When the Oracle named this the Weekly Oracle, she failed to predict that she would break her leg. On the plus side, after a six-hour surgery, the Oracle was put on a morphine pump. Okay, it’s not the trance-inducing fumes of the natural gas deposit in the cave of the original Oracles at Delphi, still, it was mind-altering enough for the Oracle to supply you this week with not one but three visionary ideas on the Deficit.
HOW TO WIPE OUT THE DEFICIT BIG IDEA #1:
According to the NY Times, Congress is now debating whether we should stick with paper currency or switch to metal coins. Which side you’re on depends on who’s made the bigger contribution to your campaign fund: the steel industry or to the paper-mill industry. The Oracle doesn’t like to take sides – especially when neither side is throwing money at her – but if we’re looking to wipe out the deficit, my money’s on the metal.
Here’s my line of reasoning, should you care to follow it. (Full disclosure: the Oracle’s license plate reads: NOT SACAJAWEA). Metal coins will create more jobs. In the fashion industry alone, the back pocket in men’s trousers that currently houses their wallets will give way to accessories in which they can carry the heavier, bulkier coins. But we’re not just talking fanny-packs, knapsacks or wheelbarrows. No, if we’re serious about creating jobs, a new status symbol will arise. Out: dogs-in-designer-handbags. In: personal human change carriers.
I’m no economist, but if every member of the 1% hires at least 1 member of the 99%, that would be…let’s do the math here… LOTS of jobs. And that’s just the beginning. Forget the innovations metal coins will make possible, given that we can mint them in any denomination – coin-operated dialysis machines anyone? Let’s go directly to how those newly minted coins to pay off the deficit: We could sell the naming rights!.
That’s right. You heard me. Out: the founding fathers who currently grace our paper currency, people who earned that distinction through service to the country. In: Coins that honor the highest bidder. We’re not talking chump change, here; we’re talking Trump change. Out : Benjamins and Hamiltons. In: (Barry) Diller dollars. Bezos bucks. Or, now that corporations are people, Star-bucks and iBucks. Then, 5 years from now when virtual money replaces actual money and we have a going-out-of-business-sale, 99cent Store Bucks. Honestly, I don’t see a downside, do you?
Okay, then how about this?
BIG IDEA #2: HOW TO WIPE OUT THE DEFICIT REDUX
Take all the money from the War on Drugs and all the money from the War in Afghanistan and give it to the Mexican drug cartels to go fight the Taliban. Perfectly matched in terms of viciousness and ruthlessness, odds are they’ll kill each other off. Right there, that’s two wars we won’t have to finance.
Added plus: Since it’s the Taliban who basically finance the poppy trade in Afghanistan (and use the profits to buy weapons to promote their cause), farmers in Afghanistan might be encouraged to grow food crops instead. Or else – just an idea – we could legalize heroin, invest in the poppy trade ourselves and who knows, instead of a deficit, we would have a surplus!
(On second thought, is morphine a derivative of heroin? Because if so, after reviewing the first two Big Ideas, the Oracle isn’t sure it should be legalized. So how about this:)
BIG IDEA #3: THE DEFICIT DOESN”T MATTER
I know, I know. The deficit is debt. Fiscally reprehensible. Morally reprehensible. And not only that, say deficit hawks, but if we continue on this wayward path of spending, we’ll BANKRUPT OUR GRANDCHILDREN!!!!
There’s only one way to save our kids from this grim future, insist deficit hawks: stop spending money on them now. Education, health care, food-stamps – cut the funding. Cut whole departments while we’re at it: the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, the Department of…wait, what was the third one? Never mind, if Rick Perry can’t remember, why should I. (Okay I just googled it: the Department of Energy.)
Here’s the first problem the Oracle sees with this argument: the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty. What you find depends on what you’re looking for, or, more precisely, what you’re looking with. Light is a wave if you’re measuring with an instrument that measures waves. It’s a particle when you measure with an instrument that measures particle. So if metrics is your instrument of choice – and where isn’t it these days – then the only things that count are things you can count. The only things we hold people/corporations and even non-profits accountable for. We don’t know how – or choose not to – measure creativity or collaboration or any of the skills that an educated work force will need in the years to come. Instead we measure students’ ability to pass standardized tests.
But wait, you say, I thought this was about the deficit? Okay, here’s the other part of the Heisenberg Principle: the more precisely you measure one thing, the less you know about the other. That’s what bothers me so much about the deficit hawks: they’ve conflated the economy and the society. By measuring the country’s health in terms of its economy, they’re not counting the cost to our society. Why don’t they count up how much it will cost our grandchildren to deal with the high rates of crime and unemployment that go hand in hand with an uneducated populace? The asthma and cancer and other diseases induced and/or aggravated by an unhealthy (i.e. unregulated) environment? The toll on mental health that stress, distrust and isolation all take? You think that won’t bankrupt our grandchildren 50 years from now…if they live that long?
Of course, deficit hawks aren’t really worried about our grandchildren. That’s because if their no-spend, no tax policies are enacted, their grandchildren will be able to buy a one-way ticket out of here. On a space-ship. Seriously, why do you think wealthy entrepreneurs are investing so much in commercial space travel? Because they’re planning a real life version of the Rapture. Their grandchildren will be lifted up into space and leave the 99% behind to suffer the agonies of hell. The meek will inherit the earth all right, because the 1% will have left to colonize other planets. (Honestly I wrote this before Newt Gingrich started talking about moon colonies!)
So here’s what the rest of us need to do: shift our thought frame. Why are we focused on counting everything? What about the intangibles: trust, empathy, a sense of community, the ties that bind a society together? Why don’t those matter?
Because what matters depends on our definition of what matter is. In the old thought frame, particles are discrete entities, what we call things. They occupy space. They inhabit time. That’s what makes them count, what makes them matter.
But quantum physics discovered another kind of matter. These particles, like the gluon, which carries the strong force, aren’t so much “things” as go-betweens. The glue that holds things together. As Louisa Gilder says in her excellent book, “The Age of Entanglement”, relationships between quantum “things” are more fundamental and objective than “things” themselves. Out: metrics – the business of measuring things. In: Websight – the ability to see how to see how everything interconnects, to understand why society matters.
The Oracle will have more to say on the subject of measurements, but for now…Roger and Out.
The Oracle has spoken.