Citizens shun hard choices
There aren't many names bigger in the ag world than Deere & Co. Deere has increased its sales and its stock price over the last decade by astutely gauging and exploiting world economic and market conditions.
J.B. Penn, a former undersecretary of agriculture, is Deere's chief economist. In a presentation to his hometown chamber of commerce last month, Penn said that uncertainty is now the new norm in world economics.
A leading cause of that uncertainty, he said, is dysfunctional governments in many of the world's leading economic powers -- the United States, Western Europe and Japan.
"Ponder that for five seconds," a colleague who attended the presentation lamented. "It's not like, 'Ha ha, our governments don't meaningfully function,' but with a completely straight and sober face as a matter of simple fact, the major governments of the Western world are for all intents and purposes nonfunctioning and rudderless."
It is disheartening.
The great democracies are on the brink of financial ruin, wracked by debt, mired by partisanship.
Our federal government borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends. We're $16 trillion in the hole, and adding $2.7 billion a day to the total. Meanwhile, the president and the Republican House of Representatives are entrenched at extreme ends of a no-man's land, budgets that can't be cut on one side, taxes that can't be raised on the other.
The best plans of either side envisions no end to deficit spending anytime in the next decade.
Instead they fight to a draw from one crisis to another -- the sequester this week, the expiration of the continuing resolution that allows the government to function without a formal budget this month, the expiration of the nation's debt ceiling in May.
It is not fate that set us on this course, but a body politic that collectively demands so much from its government and so little from itself and those elected to govern. As flames threaten the great republic, its citizens are content to abdicate their duties. They demand more bread, more circuses, and that the bill be presented to future generations.
The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.