Blog and Essays

Slow Down

As the president battled with a recalcitrant Congress, and the Republicans, claiming to represent a conservative constituency, had us hurtling further toward financial oblivion, the highways seemed to be full of people who couldn’t care less about conservative behavior.

On a two-lane roadway in upper New Hampshire, a man who was clearly pressed for some reason, passed four or five cars in turn on the right — in the breakdown lane — giving each successive driver the finger as if he had a grudge with each of us. On the larger highways, the main method of suggesting that a person might move into the slow lane seemed to be to drive as close as possible to his bumper, as if to nudge him forward, even if he were himself behind a string of further cars.

I was in a new car: A Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which besides getting 40 miles to the gallon has the capacity to accelerate from 70 to 85 almost without one noticing. This proves very helpful when passing. The car seems to jump to light speed and doesn’t rattle or complain the way another car might, reminding one that one is going too fast. After all, the car was created for the Autobahn, one clucks to oneself, reining in the horsepower. It’s the car’s fault. But it’s not. And one should know better.

It should be the responsibility of conservatives in particular to think about the economy outside the realm of political debate. To understand that there are certain circumstances that require borrowing, and to see that Congress’ role is to decide when. The balanced budget amendment is really a fancy sounding excuse to ignore that responsibility. Like putting on your cruise control and going to sleep — hey, at least I didn’t speed. There are things for which it is worth borrowing and there are times when the budget shouldn’t be balanced. The Republicans were quite happy to borrow beyond our last surplus for a tax cut and two wars; according to the Washington Post, George W. advanced the deficit five times farther than Obama has. But the Republicans would rather not discuss what they’ve borrowed for. What they’d like to discuss is getting the Democrats out of office.

In getting insurance for my new car, I took a defensive driving course to lower my rate. The course, which I took online, is not a model of English usage. But this line caught my eye: “Many people believe that laws have been created and are there for ‘the other guy.’ However, to everyone else, YOU are ‘the other guy.’” As I went through the course, I began to see the hidden wisdom in this remark. The point of the course is really to remind drivers that statistics are made up of people — speeding leads to “accidents.” If you speed you put yourself at risk. As a driver, one spends a lot of time claiming, inside one’s head, that one knows what one is doing. The course provides a certain dose of reality. Maybe one doesn’t. Maybe up to now, one has just been lucky.

If Warren Buffet believes his taxes are too low, then taxes should be raised as part of the debt-ceiling package. Republicans need to slow down for the sake of the country. Especially when the bond rating agencies are poised to downgrade the country’s borrowing ability. In other words: crash.


 

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