Hollywood knows we like sequels and rehashes to familiar stories. We gobble them up. We demand more.
So maybe Congress is just taking a cue from Hollywood.
Last week, we “averted” the so called “fiscal cliff” with a last minute deal to fend off a doomsday-like scenario of automatic tax hikes.
But we did so in a way that solved absolutely no problems whatsoever. And, once again, the can was kicked down the road. I hope you like sequels, because we are going to watch this farce unfold again in March.
Everyone knows someone who just can’t get their act together. No matter how much they struggle, no matter how much help or how many second chances they get, they just can’t stop being a completely trainwreck, a lightning rod, and a dysfunctional mess. I’ve come to see our government as our dysfunctional, roadkill-like friend. It’s awful to watch, but we can’t look away.
But despite all of this, I think we actually can learn something from an old-fashioned game of “kick the can” with our representatives in Washington.
When Procrastination is the Best Option
The Bible has a lot to say about wasting time. The short of it is that God is against it. It’s the one resource we can’t get back once we’ve let it go.
I like the apostle Paul’s words best in Ephesians where he tells his readers to live wisely and to take every opportunity because the “days are evil.”
I have wondered why this whole “fiscal cliff” was an issue in the first place. Why in the world do lawmakers write laws with these doomsday devices built in, threatening to plunge America back into the dark ages when they expire? (It reminds me of that episode of The Office where Dwight’s doomsday device threatens to get everyone fired at the end of the day.)
But the doomsday laws are not the problem. We are witnessing a time when procrastinating is the most politically advantageous thing to do. Politicians have less to answer for when they put off. When they accomplish something, some people are bound to be against it. If they do nothing, perhaps there will be fewer angry people to answer to.
That’s probably true for us too. If we procrastinate and do nothing today, we will probably have less to answer for when we go to sleep tonight. But that doesn’t make it a wise way to live.
Ripping Off Band-Aids
In my search for information about just what the consequences would be if we fell over the cliff, virtually everyone said it would cause a recession in 2013.
But it seemed that almost no one actually finished that sentence.
Because a few voices actually said that, yes, there would be a recession. And then our economy would be better. We would have less debt and deficit. We would go through a rough time. Unemployment would climb back up to 9% (not exactly the 30% unemployment mire that Greece is dealing with), but America would be in better shape over the next decade.
So, if I’m reading this right, this is the equivalent of our leaders being afraid to rip a band-aid off.
But that’s another lesson for us to learn. When we act decisively, it will probably cause some discomfort in the short-term. Accomplishing long-term goals (especially when they are great ones) demands short-term pain. If you want to avoid pain and discomfort, you need only sacrifice your vision for the future.
Sequels, Three-quels, Reboots, and Remakes
The last piece of the puzzle that seemed to go overlooked is that this mess was actually a sequel, eighteen months in the making.
Remember the whole debt ceiling debate over the summer of 2010? It was a big, stupid drama. And when it ended, Congress created the temporary band-aids that they are afraid to rip off. Well, January 1 was the end of that road. And the can was kicked again. For two months, we will be tricked into thinking we have solved a problem. And then there will be a flurry of arguments and drama in March as we struggle to again avoid disaster.
My prediction: the can will again be kicked, and very little will be solved. We’re going to get a trilogy. And then a remake. And a reboot of the franchise. A never ending cycle.
Everyone likes to watch inspiring people succeed. But we can learn just as much wisdom by watching the unwise actions of others. We have problems to deal with. We have goals we want to meet this year. But it will be extraordinarily easy, less painful, and more expedient to kick the can down the road a month or two. Procrastination will be preferable to the short-term pain that action will cause.
But, we avoid short-term pain at the cost of our future.
What have you been putting off? What are you hoping to accomplish this year? What short-term pain will you have to endure to get there? (Of you can just comment on politics if you wish!)