While keeping an eye on the national news these past few weeks, especially the issue surrounding the debt ceiling and Congress’ inability to take care of the problem, I’ve found myself alternately infuriated, disgusted and ultimately, fatalistic about the goings-on in our nation’s capitol.
“They’re going to do what they always do,” I tell myself. “What they always do,” in my opinion, is to fuel their power struggles with our money and make decisions that affect our lives with seemingly complete disregard for the consequences of their actions.
“Fire the bums!” I blurt out, not quite understanding why the powers-that-be are so inept at their jobs. These are educated men and women who have convinced us, their constituents, that they are better equipped to lead the nation than, say, you or I.
“How could they let things get this far out of hand?” I ask myself. “Why can’t they spend our tax dollars responsibly?“
The answer came to me soon enough, as I realized that they have simply fallen victim to human nature.
Allow me to illustrate the point.
A friend, who is physically unable to fend for himself, recently asked me to grant him a favor. “Could you stop at the store and pick up some groceries for my almost-bare cupboard?” he asked me.
Without any prodding on my part, he added “Of course, I don’t expect you to pay for them.” With that, he pulled out a crisp $100 bill which, these days, should at least cover the cost of a loaf of bread and gallon of milk, assuming they were “on sale.”
I fit his errand into my own schedule and as I patrolled the aisles at a nearby supermarket. I began to toss items, helter-skelter, into the shopping cart, while crossing his requests off of the master “want” list, which he had provided.
“Two cans of soup,” I muttered, as I reached for the most convenient of the half-dozen or so brand choices that were on display and added them to the growing pile of supplies.
As the soup cans rolled into the cart, they happened to settle into a “sticker-price-up” position, which demanded my attention and startled my normally-frugal nature. “That’s a lot for a can of soup,“ I thought.
It was then that I realized that I had fallen into “grab-and-go” mode; paying little to no attention to detail. My goal was to complete the task as quickly as I could, so that I might put the errand behind me and be my merry way.
“What am I doing?” I asked myself. “I don’t shop like this for myself.”
True enough, I realized. Satisfying my own grocery needs would normally involve my doing due diligence, to make certain that my buying power could be stretched to its optimum limit: check the “sale” flyer; compare prices; choose between store brands and name brands, etc.
That’s when it hit me that the problem lie in the fact that I was spending someone else’s money!
Overspending and making snap decisions, regardless of the cost, had absolutely no impact on my own situation. In other words, I would not be held accountable for my actions.
As far as my friend was concerned, I was simply doing what he had asked me to do. Little did he know that my carelessness was costing him: big-time.
Similarly, we’ve placed our elected officials in the unenviable position of doing our “shopping” for us, using our resources, while displaying little concern for how they actually go about the task. Nor do we question their methodology; at least, not until we realize that they have placed us so far into debt that we run the risk of going broke, sooner than later.
So, while we scream to “throw the bums out” in response to their all-too-frequent ineptness and mishandling of the nation’s finances, we should, in all fairness, take a portion of the responsibility upon our own shoulders, because, after-all, we asked them to manage our money, but neglected to instruct them to do it wisely.