Who To Believe?

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What happens when an expert’s findings do not align with what you see unfolding? It seems in this day and age what we consider to be news was once considered blatant opinions. We are either informed or misinformed depending on our opinion or the opinions of those we have outsourced our thinking to. Part of this is the result of the changing news landscape where ratings and money are chased more than providing viewers with unbiased information. It may be fact, or it may just be my opinion, but this can be dated back to the rise of conservative talk radio shows like Rush Limbaugh. Their popularity led to the rise of, or at least coincided with, FOX News.

A simple check of the ratings will show FOX News beats the likes of CNN on a nightly basis. For conservatives, this is interpreted as FOX actually delivering the most honest news out there. For liberals, they point out how FOX considers what they present each night appearing as news is actually listed as entertainment. In that sense, it is no different than the WWE. Some see it as sport while others are quick to remind fans it is all make believe.

I live in what I consider to be a wonderful community by southern California standards. However, I really only have the 24 years I spent living in the Inland Empire to compare it to. I have spoken with neighbors of mine who have complained about the homeless issue in our community, and I look at them dumbfounded. They base their complaint on two or three shopping center entrances where you can find someone standing there with a sign asking for help.

When I left Hemet, California in 2016, homeless people had no problem setting up their personal living spaces in front of business storefronts, parks, and even public-school fields. They had no problem tapping into the electricity of a business during closed hours, pissing and crapping outside their entrances, and even cussing out customers and employees who arrived before the start of their posted hours because they were awakened from their slumber.

The other day, my editor sent an email about a report on inflation where both Los Angeles and San Francisco tied for cities with the second lowest inflation rate in the nation. I gave it a look and sure enough, the two were near the bottom while Miami was at the top of the list.

The first thing I wondered about was that this study certainly did not take into account the current price of our natural gas since this week it seems to be the current major gripe of residents. It obviously was done before the cost of cleaning up our storm-ravaged state is passed onto hard working customers. I also could not help but notice my former home, the Inland Empire, was among the worst areas for inflation.

I know next to nothing about economics so I will not comment on my state as an expert. What I do know is you do not see people from other states lined up wanting to move to California because of the cost of living. Since both LA and SF boast average housing prices at close to one million dollars, it doesn’t matter where their inflation rate ranks.

Since homelessness is generally agreed on by both the right and left as being a major issue in both cities, their inflation ranking does not matter. When the average natural gas bill has doubled in January and is expected to increase again next month, rankings do not matter. In a sports sense, it is like the NCAA Basketball tournament where half the schools qualify for the tournament and the other half don’t. By March, San Francisco and Los Angeles will see their own versions of March Madness.

There is another factor to inflation and the cost of living that no news network seems to want to delve into because it is the sort of editorializing that will drive away viewers. Our society is not the same as it was 40 or 50 years ago when it comes to purchasing. Consumerism has been shoved down our throats by the very folks who look at news ratings to sell us things we do not really need. They have succeeded in brainwashing us into thinking our wants are needs, and in some cases, even entitlements. The reality is, most of what we purchase, or are frustrated about not being able to afford, are wants more than needs.

Housing, food, healthcare, and energy are needed for anyone no matter their personal savings. The American middle class was once the measuring stick used to gauge the economic standing of a community. The ability to update and complete new infrastructure projects was a bragging point for our nation. Today, we have far too many bridges, roadways, and cities that have not had significant upgrades since some guy named Nixon was in office.

Constant and costly wars have not helped considering the rate of increase in our military spending and the horrible effects our wars have on our economy. Today, a college education is a great path toward a life of debt rather than one that will allow you to see how far you can rise. Greed has become acceptable since Michael Douglas once preached about it in a movie.

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the Oliver Stone film, “Wall Street”
“Greed … for lack of a better word, is good.”
(YouTube screenshot https://youtu.be/HraaYH-sJBI )

The hoarding of money by the wealthy at the cost of our middle class has wrecked this nation. The refusal of the wealthy to share with the hard working people who allow their profits to skyrocket have crushed the American work ethic. The gap in the increased earning power of the wealthy compared to the middle class has never been wider.

However, through all of this, and perhaps out of folks’ personal vanity, America has never been so addicted to appearance than it is today. It is that addiction that drives our economy and too many people into wanting far more than they actually need. We have stopped being satisfied with what works perfectly well and have demanded being able to replace it with something outdated by the time it is released to the public. Smart phones, cars, homes, and pretty much everything else has caused many people to feel miserable because eventually, they cannot afford to keep up with the Joneses.

