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“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” is a line from a famous love song. As with romantic relationships, foolish behavior is common to Homo sapiens. It is universal across societies and history. But Americans – who frequently are told our nation is “exceptional” and God's chosen people – are exceptionally easy to fool and exceptionally prone to engage in foolish behavior.
This national trait is more than fools and their money being soon parted. Our foolishness is ubiquitous across a broad range of behaviors, at all levels of our society, with consequences affecting many more people than the fools themselves. Our propensity for foolishness has severe consequences for everyone including our neighbors around the world and the planet.
There is no planet “B” but fools rush in...
Lack of action on climate change is exhibit A. Despite plenty of scientific evidence that we are altering the climate, people have their heads firmly buried in the sand. Even the easily observable changes like increases in temperatures, more frequent coastal flooding, higher intensity storms, later frosts and earlier springs are being discounted and ignored. As individuals and a nation we refuse to take the needed action to help mitigate the problems. Our lifestyles and personal convenience are more important than our children's future.
Here is a small sampling of the evidence: According to Car and Driver magazine in 2022 the three top-selling vehicles were full-sized pickup trucks. Five of the top 10 were trucks and three were SUVs. American houses get bigger every year but families are getting smaller. Median home sizes have grown by more than 150% since 1980. Living space per person has doubled since 1973. The U.S has the lowest average gasoline prices of 12 peer countries (western Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada). But we spend more of our annual income on gasoline because we drive 3.5 times farther.
Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and impact but fools rush in...
Exhibit B. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 3.3 million American adults were displaced by natural disasters in 2021. But the fastest growing areas of the country are the ones prone to natural disasters. People continue to flock to climate change-threatened locations. Florida with coastal flooding and hurricanes Arizona with record drought and insufficient water to support more development The mountain west with drought and high temperatures causing record numbers of wild fires.
Arizona has had its water allocation from the Colorado River cut 21%. This is an amount equal to the annual supply for 2 million households. The Arizona Department of Water Resources reported that areas west of Phoenix do not have sufficient ground water for more development. But more than two dozen new housing projects are underway or being planned for the Phoenix area.
In the desert Southwest a mega-drought has resulted in the driest two decades in 1,200 years. Human-caused climate change has helped to fuel these conditions. But few are altering their lifestyles.
Renewable energy is “socialism” as the fools and naysayers rush in...
Exhibit C. Wind, solar, geothermal, heat pumps, conservation and other sensible “green new deal” solutions are increasingly cost effective and reliable. They work! But right-wing politicians and fossil fuel lobbyists continue to preach misinformation and oppose progress. It is socialism! American's freedom to have a McMansion in the burbs with a garage overflowing with gas guzzling vehicles and toys is at risk.
In 2021, renewable energy supplied only 12.4% of total U.S. energy consumption. Renewable energy sources accounted for 19.8% of utility-generated electricity. This is changing as more people and companies ignore the naysayers.
We “can't afford it” say the fools...
One B-52 bomber consumes as much fuel in an hour as the average car driver uses in seven years. The Department of Defense is the world’s single largest institutional consumer of petroleum. The Pentagon is a leading greenhouse gas emitter (larger than many countries).
War is an environmental disaster that pollutes and contaminates in addition to killing and maiming people and destroying local economies. Researchers say 20 percent of all global environmental degradation is caused by military activities.
War, preparation for war, Veteran's Administration medical care and other “national security” costs consumes well more than 50% of the annual federal discretionary budget. Every year total spending exceeds $1 trillion and every year it goes up! But every time funding for environmental protection, health care, education, public infrastructure or any other human need is discussed we are told “we can't afford it.”
We know Pentagon waste can be significantly cut without any harm to “national security” but too many Americans are fools. They believe the flag-waving propaganda supporting the military industrial complex. They deride the advocates for peace and they vote for the warmongering politicians from both parties. Fools and their tax dollars are soon parted.
We pay twice as much for health care as any other modern nation but fools rush in...
Exhibit D is American willingness to be fooled about a national health care program. We have the highest total, per capita spending on health care in the world ($12,318 in 2021). But we lag behind our peer nations in access, administrative efficiency, equity and health care outcomes.
In America 30 million people (9.2%) have no health insurance. Another 23% have inadequate insurance. We are the only major country where health care debt is a major cause of bankruptcy.
All this has been known, and documented, for a long time. But the medical industrial complex profiteers, and free market hucksters, have successfully branded sensible alternatives as “socialized medicine.” Too many Americans believe this foolishness.
There is no end to the lunacy as fools rush in...
Not all foolishness is about national policy. Many average Americans behave foolishly every day. There is abundant evidence for this but I have room for only two examples. Surveys on distracted driving show 77% of Americans use the phone while driving. Half text or email, one quarter post to social media and one fifth shop online! Half the population buys lottery tickets (spending $100 billion per year). Lotteries take money from those who can least afford it, produce very little revenue for local governments, but make good money for the companies printing the tickets. The odds of wining anything are very small but the “stupid tax” is very popular.
Fools rush in...I rest my case.