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Learning The Value of a (Billion) Dollar(s)
by Mad Dog


The national debt, for those of you who are too busy scouring the entertainment section to find out when American Idol Losers On Ice is coming to town to bother reading the news, is basically the governmentís credit card bill, except it doesnít earn frequent flier miles.
When I was young, my parents spent a lot of time trying to teach me the value of a dollar, right alongside the lessons about the joy of being able to walk across a bedroom without needing snowshoes to stay on top of the dirty clothes, the redeeming social value of washing behind oneís ears, and that feeding mothballs to a goldfish is a bad idea. Luckily, most of these lessons took. Okay, so I sometimes forget that I have two ears. Hey, no oneís perfect.

   Their lectures on fiscal responsibility consisted of three points: money doesnít grow on trees, the harder you work the more money youíll make, and no, you canít have a bigger allowance no matter how much money Bobby Durkin claims heís socking away in a retirement account from his. As it turns out, they were right about two out of three points ó all I get when I work harder is tireder ó which is pretty good, though Iíd rather you didnít tell anyone Iím giving my parents so much credit or Iíll be tossed out of the League of Ungrateful Children. Me, the president, of all people.

   I discovered firsthand that money doesnít actually grow on trees. Well, not unless you live on a farm anyway. Iím not sure what parents who own an apple orchard tell their kids. ďAn apple a day keeps the doctor awayĒ would seem appropriate though it wouldnít teach them a thing about money. Or medicine. I found out how true the adage is after I planted dollar bills in the backyard only to find that instead of them sprouting into seedlings, my older brother was in the corner store buying big bags of candy with very dirty money. Yes, lifeís lessons can be difficult ones.


In other words, weíre going deeper in the hole each month than GM managed to do in a whole year. And they say the government is inefficient.
   So how are we supposed to teach our children the value of a dollar, especially when the Federal government and big business are setting highly visible bad examples? Take GM. The company recently announced that it lost $38.7 billion last year. Yes, thatís billion with a ďB.Ē Considering they sold 9,369,52 cars worldwide, that means they managed to lose $4,130.41 on each car they sold. Itís a good thing sales were down or they would have really gone into debt. You know, like our government. When it does this itís called the national debt.

   The national debt, for those of you who are too busy scouring the entertainment section to find out when American Idol Losers On Ice is coming to town to bother reading the news, is basically the governmentís credit card bill, except it doesnít earn frequent flier miles, reward points, or get cash back on every T- Bill issued. The way it works is that if the government needs more money, say to build a few bridges, pay our Congressmen, or start a quick and dirty war in ó oh, letís say Iraq ó that could make the Hundred Yearsí War feel like shock and awe, they just borrow it. When these obligations come due, they go out and borrow more money, using it to pay off the first ones. If I did this it would be called a Ponzi Scheme and Iíd be arrested. When the federal government does it itís called good fiscal policy. Go figure.


I
f the government is going to borrow the money so they can give it to us, then have us pay it back out of our taxes, why donít they just hold onto it in the first place? They could use it to help pay down the national debt and if we want, we can borrow our own $600.
   The government is currently in debt to the tune of about $9.3 trillion. In case youíre counting, thatís 93 followed by 11 zeros. With four commas thrown in for good measure. Just in case thatís not enough of a shock when the statement shows up each month, the figure is growing. By about $1 million a minute to be exact, which is a whopping $1.4 billion a day. Sure thatís only $4.61 per day for every man, woman, and child in the country who would rather spend it on a Big Mac combo meal, but like calories, it adds up. In other words, weíre going deeper in the hole each month than GM managed to do in a whole year. And they say the government is inefficient.

   Soon the national debt is going to increase by $168 billion in one fell swoop, this so the government can give each of us $600 as a reward for being a nice citizen living in a not nice economy. Itís called an economic stimulus package and the hope is that weíll run out and spend our windfall like a kid whoís handed his allowance in a toy store rather than doing what we should do, like pay off a credit card bill, give it to the bank so they donít foreclose on our house, or donate it to a presidential candidate who hopefully can do a better job of handling our governmentís money.

   It just doesnít make sense. After all, if the government is going to borrow the money so they can give it to us, then have us pay it back out of our taxes, why donít they just hold onto it in the first place? They could use it to help pay down the national debt and if we want, we can borrow our own $600. Or they could use it to fund a study to discover ways of actually making money grow on trees. Then they could subsidize money farmers to grow more of it, use the surplus to repay the national debt, and if thereís any left over, it can be converted to ethanol so corn doesnít wind up selling for $1.00 an ear. Hey, with ideas like this, who needs to work harder?

©2008 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read them instead of that loan application.

 

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