Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Common Sense

Posted by Kim Klein

A late friend of mine attended mass regularly.  During the mass, someone reads a series of prayers, then asks the congregation, “For what and for whom shall we pray?”  People are free to call out prayer requests which can vary from personal and specific, “for Mary to recover quickly from her accident” to global, “for the civil war in the Congo to end.”   The format is to say the prayer request and then end it with “Let us pray to the Lord.”  The congregation then replies, “God, hear our prayer.”  My friend would often say, “For the speedy return of common sense” and with surprising vigor the congregation would respond, “God, hear our prayer.” 

I have been thinking of her, or actually of her prayer, as I read the news which is full of a word that, for most of us, is a quite recent addition to our vocabularies:  sequester.  A quick search through the thesaurus find an interesting sample of words that are synonyms:  confiscate, requisition, appropriate, impound, seize.   These are all words that we should not use in a discussion about a budget.   
The threat of the sequester and the uncertainty surrounding when a budget will be approved has already caused damage.  Government workers who may be laid off are not doing their best work right now.  Some are looking for other jobs.  Ongoing projects which require funds caught up in the sequester are on hold or slowed down.  The news is full of threats of long lines at airports, no rangers in the parks, delays in all kinds of payments. 

At issue is “saving”  $85 billion, but many of both sides of the aisle acknowledge that what will be saved in the short term will cost more in the long run.  Take, for example,  Internal Revenue Service.  According to Gregory Korte, writing in USA Today March 1, 2013, “the sequester will take $436 million out of the IRS’ enforcement budget this year.  Given the widely accepted belief that the IRS generates $4 in tax payments for every $1 in enforcement, the government may lose $1.7 billion.” 
The military has chimed in that the sequester is already causing maintenance to be delayed on 25 ships and 470 planes.  Because these are used so heavily, even a small period of time without maintenance will mean more serious and expensive repairs later. 

So a person with a healthy dose of common sense might be forgiven for asking “Why are we in this discussion at all?”  It hurts ordinary people, and it doesn’t advance any agenda of saving money . 
The sequester is one in a long series of things that simply don’t make sense.   For example, the people who deny that the climate is changing may be right.  It will be hundreds of years before we know absolutely and for sure that there is human caused climate change and that it is just not some very long cycle we are in.  But, as many people have pointed out, why take a chance?  If those of who believe in climate change are right, not taking action has cataclysmic results.  If we are wrong, we are still engaging in behavior that we should be engaging in—looking for sustainable energy sources, addressing poverty and hunger, making sure communities are prepared for natural disasters
It is very difficult for activists to address nonsense and to organize people to fight that which simply doesn’t make sense.  So we try to name it as evil, or benefitting the very wealthy, or call it an obscene power struggle.  We cannot wrap our minds around the lack of logic in what we are fighting against.  These Republicans have children and grandchildren.  They are as likely to be caught in a superstorms or die of environmentally caused cancer as anyone else.  How do they not see this?   

Possibly one of the most important struggles in social justice movements today is coming to terms with the fact that our greatest opposition is irrational and delusional.  John Boehner ended the negotiations about the sequester saying, “taxation is theft.”  Boehner works for the government.  His salary is wholly derived from taxes.  Is he admitting that he is a thief?  Trying to understand him and the people like him is futile.  Common sense  tells us that we must out-organize, out vote and out number in order to bring any semblance of social justice to our national scene. 

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