Readers of this blog know I have a high regard for Bill Gross who runs a few hundred billion of bonds for PIMCO. This month he points out that the changes made to the calculation of the Consumer Price Index by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the 1990’s, have led to a delusional view of inflation in the U.S. not shared by the rest of the world. Ostensibly these changes were made so that social security payments and wages that were indexed to inflation would stay as low as possible, thus saving the government and employers billions. The real result is we are living in a fools paradise, where for instance we keep quoting “core” inflation (above) as if the cost of food and gas were not crippling the average household.
For Gross, the problems in our country go much deeper and he is crying out for a Presidential Campaign where the people get told the truth. I don’t usually quote at length, but since Gross seems to agree with some of our notions about our ability to “amuse ourselves to death”,I thought this was too good not to share.
What this country needs is either a good 5¢ cigar or the reincarnation of an Illinois “rail-splitter” willing to tell the American people “what up” – “what really up.” We have for so long now been willing to be entertained rather than informed, that we more or less accept majority opinion, perpetually shaped by ratings obsessed media, at face value. After 12 months of an endless primary campaign barrage, for instance, most of us believe that a candidate’s preacher – Democrat orRepublican – should be a significant factor in how we vote. We care more about who’s going to be eliminated from this week’s American Idol than the deteriorating quality of our healthcare system. Alternative energy discussion takes a bleacher’s seat to the latest foibles of Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears and then we wonder why gas is four bucks a gallon. We care as much as we always have – we just care about the wrong things: entertainment, as opposed to informed choices; trivia vs. hardcore ideological debate.
It’s Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum folks, and all good fun, but the hordes are crossing the Alps and headed for modern day Rome – better educated, harder working, and willing to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. Can it be any wonder that an estimated 1% of America’s wealth migrates into foreign hands every year? We, as a people, are overweight, poorly educated, overindulged, and imbued with such a sense of self importance on a geopolitical scale, that our allies are dropping like flies. “Yes we can?” Well, if so, then the “we” is the critical element, not the leader that will be chosen in November. Let’s get off the couch and shape up – physically, intellectually, and institutionally – and begin to make some informed choices about our future. Lincoln didn’t say it, but might have agreed, that the worst part about being fooled is fooling yourself, and as a nation, we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that for a long time now.