From the Clocktower – Predicting the future is a tricky business

By Kathi Bliss
Editor/POST-REGISTER

On Monday morning, I received a press release from the office of Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius notifying me of a report that shows how much families and businesses will save on insurance premiums… in 2014.

I’m so glad that Ms. Sebelius’s crystal ball is working well enough for her to calmly and intelligently tell us what’s going to be happening in 2014. I kind of wonder where that crystal ball was when the real estate bubble burst, when the stock market went to hell or, maybe, before the 9-11 Attacks. As things continue to go haywire in Egypt, no one can tell us what we’re going to be paying for a gallon of gas next week.

Yet, Secretary Sebelius wants us to believe that she can credibly predict what we’ll be paying for health insurance in three years? Give me a break.

At this point, the issue I’m taking on is not the healthcare debate. As a citizen, voter and resident of this district, I have taken steps to make it abundantly clear to Congressman Doggett how I feel about the healthcare issue. I hope that everyone with an interest has done the same.

My issue is with how the healthcare debate is being presented – with the way our leadership presents so many things these days. They sell us on ideas of the future, and gloss over any discussion of immediate impact.

How many times have you heard, in regard to this government proposal or that one, “it will reduce spending and decrease the deficit $4 billion over 10 years.”

That sounds really impressive. Except when you figure that the budget deficit, in 2010, was $1.17 trillion. In equivalent terms, “reducing the deficit by $4 billion over 10 years” is like cutting your own personal spending by two-tenths of a cent – per year. Doesn’t sound so impressive, now, does it, to say that you’re willing to give up a stick of gum, in decade?

Yet our leadership gets away with this, year after year.

Like many people my age, I have a “Five Year Plan.” I also have a “One Year Plan.” Certainly, the success of the Five-Year Plan relies heavily on the success of the One-Year Plan. If my plans work, I’ll have six figures in the bank and all my debts paid before I turn 41. But I’m certainly not going to borrow against that someday fund and go buy a new BMW tomorrow. Because I don’t know for sure that I’m going to have my job, my home and my health tomorrow, let alone five years from now. My crystal ball simply doesn’t work quite the same way as Secretary Sebelius’s seems to.

If they want to impress us, maybe our governing bodies should stop trying to convince us that they can predict the future, and start showing us that they are in this recession, this economy and this fight with us. By behaving as though they realize that they have to live under the same sorts of constraints and within the same rules as everyone else. I don’t know a single business owner or private individual who writes their budget five years in advance. All of us make projections, of course. But try explaining it to your mortgage company when you enter into a contract under the assumption you know for sure what you’re going to be earning five years up the road.

Oh, wait. Millions of people tried that. “The sub-prime mortgage crisis,” I believe we called the end result?

I know a great many people that criticized people for using a “personal income crystal ball” and getting into a mortgage they couldn’t afford the day they signed the papers, on the assumption that they would be able to afford those payments, by the time the interest rates increased. Those same people are willing to stand idly by while their government says, “we’re going to commit to this money now, because in five years, we’re going to be able to pay it back.”

Or, “we’re going to instate this program now, because it’s going to save us x-amount in the long run.”

No. Stop it.

Looking to the future is one thing. Living in the future at the expense of the present is something else entirely.

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