Monday, December 12, 2016

It's A Wonderful Life -- Or Is It?

I'll bet a good many of us will find time between now and the end of the year to watch at least a couple of the "holiday classics" such as It's A Wonderful Life.   But how many of us will take the time to reflect on what that movie says to us in today's terms.

The problem with the movie is that there are so many important messages that it's hard to know where to start.  Having faith, never giving up, being generous instead of greedy and not always focusing on material things for happiness are the obvious starters.  Those are mostly individual things, of course, but are there important lessons for us collectively?  I think so.

Jardin du Soliel Lavender Farm, Washington
Canon EOS 7D, 24-105mm

Just for starters let's examine the benefit to society of a strong middle class.  Because the Bailey Building and Loan made it possible for average working people in the community to afford quality housing they prospered.  The money spent and saved helped others in the community to also enjoy a positive, middle-class lifestyle.  Although Mr. Potter is viewed as the villain that he is he is a villain because of greed.  

Profit is not a dirty word.  Businesses must make a profit to survive and for employees and survivors to flourish as well.  But in today's business world profits are not only required but must be maximized which often means that the "one percent" does well but not many others.  This may not be so troublesome in very good times but when those times are up it's feast or famine.

While we feel warm fuzzies over It's A Wonderful Life I suspect we overlook the post-Depression recognition that the key to a healthy economy and society is a strong middle class.  When Main Street and Elm Street prosper Wall Street should prosper, too.  But today too much emphasis is placed on Wall Street and the phrase "everything in moderation" is usually assigned to caloric intake.

Mount Saint Helen's, Washington
Canon EOS 7D, 24-105mm
Where our political and economic policies fail us is that they don't emphasize the value of a strong middle class which sustains both the rich and the indigent.  The postwar economic boom proved this.  So did FDR's New Deal.  Putting people to work improving our infrastructure brought the nation out of economic crisis and taught us -- or at least should have taught us -- that paychecks are better than welfare checks.

Supporting a strong and growing middle class isn't a handout or charity.  It's an investment that produces substantial returns.

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