Commentary: Ships of fools often sink
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 30, 2010 - "You know the foolkiller's coming, / Lord, I do believe it's true. / I see the foolkiller coming / And I know he's got his eye on me and you." --from "Foolkiller" by Johnny Rivers
T.S. Eliot once called April "the cruelest month." I wouldn't care to try to make the opposite case. The month commemorates some uniformly grim anniversaries: the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, the invasion of Okinawa, the Texas City disaster, the 1904 San Francisco earthquake, the bloody denouement of the Branch Davidian siege, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine massacre and the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl are among its lowlights.
Throw in the income tax deadline and Hitler's birthday and, should they ever decide to give the year an enema, we'd know exactly where to insert it. Perhaps fittingly, April begins with a celebration of fools. In that spirit, I thought I'd use today's column to discuss the suddenly contentious issue of health care.
These damned Democrats are a blood-thirsty lot. First, they launched a grassroots effort to whack unarmed grandparents. The party that enacted Medicare over the howling objections of its Republican adversaries was caught red-handed plotting death panels to insure that the same oldsters would be denied access to adequate health care.
Now the clever fiends are out to kill babies. Proof of that assertion came to light when their leader, the diabolical Barack Obama (a foreign-born, covert Muslim from Honolulu), issued an executive order reiterating the obvious fact that the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of public money to fund abortions, was a federal law.
He then went on to state that the new health-care bill would do nothing to repeal that amendment and had the audacity to pledge in plain English that tax dollars would never be used to pay for abortions.
Hell, Ray Charles could have seen through this ruse. Once the law takes effect, all Obama has to do is say, "April fool," and decent god-fearing Americans will have been tricked into forever funding abortions for commie sluts. It's obvious. Lucky for him that he's been elected for life and that Congress can never repeal or amend a bill it's already passed.
So, allow me to recapitulate: if you're pro-life, you're against health care. On the other hand, if you think all citizens should have access to the miracles of modern medicine, you're promoting the culture of death. That's easy enough to remember.
The real problem with the health-care law has less to do with morality than it does with mathematics. And there are quite literally trillions of hazards in that analysis, the chief of which seems to be the general inability to comprehend the scope of the situation.
The government will borrow over $1.4 trillion this year to pay its bills. That's the deficit -- the amount of money it will spend in excess of its income. Federal tax revenue for the year is estimated at about $2.2 trillion.
This means the government currently spends about 64 percent more than it takes in. A private citizen with a yearly income of $100,000 would have to spend $164,000 annually to keep pace with his government. How long do you think this profligate nitwit would stay afloat in the private sector with spending habits like these?
But the situation is actually a lot worse than the example would indicate. The unit of measurement here is "trillion" -- a concept that is easier to say than to fully comprehend.
Suppose that someone had activated a stopwatch at Christ's birth. How many seconds would that timer have ticked off as of this writing? The surprising answer is just under 64 billion.
The decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the discovery of the New World, the Renaissance, two world wars and the Space Age all fit neatly within 64 billion seconds. And a trillion is 1,000 times a billion. Our celestial stopwatch would tick off its trillionth second sometime around the year 31,500; or about 29,490 years from today.
The earth itself is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old. Geologists refer to time calculated on scales of this magnitude as "deep time." But deep time appears rather shallow when measured in trillions. The planet will have to survive another 995.5 billion years to celebrate its trillionth birthday.
The national debt is currently about $12.7 trillion. That works out to around $41,000 owed per citizen, or $115,500 per taxpayer. I don't know about you, but I'm about $115,000 short of paying my share. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office conservatively projects additional deficits totaling over $12 trillion for the next decade.
For a nation in this sort of economic crisis to debate which new benefits its citizens are entitled to is bit like arguing over dinner arrangements on the Titanic. If I may recycle a phrase from George W. Bush, "this sucker could go down."
Of course, the health care bill purports to be deficit-neutral. The added cost of insuring 31 million additional people is supposed to be off-set by the savings to be realized by other provisions of the legislation.
The problem here is that the costs are guaranteed but the savings are not. For Medicare reimbursement to physicians to be cut or for a tax on so-called "Cadillac" health plans to actually be levied, future sessions of Congress will have to exhibit a fiscal sobriety thus far conspicuous by its absence on Capitol Hill.
Don't bet heavily on this development. The votes of senior citizens and union members will be as sought after in the future as they are today. In fact, as the boomers turn 65, the senior vote should become even more influential by dint of sheer numbers.
I'd like to offer a facile solution to these intractable quandaries, but I'll be damned if I can think of one. Suffice it to observe that if the foolkiller ever does arrive, he figures to be a very busy fellow.
M.W. Guzy is a retired St. Louis cop who currently works for the city Sheriff's Department. His column appears weekly in the Beacon.