It is interesting to witness The United States in its present gyrations over the need for economic reform. It seems that things have gotten bad enough that most of us now believe that something ought to change. Frankly, however, that’s not so big a deal, since Americans are generally complaining about something or other. What’s particularly interesting, though, is to keep an eye on whether we’re actually moving closer to doing something.
While there’s not much danger of that happening anytime soon, let’s take a quick look at why. We are currently exploring manifold options, and then summarily rejecting them one by one as we realize that each option will cause pain to someone. Let me count the ways. What follows below is a casual list of frequently-discussed one-liner reforms, followed by popularly-given arguments against them.
- Canceling Social Security. You can’t cancel Social Security because it will hurt SS recipients. And besides, if you take away their cash, they’ll quit spending it into the economy.
- Canceling Government Pensions. You can’t do this for the same reasons you can’t cancel Social Security.
- Canceling Medicare and other medical entitlements. This one is similar to those above, but also different. Yes, a cancellation of Medicare would not only hurt Medicare participants, but it would remove a very large percentage of the revenues presently enjoyed by the behemoth medical/pharmaceutical industry that has thrived, profiting from these entitlements.
- Cut our military pursuits. If you do this, you’re hurting millions of military families as well as millions of families who are supported by our massive military/industrial complex. Also, you’re making it practically certain that we’ll have another 9-11. Further, without our military forcing new trade relationships across the world and continuing to enforce existing relationships, our economy would suffer. Our 700+ bases across the globe may seem excessive, but they’re really the backbone of our economy—so you can’t touch them.
- Cut the size of the Federal Government. You can’t do this because it could put millions more Americans out of work. And if they’re out of work, they’ll quit spending into the economy.
- Cut business-stifling government regulations so that small businesses can thrive. You can’t do this because cutting regulations means cutting the regulatory departments of the government that current oversee business regulation—and this would be to commit #5 above. Further, if you cut regulation, you’re hurting the larger corporations and other parties who currently enjoy the protections provided by the inequitable regulatory environment.
- Close the tax gap, making everybody pay the taxes they are avoiding. You can’t do this because you’ll be taking money out of people’s pockets, which keeps that money out of the economy. Besides, to clamp down on the tax gap means increasing the size of government, which means more costs.
- Just make the rich pay our way out of our crisis. You can’t do that because it’s patently unfair to the rich. Why should they have to pay a higher percentage than anyone else? Besides all this, it’s the rich who employ everybody else. If you tax them more, they won’t have those funds available for business (and payroll) expansion. This would hurt the economy.
- Make the poor pay taxes, too. This would amount to an attack on the poor. Further, every dollar you remove from their pockets is a dollar that doesn’t make it into the economy.
- Increase corporate taxes. This causes the same trouble caused by #8 above. Corporate dollars pay workers, and workers spend their paychecks into the economy. If you increase corporate taxes, you will force corporations to cut back, and that will hurt the economy.
- Increase the minimum wage so that the poor will have more money. You can’t do this because it will hurt the employers and force them to downsize. Sure, you could pay some employees more, and then send others home unemployed. Oh, and then your business can’t fulfill its orders. This would be bad for the economy.
So there you have it. These are the reasons that we can do nothing. Thus continues the search for a painless solution.
What amazes me is how the American public remains glued to the ever-churning debate over where the pain should be shifted—yet no one seems to figure out that this is a vain pursuit. I imagine the magician’s hands spinning round and round over the table as the onlookers eagerly await to discover under which shell the pea will finally appear. Little do they realize, of course, that the shell game is void of any real mystery as long as the magician has the sleight of hand skills to remove the pea stealthily from any shell at will. Still, they watch in utter amazement.
And so continues the dysfunctional national debate over economic reform. Each faction claims that they should be immune from any pain caused by a reform. No one wants to sacrifice. No one wants to do without. No one wants to bear the weight of someone else’s errors.
We say, “Why should we have to pay our way out of this mess when we didn’t cause it?”
Let’s stop right there. I submit that “we” did cause this mess. I submit that we Americans are (in the aggregate) terrible overseers of our own government. It has been under our watch that these things have evolved into their present state. We stood by and watched while the cartels that really run this country turned us into an imperial powerhouse that has wrestled the bulk of the world’s economy under its military/economic control. We stood by and watched the government pander to the generations with successive entitlements, chaining the suckling public to the teats of the great government sow and make them into useful dependents.
Yes, we are the ones who stood by singing patriotic songs and congratulating ourselves on our “freedoms” while we continued to vote into office one cartel puppet after another.
The blame is ours and the pain will be—and of right, ought to be—ours. Even so, however, we seem to be hoping that some whipping boy can be found to bear the suffering that we ourselves have earned.
Perhaps we will grow up…someday.