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Lange: Stop Digging

08/17/11 5:55PM By Willem Lange
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(HOST) Commentator Willem Lange wonders how the nation got into such an economic mess, and suggests it might be time to consider some common-sense advice from the American humorist, Will Rogers.

(LANGE) "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." This aphorism, attributed to Will Rogers, seems especially appropriate to our current national situation. Yet I've heard no one else mention it.

A few months ago Speaker of the House John Boehner cited the decreasing numbers of unemployed as evidence that the so-called Bush tax cuts were working. Then recently, after a meeting with the President, he announced that the rising number of unemployed persons was a sure sign the tax cuts needed to be extended. It was as if he'd stepped through the Looking Glass into Wonderland, where the Red Queen's solution for every problem is the same - Off with his head!

Speaker Boehner is doubly cursed. He's caught between the rock of his Tea Party members and the hard place of having to negotiate a compromise with ideological opposites. And he's stuck in a "frame," a term popularized by George Lakoff in his best-selling don't think of an elephant. This particular frame posits that taxes are a burden to be avoided, and that anyone who can ease that burden is a hero. Speaker Boehner's frame is becoming dog-eared. Yet he sticks with it, knowing - as Lakoff points out - that voters don't vote their self-interest as surely as they vote their frames.

It's hard to say when the leak in the ship of state begin to overwhelm the pumps, and why, when other options are available, we seem most intent upon throwing overboard the folks in steerage.

According to CNN host Fareed Zakaria, there were three major actions that changed a budget surplus in 2000 to the greatest deficit in history by 2009.

The first was the Bush tax cuts, designed to stimulate the economy by charging the wealthy less to enjoy the benefits of life in America. They would shower their blessings upon lesser folk by "creating jobs." That didn't work during the Reagan years, and it hasn't worked this time, either.

The second was our reaction to September 2001. We invaded Iraq and Afghanistan - the equivalent of dropping a brick upon our toe to ease the pain of a headache. We've still got the headache and the sore toe; and the cost of the wars is an insupportable burden.

The third hole in our hull was the enactment of the Prescription Drug Benefit Act. Supposed to benefit seniors, it was designed by pharmaceutical company lobbyists. It prohibits Medicare from negotiating prices for prescription drugs as other federal programs do. Veterans' Affairs pays 58% less for drugs than does Medicare Part D. The major impact of the act is to enrich drug manufacturers.

That, apparently, is how we got into this hole; and we're still ignoring Will Rogers' advice. With all our misspent trillions, we haven't built any nations or made many friends. It's time to stop shoveling.

This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.

 

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