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Apocalyptic Thinking Leads to the Apocalypse

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

We were told over and over again that if America didn't raise her debt-ceiling, the financial roof would come tumbling down about our ears. We were told that the consequences for our credit rating would be disastrous. We were told that the stock market would crash.

So, our elected representatives passed a debt-ceiling increase. Democrats complained that the increase didn't raise taxes; Republicans complained that the increase kicked the proverbial can down the road on spending. Democrats claimed victory for having forced Republicans to raise the ceiling at all; Republicans claimed victory for having forced Democrats to offset increased spending with certain cuts.

And the economy tanked anyway.

On August 2, the stock market dropped 265 points. Standard and Poor's 500 moved into negative territory for the year. Fitch Ratings said that the U.S. may have its debt downgraded from triple-A status anyway. Microsoft, Exxon Mobil and Johnson & Johnson all have better credit than the government of the United States at this point. "I'm not so sure that the debt deal is well received or if it's what everyone wanted," Steven Carl, head equity trader at Williams Capital Group, told CNBC.

Because of the debt deal, things are slated to become even worse. If the debt-ceiling had not been raised, the government would have been forced to choose between spending initiatives. The debt-ceiling would have provided a hard cap; it would have prevented President Obama from being able to press for new spending initiatives. Now, with the "Super Congress" (a smaller group of Congress people supposedly dedicated to cutting costs) in charge of cutting the deficit, we can expect a new push for higher taxes, especially since reports are that the constituency of the Super Congress will be "moderate."

None of this would have been possible without the apocalyptic doom-talk coming from the White House and members of Congress. There was no emergency on the horizon. As Kevin Williamson of National Review pointed out, our revenues for the rest of the year easily would have paid our debt service requirements. We would have had to cut back on our discretionary and entitlement spending, but we need to do that anyway if we want to survive the current fiscal crisis.

Instead, Obama and his ilk had to scare us. The press certainly did its share, too. Frightening the American people into accepting wrong action has become a pastime among the chattering class. Karl Popper warned of the consequences of seeking a political utopia; such utopianism, he warned, led to violent action against those who disagreed with the general vision. The flip side of utopianism is apocalyptic thought, which stresses that unless drastic action is taken, the great flood will wipe us all from the planet. Those who stand in the way of such action stand on the side of Armageddon. In the words of Joe Biden, they become "like terrorists."

Apocalyptic doom-saying turns politics from compromise to extremism. How do we know if such predictions are correct, though? There is one clear indicator: If someone sets a hard date, we can fairly guarantee that the doom-saying is nonsensical. Never in history, has a non-mankind-created hard date turned out to be disastrous. No Kal-El prediction of the sun exploding has ever been accurate.

So next time you hear a politician tell you that something must be done by X date in order to prevent the destruction of the universe, tell them to pipe down. They're full of it. It's that simple. The only apocalypse that will occur is the one our scaremongering politicians bring down upon us.



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