Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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During our nation’s bicentennial it seems only fitting that we pause for a moment and reflect upon the collective genius of our founding fathers. Hundreds of volumes have already been written on their abilities and accomplishments and at least an equal number would come out this year alone if their mistresses were still alive. Alas they are not, leading us to the conclusion that consorting with such vigorous gentlemen is a debilitating proposition.
Despite this lack of first-hand accounts, it is possible for us to look at our present society and see in it their mark of brilliance. Consider, for instance, the foresight necessary to see through the mist of 200 years and, fully understanding that the mediocre sorts of people we would end up having to choose among for president would preclude any chance that age-old problems would be handled in a novel manner, decree that elections be held four years apart in order to give the population a chance to forget the neglected promises of the previous campaign.
So it is that every fourth year we are treated to a seemingly new series of causes and slogans that are destined to end up being a further boost to special interests and privileged classes to which none of us belong. The ever-growing disparity between the haves and have-nots has in recent years made this task more difficult. Nonetheless, our word-mongers continue to labor valiantly to sell us cherished illusions couched in words that will seem only slightly deceiving when they go unfulfilled.
This selling primarily takes place through mass-media blitzes, television being the ideal medium to fairly represent the two-dimensional products we are offered at the bargain price of one vote. Thus, it is hardly surprising that our choice this November will be among candidates that have come to resemble other, more traditional wares.
Basically, we must decide among: (l) Bucky Beaver of the ancient, but still loved “Brusha, Brusha, Brusha” Ipana Toothpaste campaign; (2) good, ole, wholesome Instant Potatobuds who claims to have captured all the natural blandness of the real thing; and (3) Old Pruneface, a dead ringer for any one of a number of old character actors who make a living portraying geriatrics who have not yet discovered the intestinal bliss that Milk of Magnesia delivers. In the modern, presidential version of this well known commercial, gramps is on the verge of nuking out most of Central America before he finds relief. This is good theater, of course, but the confusion this image-mixing has caused creates a serious chance that Buffalo Bob, seeking to make a comeback and earn an honest buck talking to puppets, will receive a massive write-in and end up with 200 million blockheads on his hands.
Now, a lifetime of these contrived indecencies has shown the averagely half-bright citizen that those afflicted with the Potomac Two-Step are not to be taken seriously. As with the old age they suffer from, we have learned that nature will cure them in due time.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not share our sense of humor. Thus, we find ourselves the spectators of an executive turtle race featuring three individuals so uniquely ill-equipped to deal with the staggering problems facing the planet that foreigners are applying for citizenship in record numbers just so they can emigrate in protest after the election.
And to be fair, this global case of the heebie-jeebies is not entirely unjustified. After all, unless we happen to live in a cosmopolitan area containing an activist black or huge college population it is not likely that we have any reason to share the fear of most foreigners that their living space has been targeted by the Strategic Air Command, “just in case.”
More to the point, history has shown that on the average, America can be expected to dole out only about ten percent more in rock and rat-turd infested grain to the duly repressive governments we support than we spend on our own sub-nation of poor and hungry. Progressive despots the world over are rightly fearful that the United States is going to cut back not only on our Food for Peace, but on the fleets of tanks, jet aircraft and mechanized artillery we use to ship it in.
Looked at in this light, it is easy to understand why Gerald Ford’s recent moves to reduce the welfare system to poverty, a nice turn of phrase in an election year, has given rise to such alarm both at home and abroad. As a lifelong Republican he can hardly be considered a foe to the concept of welfare. Federal subsidies to agriculture, oil depletion allowances and tax deductions for every conceivable human activity as a legitimate business expense may all hail to different names, but the intent of each is clearly to increase the welfare of certain groups. Essentially, Mr. Ford has decided that welfare is for those who can afford it and in his mind this does not include the eighteen million Americans currently receiving food stamps. In short, he plans to trim the fat from the skeleton.
Now it must be understood that the present food stamp program does cost a lot of money, roughly five billion dollars during the current year. With our federal budget over the 300 billion mark anything that accounts for roughly 1.5% of our spending is not to be brushed off lightly. A percent here, a percent there, before you know it things have gotten out of hand and another aircraft carrier ends up in the belly of pre-school children instead of floating on the high seas where it belongs.
So it looks like those who have been blood-sucking potential cost-overruns away from the arms industry will have to go. Because we live in a time when staggering sums of money are bandied about in the most casual manner, “five million” seems positively miserly until it is realized that instead of dollars spent on an airplane the term refers to people about to be cut from the program.
This is a curious number and one that is somehow unsettling when it is compared to the figures issued by the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, which found, among numerous other unsavory tidbits on the effects of the free enterprise system on the well-being of the population, that roughly five million Americans are retarded due to their own poverty. This is hardly surprising, as an independent medical survey conducted during the early part of this century discovered that in Atlanta the black children born to very dark-complexioned women had a higher incidence of mental retardation than those black children born to lighter-skinned black women.
The conclusion? Really quite simple. Lighter-skinned black women were very much in demand as domestics and thus were able to supplement their childrens’ diet from the income they received. Plain and simple: during your formative years, if you don’t get enough to eat of the right types of food, you will probably end up mentally impaired (unless, of course, you die from the common illnesses to which a malnourished body is susceptible).
Admittedly, now that the Republican party only makes up something less than 20% of all registered voters, a program that will generate five million people with the intellectual capacity of the average conservative voter has to be attractive to those candidates who stand to gain the most. All the more so when it is realized that other governmental figures show that only about 38% of those eligible for food stamps now receive them. This means that the number of Americans living marginal or clearly sub-standard existences comprise a greater portion of the total population than one of the two political parties now determining who will lead the nation for the next four years. In this election year that party is choosing between an incumbent who vetoed the supplemental school lunch program as inflationary and another proponent of fiscal responsibility who wants to turn all social services back to already over-burdened state budgets.
This is wonderful and makes me proud to be an American. Especially so during our bicentennial when the promotional campaigns of our fast food empire, with their two pizzas for the price of one and special prices on Revolutionary Burgers, are doing more for the nutritional needs of the citizenry than the federal government. Surely, this is free enterprise at its best, to say nothing of a profitable way of handling a problem that might otherwise eat up nearly 3% of the budget.
After all, part of that increase might have to come from defense spending, every penny of which is needed to protect not only our way of life, but our standard of living. While we cannot afford to feed our population, common decency at least demands that we give the hungry among us a safe and secure place in which to starve to death.