Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: The president’s latest budget has set the sharks to circling on both sides of the aisle in D.C. Here’s the thing though: That’s the nature of sharks.
Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations! You’ve once again pulled off the trick of producing a budget that has made everyone angry at once. Ha! Just kidding. Truth be told, I’m guessing a lot of Americans are far too busy managing their own budgets to worry too much about something as big as the federal government’s bank balance.
But the hard core partisans? Well, they are a different crowd. Some think you are abandoning much needed progress; some think you are surrendering to a disastrous deficit. Yadda yadda yadda.
I read a book once about people stuck at sea in olden days. These were historic accounts of people who were either becalmed on open water, or their riggings had been wrecked by a storm, or some similar misfortune had befallen them. In any event, no matter how they wound up in their trouble, each crew seemed to face the same difficult task as a result. They had to decide which of several possible options offered the best hope of salvation, when none of the courses was appealing.
For example, if they opted to simply drift with the tides, they could conserve their energy and yet were leaving their rescue essentially up to fate. If they tried to arrange a makeshift sail, they could try for land, but might exhaust themselves in a failed attempt and only hasten their demise. If they started running out of food and water, they might debate the merits of killing off the weakest members of the party and resorting to cannibalism.
All of those are awful choices, but here is what made it all the more dreadful: They never knew when help might arrive. The very instant that they began limping East, perhaps they would miss a ship sailing their way from the West. The hour they resorted to the murder of one to save the many, maybe another vessel would heave into view to pull them in…and pass judgment.
And that, it seems to me, is the challenge of our budget now. Undoubtedly the deficit is a serious problem. Without question many Americans are relying on various forms of government help to create a lasting economic recovery. And yet we can only make educated guesses about what will happen if we cut spending, raise taxes, hold bake sales, or whatever.
So in the spirit of offering encouragement (which you know I always do) I can only say I wish you the best of luck navigating the waters of taxing and spending these days. There is no easy, or sure, way out of the straits we are in, and no matter what happens, in a few months, choruses on either side will scream that they were right when they raised their doubts. But with the aid of retrospect, we can all do that trick.
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