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Edgar Degas: Breakfast after the Bath (1895/98)

" … only investing in the future could move us there."

Our siblings in Great Britain suffer from decades of foolish leadership, effects we've barely sidestepped ourselves. After Reagan's disastrous economic strategies failed, along with his ally Margaret Thatcher's, a succession of Repuglican politicians continued hammering the same senseless drumbeat, warning of dire consequences for our children and our grandchildren should we not invoke deep spending cuts and agree to subject ourselves to an indefinite period of Austerity. They insisted that we could starve our way to prosperity, an absurd yet strangely popular strategy, albeit one that steadfastly ignored overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We were never in great danger of smothering ourselves with our spending. Quite the opposite! After forty years of dire warnings, our debt service remains a most modest, just under two percent of GDP, the envy of pretty much everybody else in the world.

The chorus continues in even greater earnestness.
As our current President chalks up yet another record-breaking month of job growth and the economy starts shifting into a relative over-drive, the now disloyal and disingenuous opposition continues beating that same damned drum. They display hand baskets, insisting that we're Hell-bound or in grave danger of turning Socialist, all without apparent reference to the actual meaning of socialism. Our friends in Britain find themselves in increasing isolation, having by referendum officially eschewed cooperation, they apparently firmly believed that once freed of regulation, they would thrive. Instead, they've smothered by almost every measure. Their economy promises this year to perform almost as well as Slovakia's. The cost of Austerity hardly seems worth anything and has never yet produced prosperity in the history of this universe.

I wonder why there's still any question of how we should manage an economy, yet the conservatives apparently have something to gain from starving what they continue to refer to as The Beast. The Beast certainly demands its tithe, but it, at least, produces tangible returns for the price, unlike the absence of investing, which seems to reliably produce stagnation. The Muse and my economy hardly mirrors ours or Britain's, but we've faced similar pressures and seductions. After bankruptcy, we faced a period of forced Austerity. We inhabited a cash economy for a few years, where our spending couldn't exceed our income, as we had no credit. We lived hand to mouth and sometimes hand to forehead. Slowly, though, we rejoined the economy, though we never again lived beyond our means, at least never for very long. It wasn't until we'd managed again to rebalance the ratios between liabilities and assets that we began expanding and enjoying the fruits of our labors. Before then, we were simply laboring.

The rich seem to understand less about money than anyone and even less about wealth. They possess such an excess of it, I guess, that they've lost all perspective on the margins, where most of us 'regular' people live. We know that when we cannot maintain a relatively large debt, we lose much of our leverage. We attend to the debt service lest it fall too low or too high, rendering us cornered without options. Success cannot be measured merely by what we hold free and clear but more by what we aspire to, by what we owe to our future over what we owe to our past. Forward momentum stems from the future pulling and not from past inheritances shoving forward. Austerity presumes to repay the past as the means for moving forward when only investing in the future could ever move us there. Beware of the Austerity mongers! They peddle ruin!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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