Monday, August 1, 2011

Week of 08/01/2011

Maybe We Should Pull The Trigger
– by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time the nail-biting story in the movie would always involve a last-minute save. No matter how bleak things seemed, no matter how harrowing the stakes, somehow the hero would come in right at the last minute to make the save.

James Bond used to stop every doomsday plan with “007” seconds left. The bomb would be diffused with maybe 1 second left to the timer… or if the timer reaches zero, it’s because the bomb was a dud, or it was already disabled. The world is saved, civilization goes on, life continues… roll the credits.

But then came along a different kind of ending to the story. Timer counts down, people are biting their nails, prayers are made, breaths are held, and then the hero… fails. The bomb goes off. Armageddon arrives. Civilization grinds to a halt. It is the whole world itself that fades to black along with the film as we go to the end credits.

Sometimes this failure is by accident. Sometimes there’s a hidden trap or a second device that lays in wait for the first to fail. Sometimes the hero is prevented from stopping the pending doom from happening. Maybe the hero is killed before he can save the day, so we’ll never know if his guess was right about the red wire or the black.

And then… every so often… you have a situation where the hero doesn’t just fail to save the day, but intentionally causes the doom to happen. He actually presses the button. He drops the bomb. He triggers the apocalypse. Civilization as we know it comes crashing down, and it’s all because he made it happen.

Of course the reason why the hero does it would differ from the villain’s. He’s not allowing the world to come crashing down in a quest for power or glory. Quite often the decision is done for more altruistic reasons. Maybe because the crisis itself that led to this moment was just too extensive. Maybe the system had become too corrupt, too far gone for people to be able to step back. Maybe Armageddon, as horrific the consequence, is the only thing that can save a world that refuses to save itself in that case.

Lately we’ve been repeatedly driven to the precipice of ruination. We’ve been told that the world would come crashing to a fiery end unless drastic and bitter action is taken.

First it was bailing out Wall Street because it was supposedly “Too Big to Fail”. Then it was the stimulus package. Then it was the federal budget, and then the Bush Junior tax cuts. Every time, the danger would be get larger and larger, and the precipice would get closer and closer. Fingers would be pointed, rhetoric would be raised, and eventually a consensus would be made at the very last minute that would give everyone a moment to pause and reflect.

But it would be for only a moment, because the next crisis would always be just around the corner.

And now we’re at that precipice again. Now it’s the so-called “debt ceiling”; an artificial creation of the Congress and the White House to supposedly “control” their spending. The Congress and the White House are playing their games once again, pointing fingers, amping up the rhetoric, threatening world-wide doom should we fail to raise this artificial limit.

At stake, supposedly, is nothing short of the global economy itself. The debt limit is supposedly keeping us from paying what we owe on the overall federal debt. That’s money that has been already spent and we’re just paying the interest on. Failing to pay that means that we’re in default. Our precious credit rating - which is another artificial creation, and admittedly so according to Congressional testimony in recent years - would be sunk, and the world markets would start to collapse. Interest rates would soar for everything. The money that Big Corporate has been hoarding for the past few years would supposedly “dry up”. Recession, Depression, financial Armageddon, the world we know would supposedly come to an end if we don’t up that limit and keep the money bleeding out.

And it’s not like there aren’t any plans to address this. Oh, Congress and the White House have come up with plenty of plans, especially of late, to deal with this and to supposedly lessen our burden. The problem, as always, boils down to partisan egos. One plan would keep us solvent until 2013, but would hit the upper-incomes with higher taxes. One plan would spare the higher taxes, relying on deeper cuts and a vote for a Constitutional Amendment for a balanced budget, but would only last until the middle of Election Year 2012. Despite these sharp differences, both of these plans have some similarities, and yet nobody wants to come up with an unhappy medium. Everybody’s screaming bloody murder over not having “their preferred” plan pass through Congress and are demanding that their favored plan go through as is.

And all the while the artificial deadline looms closer and closer.

So here we are… nail-biting, holding our breaths, waiting at the edge of our seats to see if the Congress and the White House can get their respective acts together and come up with a solution that everyone will go along with, even if it’s not a solution that they like. And they are supposedly ready to let the world go to hell if they don’t get their way.

And this is going to sound somewhat extreme… but maybe it is time that we finally pull that trigger and let it happen.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that the right thing in this situation would be for the politicians to come up with a solution, even at the last minute, and keep the money flowing. But then we would be right back to square one with the overall problems stemming from our continual social, economic, and political dysfunctions. The ongoing excuse from Big Corporate for not hiring people as promised is because the economy is too unstable, and yet the reason why the economy is too unstable is because Big Corporate refuses to live up to their part of the tax cut deal. Political egos continue to operate under the delusions that they are right and they can do whatever they want without any consequences and that they can blame everyone else for the misery that we are going through. Essential services are being slashed not just to the bone, but to the marrow, forsaking the people who need those services now more than ever. And our “precious credit rating”, which I need to remind you is just an “opinion” according to the people in the know, could still be turned to junk and we could still end up in the same situation as Greece, no matter the deal we strike.

In other words, the misery continues unabated.

And then there is the reality that even if an agreement is struck in time that there will be another similar crisis looming over the horizon. Maybe not tomorrow; maybe as we get closer to the end of this year another similar deadline will be cooked up and whipped up. Another “looming crisis” for us to worry about and for politicians to point fingers at each other as we all wish that they would all just spontaneously combust and put themselves out of our collective misery.

Maybe it is time for the “Hail Mary” pass to be missed. Maybe it is time for the economic bomb to go off and the money to come to an end and the people with the power to finally have a reason to worry.

Yes, I am well aware of the consequences of saying that. I am well aware of the disastrous effects that would befall markets in this country and also around the world should the “unthinkable” happen. Wall Street would collapse, although it did just that in 2008 before we gave them that bailout they never deserved to have. 401K programs would supposedly become worthless, although that was always the “second shoe” just waiting to fall even before 2008. Interest rates would skyrocket, although they were already on the verge of doing that. More foreclosures, although they never stopped, more bankruptcies, although those never ended, and even more bank closings, although that never stopped either.

Yes, it would make things worse, at least in the immediate short term, but things have already been getting worse anyway. We’ve only been sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that things were getting better. Now we would be forced to admit that they clearly weren’t getting better.

And then there is that wild card… the angry masses. What happens when the masses realize that things have finally broken down? What would they do? Who would they go after first? I would strongly suspect you’d see a quick exodus of “the elite” once those masses start mobilizing.

Plus, once you’ve reached bottom, not only is there no place to go but up, but you also take away the fear of reaching bottom. The threat of failure at that point would lose its power, and the games being played right now would have to come to an end, because the fear would no longer be there to motivate people to do your bidding.

Let’s get brutally honest here… maybe we need to have this fail on us because it is the only way that we can really deal with the problem and confront the real sources of our misery. There would be no getting around it at that point. Anything short of that only continues the status quo, and that does not bode well when the status quo is sustaining the misery and doing absolutely nothing to remedy it.

Sadly, as this commentary was being finished, it was revealed that a deal was struck among those in government that would once again keep the money flowing from the federal coffers. It still must get Congressional approval, but, baring partisan arrogance, it appears that we once again have been pulled back from the figurative cliff. Once again we are free to live in fear of the next impending doom, the next cliffhanger moment, and the next ticking clock. Once again we are free to wonder when the people in power will do what is right, or if they will finally fail, and bring us down with them. Only time will tell.

1 comment:

YhuntressE said...

You have to wonder, how do people become such sociopaths that they're willing to destroy everything in their path even if millions suffer as a result.

And it doesn't seem fair that the elites can run away to their private islands and not face justice