Lies, Reactions, Consequences by Al Sikes

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“If everyone always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but that no one believes anything at all anymore — and rightly so, because lies, by their nature, have to be changed, to be ‘re-lied’, so to speak.”  Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, born a Jew in Germany in 1906, fled Hitler and the observation above quoted reflected her struggles as her identity was used against her and then denied to her.

I repeat, “……..lies, by their very nature, have to be changed …..” Last Sunday, after watching several interviews about Trump, Comey, Mueller and Giuliani, I recalled this Arendt line. One talking head noted, in reference to the Trump-Giuliani swirl of conflicting statements, “We now see damage control of damage control.”

In the world of damage control, this is not new. To borrow from Ms. Arendt, damage control by its very nature is intended to obfuscate.

But, Trump is President. He is not one more celebrity caught in the wrong bedroom. He is the country’s chief executive who, among other things, is responsible, ultimately, for the nation’s annual operating statement and balance sheet.

And figuratively, we (the voters) are the final signature on the nation’s payment obligations. The nation’s founders, underscoring our importance in spending taxpayer money, placed the exclusive right to begin appropriations in the House of Representatives—each House member must earn our votes every two years.

This is the point in the article when I am supposed to recite our cumulative debt and an array of underfunded “entitlements”. I’ll simply note that we are now on course to add a trillion dollars to that debt each year. America’s youth should become familiar with our unfolding fiscal disaster. My generation will likely skate through to the finish.

Or, are the financial data lies? Statistics are certainly susceptible to being the content of deception. Historically, we have depended on a wide variety of news outlets to keep us informed. Is the truth discoverable? Do reporters have the knowledge and insight to discover the truth?  After all, we are dealing with numbers, not our various programs to reshape the way people act.

Rather than trying your patience, with more detail on our fiscal affairs, let me suggest several questions that should be asked and answered often — truthfully to the extent possible.

Do our growing deficits threaten our international credit rating and foretell rising borrowing costs?

Will our growing national debt have a negative effect on the widespread use of the dollar as the most important international currency? Consequences?

The national debt is over 100 % of the 2017 gross domestic product (GDP). In the 2018 budget cycle the annual cost of that debt is projected to be $310 billion. What are the debt cost projections for future budget cycles?

It is never a good thing for our nation’s President to be caught up in a house of mirrors. But, our nation’s year to year and decade to decade economic strength is of far greater consequence. Economic strength or weakness translates into jobs, home equity, revenue for public initiatives and the like. We need truth — at least as close as we can get to it.

Final thought. Journalists, with economic training and insight, need to populate more than business media. They need to see their stories each day in the top papers and shows and they need to translate what they know into accessible and interesting stories. Truthful stories.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Letters to Editor

  1. Mr Sikes, Is this the point where I should ask why?

    1) Why did we have a tax bill crafted in secret so quickly that no real study or debate was possible? Or was it all to please the Donor Class so the contributions continued? What would have happened if some of this stuff had been modeled and the results debated?

    2) Why will some tax payers be blessed with breaks – carried interest continues, pass thru tax break gets wonderful for a few (not doctors or lawyers) and our state and local taxes are capped while the Donor Class can deduct mortgage interest on more than one home? Residents of higher tax states lose while Alabama wins? Do we want to support our schools and infrastructure or not?

    3) Do we now take on entitlements and cut or kill Social Security, Medicare , and Medicaid? Was that the end result wanted all along?????
    I agree, we need to close the gap between what we spend and what we tax. However, IMHO the people who passed this bill have lost all credibility.

    BTW, I supported BUSINESS tax changes – but think the personal ones should have been debated more.

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