No Branch Grows Alone

This is a piece about politics, promises, and a healthy dose of reality.

I purchased my first house in November 1995. I spent the first winter fixing up the interior, but by the time spring rolled around, it became clear I would need to turn my attention to the yard.

The first summer, I cleared brush, trimmed trees and decided to re-route the gravel driveway. The driveway change was part of a longer-term plan to eventually build a garage.

The summer ended and as before, I spent the winter working inside. When spring came around again I began the process of clearing the part of my yard where the garage would go. Marking the outline of the building to be, the first things to go would be two trees.

One of the trees was fairly small. The trunk was maybe six inches in diameter and the whole thing was about fifteen feet tall. I managed to take it down quickly and without incident using only my wits and my chainsaw.

The second tree was another story entirely. At the base, this tree was eighteen inches across, and the top was at least forty feet up. Making matters trickier, the tree stood a mere ten feet from the side of my house.

The tree I had to take down looked a lot like this

The tree I had to take down looked a lot like this

Keep in mind; this was years before YouTube, or any other meaningful Internet resources, so I was pretty much on my own to figure this out. I recognized that trying to drop the tree all at once was way too risky, so I came up with a different plan.

I decided I would cut the tree down, chunk by chunk, starting at the top.

This made complete sense to me. I would climb to the top of the tree, and one branch at a time I would cut off parts until all that was left was a trunk. Then, I would hack off parts of the trunk until the remaining piece was something I could drop without destroying my house.

The tallest ladder I had was only twenty feet tall, so I went and cut a bunch of 2x4s into two foot pieces. I climbed the ladder to the top and then started attaching the 2×4 pieces to the trunk with lag bolts. I placed one of these “steps” every couple of feet until I was able to climb to within ten feet of the top.


Pretty much what I built.

I didn’t need to actually get to the top, only to the level of my first cut where I planned to remove the top ten feet of the tree in a single slash.

I climbed back down, grabbed my chainsaw, some goggles and (just for good measure) put on my bike helmet. I climbed back up to the top of the ladder and then up my extra steps. I looked down to make sure my dogs were safely out of range and I began to cut.

First I back-cut a wedge so when I did the final cut from the other side the piece I was removing would fall according to plan. Once the wedge was out I started on the final cut. I wasn’t even half way through before I knew I was in trouble. As the top ten feet of this forty-foot stick-in-the-ground began to detach, the entire tree began to move.

It moved a lot.

I pushed on, leaning into the cut with the chainsaw and as the top of the tree toppled over and released itself from the base of my cut, the trunk sprung at least a foot in the opposite direction.

Just so I am being completely clear… I was standing thirty feet in the air, holding onto a running chainsaw and the thing upon which I was standing suddenly moved a foot beneath my feet.

I nearly fell to my death.

What I had failed to understand is that something as large, and heavy as a forty-foot tree, is a living, dynamic system. Every cell of every fiber is balanced against every other, and when you remove a large piece of that system, the remaining pieces have no choice but to react, even violently so.


As we head into the first primary for the 2016 presidential race, promises are leaving the lips of the candidates faster than Alec Baldwin will leave the country if Trump wins (ha).

The problem with most of the ideas being proposed is the lack of understanding with regard to how each proposal will cause the existing system to react. I’m going to focus on what I consider to be the two front runners.

Let’s start with Bernie Sanders.

The Senator from Vermont is proposing eighteen trillion dollars in new and re-vamped programs over a ten-year period. Just to put that in perspective, the entire federal budget for fiscal year 2015 (the one we’re in right now) is $3.9 trillion. That’s 1.8 trillion more per year, almost a 50% increase.


If only it were as simple as tax and spend

Even if the plan is to simply raise the money through new taxes and to then spend each freshly raised dollar on a new program, the plan fails to recognize how the collection of all these new dollars will remove them from the other parts of the taxable economy that supports the current spending.

In other words, hacking off more than half the tree at once is going to make the trunk sway more than a foot.

Now, on to The Donald

Mr. Trump has been clear and vocal from the start that he intends to deport all undocumented resident aliens, and then build a wall along the Mexican border and he will make Mexico pay for it.

For those who believe these folks are here taking jobs from Americans might think this is a good idea, but here’s the rub.


According to The Pew Research Center, undocumented or illegal immigrants account for more than 5% of the current US workforce. Even if it took Mr. Trump the entirety of his first term in the White House to deport them all, the removal of 5% of the workforce and in turn the money they spend, would have a devastating effect on our economy, not to mention the tax base.

And before everyone starts squawking that illegals don’t pay taxes, you’re wrong. They may not pay income taxes, but most of them don’t make enough to pay them anyway, even if they filed. They do pay sales tax, gas tax, and all the other taxes that are baked into the purchase price of things from hotel rooms to transit tickets. Yanking 5% of those contributing to such revenue streams would spill red ink on the balance sheets of government agencies from coast to coast.

I am not here to pass judgment on any proposal in particular. My singular goal in writing this piece is to simply expose this idea:

Nothing is as simple as a politician would have you believe… nothing!

To illustrate this based on recent promises, I have met very few people who would agree that the Affordable Care Act is in fact affordable. Costs went up for everyone else – dramatically.

As I looked up at the forty-foot tree, it was clear to me that all I had to do was climb up there and start cutting. Once I was up there, it looked like I was right…

but as soon as I was fully committed it all went to shit.

No branch of a tree grows alone, and no single idea is as simple as a single action and reaction. Our government, economy and society are at least as intertwined and interdependent as the largest most complex tree.

Make sure, as you take in all the promises being made to you, assess them with a critical eye on the complexity nobody is talking about. Support candidates who are smart enough to understand the dynamic nature of everything. That is if you can find one.


Be sure to download my free eBook 500 Words To Save The World – CLICK HERE

and check out my longer book, The Penny Collector.

Copyright © 2016 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.

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