Saturday, September 3, 2011

An Economic Choice

Someone asked me yesterday just what I thought I was doing in this blog.  Was I telling stories, spreading lies, or dispelling demons?  It was suggested that Texans just couldn’t answer a question without telling a story.  I suppose that I am guilty of this and I admit, that if the only way you can make a point is by telling a story, sometimes it seems like you have to go down three sides of the barn to get to the horse at the end of the rope in your hand.

Still, in my own mind, I like to think my stories have an educational point.  With that in mind, let me tell you about Bob.
Bob is no ordinary guy: he is an economist working for the government.  Working at the Treasury Department, Bob is used to making complex decisions that will affect the financial well-being of not only the United States, but the world.  Sometimes, Bob can see these problems looming on the horizon for weeks in advance, giving Bob the time necessary to make the correct decision.

At other times, a situation arises so quickly that, to paraphrase Rex Stout, Bob has to use his intelligence guided by experience and make a quick decision.  That’s why the government hires an expert like Bob--to make decisions on the spot for impossibly complex problems.
Bob was a little shocked yesterday when his wife called him and demanded that he come home immediately--there was a crisis at home.

Bob’s house is at the end of a circular drive at the bottom of a hill facing a golf course.  While his house is the lowest lot in the neighborhood, he has the best view.  That day, however, an otherwise perfect location led to a crisis.  The neighborhood sewage system uses a pump at a lift station to handle the difficult task of moving the liquid and solid waste uphill.  Yesterday, the pump suffered a catastrophic failure while in the open position.  Instead of moving the sewage up the hill, the system was reversed, draining raw sewage back to the lowest point in the neighborhood; unfortunately that point was Bob’s house.
When Bob arrived, his wife was hysterical.  Tens of thousands of gallons of horrible stinking sewage had backed into his house, flooding the first floor until the level of the waste was about 7 feet deep--just inches below the ceiling. 

Bob called the city utility and demanded immediate action.  Unfortunately, the people from the city said they had no idea how long it would take to fix the pump, and were not even sure how to begin.  As I am writing this, nothing of consequence has actually been done.
So what do you think Bob should do now?  Pump out the shit or raise the ceiling?

This is a difficult decision, for there are valuable programs, er… things in that house that might be lost if you just pump out the house.  Surely, if Bob just waits, the problem will stabilize.  After all, it’s never been a problem in the past.  On the other hand, almost anything of value in the house will be destroyed by the sewage and….
Oh to hell with it.  You can only stretch this metaphor so far before it breaks.  Congress raised the debt ceiling and spent hundreds of billions of dollars in just a few days.  To keep giving this government more money makes about as much sense as giving an endless supply of liquor and guns to a college fraternity.

According to Washington, if we don’t keep borrowing and spending money, the country will cease to function.  Will we know the difference?  If the country can’t find a way to stop spending, can we at least start charging the debt on a Discover Card?  We’ll still owe about the same, but the end of the year rebate might be enough to pay off the state of New Mexico’s debt.

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