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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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We must become stewards of the broken U.S. economy

By Aaron Zundel

Ohio, 1969. The Cuyahoga river is on fire.

Out-of-control manufacturing waste and blatant disregard for the environment have polluted the river to the point that it burns. When the flames die down, the country is shocked. Time magazine runs a feature on the disaster. “How did this happen?” “How did it get to this point?” The answer? In their rush to meet consumer demand, to strengthen the economy and to expand their bottom line, big businesses adopted an attitude of indifference toward the environment. They forgot their obligation to be good stewards of the land that sustained them. The public was equally culpable, content to reap the benefits of such practices and unmotivated to stop them.

Washington, D.C., 2009. The U.S. economy is burning.

On Friday, the United States Department of Labor released the newest figures for U.S. unemployment: an additional 524,000 jobs lost in December8212;a number that raises the nation’s overall unemployment rate to 7.2 percent, the highest it’s been since 1993. Those numbers are expected to increase this year. The world is shocked. Time ran a feature on the disaster. “How did this happen?” people ask. “How did it get to this point?” The answer?

The same way you burn a river.

In an effort to increase wealth, the nation has polluted its financial landscape to the point that it can no longer sustain itself. Business leaders and CEOs of corporations and banks like Lehman Brothers, AIG and Washington Mutual have forgotten their obligation to protect the system they benefit from8212;taking too many risks in their greedy scramble to make a dollar. Others, like Bernie Madoff, skinned the system outright, siphoning off wealth with no thought of the consequences. Finally, we as consumers developed an insatiable appetite for “stuff.” We bought McMansions, drove monstrous cars, took equity out of our homes and maxed out our credit cards and as long as the DOW continued to climb, we were happy to let it continue.

It is time for that to stop. Although we as students might not have the ability (or the expertise) to solve this complex financial catastrophe, it is within our power to help heal the economy slowly, over time.

Following the Cuyahoga river disaster, people started to take their heads out of the environmental sand and realize that it was in their best interest to protect their natural resources. Soon after the incident, young people employed their zeal and energy and started an environmental movement. They spent their time proactively protecting the environment instead of reacting only to disasters. For every tree someone cut down, it became policy to plant two. Instead of continuing to create more and more waste, people started to recycle and reuse what they could. Nearly 40 years after Cuyahoga, we are certainly not perfect in our efforts to protect the environment, but things are definitely better than they were. The same goes for our financial landscape today.

As students and the next generation in line to run the country, we need to realize that our rate of consumption needs to be corrected. We need to accept that the way our parents live is probably too extravagant and unrealistic a lifestyle to maintain in the future. Instead of borrowing two dollars for every one we earn, we ought to be saving two for every one we spend. Instead of trying to figure out if we have enough money to pay for a new Escalade, we need to start asking ourselves if we can afford it.

Our leaders, both in government and in business, have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to correct the current economic disaster. They need to find a way to thaw the credit markets, increase consumer confidence and pay down the national debt. At the same time, we have an obligation as the succeeding generation to change our expectations and the way we care for our financial world. If the United States is to remain a world economic superpower it will be up to us to become the good stewards of the economy that our parents were not.

[email protected]

Aaron Zundel

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