In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is the idiot.
Are we better off now than we were four years ago? There are no shortage of experts who would argue one way or the other.
But how about this?
Are we better off now than we were forty years ago? That depends on whom you ask.
Forty years ago, my family had just immigrated to the United States. We settled in San Francisco. After living with my aunt and her family for a few weeks, who was our sponsor for immigration, we moved into our two bedroom apartment on 19th Avenue, which was considered "inner" Richmond, a neighborhood resided by Chinese immigrants not far from Chinatown. After a few years, my parents saved enough money for a down payment and they bought a modest house on 46th Avenue in the "outer" Richmond district.
This was a risky move because very few Chinese dared to live that far outside of Chinatown. In fact, I remembered the day after we moved in, I walked out of our house to go to school, my new neighbor yelled at me and said, "Why don't you go back to where you came from?"
I was naive and I remembered thinking to myself: why was he so upset and why did he want us to move back to 19th Avenue?
So yes, it depends on whom you ask. If you ask minorities, working women, gays and lesbians, the answer is a definite yes. We are better off now than we were forty years ago.
But if you ask uneducated rural whites struggling to remain middle class, especially those who "got bitter, cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations", then perhaps no.
For them, they are not better off now than they were forty years ago and may be even not better off now than they were four years ago.
But regardless of who you are, white, black, brown or yellow, rich or poor, straight or otherwise, as a nation, at least financially, America is not better off now than we were forty years ago.
America has some serious fiscal problems that need fixing.
We are living beyond our means.
As of today, our cumulated national debt is approximately $11.3 trillion or 72% of our annual GDP. Our 2011 federal expenditure was $3.83 trillion but our deficit was $1.27 trillion, meaning we borrowed 33 cents for every dollar we spend. Last year's annual interest payment to the Chinese and others was $251 billion, about 7% of our total budget, more than half of what we spend on medicare, both of which are rising fast.
Given that social security, medicare and medicaid are "mandatory" spending, it is almost impossible to completely eliminate deficit. Without cutting benefits or raising taxes. we could eliminiate the entire defense department and still not balance our budget.
If this were not the financial status of America but that of my family, I would have to have a "come-to-jesus-meetin" with my wife, I would yell at the top of my lungs and I would say,
"We are living beyond our means. We have more takers than we have makers. Our two college children make up 50% of our family. But they make no money, pay no tax, who are dependent upon their parents, who believe that their parents have a responsibility to care for them, that they are entitled to health care, food, housing, iPhones, to you name it. My job is not to worry about those people. They should drop out from college. They should take personal responsibility and they should care for their own lives."
If I did that, my wife would call me an idiot and kick me out of the house. But I told the truth, didn't I. I don't get it. We have a crisis but yet she is not reacting. Is she blind?
Americans are blind right now. We understand that we are in big trouble. We are not blind to realty but we are blind by our attachment to our past. We want America to be a great nation again but we are not ready to endure the pain that would get us there. We want the truth but we can't afford the truth.
The politicians understand that. They are professionals. They know how to package themselves to cater to our desire for easy solutions. They dare not to speak the truth because in the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is in fact an idiot.
But we the people understand that too. Every once a while, our politicians spoke the truth. They do so behind close doors while their private conversations are caught by hot-mics. We love that. It is great entertainment. But when the fun wears off, instead of analyzing the message, we shoot the messagers.
Romney was right in saying that 47% of our population pay no federal income tax. But he neglected to tell his audience that individual income tax constitutes only 43% of the total federal income ($1.1 trillion out of $2.57 trillion). Another 36% ($934 billion) comes from payroll tax, which is the 15.3% that everyone must pay unless you are rich enough to attend Romney's $10,000-a-plate dinner and not needing a job and therefore no ordinary income.
Romney also knew but neglected to remind his audience that American corporations only contribute 12% of government proceeds ($297 billion) because of abundant tax loopholes, which is the main reason why his rich supporters were willing to cough up $10,000 to come to listen to him in the first place.
What makes Romney an idiot is not what he said while out-of-sight of cameras. There are lots of truth in what he said. A percentage of our population (much less than 47%) do view themselves as victims. A percentage (much less than 47%) would never connect to the GOP's message of lower tax because they are takers and not makers.
What makes Romney an idiot is that he hasn't said anything substantive anywhere else. Or more precisely, he would say anything to anyone except to tell the truth, because he knows from experience that not only would the truth not set us free, but in the land of the blind, the one who dares to speak the truth is the one-eyed idiot.
Unfortunately for his party, Romney is not as skillful as Obama in not burdening the blind with the truth.
Romney has a lot to learn from Obama. May the best idiot win.
Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone.