Roger’s Rules

More about numbers

I began my column yesterday with a big number: two-point-four trillion, which is the number of dollars our Masters in Washington just decided to add to your backs and the backs of your children and their children. That’s what, in Washington, they call “cutting the debt”: you decide to add a mere seven trillion dollars to the national tab instead of the ten trillion the former community organizer was planning to add.

Where’s Gustave Flaubert when you need him? What we want now is an updated Dictionary of Accepted Ideas, Washington, D.C. edition. They say familiarity breeds contempt: “contempt” is precisely what I feel for a political establishment that can congratulate itself all around for the grotesque fiscal legerdemain that was just perpetrated on the American people. A spectacle that riveted the world for weeks: the “debt crisis”; America’s AAA rating is on the line! Social Security checks might not be sent! Default is imminent unless the Democrats relent, or maybe it’s unless the Republicans agree! It’s down to the wire, folks, but at last a “compromise” is forged, what the president called a “balanced approached” (translation: “they spend” balanced against “we pay”) prevails. All this needs to be concentrated into the new entry for our updated Dictionary of Accepted Ideas.

“Cutting the Debt”: Adding trillions of dollars to the debt while solemnly pretending to cut the debt.

Nice work if you can get — which, by the way, you cannot, unless you happen to be part of the elite nomenclatura that, Humpty Dumpty-like, gets to use words as they choose.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

Increasingly, society is divided into makers (who pay for stuff), takers (who enjoy the largess), and adjudicators, the political elites who tell the people who actually work how much they have to pay.

Data point: did you know that the top 1 percent of tax filers pay nearly 40 percent of the tax receipt? The top 5 percent pay 60 percent. Meanwhile, more than 43 percent of filers pays no income tax at at all. Many actually get a check (aka “tax credit”: another candidate for our new Dictionary of Accepted Ideas) “from the government,” periphrasis for “from the taxpayer,” periphrasis for “from you.”

But I digress. Yesterday, as I said, I began with a very large number. Today let me mention a smallish one, though one with big consequences: 265.87. That’s the amount the Dow dropped yesterday, erasing all of the market’s gains for 2011 and extending the longest losing streak of the year.

Feeling nervous yet? You should. Two points:

1) The so-called “culture of entitlement” is approaching the end of the line. Everybody off. This train is going into the station for repairs. Everyone must exit.

2) It’s naked emperor time in Washington. All those time-servers (Joe Biden, call your office) and former community organizers who couldn’t believe their luck: Look at me, Ma! No hands! Yesterday I was voting “present,” opposing foreign wars, criticizing fiscal irresponsibility, today I’m the king of the castle!

The train is screeching to a halt for them, too. The Potemkin Village aspect of the long-running skit in Washington has been revealed for the make-believe fantasy it is. They all wear suits, ride around in motorcades, and pretend they know what they’re doing. But, as had to happen, brute incompetence finally showed itself.

What’s next? I described it once in anatomical terms: reverse peristalsis, coming soon to a polling place near you.