Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Chance Encounter and the Self-inflicted Wound

A friend of mine (you know who you are) once told me that what he liked about my presentations was that I seemed to have a “good command of the English language.” For a writer there can be no higher complement. I may or may not have told them that one of the beauties of the English language was in its character of adopting words that can distill the more seemingly complex ideas into a couple three syllables. Take one of President Reagan’s favorite admonishments for example; “Government isn’t the solution, government is the problem.” Until just the other day I did not know that there was a single term to cover this situation: iatrogenic. A disease caused by the diagnosis or treatment of a physician.

A more absolutely appropriate term for our systemic economic decline I could not imagine. Kind of like leeches and bleeding are analogous to politicians and bankers. Even a small child can understand that tearing a bandage off quickly is less painful than a long slow peeling away. Our politicians and bankers may be simpletons but that doesn’t mean they understand simple truths, or if they do, they don’t want the voting public to recognize them. Heaven forbid that the public might then come to the realization that politicians and bankers are not simply useless but actually destructive to the welfare of the individual and the nation as a whole. (Well at least the current batch of them anyway.)

Keeping in mind that most politicians (at the national level anyway) are the puppets of the financial elites that fund their campaigns, if there is anything a politician can’t stand it is to be perceived as “doing nothing.” Being seen as “taking action” or “fixing a problem” is their reason for existence, the food upon which their ever-expanding egos feed, that and tax dollars of course.

So that in essence is how we got to where we are today. Liken some small displacement in the economy unto a scrape on the arm, left alone a scab will form, the injury heal itself and in time would be long forgotten. Like how a new invention or technology changes the way we do something and results in some businesses going belly up while other new ones come into existence. (Who uses 5” or 3” floppy discs anymore now that we have thumb drives and re-writeable CDs?)

But that is not how government, politicians and their evil spawn the bureaucrats operate. When confronted with a scab it cannot be left alone to heal by some natural course, it must be portrayed as a “potential crisis.” And of course government must intervene in any “crisis”. So then the scab gets picked at and torn off and some government salve get slathered on at twice or more the cost of leaving it alone in the first place and at the same time tending to make the initial germ of infection immune to the natural process of healing, the market correcting itself. Now with a big government bandage covering the problem it is pronounced as “fixed” or at least “under repair” while it continues to fester under the surface only to reemerge at a later date or spread to someplace else and re-emerge as a “new” crisis in need of even more government intervention.

So with each new out break the problems grow worse than the previous ones, requiring (in the politicians and bureaucrats minds) even greater government “solutions” which are always, always, always, more government bureaucracy, spending, taxation and debt.

That this has gone on for decades now, under both Democrats and Republicans, the simple bumps and scraps of the economic course of life have now grown into a massive infection of government debt and addiction to cheap money. Sadder still this disease has spread to much of the body politic as well as far to many people have stopped being savers for their future and become consumers for today, so much so that they are consuming not just their own income but have so borrowed against future income that the downturn (to use the mildest of possible terms) has put them “underwater” as is the current vernacular.

Are there any solutions? Perhaps there were at some point, but I fear that the infection has spread too far for any quick fix. All this brings me to a chance encounter I had about a week ago. Very often on Friday evenings the wife and I go out for some simple repast and get away from the kitchen, at least for one meal. Sitting down in a local restaurant, nothing fancy mind you, I notice sitting next to us at the next table was Erskine Bowles, President Clinton’s former Chief of Staff and more recently of note as part of the Simpson-Boles Commission tasked by the President to find solutions to the very problem outlined above. Not wanting to be rude I waited until he stood up with his family and was preparing to leave that I introduced myself and remarked how I could not have been more disappointed than he and Senator Simpson over the Administration’s out of hand rejection of the commissions recommendations. He shook my hand and remarked that he was indeed disappointed but that work was still being done at the political level and that some 47 Senators had signed on to the commissions recommendations. Not wanting to further delay his Friday evening with his grandchildren, I thanked him for his work, wished him luck in trying to further the commissions work, expressed my hope that it was not too late to be of any positive effect, and hoped he enjoyed the rest of his evening with his family.

We had an opportunity to do something outside the entrenched political norms, but politicians who saw it as not in their personal or party’s best interest, never mind that it might have been in the nation’s best interest rejected it. So the option to keep kicking the can down the road in vain hope that some miracle might occur to rescue them and the economy was chosen instead.

Sadly I don’t think we are going to get any miracle. I think what we are going to get is another war. Be it limited in nature or a wider conflict I can’t predict. But what I do know from reading history is that when governments become desperate to distract the public from the disasters of their own malfeasance they rattle the war sabers.

Like at the onset of America’s being plunged into an already raging World War II. The predictable consequence of our embargo of scrap metal and oil against Japan, no matter how justified, was that they would lash out militarily, somewhere, somehow. It would appear that we have set a similar course with Iran, only with far more cynical economic and political motives. Our financial and gasoline embargo and Iran’s inability to process more than 50% or so of their own refined petroleum needs has already set Iran on a course of hyper-inflation, with prices, of particularly imported goods rising some 200% to 300% in just the last few weeks.  Such is a risky path of national policy.  Although the Iranian people may be well educated and questioning why their government is pursuing nuclear weapons rather than the greater welfare of its citizens may be the intended goal, the government itself is not rational and hoping they will respond in a rational manner may proove to be a fool’s errand.

But then is this not just another manifestation of the supreme arrogance of politicians and bureaucrats and their puppet masters on Wall Street and in the City of London that they know so much better than the rest of us and that they in their infinite wisdom have everything under control?  Maybe it’s just me but it doesn’t seem to be working out so well thus far.

May God save us all from their hubris.

1 comment:

  1. Such is the window into a politicians mind. The average Joe might be more apt at forseeing the unintended consequences of saber rattling while our economy continues to disintegrate. Bush and Obama have handed the future to the Chinese while debt levels have sealed our fate as third world rate.


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