America’s Budget Solution

So-called sequestration began yesterday. That turn of law entailed cutting the government’s discretionary budget across the board, and served as an alternative to the government deciding how to reduce the budget deficit.

For how boring the media painted it (as if the federal budget made runner-up for Carlin’s famous Seven Words (Wikipedia: Seven dirty words)), the sequestration grew from a laudable history in action films: the time bomb. They gave themselves months and months of fuse, but still could not defuse that sucker.

But did they really try? Sure, they tried to trace the red wire and green wire. Which one was the ground? Is that the primary charge? They tried a few specialist bomb squads, with the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Wikipedia: National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, aka the Simpson-Bowles commission) and the Gang of Six, but the best they could decide was to take a weed-whacker to the bomb and hope for the best.

I think they even called up their friends at the Military-Industrial Complex, asking for a drone, a robot, some sort of sniffing dog, anything.

They never tried doing their job. That was the problem. If they would merely do their job, to legislate based on the facts, not based on the whims of special interests and lobbyists, we would be done with this sort of time-bomb nonsense.

How do I figure? You have this notion that the government is fine except it costs too much. Or in the case of the Republicans, it’s also too big and smells bad. But that’s not the truth. There are structural changes needed, both large and small, to a variety of programs and laws. The tax code, health care, retirement, prisons, financial regulation, welfare, environmental protection, agriculture, military contracting, immigration, communications, energy, infrastructure…

But they aren’t addressing them. They’re trying to put the cart so far before the horse, the horse hasn’t been born yet. Either they are naive enough to not know that major work is yet to be done in the ongoing mission to perfect our government, or they don’t plan on being the ones to do it. In either case, they show their ineptitude.

Worse, it’s highly likely that if they would begin to address these structural deficits instead of the mere fiscal one, the deficit they’re so enamored with would shrink enough to make it an easy fix.

Fix the tax code, for example, and the revenue picture changes drastically. Fix health care, the deficit picture changes too. Fix immigration, the economy improves.

The broken structures of our system are akin to inflammation in the body. In recent years more and more medical studies have shown the detrimental role of inflammation in overall health. The body expends energy to try to keep the chronic problems in check, which leaves other systems vulnerable.

It reminds me of the film Synecdoche, New York, the character Hazel purchases a house that’s on fire. If you lived in a house that was on fire, you would never get around to dusting or mopping, because you’d spend all your spare time keeping the fire under control. That’s the nature of our current system of government. That’s the attitude our government has taken: we can’t fix anything, we have to keep the fire in check. But they can’t put it out, because the disarray of the remainder of the house continuously stokes the fire.

The media, for their part, scarcely bother with tough, basic questions. Like, “why aren’t you guys governing anymore, but you haven’t resigned?” Or, “are you planning to retire anytime soon?”

Oh well. A fire can’t last forever. Either it will burn the whole mess down and we’ll just start over, or maybe they’ll eventually go back to governing and we can watch the fire die from lack of viewership.