Monday, October 15, 2012

Moral Deficit

The Barack Obama administration has just confirmed that the Deficit for Fiscal Year 2012 will be over $1,000,000,000,000.00.  This from a President who had promised he would cut the deficit in half.  Instead it increased beyond anyone's wildest expectations.  As I reflected on this, my thoughts wandered to Felix Baumgartner's historic moment yesterday, becoming the first super-sonic human.

Mr. Baumgartner's feat was an incredible one.  The first human to break the sound barrier using gravity alone, what Mr. Baumgartner did will live in history.  He was more than a daredevil yesterday, he was, in many ways, a hero.  Oh, not a Hero, like our brave men and women over seas, or the fire fighters who routinely risk their lives to save the lives and property of others.  But a hero, someone to look up to, recognize the courage and achievement, and say, "I want to do that some day."

Yet it is that very heroic image which is part, I think, of the problem which has led to trillion dollar deficits.  Men like Baumgartner are worshiped and lauded.  So are men like Joe Flacco or Tony Romo or any other sports star.  We look at what they do, we realize the training and dedication required to achieve what they have achieved, and we encourage our children to pursue their successes.  But then there are men like Mitt Romney or the Koch brothers. 

What those men did required no less training and dedication.  In some ways, it required far more, along with an ability to delay gratification that is all too uncommon today.  They achieved success that allows them to affect the world in more ways than simply making people feel good, or escape into a game for a few hours a week.  Mitt Romney gives more to charity than most Americans pay in taxes.  So do the Koch brothers, for that matter.  Over and above that, their financial success has led to thousands, if not millions of jobs- allowing people not only to aspire to success themselves, but allowing more than a few to achieve it.

Mitt Romney founded Bain Capital.  Today he is attacked over it because sometimes in the business world hard choices have to be made.  These hard choices often lead to people losing their jobs, which is only one part of what makes them so hard.  But over the long run, if those hard choices are made, made well, and reached quickly enough, those lost jobs turn into new jobs- usually months or even years later.

Today, there are many nationally known chains that would not exist if it weren't for Bain Capital.  Staples, Outback Steakhouse, and Toys-R-Us have all been assisted by Bain, and they just represent the tip of the iceberg.  Koch Industries employs thousands of people directly, and who can really measure their indirect impact?

But, today, men like Mitt Romney or the Koch brothers are not held up as minor heroes.  We don't point to them on TV and tell our children, "Because of that man, Daddy has a job.  If you work hard and study like they did, maybe one day you can be like them."  Far from that, they are torn down as "evil capitalists," or "greedy," or any number of other epithets.  They are assumed to be "only in it for themselves."

And that is the divide- that we can point to sports star, or a daredevil, or a celebrity and say, "Look at them, try to be like them," but we point to people who have really made real lives better through employment and say, "See that man?  He's greedy, don't be like him."  This divide is what lead to the Housing Crash, as people who couldn't afford to purchase homes thought they should be entitled to them anyway.  It is what lead to the GM Bankruptcy, as the men and women employed by the company decided that the company's long term success was less important than their immediate situation.  It is what is killing AMR today.  And it is why the President's administration can do anything other than resign in shame for a fourth year in a row of a deficit over one trillion dollars.

Barack Obama once called an increase in the debt ceiling, "a failure of leadership," and high deficits "immoral."  Like a broken clock, he was right those two times.  Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten those lofty ideas.

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