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Works and Days

Some Very Bad American Habits

March 6th, 2011 - 10:08 am

One rushed into my front wheel — flipping me over the handle bars at 18 mph. I dislocated a finger, wrenched my knee, and tore the skin off my arm, knee, and elbow. I staggered to the door to complain to the owners that their pack of dogs should at least not be allowed to run into the middle of the street, and asked if any had rabies shots (one nipped at my leg). Four adults — 11 AM on a weekday — said they did not speak English and sort of went into a blind, deaf, and dumb mode, as I tried my pidgin Spanish.

OK, I understood that it was my fault for riding a bicycle along the driver’s right-hand side of a rather lonely public road (most out here for some reason ride on the left side against traffic and often right into your face if you are not careful). So I walked my half-ruined bike home (over one hour) but did gather than the injured Chihuahua was called “Snookie.” All the above can become expensive to the state when a large segment of the population simply is not playing by the rules, either by volition or tragic circumstance.

My liberal friend, however, bristled at this “scapegoating” of illegal immigrants. And he suggested that illegal immigration was “no different from the Irish in 1850” or the “Poles in 1920.” Yet, it is most surely different, given the question of legality, the melting pot in lieu of the salad bowl, and the distance from Europe in comparison to the proximity of Mexico.

But I noticed one other thing: he chose to move far away from all of the above into a neighborhood that is ethnically monolithic (white), elite, and as far as possible from where he grew up. This too is an American trait — one professes global concern as a sort of psychological penance for one’s own worry that he wants nothing to do with politically incorrect problems. I might go so far as to suggest that the more one is animated that illegal immigration is not a problem, the more likely one is to be insulated from it. (Note the constant sermonizing from the Hollywood elite from the beaches of Malibu.)

3) Some Day over the Rainbow

I came of adult age amid the pre-SUV period of promised “energy independence” by 1980. More recently we heard that sometime in the 21st century debt will only be a particularly small percentage of GDP. In other words, Americans have developed a notion that if we promise to end something someday, we can enjoy it all the more right now. In our own lives, we know the syndrome: after this last credit-card purchase, I will pay the entire amount off; after this last bit of See’s candy I will lose 100 pounds; after this last eight hours on the sofa I will run a marathon.

So some magical day in the future we might have a balanced budget. That means that right now we can exceed last year’s $1.3 trillion shortfall and trump it with $1.6 trillion in new federal borrowing (You see, President Obama was perfectly clear, and made no mistake about, that we will balance the budget some day soon).

We talk of a bankrupt Social Security system, lament the fate our children who will pay more for us and get less for themselves, and then announce that some younger cohort will some day receive less of the borrowed money — as in “of course, we will honor our contracts to those over 55″ (or is it 50, or is it 45 or just “nearing retirement age”?).

I’m sorry, we are all broke. And I don’t see why my generation (I’m 57) should not work a bit longer and get a bit less Social Security, given that the sacrifice is going to be much harder on our children. (I assume many baby boomers have learned that they are helping their children way into the latter’s late twenties, and assume they will monthly recirculate their Social Security income to their children anyway.)

If we want to fix the system, we should start right now on Social Security and Medicare. Most of the late baby-boomer generation cannot accept that the debt commission, which called for some tough medicine, nevertheless did not envision a balanced budget for several years, much less elimination of U.S. debt in our lifetimes, much less Social Security solvency for nearly three more decades. I’m not relieved that at 83 we at last might eliminate accumulated Social Security debt.

A Modest Proposal

Let us ask our administrators to administrate first and philosophize second, and let us fire those who cannot agree with that sequence. Let us not sermonize on human misery from a distance (e.g., a “downright mean country” is not compatible with Costa del Sol). And let us act now, rather than dream of acting later — or simply be quiet.

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