Still Dig­ging

It still feels to me as though we're split­ting the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two par­ties, not mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for the coun­try as a whole.

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 -

Given where we are, this tax-cut deal with the Repub­li­cans is the best Pres­i­dent Obama could do since rais­ing taxes in a re­ces­sion would not have been a good idea and the Repub­li­cans had the votes to pre­vent it. But given where we need to go, this deal is just an­other shot of mor­phine to a coun­try that needs to do things that are big and hard and still only wants to do things that are easy and small. It still feels to me as though we're split­ting the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two par­ties, not mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for the coun­try as a whole.

More than ever, Amer­ica to­day re­minds me of a work­ing cou­ple where the hus­band has just lost his job, they have two kids in ju­nior high school, a mort­gage and they're maxed out on their credit cards. On top of it all, they re­cently agreed to take in their trou­bled cousin, Kabul, who just can't get his act to­gether and keeps bounc­ing from rel­a­tive to rel­a­tive. Mean­while, their In­dian nanny, who traded room and board for baby-sit­ting, just got ac­cepted to M.I.T. on a full schol­ar­ship and will be leav­ing them in a few months. What to do?

One strat­egy would be to hun­ker down, don't spend a dime on any­thing other than food, the mort­gage and pay­ing off their credit card debts. They would get by, but there's not much fu­ture in it. An­other strat­egy would be to bor­row against their life in­surance poli­cies to make up for the loss of in­come, keep liv­ing like they're liv­ing, and hope that the hus­band's job comes back be­fore his un­em­ploy­ment checks run out.

A third strat­egy - the right one - would be to tell them­selves: "You know, we're in a to­tally new sit­u­a­tion. Dad's job isn't com­ing back. If we want a bet­ter fu­ture, we need a plan to cut, save and in­vest all at the same time, and as wisely as we pos­si­bly can, be­cause we've got no more cush­ion. In­stead of Dis­ney World this year, we'll go camp­ing in the state park and use those sav­ings so that dad can go back and get a mas­ter's de­gree. Af­ter all, un­em­ploy­ment among the col­lege-ed­u­cated is only around 5 per­cent. We're also go­ing to give up buy­ing any new gadgets, cell­phone apps or video games and use those sav­ings to pay for ex­tra tu­tor­ing in physics and vi­o­lin for our boys. And, fi­nally, we're go­ing to tell cousin Kabul that he needs to get a job, move into his own place and stand on his own two feet."

Like our myth­i­cal fam­ily, we need a plan, not just more sugar treats. Surely the cyn­i­cal quote of the week - cour­tesy of The Daily Beast - goes to Dan Bartlett, the for­mer Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman who was speak­ing about the tax cuts for the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans that Bush " tem­po­rar­ily" put in place a decade ago: "We knew that, po­lit­i­cally, once you get it into law, it be­comes al­most im­pos­si­ble to re­move it. That's not a bad legacy. The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth."

Bartlett of­fered no thoughts as to how these bud­get-bust­ing tax cuts will ad­dress our coun­try's de­fi­cien­cies to­day - just a high­five that in the pol­i­tics of sports, the G.O.P. just scored a goal on Obama.

We don't seem to re­al­ize: We're in a hole and still dig­ging. Our ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment lev­els are stag­nat­ing; our in­fra­struc­ture is fray­ing. We don't have enough smart in­cen­tives to fos­ter both in­no­va­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing; we're not im­port­ing enough tal­ent in an age when we have to com­pete for jobs with low-wage but high-skilled In­di­ans and Chi­nese - and we're still pil­ing up debt. Re­spond­ing to all this will re­quire a whole new hy­brid pol­i­tics for where to cut, where to save, where to in­vest, where to tax and where to un­tax. Shap­ing that new pol­i­tics is a rev­o­lu­tion­ary role I still hope Pres­i­dent Obama will play.

E.J. Dionne Jr., in his Washington Post col­umn, quoted Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tom Per­riello, a Demo­crat of Vir­ginia, as say­ing that vot­ers are less in­ter­ested in "bi­par­ti­san­ship" than "post­par­ti­san­ship." He ex­plained: "What they're look­ing for is some­one who solves the prob­lem, not for a so­lu­tion that hap­pens to be half­way be­tween the two par­ties."

Read Tues­day's ar­ti­cle in this paper about how in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts were stunned by the fact that stu­dents in Shang­hai outscored their coun­ter­parts in dozens of other coun­tries, in read­ing as well as in math and sci­ence, ac­cord­ing to the re­sults of the widely re­spected Pro­gram for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent As­sess­ment, or PISA, tests, which mea­sure learn­ing by 15-year-old stu­dents in 65 coun­tries. Yes, Shang­hai rep­re­sents the best of China, but the best of China is now scor­ing bet­ter than any­where else in the world. Amer­ica's 15year-olds ranked 14th in read­ing skills, 17th in sci­ence and 25th in math, be­low the av­er­age.

Eco­nom­ics is not war. It can be win-win, so it's good for the world if China is do­ing bet­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.