Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rock and roll....

Summit Taylor was the janitor, groundskeeper, and sometimes recess monitor at my alma mater, Millville Grade School. He lived just across the fence on the other side of the big pile of leavings where he dumped the ashes from the coal furnace in the basement of the school building. One day at recess, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont decided to pick up a clinker out of that pile and see if he could throw it over Summit’s garage.

Although Stinky didn’t have enough arm to get the clinker over the roof, he did have enough power to get it to one of the windows on the building. Needless to say, Summit was not impressed with the feat. Neither was Principal Baker, and the entire 3rd and 4th grades were forced to stay in for the next two recesses because of Stinky’s transgression.

I didn’t have any concrete ideas on what constituted justice back then, but I was pretty sure the entire classroom didn’t deserve to be punished because of Stinky’s bad judgment. But, being in the 3rd grade and scared to death of a trip to Mr. Baker’s office, I suffered in silence with the rest of my roommates, and wondered what misery Stinky would visit on us in the future.

As I grew older, and started questioning the accepted social order, I often wondered what would have happened if all of the students who had done nothing wrong, would have simply stood up and walked out when the recess bell rang. Probably the teacher would have told the principal, and probably the principal would have lined us all up for a paddling. But I still think we would have been right, and the teacher and principle would have been wrong.

Later on in school, while studying Greek mythology, we learned the story of Sisyphus. It seems Sisyphus had displeased a couple of the Greek gods, and was sentenced to the task of rolling a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down the mountain just before he reached the top. So Sisyphus would walk back down the mountain and start again. Forever.

I always wondered why Sisyphus didn’t just step aside, let the rock roll down the mountain, and go on about his business. Probably wouldn’t have made as good of a story, I guess. But as I remember it was an awfully big rock. And it was an awfully tall mountain.

We’re getting ready to add a few trillion dollars to our federal debt. That debt already stands at over $10 trillion, or about $33,000.00 of debt for every man, woman and child in the United States. But that’s just the debt the government likes to report. According to David Walker, past chairman of the Government Accountability Office, the unfunded liabilities of numerous government programs push the actual federal debt past $50 trillion, putting each citizens debt at over $160,000.00.

Of course, that is assuming that we all share the debt equally. We know that isn’t the case, of course. This year, of the 115 million Americans that file income tax returns, about 46 million won’t pay any income tax at all. That leaves over $724,000.00 of debt for each of the people that do pay. Maybe a little less as long as the other 46 million continue to at least kick in for the Social Security debt. And the debt we don’t get paid rolls over to our grandchildren. At least the ones that will be working and paying taxes.

Which gets me to wondering, could we really blame future generations if they decide they aren’t going to pick up the bill for our ridiculously exorbitant spending policies? After all, they haven’t done anything wrong, and we are handing them an awfully large rock. And an awfully tall mountain.

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