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Have Americans Moved From Outrage to Resignation?

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 8, 2010 6:09 AM |

The human spirit is not physically or emotionally able to maintain a heightened sense of acuity for an extended stretch. Although periods of stress or pain will cause sharp responses, eventually the human body is forced to accept the pain and learns to mask it. In the midst of our current economic crisis, I believe this distinct reality is setting in across our land. Let’s rewind the tape and review the developments which emanated on Wall Street and then plundered Main Street.

Fall 2008 brought us absolute shock, awe, and disbelief as the markets careened lower and the economy suffered a ‘heart attack.’

Throughout 2009, the shock wears off and America’s rage burns as people become fully aware that the banks, our regulators, and ultimately our government all failed us. While there are those on both sides of the aisle who would malign the opposition, the fact is both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of not properly defending the American citizenry against the plundering of our financial system. I captured this sense of rage in two specific commentaries:

“Reflections and Outrage” by Bob Rodriguez, June 1, 2009 and What’s Fueling America’s Rage?, November 20, 2009

In the latter I wrote:

I do believe, however, that the rage sweeping our country on both sides of the political aisle stems from the reality that Americans are increasingly convinced that our political representatives, government officials, financial leaders, and their selected constituents have not been honest with America.

This lack of integrity and its growing level of awareness enrages Americans. They are voicing their rage. Congress is starting to hear this rage and is redirecting the anger and frustration toward leaders in Washington, state capitols, and Wall Street. We are now seeing this reality each and every day. America knows a lack of integrity when it sees it or feels it, despite the fact that large swaths of our media (exceptions include Susan Antilla and Jonathan Weil of Bloomberg, to name a few) provide the establishment cover.

Even though there remain a multitude of reasons for Americans to remain enraged, I believe to a very large extent we have now moved to the third stage of our human crisis. What form of behavior exemplifies this phase of our crisis? Resignation.

Americans strike me as caring less about the political and economic realities of the day.

Unemployment report last Friday? Can we trust the report and the reporters?

Presidential polls and politics? Do we have to?

The daily swings of the market? Why bother?

Americans’ sense of betrayal will evoke spurts of outrage because the betrayal was so vicious; however, those pangs of anger and rage have passed only because they took so much energy to maintain. While life does go on, we need to go on along with it. I am not writing this commentary based on my personal feelings. Rest assured, Sense on Cents is determined as ever to “keep punchin'” for truth, transparency, and integrity. I just do not sense that America has the same energy.

Thoughts, comments, questions always encouraged and appreciated.

Larry Doyle

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. As President of Greenwich Investment Management, an SEC regulated privately held registered investment adviser, I am merely a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

  • Break Even

    My wife still yells at the talking heads on TV – but what is the point. At this time, I just want to know what the “rules” are today and I mean TODAY – they once only changed every four YEARS (if that). Now paying off your mortgage on the wrong day could be disastrous (better just walking away from the mortgage and house ? ? ? – better know the “rules” for TODAY).

    So, at 41, I feel like an 80-year-old cynic – take any politician (anyone running for public office) and someone “owns” them and raping the “public” coffers is the politician’s job. So, I just want to be in the group that is the “last in line” that is being plundered – tell me the “rules”, I’m gonna shut my mouth, and meander, discretely, to the back of the line.

  • BMB

    I’m not sure they were all that outraged to begin with. Not outraged enough, IMO. That’s not saying they won’t get there if things get worse — or don’t get better.

    The problem is we’re a little too complacent, waiting for the gov’t and/or the Fed to ‘fix’ things, still under the illusion that they actually have the ability to, because that’s the image that’s been put forth for many years.

  • Mk

    “Americans sense of betrayal will evoke spurts of outrage because the betrayal was so vicious; however, those pangs of anger and rage have passed only because they took so much energy to maintain…”

    Anger and rage take much energy to be maintained, but not the sense of betrayal. Citizens from the left and the right both feel a deep seated sense of betrayal. When citizens feel betrayed by their govts., it is an unique sense of betrayal.

