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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Putting the national debt in perspective

  • I remember one time way back yonder in time when my dad and I went on a Royal Ambassadors campout with other church dads and their sons.
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  • I remember one time way back yonder in time when my dad and I went on a Royal Ambassadors campout with other church dads and their sons. I was too young to be an RA, but I went on the campout because my parents were active in our church, a mission outreach of the big Baptist church in that town, and my dad was one of the youth leaders.
    After all the high-jinks died down and everybody got settled down in their sleeping bags, I was lying next to my dad looking up into the sky. There was no light pollution because this was in rural Missouri in the 1950s. The sky was ablaze with stars. I remember it vividly because the number of stars was overwhelming.
    “That’s the Milky Way,” my dad said. There were so many stars so close together that it looked like a fog of stars. He said our Earth was in the Milky Way. I didn’t really know what that meant, but that’s what he said, so I believed him.
    Later, I learned that our solar system is indeed part of the Milky Way Galaxy, and that there are 200 billion to 400 billion stars within that galaxy, according to astronomers. We can’t see nearly that many, but what we can see with a naked eye on a dark night out in the country is pretty overwhelming.
    Now, let’s assume there are 400 billion stars in the Milky Way, and let’s assume someone gives you $1 for every star in the Milky Way. You’d probably think you could give that money to the government to pay off the national debt and still have plenty left over for a Moon Pie and an RC Cola.
    No, sir, if you gave the government $400 billion, the national debt would still be 15 trillion, six hundred billion dollars. How many galaxies of stars would that be?
    Maybe you’d like to put a meter on the Mississippi River and collect $1 for every gallon of water the Big Muddy puts into the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a big ole river, so it probably wouldn’t take but about an hour to collect enough money to pay off the national debt and still have enough left over to buy a Cherry Mash and a bag of Guy’s Potato Chips.
    Wrong, again. According to the EPA, “the Mississippi River deposits more than 3.3 million gallons of water into the Gulf every second.” Sure, that sounds like a lot, and it is, but it isn’t enough, for at a dollar a gallon fee, that would only be $198,000,000 per minute and $11,880,000,000, or $11.88 billion, per hour. The debt is $16 trillion, so you’d be short — way short.
    These are overhelming numbers, but $16 trillion is what our government (we, the people) owe foreign governments and our fellow citizens. I thought we all agreed that money needed to be paid back, but I was proved wrong Tuesday when a majority of our voting U.S. citizens decided to stay the course that will grow the debt to $22 trillion by 2016.
    Page 2 of 2 - That’s a lot of galaxies.
    Did you vote Tuesday? Only 64.22 percent of the 28,633 registered Phelps County voters cast ballots. That works out to 18,388 voters.
    For you non-voters, here’s a little poem I just finished writing:
    If you didn’t vote, here’s what I think of you
    If you exercised your right to choose, and chose not to cast a ballot,
    you won’t mind my saying you’re sharp as a rubber-coated mallet.
    Men and women died for your right to decide who would make our laws,
    By choosing to avoid the polls, you showed many character flaws.
    It was an important election, perhaps the most important in your short life.
    But you decided it was no big deal. You’re sharp; yeah, like a dull knife.
    Oh, yes, you had deals to make, people to see, or maybe a hair-styling session.
    But if we’d told you, “No, you can’t vote,” you’d whine about voter suppression.
    Failure to vote Tuesday shows us that you’re really nothing but a moron.
    Why, you’re no smarter than the guys who tried to put screen doors on
    spaceships and submarines. They failed, and so did you, for I’m sure you can see
    those of us who went to the polls are superior and smarter than you’ll ever be.
    I’ll give you another chance to prove you aren’t a moron in April when we pick city, school and taxing district leaders. Those are local elections, very important because the people we pick to govern will decide how our property, personal property and sales tax proceeds will be spent.
    Despite the turnout and the outcome of this election, there was a bright side. As always, it was a pleasure to see the efficiency of Phelps County Clerk Carol Bennett, her deputies and the courthouse staff.
    Since 1984 (with the exception of my six-year hiatus from the newspaper) I’ve gathered election results. Phelps is the only county in the Eighth Congressional District and South Central Missouri that has the results fully and quickly. It was that way when Lucie Smith was the county clerk, and it’s been that way every election with Carol Bennett and her crew.
    As far as I can tell, Phelps is the only county in our area that posts the results on the world wide web. Local government watchdogs should be thrilled with the efficiency and transparency exhibited every election.
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