With political and business leaders like these, who needs enemies?
People outside the United States must be shaking their heads and wondering what the hell has happened to America. Most ordinary (nonpolitical) people inside the United States must be thinking the same thing. And the best evidence of our madness played out in the Friday morning headlines, as I violated my rule not to peek and read what the world was doing while I was on vacation.
The first and most voluminous group of headlines focused on the fact that Washington politicians are on the very precipice of committing an act nothing short of treason. Democrats, Republicans and newly elected members of the Tea Party are just days away from allowing the United States (and the world's economies) to lapse into a "Greater Recession." These so-called leaders are about to do what no terrorist could ever accomplish on our homeland. And they are doing it for the same reason a terrorist would: because of their unwavering political philosophy. It is a philosophical fight now because everybody agrees spending needs to be cut and the debt must be reduced. The argument is over how much and how fast.
But I digress. There is other important news out there, too.
Friday's headlines announced that our recovery from the last recession is on life support and heading in the wrong direction. And there was perplexing news from the private sector, too. Big companies whose spreadsheets are amazingly healthy announced thousands of job cuts. Among them was Merck. The giant pharmaceutical company celebrated news that it had tripled its earnings during the second quarter by announcing it was cutting 13,000 jobs. Technically, this is an add-on since Merck announced 17,000 job cuts earlier this year.
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Locally, Boston Scientific announced 1,400 layoffs on the same day it reported a 49 percent climb in second-quarter earnings. Sales are "better than expected," says the Wall Street Journal article that also announced the workforce cuts. There was some good news; Boston Scientific has 1,000 new jobs that need to be filled - in China.
With all this going on, we Americans were all looking for distractions and the media did not disappoint. The second most popular video at wsjonline.com was about "personal islands for the rich and famous." Then there was the highly popular online story about "hot summer jobs." Millions flocked to read about the best job this summer. It turns out that the hot prospect for desperate job seekers is serving as a tanning concierge to the Manhattan elite. At least that job can't be outsourced to China.
After reading Friday's news, real people can only watch in wonder and horror as the nation we love is portrayed quite accurately like the characters in the reality TV shows that we export (quite well, thank you) to the rest of the world. The world's leading terrorists must be thinking they should lay down their arms and stop planning. We voters in the United States have managed to elect a group of political leaders who are doing far more damage to our country, its reputation and future than any jihad warrior could ever hope to accomplish. With political and business leaders like these, who needs enemies?
Patrick Milan is a former journalist who is an executive vice president and creative director at Tunheim, a Minneapolis-based brand marketing and strategic communications agency.