Carol Perry: Everyone’s life would be affected by a U.S. default
For the Nevada Appeal
How many readers are familiar with the normalcy bias? The normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter in the face of disaster that causes them to underestimate the possibility of a disaster occurring or it’s possible effects. People make an assumption that since certain disasters have never occurred, they never can occur. This results in people not being prepared, and on a larger scale, the failure of government to include the populace in it’s disaster preparation.
Once disaster occurs, people with a normalcy bias are unable to cope. They have difficulty reacting to something that has never occurred because they tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic ways, failing to believe that the worst case is possible.
There are many examples in history of the normalcy bias. One recent example was Hurricane Katrina. People were warned about the impending hurricane and to evacuate, but refused to prepare and remained in their homes. Their belief was that since the levees had never been breached it could never happen. That bias kept many in New Orleans until it was too late. The government’s failure to have adequate emergency preparedness left many abandoned for days in the Superdome without food , water or sanitation. From the individual failing to prepare on up to the national level’s lack of planning shows us that the worst-case scenario can and will happen and when it does, the responsibility for being prepared falls on the shoulders of each and every one of us. Counting on others to save us when faced with a disaster that has not happened before is not only flawed logic, but downright crazy on many levels.
Here in the USA, we have been insulated from the disasters that regularly befall other countries, but what makes us think that just because something has never happened here, it simply is not possible? This flawed thinking keeps people from preparing for even minor disruptions of services such as a power outage. Cyberwarfare aimed directly at our energy grid is a reality that is currently happening and yet the average American has less than a three days supply of food in their home. In 2008, we looked into the abyss of a total banking system collapse and when it did not happen, we yawned and went back into our coma of denial.
We watch the news and are more concerned about the Casey Anthony trial than the possibility of a sovereign debt contagion currently sweeping Europe. Do we think that such a thing cannot happen here? After all we are the USA, the global big Kahuna holding the world’s reserve currency. Never mind that our debt levels from municipalities on up to the federal level are much worse than much of Europe. Living currently on scavenged funds from the federal retirees pension fund until a deal is reached on the debt ceiling, we all sit back positive in our minds that somehow it will all work out fine. We have come so close to economic disaster so often that most people currently polled about raising the debt ceiling are of the opinion that Congress should keep levels the same as last year and if the government cannot pay it’s bills, no big deal. Never mind that Social Security benefits would not be paid in August. After all, that can’t be possible.
The reason I emphasize the normalcy bias is that it portends disaster for many here if they do not face the reality that if we continue to borrow 43 cents for every dollar spent, something has to give. The life of every single American will be affected by the changes needed to satisfy the world that we are creditworthy and deserve a AAA rating. Even if you currently do not collect a dime in entitlement programs , forced austerity on a local, state and national level will affect each and every one of you. You have the choice to be prepared or not, but don’t expect your government to rescue you. The inevitable is a reality. It is just the timing that is not clear. Do not fall victim to the normalcy bias.
• Carol Perry has been a Northern Nevada resident since 1983. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.