Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A new year's fiscal cliffery . . .

It's now 2013, a new year, and righteous time for resolutions.  The Republicans have resolved to continue being Republicans, and the Democrats have resolved to continue being Democrats, the proof of which proposition exists in the cliff avoidance plan adopted in the Senate, at the absolute last minute, when they've had literally years to figure out how to get this done.  Gah!

What was the fiscal cliff?  It was a silly scheme whereby if our political masters couldn't finally figure out how to reform our tax system and/or how to bring overspending under control, then the previous tax cuts would "automatically" expire having the effect of increasing the tax burden, and massive spending cuts would "automatically" happen, "across the board."  The morons who passed this legislative kludge thought of it as so repulsive that surely they would have to figure out a good way of growing up to accomplish good government, so as to avoid going over the cliff that they had created for themselves.

Okay, we have two massive problems.  The first problem is that we're broke.  The government doesn't have enough money to do all the things it has committed itself to do.  What should be done? 

One thing would be to reduce spending, first, by eliminating all waste, and second, by eliminating all unauthorized spending, and third, by reneging on selected committments for impossibility.  (Wait one.  Unauthorized spending?  There hasn't been a budget passed for three years; it's all unauthorized!  And renege on what kind of committments?  For example, do we have to give money to the Palestinians and the Egyptians, when we already give money to the United Nations, thereby funding international corruption?) 

Another thing to do about being broke, which has been the strategy of choice, more or less, for the last ninety years or so, is just print up additional new money.  That's called inflation and our government masters have decided a long time ago that a "little bit" of inflation is a good thing, somehow.  This is absolutely going to continue happening.  Oh, and "more than a little bit" is defined as when people start to pay attention.

I teach bankruptcy.  One of the interesting features about bankruptcy is that debtors are nearly always able to keep increasing their debt during "pre-bankruptcy," which means that there's always somebody who expects to profit from somebody else's financial vulnerability by lending, despite the signs of financial insecurity. 

That leads to the third response to being broke.  Borrow money to keep living beyond one's means.  It's kind of like, how can I be broke?  People keep lending me money.  How can I be broke?  There's still blank checks in my checkbook.

And this is why Congress invented the fiscal cliff for itself.  Basically, Congress said that if we hadn't done anything effective to control our spending and revenue, then, magically on January 1, 2013, we would be officially broke in our own estimation, even if there were people who were willing for one reason or another, to keep lending and funding our financial descent into harmless world-class international inconsequentiality.  (Why, there might be world leaders who would welcome and encourage the collapse of the United States.  Imagine that!)

So, what did the Senate do at the last effing gasp of December 31, 2012?  It passed a law to twiddle with taxes and do nothing about spending, so as to claim that it saved us from the cliff.  Basically, spending will be looked at in the future when we examined the so-called debt limit that we (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) impose on ourselves. 

See, we aren't broke at all.  We can keep the party going by a quick trip to the ATM.  We can always borrow more; it's just money and other people's money at that.

And that leads us to our second massive problem.  That is, that all of our political masters, legislative, judicial, and executive, are more or less but always too much, either stupid or evil.  No other explanation will account.

I think our political class thinks that it can continue along the same path it set out on since President Wilson, because the American public at large is extremely reluctant and unlikely to pick up its guns and engage in an armed revolution against the present parasitical and tyrannical government.  (But maybe all the guns better be seized, I mean controlled, for just in case.)

And I agree.  It won't come to that, and that's why I don't own a gun.

But massive civil disobedience?  That sounds more likely. 

When you think about it, perhaps government has lost, or is about to lose the benefit of the public conviction that government can essentially be trusted to act for the greater good.  If government ceases to be an advocate for justice, and becomes a mere change agent to redistribute wealth, then it loses it's moral justification for the use of overwhelming force even as it may continue to use overwhelming force.  At that point, government becomes our adversary, which like any adversary might be outwitted, deceived, and finally beaten in that fashion.

And for this reason, I can say without a trace of cynicism, I wish us all a Happy New Year, and I resolve to continue to have faith in the foundational ideals that formed our unique American culture.

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