North Potomac, MD (August 30, 2010) – Americans are a strange race of people. Trying to make sense of the things that circulate and percolate around in their minds is like trying to understand the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.
The latest Post-ABC Poll is a case in point. Among other opinions surveyed in the poll, while most Americans are pretty much split evenly over the issue of the federal government spending to boost the economy, nearly 6 in 10 across the board support extending jobless benefits. Even anti-government Republicans support an extension of unemployment payments by over 40 percent.
Now, at the risk of offending many across the political spectrum, I find this attitude strange, but somehow reflective of the way Americans think. “Keep the government out of my pockets, until they’re empty, then I want Uncle to get generous and start funneling money my way.” Money spent to boost the economy has a medium to long term impact, and seldom represents cash paid directly to individuals, as compared with the benefit check that you can cash right away.
We Americans are notoriously short sighted. We live in the now, often with little thought of the future – or so it would seem. Things that don’t have an immediate pay-off get little support from the average American, regardless of income or education.
The real estate crisis was a good example. The insane quest for short term profits, represented most graphically by the practice of ‘flipping,’ made a few people obscenely wealthy, but in the long run knocked the financial rug out from under many more. Did we see the crash coming? Had we lifted our gaze from our short-term navels and looked at the clouds on the horizon, it would have been clear. A few did, but, they were treated like Chicken Little running around saying “The sky is falling!” The Chicken Littles were right – the sky fell on us just as the bottom fell out of the market.
Those who oppose government programs to boost the economy advance the argument that the private sector is best suited for this. Okay then, why has the private sector not stepped up and done more to boost the economy, create jobs, improve wages and living conditions, etc.? I’ll tell you why I think it hasn’t. Like the rest of us Americans, the private sector is incredibly short-term focused. It only seems capable of looking about two financial quarters into the future, and that, my friends, is not how you ensure long-term growth and viability of an economy. If you’re waiting for the private sector collectively to sacrifice its short term gains for the long term benefits of workers and the economy as a whole, it’ll happen in the words of the waitress Flo in Mel’s Diner, “When donkey’s fly!”
A discussion that is never held either; if the private sector is responsible for boosting the economy, why is it not responsible for the financial security of its work force? Is that deafening silence I hear? Sure it is, because no one has an answer to this, or perhaps it’s just that no one wants to try and answer.
In closing, I’d like to offer a math puzzle for readers to consider. If government can’t spend money to boost the economy, to increase wages and thus increase government revenue through tax collection; where is government to get the money to extend benefits to those who are not working, not making income, and thus, not paying a heck of a lot in tax?