and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

'How sad and bad and mad it was'
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!'"
Robert Browning

When Browning wrote this, the life expectancy was a lot shorter than my 66 years. Back then the youthful half got us only to age 20.

Now we can indulge in my happy illusion that the spring of our life lasts 'til 25, then summer until 50, then autumn until 75, when we start moving into winter, waiting for the next incarnation. I myself am not coming back until the national debt is paid off.

I know I'm getting old because I'm starting to escape in my mind to the past. Was thinking this week about my college speech class, a sophomore requirement. For my "teaching speech" I chose handwriting analysis, and asked Miss Burns to write something on the blackboard for me to analyze. She chose the Browning quote, above. It was the first time I saw this, and I thought it was a charming thought for the elderly teacher, though having nothing to do with me.

For my "humor speech" I told the story of a recent experience, in which my friend Glenn and I had an accident while driving on an icy road and were taken to the hospital, he with minor injuries, I with broken ribs. For some reason, I found the hospital procedures hilarious, and so did the class, which voted my speech the best.

So I was sent to the regional speech conference, where I bombed. The judges told me that when I intend to be funny, I must make my story believable, not make things up that couldn't have happened. My school friends knew that I was telling the truth and that my sense of humor recognized the bizarre aspects of most experiences. The strangers at the conference didn't get me.

There was a lesson in this that should have kept me from becoming an activist in the political arena, where one person's policy is another man's joke.

Jumping back to the present: Maybe it's really not funny that the U.S. Congress passed a trillion dollars in spending without reading the bill, that the Treasury Secretary overseeing the bailouts (and the IRS) was caught avoiding taxes, and that our governor's choice to oversee Massachusetts' share of the federal billions has been cheerfully participating in official state pension scams after being fired from a state job.

The trouble is, it's getting hard to tell when the evening news ends and Jay Leno's opening monologue begins. When real life experience is absurd, the comedy routine seems almost anticlimactic.

Activists, writers and economists and unusually concerned politicians on my side of economic issues have always predicted what President Obama calls "catastrophe" if government spending and debt weren't controlled. But somehow I didn't expect it to happen 'til after I was gone.

I've never been the kind of person who'd want to watch a train wreck, yet I have to admit I would hate to have missed this one. As Robert Browning also wrote: "How sad and bad and mad it was But then, how it was sweet."

Sweet in the sense of being able to say, "I told you so."

A childish statement in a young person, but a senior prerogative.

I returned to the past again when I read last week about another birthday. Miep Gies, who helped the family of Anne Frank hide above her office during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, turned 100 years old on Feb. 15. I played her in our college presentation of "The Diary of Anne Frank." In the final scene, when I found Anne's diary and gave it to her father the only family survivor of the concentration camps I wasn't acting when I cried.

This experience had a major influence on my political attitudes. Our Jewish director made the cast experience Judaism during the rehearsal weeks, even giving us a little Hannukah party. I hoped that if I'd lived in Europe during World War II, I'd have been one of the Righteous Gentiles who tried to help. All I'm required to do today, however, is be a writer supportive of Israel against the Hamas terrorists.

How lucky my generation has been, comparatively. I was born at the end of WWII, and my son came of age after Vietnam and the military draft were done. We Americans were safe from war on our own soil, at least until 9/11. The national economy has been strong for most of my lifetime. My former husband and I bought a house before real estate became unaffordable. I got to travel when airplane flights were fun.

Vaccines, cures and treatments have been found for so many diseases that caused those earlier, shorter lifespans. And I'm the right age to get Medicare and Social Security before all the funds are exhausted.

Sixty-six years old, seeing all, grateful and determined not to be afraid. Happy birthday to me.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.