Feb 20 2013

The desire to simplify

Published by at 10:27 am under Carlson

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

What is it about human nature that leads intelligent, usually sensible folks to fall into the trap of the “either/or?” Why do we have a horrible tendency to want to simplify the complex matters we face as individuals and a society? Will we ever learn that the false promises of simple solutions always ignore the law of unintended consequences?

These questions emerge as we witness the latest folly of Congress abdicating its responsibility to produce a preferably balanced budget which does not mortgage our children and grandchildren’s futures.

Unable to come to grips with our potentially crippling trillion -dollar debt by adopting a sensible program of reform, as advocated by the Simpson/Bowles Commission, Congress set a date in which mandatory, across-the-board spending cuts would be imposed if no agreement for fiscal responsibility was reached.

In effect, it is akin to placing a pistol to one’s head and saying if I haven’t quit drinking the toxic Kool-Aid of unbalanced spending by March 1,, I’m going to pull the trigger. It is fiscal insanity, but then so is the penchant to spend what we don’t have by continued borrowing.

The March 1 deadline is nearly here, yet Congress and the White House appear paralyzed, each pointing the finger at the other. Truth is, each share the blame, and each is playing high- stakes poker with the economy.

An $85 billion cut in a trillion dollar budget doesn’t seem catastrophic. Entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) are sacrosanct so the $85 billion comes from the Defense Department budget and from the rest of domestic spending. It equates to an 8 percent cut in the already existing Defense budget and a 5 percent reduction in the budgets of existing domestic spending. And it is across the board.

Its impact will be felt across Idaho, especially because we are one of the “net gainer” states. We receive $1.23 in federal spending for every $1 we hand over to Uncle Sam in fees and taxes. Just a few of the national impacts will be: 77,000 already enrolled children living in homes below the poverty line will be dropped from the valuable Head Start program that helps improve their educational opportunities; commodity food purchases for Aid for Dependent Children and hot lunch programs will be curtailed; and, contract employees of the Defense Department, half of whom are veterans, will be furloughed.

Some may say great, that’s tough but that’s life. When they head for their backcountry elk camp and find the road gated by a now stretched thin Forest Service, they too will start howling.

Make no mistake, sequestration will touch all of us in some way, and will cost each of us more. All is due to voters who buy the snake oil of simplicity and who do not hold their elected officials accountable for failure to solve problems. They are aided and abetted by a news media that thrive on conflicts and do little to enlighten a citizenry thirsty for solutions.

We’ve all heard the hot air of simplicity. Either cut spending or raise taxes. (Can’t do both can we?) Either do more with less or do without. Either increase the size of government, or cut it at all levels.

If I could be king for a day I would require every voter and every media talking head once a day to read the following statement by former Yale president and baseball commissioner A. Barlett Giamatti:

“As I think back and look forward, I see how nothing is straightforward, nothing is unambiguous. Salvation does not come through simplicities, either of sentiment or system. The gray, grainy complex nature of existence and the ragged edges of our lives as we lead them defy hunger for a neat, bordered existence and for spirits unsullied by doubt or despair.”

Memorize it and then resolve to avoid the fallacy of the either/or and the simple solutions that don’t truly exist to our complex challenges despite the false promises of so many of our so-called leaders.

Chris Carlson is a writer from Medimont, Idaho.

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