John Colson: Hit and Run
October 14, 2011
One hears all the time that Americans are an especially clever people – inventive, imaginative, quick to see a new line of thinking and to run with it like a football in the final seconds of a game.
I agree, though it is with some irony that I recall the classic line from Uncle Duke in the Dec. 24, 1975 Doonesbury comic strip, who noted that “Those Chinese are an especially tricky people.”
Not sure how that is relevant, but the line pops up in my brain with surprising frequency, possibly because Garry Trudeau was able to sum up my own feelings of frustration and political impotence in his sarcastic, satirical and utterly heartfelt observations of the political absurdities that made up the early and middle 1970s.
For reasons I’m sure I will grasp as I lie dying, the bemused understanding implied in this one line, globally applicable to all nations and breeds of humanity, seems to have stuck in my head.
But, never mind.
Back to the present, and the cleverness of the American people.
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Two interesting emails, which seem somehow interlinked in a cosmic way, dropped into my inbox this week, each purporting to be a solution to the most critical, and least understood aspect of our current planetary mess – the U.S. economy.
These are not new ideas, they’ve floated around the Internet for some time, but having them arrive at the same time got me thinking.
The first, from my friend Skip in Carbondale, suggests a way to fix the national economy by reforming the U.S. Congress, imposing term limits of 12 years maximum service in one or both chambers; eliminating congressional tenure, pensions and access to their golden parachute health-care plan; requiring that all members participate in Social Security; and other measures.
Once Congress is on the same footing as the rest of us in terms of health care and retirement, the thinking goes, both those deeply controversial and problematic systems will be quickly fixed and we can all relax.
All the money that goes to support congressional retirement plans and health care, not to mention free haircuts at the Capitol barber shop, would immediately be moved to the Social Security fund and Medicare/Medicaid.
Interesting ideas, yes? This particular package of provocative proposals was posed as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, backed by the people through the power of the Internet to spread the concept around.
The second email, from my buddy Mike in Madison, Wis., was copied from a feature of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, which asked readers how to fix the economy.
An unnamed reader suggested the following:
Enact a “patriotic retirement plan” that offers a $1 million, one-time payment to the roughly 40 million workers in this country who are over 50 years old, but they MUST agree to retire – which frees up 40 million jobs and fixes the unemployment problem.
A second requirement is that each new retiree immediately buy a new, American-made car out of his windfall retirement check – auto industry, fixed.
A third requirement is to either buy a new house or pay off an existing mortgage – housing crisis, gone.
I’m not sure either of these ideas would actually work if tried, or if they even could be tried in our current state of political gridlock, partisan warfare and a rising tide of intolerance.
For sure, the entrenched elites in politics and finance would immediately start howling as soon as any such fixes were suggested, simply because those people have to howl in order to feel their own power.
But all that howling, alone, could be beneficial. Particularly if we, the people, make the proposal in the winter months. All that hot air emanating from capitols across the country would cut down on heating bills everywhere.
These are the kinds of thoughts that apparently run through the minds of Americans when they are out of work, out of money, out of options and sitting alone in front of a computer keyboard.
Kind of impressive, I think.