Is there anything worse on television than Sprint’s Nextel commercial about firefighters ruling the world? The advertisement for those annoying squawky phones is on a non-stop loop on CNBC. And it’s driving us nuts.
In the ad, which we’ll paste below so you can torture yourself if you’ve somehow managed to luck out and miss it, fire fighters are gathered in some kind of legislative assembly. They’re apparently considering various fiscal programs. The questions before them are improved infrastructure, tax simplification, a balanced budget and clean water. The answers they give seem to demonstrate that fire fighters would be miserable legislators.
On each of the spending programs considered the fire fighters authorise more spending by acclimation. Better roads? Spend on that. Clean water? Spend on that.
But in this fantasy world, there are no trade-offs. Despite spending at every chance, they vote to balance the budget. Will they raise taxes to pay for their spending programs? Will they cut taxes in hopes that the Laffer Curve will stimulate growth and produce higher revenues? The answer to both is: not at all. Revenue is not even considered. They simply say taxes should be “one page or less.”
The idea of a world unburdened by economic constraint, where government can simply decide to balance the budget while increasing spending without new revenue, is just juvenile. We expect that fire fighters have more realistic expectations about economic tradeoffs required by government.
But what’s truly frightening is the celebration of the absence of dissent. Have marketers discovered that Americans fantasize about a world in which all our policy problems can be resolved by uniformed men uniformly endorsing improvements for the commonwealth? Perhaps they have. It’s not a comforting thought, however.
Someone should produce a Wall Street bailout version of this. Here’s the script: “Do we need solvent banks? Yes! How about profitable automakers. Aye! The budget? Balanced! Inflation? Two per cent or less. A lot of pages to tell us we need rising home prices. Do we need rising home prices? Yes. This is the easiest job I’ve ever had. I’m outta here.”
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