Happy Friday, PDX!
In the ancient past, cartoonist Ace Reid did a series titled "Cowpokes" for a monthly called "The Nebraska Farmer". An issue came to my family's Nebraska farm home every month during my youth. Reid's characters were the crustiest, wiry old codgers that ever lived in the ranching country of the Nebraska Sandhills. In one cartoon, the gnarled, skinny speaker complains to the other, "Doctor said he couldn't see how anybody who dranks lack I do could work hard too. So I shore slowed up on that hord work!" (misspellings intended for pronunciation)
OK. We're well along into wars whose costs wildly exceeded initial promises and projections. They have hardly self-funded, and they are hardly over. Along the way, we've never been asked to pay with money, either through tax surcharges, voluntary contributions, or even by buying war bonds. We've not been asked to pay in kind through a military draft of ourselves or loved ones. We've let so-called "volunteers" do the job, although stop-lossed active duty troops, the recall of inactive ready reservists and the repeated deployments of active duty and National Guard/Reserve troops is certainly pushing the envelope of volunteering.
Instead, we've been given tax cuts, cooked books about budgets and deficit projections, unregulated financial instruments and a 2008 stimulus check--not enough to go out and buy anything really significant that would actually boost employment. No, just enough to buy more junk made in China or slightly pay down the credit card debt too many people already have from buying too much of that Chinese stuff already.
Almost zero progress on energy independence or sustainability. Transportation infrastructure that looks more and more like the Thrd World. No answer to the costs of health care except to let it become even more unaffordable to even more people. Hopes all pegged on one thing and one thing only: economic growth.
Translation of the term economic growth: at no cost to me personally. Things will somehow magically boom. Miraculous wealth will fall from the sky like manna that will not only fill all the holes we've been unwilling to pay for but all the needs we'll have in the future. Ever.
Wow! Do you believe in magic too?
Seems to me we've been drankin' so hard that we've shore slowed up on that hord work. Our current situation seems analogous to a laden wooden sailing ship that's taking on water. So we've steadily been chopping off the masts and rigging to lighten the load so that she'll still float (never mind that you can only drift without masts, sails and rigging) . Now we've come up with a new fiscal plan: we'll prevent the ship from sinking in the water by setting the deck on fire so that the heat of the fire will boil the water so that the ship won't sink into the water so that... There will be no cost to me personally. We'll just borrow the money...
Slight problem. Not enough wood in the ship. Too much water in the ocean. And once the superstructure is chopped down and the decks are up in smoke you can't do it again. And you can't put them back either. Not without a long time in drydock--if you can somehow get there.
When was the last time you read about a company that was hiring hundreds or thousands? Adding to its employees' benefit packages rahter than cutting?
Is the mounting national debt already past the point of no return even if all in the future goes 500% perfectly? Do things ever go perfectly? What happens if things go seriously out of whack?
Shouldn't we have paid our way as we went? But we didn't. Now what are we going to do? How much hard work are we willing to commit to? What costs are we willing to bear personally? What's this future going to cost us? Who's already paying? Ready for more?
Pray for our new president. Of course. But also pray for the person you see in the mirror. And for that person's kids.
What is God teaching us here?
Thus I still say, "Shalom!"