Has your summer been downgraded yet?
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 11, 2011

America's debt ceiling was raised, her bond rating was lowered, the stock market dropped, the unemployment rate was slightly better than expected but expectations had been low.

So, how's your summer going?

Before I vacation in the hammock with light August reading, I'm going to round out my series on the national debt with something positive to get us to the next crisis, which is planned for Thanksgiving. That's when the Select Committee on spending cuts must release its recommendations.

Then rational savings will be agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans or automatic, disorganized cuts will kick in.

You may think Thanksgiving is an odd choice of holiday for the next crisis, but it's better than Halloween or April Fool's Day. We shall be forced by our tradition of annual gratitude to look at the bright side of whatever happens. I'm preparing for that already.

Got started when I read something by Pete Kasperowicz, who is the lead blogger for The Hill's Floor Action blog in Washington, D.C. the site where I keep up with the debate on the national debt. His uncharacteristically whimsical column, which appeared in his parents' biweekly South Shore free paper The Tinytown Gazette, was titled "Imagine a world without government debt."

He imagined this simpler world beginning during the difficult downsizing of government: your parents have moved in with you; some homes contain four generations.

I immediately visualized myself at bedtime, calling upstairs to my son, "Goodnight, John-Boy!" ... Hearing the twins call back, "Good night, Gram!" (We've had a long day, some of us working outside the home, others tending to the vegetable garden and the chickens, and of course I've been writing a book about the family interactions, someday to be a television series ...)

Kasperowicz mentions without going into details that "when the government left the field, the prices of (some) things fell." I've been thinking about this myself over the years ... how the cost of education is higher because of the government grants, and the cost of health care rises to meet available subsidies. The price of housing has risen over the years to meet what's "affordable" because of the mortgage-interest deduction and the two-income couple.

Kasperowicz's debt-free world has returned people to "the only kind of honest life humans can probably ever know: one that is less rushed ... spent with family and friends ... with a streak of self-reliance that for so long was the object of study for historians only."

I think somewhere along the way many Americans got caught up in consumerism for its own sake, in competition for "bigger, better, faster." They were so busy living beyond their means that they didn't notice our government doing the same thing. Who had time while pursuing "the good life" to pay attention to politics? And pretty soon, the good life was costing so much that the pressure to maintain the lifestyle replaced the life.

Seriously, do we really like what our world has become?

Isn't it stressful having our parents in a faraway state, when the time comes that they need our care? Or having the kids move back because they can't find a job paying enough to repay the student loans and get started on their independence? "Good night, John-Boy, try not to let your college debt keep you awake."

Or worse: "Good night, Mom and Dad, sorry you used your retirement savings to pay for my college education. Next week you run the cash register, I'll bag."

Of course, in my fantasy enactment of Kasperowicz's column, my family is living in harmony now that the middle generation has learned the error of its electing-Obama ways, and I have recognized that this might have been the best decision in the long run.

With John McCain, we would have continued the slow Republican slide down the slippery slope to the perhaps inescapable mire of greater debt. With Barack Obama his inexperience, his lack of understanding of what has made America great we are going over the cliff; we will either bounce, or go splat. But at least, thanks to the Tea Party and other voters who are starting to "get it," we have a chance for survival.

I got an email last week from my friend Christen Varley, leader of the Greater Boston Tea Party, with a contribution to my personal optimism campaign.

She was musing on a way out of the economic decline due to so many jobs having disappeared overseas, and noted "our medical research industry, as long as we stop over-regulating it; oil and other domestic natural resources.

"We should be building cars, planes, trains, boats, heavy construction equipment and military 'hardware' in the U.S. for national security purposes if nothing else," Varley wrote.

"Our food production should be top-notch. And let's not discount education as an industry, if only we actually taught what is useful and right. There are lots of opportunities outside of the 'service industry' for putting Americans back to work, if only government would get out of the way. This recession could be the re-making of us."

Yes, that's the word re-making. Another, better way of saying "hope and change."

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.

More of Barbara's Columns

Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665