and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

In 2009, fear everything? Or nothing?
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, January 1, 2009

In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.

—Elinor Wylie

Well, Elinor Wylie was a gentle romantic, a 19th century lady. Forget the smile; We might as well look back and laugh out loud at the economic and political absurdities of 2008.

No point in being afraid, either: not because there's nothing to fear, just because worrying doesn't help.

What, really, can go wrong in 2009? Global warming? Or not enough global warming to stave off the once-inevitable next ice age? Al Gore coming again to a theater near you?

Personally, I worry more about drug-resistant bacteria. But when it comes to germs and other health-related possibilities, the potential for damage is so scary that there's really no point in worrying about anything. Just wash your hands and eat a balanced diet, like mother said.

Drunk drivers used to be the scariest thing on the highway, but now the driver on the cellphone increases the danger to where one is tempted to just stay home. This should help with fear of terrorist attack; I doubt that our North Shore is a preferred target.

Of course we worry about things that could happen to our loved ones, but that's part of the human condition; should have thought about it before having kids. Once you have a child, you never again live free of fear; that's the trade-off for loving and you do get used to it. Mostly the kids grow up and are still OK when you die.

I was taught to fear nuclear war but was more afraid that my son would someday live in a country run by Chinese communists; neither one has happened so far. The lesson here: My grandchildren will probably not live under Muslim rule either. Remember when we didn't even know we were at war with Muslim extremists? Something terrible may happen politically to our United States, but it's probably something we haven't thought of yet.

I am afraid for Israel, while as always admiring and counting on its determination to survive. We have some reason even here, lately, to doubt that democracy is always the answer, but certainly it didn't work for the Palestinians when a majority of them elected terrorists to run Gaza.

It was reassuring to hear Obama threaten retaliation against Tehran if it attacks Israel. There may be more to his prospective foreign policy than visualizing world peace, as his liberal and media fan clubs hoped.

Why do Democrats who deplore our presence in Iraq argue that we should be in Afghanistan instead? I'd like to see our armed forces capture bin Laden, but Americans should know a lot more about the savage Taliban before it gets bogged down there. Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization, Afghanistan its antithesis.

I'm not afraid of the Obama presidency because, like the people who voted for him, I have no idea what he's going to do. Economic events seem to be taking on a life of their own, and all our politicians will probably lurch from one impulsive, poorly-conceived solution to another; there's always a chance that something will accidentally work. I do think we needed some kind of shake-out and in the long run the enforced downsizing could save us from the last decade's cancerous consumerism and a very long-term decline.

Unemployment is scary for many people, though we can get Massachusetts unemployment insurance — which, we've just learned, laid-off workers from other states have been coming here to get, because our benefits are better than what their states offer. Who knew? Also, who knew that some legislators can get a higher pension if they lose their election?

So, among the things we Massachusetts citizens could fear were we so inclined: despite extraordinarily high unemployment insurance premiums, the state running out of money in that fund before it's our turn to collect it. Despite the fifth-highest per capita tax burden, the state has giant public employee pension and health insurance liabilities that could drive communities into bankruptcy. Despite its common-sense status as a top priority, a state infrastructure that is in serious need of repair, including a public transportation system overwhelmed by debt.

Also, as citizens of the United States, we can worry about the Social Security and Medicare Ponzi scheme, which could collapse like the Madoff Ponzi scheme. We should fear the consequences of our ongoing deficits and the national debt, which leaves little wiggle room to borrow for national emergencies.

Do note, though, that our new economic problems have displaced fears about illegal immigration, which was the biggest concern a year ago. If there are no jobs here, and less money for social services, no one will want to come. Terrible to think about the major problems in poor countries affected by world economic recession.

Most other countries never had a constitutional, freedom-based system in the first place. We can fix what's wrong here. But we have to start paying attention.

It's 2009: resolve with me to fear nothing, and to keep smiling.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.