New technology allows us to see light move at one trillion frames per second, but yet many citizens still can’t see the slow motion economic train wreck caused by out-of-control debt and a bloated federal bureaucracy.

How is it that it’s only a matter of time before Americans will be able to see through walls, but they can’t see the writing on the wall when it comes to debt and deficits? Professor Ramesh Raskar’s presentation on cameras that can film at one trillion frames per second is amazing, but it also demonstrates one of the problems conservatives have when it comes to talking about recessions, depressions and the economy in general.

Not too long ago I got to cover the Defending the American Dream Summit for work. While I was there, I got to talk to a number of older individuals who honestly believe that the standard of living their grandchildren will be lower because of the policies we are putting in place today. That’s true — in many respects — but it’s hard to get anyone to buy it when new technologies keep emerging that will change the course of human history.

How do you get people to understand the future that never was? While it’s a godsend that humans are constantly pushing the limits of what is possible, it also is maddening that so many are regularly susceptible to public policies that retard economic growth and the entrepreneurial spirit inside us. We adopt health care policies that hinder the innovation of lifesaving drugs while giving more people crappier coverage. We enact well-intentioned entitlement programs that turn able-bodied men and women into human gerbils waiting for the next government pellet — instead of encouraging them to break free of their mind-forged manacles. We use the tax code for social engineering instead of allowing the individual to keep more of his own money with which to build a brighter future.

The “poor” in the United States are not getting poorer. In fact, the “poor” (who are also not a static group) in the United States do quite well when compared with their counterparts around the world. Given that the standard of living generally goes up for all Americans each generation — even if the rates differ among social classes — conservatives need to find a way to talk about lost futures. It’s not enough to say that if we elect liberal politician “x” that life will be worse off, because benefits gained through technological advances mask all sorts of theft to our standard of living.

If conservatives are smart they will become tech-savvy nerds who not only care about cameras that can see around corners, but talented orators who can paint vivid pictures of the future by describing their vision for the world and the vision of their political opponents.

8 comments

  1. Fantastic article, but two sentences really bothered me:

    “The “poor” in the United States are not getting poorer. In fact, the “poor” (who are also not a static group) in the United States do quite well when compared with their counterparts around the world.”

    I did some digging and the first sentence isn’t factual.

    “Median household income for the bottom tenth of the income spectrum fell by 12 percent from a peak in 1999…”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14census.html?pagewanted=all

    Regardless of the Times’ political leanings, the fact comes directly from the Census Bureau. I don’t know how to read that than the lowest income percentile (read: poor) lost 12% of their median household income (got poorer). Sure, income is flow and doesn’t necessarily directly corollate to wealth, but let’s be frank, the bottom earners have no wealth either.

    And, Doug, our poor don’t have it so bad because there are poorer, more destitute people in other countries? That is something Ebenezer Scrooge would say. Tell me you honestly don’t believe that.

    It isn’t too surprising, given how skewed American’s perception of income and wealth distribution is. I know I was way off until recently. Check out: http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20ariely%20in%20press.pdf

    Before we start debating economic theories, know I’m neither advocating nor disavowing government strategies for wealth redistribution. Just pointing out the state of things.

    1. Here’s a good, quick video on “household” statistics by Thomas Sowell:

      In regards to “the poor,” I think it’s interesting that someone like me, according to the government, actually qualified as “the poor” until just recently. Not sure how that works, but I might still qualify for their stats given my current income and marriage status, since my wife is in school full time.

      You forget that I put myself through USC and AU. There was a time where I was working night shifts and then going to school in the morning. In graduate school for a huge chunk of it I worked full time and attended class full time just to pay the bills. It was a nightmare, especially since I needed that time to study for statistics (God, I hated those courses). I had some VERY lean years. My favorite was moving to DC and having to make a mattress out of my clothes for a few weeks because I didn’t have money and needed a job ASAP (My move to DC is a story for another time). So, while it may sound like Ebenezer Scrooge to your ears, to me it sounds like a guy who basically survived on black beans and rice for awhile, had no furniture … lived in apartments with roaches and eventually figured out a way to make a living in the nation’s capital.

