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As the Crow Flies: Or, As the Craw Sticks

As the Crow Flies: Or, As the Craw Sticks

Rosalea Barker
31 July 2011

Be warned. This post is written by someone who angrily changed to another channel last week when HOR Speaker John Boehner began his reply to President Obama’s address to the nation simply because she was offended that Boehner wore a green tie. On reflection, I realized it wasn’t just a green tie, but a mint green tie, and decided that the Speaker was making a statement that he was entirely beholden to the Jim deMint faction in the Senate in order to get anything done in the House. I’m just saying…don’t expect any hard-nosed, carefully researched and reasoned arguments here!

Dear old Johnny B, with his baby-crow blue eyes. Don’t get me wrong. Crows are intelligent creatures, capable not just of fashioning tools but also of fashioning one tool with which to make the right tool they need to get at what they want. And when brute force doesn’t work, they figure out a way to get around that too.

Consider Aesop’s fable of The Crow and the Pitcher. A crow wants to drink some water that’s at the bottom of an almost empty pitcher. The pitcher is too solid for the crow to tip it over, and the crow knows that it would make no sense to break the vessel because then the water would be lost. So, the crow picks up a pebble and drops it in the pitcher. Then another pebble, and another, and another until the level of the water has risen sufficiently high for the crow to drink it.

There are any number of ways you could interpret that fable as a metaphor for the current debate and deal-making in Washington, DC, concerning the state of US finances. You could also interpret it as a metaphor for the state of US finances, itself: The pebbles are debt-pebbles and the water is cash. The more debt the US accumulates, the more it can fool itself that there’s an unending supply of water in the pitcher. But when the water is guzzled too quickly, or stops being replenished by tax rain, and the debt-pebbles turn porous, sucking up what little cash there is, then we find ourselves in the situation we have today.

One of the main differences between the Democratic and Republican parties is that the latter see not just debt-pebbles in the pitcher, but exceedingly porous entitlement-pebbles as well, whereas Democrats see entitlement payments as necessary sustenance—water—for people who would otherwise have no access to the basic needs of the human race: food, shelter, and care when they are elderly or sick or otherwise unable to fend for themselves.

The US Government will not default on its debt obligations. However, if it defaults on its cash obligations—to pay people within the US—the economic outlook is no better than if it placed its obligations to We, the People ahead of servicing its debt. But maybe it’s too late for either choice to matter. Things have gotten to such a sorry pass, especially in the eyes of the rest of the world, who see nothing but a murder of deranged crows pecking a pitcher into irreparable pieces.

(Try saying that five times with the mouthful of crackers you had to save up to buy.)



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