Life in the Age of 'Much Worse Than We Thought It Would Be'
What was just a troubling oil spill a week ago is now, according to Interior Secretary
In other words, it's much worse that we thought it would be. Has there been a crisis in the last decade that turned out to be better than we thought it was going to be?
We are still fighting two wars that were going to be cakewalks, but have now lasted nine years and seven years -- much worse than we thought it would be.
Katrina looked like it could be bad but -- even though there were plenty of people warning about a Category 5 storm breaching the levees -- the devastation ultimately was much worse than we thought it would be.
Same with the housing bubble that was fueled by the
Perhaps we should start calling this the Age of "Much Worse Than We Thought It Would Be."
Our shortsighted thinking is still on full display in the
That's the nature of unprecedented things -- they've never happened -- until they happen. But just because something is unprecedented doesn't mean it's unpredictable or that we're unable to plan for it. We can't see the future, but we can prepare for it.
In practically every sector of our society, the old order is exhausted. But we seem incapable of making fundamental changes without the loaded gun of a full-blown crisis pointed at our heads.
And there are some other "unprecedented," "unique" -- and potentially catastrophic -- problems headed our way if we continue to accept the old order's lack of imagination about what is possible. I'm thinking, first and foremost, of our debt problem.
And no, I'm not joining the forces of those who use the debt explosion as a backdoor way of cutting or killing
America is like a patient in danger of suffering a massive heart attack. We may be able to postpone things with a bit of outpatient surgery, but we won't be able to avoid it without some serious lifestyle changes. The economic coronary isn't quite here yet, but it's on the way. And when it hits, it will, of course, be "unprecedented" and "unique." But not unforeseen -- let alone unforeseeable. Here are just a couple of the symptoms of big time trouble ahead:
-- By 2020, interest on the debt alone will reach
-- That same year, five segments of government spending --
And a recent report by the
But fiscal authorities need to remember that there is more to tackling the deficit crisis than just cutting spending. Rather, we need to reorient our economy so that it's once more an engine for production and productivity, not a vehicle for gambling and speculation.
Instead of limiting the deficit debate to talk of cutting entitlements, how about also having a discussion about moving to an economy that focuses on investing in small businesses and communities, and puts a premium on education and technology rather than on exotic financial instruments.
Before the big deficit coronary hits, and is exploited by those who've been itching to slash entitlements ever since FDR and LBJ signed them into law, let's widen the discussion, and think bigger.
For a change, let's imagine a crisis that is worse than we think it will be, and take the necessary steps to avoid it. If we don't, we'll find ourselves facing another "unprecedented" disaster.
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(c) 2010 Garrison Keillor