  • divvytrader

    just look at ICI data , larry …… record 17th straight week ( last week ) of net outflows from US domestic equity mutual funds …. like $55 billion pulled out of stock funds by retail ……..

    its real …..

    yet stock markets are soaring while retail is fleeing mutual funds ?

    who is facilitating the retail exodus ffrom stocks and actually driving markets higher ?

    ain’t hedge funds ….. they are having a horrible year and July is big outflow month for them .

  • Tea Party

    Rest assured those of us in the Tea Party remain mighty ticked and we vote!!

    • Jeffers

      Your party lost all credibility when Palin wasn’t outed and Ron Paul stopped supporting it. It is merely a reinvention of the republican agenda. This is not debatable. See here.

      Scroll down to their “coalition partners” list… Its all republican organizations.

      • fred


        Don’t be so quick to throw the baby out with the bath water. Give the Tea Party some time to define itself and develop a political platform and state/national campaign organization of it’s own.

        I give the Republicans alot of credit for recognizing that the Tea Party has alot of “ground support” and that there are alot of disenfranchised voters who don’t clearly identify with either of the major parties. It might be wise for the Democrats to “befriend” the “Tea Tottlers” as well.

  • phil trupp

    The appearance of resignation may be the result of metamorphosis, the nature of emotion as is passes through the stages of change. This is to be expected, especially when the body politic has become a toxic brew stirring so many conflicting cross currents.

    As a small proof of life, I offer a column published in yesterday’s “Seeking Alpha” online forum. A writer calling himself “Califia Beach Pundit” offered up this cheerful headline: “Obama’s Loss is the Economy’s Gain.” The writer was saying in effect that a complete failure of the Administration would be good news America.

    His column drew (as of this writing) 183 comments. Most of them railed against this brand of Rush Limbaugh-inspired cynicism. Others, a distinct minority, agreed with the writer that America must crash and burn before it can recover its true character.

    Whatever side one might take in the debate, the passion was on full display. True, those 183 commentators were motivated by a common concern for our political and economic future. But I sense a broader discontent simmering below the surface. The German philosopher Franz Kafka would call it metamorphosis–a quiet, almost unseen process of radical change. This change does not show itself all at once, although the process is ongoing, evolving in the way nature evolves on its unseen cosmic clock.

    Are we truly resigned? Or are we reshaping positive energy out of our discontent, perhaps constructing a new vision of America and the world?

    In Kafka’s parable “My Destination,” the rider on his horse is asked where he is going. The rider answers, “Away from here. Always away from here…It is, fortunately, a truly immerse journey.”

    Message: Keep punchin’, Larry. There are many horses and many riders, and they are with you.

  • Disgruntled BD

    “I’m madder than hell, and I can’t take it any more!” The resignation stage of grief must be a lagging indicator of reality. The financial sector has become a tremendous threat to democracy, and presents the new battleground for freedom, liberty and mental health of the masses. And it looms as a dark cloud over people’s dashed hopes and dreams. I know plenty of folks in their 40s and 50s who live in fear of having their retirements stolen from them. A fear that is no longer neurotic, except to the extent that it fronts for a greater terror beneath. There is no more social contract, and regulators continue to disgrace themselves with abandon; reveling in their disgraces like hogs roiling the filth of dereliction. I sound like a nut.

    • phil trupp

      You’re not a “nut,” BD. You have hit the essential core of a growing problem: the financial industry as enemy of the state.

      • fred


        Two comments…

        1) I’m not sure this is a “new” or “growing problem”, the ever-present beast has finally been exposed in all it’s glory or lack thereof.

        2) Wasn’t the perceived adversarial role of the financial industry as “enemy of the state” a very important ingredient to Hitler’s rise to power? If so, maybe we should address this perception before we committ another “faux pas” in the name of right. Afterall, as history is our guide, we are not free of blemish.

        • phil trupp

          Hitler co-opted the financial sector. Seimens, Junkers, and the banking sector (what remained of it) were vital to the buildup of Reich’s war machine.

