Monday, November 21, 2011

Stupor Committee

One of the signs, I think, of a civilization entering a Dark Age is the number of "WTF moments" that come up on a regular basis, when things happen that don't make sense, when you know the wheels are coming off. Step back some 1600 years and imagine yourself as an average person in the latter days of Imperial Rome: "Hey Sulla, did you hear that we're giving up Britain because we can't defend it any longer?" "WTF do you mean we can't defend something, Flavius? We're Romans!" Or, if you prefer, imagine being a Mayan during their collapse: "WTF do you mean we can't grow crops in the same soil we've been using for generations?" And so on.

We have quite a few of those ourselves on a regular basis now, but I think the cherry on top of the WTF sundae is the so-called "Deficit Reduction Super Committee" and the kabuki theatre surrounding it right now. Putting it in a little perspective, the DRSC is supposed to cut 1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years. Doing the math, that's 120 billion dollars a year in cuts. Compared to a deficit which is at least 1.3 trillion dollars a year, it's essentially nothing. It's like being shot with 11 bullets instead of twelve. If this isn't a WTF? moment, I don't know what is.

Of course, there's the usual talk around deficit reduction, where everyone wants their turf guarded, when the special interests don't want to see their slice of the public pie cut. The problem here, of course, is that the pie itself is mostly air sandwiched between two crusts, the filling long ago having been removed and the lid of the pie carefully replaced so that no one would notice. It's now a system running on promises -- the promise of enough money coming into the treasury, the promise that people who have bought bad debt will get repaid, the promise that there is enough leadership and will to somehow patch a failing system that's running out of time. Everyone in the country wants their own benefits from it, but no one asks what it'll cost or if they should give up a little bit, along with everyone else.

So WTF? is anyone thinking that cutting out 120 billion a year in spending is going to make much of a difference in the ballooning debt and rapidly sinking dollar. And WTF? comes to mind when anyone thinks that it matters if these guys manage to agree to anything that will close that gap, while ignoring the rest of the monster deficit. It's like hiking 500 feet up the side of Mt. Everest and claiming that it's been conquered.

Speaking of Britain, we're a little like the Romans living there in 408 A.D. At some point, the nation is going to have to face bankruptcy and it's anyone's guess as to what happens then -- I think the conversation might be "WTF do they mean 'you're on your own'?"

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