THE BAD, THE GOOD AND THE UGLY

Addiction is a bad thing. And there’s no such thing as an addict that isn’t dysfunctional. If we divorce ourselves from the gravity of our current economic collapse and observe the process clinically, we can see this dysfunction playing our before our very eyes. The two parties know that something needs to be done, and soon, but are utterly unable to change. In this case, the drug is money, the motivation is votes, and the bloated, corpulent body is called the federal government. The Tea Party (actually a movement) has tried to stage an intervention by tying the addiction to the debt limit, but even the fear of potentially severe consequences can’t undo the paralysis.

It’s so familiar. It plays out on the public stage regularly. Kurt Cobain, Anna Nicole Smith, Amy Winehouse. And let’s not forget Greece and Spain. The list goes on and one. I see this every day in my medical practice. People with severe lung disease, vascular disease status post angioplasties, or even heart surgery, still smoking. About half just can’t quit. It takes a lot of fear to overcome addiction for many people, and too often the addiction trumps the fear.

The good news is that there is hope; Canada overcame its spending addiction and resuscitated its economy. At least we’re talking seriously—I think. At the time of this writing the most recent news is that an interim measure may be passed to kick the can down the road (something our ruling class is very good at) until after the 2012 elections. That may buy time, but doesn’t tell me we’re willing to take the difficult steps to overcome our addiction. Some voices say a credit downgrade will crash the system, others say this is fear-mongering. I’m amazed that our sloppy spending practices haven’t caused a downgrade years ago, but considering the track record of the rating services before the 2008 debacle, I guess I shouldn’t be. The downgrade may come even if the debt limit is raised in the absence of good-faith reforms.

The ugly truth is that the spring is loaded, the gun is cocked. We’ve got to start tightening our belts and pay the piper (cliché’s intended). Withdrawal hurts, whether it’s a single body or a collective.

Or, we can do what we have been doing—nothing. But addiction is a terminal disease.

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