Yesterday a few pieces circulated on the Internet that caught my eye, including an interesting observation that the administration keeps talking up how great the food stamp program is and how many people it's helping. There is no doubt the food stamp program can be a Godsend for families in need, but there is also no doubt a tipping point can occur when the program shifts from being a refuge in tough times to simply being a refuge. This is something I've seen firsthand in my lifetime, and no politicians could ever convince me otherwise. When that tipping point occurs there is an internal inflection from self-sufficient man to domesticated man.
There was one email yesterday that equated the government's insistence that we don't feed animals in national parks to its insistence that feeding humans unlimitedly through food stamps is a good thing. Some will see this as a shallow and mean-spirited insult to those on food stamps, but others will see the irony that the same warnings hold true for animals and humans that are fed by others too long and often.
They gain weight: I'm sure there are other factors, but the fact is too many people on food stamps are also obese. This week could see Stockton California file for bankruptcy protection after years of amazing economic hardship. The city has led the nation in foreclosures and Forbes called it the most miserable city in America. With an unemployment rate that peaked above 20% a year ago, Stockton is mentioned in government food stamp files as a major recipient. The city also has the distinction of sharing the top position as the most obese city in America with Montgomery, Alabama. If anyone was ever honest about this maybe we could do something about it.
Become dependent: We have three yorkies at home and they are so coddled I wonder how they would do in the wild. Sure, they bark at the door and have a lot of swagger for their size, but could these dogs that turn their noses up to dog food from time to time really race down a hole in the earth to hunt rats? The fact is my dogs expect to be fed a couple of times a day and their internal clock always works. We are also built to fend for ourselves, yet the less we actually have to do, the harder it becomes when there is no other choice.
Predators such as mountain lions are attracted: The poor have always been attractive to poverty pimps and opportunists selling hopelessness and victimization. Once food stamps and other government programs become entitlements, the gene designed to hunt and gather morphs into one that growls and protects those checks. Energies that could be used to improve life are instead used to fight for increases in benefits or against threats to programs originally designed as short-term aid.
There is a mindset that goes along with this program that's akin to the domestication process for animals or plants that is changed at the genetic level through artificial selection. It should be noted this transformation is different from taming, where animals simply become acclimated to human presence. Although I think most Americans are more the latter than the former, it's heartbreaking to watch innate gifts never developed or discovered because of the soft conditioning that comes along with social assistance programs that begin at birth. This shouldn't be confused with soft conditions because I know those conditions are hard.
It's the accountability, or lack of accountability, that's soft or missing completely. There is nothing cold, harsh, or mean with wanting to get people on their own feet and upwardly mobile in society. I say bite the hand that feeds you if it keeps shoving food instead of real opportunities down your throat.
Where are those animal spirits? The economy is rebounding, and we may see 3.0% GDP growth this year. That's hardly stirring up animal spirits that have been dormant for many years. Then there's the stock market that should be attracting more players, but instead daily volumes are punk at best. The same is true for the housing market, where the lowest mortgage rates in history have only elicited a collective yawn from would-be homebuyers. Then there's the stock market, which is like a gold rush nobody showed up for. It's like Pavlov in reverse where people have been punished so many times for taking the bait they simply refuse ... for now.
Many of the bulls have left the barn, but a whole bunch of other animals embodied by human personalities are still waiting in the wings.
Owls- associated with wisdom since the time of Greek mythology, there are a lot of smart people out there waiting for the right evidence the market rally is real. People in this category tend to pat themselves on the back after pullbacks to giant money-making opportunities. I wouldn't go so far as to say they root for massive corrections but they seem smug and relieved that maybe less brilliant people lost money during the pullback. Of course owls have also been associated with death and, in Rome, were said to have predicted the deaths of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Commodus Aurelius and Agrippa.
Sheep- as a trait in people they are said to resemble meekness, stupidity or timidity. But it can also mark an embarrassment caused by consciousness of a fault. Most market bulls coming into the year are feeling sheepish as their targets have already been reached, as for the masses-they are sheep ready to be led.
Monkeys- we all remember Curious George, which is one of my favorites, but the would-be monkeys that typically show up when there is a big scene like huge stock market rallies or housing booms simply haven't had had their interest piqued.
Donkeys- as we all know they are the most stubborn of animals, yet these beasts of burden were domesticated by the Nubia pastoral peoples at the beginning of civilization. Yes, too many would-be individual investors have donkey-like qualities, but it should be noted that scientists say donkeys are stubborn out of a sense of self-preservation. Horses have the speed and agility and can gallop with abandon, donkeys cannot afford to make mistakes or be put in positions of danger that require survival skills they do not possess.
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