Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thinking about not thinking about the Deficit

Everyone knows that spending beyond one's income is imprudent, but it's the American way. Next year, even with proposed reductions in spending we'll still be living a trillion dollars outside of our collective means. And Americans are fine with that; according to polls when it comes to the question of what people want cut, they can't agree on what to cut, and thus ultimately they don't want anything cut.

So, to refine that opening statement: Everyone knows that we're supposed to say that living beyond our means is imprudent when posed with the question of having a deficit, and on some level to believe it's bad, but ultimately we accept that that's merely how it is. And how it will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Pundits and commentators can all point to how unless cuts are made to the parts of the budget that are considered untouchable (defense, Social Security, etc.) that these minor cuts will be the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but it's immediately acknowledged that any elected official who tried to take on that fight would be committing political suicide. Even if the plan were in the best long-term interest of the country, the ones who proposed it would be voted out of office (if not impeached). Although no one seems to be able to find agreement about what needs to be done about government budgets, all have no difficulty agreeing about what would happen to those who try.

And before we write off our representatives as pusillanimous and selfish, imagine how motivated you'd be to do something that would involve lots of hard work, make you the object of vitriol, and oh yeah, at the end you'd be guaranteed of getting fired.

Also, let's not forget: We put these people there to give us what we want, but we, as a populace, clearly cannot reach a consensus about what we want—other than we don't want to have to give up anything.

Of course, money is merely an abstract construct that we collectively delude ourselves into believing has any value, so perhaps it's completely consistent that we build into that delusion that the status quo, with nothing more done about the deficit than lip service once a year when a budget is announced. It's hard to argue that it isn't working for us, and that it stands to reason that as long as we continue to hold the delusion it will continue to work for us.

Consider if we spent more time thinking about it and did more than point fingers at politicians. That would lead only to depression and feelings of hopelessness. Keeping the collective blinders on isn't getting us anywhere, but apparently getting anywhere is out of the question with the sacrifices we're willing to make, so at least that keeps us from the pit of despair.

We have a right to pursue happiness, and it definitely seems like what we have is what facilitates the sense that we can still pursue that.


Now please think of puppies to keep from slitting your wrists.

1 comment:

  1. Money is inherently worthless. As long as you have food, gasoline, and ammunition, you're rich. ;-)


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