Survey Says: Majority of Americans Afraid of Something Fearful

The tale of Chicken Little - applicable today

The tale of Chicken Little - applicable today

The rising heat over the national debt ceiling crisis is hotter than road tar in July, but NBC and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) might have discovered a way to settle this impasse: Just ask the American public what it thinks we should do about raising the debt ceiling. Well, it turns out that the majority of Americans think not raising the debt ceiling would be “problematic.”

Glad they got that settled.

We seem to reel from one calamity to the next, and not just your garden variety bumps in the road.  Wasn’t the melting of the polar ice cap and global warming enough to sustain us for however much longer we get to roam this planet? Apparently the global economic meltdown took over as the crisis du jour and pretty much has held our collective attention since.

Remember the Y2K crisis when most people (survey says) believed that we would all be at the sudden mercy of anything and everything that could go wrong when the clock struck 2000. People were afraid to board airplanes as the moments ticked closer to the end of that century. Millions thought about, and even planned for, a long drought or famine and stockpiled water and food.

And then, everyone lived!

The NBC/WSJ poll found that “55 percent of all respondents believe that not raising the ceiling would be problematic.” Of that number, what percentage do you imagine know what the debt ceiling is? Who among this number have some sense of what would actually happen if we missed the Aug. 2 deadline? Apparently only 18 percent thought it wouldn’t be a problem, but that number jumps to 33 percent when the respondent identifies themselves as a Tea Party member.

One poll taken in September 1999, after more than a year of mindless fear-mongering (and profiteering) about the Y2K threat, found that “Y2K fears are ebbing.” According to the poll, a majority of Americans “don’t expect any problems that do occur to last more than a few days, and fewer people plan to stockpile food, water and cash.”

The current crisis over the debt ceiling will get solved and then give way to another. But it is remarkable how much the main characters in these dramas resemble those in the timeless story of Chicken Little, created more than a century ago:

Foxy Loxy: “This is the Voice of Doom speaking! Special bulletin! Flash! The sky is falling! A piece of it just hit you on the head! Now be calm. Don’t get panicky. Run for your life!”
Chicken Little: “Listen to me, everybody! I’m your new leader! I’m gonna save your lives! I’m gonna tell you what to do!
Cocky Locky: “Don’t listen to that pipsqueak. The sky isn’t falling.”
Chicken Little: “I tell ya it is too falling!”
Cocky Locky: “And I tell you it isn’t.”
Chicken Little: “Is too!”
Cocky Locky: “All right, if the sky is falling, why doesn’t it hit me in the head?”

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