Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why Such a Long Face?

"Lucy, you got some splanin' to do."

Why such a long face, Eternal?

I am the Eternal Optimist, but my closest friends just call me “Eternal,” or sometimes, just “E.” Some friends ask me why I am so pessimistic about the Obama administration’s economic policies. After all, I am essentially optimistic about people, at least in an eternal sense.

I realized during a conversation yesterday that it may boil down to this: I have had a lot of friends who tried big time deficit spending, and it never worked out well.

Sometimes you have emergencies, and you pay for the heater repairs on a credit card or something, but as a general rule, spending more than you make gets you into big trouble, fast. Those bouts with the credit card better be few and far between, or you’ll get real sad real quick. Chronic deficit spending is a fascinating form of magical thinking, and magical thinking always winds up smashing into reality, sooner than you think, with lots of ensuing tears and gunfire.

A common characteristic of this kind of bender is that you cannot convince the spender that their debt is unnecessary. No matter where you look at their expenditures, you meet with stone wall after stone wall; they insist that their spending habits can't be changed. So much of their spending is so entwined with their emotional needs that you risk rupturing the friendship when you start questioning the expenditures. It’s as if you are attacking their right to life itself when you mention that they could probably do without the $399 per month lease payment on the car.

“Take the bus?? Are you kidding me??” It’s like you just asked them to sacrifice their child to Moloch. Phrases like “I need that” and “I deserve that” and “I just couldn’t live if . . .” pepper their conversation.

Another common characteristic is that their relationship with God tends to be like Basil Fawlty’s, in the scene where he screams “oh, thank you God, thank you so bloody much” while shaking his fist at heaven. They really think God is afflicting them, when most of their trouble is purely their own doing. Being friends with people who spend more than they make is like watching NASCAR for the crashes, except you can’t turn off the TV when things get grisly.

Now, I am quite willing – and even eager – for someone to point me toward an example where sustained deficit spending worked out well. Because that is clearly where we are going while Obama is driving the car. So I would like to get Argentina out of my head, and the Weimar Republic, and Zimbabwe, and put some good examples in my head, like, ummh, ahh . . .

See, this is where things get scary, because I can’t think of any. So help me out here. Maybe someone knows an example where this worked. Or maybe even if there is no good example, you can help me understand how buying up toxic mortgages, and nationalizing banks and the health care industry are going to allow us to pay off the piles of debt we are racking up. Even if it is just a theory. Because for the life of me I can’t even figure out a theory, much less recite an example, of how it works.

Right now I don’t think the Obama administration cares to address the end game. They are just making this up as they go along, and anyone talking about how the police are going to raid this place if we keep smashing windows is not conducive to the party atmosphere. And at least 54% of America seems to be content with this plan – party on dude, Obama rocks. But my experiences with all my spendthrift friends keep running through my mind late at night, and these visions are not reassuring, let me tell you. So let me know if you have some great examples of chronic deficit spending success stories. I could use the encouragement.

Sincerely, and I mean that,

Eternal Optimist


  1. I agree (in general) except for the implication that this administration is doing something new. The "fixes" suck but we got into debt because previous administration(s) blew the money out a firehose at every target. Now we're paying even more to kneecappers.

  2. I only hope and pray we are turning into a skid. One thing I`m sure of is that most of us are going to learn to live without all the things we were so sure we "needed".