I just spent the past week in Mexico staring at examples and statistics from the war on narco-trafficking that numb the senses. That country’s problems are deep, deadly and well documented… violence that is difficult for the sane person to fathom, corruption that corrodes the soul of the country and a depressing lack of faith in the government to restore justice.
Those problems, ladies and gentlemen, are problems that pose an existential threat to the future of a society. Those are problems that make our troubles in the United States look petty…and yet…
One evening, sitting in a bar in Mexico City, I watched news reports from north of the border of Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill engaged in what was defined as a life and death struggle to sort out a budget. A budget. Oooh, there’s a difficult one…coming up with a budget. What a load of crap.
What the hell is wrong with us that we can’t populate the Congress and Senate with people who can’t see beyond their own election cycle? How else do you explain the inability for otherwise intelligent adults to come together and compromise for the good of the country? Everybody up on the Hill claims to understand the problem; spending more than we take in, entitlement programs that will be bankrupt before our children grow old, wasteful programs that need to be cut. Huzzah…we all agree on the basics.
And then it all falls apart because our elected officials on both sides of the aisle and over in the White House don’t have sufficient grit to do the necessary… to make hard decisions that may mean, come the next election, they might have to return home and return to whatever jobs they had prior to clamping onto the government teat.
The president blames the Bush-era and moans about how he’s the only person in the room wearing big boy pants. The Republicans act like they can’t fathom raising the debt ceiling when in fact in the past they never met a debt ceiling increase they didn’t like. While the Democrats cling to the notion that if you could just wring more taxes out of anyone who has experienced some measure of success you could pay the bills, continue building more government programs and maybe even have enough left over to offer free rides to the voting booths to the half of the country that doesn’t pay taxes.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think this is that tough.
I’ve been a partner in a global company now for a while and believe me, my partners and I are nobody’s rocket scientists. Yet early on we grasped the cash in-cash out theory… create a budget, stick to it and don’t spend all your available dough on office parties and flat screen televisions. Why is this so difficult for our elected officials to implement?
My four-year-old boy "Scooter" already understands the most important concept…that free stuff isn’t free.
My two-year-old, "Sluggo," hasn’t cottoned on to that notion yet…he’s like much of the voting public…enamored of free stuff and convinced Dad’s just going to keep forking over more jack to pay for his Gummi bears.
Okay, admittedly I’m straying from the point.
To all our brave politicians… we’re not facing an existential threat… we’re facing a budget exercise. It’s a damn budget. Quit acting like this is the toughest thing you’ll ever face, realize you don’t get everything you want in life, remember there’s a future in being an ex-politician and just get it done.
Mike Baker is a former CIA covert operations officer. He is president of Diligence LLC, a global intelligence and security firm.