No Solutions in Washington — But No Partial Credit, Either

by Jeff Reeves | August 16, 2012 2:27 pm

Josh Brown wrote a great and cutting post the other day about how taxpayers and investors live in a world of zero fiscal solutions[1] — we can’t raise taxes or cut spending because the economy is reeling, and if we do nothing, we remain on an unsustainable spending path.

I concede there is no solution to this issue. But I wholly disagree with the notion that we just have to suck it up and deal.

Frankly, seeking a “solution” is misguided. You’d sooner find a solution to the question of why Kate Upton is so hot[2], whether LeBron is reeeaaally better than Jordan[3], or whether Chinese moms know best[4].

There are no right answers here, folks. These are questions of taste, of philosophy.

You might think that’s the bullshit rambling of an English major who only answered essay questions in college and can’t do math. Maybe. After all, there are some clear wrongs here no rational person would advocate — such as raising taxes to 100% for any income over $5 million[5] on one hand, or zeroing out every penny of spending on infrastructure, education or defense on the other.

But while crazy is clear, correct is not. And believing there is indeed a “solution” — a definitively correct answer to the question — is one of the biggest problems with Washington and American society these days.

Allowing the quest for the perfect to be the enemy of the good — or sometimes, the barely good enough — is at its core the reason Washington is a cesspool of palm greasing and hyperbole right now. Democrats think they are 100% right and refuse to budge on core principles that they think immutable. Republicans feel the same way.

And we the American people are screwed as a result.

Of course there are no solutions. It’s like taking a multiple choice test where the only two selections are 1+1 = 1 and 1+1 = 3.

And we don’t even get partial credit for trying to show our work by drawing a wormhole that sucks in our universe and bends the rules of space and time to make one (or both!) of those options viable. We just get a big fat effing zero. The Scantron machine of Washington politics doesn’t allow for anything but a penciled-in bubble under “D” or “R.”

Contrary to what some wonks and wannabe wonks will claim, the problem in Washington is not about math. If it were, some savant from MIT could have easily busted out their graphic calculator and saved us. This is fundamentally a philosophical problem — different and varied approaches all have merit, even if they don’t “fix” things.

Think of it like one of those sadistic questions about a raging fire in the home that you share with your wife, newborn child and aging mother … and you can save only one.

Yes, there is no “solution.” Any way, you lose.

But the important thing to realize is that while some things will be lost, there still is a chance to save something. The only truly wrong answer is to do nothing, to walk out alone — or worse, to just roll over and die of smoke inhalation yourself.

A refusal to compromise and a fear of admitting that there is no way to truly ace this test has resulted in the stark metaphor of the “fiscal cliff” that we are about to drive off.

Shouldn’t we try to crash into a tree and ruin the car? Tuck and roll, even if we get some road rash?

Or are we just going to go all Thelma and Louise on this thing, with Democrats and Republicans holding hands as they beeline for the Grand Canyon?

Of course, what do I know? I’m just an artsy fartsy English major who thinks that the biggest questions in life don’t have definitive answers. How to parent my children, how much money is “enough,” whether the Harry Potter movies are better than the books — these are the questions worth asking and agonizing over precisely because they have no clear solution, and it’s all about your intent and reasoning.

It’s willfully naïve to think that we have all the answers. It’s time for Washington to admit that and simply start trying to get partial credit.

Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.”[6] Write him at editor@investorplace.com or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.

Endnotes:
  1. zero fiscal solutions: http://www.thereformedbroker.com/2012/08/15/zero-solutions/
  2. Kate Upton is so hot: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2185901/In-bed-Kate-Upton-Sultry-model-goes-nude-sexiest-photoshoot-yet.html
  3. LeBron is reeeaaally better than Jordan: http://www.cbssports.com/nba/blog/ken-berger/19801399/lebron-better-than-jordan-lets-not-get-carried-away
  4. Chinese moms know best: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html
  5. 100% for any income over $5 million: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/should-the-us-have-a-maximum-income-no/260884/
  6. “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.”: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007KB9CSI/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

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