Thursday, May 2, 2013

Better Than Money

While the screaming about sequestration cuts grows louder, and some of our media colleagues obsesses about the latest developments in the Boston Marathon bombing, another group of media colleagues keep confusing President Obama for the Green Lantern. Those issues might normally frustrate us, since they're all happening at the same moment in time. Yet, we're generally happy and even calm today.

It's not like we've won the lottery, though that would likely improve our happiness. As economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers confirmed recently, money really can buy you happiness. Or, as Dylan Matthews more accurately notes, blindness to problems.

For a large number of people around the world, that exchange of a loss of clarity and liberty for a bit of temporary financial security is as common a transaction as buying something with a check card is for most Americans.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has been generally enjoying the fruits of that kind of trade for most of the last decade. Karzai recently even felt comfortable enough to admit the CIA has, at times, brought him bags of cash, so he'd be more likely to make the decisions that U.S. interests prefer.

The fact is, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has a pretty good life right now, even considering his position as the President of Afghanistan. Whatever he wants, he can generally buy with large amounts of money given to him by the U.S. government, through the CIA or other channels. We're willing to bet Karzai could even get Jimmy Johns to deliver to the Presidential Palace in Kabul.

What might surprise you is that as much as Americans appear to crave financial security, recent surveys suggest that Americans still prioritize their civil liberties over that security.

As Greg Sargent pointed out Wednesday, after digging through the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, the liberty/security deals some on the right are trying to push again - like trying the Boston bombing suspects in a military court - are ideas Americans don't seem to be too enthralled with these days.

Sargent also points out that in a different CNN/TIME poll, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans are currently more worried about losing some of their civil liberties than they are about the government failing to enact anti-terrorism policies that would give them more security.

There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic today. Ongoing political issues like the hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay, or the confirmation by Sen. Pat Toomey about the obstructionist extremists in the GOP, or even the simple reality that it snowed in much of the central U.S. yesterday on May 1st - all of these are reasons for frustration, or even anger.

That said, proof that most Americans - all across the political spectrum - appear seriously unwilling to sell out their freedom and liberty for a potential bit of non-guaranteed security gives us hope today, that maybe America isn't a completely lost cause after all.

With that knowledge and piece of mind - and a sandwich - we may just be able to make it to the weekend without losing our cool.

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