Fiscal Cliffs and Sanity

I firmly believe that people and nations should live within their means, save some money to cover lean times looming in the future, enjoy the fruits of their labor, pay (or spend) tax money to support what is good in government, and give generously to those who have needs.

If any part of that statement gives you concern, let me assure you — I’m not a socialist or a Tea party member or a crazy loon.

I am simply an individual with values like many others. People whose views regarding economics and, frankly, most other public policy issues, can be seen with some favor from both the liberal and conservative ends of the political spectrum. What people like me know is that there are answers to this mess we’re in.

We also know that our elected leaders, as they collect themselves around various “ideals and platforms,” love the mess because it’s part of their identity. If the mess goes away, they imagine that people will perceive them as less valuable.

Gunfighters need some bad guys to shoot. Armies need a clear and present danger. Lawyers need a dispute. Politicians need an enemy to vilify and eliminate. It’s all about self-justification for what they do.

We make movies and write books about these kinds of people. I would propose, however, that a majority of those imaginary plot lines center around the heroes who take on tough adversaries, but who do it to bring change. Invariably, what these good people (who sometimes have to do terrible things) are working towards is an elimination of the need for what they do.

Personally, I would like to think that our elected representatives have that same motivation. Certainly they would like to be part of a solution to this country’s ills. Yet our system has made it a necessity to make the playing and winning of political games a higher priority than tending to the commonwealth of our citizens.

Are there good people who serve in these elected positions? Most certainly. But, if they stay in those positions very long, they, too, must bow to the political altar — or be sacrificed on it.

I know. I’ve just become one more voice of discontent. However, my aim is not to recall everyone in Washington. I just want for them to work from a foundation of basic principles.

The following is my basic, unsophisticated wisdom when it comes to addressing the economic catastrophe we’re in. And, by the way, it’s really not my wisdom. I’ve gathered bits and pieces of it from people all along the spectrum of political thought.

  1. This nightmare didn’t just happen last night. We’ve been creating these monetary monsters for decades. There is no short-term fix. We must change our lifestyle as a people and as a nation.
  2. Reduced spending, in and of itself, will not make this go away. We’re too far in. Standing on the bottom of the pool when you’re in waist-deep water will prevent drowning. Firmly placing your feet on the bottom is far less effective and most often fatal when the waves are over your head.
  3. Increased taxes, in and of itself, will not make this go away. Any plan that seeks to move large portions of private capital into public coffers as the only answer will result in a downturn of ingenuity and productivity.
  4. While reduced spending and increased taxes aren’t desirable, discipline is. It is important that we accept the burden of discipline with an eye toward its eventual reward. We preach that to our children and our athletes. Why can’t we hand that same list of expectations to our country’s elected leaders?
  5. It’s okay to design and adopt a plan that isn’t ideal, as long as it moves us toward our common goals. The problem we’ve created is an outcome of losing sight of our common goals.
  6. Finally, we need to spend more time talking about and affirming the common goals through selfless action.

This can be done. I’m urging my representatives to end their petty rancor and asking them — pleading with them — to begin working as sane, competent, caring adults.

After reading this, you may really believe that you know where I stand politically. I can assure you, you have no idea. Nor do our elected officials. Therein lies my own political power.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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