01 January 2013

On Cliffs: Fiscal and Otherwise

It's hard to break old patterns.  Sometimes, we set up artificial goals in order to "motivate" ourselves to break the patterns in which we're stuck.  At one point or another, each of considers creating an artificial "cliff" to scare ourselves into change.  I'm speaking, of course, about my own personal patterns.  Specifically, of not writing and of finding almost anything else to do--solitaire, non-profit work, for-profit work, dinners, errands, whatever.

I'm also speaking, of course, about this ridiculous "fiscal cliff" we've all tumbled over today.  Funny how inner journeys are repeated in the outside world.  In the case of our elected representatives, their old patterns of spending and taxing (and never relating the two to each other--heavens no!) have resulted in an addiction to an unsustainable pattern of behavior--denial and procrastination.  So they set up an artificial goal for themselves, much like many of us do this time of year to "motivate" our new behaviors.

But here's the problem, as I see it:  surface level goals don't address the underlying causes of the problems.  Writing each day, or even several times a week (see how quickly these goals get mitigated?), doesn't address the reason I DON'T write--any more than creating an artificial fiscal cliff, entirely manufactured by congress and entirely arbitrary in it's timing and scale, will address the underlying problems in the current composition of our government.

Thus, Dear Reader, we are placed in the position of compromise.  And it strikes me as appropriate that compromise comes up this time of year.  Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves, and compromise has that damn "promise" built into the word.  Funny, it strikes me as a "co-promise", doesn't it?

And maybe that's what's missing here.  A little bit of co-promise.  Each of our intractable halves of government (don't be fooled, there are more flavors in the cookie jar than two, but two is all were given until we demand more options) needs to come together.  Both are being unreasonable.  You can't keep spending the way we do, even if we tax the bejeezus out of everyone.  And we can't protect everyone from being taxed at all--even if we cut current spending to zero we'd still have $17,000,000,000,000 in debt to pay off, and that means SOMEBODY has to pay SOMETHING.  So there's the rub:  both sides are wrong on sticking to their positions.  Both sides need to make some promises to themselves, and to the other side.

And like your resolutions, Dear Reader, our esteemed legislators know what they need to do to get healthy and meet their obligations.  They just don't want to.  Because, you see, you and I have let them set their own deadlines--let them set their own "cliff", if you will.  Perhaps it's time we set a cliff of a different sort for our elected representatives--FIX THIS PROBLEM OR BE VOTED OUT OF OFFICE.  THAT'S the cliff we should be talking about, not some arbitrary series of cuts and tax increases that were not made in good faith.  This fiscal cliff is the opposite of compromise--it's mutually assured destruction.  Neither side believed the other would actually go through with it (PS neither did Wall Street, that weird combo of bookie and blood-thirsty audience for this WWF... our Washington Wrestling Farce).

We cannot elect intractable people to offset the other guy's intractable people and expect governance of any sort other than what we've gotten.  And it's you and me who put these fools where they are, with each side ratcheting up its rhetoric with each new extreme nut-job elected to the House.  It's time for mutual disarmament, I say, and not the nuclear sort--this would be a disarmament of our elected buffoons.  Imagine what it would be like if we had reasonable people with reasonable positions who compromised (there's that co-promise again) in ways that built our nation rather than set it against itself.

Naive, Dear Reader?  No more than any resolution is; no more than any effort to change an established pattern, or to make the world as we've had it more like the world as we'd like it.  And all of us know the principles of this grand bargain--we've all got to chip in, and we can't all have everything we want.  That's a microcosm of life, and as each of us sets out to make our resolutions manifest in this lucky '13, I think we'll be more likely to achieve our goals--our resolutions--if we begin to work on our own psychologies with as much fervor and verve as we use on criticizing each others'.

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