The Trillion Dollar Dilemma

I really don’t think people understand the gravity or enormity of the budget deficit.  I’m not talking about conservatives, mind you, but independents and Democrats.  I am absolutely convinced the general population see the 1.6 trillion dollar deficit and think it’s just not that huge.  This is because of two things.  First, trillion and billion sound a great deal alike and they are both gargantuan amounts of money the human mind kind of just trips over.  Second, because our understanding of numbers can be irrational and normative, we tend to see hundreds as big and singles as small.  I do think we can use this to portray to the rest of the country the sheer vastness of our budgetary problems.  But it will involve using tactics to fully engage the average person’s mind.

One problem we face is the resistance the lame-brained media has to explaining Obama’s spending explosion and profusion of borrowing.  While Bush was president, they flashed the hundreds of billions in deficits repeatedly across the screen talking ad nauseum while whining about his irresponsible spending.  Yet, Obama has more than triple the deficits Bush had and they are silent on the subject.  They only rarely mention the deficit now and never talk about the debt at all.  Even when they do mention it, they say 1.6 trillion in passing and the public doesn’t really conceive of that number. 

We are seeing the 2011 deficit growing past 1.6 trillion dollars.  That is 1,600 billion dollars.  I sometimes think that $400 billion sounds significantly WORSE than 1.6 trillion.  It’s a gut checking sound to talk about hundreds of billions of dollars.  When you speak of 1.6, even trillion, it just doesn’t sound as bad.  It is irrational, of course, but the human mind doesn’t take in things without having a contextual understanding of ratios.  $400 billion suggests several hundred of something big.  1.6 of something really, unbelievably big, just isn’t as heart racing. 

So, we have a dilemma.  How can we demonstrate to the general public the gravity of our public spending crisis?  No matter how many piles of money or coins on end across the earth or number of seconds in time we use, people are not going to fathom the enormous fiscal pit we are digging ourselves into.  We need to break it into smaller pieces that are discussed more often.  How do we do that?

The debt ceiling comes to mind.

Last year the Democrats raised the debt limit 2 trillion dollars and it was hardly a story.  There was just a passing comment on the problem but no one really discussed it at length in the lame-brained media.  This is not something that we should just casually mention.  This is a huge problem.  So, here’s my proposal.

If the House Republicans only raise the debt ceiling $800 billion dollars, it will capture the attention of the media and the public.  Eight hundred billion sounds like a really big number.  It sounds ridiculous.  It packs much more of a punch than 2 trillion. 

Now, the Demogogues are going snarl and spit and throw hissy fits because with Obama’s spending, it will only cover five or six months, tops.  They’ll raise a ruckus saying the Republicans are irresponsible and this won’t cover our debt for very long and how dare they. 

But, it will get some airplay.  It will garner some attention.  The collectivist/socialist talking heads will be forced to go on ABC and make the case for granting more than the House’s $800 billion in borrowing authority.  CBS will have to put little Timmy Geithner on the small screen to say to the general public that $800 billion will only cover us for five or six months at best.  Charlie Rose will have to have a scrambled egghead on to discuss that $800 billion doesn’t cover Obama’s spending spree. Paul Krugman will pen some ludicrous piece about how $800 billion is chump change. 

If that’s all the House will pass, the Democrats will have to publicize their spendthrift ways themselves to make the House grant more authority.  And, to make it even more delicious, the Party-run media will be forced to cover it. 

You see, they know they’ve managed to ‘norm’ these enormous amounts of borrowing and they also know Americans don’t comprehend 1.6 trillion as such an outlandish number.  That’s why they passed 2 trillion last year in borrowing authority.  They knew it would just roll off the tongue and ‘stupid’ Americans would be bamboozled. 

It’s not because we’re dumb, it’s because we naturally tend to pass over that which doesn’t disturb us and 1.6 of something isn’t nearly as powerful as 800 of something even when those somethings are absurd. 

The beauty of it is this.  This something we can do without any flipping of Democrats.  We don’t have to worry about Obama’s veto stamp.  The Senate is irrelevant.  Without the House allowing a bigger number, they can’t borrow more.  They are stuck and need to ‘force’ the House to increase the amount.  We don’t need to do any heavy lifting.  We only need to demonstrate that this deficit is too big.  We can make it so they’ll end up advertising their own irresponsible behavior.  Rep. Michele Bachmann can go on  MSNBC and say, “What do you mean, it’s not enough?  $800 billion doesn’t cover your programs?  That’s outlandish”  Rep. Eric Cantor can claim plausible deniability by simply saying we are only going to give authority for that which has been passed this year.  Next fiscal year, we will tackle the issue again.  But for now, that’s all we’ll do.  Speaker Boehner can speak with Matt Lauer and tell him the House majority isn’t giving the Treasury a blank check.  As the People’s House, it is our responsibility to keep an eye on the credit card and we cannot allow this administration to blow our entire wad without oversight. 

This probably isn’t something the Republicans are considering, though they should.  They should think about why Democrats are not being blamed for overspending and why Obama still has 40-some percent of the population believing he’s fiscally sane, which is laughable.  It is simply a matter of human comprehension and the left’s ability to manipulate it without being squeamish.  They are bankrupting us and without one ounce of remorse.  It’s time the general public realized the game their playing.

We should make them explain their actions themselves.  Give them this nice long rope, let them fashion their own noose, and let them swing in the wind.  They’ll do it all themselves.  Just let them.