Lange: Stop Digging

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Commentator Willem Lange wonders how the nation got into such an
economic mess, and suggests it might be time to consider some
common-sense advice from the American humorist, Will Rogers.

"If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." This
aphorism, attributed to Will Rogers, seems especially appropriate to
our current national situation. Yet I’ve heard no one else mention

A few months ago Speaker of the House John Boehner cited
the decreasing numbers of unemployed as evidence that the so-called
Bush tax cuts were working. Then recently, after a meeting with the
President, he announced that the rising number of unemployed persons
was a sure sign the tax cuts needed to be extended. It was as if he’d
stepped through the Looking Glass into Wonderland, where the Red
Queen’s solution for every problem is the same – Off with his

Speaker Boehner is doubly cursed. He’s caught between
the rock of his Tea Party members and the hard place of having to
negotiate a compromise with ideological opposites. And he’s stuck
in a "frame," a term popularized by George Lakoff in his
best-selling don’t think of an elephant. This particular frame
posits that taxes are a burden to be avoided, and that anyone who can
ease that burden is a hero. Speaker Boehner’s frame is becoming
dog-eared. Yet he sticks with it, knowing – as Lakoff points out –
that voters don’t vote their self-interest as surely as they vote
their frames.

It’s hard to say when the leak in the ship of
state begin to overwhelm the pumps, and why, when other options are
available, we seem most intent upon throwing overboard the folks in

According to CNN host Fareed Zakaria, there were
three major actions that changed a budget surplus in 2000 to the
greatest deficit in history by 2009.

The first was the Bush
tax cuts, designed to stimulate the economy by charging the wealthy
less to enjoy the benefits of life in America. They would shower
their blessings upon lesser folk by "creating jobs." That didn’t
work during the Reagan years, and it hasn’t worked this time,

The second was our reaction to September 2001. We
invaded Iraq and Afghanistan – the equivalent of dropping a brick
upon our toe to ease the pain of a headache. We’ve still got the
headache and the sore toe; and the cost of the wars is an
insupportable burden.

The third hole in our hull was the
enactment of the Prescription Drug Benefit Act. Supposed to benefit
seniors, it was designed by pharmaceutical company lobbyists. It
prohibits Medicare from negotiating prices for prescription drugs as
other federal programs do. Veterans’ Affairs pays 58% less for
drugs than does Medicare Part D. The major impact of the act is to
enrich drug manufacturers.

That, apparently, is how we got
into this hole; and we’re still ignoring Will Rogers’ advice.
With all our misspent trillions, we haven’t built any nations or
made many friends. It’s time to stop shoveling.

This is
Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.


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