Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unsustainable Generosity...

is hardly generosity at all!

One of my fondest memories of working at Scout Camp was "Helicopter Day", which was an annual celebration at the camp. No, the BSA does not own (or rent) a helicopter. Instead, the TMR Scout Reservation would receive a visit from multimillionaire Jack Rudin (disclosure: the man also gave me a scholarship). One hot August day each summer, Jack Rudin would land his helicopter on the sports field, and made quite a show of it. He had all right to do since he subsidized the camps so heavily.

Even more memorable to me, however, were his visits to the trading post. If you were lucky enough to be near the canteen when Jack Rudin showed up, you would be treated to anything (anything!) you wanted. He would buy out the entire inventory!

Now, it certainly was a nice thing to do, but nothing is stopping any of us from doing the same. If you scrimped and saved, you could afford to blow $1,000 on chips and soda for the boys. But therein lies the difference. Jack Rudin probably earned as much interest in the five minutes he spent in the store as he spent, whereas we are not so fortunate.

I am reminded of this given the recent sighting of an animal thought extinct in our country for, say, about 220 years. The recently passed monstrosity might sound like a good idea. Why, it could even be a great idea (in execution). But the bottom line is the plan is unsustainable. There's nothing to pay for it, and we're running out of breathing space. No one who voted for this plan seriously expects the tax hikes and medicare cuts to happen, for if they did they would not have timed them for 2014. Truman famously remarked that "the buck stops here", but our President is under the delusion that he can let the next guy settle it (alas, actually solving problems is not his forté).

It could be said that previous Presidents had the same problem, and I agree. To an extent, there's a time when something can't be resolved, and a change of house (or the balance of power) is needed to get it done. But this is the beginning of year two. November 2012 is a long way off...

But even more arresting is how vehemently the President (and his party) deny any criticism of the bill (now, cough, a law). Unlike Jack Rudin, who accurately sized up risks and rewards for his own profit, President Obama and his party don't have to worry about the money they're spending. In the end, it isn't their checking accounts on the line.

But it would be uncharitable of me to imply that our President doesn't have anything in common with successful businessmen-there was one billionaire who made a splash using other people's money. And he did a great job of it, too...


  1. excellent post paul, the comparison is great

  2. You know, the more I sit and think about this, the more it unnerves me to the point I'm frothing at the mouth.
    It's not the money. It's not the money! We have money! We have plenty of money! Of course, we don't know how to spend what we have at all, so we have to make up fake money so we can keep spending it. Also, I am not an economist, so don't listen to a word I'm saying, nothing to see here.
    What pisses me off is opening up a line for the government to influence my medical care. Because they're, you know, paying for it. The only people who know what's best for me are my doctor and myself. Also, I don't want to go to clinics and wait for six hours just to get my grandchildren's ear medicine.
    Hey, you want to hear about my experiences within the Japanese medical system? OF COURSE YOU DO! It's a real tragedy of errors HYUK HYUK HYUK