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NIMBYism Pervades American Deficit Talk

As I have told “BreakPoint” listeners many times, the United States faces some daunting challenges -- the kind of challenges that, if left unaddressed, will degrade not only our quality of life but, more importantly, that of our children and grandchildren.

What makes these challenges -- such our fiscal state and our dependence on foreign energy sources -- so daunting isn’t that we don’t know what needs to done, but that we lack the political will to do it. Few politicians are willing to take the political risks, which, to be fair, is understandable, since few Americans are willing to give up anything for the sake of future generations.

Two recent stories in the New York Times tell the sad tale: The first concerns solar panels placed on telephone polls by a New Jersey electric company. Panels like these have helped make the Garden State second only to California in solar power capacity.

New Jersey may be second in solar power capacity, but it’s probably first in whining about it: Residents of Bergen County call the panels “ugly,” and an “eyesore.” They “hate” them and worry about their impact on property values.

What makes this rhetoric especially ridiculous is that the panels are attached to telephone poles from which power and telephone lines and the occasional transformer box also hang. It’s not as though someone’s view of the Rocky Mountains is being obscured.

Even more telling is a story about the attempt to limit taxpayer exposure to the Fannie Mae fiasco. The attempt involves limiting the size of mortgages covered by federal mortgage guarantees.

Currently, the limit is about $730,000 in some of the most-expensive parts of the country. Under that proposal, that cap would be trimmed by as much as a third.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the proposal is drawing opposition from those who would be affected. One of the more reasonable voices quoted in the Times said that “I’m glad to see they’re trying to rein in Fannie Mae, but I think I’m being disproportionately penalized.”

Penalized? Since when is there a right to government assistance in buying and selling the house of your dreams?

Naturally, the National Association of Realtors has made stopping the changes “a top lobbying priority.”

Kevin Drum of the liberal magazine Mother Jones rightly summed up the response as “American politics in a nutshell.”

Americans talk a big game about fiscal and personal responsibility; they are gung-ho on energy independence, but when it comes time for action, their response is always the same: Stick the other guy with the check.

Residents of Nantucket are all for “sustainable” energy, except when the wind farm is built off their beach. Wall Street preaches to Main Street about fiscal rectitude, but gets the vapors at the thought of taxing hedge fund mangers’ incomes in the same way you do truck drivers’ incomes.

Folks, we can’t afford this kind of hypocrisy anymore. If we ourselves aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary, forces beyond our control will force them upon us. And that will truly be ugly and worthy of our hate. But we will have deserved it.

This article first published on May 20, 2011. Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. 

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