Richard Brand: Walking Contradictions

Kris Kristofferson had a line in one of his songs about being a “walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.”  Jimmy Buffet has a line in one of his songs about “semi-true story, believe it or not. I made up a few things and some I’ve forgot.”

So I am sure I am not alone in the notion that most of us are not very consistent in what we want and what we believe.  We say we want one thing and then later we say we want something that contradicts what we said we wanted earlier.

Most of us know we as a nation have a major debt problem. We want to get our financial house in order. We have to live within our means. We need to cut back and to reduce spending. It has been a major part of the public debate for the last few years. The only public plan that has been presented in a comprehensive way was from Bowles-Simpson commission.  Their four big points were 1)there had to be increased revenues. 2) there has to be major tax code reform. 3) there has to be major cuts in spending: in defense spending, in social programs and health care costs 4) there must be a reduction of the interests cost on the federal debt.  Lots of people have had critical comments about the recommendations but nobody has argued that we do not need to cut spending. I think almost every politician who ran in November promised us that he/she would cut spending.

Yet here comes an editorial from our local paper telling our delegation of representatives in DC that they need to fight the cuts in defense because North Carolina has a lot of defense installations and makes a lot of money from military bases and we don’t want that to change. The same senior citizens who have been very loud and very vocal about wanting to cut government spending turn around and oppose cuts to medicare and changes in Social Security. Walking contradiction.

The same contradiction can be seen in other areas of public life. There is an argument put forward that if you give small businesses tax relief and allow them to keep more money they will expand their business and hire more people. The evidence suggests that they will expand their business by buying computer operated equipment and reduce the number of employees.  An editorial in the local paper talked about the jobs that will not come back. Furniture may come back to High Point but it will be automated factories that build the furniture. A small business man will buy the computer operated saw that cuts, shapes, molds and assembles the kitchen cabinet doors without  the need for more workers.  Paul Krugman, of the New York Times, has commented recently on the replacement of workers by machines. Sixty-eight percent of the companies on Wall Street in January reporting of profits reported better than “street estimates” and yet no one is hiring. Another contradiction – the more profitable a company the more likely they will be to need fewer and fewer employees.

That is just the way we are as human beings. Somewhere it has been suggested that we do not know what makes for our peace.  We may not really know what we want and we may discover we want things that conflict with each other. It is what makes our common life together such a struggle and what the life of a public elected official so difficult.