An Open Letter To Mr. And Ms. American Taxpayer

Dear Mr. and Ms. American Taxpayer,

Over the past week, many of you have voiced your understandable anger at the government's proposed bailout of America’s financial system. Across the country, the chorus rings out: It’s not my fault, why should I pay?

So, as one of you, I thought I would join in. Eh, it’s not my fault, why should I pay?
I did not package mortgage-backed securities and sell them. Nor did I offer home buyers ARMs without checking into their financial solvency.  Not even once. I don’t even have a mortgage—I rent. And while we’re at it, I pay my student loan and my credit cards every single month.

P.S. I don’t own a car; I don’t eat beef; I keep my air conditioner low; I buy organic  vegetables; and I recycle. So our environmental problems aren’t my fault either.

Or maybe, they are. You want to know why? Because I exist. I exist in a culture of consumerism, and I use energy and I buy things I don’t need and I flush waste into the rivers. Just like everybody else. 

We are all in this together, people. Believe me, I’m as pissed off as the next guy that my tax dollars will likely go to bailing out banks whose leadership failed to offer the proper risk controls and restraint that might have prevented this mess. Wall Street, because of its insatiable greed, screwed up royally.

But Wall Street does not stand alone in the blame line. Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer (who could just as easily be called Mr. and Ms. Consumer) we screwed up too. Our own insatiable greed, our desire for houses we couldn’t afford, started this whole thing off. And our craving for more and more stuff lies at the core of the problem.

Why is the bailout necessary? Because if we don’t prop up the banks, they won’t have the capital to continue doing the business they do: lending. And guess who they lend to. Us. Us and the companies that provide the goods and services we use. We are the culture of consumerism and credit. If we don’t spend money, our economy tanks. More precisely, if we don’t borrow money to spend, mostly on crap we really don’t need, our economy tanks.

We helped create this dilemma. And it is a dilemma, because unless we are ready to drastically change our lifestyles, to rip apart the fabric that has become American existence itself, and sew it back together again in a different form, then we will have to lie in the bed we’ve made with Wall Street, and we will have to hold out our hand and yank it back up when it slips onto the floor. And, we will have to pay for the privilege.

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