I am having my 42nd birthday and my wife and mother think I may be experiencing an early “mid-life crisis.” I don’t know if that is what this is, but for those of you who haven’t experienced whatever this is yet, it is quite an interesting time in life. I don’t call it a mid-life crisis though, I call it a “mid-life enlightenment” — that’s what it feels like to me anyway. In my humble opinion, here’s how Life goes:
1. You know nothing. (Age 1-3)
2. You Realize you know nothing. (Age 4-6)
3. You Learn some things… and grow. (Age 7-12)
4. You think you know a lot. (Age 13- 16)
REPEAT STEP 2 (Adulthood)
2. You Realize you know nothing. (Age 16)
3. You Learn some things… and grow. (Age 17-22)
4. You think you know a lot. (Age 23-40 for me)
REPEAT STEP 2 (Mid-Life Enlightenment)
2. You Realize you know nothing. (Age 40)
3. You Learn some things… and grow. (Age 41-?)
And that’s where yours truly is on the journey of Life. For any of you further along, can you do me a favor? Tell me, at what age did you reach #4 again?
“The ancient Oracle said that I was the wisest of all the Greeks. It is because I alone, of all the Greeks, know that I know nothing.” – Socrates
When I look at our political discourse, I certainly can see that we make the same mistake again later in life, I’m just not sure as to what age that occurs… tell me, at what age do you think you got it all figured out and run for re-election every year?
“He knows nothing and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” – George Bernard Shaw
I tell you the truth, I sure wish we had some mid-forty somethings running this country.
“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” – Thomas Jefferson
I wonder sometimes who will figure it out first, the Democrats or the Republicans… or will some third party usher in the solution we all know must come? In my view, it is Pride that prevents it… and some Fear thrown in. But mostly, what keeps us from realizing the answer, is Pride.
Democrats are too proud to admit that their “War on Poverty” vision of the Great Society, one under the notion that if we “help” our citizenry by giving them welfare checks from the federal government, that if we just take from our working and give it to those who aren’t, that if we just follow this game plan a little longer, then we’ll all grow – we’re too proud to see that this is a political vision destined for failure. And Republicans are too proud to realize that their “Trickle-Down Economic” model, with the notion that if we just cut taxes on our wealthy we’ll be able to “grow” our way out of debt, that if we just give the wealthy lower taxes and go more in debt just a little longer, then the rich will employ our poor and we’ll all grow – we’re too proud to see that this is a political vision destined for failure. We the People are too proud to admit the simple truth that they don’t work. We Americans hate to be wrong… so we resign ourselves to arguing about how we are right. No wait, we don’t even do that anymore, we don’t look at us. No longer comfortable with our position, we now only argue that the other side is wrong...
“Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” – Thomas Jefferson
Pride with a little Fear thrown in, that’s a tough nut to crack. And then of course, Greed and Envy – it’s why we don’t want to see the flaw in our logic, why we don’t want the truth to be true. It’s election time again America – time to pick our poison, time to choose Greed or Envy, time to rally behind whichever wrong answer we prefer, and then cast our vote… Makes me think that there must be a better way.
Greed is what tells us that a “fair” tax would in fact be fair. “Abolish income taxes!” we argue, even though we know that this would shift a greater percentage of the tax burden to our poorer citizens. But we choose to believe that doesn’t hurt the collective Us. We lower taxes on capital gains and dividends so as not to count it in income tax, expand tax “incentives” for corporations, and reduce the maximum income tax bracket from topping out at those making over $80 million/year in 1936 to topping out at 0.38 million/year today (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States) . We stop asking our wealthy to pay more and instead, we lower the highest rate from 79% in 1936 to 35% today, reduce the taxes on capital gains and dividends (things our poor don’t experience), and keep our corporate tax breaks in place… We’ve replaced higher taxes on our wealthy with lower taxes on our wealthy, refusing to raise taxes on even our multimillionaires and billionaires. And as we bankrupt our nation, we argue that our actions are actually helping “Us.” For to do otherwise, to admit that we’d be better off with a capitalist system that taxes our wealthier citizens to achieve a balanced budget, to admit that our forefather’s vision of the 16th amendment was actually right… to admit that… well, that would mean that we would also have to admit we were wrong.
