LIGHT FROM A BLACK HOLE

As primarily a purveyor of gloom and doom over the past few years, I thought it appropriate to spotlight a ray of hope in these desperate times. Two–count ’em, 2!–items recently came to my attention.

The first is the end of bankruptcy in Visalia, California. As you are probably aware, a number of cities in the erstwhile Golden State have filled for bankruptcy. Visalia, just like any corporate entity, used the period of restructuring to renegotiate its toxic contracts. In other words, it abolished the practice of awarding absurd, unsustainable retirement and healthcare packages that permitted employees to retire at age 50 or 55 on the taxpayer’s dime. In the process of whittling down the public workforce, a strange and wonderful thing happened: there was an upsurge of volunteerism to fill the  void. In other words, Visalia, no longer “protected” from the natural laws of the marketplace, began to behave sensibly and the great,golden bear of altruism, after a long, cold winter, raised its sleepy head.

The second bright spot is a news report that groups of young entrepreneurs have been starting small tech companies in New York City with the support of available, inexpensive group workplaces. Some of them, starting with just a few motivated individuals, are growing exponentially. Given the right incentives, it seems, Americans still have the ability and the drive to succeed.

When government stops acting like it operates in a black hole universe with magical laws, and when it provides incentives at the local level rather than taxing and over-regulating from the top, progress is made.

For those of you now clutching your chests from the uncharacteristically upbeat tone of this week’s rant, I offer this: A few upstart companies does not a recovery make. As I’ve outlined in my analyses of the health care system, it is a mistake to believe we can fix anything without working with the whole. Liberals decry the conservative obsession with helping “the rich” as the answer to our economic woes. Conservatives poo-poo the idea of increasing taxes on the wealthy as  a viable method of improving the lot of the middle class. It’s time we as a nation faced facts: You don’t fix this from the bottom up, top down or middle out. You fix it by doing all three. And doing so requires adherence to the laws of economics and something else that’s been hibernating–cooperation. Because we need to make two important amendments to the Constitution.

But that’s fodder for my next rant.

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