Friday, May 08, 2009

Finally, imagery I can understand

Every article about the bailout and the budget contains some simile to demonstrate the size of our debt. If all the similes were laid end to end, they would reach the Moon and back seven times. But none of them have worked for me; there's no emotional or visceral context.

After all, I've never been to the Moon; there's no way for me to grasp what it means that a stack of $100 bills can reach it. I've been half way around the world, but I did it in an airplane in a few hours- fewer hours, in fact, than the layover in Chicago, so again there's no emotional connection. The numbers, with all their zeros, also have no emotional connection to someone who chooses a product on the basis of saving 17 cents... my eyes glaze over looking at them.

Well finally, Sen. Judd Gregg, speaking to MSNBC, using numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, explained it in a way that sinks in to me: the United States debt load- both annual deficit and total debt- are now so high that we wouldn't meet the standards of the European Union if we asked to join. As economic managers, the United States government is less competent than Bulgaria.

What Sen. Gregg didn't say, but is the obvious conclusion, is that despite all rhetoric, someday soon the tax rates must rise to match the debt payments, or we must default like a Third-World nation... which means that in the next few years we will have higher taxes than any nation in Europe.

That, I understand.

Hat tip to The Hill


Chalicechick said...

On a semi-related note...

Joel Monka said...

That cartoon is quite right. At least in the example they gave, however, the numbers WERE there, if hard to understand. The ones I really resent is when they quote huge numbers with no context at all. I'm remembering an Indianapolis Star editorial on the horrors of urban sprawl, in which they said more than 50,000 acres were gobbled up in the last economic boom. Sounded horrible, so I looked it up- that's out of 23,301,520 acres in the state of Indiana, or 1/466th of the total. Suddenly sound a little less of an emergency.