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Did you ever think of it this way? It’s like a family drug-intervention. The tea party and those Republicans sincerely intent on cutting spending are the sober, unhooked members of the family. The administration and their obedient Democrats are the addict.

The sober ones hammer out a loving, rosy picture of what life can be after the habit is broken. They are enthusiastic about the prospects for such a life. The addict doesn’t seem enthusiastic about anything. At the end of all the back-and-forth, it becomes clear what the addict really wants is “More drugs, please! Raise the drug ceiling!” For that he’s willing to issue an iron-clad promise to talk about it further, farther down the road.

The 6-year-old boy is told by his mother to wash his hands before dinner. He says, “Gee, Ma. Do I have to wash them both?” She thinks for a moment and then says, “No. Just wash one. I want to see how you do it.” Pretend there are no tea partiers and no sincere Republicans. Pretend that the addict in Washington is totally free to do whatever he pleases. Like that intrigued mother, I want to see what he intends to do about America’s finances and how he intends to do it.

Liking Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan may be politically dangerous; we’ll have some idea in a few days following the special House election in upstate New York. Too many high-profile players are begging the “sobers” to go easy on the “addict.” Go ahead and raise the debt ceiling without exacting hard-and-fast cuts, lest we default on our debt and summon forth fiscal catastrophe. It should be a political felony to denounce cuts as cruel while knowing good and well we can’t afford NOT to cut – quickly and deeply. If I had as much rank as I have rage, I’d say to the president: “No Republican is going to say a word until we hear your plan for America’s fiscal future!”

I’ve never heard one spelled out. And I’ve never heard the sober side demand an answer. It would almost be worth a little catastrophe just for the thrill of learning what the Democrats would do if they had no opposition.

Most essay contests are pretty worthless. One that I think would be extremely helpful would be a contest for the best way to describe what a trillion is. Here’s part of what I would consider a winning entry. I’m lifting this from a brochure issued by Empower America:

“A million dollars in tightly bound $1,000 bills would produce a stack four inches high. A billion dollars in tightly bound $1,000 bills would produce a stack about 300 feet high, the length of a football field. Close your eyes, please, and try to guess how high a TRILLION dollars would be. Let’s review. A million: four inches. A billion: 300 feet. Now guess!

“A trillion dollars, again, in tightly bound $1,000 bills, would produce a stack nearly 63 miles high. The federal debt in $1,000 bills would, therefore, jut more than 882 miles into space!”

Get school kids gasping and giggling about those mind-bogglers, and when they become voters and congressmen, you’ll see increased respect for those of us who plead that too much is enough.

We who prefer football over baseball by about a trillion to one have to concede baseball has a charm football lacks. Theoretically, as the great Yogi Berra teaches us, “It ain’t over till it’s over!” Your team can be behind 100 to 0 and it can be the bottom of the ninth inning and you’ve got two men out and the count is 0-and-2 on the third man, and, theoretically, you can still win. A football game can be “over long before it’s over.”

You’d have to tackle me to get me to listen to such rotten pessimism, but if you did, you’d actually have a chance of convincing me that America – at least OUR America – is already over with. Who got us here? Normally, I’d bawl you out for wasting time with all that. My first boss, Tex McCrary, used to say, “To hell with the cheese. Let’s get out of the trap!” In this case, however, I’d actually welcome some sober thought on the possibility of somebody’s effort to destroy capitalism.

This is not my field. This is not my beat. I’m much more comfortable pinpointing Tito-ist tendencies in the Communist Romanian politburo as early as 1956. But when the party in charge of the White House and the Senate is unable or unwilling to tell us what they have in mind as a way out of this financial madness, it’s time for us amateurs to speak up. The signs at the rallies all say “Hands Off” Medicare or Social Security. They never tell us what we slashers are allowed to put our hands on and our knives to.

Has America become like that French philosopher whose last will and testament declared, “I have nothing. I owe much. The rest, I leave to the poor”?

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