And Envy. Envy is what tells us that our government welfare programs are in fact promoting our general welfare. In our delusion, we somehow convince ourselves that if we extend unemployment benefits to 99 weeks we can put people back to work. And if we provide free food, housing, and healthcare to our poor they will then magically decide to put their nose to the grindstone, apply themselves, and reach their potentials. It is Envy that causes us to take from our successful and hand it to our unsuccessful. For to do otherwise, to admit that we’d be better off providing a path out then a hand out, to admit that our founder’s vision of limited federal government in the Constitution was actually right… to admit that… well, that would mean that we would also have to admit we were wrong.
“I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Which party do you think will see our path forward first? There are people on both sides that are starting to move away from the 15 thousand thousand million dollar debt plan… this could be encouraging. Sometimes I still manage some optimism and keep up hope. After all, FDR said:
“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
So maybe this is all happening on purpose. Maybe going bankrupt is how we break free of our wrong course.
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein
The Constitutionalism movement within the Republican party is promising. With candidates like Ron and Rand Paul, maybe the Republicans will be the first to figure out that Limited government is still the right answer. That Constitutional amendments “defining” marriage, morning after pill legislation attempts, No Child Left Behind agendas, Drug laws, and “Patriot” acts… maybe the Republican party will finally re-discover that these government intrusions into arenas it has no business being are not in our collective self-interest. If these Republicans can also re-discover that taxes need to come from our wealthy, they might just be the ones to bring us into tomorrow.
“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.” – Thomas Jefferson
And the Democrats show a little promise too – they got those “Blue Dog” democrats – fiscal conservatives they say. Maybe they will be the first to couple their plan to tax our wealthy with a complete overhaul of government “welfare” to remove federal check disbursing from the plan. If the Blue Dog democrats can let go of the power of the government welfare program, if they can instead fund private enterprise to train and employ people, and if they can re-discover that Keynesian Economics demands that we use our borrowed money to invest in our children rather than our seniors, they might just be the ones to bring us into tomorrow.
“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
So what do you think, who will figure it out first? Or should I say.. who will figure it out again?
“Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.” – George Washington
Man I tell ya, I love that quote – says everything in one sentence.
I’ll tell you who I think will re-discover our course… In my humble opinion, I think neither. I suspect that we actually will go bankrupt first. That’s my bet – I’ll take even money if you’re interested. I’m not sure you’ll be able to pay me after I win the bet though, so let’s keep the wager light. Most regrettably and with a broken heart, this is the future I see. I am one of those “dooms-dayers” who actually believes that if we borrow more than ever before in our history, if we have more debt than the rest of the world combined (http://www.usadebtclock.com/national-debt-facts.php), if we borrow over $50,000 per head on every grandpa, grandma, dad, mom, boy and girl that we have, and then have an economy that relies on even more borrowing to meet our future obligations…. that yes, we will fail. I’m “crazy” I know. I must be. Or else…
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Yes it’s true, I suspect we will follow the likes of the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union, and present day Greece — broke, hungry, and desperate and asking our government “Why?” I look in the mirror… and I see why. We are too proud, too greedy, and too envious to allow a course change. Or maybe we just have to actually experience it in order to even care. Whatever the case, we just keep voting for one of the wrong courses, and hope things will change…
“Who’s more foolish; the fool, or the fool who follows him?” – Obi Wan Kenobi
It is interesting to me, my political perspective these days. In fact, it has changed my entire outlook on life – not necessarily worsened it, just changed it. Politics never really mattered to me until now. And my Dad’s stories about farm life in Minnesota during the 1930’s and 40’s, struggling to eat and stay warm, they take on new meaning now. I have a greater respect for my ancestors today, those who still managed life the last time We the People bankrupted ourselves. Thank the Lord, I have a 1960’s house that I own outright and rent out – my family can move there if need be. Also, my wife’s family has a small home in the mountains that has a well, a generator, and wildlife around – that could be a good fall back plan too, we love you MeMe!
Yes my friend, that’s how my mind works these day. I ponder what America’s next chapter will be like – not with an attitude of Fear, but with a mind toward reason. I think about my kids and how best I can provide for them in the next America. I imagine that national bankruptcy is our future… because most of the time and with a healthy look at the reality around us, I think it is.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” — Dr. Seuss
I wonder if we’ll call it the “Great Depression II” or if we’ll find a different title for the history books this time. I do feel like FDR is calling Us from the grave, telling Us to abandon Government Welfare and Trickle Down Economics, begging us not to go bankrupt again, and we just can’t stop arguing long enough to hear him…
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“It isn’t sufficient just to want – you’ve got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment… If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.” – Franklin D Roosevelt
Verily I tell you, I hear those words.
He that have an ear, let him hear.
I remember a story I once heard about an Island Civilization that destroyed itself because it removed all of its forests and, without the trees, the civilization could not survive and died off. And I remember the storyteller commenting, “I wonder what they were thinking when they chopped down that last tree?”
Maybe it was that book “The Tipping Point,” or Al Gore’s movie, or maybe it was a sermon I heard, I can’t remember. Whatever the case, I still remember the image I had in my mind when I heard the story. I pictured some islander, doing what he and his generation had been doing for as long as he could remember, chopping down trees. “No, no” he would say. “I know we will be all right. Don’t give me your ‘doomsday scenarios’ – I’m quite certain everything will be all right.” Chop, chop, chop… like a scene out of “The Lorax.”
That’s how I feel about America today, we just forgot how to do anything except chop trees. And so we borrow, borrow, borrow and spend another year voting for the same political platforms. I am trying to prepare myself best I can for the day when the last tree falls – the day when they stop lending us money. To be fair, that day is pretty much here. I should say, the day we realize that we can’t just print more money and continue like nothing’s wrong…
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” – Winston Churchill
And then I think, “What is it going to look like after the bankruptcy?” Makes for interesting discussion – interesting to me anyway. I realize that, for the most part, I’m alone on wanting to discuss it… thus the blog. At least here I can tell my Creator and my society, “Hey, I care…”
“All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
My new enlightenment makes the Bible take on even another meaning for me… for the Bible speaks of failing societies continually. It is the message of the Prophets. I’m paraphrasing here I know, but the Prophet’s message always goes like this:
“Hey Goofballs! Hey You! Hey Dumby over there in the red coat – stop for a second and listen up! You see, I got a message that, if you want your civilization to continue, if you want your kids to be able to prosper, if you want your people to live, you must hear and heed! I know you don’t want to hear it but, you see, that doesn’t matter because it’s here just the same. So here it is: I assure you, if you don’t change your course, your civilization will fall.
For you have become a people of Envy, trying to take from your neighbor to provide for you, and you are not supposed to covet they neighbor’s goods. And you have become a people of Greed, trying to hoard your money while neglecting the plight of the poor around you. You are supposed to care for your less fortunate, to nurture them back to health, and you are supposed to understand that ‘to him who has been given much, much will be required.’
You have become a people of Pride, refusing to believe that this is true, and so you continue your doomed course. If you want to live, repent! Change! Alter your course, take this heading over here. Repent I tell you. And here’s some Good News — the yoke is light. You just need to stop taking from your neighbor and have your wealthy be generous. It’s not that hard People!”
Like I say, I’m paraphrasing. But it is the story of the prophets, Sodom and Gomorrah, Greed and Envy, destroyer of nations. The Prophet’s story ends, and his words are interpreted as God will stop blessing the nation, or God will destroy it, or the people will destroy themselves… however you decide to translate it, the end is always the same: If you continue traveling off course, you will not reach your destination. There’s a quote from yours truly.
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill
We need a Prophet today America… and we need to listen to the Prophet. For we are intertwined in a triad of Greed, Envy, and Pride that is destroying us. Anybody else out there want to vote for a new course? Anybody else ready to retry our “Roaring 20’s” course, but this time, embrace some necessary regulation of the banking industry? Anybody else humble enough to admit our government welfare programs and trickle down economics theories should be abandoned for something different? Because if so, I think it’s about time that We the People came up with a candidate – I’ll write him or her in I promise, just tell me what name to write…
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Maybe together, we can get the Us back on track…
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” – Winston Churchill
Yours in Faith.