Clever? … Or Clueless?

Senators and representatives who have been elected in the last few cycles as “tea party” [or more recently Freedom Caucus] candidates have received a lot of negative press because of their supposedly over-the-top conservatism. They generally oppose any legislative action that would increase the national debt — and in the eyes of many, that makes them appear as obstructionists to “progress”.

On the opposite end of that spectrum are Legislators whose philosophy seems to be that if a program they envision is good “for the people”, it should be implemented no matter what, considerations about affordability being secondary details. I wonder if maybe one side is clever and the other is clueless — but if so, the logical question that follows is which description fits which side?

Hint: Listen To Characterizations Of The New Tax Law

A clue to the answer lies in how lawmakers of these two leanings express their support of or opposition to the recently-passed tax law. One side tends to use phrases like “unleashing our economic potential”, “getting the economy moving again”, “producing jobs”, and “allowing the average working person to keep more of his/her money”. The other side tends to use phrases like “big corporations and rich people get a windfall, but middle-class Americans get crumbs”.

A Legislator who thinks in terms of who gets what from any particular action by government has the mindset that government has the capacity to give things to people. Government has no such capacity. Government takes money from its citizens [taxes, at least in theory with their approval] to provide “products” and services [e.g., infrastructure, law enforcement …] to them. If people are generally satisfied with the services provided and the taxes associated with them, everything is fine. If not, their recourse is to replace enough of their elected officials to change the price/performance ratio, a process which unfortunately takes a considerable amount of “collective resolve” and [assuming that collective resolve is achievable and that the “pipeline “ of potential candidates has desirable choices] anywhere from at least two to four years to possibly eight years or even more. In case you missed it, this paragraph has explained about as succinctly as possible why it seems to take forever to significantly change the status quo in our government.

Wanted: Sensible Leaders; Sensible Voters

I have pointed out in the pages of this web site and several times in posts to this blog that this country is on an Unsustainable Fiscal Path. With our national debt now over $20 trillion, we nonetheless continue every year to spend more than we take in — meaning, of course, that our national debt is still rising. Not surprisingly, interest on our debt is rising faster than any other single expenditure.

At the risk of sounding like I’m making self-contradictory points [i.e., by now saying that deficit spending is OK], I believe pursuing the current economic direction has a much greater probability of ultimately getting us back on a sustainable fiscal path than continuation of the past direction [which would have no doubt been the case had the 2016 election gone the other way]. Whether I’m right in this assessment remains to be seen, but despite the rhetoric from those who complain about who is getting what under the new tax law, drastic action is needed to get our fiscal house in order. When that is the case, seemingly counterintuitive actions undertaken by innovative thinkers [i.e., doing what status-quo logic says will reduce revenue and increase expenses when just the opposite is needed] makes more sense than “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” [a definition of insanity often attributed to Albert Einstein — an unverifiable attribution but nonetheless a sensible definition].

So Who Is Clever And Who Is Clueless?

So who is clever and who is clueless? It depends. … If “political cleverness” alone prevails and positive results have not become visible in late October / early November this year, or if “economic cleverness” prevails and positive results are visible in late October / early November, we should have a pretty good idea in ten months [this year’s mid-term election]. If “political cleverness” alone wins, I don’t see better times five to ten years out [and beyond]. If “economic cleverness” alone prevails, the future looks much brighter to me.

Thanks for reading this post, and if you regularly follow my Blog, for that, too. Please consider sharing this or other posts with your friends, colleagues and associates.

img_7026 Charles M Jones

Charles M. Jones

Author: Charles M. Jones, PE, CPA

[retired — neither license active]

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