Forget politics. It is all about time. I know a lot about time. You don’t need Wikipedia to define it for you. It seems like just yesterday I was playing basketball and almost touching the rim. Now I am lucky to ride my bike up the 2% grade coming out of my neighborhood. Tell me about time!
So we know what time is. But it is how we use it that counts, right? Honey, I don’t have time to do the dishes right now. Fox Business News is on and they have some really hot babes on that show. I can't watch them later. President Obama tells us that giving Iran ten years to build a bomb is okay. Today no. In ten years, fine. Paul Krugman says that if the Fed raises interest rates today, then it will be catastrophic. He says it would be better to wait. Russia invades neighbor Ukraine. Ukraine can’t easily remove the invaders. We promise help but it seems it will come later. The US federal debt doubled and yet we have not mentioned even the tiniest bit of austerity or reform that might reduce the debt. Nope, we seem content to let the debt permanently increase as a share of GDP. I guess we can worry about that later. Greece should worry now. We should wait.
In all these examples and many more it seems that there is an agreement that there is a problem and something should be done. It is just the timing that matters. Let’s do it later. What is behind this penchant to wait? Probably lots of things. Maybe we don’t have enough information and we wait to learn more? Maybe things have to happen in a sequence and therefore it is impossible to start sooner? Or maybe the issue is simply that we’d rather push a negative consequence off into he future. We know there will be a negative impact from our decision. Let that negative impact come later. Maybe I will be out of office when that impact comes?
We don’t want to wait for everything. Some of us want stuff now. You want that shiny new Hyundai and you buy it despite the fact that you can’t really afford it. You want the government to provide more help for the homeless and other people and you want global warming killed as quickly as possible. Notice that in many of these cases – the immediate impact looks good. In these cases we don't wait. But in these cases, it is the unintended consequences that come later. We seem very willing to take good stuff now and let the bad stuff come later.
So it is pretty clear that time often means waiting – and waiting because the real and known negative consequences are hard to swallow today. Push it off. Kick it down the road. Let’s make today as nice as it can possibly be. I can sit on my porch and read another book now – I can always water the lawn later.
Interestingly most of us do not behave this way in our private lives. Our parents taught us to face up to our responsibilities. They drilled us on responsibility. Do your homework now! Mow the yard today. Get your degree before you run off to visit Europe. Get a good job and save some money.
But collectively we act as if Superman was there to pull Timmy out of the well. Or was that Lassie? Anyway, in our political behavior we buy hook, line, and sinker that we can do really good things today and never have to encounter the negative effects. Is it not amazing how little is said by Obama about the risks of Iran having nuclear weapons and us not finding them.
He even said that the Middle East would be less stable later if Iran did not have a nuclear weapon. What does he smoke to make these things up? When Hillary wants to increase the minimum wage she never talks about one negative thing that might happen after we raise it? Its all to the good! Krugman explains that if we wait to raise interest rates there might be a modicum of inflation but we are not to worry. Where does he get that stuff?
Why don’t we good citizens hold these folks’ feet to the fire? Sure they can pontificate all they want about the benefits of doing some things now while pushing other things off to the future. But every time they do that they should be required to explain all the risks of things that will surely happen tomorrow. Does that sound so extreme to require them to tell both sides – and then have to support why the future negative impacts would be negligible?
Is it that politicians are incapable of rational analysis? If so, we need to start electing people who have the right capabilities. Or would we as people prefer to have the colorful and often entertaining dueling banjos of Rs and Ds? Maybe it is us who can't calculate and prefer the excitement of chaos. Or maybe we just can't see beyond the ends of our collective noses? It seems so moral to not inflict harm on anyone now...and to hope bad things won't come tomorrow. Is it?