Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Budgets & Policy: Tomorrow's Just Your Future Yesterday

Craig Ferguson wrote a catchy theme song for his Late, Late Show:
It's hard to stay up
It's been a long, long day
And you got the sandman at the door
But hang on, leave the TV on
And let's do it anyway
It's ok
You can always sleep through work tomorrow, OK?
Hey hey
Tomorrow's just your future yesterday

That last line somehow stuck with me.
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. - Voltaire

“When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also add that some things are more nearly certain than others” - Bertrand Russell

The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain. -John F. Kennedy

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt. - Bertrand Russell


A leading blessing -and curse- of our political system is its very dynamics, which encourages constant change.
This makes some folks feel uncomfortable while giving others something to fight for and welcome.
But, since hope springs eternal, each change attempted or made carries with it a promise to help solve some problem or benefit some cause.
The problem comes when people have different ideas about what is good or necessary and what is not.
And, since all things are ultimately connected and fairly delicately balanced, it matters that an honest effort at fairness and sustainability be made in our decision making.

Just think for a moment about budgets, whether Federal, local, global or individual.
Why do we have them and why do they matter?

Isn't there a practical limit to our resources, whether fiscal, ecological or social?
Isn't there also the question of reliably meeting established needs and anticipating future requirements?

Even though most real time decisions are made in the present moment, shouldn't these consider the continuum of time?
After all, radical disruptions/dislocations to businesses, climate or society do cause painful and worrisome effects.

Wouldn't it be nice if a clear majority of citizens could agree, once and for all, what is truly essential in life and set that aside from tampering by greedy, short-sighted or criminal elements?
That way, at least some lasting degree of certainty could be established to benefit us all.

Businesses like certainty; just ask any owner, CEO or shareholder.
People like certainty; just ask any employee, family member or investor.
Nature likes certainty; just ask any farmer, hunter, seaman, aviator or species- for that matter.

Our current budget debates in Washington, DC simply reflect what is happening at other levels of government, as well as businesses, households, institutions and charities.
This is integral to our priorities; meaning those things we consider most essential.
But it is also about our ability -and willingness- to pay for what we get.
To expect otherwise is wishful thinking at best, and patent ignorance at worst.

When budgets are established, debated, approved and adopted, are they written in stone -never to be altered?
Maybe more like written in Jello, as my Oncologist once described experimental treatment protocols.
But regardless of where and how budgets are written, we don't expect having to repeat EVERY argument each time budgets are revisited in the future.
There simply has to be SOME degree of constancy that can be relied upon in matters of importance to our society.
Don't you agree?

All that seems indispensable in stating the account between the dead and the living, is to see that the debts against the latter do not exceed the advances made by the former. - James Madison

Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations. - James Madison

In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority. - James Madison

There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. - James Madison


When I started this post, linking to multiple articles to illustrate points crossed my mind, but I ditched that idea.
Too many words on a complicated subject are hard to write and even harder to read.
So, instead, a few more quotable sources are cited.
"The present is the only reality and the only certainty." - Arthur Schopenhauer

For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future. - Barbara Jordan

If you aren't in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret. - Jim Carrey