That’s right. You’re wrong

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By John Pawlak

During lunch, two of my students were arguing the issue of taxation.  Their stances took the usual form; the rich already pay more than their fair share, the rich make money off the backs of the lower class, capitalism was founded on the principle of self-gain, greed is destroying this country, etc., etc., etc..
 I broke into the conversation and pointed out to one of them that the Bush tax cuts have cost this country over a trillion dollars and that we are now hemorrhaging in debt.  The other student chimed in, “Yeah! We should tax them to death!”  I then turned to the other student and pointed out that the countless unfunded social programs have created a society of entitlements and that people no longer feel that they have to work for a living.
Another student who had been listening to the arguments shook her head and asked me, “Whose side are you on?”  I told her, “I’m not on anyone’s side.  I just like to argue!”
Maybe I should have been a politician?  Solutions are highly overrated in the political spectrum.  You get elected by highlighting the problems, not by offering solutions.  Besides, once you’re in office, you’re too busy highlighting new problems to spend any time trying to fix something.  Let the next guy do that.
And this being an election year, we’re already inundated with underscored problems, blame games, finger pointing, and of course promises that everything will be better if only we pull the right lever on election day.  Or is that the left lever?  I keep getting these inane metaphors confused.
So you think we should spend a couple hundred billion to build a thirty foot wall along the Mexican border?  I’ve heard that business is booming on the other side of the fence for factories that build thirty-one foot ladders.  Is fracking the magic bullet that will solve our energy dependency problems?  Or is it a corporate bullet that is killing the water supply for surrounding neighborhoods?
Should a young girl who gets pregnant from her abusive father require parental approval for an abortion?  Should taxpayers be forced to support people who refuse to work?  Should we continue to fund a military budget that accounts for over half the world’s military expenses?  Should we allow known terrorist organizations to do business under the guise of sovereignty?
Where does common sense end and financial cents begin?  A penny saved today is tomorrow’s excuse to spend a dollar.
 The world is getting increasingly complicated every day and as the myriad of problems swell to heights that dwarf human perception, we find ourselves focusing more on smaller issues, topics of debate closer to home.  It seems oddly comforting to turn a blind eye from the enormity of trillion dollar debts, social discord, institutionalized homophobia, nuclear proliferation, teenage pregnancy, increasing poverty, increasing drug related violence, the ubiquity of pornography, the dangers of genetic engineering, racist politics, global warming, steroids in sports - the list is endless and we just want so desperately to solve a problem, just for once, just one problem that we can say “That one is gone.  Next!”
And so it’s much more fun to discuss the wisdom of simpler concepts like two versus four, straight versus round, this option or that option.  With “experts” touting so-called wisdom and super-gluing their names to proposals, it should be easy to figure out what the right thing to do is.
Well, I won’t waste time debating “myths” and other claims by certifiable experts.  I’ll simply point out - you’re wrong!  The problem is in fact simple.  The problem is that people aren’t listening.  Some people, particularly those who seem bent on spending forty millions dollars, can’t listen because they’re too busy talking.  They can’t even state in simple terms what problem they’re trying to solve.
Sounds like great politics to me.
And yes, I do hear you.  And I understand where you’re coming from and you do make some very good arguments for your opinions.  Yes, that’s right, good arguments.
But of course, you’re wrong.
John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist