I have a problem and it’s kind of ruining my life.
My problem is that I read the news - every day. I know it’s not good for me, but it’s a habit I just can’t shake. I don’t know if there’s a self-help group or medication or something else, but I’m starting to get a little desperate.
It isn’t that the news is so bad. We live in a hard old world and there’s always bad news of some sort around the corner, and when you look back at a couple world wars, the Black Death, and a few other odds and ends of history, we may have some troubles, but it’s the kind of thing we should be able to handle.
No, what’s driving me crazy is that we can’t even seem to agree on what the bad news is.
It makes me think of a quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan that goes, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”
Good thing he’s dead, because reading the papers these days would probably kill him. Talk about everyone working off their own set of facts…
Let’s look at the state of Minnesota, just as an example.
About twelve years ago, the economy was rolling along and we had a lot of money, so the state cut taxes. A few years later, things didn’t look as good. There was a lot less money coming in and lots more going out. Now, a regular person might look at that situation and think that we should spend less money or raise taxes, or a little of both. Our folks at the capitol decided to do none of the above. Instead, they just didn’t pay their bills until after the first of the year. The reason for that decision was that no one could agree if A: there was a problem or B: if there was a problem, how to solve it. The budget was balanced in December, but the following January didn’t look so good. No problem – they did the same thing the next year, and the next, and…you get my point.
Consider this. If your 19-year-old college freshman handled his money the same way, you’d cut up his credit card and make him get a job at McDonald’s until he was out of debt. We don’t seem to do much of that with our politicians.
Here we are, eight years later. All the accounting tricks and juggling acts are over. Our governor has proudly declared that he’s retiring with a balanced budget. That’s somewhat true – although the balanced budget this year is due to the state getting two and a half billion dollars as a stimulus present from Washington. Unfortunately, next year, because of a wheelbarrow full of postdated checks, the deficit will be somewhere north of six billion dollars.
That’s a lot - about twenty percent of the budget. Plus, if you take out the stuff we really can’t cut, like veterans’ benefits and the money we spend to take care of the elderly, it’s about twice that.
Now, those are the facts. If we can’t agree on facts, we don’t stand a chance of fixing the problem.
At least, that’s my opinion.