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Balancing Dollars, Cents, and Common Sense

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
May 2014
Balancing Dollars, Cents, and Common Sense

with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

I’ve been trying to make sense (cents?) out of the silly debates in Washington and can’t make heads or tails out of this nonsense. Do we have no dollars or cents (common sense?) left in D. C.?

Though I’m only a teenager, I know how to balance a checkbook. My Dad opened a bank account for me when I began my first job, and every month I do a little simple math, balancing the debit column and the credit column of my account book.

Why can’t the President, Senate, and Congress do the same?

Dear Friend,

“I kept account of every farthing I spent, and my expenses were carefully calculated. … That habit has stayed with me ever since, and I know that as a result, though I have had to handle public funds amounting to lakhs, I have succeeded in exercising strict economy in their disbursement, and instead of outstanding debts have had invariably a surplus balance in respect of all the movements I have led. Let every youth take a leaf out of my book and make it a point to account for everything that comes into and goes out of his pocket, and like me he is sure to be a gainer in the end.” (M. K. Gandhi)

Like you, I, too, do not fully understand America’s fiscal policy. It seems that we as a country and we as individual citizens are encouraged to spend more than we earn. This is not sustainable. At some point we will have to pay the piper. Unless we have a significant influx of revenue, a collapse is inevitable. Perhaps there are a host of innovations coming out of our great universities. Perhaps our multiple Silicon Valleys will help us invent our way of out of the fiscal cliff. Perhaps the life sciences community will have a series of breakthroughs that will lower the cost of healthcare. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. For now, it seems that we are waiting for TAMO: Then a Miracle Occurs.

But do not lose hope.

The genius of America is its cyclical regeneration. While it is true that all great civilizations have risen and fallen, America’s particular greatness is its ability to rise, fall, and then rise again. We have seen this with the Civil War, the Great Depression, and with numerous smaller moments of seemingly precipitous decline.

What is particularly disturbing in the current situation is that the debate in Washington seems not to be centered around how to balance the budget but rather how to increase the debt ceiling. It would be as if Gandhiji were to provide this bit of backward counsel: “Let every youth take a leaf out of the U.S. Government’s book and make it a point to increase the amount of the loan she takes from her parents every time the debit column of her check register is greater than the credit column.” 

 [Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]


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