This is the weekend I have scheduled for my fall housecleaning. It always makes me feel good go through the pantry, closets and other nooks and crannies that I can easily ignore during most of the year-those places that only get “the treatment” during the spring and fall cleaning rituals.
Which reminds me that November is coming, and with it, the opportunity to do some political housecleaning as well.
I thought about our desperate need for such civic housecleaning when I heard a caller to a radio show explain that the President’s jobs plan was ridiculous–not because it wouldn’t work, or was otherwise ill-conceived–but because we shouldn’t be spending money we don’t have. The nation, he proclaimed, should do what individuals do, and live within our means. (Ok, you can stop laughing now and read on.) The host, to his credit, asked the caller if he had a mortgage? A car payment? “Well, that’s different,” was the response.
Exactly. In fact, in the wake of the President’s speech (hell, for the past several years!) we have been treated to the antics of assorted elected buffoons who not only don’t have answers to our problems, but don’t know what the questions are.
The question is not whether we should spend money on Program A. That’s a question that cannot be answered without several preliminary inquiries. Is this an investment–our house, the country’s infrastructure–or is it an operating expense, like rent or highway maintenance? As any businessperson will tell you, you borrow for the former but not the latter. What are the consequences of spending for the proposed purpose? What are the consequences of not spending for it? And if the benefits of spending outweigh the benefits of not doing so , will Proposal A achieve the desired results?
It’s bad enough that large numbers of otherwise reasonable citizens don’t understand that, but it is truly appalling when our elected officials don’t grasp the most basic elements of public or economic policy. (And yes, Mike Pence, I’m looking at you. And a lot of others.)
It’s time to do some housecleaning. And that housecleaning actually should be modeled on the process we use in our own homes. Housecleaning doesn’t mean a wholesale “throw the bums out” catharsis. When we clean a closet or drawer at home, we sort: we throw out the stuff that is no longer useful or wearable–the stuff that’s taking up space we need for better, more useful stuff. And that’s what we need to do for the next several Novembers. We need to get rid of the lunatics and egomaniacs, obviously, but we also need to retire the nice-enough people who are simply in way over their heads (yes, I’m looking at you, Mayor Ballard). But voters of both parties also need to understand that whatever the wingnut of the day may be telling us, we don’t throw someone out simply because we disagree with them. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Richard Mourdock.) There are plenty of people who will engage in thoughtful and informed analysis and simply reach different conclusions. We should opt for competence and intellectual honesty, not uniformity. To stretch my analogy past the breaking point, we need to throw out those high fashion shoes that have killed your feet ever since you bought them, and keep the comfortable ones that aren’t quite so flashy and “in.”
Take it from someone who is in the middle of fall housecleaning.