Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kitchen Table Economics

The cardinal rule in economics could not possibly be more simple: do not spend more than you earn. Normal, everyday Americans have lived by - or have tried mightily to live by - this rule for generations. To be certain, there have been times when even the most miserly among us has strayed from the path of fiscal responsibility, but it has always been done with deep regret and nearly intolerable angst and remorse, coupled with a fierce determination to right the misstep as soon as possible. Honor has historically been the motivating force.

In just the short half century that I have inhabited this Earth - and more specifically, this country - honor has been purposefully denigrated and responsibility removed from the lexicon of American society. The sense of entitlement has permeated our consciousness, causing us to crave and demand that which we simply cannot afford simply because we want it, and we want it now.

Credit had its genesis in the form of survival as rural farmers found themselves battling not only the market place and their own operating costs, but the devastating effects of Earth's volatile climate. It eventually became necessary to borrow in order to complete the harvest for the simple task of paying the bills, and subsequently the newer debt. Somewhere along the line, however, the notion of debt was passed down among generations and accepted as a fact of life.

This desensitization has only fed upon itself and manifested into a sense of normalcy, so much so that we now buy a cup of coffee at the quickie-mart with a piece of plastic without even considering the humiliation such an act would have brought upon our grandfathers. Worst of all, we now are running the country with the same mentality.

Our government has become a behemoth that is consuming resources like no gluttonous family of four could ever imagine. The practice has as its roots the New Deal, instituted by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and implemented ostensibly as a means out of the Great Depression. Ironically, FDR's spending orgy had no impact on the economic recovery from that time, for it was the demand created by the need for manufacturing in the second World War that ultimately pulled the nation out of that morass.

What was borne of that time, however, was the misconception that more government was better for the people, something of a complete anathema to the founding principles of the United States of America. Since FDR, there was a brief cessation of the erosion of those principles conducted by the Reagan administration, which attempted to restore the country to a time of limited government intrusion. They briefly succeeded. Then, George H. W. Bush ran into trouble and famously reneged on a campaign promise. No elucidation should be necessary.

Bill Clinton managed to steer the country through relatively calm seas and proved to be a harmless steward in that time. Admittedly partisan politics and what should be equally admittedly boneheaded maneuvers by the CiC - Bill Clinton - derailed what may have been considered a somewhat successful two-term reign. Then the fun really began...

George W. Bush was elected - sorry folks, he really was - and the gloves were off. Eager to derail what they perceived as an invalid administration, the vitriol from the other side of the aisle reached uncharted proportions, and set the stage for a new level, complete with an entire set of new rules regarding what precedents could be surpassed.

After the 9/11 attacks, Bush's popularity soared as a result of his down-home approach to the catastrophe, resonating with the ordinary American's thirst for vengeance. Easily winning approval for massive war funding on the sentiments of the electorate, things were going swimmingly for the new president. Then, when Congress shifted to opposition control in 2006, things went south, with leaders such as Pelosi and Reid complaining bitterly about the massive debt being run up by Bush, aided by a compliant media.

At better than a projected $400 billion deficit, both went apoplectic, warning the people of the fiscal tragedy that Bush was prepared to inflict on our grandchildren. Now, a mere $400 billion seems like a pittance, while the same assessment is now being made about $9 trillion by those very same naysayers. It appears that - to the Democrats - no amount of our money is too much to gain control over our lives, while a mere twopence is too costly for the preservation of the very same.

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