Thursday, August 01, 2013

And the first rule is...

  A couple of times a year I take a day off and travel down to the Ohio River with a few buddies to visit one or two of the riverboat casinos located along its banks. It used to be a rule that you couldn’t start gambling until the boat paddled away from the shore, and that you had to quit gambling as soon as the boat paddled back to the shore. They often waived that rule if the water was too rough, or if it was too windy, and eventually they did away with that rule altogether. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I’m glad to be able to get off of the boat whenever I want to now, especially if my luck runs out at the tables.

  I usually play Blackjack because I understand the rules. That doesn’t mean that I expect to win, but it does mean that at least I understand what happened when I lose. One of my rules is to leave the table before I lose too much.  There are some other card games with some fancy names where I haven’t been able to understand the rules. I usually stay away from those tables. I also understand the rules are made so that the casino has the best chance of winning. And I understand they wouldn’t have those big fancy riverboats if they didn’t. But those are the rules, at least until I leave the boat.

  I heard a discussion a while back where a young businessman was taking a light-hearted jab at a school teacher about the 3 month vacation that she enjoyed every summer. The teacher replied “Hey, I didn’t make the rules”. I surmised that the teacher was right, but then I thought, hey, I didn’t make the rules either.

  I guess we all grew up with rules that we didn’t make. When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to run with a pair of scissors. Looking back, it was probably a pretty good rule.  Now that I’m older, I suppose I could if I wanted to, but I just don’t want to.

  I read last week that Detroit is bankrupt. Apparently, over the years, the people who run the city made some rules concerning what taxpayers should pay for. One of the rules they made is that the taxpayers should pay both the wages and pensions of public employees. While the taxpayers managed to keep up with paying the wages, they fell woefully behind in funding the pensions, and are currently a little over $9 billion short. It doesn’t help the situation that there are only 23 citizens left to support each current and retired government employee, or that only about 14 of those 23 citizens are working. It’s not so much of a problem for the people who made the rules years ago, but it’s quite a problem for the people who are left to follow the rules and pay the bills.

  We are facing the same situation on a larger scale nationally, where politicians past and present have made rules leaving taxpayers $17 trillion in debt, and facing possibly $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. And just about every time Congress gets together they make more rules that force us even deeper in debt.

  For most working Americans, getting off isn’t an option. But there is an election coming up again next year, and with it an opportunity for us to tell them that we don’t want to play by their rules anymore.