Monday, May 30, 2011

The American Economy as a fatal illness

Terminal illnesses entail a grief process.  We all know the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.  Most people, looking at our economic future, are  in this process somewhere.  It is perhaps too early to definitively say that this illness is terminal, however, as with medical diseases, the longer the denial and anger stages last, and the later the treatment,  and the more dire the outcomes.  I am reminded of a patient I had once who had seen every surgeon in the city, and put off getting her breast cancer treated because, "God would not allow a minister's wife to get breast cancer; the doctors must be wrong."  This level of denial is everyday life in our capitol.  It is exactly what is going on when big Ben says, "I can print as many federal reserve notes as possible (I will NOT call it money; words have meanings!) and there will be no inflation."

Denial, the next stage is a favorite pastime of socialists.
(Aside: my definition: anyone who advocates government solutions for economic problems.) 
This denial takes a slightly different form.  More like, "we are doing so much good with our programs that karma, God, etc, will surely see us through.  All these people need help.  We cannot let a little thing like bankruptcy derail our great society!"  But it is certainly not something that conservatives can gloat over.  Their denial is even more expensive than the socialists.  They maintain the insane position that we can bomb anyone into oblivion that we so desire without ever having to pay attention to costs.  Our self-righteousness will see us through.  Moderates take a little from column A and a little from column B.

But many on both sides of this political slug  have gone on to the next stage of grief; anger. 
(Aside: a coin has intrinsic value from the metal it is made of.  A slug (our current, "coins" do not. )  In a similar fashion for political factions to have any intrinsic meaning, there would have to be some significant differences between advocated policies.  Our current political "parties" have none. So there are only two sides of the political slug, not the coin)

This anger can be seen acted out in our political theater.  The socialists decry businesses and "the rich" (by which they mean the rich who did not get rich via government) who do not pay their "fair share" of taxes, and are looting society.  The conservatives roil against the unions, government pensions, and other government shenanigans and give-aways.  Here, at least they both are approaching reality.  The tax code is so biased and convoluted that anyone with a good lawyer and political connections can avoid a lot of taxes; and this is almost always the rich.  And the figures are clear, government spending on all levels is what caused this fatal disease in the first place.  Government is like a crack addict; it cannot kick its habit of giving away other people's money.  The rush they get from this power is, as a past secretary of Education told me,  "an insatiable lust."

On to the next stage: bargaining.  This is the budget process that is going on right now.  "If we give in $100 million, will you gauranty us another few years?" ask the Democrats.  "If you cut $100 billion can we be granted another few years?" reply the Republicans.  In truth, this is like the lung cancer patient promising to cut his two-pack-a-day habit down by one puff(Democrats) or by 1cigarette (Republicans.)  Much more aggressive treatment, will be needed; and soon!!

Depression is not seen in D.C. so much.  Politicians are always too busy doing, "something" to have time to get depressed.  However this is the stage that the majority of the country is in.  The average American is not as stupid as the leaders in D.C.  He or she knows, often from personal experience, that overweening debt is a disaster waiting to destroy lives; and countries.  Looking towards the professionals to provide answers, and seeing only, "take two Q.E's and call us in the morning." creates a mood of certain doom.  There are millions in this country who feel like dead men walking.

The final stage is acceptance.  Those of us who have reached this stage are surely to bear the wrath of all the others.  We are unpatriotic, speculators, cold, calculating, evil.  How can one give up on America.  "Land of the regulated, home of the groped!"  Oh dear, I think I got that wrong.  Or maybe not.  Acceptance. unlike with an individual's fatal disease, means accepting that your country is on an inevitable road to ruin.  It means recognizing the parallels between what is going on in D.C and what has happened many, many other times in history when government hubris caused it to become completely divorced from reality.  It also means recognizing that no individual is required to go down with the ship.  And it is this recognition that angers all the others so much.  By god, all us frogs are going to boil, and we ain't letting you out!  Time to jump out of the pot!