As I write this, hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. citizens are voicing their displeasure about conditions—mostly economic—by “occupying” Wall Street and other iconic sites. This action appears to be a manifestation of a growing frustration with how things have changed since the economic meltdown of 2008. I’m expecting that the anger toward Wall Street will soon spread—to banks, businesses, the paperboy, and the Edward Jones rep. But who’s really responsible for our misery? We are.
“Someone left the cake out in the rain” is a line from the song “MacArthur Park.” Jimmy Webb wrote the lyrics as he suffered the pain of a breakup with Susan Ronstadt, Linda’s cousin. For me, it’s taken 40 years to encounter a situation that explains those lyrics.
In 2007, unemployment was 5%, the market was yielding 10% annually like clockwork, and housing was growing at 7% per year. We all acted like wide-eyed kids in a bakery, each wanting a bigger piece of that ever-growing cake.
And then someone left the cake out in the rain and it was all over. But do we really expect a magic pill? A switch our leaders can pull that will take us back to 2007?
The “Occupy” protesters are eerily reminiscent of the hippies of the ’60s who occupied MacArthur Park in L.A., Central Park in Manhattan, Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and any other public place to exhibit their frustration. “I don’t think that I can take it,” is another line from the song. The Occupiers are saying the same thing.
We just want to go back to the way it was before. The conditions of the boom years 2004–2007 were created, at least in part, by a long-term “adjustment” to the economic engine. Institutions were created to help build the American dream for everyone by loosening requirements for home loans and student financing. Owning a home and completing a college education became possibilities. “’Cause it took so long to bake it.”
And now it’s over. “Sweet green icing flowing down.” Hindsight usually being 20/20, the addiction to ever-growing equity on a debt that someone down the road was going to have to pay was just too much for the regulators, a recipe for disaster. “And I’ll never have that recipe again…”
So here we are. Smack in the middle of national and global upheaval, still anticipating Christmas as usual. The list of unmet Knower/Judger expectations is long:
- Continued prosperity with no observed cost
- Regulators who protect us
- Legislators who understand common citizen pain
- American enterprise free to pursue goals and dreams
- A plan for caring for our weakest members
- Terrorists kept from our doors with no loss in civil liberties
- Bad guys shot down and good guys wearing white hats
Jimmy lost Susan and wrote a song about losing something wonderful. We’ve lost our loves, too. Good roads and safe bridges. Innocent honesty. Five percent unemployment, 15% investment returns, a 15,000 Dow Jones Industrial Average, and $1.09 gasoline. But instead of blaming everyone else and insisting that we get these things back, we can take a different approach.
It’s time to move on. Let’s get into our Learner/Researchers and manage our expectations. Let’s explore the data, let go of the past, and figure out where we go from here.