Gaylord Guenin: Letter from Woody Creek | AspenTimes.com
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Gaylord Guenin: Letter from Woody Creek

Gaylord Guenin
Aspen Times Weekly

Well, President Obama’s delightful dreams of bipartisan cooperation disappeared faster than an eight-ball of coke at an X Games cocktail party.

If anything, Republicans seem to have become a bunch of bitter curmudgeons more concerned with making the current administration look bad instead of sitting down and formulating a plan to get us out of this economic sinkhole. But the GOP argues that it was shut out of the planning process, that the Democrats, who now control Washington, D.C., were the ones who rejected a bipartisan approach in crafting the stimulus legislation, or is it “bailout” legislation? Whatever euphemistic label you use, you get the uneasy feeling that both sides are more interested in gaining votes for the next election than they are interested in getting this nation out of the current economic crisis.

In other words, it is difficult to avoid the sickening sensation that it is politics as usual in D.C. I hate to admit this, but the Republicans do have some legitimate complaints about the $787 billion bailout plan, but some conservatives may have overstepped the line when they stated that they hope the bailout “fails.” We are talking about the future of America here and to wish for failure of the stimulus package is almost the same as hoping for the failure of our nation. I don’t care who eventually gets the credit for turning the economy around; I just want to see the U-turn happen.

I listen to the guru economists and all those brilliant political analysts on the Sunday talk shows and I am still confused about all of this. For one thing, I have no idea what a trillion dollars actually amounts to but that figure keeps popping up in stories about our nation’s deficit.

Of course, that comes as no surprise. I have spent my life trying to wrap my mind around the concept of what a light-year actually is. I pretty much have accepted the second definition given in the Random House Dictionary (unabridged): “A very great distance.” That works for me ” simple concepts for simple minds! You could apply that definition to a trillion as well ” “a very large number.”

In case you are interested, as I am certain you are, a trillion looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000. Put a dollar sign in front of it and that is what those economists and political analysts are talking about. Quite frankly I am still in the dark; a trillion dollars simply is too huge an amount to comprehend, at least in my simple world. A billion dollars, by the by, is the number one followed by nine zeros, three fewer zeros than in a trillion. I hope that helps, because the politicians talk about billions as if it were loose change and we are going to hear a lot more talk about billions in the months to come.

Republicans contend the stimulus package is filled with wasteful spending and they are likely correct. We have seldom seen anything come out of Washington that wasn’t either tainted with waste, or was pure pork from top to bottom. Nonetheless, as a citizen I pray that the package works ” even if it contains some waste and if the mortgage-foreclosure plan does bail out some individuals who deserve to lose their homes.

But the nitpicking going on between the right and left, the Republicans and Democrats, isn’t accomplishing much of anything aside from turning a national crisis into a political football. At some point, bipartisanship must rise to the surface and solutions to our growing economic problems must be found. Hell, if the Republicans were the ones to find a way out of this, as a Democrat I would give them a huge round of applause. But don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I would ever vote for a Republican.

As a nice change of pace to the woes of the day, Peg O’Brien, a physical therapist who lives in Woody Creek and one of the best neighbors you could ever have, gave me a copy of a magazine called Our Iowa. Peg is from Iowa and I spent a year there in the early 1960s in Davenport going through a management-training program with Lee Newspapers. As a Montana boy, I was surprised how different Iowa was compared to my rather stereotyped preconception of the place and I still feel a certain fondness for that state.

What struck me immediately about the magazine she passed on to me was the complete contrast to the magazines we are accustomed to in this valley. In fact, it is the complete antithesis of publications such as Aspen Sojourner. The Sojourner is an upscale, glitzy publication filled with stories about beautiful and expensive homes and restaurants and shops, a reflection of the luxury-resort Aspen has become. In fairness, it should be noted that the magazine includes some excellent and serious writing.

But Our Iowa stands in complete contrast to anything published here. It is about as down-home as you can get. No ads for billion-dollar homes or outrageously priced gold baubles, no stories about movie stars or other celebrities, just normal stuff about normal people.

It was a pleasant vacation from today’s economic problems and Aspen’s ostentatious ways.


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