The other day I was at a New York City chain drugstore searching for vitamins to stave off a cold. While walking the aisles, I heard the most piercing, blood curdling cry from an adorable little girl of about three years of age. Her father said to her in a tone he must usually reserve for discussing interesting *New York Times *articles with friends, “I know, I know. You are a victim of the corporate marketing guys.” He made no attempt to soothe or otherwise quiet the girl.
As I made my way to check out line, I was fortunate enough to find the child and both of her parents directly behind me. The girl’s screeching had reached a fever pitch at this point. She was running around the store, as well. Instead of attempting to stop her, the man said to his wife, “It’s those corporate marketing guys! They put a display of rubber balls at a child’s eye level. That is why she is acting like this.”
The girl ran over to a display of M&M’s and grabbed a bag and absconded with it. The man said to his wife “You see?!? That’s exactly what I am talking about! Corporate marketing guys!!! I mean, this is not her fault at all. It is the fault of marketing guys!”
I briefly considered saying something to the man. Something along the lines of “You’re right. It’s not her fault. It’s yours for being so ‘hands off’ in your parenting and not teaching your child about personal responsibility and courtesy.” I am no Dr. Spock, but I believe this man missed a powerful opportunity to teach his child that you can’t always have what you want in life, and that sometimes you must earn it. Instead he chose to blame some nameless, faceless suits who conspired to make his otherwise angelic daughter misbehave. His smug and knowing tone reminded me of my favorite line from the brilliantly satirical film Team America: World Police, in which a caricature of actor Tim Robbins confidently gives a dubious explanation as to how corporations make money.
This same failure to take responsibility goes as far as the White House. In a speech Monday to address the historic downgrade of the United States long term credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, President Obama placed blame on everyone and everything but his own failure to act. He assured the country he has a plan to deal with the situation… or at least he will have one in two weeks. National Review campaign correspondent Jim Geraghty quite aptly joked on Twitter, “I’m not able to watch Obama’s statement; are they letting him be clear? Or are the same unnamed forces interfering?”
The president is not the only one looking to pass the buck. Prominent Democrats are trying to lay blame on the Tea Party, or the so-called obstructionism of House Republicans by branding this as a “Tea Party Downgrade.” Leftist bloggers are advancing the ridiculous theory that S&P is doing the bidding of the GOP in advance of the 2012 campaign season. And almost everyone on both sides of the aisle has called out S&P for a two trillion dollar math error and flawed rationale in their analysis.
While it doesn’t take an economist to understand that S&P’s analysis is fundamentally flawed, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to get our own house in order. Especially troubling is S&P’s doubt that the U.S. will make “near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements…” They’re right, you know. I don’t presume to have the answers. But I do know that righting our nation’s fiscal course will take more than shooting the messenger.
And if you happen to be a certain rude, thirtysomething dad who lives in Astoria, Queens, you need to at least try to get your daughter to chill out. It’s not corporate marketers who are in charge of raising her, it’s you.