Short-term thinking is destructive

Letter to the Editor

The politician Edmond Burke is credited for having said, “The public interest requires doing today those things that a person of intelligence and good will would wish five or 10 years hence had been done.” It appears as if this admonition has been totally ignored by our present leaders: state, federal and corporate.

Our state legislature is crying about the 16,000 student-space shortfall for high-school graduates this year at our four-year colleges. By 2010, 30,000 new spaces will be required. Why did they not use the $350-million surplus they had a few years ago to build a new South West Washington University at Hoquim or Aberdeen where the land was inexpensive? Instead, the legislature gave it back to large businesses so they wouldn’t move away.

Additionally, why didn’t these businesses refuse the tax credits and request the governor build the university in order to improve the quality and quantity of Washington’s work force? Today these businesses complain about the current unavailability of qualified applicants, and recruit highly trained technical people from abroad.

At the federal level we see our government borrowing money from our future to give tax breaks to the wealthy and to provide corporate welfare, thus wiping out the peace dividend we won by ending the Cold War. In addition to this borrowing, they are spending all the Social Security and Medicare surplus monies that are being collected. So far, they have only offered two solutions to a coming bankruptcy: reduce Social Security payments and extend the age limits, hoping retirees will die before collecting anything.

Maybe their pension and health benefits should be tied to the same plan as the rest of us. That way they would be destroying their future retirement instead of just ours.

There are way too many examples that can be listed beyond these, where the “quarterly report – live or die” mentality of corporate short-term thinking has invaded our body politic. It doesn’t even work at the corporate level – think Enron, Arthur Anderson, or Worldcom. These leaders felt forced to lie to everyone in order to project a healthy quarterly profit sheet and keep their jobs. They probably hoped that things would eventually turn around and all would be well.

Our politicians are doing the same thing to our entire nation. They are gambling with our future, hoping that if they look good now they will be re-elected. I guess they assume someone else will have to pick up the pieces later, or maybe the debt will just disappear and all will be well.

History is replete with failed nations that have borrowed too deeply, gambling with their economy. Some people call it a “Ponzi Scheme,” others call it “Eating Your Children.”

Eugene Clegg

Mount Si High School