Punchinello’s Chronicles

March 15, 2011

How Urgent is America’s Debt?

Conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican: All these words! Fiscal conservative, social conservative, progressive, reactionary: What the hell? What am I? What are you? Does anyone know? With all these labels, and new ones being invented all the time, it’s a mish-mash out there, and that’s the problem: We can’t start to fix things until we all agree on what it is we’re talking about!

A number of very good books have been written that describe the meaning of the term conservative. Indeed, the whole ideology came into its modern form back around the 1950-60s, with William F. Buckley Jr.  and Ayn Rand formulating the basic philosophy. These days, a fairly quick indication of your ideology is how you think about the US Constitution.

People who favor a strict interpretation of the Constitution are conservatives (constitutionalists). Those who hold that the Constitution is a living document, and should change to reflect changing times are usually progressives (liberals).

But here’s a different way to measure where you stand in the great philosophic battle of modern times: How urgent do you think America’s problems are? It’s not only America, obviously; we can include Europe and Asia if we’d like. The big question, though, is America’s problems.

We also can join “true” conservatives with what people refer to as Tea Party Activists. There’s no such thing as a “split” conservative — regardless of what you hear, you can’t be a fiscal conservative and a social Democrat or progressive. Conservative thinking is founded on a combination of intellect and emotion, with intellect taking the lead. What you “feel” about life, things, science, math, and everything else really doesn’t matter in terms of solving problems in the world today.

Feelings and emotions are very important, as they introduce reality, morality and ethics into a proposed solution. But when intellect and feelings are in conflict, what then?

The more urgent you think today’s problems are, the more conservative you are. What’s interesting is that many political Republicans don’t seem to think we have to hurry along all that much. Things are bad, sure, but they’re not THAT bad! We can afford to play around with the political process when it comes to the budget. If we get a few billion in deficit reduction, that’s fine. Tomorrow’s another day, they think.

Getting re-elected, or winning the White House seems to be far more important and urgent than fixing some problems. Those problems will be there for years and years and years and years. In fact, many politicians feel that today’s problems have been around so long, the politicians will be out of office before anything bad happens. Well, except for those crazy Tea Party Activists who were just elected in November of 2010.

Progressive liberals, along with many of Washington’s political Democrats seem to think that whatever problems we’re facing, we’ll muddle along one way or another. We’ve had problems for a long time, we’ll continue to have problems, and getting it all fixed is only a matter of spending more money or transferring more wealth and power…or something.

Conservatives and Tea Party Activists are fully convinced that America as we know it is on the brink of disappearing. “On the brink” means within 1-3 years, not some distant future or many years from now. Talking about how Social Security might be bankrupt in 2017 or 2025 is meaningless, because there won’t be a United States anymore if nothing changes. Saving $100-billion “over the next 10 years” is just plain stupid, when we only have year or maybe two before we’re broke.

Do you think things are that bad? Nah…they’re bad, sure; but THAT bad? No way!

The problems we’re all dealing with are complex. We have government agencies covering up important information and data, and those agencies routinely are caught in outright lies. How can we really know what’s going on with the economy when the data we’re being told about makes no sense?

Who’s doing that telling? Another part of the problem is the typical top-of-the-hour news, the evening news, traditional newspapers and magazines, and other distribution points of the mainstream media. More and more we’re seeing evidence come to the surface of a bias and underlying agenda that’s distorting the reporting of the daily news. We hear about the “spin” being put on a story, and that’s the difference between reporting facts and making an editorial comment.

Tea Party Activists are called “crazy,” they’re “extremists,” and many people would like nothing better than for those “nut jobs” to just go away. How come? What’s so frightening about these folks that they inspire such anger and even hatred? Why do people have a personal response to Tea Party Activists instead of examining their statements and arguments on the merit of logic?

It comes back to this designation of urgency. If we agree with the Tea Party, then it means that America is in exponentially worse trouble than many people believe. On the other hand, if we believe that these are just Doomsayers and Chicken Little’s, spouting negative energy and telling us the sky is falling, then these activists are just disrupting things. They’re “the party of No.”

Add into the mix the ongoing growth of the New Age movement, along with the New Utopians. These are the superstitious folks who believe that whatever we dream, wish, think, hope or feel will come to pass, regardless of any direct and personal effort. When someone is wishing and wishing for peace on Earth, and someone else talks about coming gloom and doom, it’s upsetting the pretty picture.

So are you a conservative, a liberal, a progressive? Are you a fiscal Republican and a social Democrat? Do you feel the two can co-exist, working side-by-side in “bipartisan” agreement? Do you hold that everything is subject to compromise, and that anyone who rejects any compromise is an extremist?

What if some bad guy comes along and says he’s only going to kill you 70% of the way? Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could be 65.9% pregnant? In a criminal case some years ago, a woman was kidnapped and told that she either would be killed or raped, she should choose. Is that a situation that leans toward compromise?

Take a look at your own finances. Examine how much money you’re bringing in each month, then examine how much money you’re spending. Suppose you’re using credit cards to spend $1,000 more a month than you earn. Do you think a good compromise would be to get another credit card? How about only spending $900 more than you earn?

Now consider what would happen if you were laid off, losing your job. How about only spending $800 more a month than you “used to earn?” With no income and a $4,000/month lifestyle, would you say there’s a sense of urgency about coming up with some money? What about, say, cutting your expenses by 30%? Even though you have no money coming in, would that be a good compromise?

How long before you end up out on the street or living with relatives? Maybe in 20 years you can figure out a way to get some money coming in?

It used to be hard to know for sure, which side of the road was your favorite hang-out. Nowadays, it’s much easier. All you have to decide is how urgent are the problems facing America today. How much longer will our economy function if we continue to spend trillions of dollars more than we have?

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