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CRASH! An Open Thread

Over the last few weeks I’ve watched up-to-the-minute Twitter updates about the world’s financial markets with a sort of morbid excitement. I just love a good shaking-up. Add to that the knocking-down a few notches of greedy rich dudes, and my excitement almost outweighs the morbidity. (Here’s a clear, high-level overview of the recent history of economic policy in the grander view of the “brand” of America.)

I’m keenly aware, however, that although I sort of understand what’s going on with the markets, I’ve had trouble really grasping what it might mean for individuals, myself included, on any given day.

We live in a city with excellent public transportation, and our one car sits for days on end without being driven. I work from home and the man is a student. We don’t have kids, we don’t commute, and from the comfort of such a situation I smugly announce that I think it’s good for the environment and, in the long run, for innovation and therefore for the economy, for gas prices to climb very, very high (in fact, I think gas prices should climb steadily as long as public transportation rates don’t have to be raised). I also, less smugly and more resolutely, think that pollution should be taxed heavily. And, while I’m spouting from the virtual mouth, I believe to my core that access to quality education and health care are basic human rights and that each should be provided by the government and be supported by the people. But I digress.

So, while I’m not painfully affected right now by the dramatic downturn in the economy, I’m a little excited in that idealistic part of my brain that deregulation and trickle-down economics are under fire and that the average citizen is truly at the center of election politics on both sides of the border.

What do you think? Are you feeling the crisis more than intellectually? Are you freaking out? Are you numb? Has it affected how you see the looming election(s)?

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knitgrrl

The problem here, anyway, is that they continue to hike public transportation rates while cutting routes and making the service even worse — as if that's possible, sheesh. I'm with you on healthcare and education, particularly healthcare.

(Admittedly, I'm not as impressed with most public education as I probably “should” be as a good liberal…too many horror stories from the front lines, since my mom works in a number of schools throughout the year all over the state… Also, as a brat who used to correct her teachers' spelling and grammar in 3rd grade, I have pretty ridiculously high standards. Seriously. My mom used to get calls… “could you please make her stop correcting my spelling on the blackboard?” Mom: “Was she right?” “Yes, but…” Yeah. Wouldn't feel comfortable entrusting my kids to most public school teachers…if a 3rd grader spells better than you do, that's just sad. And while I'm on my soapbox, I think it's just sick we don't teach foreign languages earlier in most schools here…)

Mandi

Umm….

Well the problem here is that very few American cities have public transportation. Our little town doesn't, so we have no option but to drive.

So with gas prices, and increased food prices combined on our already suffering pocketbook… yep I'm starting to freak out a little. This isn't a intellectual discussion for our family, it's real life. It's something I have to think about when the milk is almost empty and yet I know that we have bills that need to be paid and our grocery budget is gone until the next paycheck.

It seems like it would be more then intellectual for you, since when it comes down to me having to choose between food for my kids or having money for the latest magazine… I have to choose the food. :)

kpwerker

Ah, I wasn't saying I think all public education at the moment is good. :) But I do object to arguments that we should abandon public education in order to “fix” it. Au contraire. We should commit to making it better.

kpwerker

“when it comes down to me having to choose between food for my kids or having money for the latest magazine… I have to choose the food. :)”

Yes, you make a very, very good point. Thanks for sharing it, and good luck!

LisaB

The part that depresses me, being in Canada, is that 4 of the 5 political parties have serious climate change platforms that would focus on green energy and shift taxes from income/savings to pollution/consumption (yay) and the bulk of Canadians will vote for one of those 4 parties (yay), but, the remaining party is useless on environmental issues (boo) and will end up as the governing party. That is our fracked up electoral system. (Explaination here: http://www.fairvote.ca/en/about_fairvoting ) On the issue of gas prices – I certainly feel for the families that are living in sprawly bits of the US/Canada and governments should be planning to help, but ecological collapse is going to be far far more painful for EVERYONE (like, globally) unless we do something drastic about the way we live RIGHT NOW (actually, yesterday). It would be nice to have a painless transition to a low consumption, green energy, sustainable system – but the general populace & governments unwillingness to seriously commit to serious change is ensuring that it will be as painful economically as it will be ecologically. The era of cheap fuel is OVER – what do we do now? This is not a rough patch to get through – all those people who can't afford both food and gas need to restructure/adapt – I don't know what the answer is, but something has to change. On the point of it being an “intellectual” issue for Kim – I would suggest that that is partly because she's chosen to live a low impact lifestyle. She COULD be living in a huge house in a suburb far from anything that requires driving everywhere and tons of fuel to heat. She chose to live in an urban place that would let her walk/bike/transit. This isn't directed at anyone… Read more »

kpwerker

My neck hurts from the nodding. (So I say to the woman who pushed me to read
Heat. [BTW, everyone should read Heat.]) One of the most baffling topics for
me this election has been the continued failure of politicians (save for
Elizabeth May) to promote the threat of climate crisis as an instigator of
massive innovation and consequent economic growth. Surely keen attention
paid to this undeniable growth sector would ease the pain of transition away
from oil and gas and toward both reduction in energy consumption and use of
sustainable energy sources. Yet the prevailing rhetoric is that of fear
mongering — change is bad, change will cripple you, change should be
avoided. If we elect governments that get it, they'll help us all through it
in such a way that will minimize any perceived suffering, and we'll all end
up better off in the end.

