The Edge of the Cliff: Deadlines Reveal 16 Trillion Fault Lines

Fiscal-CliffI wish everyone a happy new year as we together, hand in hand, jump off the cliff into fiscal oblivion…

I have spent the last two weeks consumed with work related to two deadlines that strangely parallel the deadlines facing our political system. I disconnected myself as much as possible from distractions and focused on making concrete progress every day. It’s been a tough process, and I’m disappointed with the rate of progress. The only thing that brings me comfort is when I compare my accomplishments in these two weeks with that of the United States Congress. Of course, they got nothing done, and anything is more than nothing.

There is an absurd game going on in Washington that is summarized well by Senator Everett Dirksen a half century ago: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”

The United States is in debt about 16 trillion dollars. That’s about $140,000 per taxpayer, which means the government could really use some DAS advice. That’s how much you owe. Assuming you would resort to crime in order to repay that, you would have to rob a bank over 20 times to cover that amount (source: US News article).

The problem is that we are (1) spending too much and (2) being taxed too little. You probably disagree with one of those statements depending on whether you like the color blue or red better. The problem is that your disagreement is grounded in an ideology that isn’t based in honest evaluation of where you really stand. Majority of people who call for “smaller government” want a smaller government as long as it doesn’t affect them. Everyone is for “spending cuts on that other guy’s stuff but not my stuff”. Same hypocritical philosophizing goes for taxes.

And of course the poor politicians have to represent us selfish contradictory facebook-positing taxpayers. Their job is essentially to try and make 300 million children eat broccoli, while pretending it’s delicious cake. Of course when the children discover that there is not cake, it’s the job of the politicians to blame someone of the opposite party.

There are no easy solutions. The only thing I can recommend, and will do myself, is to be a productive citizen who does not add to the bickering but adds to the civil discourse about the ideal that our country is (on its better days) slowly edging towards.

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