      I’ll check out your links later. Just woke up. In regards to your comments and moderation, I’m not sure why some of your comments just pop right up since I’ve approved you before, and others do not. I may look into that widget.

    1. Nah… seriously… sure, there are definitely those that take advantage of the system (didn’t Reagan call them “welfare queens”), but you can’t use broad strokes to paint the lower income strata that way. There are a lot of good people who had some tough breaks–losing their job, home, and immediate prospects–in the Great Recession.

      There are some heartbreaking stories of people who aren’t that different than you and me. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/specialreports/unemployment-stories#cloud A couple of different circumstances, we both could be telling our story on there.

      I’m not opposed to temporary handouts and “hand-ups” for the needy, downtrodden souls who have had a few tough breaks. I totally agree with you that the lazy, wicked, good-for-nothings who would gladly leech by gaming the system, deserve zilch.

    2. And that’s the key. I have no problem with a safety net for individuals who legitimately fall on hard times. I’m just afraid that people who shouldn’t be in that category are now included, and that instead of a safety “net” it’s turned into a hammock.

      Some stay-at-home mom whose husband suddenly dies and leaves her with two kids? Legit. Guy who works his ass off at an auto plant that goes under? Legit. But 99 weeks unemployment? Nope. “Welfare Queens”? Nope.

      I’ve been working since I was what? 15? 16? Started out at a vegetable stand on the side of major road outside Chicago dumping huge burlap sacks of corn all day onto a table … If I lost my job at the Times tomorrow I’d do SOMETHING. I’d work in Panera Bread if I had to. And today, people don’t get a job in hard times because it’s not a job they like. Well, too bad.

      When I first moved to DC I was wiping up sweat off gym equipment and cleaning dirty towels. But I was going to be the best damn sweat-wiper they had ever seen, and suddenly I was a manager. The only guy without a background in personal training or fitness … a dude with an English background was a manager at a gym. There’s this entitled mentality that runs through our culture that really annoys me.

      I’m rambling again. Better stop.

    3. Yeah, that attitude frustrates me too. And I’ve had *rough* times, like you. I appreciate what I have. Just be careful not to assume that the downtrodden all have bad attitudes and those attitudes are preventing them from finding gainful employ. They don’t. Look around. A lot of people really want work, any work, if just to feed their kids. If they do have that attitude, it disappears quickly when the Ramen noodles run out.

      There are a lot of smart people can’t find employment at fast food places because *everyone* is looking for a job there. Unemployment is >8%, probably higher if you count those who have given up. Under-employment is even higher than that.

      Sometimes life doesn’t reward good people and punish the bad, Doug, despite our belief that it should/does. This is called the Just World Fallacy. http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/07/the-just-world-fallacy/

    4. Yes. I agree. Life is sometimes cruel and unfair. However, everyone I know who seems to have lived an honest life, worked hard, played by the rules … over time, things have turned out all right for them. There are specific instances where people are screwed over (myself included), but over the course of time the hard working, diligent, honest man seems to do quite well for himself. And I think too many people give up at the first sign of adversity. They don’t grind it out. We have instant internet access, drive through meals, etc. and we think life should work the same way. It doesn’t. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Life is about the long slog. It’s a marathon and people think it’s a sprint.

      Again, I’m all for having a safety net, but I still think our culture wants it to be some sort of swaddling blanket.

      Perhaps my background makes me a bit harsh. My dad was a military guy, a West Pointer. He was fair, but he didn’t accept excuses. Then I went into the infantry out of high school. It knocked a few chips off my shoulder, but it also taught me that the guy who digs deep and embraces the suck and “drives on with a hard on” when things get painful usually is surprised by how much he can accomplish.

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