We’ve been in crisis mode at my house for several weeks now.
I’m not referring to the multiple crises confronting all of us Americans involving the economy, the environment, immigration, or terrorism. I’ll come back to those in a moment, after I tell you about our immediate crisis at the Boone house.
My family and I have lived in a nice California house in Beverly Hills for 48 years. The house has been a blessing to us, but it was built in 1950, and that’s a long time for a house. Like many humans, around age 60 is the time things start acting up, breaking down, or calling for replacement.
On the morning of Jan. 13, a water pipe burst in the wall outside Shirley’s shower upstairs. In moments, as she settled into her chair with her first cup of coffee, it began to rain in the den where she was sitting. While she and our housekeeper started placing buckets and pails and towels on furniture and under downspouts and over lamps that had started exploding, and while rivulets were forming on the ceiling under its cloth covering, I was frantically calling every plumber number I could find. I ran outside and shut off the water coming into the house, but enough had soaked into the wall that the damage continued.
In hours, plumbers and emergency service providers and contractors were on site, evaluating and laying out plans to repair and replace, and handing us estimates that we almost laughed at, knowing that the whole process would cost twice as much and take twice as long as they were telling us.
We’ve been living in what looks like a warehouse ever since, edging past furniture and plants and boxes we took out of the den while it is being restored.
Now, I know many of your have lived through things like this, and much worse. I feel fortunate that we can bear the cost and endure the inconvenience, perhaps better than most folks. But I’ve been thinking about what most American families do when things break down and crisis sets in . . . and how this should guide us in our national crises.
First, most families close ranks, hunker down, and discuss what kind of sacrifices each must make to get things back together. If the expense is considerably more than what insurance will cover, Mom or Dad lay down the law: “Kids, there won’t be any more allowances for a while. We won’t be eating out, and we may have soup for dinner a couple nights a week. You older kids may have to get jobs after school, and we can forget the latest jeans and sneakers and cell phone gadgets till we get all this mess paid for. We’re having to borrow a lot of money, and your Mom and I need your help. Now, let’s join hands and pray for God to see us through this.”
A couple of things no sensible family will do: borrow three or four times as much money as is needed, to do unnecessary things they can’t afford . . . and run up credit-card bills to the max and beyond, not wanting to “do without” and hoping “things will turn around.”
No, a sensible family will determine the absolute bottom line for survival and recovery, and lay out a strategy and discipline that can accomplish it.
Why can’t our lawmakers, the elected extensions of our families, do the same? Wouldn’t you expect, and shouldn’t we demand, that these representatives do the same for us as they hopefully would do for their own families?
It is appalling that President Barack Obama and his selected brain trust of advisers, together with the Democrat-controlled Congress, have proposed another $850 billion of taxpayer funds — in what they’re calling an “emergency stimulus package” — that contains billions in pork, special favors, and funding for a tremendous shopping list of extras that will serve to “pay back” many of those individuals and organizations that helped elect Obama.
And there appears to have been little effort to disguise or hide all this pork, because the creators of the package have assumed that they can railroad it through while the general public is clamoring for “emergency” relief.
How could any Republican oppose a “stimulus package” that President Obama assures us we must enact immediately, lest the sky fall on all of us?
Well, thank God, a lot of Republican senators have families, and as of this writing they are opposing the stimulus package as it’s written. When it was exposed that hundreds of executives of the very banks that precipitated the near collapse of our whole economy were paying themselves $18 billion in bonuses, even Obama, to his credit, condemned the abuse and decreed that no executive of any of the offending banks could collect more than a half million in salary until we taxpayers have received — in full — all the $350 billion those banks got in the first huge “bailout,” with apparently no guidelines or demands that that money be made available to customers in loans.
But tremendous and immediate surgery is needed to carve out all the self-serving and inexcusable pork and bloat in the stimulus package. Although some of the proposed expenditures may be worthy down the road, the purpose of the unprecedented billions is to prop up and energize the economy that is wheezing and threatening to fail us all. Because all these billions must be borrowed, we simply cannot afford to borrow one penny more than we really need to survive.
Every penny we do borrow and dole out must be targeted specifically for projects and programs that will employ and pay Americans for work that really needs to be done — and won’t just aim to make some politician look good back home. And each program or project must answer to stringent checks and accountability.
Finally, just like a household suffering crisis, we could sure use some help from God here, and individual and collective prayer remain the American way, the most powerful “stimulus” there is. His name is still on our currency, isn’t it?
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