You're right that we have made very conscious decisions to prioritize our
lifestyle (and included in that, the modes of transportation we use and, to
an extent, the products we consume). I don't know that that will shield us
entirely from any bumps ahead, but it's certainly true that we've barely had
to blink as gas prices hit $1.50/litre.

knitgrrl

I don't want to abandon it, per se, but I think that — were I a parent right this moment — it would be irresponsible and verging on child abuse to commit my kid to the public school system where we live. And I'm not attempting hyperbole or humor here. The education you get when you're young determines what you can do with your life. It is abusive to not provide your child with the education you COULD just to prove a point re: your belief in the system.

Here is an interesting blogpost by a local teacher who writes about education issues:

http://mbmatthews.blogspot.com/2008/08/academic

I admire her to death, but I wouldn't trust my (pretend) kids to that system anytime soon.

So the question becomes “how can we improve it?” — and I think a major part of that has to be bringing in second-career people (through some of the get-your-teaching-license programs that are out there) who aren't currently entrenched in the failed system, people who will bring new ideas and new standards to the table. Internships and apprenticeship programs for students in businesses. Schools like Cristo Rey in Chicago

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristo_Rey_Jesuit_)

and schools designed to give kids real world knowledge sooner. (As so many schools in Germany and Austria do — if you're not going to go to college, you should have access to a practical, job-focused education and training, as they do there). But as it stands now, no way.

Dawn

1) Heat is a fabulous read.
2) Cannot agree with anything more than the low impact thoughts expressed above. It most certainly is a choice. I laugh myself silly when suburban friends tell me they can't afford to live in the city (as we do). Uh, no, they most probably couldn't afford the 4,000 square foot mini mansion they have now…but uh, what about everything else? We have great farmers markets infesting our Twin Cities metro area, ditto for co-ops. Hugely accessible public transport. Neighborhood businesses galore. Even if you have to drive to what you need, it's a mile or so away. No 20 minute trips to Target or the grocery. It can be easily done…you just have to decide it's worth it.

Dawn

We've got kids in first and second grade. We started in the regular local public schools, but rapidly found out that our kids need to be challenged to be successful…and with public schools just trying to get everyone to meet very minimal standards that just wasn't happening. There's also the problem of what I will label under-parented kids. If the parents aren't on board in a host of ways, there's really nothing a teacher can do. Frankly I was shocked at the general lack of parenting and parental responsibility I observed. Our kids were suffering because of it and we struggled to make a change. A lateral move wasn't going to help, so we went looking elsewhere. Private is not an option for many reasons. We have a very strong charter school system here. School chartered and funded directly by the state with the goal of providing a drastically different educational structure and experience. Not only did we find a school with a curriculum we loved (classical in a non-religious context), but we were lucky enough to actually have our kids win a spot through lottery. There are well over a hundred kids on waiting lists for kindergarten and first grade. We are seeing what a difference plugged in families (there is a volunteer requirement) and high standards can make. Our kids have always been quick, sharp, bright. They are blowing us out of the water almost daily with what they are soaking up given the opportunity. Care to discuss Mesopotamia or the fall of Rome with my 2nd grader? Justinian's code? Beowolf? My barely first grader can can not only read and write fluently he can name all of the continents, do simple addition and subtraction problems and recite rhymes that name all of the countries in all of… Read more »

Dawn

We've got kids in first and second grade. We started in the regular local public schools, but rapidly found out that our kids need to be challenged to be successful…and with public schools just trying to get everyone to meet very minimal standards that just wasn't happening. There's also the problem of what I will label under-parented kids. If the parents aren't on board in a host of ways, there's really nothing a teacher can do. Frankly I was shocked at the general lack of parenting and parental responsibility I observed. Our kids were suffering because of it and we struggled to make a change. A lateral move wasn't going to help, so we went looking elsewhere. Private is not an option for many reasons. We have a very strong charter school system here. School chartered and funded directly by the state with the goal of providing a drastically different educational structure and experience. Not only did we find a school with a curriculum we loved (classical in a non-religious context), but we were lucky enough to actually have our kids win a spot through lottery. There are well over a hundred kids on waiting lists for kindergarten and first grade. We are seeing what a difference plugged in families (there is a volunteer requirement) and high standards can make. Our kids have always been quick, sharp, bright. They are blowing us out of the water almost daily with what they are soaking up given the opportunity. Care to discuss Mesopotamia or the fall of Rome with my 2nd grader? Justinian's code? Beowolf? My barely first grader can can not only read and write fluently he can name all of the continents, do simple addition and subtraction problems and recite rhymes that name all of the countries in all of… Read more »

Dawn

1) Heat is a fabulous read.
2) Cannot agree with anything more than the low impact thoughts expressed above. It most certainly is a choice. I laugh myself silly when suburban friends tell me they can't afford to live in the city (as we do). Uh, no, they most probably couldn't afford the 4,000 square foot mini mansion they have now…but uh, what about everything else? We have great farmers markets infesting our Twin Cities metro area, ditto for co-ops. Hugely accessible public transport. Neighborhood businesses galore. Even if you have to drive to what you need, it's a mile or so away. No 20 minute trips to Target or the grocery. It can be easily done…you just have to decide it's worth it.

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