The weekly Daley: What do the American people care about? Really?

By From page A6 | March 15, 2013

As the so-called budget/debt/deficit/drone crises roll inexorably along, one wonders, what do Americans really care about? If it were based only on recent cable channel segments, one would have to say Americans mostly care about the election of a new pope (but not so much now that there is one), GEICO or Progressive car insurance, reduced testosterone and/or erectile dysfunction, Jodi Arias (always Casey Anthony) and large, sugary drinks.

There’s some talk of gun control, some 2016 election stuff (Clinton v. Christie) (Rand Paul or Marco Rubio v. Unnamed Democrat), the president’s “charm offensive,” Valerie Harper’s terminal (or not) brain cancer, and that wacky Kim Jong Un. We don’t care too much about Lance Armstrong anymore, and Mitt Romney has evidently receded into the dustbin of history along with Ann and her dancing horse.

A lot of us care about college basketball, especially this month when schools most of us have never heard of suddenly rise to the top of their brackets for March Madness — but not necessarily this year. The Bulldogs of Butler and Gonzaga, the Ball State Cardinals, the Bradley Braves and my new personal favorite that I’ve never heard before now, the Evansville Purple Aces. Not kidding.

Some of us care about same-sex marriage and some others of us care about global warming. Some of us care about both and then some. Some of us don’t. Some of us care about our nation’s and our world’s financial future.

And now I’m going to state unequivocally that regardless of what our conservative friends say and apparently fervently believe, most of us really don’t care about the deficit. We care about it in the abstract, to some minimal extent, like we care about the odd meteor smashing us into a gazillion-trillion pieces. We care but we’re not really worried about it. Scientists say it absolutely could happen just like some economists say the deficit will one day smash us into a comparable oblivion. We care about our long-term health just like we should and that’s why we don’t smoke, use alcohol to excess, overeat, underexercise, soak up large, sugary drinks but do get plenty of sleep every night — not.

Some of us wail and gnash our teeth over the burden we’re leaving our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I don’t believe them. If they’re that concerned they can take steps to protect that precious progeny. I care about my grandson’s future, but he’s going to have to deal with his world just as everyone else who ever lived has had to deal with their world. I’m not trying to make it harder on him. Rather, I’m just not that worried about it. Fretting about something so vague and uncertain and so disputed by so many is kind of pointless. I’d venture to suggest that no one, not any one of us actually loses sleep over the deficit.

We lose sleep over our health problems sometimes. We lose sleep over whether or not we can really afford to … (fill in the blank), if or when we might lose our job or our loved one, whether we are prepared enough to survive the approaching (tornado, hurricane, blizzard, drought or not-necessarily approaching, but inevitable earthquake). Compared to those disasters, known and understood and maybe already experienced by many of us, that big, black DEFICIT out there feels more like a hazy, ephemeral, gray wisp of deficit.

During the past election, I thought early on that Romney-Ryan were off on a path going nowhere. Eventually they started to make me think of Henny Penny (aka Chicken Little) who with increasingly hysterical tones warned that the sky was falling. Hard as I tried to see it, every time I looked up the sky was still right where it’s always been and likely always will be — till the giant meteor hits.

The deficit is not sexy. It’s not even sex-related. It has nothing to do with the Sweet 16, Opening Day, the Ides of March (today) nor the Ides of April, though it might relate somewhat to that day for some of us, but I doubt it.

One of the ways you can tell the deficit doesn’t really concern us very much is based on the notions of how to fix it. When Pearl Harbor happened everyone had a pretty good idea of what to do. Get ready and go to war. NOW. September 11 had a similar response. Within three weeks we were bombing the bejeezes out of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And airport security had overnight become what we  now know and accept.

Those events threatened us that day and for days to come. The deficit threatens our offspring and their offspring, maybe, depending on what we ultimately do about it. Paul Ryan interviewed on FOX last week by Chris Wallace noted that a deficit-fighting $700 billion and change would come from future oil exploration and production in this country. If that’s not an argument built on sand, I don’t know what is. And if we can reform the tax code within the next 12 years, we can sure put a hurt on that old deficit.

Likewise the president plans to fight the deficit by cutting waste from Medicare and hoping that small businesses will think to hire more employees sometime. If that’s not an argument built on a similar foundation, I don’t know what is. (And if we can reform the tax code within the next 12 years, we can sure put a hurt on that old deficit.)

Where is the “Let’s go to war NOW” bells of alarum? There aren’t any now and none on the horizon. Honestly, if we were really afraid of the deficit, scared like hair-on-fire scared, wouldn’t we have demanded that our leaders do something about it by now? Translated: Wouldn’t we have demanded that our leaders demand that WE do something about it by now?

We know what it is, kind of, depending on who you listen to. We know how we got it, kind of, depending on who you listen to. We know what it means to our children and their children’s children, kind of, depending on who you listen to. We know what to do about it, kind of, depending on who you listen to. We know that somebody needs to do something about it. We’re not sure who, but we know it ain’t us.

We know all about it, and we probably should really care, but we really don’t.

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo. 

Chris Daley

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