Big Thing To Remember: We’re Broke
Most of us know the difference between not being able to afford something and not having the money at all.
We know how it feels to want something like a new car or a trip to Europe or an expensive piece of clothing and be brought up short by the knowledge that there’s not enough money in our bank account and our credit cards are maxed out. That settles it. That golden goodie we yearn for is put on the back burner — sometimes forever.
Not being able to afford our current heart’s desire is something else. We do have the cash in the bank or enough line of credit to pay for it. However, heavy taxes are soon due or the roof needs to be replaced or big college expenses are on the horizon. We cannot afford that golden goodie, so it resides again on that back burner.
You don’t have to be a CPA or a lawyer or have an MBA or understand calculus or quantitative analysis to get the message. Simple arithmetic will do the trick — 2 plus 2 equals 4, but if you try to take 5 from it, you’re in trouble.
We all understand these principles. Those who choose to ignore them find themselves in real trouble. They may lose their houses or face bankruptcy that, despite the promises of the lawyers on TV, is far from a cure-all. You pay heavily for bankruptcy for years. Better to forgo the golden goodie.
You and I get this. So why is it so unfathomable to people in our government? Why do they persist in thinking that all they have to do is raise taxes and they will suddenly have money to lavish on this welfare state we call America? Don’t they realize we’re broke?
It’s no longer that we cannot afford to support half the world, it is that we just plain don’t have the money, and all the tax increases in the world will not change that. Obama can yammer until 2012 about gridlock, but we’re still broke.
We are inherently a giving people. Immediately after World War II, we were the mightiest nation on earth. We were rich and could afford to spread it around. It was who we were. But it is no longer who we are.
What worries me is not that we are in this predicament, but that too many people don’t believe it. High on that list are the people we hire to run our government. It is why the newly appointed committee to fix things worries me. Republican or Democratic, makes little difference. They will flail around like banshees and stonewall each other until the deadline arrives. An attempt will be made to compromise but it will be too late, and cuts will take place in all the wrong places.
Too many entitlements are strictly “hands-off.” Social Security is an example. Yet when it was passed back in 1935, the age expectancy for the average American was younger than the 65 that qualified you. Extending that age to 68 would go a long way toward saving the program for future generations. In 1935, disability was not a part of Social Security. The heavy advertising that lawyers take out to dip your fingers into that pie suggests that it should also be examined carefully.
Most of us understand that parking our dreams on a back burner may mean they remain fantasies, but at least it keeps the wolf from the front door. It is long past time for Congress and the White House to understand this as well. Deep down, I suspect they really do, but they also know that handing out the golden goodies is an easy way to buy votes. It’s the deficit that sits on the back burner.
One solution to that is to take away the value of the votes. Maybe if they worried less about being re-elected (via term limits), they would pay attention to their jobs. Remember: We are broke.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.
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