PRESIDENT CARTER has said that if we're going to lick inflation, it's going to require "pain" and "discipline." These words are usually used when discussing sado-masochism.
I'm not into pain and discipline myself, but if it wll help lick inflation, I'll go along with it. The problem, as I see it, is that President Carter has been such a successful president that none of us know what pain and discipline is anymore. More people are working than ever before, profits have never been higher, there is more money for goods, and everyone wants to borrow funds to expand their businesses. In other words we're in a mess.
What the president and his economic advisers were counting on was a recession to cool off the economy. They even predicted one this winter, but it never happened. Nobody can explain why.
I met a man on the street the other day and he asked me, "Do you think there will be a recession today?"
"I don't know. The economic forecasters predicted one. It's supposed to come down from Canada with a cold mass of air."
"I frankly think it's too warm for a recession."
"I believe you're right. I'm sorry I wore my rubbers. You can't trust the forecasters anymore. There was supposed to be a major recession last fall and there wassn't a dark cloud in the sky."
"They've raised the prime intrest rates again. That could cause a recession."
"It hasn't so far. A month ago the forecasters said there were storm warnings on the horizon and everyone should stay home. But instead, they all went out and stocked up on goods in case the recession ever came."
"Well, I don't know how long the country can stand this heat wave. A little recession would be a relief."
"There's no such thing as a little recession. You start seeding clouds with unemployment and economic gloom, and you can get one helluva hurricane."
"What do we do? We can't go on this way."
"Carter wants to try pain and discipline."
"You've got to be kidding. What kind of pain?"
"He didn't say. He wants to cut off our credit so we don't spend so much money."
"If I don't buy anything won't that mean that somebody is going to be out of work?"
"That's what he means by pain."
"Well I don't like to see anyone get hurt, but better that person than me."
"If he's out of work he won't be able to buy anything from you."
"I don't know if I could take that. I have a low pain threshold."
"That's where the discipline comes in. You're going to have to do without."
"Do without what?"
"He didn't say what. But if you don't do without it, you're going to have to pay more for it. The more you pay, the more painful it will be until you cry uncle."
"And then if I cry uncle?"
"We'll have the recession everyone says we need."
"What happens if we all accept the pain and discipline and things don't get better, but worse?"
"Then we'll try something else."
"I don't know. Carter's the one suggesting P and D, not me."
"When can I expect my first whipping?"
"It won't be for awhile. Carter can't start beating anybody until Congress gives him permission."
"He might no be president by then. Do you think Reagan is into pain and discipline?"
"I don't think so now. But then again when a person becomes president something happens to him and he starts trying kinky ideas in economics that he never thought of before."