Ever wonder why we suffer from so many terrible public policies? A newly identified psychological disorder called “Immediosis” may hold the answer.
Immediosis is an obsessive concern for immediate gratification with no regard for future consequences. Immediacs, individuals suffering from immediosis, are most prevalent among the following populations: politicians, Keynesian economists and children under age four. Early-onset immediosis usually self-corrects as children outgrow the disorder. Late-onset immediosis produces much more serious destructive manifestations. Immediacs who hold political office are the most destructive population with the disorder, typically advocating public policies resulting in problems ranging from Eurosclerosis to total national economic collapse.
Specific public policies promoted by Immediacs include encouraging consumption while discouraging saving, reckless deficit spending and making promises for and giving away entitlements that are unfunded and unsustainable. Political immediosis in the United States strikes Republicans and Democrats approximately equally. Immediosis may have a viral cause as clusters of the disorder are found in state capitols and Washington, D.C. There is no known cure for immediosis, but occasionally voters are able to moderate its disastrous public-policy symptoms by removing immediacs from elected positions. Relief is usually only temporary as newly elected officials soon develop the disorder.
Immediacs and their short-run giveaways have now yielded their inevitable long-run costs. The current national debt, predicted to grow ever larger in years to come, is already at a level that will negatively impact future economic growth. Recently published research papers by well-respected scholars suggest that the U.S. has passed a “tipping point” where our national debt will begin to act as a drag on growth.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have unfunded liabilities whose present values are estimated to be around $40-60 trillion dollars. In other words, if we were to pay for all the future promises holding tax rates at their present levels, we should have accumulated a trust fund of investments equal to $40-60 trillion, an amount two to three times the value of shares on our stock markets. Since we did not build up these trust funds, making good on entitlement promises will require massive increases in tax rates. More likely, we can expect that many promises of entitlements will be broken. But, promises broken to whom? Odds are, persons who saved for their future retirements will fail means testing and face reductions is Social Security payouts and higher Medicare co-pays and premiums. Take that, you nasty savers!
President Obama’s bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform published its report in December 2010. The Commission’s report was titled “The Moment of Truth.” The “moment” lasted a nanosecond. The report contained too many sensible recommendations that required short-run costs and it was promptly ignored by immediacs on both side of the political aisle.
It would be wonderful if science could discover a vaccine for immediosis. Unfortunately, this will not happen and immediacs will continue to be rewarded at the polls—at least until a major crisis develops. We get the government that the median voter wants and the median voter seems quite interested in electing and reelecting immediacs who proffer policies with immediate gratification without regard for future consequences.