He Who Will Not Learn From The Past
Actual dialogue from one day early last week:
ME: Hi, I’d like a pack of [brand of cigarettes I used to smoke].
STORE CLERK: That’ll be $7.15.
CLERK: The price of cigarettes went up again.
ME: (after intense five-second internal debate) Never mind. I’ll buy nicotine patches instead.
And I did. It’s been nearly a week now since last I enjoyed a sweet, sweet lungful of nicotiney goodness, but I derive similar satisfaction from knowing I’m denying the state its lucrative cigarette taxes. (Disclaimer: this is something like the fifth or sixth time I’ve quit smoking with the patch. But it’s the first time cigarettes have been this expensive, and also the first time the economy scared me enough to kick my miser instincts into overdrive. Also, the man I live with no longer smokes in my presence, which is always what made me fall off the wagon previous times.)
In other words, I have drastically reduced my consumer spending, which benefits me personally but will only add to America’s economic woes. Though perhaps I should not worry, because President Obama has said: “If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we’re going to get through this.”
The president thinks our economy is fundamentally sound. Which is very optimistic and might even convince people, if only Herbert Hoover hadn’t said nearly the same thing in late October 1929: “The fundamental business of the country … is on a sound and prosperous basis.”
Yet there are two ways Hoover’s America was on a sound and prosperous basis, compared to ours: In 1929 America was a net creditor, and the rest of the world owed us money. Today we’re Debtor Nation, over our heads in debt mostly held by countries (read: China) who would happily see us go down, so long as their own losses remained in the “acceptable” range. And in 1929 America was the world’s primary oil producer, able to meet our own oil needs and export petroleum to the rest of the world. Now we import most of our oil which, like our debt, is held by countries who don’t like us at all.
I have no politically realistic solutions for our dilemma, but I’m pretty sure “denying it exists” won’t work at all.
P.S. My column this week deals with the deleterious effects of my new, healthy lifestyle on the state budget; unfortunately, it didn’t go online. I’ll link to it once I add it to my online clipfile.