure of our nations economy. We can scapegoat all we want and say that it was the fault of predatory lenders, or negligent homeowners who caused the initial collapse of the mortgage market, but when are we going to participate in a dialog surrounding the possibility that maybe the current economic model is self-destructive?

If the health and livelihood of everyday citizens is going to be tied to an arbitrary market system, it better be a benevolent system in that it satisfies first and foremost the needs of everyone. The stock market seems to stand in the way rather than provide any help to the general public. It seems to me that the eradication of these irrational institutions would be more useful than trying to buoy them – at the expense of citizens – with stimulus packages and bailout plans.

In essence, it seems that the current economic model has shown that it is unable to provide security for the general public. I believe that it is time to ignite a dialog surrounding the idea that we need to fundamentally rework our economy so that it works to the advantage of all rather than the privileged few.

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