2012-06-08 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

A Mess Of Our Own Making
Commentary by Stuart W. Mirsky

There are some disasters over which we have no control, like earthquakes and hurricanes and cosmic events like asteroids hurtling through space. Or the inevitable fading of our sun which, before it shrivels up to become a pale ghostly star incapable of warming itself, let alone the world we inhabit, is expected to go supernova and consume the planets including our own. But even that dreaded event may not happen before the entire galaxy itself, of which our sun and its dependent planets are but a tiny part, is consumed in what astronomers now calculate to be an inevitable collision with the next nearest galaxy in the universe. Then, scientists say, stars like our sun will be tossed about in a maelstrom of super collisions. Who knows where that will leave us? As things now stand, we can barely hope to get out of this solar system before its end so how much more difficult will it be to escape the magnificent intergalactic smash-up now projected to precede it?

But disaster is even closer to home for each and every one of us. It awaits us at every moment of our lives, our deaths foreordained at the very moment we come into the world. Nor is each individual’s end any less drastic than the death of entire solar systems and galaxies. No matter how much health food we eat, or how often we exercise or how many doctors we see, our individual end is final, unavoidable, bringing with it the loss of who we are, of what we have. For all the talk of extending human life by stopping our genetic clocks or applying high tech solutions to augment failing flesh, there’s nothing on the horizon which can change our individual fates. Disaster is the very condition of our existence.

Yet not all disasters are beyond our control – though we often seem incapable of stopping those we have a hand in. Even now our European neighbors across the Atlantic find themselves hurtling toward fiscal catastrophe as debt levels in the Eurozone exceed government’s capacity to pay and populations balk at the difficult decisions needed to bring national finances back to earth. Greek, Spanish and French workers riot instead, rejecting plans to rein in costs while demanding new leaders who will keep the benefits flowing. And it’s not Europe alone that finds itself in this predicament.

In our own country the once “Golden State” of California recently realized it’s facing a budget shortfall of $16 billion, well in excess of predicted levels. “California,” according to David Kotok, at The Big Picture, “constitutes about 13% of America’s GDP.” By contrast, he notes, Greece, whose troubles are sucking the rest of Europe down a black hole, is only about 3% of the Eurozone’s. Nor do America’s deficit troubles end with the erstwhile Golden State as other state governments across this nation face similar problems, and similar resistance from populations grown used to the perqs and benefits of a welfare state. The federal government in Washington under the current administration is no different, having apparently mistaken the current runaway fiscal freight train which we’re riding off a cliff for a Gravy Train. The administration has consistently pushed for billions in new spending while refusing to contemplate cuts in patently unsustainable benefits programs. That’s what got Greece and the rest of Europe into the trouble they’re in. And it’s not as if the evidence of what’s coming isn’t there either. History has shown, time and again, how great nations fail when they try to live beyond their means – how governments collapse. And yet we Americans seem unable to stop ourselves. Something beyond reasoned argument is at work and in this very newspaper we’ve seen it.

Just two weeks ago, my fellow columnist Daniel Solomon, a self-avowed leftist, decried those of us seeking fiscal restraint in a piece he aptly titled “Class Warfare.” In it he demanded even more spending and taxation, on top of the record budget deficits the administration in Washington has already racked up. Even President Obama’s record spending levels aren’t enough for someone like Dan we learn. He wants mandated higher wages, too (hey, why not just tell employers to make us all millionaires like they are!), beefed up social welfare programs and, he tells us, stronger and expanded unions.

Let “the government create jobs for idled workers,” he adds, “to stimulate private sector employment” although he offers no indication of how such make-work work accomplishes that. He’d also have Washington bring back New Deal public works programs, despite the fact that they didn’t shorten the Great Depression the first time they were tried (which is why we ended up calling it “Great” after all, rather than the Short Depression.) And he’d “penalize companies” for outsourcing while having us “invest” in alternative energy and “approve generous subsidies” for “green technology.“ Pump more into schools, too, he tells us. It’s Obama/Pelosi on steroids.

It would all “take a lot of money” he belatedly admits, but so what? We can kick up taxes, and what we can’t pick up that way we’ll just continue to borrow. We already owe $15.7 trillion under the current administration, don’t we so, when it’s time to pay it back, why can’t we just pull a Greece on our creditors and tell them to buzz off? What’s China going to do about it anyway? If we don’t try his remedies, he whispers, “there is always the potential for revolution” so really he’s doing us a big favor by warning us ahead of time, hoping we’ll just do the right thing and ante up. Think of all those angry Greek and Wisconsin civil servants gone to the barricades!

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