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Eventually, we must pay for living beyond means

I’m sitting at the bank, in the drive-through, when I see the sticker attached to the terminal. “FDIC,” it says in big capital letters. The sticker says that my money is safe in this bank, up to $250,000. Which means my money must be really safe, because I have only about $6,000 in this bank. I mean, wouldn’t you just hate to have $250,387.13? Because then you’d have to be anxious about the $387.13.

In smaller letters, at the bottom of the sticker, it says, “Backed by the strength and the security of the U.S. Government.” Hmm. Gives one pause.

At fdic.gov, it says that more than 300 banks have closed since mid-2005. In Washington, Republicans and Democrats are gridlocked in an argument about raising our “debt ceiling.” This from the Washington Post: “Under the spending plan President Obama submitted to Congress in February, lawmakers would have to raise the limit by nearly $2.2 trillion just to see the nation through next year. Under the more austere blueprint that House Republicans approved last week, the government would require about $1.9 trillion in fresh debt by October 2012.”

Does anybody else remember the “No Trillion Dollar Debt” bumper sticker?

Now, admittedly, I know next to nothing about national and global economics. But, from the perspective of an ordinary “grunt” in a system already 14-plus trillion dollars in debt, arguing over the difference in 0.3 trillion dollars of debt under the guise of “fiscal responsibility” is like asking a condemned man whether he’d like 2.2 trillion rifle bearers in his firing squad, or a more responsible 1.9 trillion.

The point being, there’s a bigger problem here. What Republicans and Democrats have in common is they both spend money they don’t have out of their nether-regions. They just spend it on different things.

I voted for Ronald Reagan’s first term, solely on his promise to fight for a balanced budget. From 1980-92, the gross national debt quadrupled.

In 1988, former Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt made a presidential run. He came out of the gate with one message: You want the current level of goods and services? Then you have to pay for it. We must raise taxes. As near as I remember, his candidacy lasted but a few months. George Bush Sr. would eventually win that election, on the contrasting, now infamous message: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

In George Bush Jr.’s two terms, gross public debt went from 5.7 to 10.7 trillion dollars. Barack Obama has since added another $3.5 trillion or so and is asking to add more.

Comedian Louis C.K. says maybe it would be good for us to return for a while to a time “where we’re walking around with a donkey with pots clanging on its side.” He says there was a time that, when you ran out of money, “you stopped doing things.” Louis calls us “the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.” He notices “how fast the world owes us something we only knew existed 10 seconds ago.”

Remember the 1985 silly film “Weird Science”? There’s these two high school nerds who decide to create a woman with a computer. They feed the preferred statistics for beauty and intelligence into the computer, attach the computer to a Barbie Doll, and voila! There’s actress Kelly LeBrock! Which was good, because Kelly is very fun to look at, and this redeemed a few bad films from that era.

This is pretty much what I want to do about the 2012 presidential election. Give me these two nerds and a computer, and let me feed in the preferred statistics. Except I won’t be making a priority out of physical attractiveness. In fact, there’s only two things I’ll punch into my computer wish list.

First, I want a Nobel Prize winner in economics to run for president. I care not one whit whether he/she is a Democrat or a Republican. I would vote for this person solely on the merits of this one attribute.

The second attribute I’d punch in? A pastoral, near avatarlike ability to inspire us and lead us into a deserved suffering. A suffering that must happen, sooner or later, because you can’t live the way we’ve been living without eventual consequences. To lead us in a creative, meaningful suffering. A transformative suffering. A discomfort that could jump-start gratitude and a renewed seeking after what really matters.

Where is this person?

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 227-4165 or skalas@reviewjournal.com.

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