Our inability or unwillingness to scale back or even wait leaves families in the middle class with extra cars, boats, fifth wheels, and jet skis that collect dust because we insist on purchasing newer and better versions before we have sold what we currently own. I am as guilty as anyone, although my vices are generally not in the same cost bracket as the above mentioned. I see it every morning when I take my dogs for a walk. Middle class neighborhoods are littered with extra adult toys with “for sale” signs on them. Garage doors are open and stuffed full of more things than will fit inside homes while two cars sit in the driveway.

Half of my garage is filled with my exercise space. A treadmill, weights, rower, and road bicycle make up my gym. I can’t get to the road bike to sell it because of the things I have stacked up that block it. The rower goes unused. I am torn between whether or not to sell the treadmill for pennies on the dollar because I prefer to run outdoors. My exercise bike has been moved inside the house for winter and stands next to my wife’s because we prefer a different type of bike. Fortunately, we do not struggle to pay our bills but we certainly wince when we see some of the increases. We want to leave this state not just because of the cost, but also because it has become overly crowded; forty million or so residents have a way of doing that.

To expect our government to solve all our problems when the right wants to take us backwards half a century and the left is in a hurry to fast forward us by the same amount of years is pointless. California is and will be long after I am dead, paying the cost of a “Bullet Train” that by the time it is built will be obsolete and a hundred billion or more dollars over the promised cost. We would have been better served with a train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to curb the traffic issues that plague interstate 15 on the weekend. Instead, we will pay forever for something at a time when that money could have been used to provide more affordable housing for the poor, better roads for the commuter, and more modernization that allows us to keep up with what is transforming several Asian and European countries.

We are paying through the nose for energy at a time when most of the solar and wind energy we collect is never used by residents because our energy grid can’t handle it. Meanwhile, I can find numerous videos on the internet that show hard working people in third world countries creating their own personal energy sources by damming creeks or building their own energy producing windmills. There is no reason each home in this state cannot have its own personal energy station that provides us with our own endless source of FREE energy other than the state does not want us to have it. No state does, which is why they insist on catering to antiquated, wealthy, and powerful energy firms like Southern Cal Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric.

And guess what? Even if we were allowed to create our own energy systems, we’re too lazy to do it ourselves. We will sub it out to an enterprising company who relies on the cheapest labor they can find to install it because we are too glued to our electronics or busy planning that vacation we are going to pay later with our new credit cards.

It’s easy to blame the wealthy for all our problems because it means we do not have to change our habits. It’s like a chain smoker blaming air pollution for their lung cancer diagnosis. We have ALL stopped holding ourselves accountable.

Beverly Hills sign (Tim Forkes)

Today, as a nation, we are literally paying the price of our sins while remaining too stubborn to admit we are a source of some of our largest problems. That homeless guy asking for help or walking the streets and talking to himself might be a war veteran who served this nation in a war you insisted our government involve itself in. At the same time, you just want him gone because you do not want to be reminded of our failure to address the PTSD and host of other mental illnesses that have come from our desire to destroy people half a world away.

That home in your neighborhood that sits empty for months on end is liable to be another example of a family that ended upside down with their finances. You want it sold and upgraded because it is hurting your home’s value. You won’t be able to purchase a nicer home in a nicer area to get away from the visual reminders of the problems others experience more than you worry about the displaced family that was forced to move.

I really do not care about the inflation rate stated in a report whose author may or may not align with my political views. What I care about is whether our nation, rich or poor, white or black, gay or straight, Christian or non-Christian, and right or left can keep from destroying itself. Can we prevent this while moving forward in the 21st century before it is time to prepare for the 22nd?  Can we do this while maintaining the compassion and desire to help third world nations move forward? Can we forgo personal greed for the collective well-being of people we do not know? To me, these are our real challenges.

However, not even I am so naive to think that at the end of the day it is really all about what is and is not in our wallets.

I have been asked more than once why I am unable to see the point of view of the right. I tell people I see their point of view, but I just do not agree with it as much as I do with the left. That said, I do not agree lock, stock, and barrel with the left. I lean toward any group or individuals who model personal responsibility while maintaining their compassion for others. Both require actions over words. Unfortunately, we live in a time where words, perspectives, and even the outsourcing of our thinking have been taken over by groups far too willing to do it for us. In the end, we have ourselves to blame for the mess we have.