  • coe

    I think you have hit a nerve yet again, LD. I believe that we, as a people, pay lip service to welcoming change, but on balance, we all long for our personal comfort zones of the “good old days”…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain for to many in our midst, those days weren’t all that good…and clearly, they weren’t so long ago that they would be considered old. You feel this transitional inadequacy of moving from outrage to “resignation” in other arenas as well – haven’t we reached the saturation point regarding the war in Afghanistan, peace in the Middle East, the horrible suffering in Africa, the natural disasters and man-made eco-assault on our own Gulf Coast – these issues have been pounding our senses for so long, they are so complex, hugely important and yet often at the same time seem so far away – what can I possibly do as an individual to even understand matters well enough let alone make a difference in my actions – and thus, the anger runs out of steam – even with the passage of time, and fatalism and resignation takes grip of our psyches. I think it is the same for many of us with the financial crisis – too complex, too arcane, too beyond my grasp, too many moving parts, too many bad players on the scene – Wall St greed, personal irresponsibility, corporate dry rot, political self-serving and so on – phase in one more new program, a higher deficit, another subsidy, a stab at curing the mess that was partly driven by structured leverage finance with, good grief, structured leverage finance! If you piled all the articles on mortgage issues end on end, we would circle the globe over and over – HAMP, modifications, moral hazard, rating agencies, upside/down, LTV, low doc, CMO, Freddie and Fannie, foreclosures – it is absolutely daunting…layer in globalization, structured credit, unemployment, minimum wage, regulation, partisan politics, education, health care – it’s all too much for us to bear…yet, as you continue to point out, the stakes are exceptionally high – so we really have no choice but to fight through the resignation phase and get back to the brain damage, outrage and hard work so necessary to right the ship…you certainly are leading the charge…seems like there are plenty of folks that remain vested in the cause…in the end, resignation isn’t a real option – is it?

    • Duke

      Comrade Coe,

      Your assessment evokes the emotions captured by the inimitable Billy Joel in his legendary song We Didn’t Start the Fire.

      • LD


        You beat me to it. Thanks for the link.

    • fred


      In a democratic society, structural change has the best hope of occurring at the “voting booth”. Part of the problem today is that the leadership of both major parties has been kidnapped by special interests.

      Currently, the simple truth is, that to get anywhere politically, you need to tap into the state and national campaign organizations of one of these major parties. The best recent example is Scott Brown (MA), in order to get elected he had to run as a Republican and tap into the McCain/Romney preexisting campaign organizations. His voting record since joining the senate, however, is more that of an Independant than either a Republican or Democrat.

      Coe, choose hope; this is the first time, in my lifetime, that a semi-legitimate third party has emerged without the prerequisite of a strong candidate. The Tea Party is still trying to define itself and is forced to sleep on the Republican side of the isle in order to effectively oppose the ruling Democrats, but lets watch, listen and hope.

      The Tea Party must reach out to the disenfrachised American that refuses to be affiliated strongly to either of the established parties and build a platform based on morality, integrity, and idealism, (if it is to be of any lasting value).

      Coe, you ask how we get back the feeling of “the good old days” that defined the greatness of this country? Feelings of confidence, entrepreneurial spirit, a sense of adventure and purpose? There’s only one way I know of…

      Through a shared belief that each of us can make a difference with our efforts and by remembering that positive change requires action not just emotion. Let’s start the journey with a single step, a single question.

      Why do fewer than 25% of American citizens take the time to vote in a typical election. I would argue that it’s not because they’re lazy or don’t care, (I know I’m not and do), but I think it’s more likely they’re intimidated by the process, have a busy schedule, or don’t think their vote matters.

      This needs to change, not only should every vote be counted every vote has to be counted in order for democracy to achieve it’s greatness.

      Let’s look to the just completed 2010 Census or American Idol for that matter. Why, in the age of broadband, wireless, and overnight delivery can’t I vote online, over a phone or thru the mail as a normal way of casting a ballot?

      • Jeffers

        This. You’d think we’d be able to vote online at this point. Our system could be far more democratic then leadership likes to let on…

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