Saturday, May 30, 2015

We Are Being Unserious

Americans have a tendency to be uneducated, unread, unthoughtful, and unserious. This is fairly uncomplimentary I understand, however it is none the less an unassailable assertion.

It is in the news lately that a veteran news broadcaster is retiring soon. He’s not one of those who’s been exposed as having fabricated stories from thin air, or one of those who has been a shameless political partisan in the past, but then head faked to the center, clicked his heels together three times and pretended to be impartial. But he is still unthoughtful, and unserious when he lends his voice to the chorus of voices that sites polarization of the congress as being a bad thing.

Polarization of the congress and the refusal to compromise is what makes the U.S. government what it is: stable. Three coequal branches of government in constant tension is exactly what the founders had in mind. Don’t make me drag out my three legged stool versus single legged milking stool analogy.

Everyone, except New York Times economists perhaps, accepts that a national debt of $18+ Trillion is potentially ruinous to the nation. The effects of a punishing recession would have been made much worse if interest rates on borrowed money weren’t so low, making the cost of servicing that debt less than they otherwise would be. But very little attention is paid to how we got to this point. That is unthoughtful.

There is constant argument about how to extricate ourselves from our current predicament. Some claim that we need to spend less, others that we need to spend more. Some claim that we need to tax less, others that we need to tax more. There are those that like to mix and match with taxing and spending, and there are those content with simply tinkering at the edges with feel good programs, but virtually everyone seems to long for the “good old days” when the congress seemed to be able to reach consensus and do the “people’s work”. But this is where our unthoghtfulness and unseriousness are exposed. It was the comity of congress, the congeniality, the ability of members of both parties to “get along” with their colleagues that has resulted in a national debt so large that our great grand children will still be making payments on it long after we’re in our graves.

Members of congress are rewarded for how much federal money and how many government funded projects and grants they bring home to their constituents, and how well they work with others. That is, how much help they can be to their colleagues in taking home money and projects to their own constituents. Lost in all of that well tailored, soft spoken conviviality is the fact that they don’t have to pay for or be responsible for any of it. All they have to do is to proclaim their sponsorship of, or support for an idea that sounds good. It doesn’t have to be successful, it can even be disastrous. It only has to appeal to our need to feel good about ourselves and to sound good in the abstract. Is it meant to help the children? Is it meant to help the poor?

No. A sharply divided congress is an indicator of a sharply divided populace, and if there is no public agreement on what should be done, then nothing should be done. The misguided nostalgia for the cooperation of past decades that brought us to this place is unthoughtful, unserious, and unresponsible.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

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