I don’t mean this as political commentary, but my initial thought about the tax compromise reached yesterday is how easily temporary becomes permanent.  President Bush was only able to pass his tax cuts because he promised they would be temporary, set to expire at the end of 2010.  Now we’re here, and what once had to be temporary in order to fit within the budget now has to be permanent in order not to raise people’s taxes. 

Here’s the lesson:  temporary is a big first step toward permanent.  Say that your controversial move is only temporary and you’re three quarters of the way there. 

For example, if you want to broaden the doctrinal stance of your church or school, hire a pastor or professor who doesn’t quite line up with your doctrinal statement.  Announce that this person is the exception—do you know how hard it is to find Baptists with doctorates in science?—and soon he will be the rule.  He will be the reason you hire other exceptions, and eventually the reason why you’ll change your doctrinal statement to make them fit.

Need to lower your expenses?  Tell your employees that this year, on a temporary basis, we need everyone to take a 10% pay cut.  How many businesses ever make up that 10%?  Don’t they tend to make your lower pay the new floor, so when they give you a cost of living increase the following year they congratulate you on your new raise?

We need more integrity.  Don’t be fooled into accepting undesirable decisions on the grounds they are only temporary.  Once the decision goes through, it might only be temporary, but it’s never going to change.

Update:  Tom Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times includes the following paragraph: 

Surely the cynical quote of the week — courtesy of The Daily Beast — goes to Dan Bartlett, the former George W. Bush administration spokesman who was speaking about the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that Bush “temporarily” put in place a decade ago: “We knew that, politically, once you get it into law, it becomes almost impossible to remove it. That’s not a bad legacy. The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth.”






5 responses to “temporary”

  1. Dave Carpenter

    Define “temporary” and “permanent”, and be of good cheer!

  2. not completely related, but in the same ballpark:

    maybe the bigger problem is that we place too high a value on permanence? perhaps we need to recognize that just about everything we do is really just temporary.

    the rate of change in our world is exponential. things we thought would still be relevant (the Federal Budget of President Boooosh’s era) turn out not to be.

    history is useful, but we have to be careful not to let it drive the present or future.

    (of course some things are unchanging… things like God, and thereby His Word… but not a whole lot else)

  3. We all should have known (and probably did know) better. I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said that the closest thing to immortality was a government program.

    I thought you were going to take this to the next level: personal holiness. As in, I’m only allowing myself this vice because I’m really stressed right now. When things calm down, I’ll put it behind me. Or, I’m only going to cheat on a test (or my taxes, or my spouse) this once because life hit me with a bunch of stuff at once; it’s just not fair. I’ve counseled guys addicted to porn and none of them decided to become addicted to porn. They tell themselves it’s just to deal with what’s going on at the moment. Same with many who become alcoholics. Teens put aside their Christian identity and values “just long enough to become popular,” THEN they tell themselves they’ll become “sold out for Christ” again and use that wide acceptance among friends to share the Gospel. Only temporary becomes permanent in all these cases all too easily.

    I think, on some level, we’ve all played that sort of game with ourselves. Lecrae has written a brilliant song which is a dialogue between him and his sin nature, in which he calls his flesh (ethically speaking) out on this very tactic.

  4. mikewittmer


    I was going to go there but was just too lazy. Thanks for finishing the thought–and giving me the outline of a very good devotional! Would you like to be my TA? (that’s a stab at Jonathan).

  5. […] came across this yesterday and I thought it was interesting. And I, like the author, don’t bring this up as a political statement: I don’t mean this as political commentary, […]

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