Why wait? When did waiting become such a political sin?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Why wait?
President Obama addresses Congress on health care

FACE to FACE POLITICS: In 2013, President Obama addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress to talk about health care. Photograph by Lawrence Jackson, released for public use.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome back our popular contributing columnist Terry Gallagher.

What’s the penalty on waiting?

Our idiom is loaded with proverbs calling on us to make decisions, to get off the pot, to strike while the iron is hot. And one of the worst things a politician can be accused of is “kicking the can down the road.” The phrase is usually taken as a synonym for procrastination, for adopting stopgap measures to avoid making the big decisions necessary to solve a problem once and for all.

Democrats accuse Republicans of doing it when they pass short-term budget fixes to avoid a government shutdown. Just last week, President Obama was lambasted by conservatives who say he’s kicking the can down the road by not dealing with the immigration crisis in a comprehensive way.

In a new interview this week, psychologist Dr. Robert J. Wicks recalls recently speaking to a gathering of U.S. representatives and senators when one senator admitted that he thinks the greatest problem facing congress is: “We don’t have enough time to think.”

We all face complex problems in public life, and in smaller settings, too, where comprehensive solutions are hard to come by, and stopgap measures work perfectly fine.

Social Security, for example. Alarmists have been saying for generations that the program will go bankrupt by some date, usually decades away, unless we cut benefits this very moment.

It turns out that we’ve been able to make modest adjustments every couple of years to keep the system solvent. Then a couple years later, we make another few modest adjustments. And government goes on.

So maybe we should kick more cans down the road, and give future generations the chance to tackle the complex problems facing our society. Or, when their time comes, to kick a few more cans a little further down the road.

What do you think? (Do you have enough time—to think?)

Try this discipline today: Consciously take a moment and either add a comment below—or use the blue-“f” Facebook buttons to share this column with friends.

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