(Note: Beginning next week the Modern Life column will have a new name: Finding My Way. This coincides with the release of my new book, which you can find on Amazon by searching Chris Huston Finding My Way. The column won’t change, just its name.)
“Psst, buddy! You know that pothole in the road in front of your house? I can fix it for you for fifteen bucks. Interested?”
“Good morning, sir. I’m asking you to vote in favor of a bond issue that will improve roads in the area. It will increase your tax burden by about fifteen dollars a year. Can I count on your support?”
“Get lost, creep. The last thing I want is more taxes.”
And so it goes. The two most vile words in the English language are taxes, and the name of the political party you don’t belong to.
The original idea was to have the government organize itself to provide necessary services like road building, fire departments, etc., and pay for them with voter-approved taxes. Everyone pays a little, everyone benefits. In the old days this was called working together, but now it’s called socialism, so it is very, very bad.
A few decades ago a popular kids books genre was called Choose Your Own Adventure. You read the story, and at key points you are given two choices. You make your choice, turn to the correct page, and the story continues.
Sounds like fun, right? Great. Let’s play.
Once there was a community that always gets lots of snow, but doesn’t have the money to buy enough snow plows.
Choose: Vote yes and pay for more plows, or vote no and keep complaining every winter.
You choose: No, of course. Sooner or later the snow will melt.
Here’s another one.
Once there was a community that needed upgraded schools. This would help their children better prepare for productive adulthood in a rapidly changing world.
Choose: Vote yes and improve schools for the kids, or vote no because you’ll be dead by the time the kids grow up, so who cares?
You chose: Vote no, of course. Kids just need to toughen up.
Too easy? Okay, here’s a tougher one.
Once there was a country that needed money for roads, social programs, farm supports, the world’s largest military, education, national parks, disaster relief programs, and lots of other things. Most people liked all these services, but didn’t much like paying for them.
Choose: Vote yes to approve the taxes to pay for the services, or vote no and lose the services.
That’s a tough one. We like goodies but don’t like paying for them. Let’s have a third choice: We get the services but don’t pay for them, and somehow it’ll all be OK.
You choose: The third idea, of course. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
Naturally you and I know there’s a problem with the third choice, but — let’s be honest — it’s an awfully easy problem to ignore.
Here’s the problem: Stuff isn’t free.
Sure it feels free, but that’s because the dolts we keep electing keep bringing out the national credit card and saying “Charge it!” We seem to like it when they say “Charge it!” and they, above everything else, like to be liked.
And so we/they keep picking the third choice. Over and over again.
One day, all this national debt (currently $22 trillion) will cause a crash. You know it and I know it. We just don’t know when. And so we keep choosing the adventure that’s the most fun for us because by the time the crash comes we’ll probably all be safely dead.
Well, here’s what the Choose Your Own Adventure books don’t tell you. Like it or not, when we choose our own adventures we’re also choosing our children’s adventures, and one day because of our own future-be-damned choices they will be left with very few choices of their own, and they will deservedly curse us.
We can say, as a nation, that we love and cherish our children, but the truth is our outrageous deficits and refusal to fund the future show we hold them in contempt. It’s what we’ve chosen.