Generation Zero Zeros in on Cultural Roots of Financial Crisis

September 18, 2008 -- the day the market lost $550 billion in little over an hour, costing Americans $14 trillion -- was the tipping point for deeply indebted, over-obligated America.

Candidates on the stump are finding voters deeply attuned to and worried about America’s precarious financial condition, thus the impending electoral tsunami on November 2.

Generation Zero – conservatives’ answer to Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story -- zeros in on the causes of this crisis.

The film, made by Stephen K. Bannon (Victory Productions) and David Bossie (Citizens United) -- taking about two years and $5 million less than Moore’s love story -- makes a convincing case, very artfully, that, in the words of Bulls & Bears’ Tobin Smith, this meltdown was a “failure of culture not of capitalism.”

It opens with Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) dramatically recounting the cliff we nearly drove over two years ago.

“We were having an electronic run on the banks” Kanjorski said the Fed concluded after immediately pumping $105 billion into the system to no effect.  The only solution was to “close the operation, close down the money accounts….”

“If they had not done that,” Kanjorksi intoned, “their estimation was that by two o’clock that afternoon, five and 1/2 trillion dollars would have been drawn out of the money market system of the United States, would have collapsed the entire economy of the United States and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed (which would have meant) ... the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.”

“Someone,” Kanjorski concluded, “threw us in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a life raft. And we’re trying to determine which is the closest shore and whether there’s any chance in the world to swim that far.  We don’t know.”

Generation Zero compellingly argues that only by attacking the causes of this still-bubbling crisis will we make it to shore. And far from being a mystery, the bevy of experts interviewed, including Roger Kimball and Victor Davis Hanson, assert the causes are very clear.

Cultural self-indulgence; radical interlopers such as Obama mentor Saul Alinsky, Frances Fox Piven, and Richard Cloward, who, considering America evil, sought to destroy it from within and replace it with a state of control, and concomitant policy, geared toward social engineering rather than social harmony, including the Community Reinvestment Act spurring irresponsible subprime mortgage lending; Washington/Wall Street collaboration, emphasizing consumption over production, allowing rules whereby Wall Street, in effect, evolved into a casino where it’s “heads banks win, tails taxpayers pay”; and trade deals that hollowed out America’s manufacturing base.

The film posits civilizations go through cyclical “turnings” and that we are now in a crisis phase mirroring the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War II.

After the war, we had the first turning, “The High,” 1945-1965, a period of consolidation. It was followed by the second turning, “The Awakening,” 1966-1986, a period when the self-centered children of “The High,” lavished with material goods denied their parents, entered adolescence and began to question the verities of the previous era. This was followed by the third turning, “The Unraveling,” 1987-2007, when the baby boomers, running the show, were running the economy into the ground given their emphasis on consuming for themselves, not producing for the economy.

In 2008, we had the fourth turning -- “The Crisis” -- where ideas popularized in the self-indulgent ‘60s began playing out dramatically on the national stage.

“No one,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reflects, “should underestimate where we are today":

"We’re either going to be a secular socialized European-style country with slow economic growth and dramatically more power in our politicians," Gingrich adds, "or we’re going to fundamentally shift to basic American values: the work ethic, entrepreneurship, decentralization, local government, voluntarism -- all the things that for 400 years made us so dramatically different than Europe and so much more productive than anyone else....”

The good news in this otherwise downbeat story is that, as Neil Howe, author of The Fourth Turning notes, in moments of crisis “the best qualities of every generation comes to the surface and become very important in steering history in a good direction.”

Generation Zero loudly trumpets that the “time” for steering in a “good direction” is now.