I long ago came to the realization that I see the world a little differently than most people do. But there are times when I feel so disconnected from what appears to be mainstream thinking that I wonder if I’m really some sort of alien dropped off on this planet by mistake, and somewhere in the universe there is a whole planet full of people who see the world that way that I do.
I’ve been feeling especially disconnected this week as I follow the two big news stories that are dominating the headlines: the looming “fiscal cliff” and the aftermath of the elementary school mass murder in Connecticut.
My first problem is that I don’t even understand how those stories can be receiving roughly equal coverage from the media. When I read about the school shooting I was shocked and horrified, like any thinking/feeling human being would be. But when I read that the shooter had killed himself I really had no more interest in hearing any more about it.
For me, the story was over. A seriously disturbed young man had done something horrible and then taken his own life. What more was there to say? What more did I need to know? What good would it do anyone to endlessly rehash the awful details?
But I’m totally out of step with the rest of America, judging by the media coverage of the killings. First we must grieve together, and then we must turn the story into a debate about re-enacting an “assault weapon” ban that proved pointless and ineffective the last time we tried it.
Our president even flew to Connecticut in person to declare that “we can’t tolerate this anymore” and then returned to Washington to lead the debate on banning assault weapons and high-volume magazine clips.
And all the while our country is rushing headlong towards financial disaster. The president and Congress are burning up valuable time and energy consoling a grieving nation with promises of demonstrably ineffective legislative measures while the country’s economic system is about to implode, possibly never to recover.
Not that it matters a great deal, I guess. The two parties spent months before the election and weeks afterward talking over each other and grandstanding about a tax increase on the wealthy that would play only a tiny role in addressing our deficit problem at best. It’s difficult to say if a few lost days or even a few lost years would really hurt the fiscal cliff negotiations.
I use the word “negotiation” very loosely here, of course. It’s seems self-evident to my (possibly alien) mind that when you have a divided government, compromise is necessary to get anything done. And in any compromise there has to be give and take. You cannot get everything you want, and in a good compromise no one walks away completely happy.
Yet the Democrats have drawn a line in the sand that tax rates most go up for people who have a certain income level and some Republicans refuse to approve a debt-reduction plan that includes any tax increase whatsoever. The end result could well be that taxes will go up a lot, on everyone, next year.
And if you’re a federal government employee like I am you could also get furloughed for part of the year in 2013, so for some of us it could be a very bad year indeed.
Oh, and since the sequestration thing doesn’t actually address the ballooning expenses of our entitlement programs, it’s not really going to solve our deficit problem anyway. In fact, if it results in a renewed recession as many economists believe it will, it may not end up helping the debt situation at all.
I hear the president wants that assault weapons legislation ready to roll when the new Congress is seated in January. I’m not sure it’s going to be necessary. Who’s going to be able to afford expensive guns next year anyway after the government gets through doing a number on our pocketbooks?
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.