The Grasshopper and the Ants

I used Aesop’s famous fable yesterday to describe where I think America is right now, but maybe I should have used the Roman Nero who fiddled while Rome burned. But the point is we are not paying attention. Well it is more than that. We like to think of ourselves as the hard working and practical Americans. But we are anything but based upon our political choices. I guess the first one is we think we can vote (mostly Democrats) once every four years and that person will fix things and we can ignore everything else. But politics of today is a complex game, and if you are not paying attention, you are easily fooled by reporting that in its attempt to be fair and balanced, does not point fingers when fingers undeniably need to be pointed. Maybe just simple fact checking of a political rant instead of moving on to the next question.

My favorite example of our we will get something for free is the Bitcoin. Who out there does not wish they had invested in Bitcoin when it went from a measly couple hundred bucks to over $14,000 this year. But like our dollar it is a fiat currency, no intrinsic value except what backs it up, and I would like to point out nothing backs it up but speculation. But American investors are all twitter about it. And that is Wall Street. Remember when stocks were really priced on capital and earning potential of the companies? For that matter remember when how Wall Street did reflected prosperity on Main Street. Neither hold true now, although listening to those invested in Wall Street, you know that the legalization of pot came much earlier for them than the rest of us.

Take Republican economic theory. It assumes a free ride. Cut taxes and we will all thrive. Except of course it is another fable especially in an economy already awash in cash, but I confuse you with facts. The latest tax cut, which is all Republicans have for economic policy, except of course gutting regulations, is another free ride. But the one thing we know is everything has consequences. I have incurable cancer, but I am taking a new wonder drug that puts it at bay. But of course there is a price. Not only is it ridiculously expensive, about an hour after I take it I look like I just drank a keg of beer and then swallowed the keg. I will take it to the alternative, but my point is sooner or later we have to pay. If I were to somehow lose my health insurance, I will die probably in the next year. But we don’t need those stink’in mandates that everyone have healthcare. Get my point?

Here is the wondrous thing about snake oil salesmen, those that offer us miracle cures, there is always an element of truth in their spiel. Republicans tell us taxes are too high. Well for some of us they are, especially considering our return on investment. So do they offer a better return on investment like cheaper universal healthcare, improved infrastructure, affordable higher education? Nope, trust us, we will give all this money to the wealthy and they will bring you better jobs, and we won’t talk about all that other stuff. Now again, let’s consider, oh dare I say it, facts. What is the driving force in the corporate world? Maximize share holder value which then enriches the CEO through bonuses and retaining their job. Now pull out the old business plan on about any type of work and to increase profits, sell more and reduce costs. What is the biggest cost in most businesses? Labor. Can you connect the dots?

Wait a minute! What about those pesky regulations. They hurt business. Yes they do, but they also protect workers, our environment, and establish order. So there is a balance. In other words, yes regulations have become too cumbersome and in some cases ridiculous, but an all out assault on regulations is like a bull in a China shop. It may reduce inventory, but some of the inventory you need. But we look for simple minded solutions to complex problems and when snake oil salesmen come along promising a free ride, we, the hard working and disciplined American, fall for it every time based upon our voting record.

So what’s the cure? Remember no pain, no gain? Well that is about it. An analogy here: Look, as noted I have advanced stage prostate cancer. There is no cure and the best I can hope for is extending my life a little, hoping something else comes along. Sadly the treatment is to remove testosterone from your system as prostate cancer cells need that to grow. Eventually, that fails and then you must move on to a the treatment for “patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer”. Yeah, you read that right, “castration-resistant”. Initially you are chemically castrated to stop the production of testosterone, which the cancer cells feed on. So say goodbye to testosterone, hello another few years on this planet. But then you find that one of the side effects is the ability to burn calories and shed pounds like you used to. In that respect, you become an aging female who must fight weight gain everyday. Women of the world you have my profound respect.

Now when you have an incurable disease, you might say, heh, I think I will eat that whole container of ice cream, or eat a whole prime rib, and pass that beer. WTF anyway, right? But like the country who is buying into free rides, there aren’t any and there are consequences. Do you want to take in every tantalizing treat, or would you like to dance, and still feel good into the night? And this time it is going to be so much harder. Get the analogy? Things are much more complex and old ways of doing things don’t work anymore. Are we interested in getting back to the country leading the way, or do we just want those tantalizing treats that in the end, that free ride, that will make us worse? So far we got President DFF and the promised treats. That is the choice we made.

Now the country may start to see that their choices, the free ride party, may in fact not be a free ride. The chickens will come home to roost as the pounds pile up on my body. We may have to suck it up and understand that in the end, solving these problems will require all of use to do more work than we did in the past, and pay more, not less taxes. But instead of that money going for tax breaks to the wealthy, it has to go for investments in our future. We may have to understand that the Libertarian/Evangelical idea of freedom does not work in a complex society where one person’s freedoms is another person’s loss of freedom. It really is a village and we are all in it together. We can argue about the best way forward, but reinventing the past is not it. That requires throwing out the snake oil salesmen, but it also requires a vision of where we want to go that requires sacrifice and hard work from all of us. Have not seen the Blue party understanding that yet. I guess we are too used to promising free rides.

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