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Editorials | Asking for a friend

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WHILE the current crisis deepens, many of the comments, pronouncements and policy proposals aired in public nowadays continue to echo what was said the last time the economy tanked.



Economically, the NMI is back in the TT days when there was still no tourism industry, and the government, which was already big, was funded by the feds mostly. The only difference is that the government now has more expensive, never-ending obligations which were incurred because they are popular.

And this is why it was surprising to hear a lawmaker declare that the Legislature — the instigator and or co/instigator of most of what ails the Commonwealth — should have a key role to play in addressing the CNMI’s mounting financial problems.

Haven’t lawmakers done enough already?

In any case, is there any lawmaker or aspiring politician out there audacious enough to propose real cost-cutting and/or revenue-raising measures to fully fund whatever it is they say should be fully funded?

 

Another question


HERE’S another “proposed solution” that is as old as the voting process itself: elect “qualified,” that is, “educated” candidates for office — as if NMI voters haven’t been doing that in previous elections, including those held in the TT days.

What the proponents of this “solution” usually mean is that 1) elected officials can legislate anything they want into reality, and 2) that a majority of voters will enthusiastically embrace policies that inflict hardship on themselves such as losing their jobs and/or paying more taxes/fees.

How’s that working out for you?


Once in a lifetime


SOME are hoping that, somehow, local officials and voters will learn lessons from the islands’ gravest crisis since America’s military behemoth unleashed Apocalypse in the Marianas in June 1944.

But this begs the questions. Have other, much older, more modern and more sophisticated democracies learned lessons from their own recurring problems?

In his 2017 book, “The High Cost of Good Intention,” John F. Cogan discussed America’s ever growing financial problems — and this was way before Covid-19 — that stemmed from the enactment, since the 18th century, of entitlements that will soon be unaffordable with dire consequences for the nation and the very individuals who were supposed to benefit from these programs.

Cogan quoted Sen. Nathaniel Macon as saying, “Pensions in all countries begin on a small scale, and are at first generally granted on proper consideration, and that they increase till at last they are granted as often on whim or caprice as for proper considerations.” Macon, a Jeffersonian politician from North Carolina who also served as speaker of the House, said those words in 1818. Did any of the states now grappling with their own pension crisis learn anything from him?

Cogan also noted that “from the end of World War II through 1975, seven of the ten legislative increases in Social Security monthly benefits took effect during an election year; four of these increases first appeared in retirees’ October Social Security checks — one month before national elections.”

This is a federal election year. Is there any sign that any federal elected official has learned a lesson from the federal government’s over 200-year-old experience with overspending?

This is not to “excuse” the supposed failings of the CNMI, a tiny, remote, 42-year-old constitutional democracy with a miniscule economy which its leaders have been trying to diversify "since ever since." But really now, what “lessons” can a small island government learn from a largely unforeseen “once-in-a-lifetime pathogen” that destroyed nearly $15 trillion in global stock-market wealth in five weeks?

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