Opinion

Fat clothes and fat budgets | Angie Vogt

Our state Legislature has begun the difficult and serious task of tackling the budget crisis.

We face a crisis that was created by the excessive spending trajectory that Gov. Christine Gregoire put us on these past four years. The truth is we actually have about 5 percent more money to spend in this budget than we did last year, but the governor’s unsustainable spending has made what was already an irresponsible direction into a full-fledged crisis.

What Dino Rossi called a $3 billion deficit quickly turned into an $8 billion deficit. Does anybody remember Gregoire actually trying to tell us we had a surplus? Our state’s citizens, suffering from what I call a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome, re-elected the one who put us on this sick road in the first place. I’m still in a state of denial about that one, myself.

To borrow the language of self-help gurus: We need to acknowledge that we have a problem that is deeper than just the current symptom of budget deficits. We are facing a serious problem of integrity and self-honesty. I find that budget issues are analogous to the American phenomenon of over-eating. In both cases, we look away from ourselves and attribute our problem to mysterious outside forces.

The problem with dieting is the same as our problem with spending. In a spending crisis, we scapegoat money (“there’s just too many needs and not enough money!”). Lack of money is not the problem. Living beyond our means and overspending is the problem.

Likewise, when we face our national problem with obesity, we scapegoat food. Food is not the problem. Food is not in need of discipline, though the marketing industry likes to make us feel better by insisting that it is. Why else do we spend billions trying to make food behave by altering it in a million ways? Fat-free, sugar-free, low-carb, no trans fats, no cholesterol, high omega threes, extra fiber, energy drinks, herbal supplements, meal replacements and the list goes on. We try to change everything except the one thing that is necessary for success — ourselves.

And so my waistline, like everybody else’s, just keeps growing.

Regarding the budget, government tries to play a game with taxes and spending to convince us that we won’t have to suffer the consequences of their overspending. We get a “stimulus” check or tax rebate… but who paid for that? We did! We put more money in one coffer, and get less money back from another coffer, after the cost of interest and processing is deducted. We pay taxes for earning money, for spending money and for saving money. When the government wants to feel magnanimous, they give us a tax “break” and expect us to be grateful for the privilege, as though it was their money to begin with.

It’s all an attempt to make us feel like something is getting accomplished. In the end, we still have a huge “balance due” note staring us down. It’s like an interest-only loan: We pay money while the balance due remains the same. We get poorer while the bills get bigger. We take heroic measures to delay the inevitable obligation of paying our bills, which is nothing less than stealing. We want what we want when we want it, and we want it free.

In dieting, we want to lose weight while still trying to satisfy our unhealthy appetite. We buy all the junk foods with the sugar and fat taken out, then expect to fit into skinny jeans. We put every chore ahead of exercising. No wonder we’re depressed as a nation.

We simply have to come face to face with the real obstacle to self-improvement: Our unwillingness to endure any discomfort. Our first world thinking, our decades of economic superpower indulgence have created a nation of overindulged toddlers. Nobody wants to endure the temper tantrum of the kid in the middle of the store who just had his candy taken out of the cart and put back on the shelf.

Change is hard. I don’t know about you, but my fat pants are slowly working their way to front of my closet. It’s time to start looking inward and allowing myself to feel a little pain. The work starts now. Well, maybe after Super Bowl party.

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