On the surface, what's going on with tax policy in Washington right now seems crazy. A Democratic president whose enemies call him a socialist makes a deal with Republicans that sells out both his party and the very tax promises that won him the election, while Republicans leaders who say that debt is our overwhelming domestic problem insist on borrowing tens of billions of dollars to give tax savings to the richest among us. The polls, at the same time, show the public overwhelmingly favors ending tax cuts for high earners.
What we are witnessing, however, is much more profound than political, economic, or fiscal insanity. And it goes much deeper than disputes over whether extending temporary tax cuts for two years and long-term jobless benefits for 13 months is politically or economically smart. Those are mere manifestations of a much more pervasive problem.
America is in the grip of a full-blown societal panic. Crazy, irrational, contradictory ideas about tax policy are just the most obvious symptom.
Societal panics occur when the expectations and rules everyone has been accustomed to living under no longer work. They occur when some new force changes the rules of the game -- a force that may be easy to identify or invisible, but whose effects are far-reaching and unstoppable.
Sometimes that force comes from nature, sometimes from a discovery, sometimes from inventions of the human mind. But in every case throughout history, that force, like the waters pouring over Niagara Falls, cannot be stopped, although sometimes it can harnessed.
Because no one knows quite what to do when the old ways stop working, panic sets in, replacing reason. Crazy responses spread until an idea or a leader emerges, a new way to make sense of the change. The new leader is often the one who persuades people that it is better to live by new rules.
Humans have experienced societal panics time and time again. Sometimes they end in tragedy, sometimes in triumph. And those unexpected accidents of history often play a huge role in the outcome.
I agree. This is just part of a good post.