As President Obama renegotiates the terms of American leadership this week in Europe, those of us left at home struggle to get over our affluenza. That condition, the bane of the middle class, is defined in a book of the same name as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”Somehow this ties into Obama's Sunday night massacre of the former GM president. Rick Wagoner was clearly in a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't situation.
The Wall Street Journal had an article last week reporting that, now that gas prices have gone back down, almost half a million fuel-frugal small cars are piling up unsold at dealers around the country.And later in the column:
Wagoner showed no foresight or willingness to curb an unhealthy appetite for the big. He failed to eliminate brands and launched the Hummer line in 2001.So that they could sit around unsold when gas prices drop again. Anyone else see the fallacy here?
Wagoner stuck to gas-guzzling pickups and S.U.V.’s long after it was clear that higher gas prices meant he should vary the fleet with more fuel-efficient vehicles.
But it's not a Dowd column without at least one Movies With Maureen® moment.
I heard a French scientist on a radio show once explain that Americans would always insist on supersizing things because our “reptilian brain” likes things big. We’re still big, as Norma Desmond said. It’s everything around us that’s collapsing and shrinking.And the mention of anything French sends Maureen's reptilian brain free-associating to her longstanding crush for Carla Bruni.
How big do we need to be to still feel American? How big can our national debt grow? How big can our cars be? And how big is our clout abroad these days? Will Michelle’s style in Europe make as big a splash as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s?How many rhetorical questions can you fit in one column? At least two more.
How do we come to terms with the gluttony that exploded our economy and still retain our reptilian American desire for living large? How do we make the pursuit of the American dream a satisfying quest rather than a selfish one?
How do you fill eight hundred words when your only news pegs are a trip to the G20 summit and a fired executive? You do a fashion report.
But, hey, nobody’s perfect — except maybe Michelle Obama, who landed in London with a huge Obama entourage, wearing a daffodil yellow dress and looking like a confident ray of U.S.A. sunshine.At least next week we will have Michelle's inappropriate hugging of the Queen to discuss.
photo from Mrs.O.org