Mountains

Skepticism

At a recent writing class, we were asked to identify ourselves with a one-word description and explain why we used that term. Many of the participants used terms like "peaceful," "harmonious" or "balanced" - terms that indicated a person with a surpassingly transcendent understanding of the universe.

Unlike the majority of the group, I opted for a less appetizing description: "skeptic"! The gentleman before me gave his one word and said that it was self-explanatory. I did the same. After further thought, and much to my chagrin, I realized this was a cop-out for not fully explaining my idea. So I present this commentary as penance.

"Skeptic," in modern parlance and dressed up with the dictionary's definition, is the philosophical doctrine that the truth of all knowledge is always in question and that inquiry must be a process of doubting. There are a few more flowery explanations but the one above will suffice. Skepticism has been a school of thought since ancient Greece with further exposition by 19th and 20th century philosophers, such as David Hume, Albert Camus, Immanuel Kant and George Santayana. Many skeptics have used this ideology (carried to its furthest extreme) to argue against Christianity. The term was eventually adopted by groups openly opposed to religion. It is easy to see how being skeptical and a "doubting Thomas" would lead to a rejection of all religion. St. Thomas was the consummate skeptic. For him to believe in the Resurrection, he had to see and put his fingers in the wounds of Jesus. By that touch he was made to believe. I don't possess that degree of doubt. There are things that can only be believed on faith, and spiritual matters are one of them. My skepticism lies in the management of the country!

There are numerous doubtful actions taken by our "leaders" that don't require even a skeptic's viewpoint; for instance the recent "fiscal cliff" debacle. Keep in mind that this farce was a created crisis. President Bush reduced taxes on families in 2001 and on businesses in 2003, the tax cuts stimulated the economy and helped end the 2001 recession. They were scheduled to expire in 2011 but were extended to 2012 by the current administration in 2010. Obama said that allowing the bill to sunset would hurt the struggling economy!

My skeptical mind asks this question: If allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2011 would hurt the so-called recovery why are they beneficial in 2012? Furthermore, if this question of expiration was examined in 2010 and found to be a major problem, why did our brilliant leaders wait till December 2012 to deal with the problem? Duh! In our insane world today it's easy to be a skeptic.

Our leaders (the smartest people in the room) now come face to face with a few more thorny issues: sequestration and that little deficit problem. We begin the examinations with the sequestration issue. This has become the pseudonym for the "Budget Control Act of 2011." This act, approved by the Congress on Aug. 2, 2011, immediately increased the debt ceiling by $400 billion and created the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, affectionately known as the "Super Committee." This group was directed to present to Obama and the Congress a number of measures to reduce the deficit and avert another financial crisis. As an incentive to make those hard decisions, it provided for mandatory spending cuts if our super-hero leaders could not do the job, i.e. sequestered cuts. Obviously, 15 months wasn't enough time for 435 representatives and 100 senators to figure it out, and we now face that damn cliff again. Oh and in case you've forgotten, the super committee was created during the emergency over the debt crisis. Déjà vu all over again!

How about the national deficit and the desire to increase our debt limit? The argument trumpeted by those who want a limitless credit is that the United States would default on our obligations. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" My skepticism led me to research the numbers. Our debt service is $64 billion a month. Our monthly revenue is currently $200 billion a month! More than enough to pay our obligations. And this is before the deluge of increased taxes coming our way in 2013.

Larry Tradlener lives down McElmo Canyon.

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