THE AMERICAN DREAM

Our local paper today featured a news analysis by Steven Thomma from McClatchy Newspapers on how the failure to reach a debt deal is politically unfavorable for Obama. Thomma remarks that “[e]ven a multitrillion-dollar package of spending cuts and tax increases would not have stopped the red ink. At best, the grand bargain being sought would have shaved about $4 trillion from deficits expected to total at least $8 trillion over the next 10 years.”

In the same issue an article dealing with a local battle over binding arbitration for our public safety unions (police and firefighters) describes how a new measure on the ballot in August is seeking to overturn one passed in 2000 by the voters. In that year a rule was introduced stipulating that a third party authority would decide on benefits and working conditions if an agreement with the unions couldn’t be reached. Under this rule in 2008 an arbitrator’s ruling raised police officers’ salaries 27% and dispatchers got an increase of ~33% for the period 2006-09, a financial millstone around the city’s increasingly scrawnier economic neck .  The reporter opines, “…a political maelstrom will likely ensue in coming weeks as the August election nears.”

As a backdrop to this our legislators stand squarely in the middle of the track while the engine of financial collapse hurtles toward them, debating whether to exit right or left. Unfortunately, they may be no more than a reflection of the social psyche. We seem to be, collectively, in a dream, thinking that “this too shall pass,” as it has always done. The economy will start to rev, the jobs will return, and revenues will soar, melting away the debt like spilled ice cream on sun-baked August pavement. Sure, there are now strident voices crying out, but the fact that we’re still standing on the tracks is strong testament to the grim reality that, as a people, we’re still dreaming. In this dream we agree heartily that we have to stop wanton spending. We also agree that it’s the spending on everyone else that’s “wanton.” So, I guess the only thing we can’t agree on is whether to tax more and raise the deficit.

Pinch me; I want to wake up.

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