After These Brief Words

“This forum will come to order!” The noise in the assembly hall slowly diminished and heads began to turn to the podium. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, wlecome to the United States Economic Summit.  We have (POP) assembled (SQUEAK) some of the greatest minds in economics, finance and business from the world of academia, Fortune 500 businesses and (GROWLLLLLL). 

“I apologize for the PA system noise. We seem to be having a problem and we expect the technician to be arriving shortly to repair the system.  As a matter of fact I believe I see him now.”  The crowd briefly broke into a smattering of applause and laughter as a middle aged gentleman made his way from the back of the room to the table near the dais where all the sound equipment was located.  He smiled and waved good naturedly to the crowd. 

“If you don’t mind, we’ll try to continue as best we can while you fix whatever is making that awful racket.”  The repairman gave a smile and a thumbs up as he opened the case containing his tools.  

“And I thought my teenagers’ music was hard on the ears,” the speaker offered, which was once again met by laughter from the crowd.  

The meeting began with a panel of experts who each presented their view on why the country was in such terrible economic straits.  Several blamed the deficit.  Others blamed the housing bubble.  Naturally there was talk about the need to cut taxes so that businesses would create jobs.  Others proposed raising taxes and there was talk of the government’s role in creating “shovel ready” jobs.  Each speaker was politely listened to.  Those who agreed applauded enthusiastically while others were responded politely and professionally.  The feedback and crackling from the public address system steadily decreased. 

After an hour, no particular consensus had been reached and the discussion consisted of each camp rehashing its same argument in slightly different words.  It was obvious that no progress was going to be made.  It was almost merciful when the repairman walked over to the podium.

 “I hate to interrupt, but I think I’ve gotten everything fixed and we need to reset the levels.”   The speaker motioned him over.

 “I need to keep talking while Bob over their makes the adjustment.”  He looked out at the audience, most of whom had taken to carrying on conversations with their neighbors.

 “Now I’m not as smart as all you experts but I’m pretty good at what I do.  When something gets broken, I fix it.  I don’t talk about fixing it.  I don’t call a press conference and tell the newspaper or TV reporters that I’m going to fix it.  I just fix it.

“I’ve been listening to the discussion while I was working.  The economy is broke.  I say ‘broke’ rather than ‘broken’ to indicate that it’s broken AND it’s out of money.  Now I don’t think the way you do.  I can’t imagine a billion dollars, much less a trillion, and I’ve got a pretty good imagination.  I think on a much smaller scale, but I believe the principles are the same.

 “The country’s in debt.  We all understand that.  I’ve been in debt.  I went to college, so I started my working life with huge student loans hanging over my head.

 “I knew that I needed to pay for food, rent, and transportation and of course, my student loans.  Imagine if I had tried to solve my problem by cutting my expenses.  I was already living on Ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches so I couldn’t cut my food expenses.  I was living in the cheapest apartment I could find and taking the bus.  If I couldn’t cut expenses then it was obvious that I had to earn more.  Like today, it was a tough employment market so options were limited.

 “It might surprise you to learn that my college degree was in electrical engineering, and I had an entry level position with a large corporation.  My solution? After working my day job I began to do repair work in the evenings to earn extra money.  Some might think that repair work is beneath someone with a B.E.E. and I agree.  However, it is not beneath a B.E.E. who needs the money.  Four years of college and I was designing high tech equipment by day but I was also fixing toasters and stereos at night.  I put that money toward the debt and I was able to get my finances in order in two years rather than ten.

 “I know that our elected representatives have spent more money than we can imagine and I’m not excusing that.  If my kids caught me acting like that, they’d put me in a home where someone could keep an eye on me.  It’s illegal to shoot politicians and every election cycle it seems like we end up with a batch that’s even worse than the bastards we throw out. 

 I guarantee you that if Congress passes a bill to stop spending money there will be at least a half dozen provisions to fund pork projects back home buried in it somewhere.  You just might have to do what I had to do – earn more.

 “When I work, I pay taxes and when I earn more I pay more taxes.  It would seem that if more people were working, more of them would be paying taxes.  If they had good jobs, they’d pay more.  There’s a place to start.  Personally I don’t care who creates more jobs, just as long as there are enough to go around.

 “Speaking of taxes, maybe if people could understand our tax system it might be a little more tolerable.  Something like sales tax – it’s 5% for everybody.  Warren Buffet pays sales tax, Bill Gates pays sales tax and we all pay sales tax.  If everybody pays it, it might not have to be set so high.  Just a thought.”  He looked over at the young man at the table with all the sound equipment who gave him a thumbs up.

 “Levels all set?” he asked.  “Good!” and he began walking away from the microphone.

 “No!” replied the young man.  “The thumbs up was about what you said.”

 

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