Neurotic Nation?

Scott Peck, psychiatric professional and widely read author (“The Road Less Traveled”), once remarked that “Neurosis is the avoidance of legitimate pain.”  By that definition, half of all Americans, if not more, could easily be considered neurotic. After all, most of our economic problems are the result of a stubborn unwillingness to “bite the bullet” and face what needs to be done to reduce the deficit and national debt.

The Federal government now spends 40% more than it takes in, attempting to cover the overage by borrowing and printing money at a staggering rate – we are now at the point that our national debt is exceeding the entire Gross Domestic Product of the country. Such profligate spending simply cannot be sustained.

Yet instead of reducing deficit spending as he promised, President Obama has increased Federal expenditures faster than any president in history. Indeed, he has spent more in his first three years in office than all of the nation’s previous presidents combined.

And for what? Things like roads, bridges, the armed forces, and other legitimate responsibilities of government  such as the courts and law enforcement?


Today, more than 80% of all the money spent by the government is on “entitlements” – Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies, and on and on. All of these massively expensive programs are so-called “non-discretionary” items. Translation: the recipients of all this largesse (which includes the army of government workers who administer these programs) are unlikely to vote for anyone who would dare cut them.

Any attempt to put the brakes on our out-of-control spending runs into a hurricane of opposition from all those feeding at the government trough – nobody wants their check cut. Just as in Scott Peck’s observation, few today want to face the “legitimate pain” that is simply unavoidable if we truly want to get our fiscal house in order.

Instead, we get a chorus of “Tax the rich!” and “Tax Big Business!” or “Cut the military!” – none of which actions will come close to slowing the growth of government, much less actually reducing it. And Obama is about to ask Congress to raise the debt limit even further. Which is like a family whose debt load is already more than their entire annual income deciding that the solution is to just raise the limits on all their credit cards.

Once again, the reason is obvious – neither Obama nor the Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike) want to tell the “patient” that there is no way out of this mess without experiencing some “legitimate pain.” We are in desperate need of “root canal” but too many Americans want Novocaine instead. And politicians are only too happy to prescribe it. Note that neither Obama nor any of the Republican challengers dares propose cutting the top marginal tax rates the way Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan did (and with outstanding success in both cases).

But unless and until we “ranger up” and face the harsh realities of our situation, the eventual pain will be far worse, perhaps even fatal.