Monday, September 19, 2011

Deficit Games

The weather turned from summer to fall this past week.  I delivered my papers in shorts and sandals, and went to work similarly dressed.  When I left work it was winter; well not really winter but at least 15 degrees cooler.  Needless to say, my shorts and sandals were insufficient wear for the weather.  Since then, I have had to wear long pants on my route as the temps have been in the low 50's and upper 40's.  Despite the change, however, I am not ready to relinquish my sandals.

I caught the end of the movie Wargames today.  If you don't remember the flick, it featured Matthew Broderick as a high school computer wiz kid who hacks into a military website and begins playing Global Thermonuclear War with the computer, nicknamed WOPR by its handlers.  In the end, the computer takes over the decision making of the military, still thinking it is playing a game, and starts the end result of a thermonuclear war; launching the missiles.  Eventually, the wiz kid trumps the knowledge of the computer experts and "teaches" the WOPR that there is no winner in the game of thermonuclear war.  Or, more precisely, the only logical way to play the game is to not play at all.

Currently, we are seeing a similar game being played in Washington between the GOP and the President (Dems).  Unlike the two players in the cold war, today's Deficit Games will not bring about the end of the world.  But like the generation growing up during the years of nuclear shelters in the back yards, nuclear drills featuring school children hiding under their desks, and nuclear anxiety penetrating all levels of society, these Deficit Games are causing debt/deficit anxiety in America today.  While it is common knowledge that America's largest businesses are sitting on $1-2 trillion, they are not hiring.  While it is true that 9 out of 10 people have a job, many like myself with two or more jobs, we are not spending as we should.  We are stuck in a cycle of low consumer spending which means no reason for company hiring which means no new jobs which continues the low consumer spending.  And, when I read columns written by our best economic minds, it is uncertainty that is given as the prime reason for the continuation of this cycle.  We are afraid that the bad times will continue which, in a typical example of a self fulfilling prophesy, continues the bad times.

Which brings us back to the Deficit Games being played in Washington.  While the GOP and the Dems play the game, America suffers.  The president proposes a tax hike to improve revenue and the GOP calls it Class Warfare.  The GOP suggest entitlement reform and the Dems cry about granny dying in the street.   And Americans continue to suffer. 

The ironic thing about it, the really crazy factor in these Games is that what each side is trying to win is the 2012 election.  The very thing that we, as Americans can have the most effect upon via our most precious right to vote, is the goal of both sides.  But, instead of not playing the game as the Americans and Russians did during the Cold War, these two combatants haven't learned that there is no winner in these Deficit Games just as there would not have been a winner had we engaged in a Thermonuclear War.  By playing this game, the Dems and GOP are cementing the anxiety that permeates our country because each idea to move forward is lambasted by the other side, not with facts, but with sound bites that very rarely reflect the truth.

We must insist that future debt/deficit and jobs discussions include real potential solutions to these very real problems.  Perhaps we need our own "wiz" kid to emerge who can teach us the folly of playing these Games.  In the meantime, we can not afford another 14 months of this mutually assured financial destruction before the election.  But if that is what we get, we need to make sure that neither side "wins" while the rest of us lose.  

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