Smart as Paint

If the directors of private insurance companies ran their businesses the same way that the state runs its entitlement programs and pension plans, they would every man jack of them be in the slammer. And when I say “the slammer,” I mean chokey, the big house, the can, the clink, the bastille, the cooler, and the jailhouse. In sum, they would be up the river.

But what happens to all the whiz kids in government positions who play their assigned role as tax-supported mountebanks? Well, they don’t go to prison — unless they take the public corruption that they are in and try to privatize it in any way. The swag has to be heaped up in a public swag pile, and if one of the pirates helps himself in a manner not consistent with the pirate code, he gets treated like he was a crook or something.

Now when I refer to the public corruption that our elected officials are “in,” I don’t want to overstate it. I am only saying that they are in it up to chin level and are about to start blowing bubbles.

Here’s how this particular corruption works. I have before quoted the sage who observed that democracy is two coyotes and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch. Or raise the numbers — 280 coyotes and 28 sheep voting on what to have for lunch. But as it turns out, the coyote politicians had been getting above themselves and had been promising their coyote constituency that there were going to be sheep to eat “forever and a day.” But, as it turns out, the the number of sheep in this particular meadow is finite, and now what are we going to do?

When the day of reckoning comes — and when you are looting a place, it always comes — the consternation can be profound. We cannot quote Lady Thatcher too often at this point. The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.

So all this is obviously provoked by the hubbub in Wisconsin. As we look at this melee, we should mark the distinction between the yowling Democrats, and the grown-up, fiscally-sane Republicans who are trying to make this financial atrocity work. Thoughtful Christians should be able to identify the drunken pirate appoach as problematic. They often have trouble with the relatively sane ones who are trying to avert a full-blown crisis.

But here is a problem with the fiscally-sane Republicans. The problem is not with what they are doing (this is what they have to do). The problem lies with how they are talking about it.

Whenever you face a day of financial reckoning, and you try to avert bankruptcy by raising the retirement age, or by reducing the amount pensioners get, etc. it may be necessary to do (because you ran out of other people’s money), but do not call it “keeping your commitments.” If a distressed private debtor makes arrangements with his creditor to pay off his debts at a rate of fifty cents on the dollar, this could easily be the responsible thing to do. It could be absolutely the necessary thing to do, and is far to be preferred than just walking away, leaving the creditor hosed. But it must not be confused with full payment of the obligation. Republicans must make the necessary adjustments so that we can keep as much of our word as we can . . . which is not the same thing as keeping our word. In the meantime, we must learn to ignore the extortioners and pirates who used various means of duress to get us to make the unsustainable promises in the first place.

There are intelligent Democrats who know how to count, and who are nevertheless participants in the current riots. But keep an eye on them . . . they are going to slip off at the right time, just like Long John Silver. And perhaps, as they pass by the voting public, on their way to the longboat that they already have prepared, they will pat us on the head affectionately. “Smart as paint, m’lad.”


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