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Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

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Falling Off My Very Own Personal Fiscal Cliff

31 Jan

by Roger White

 

Pardon me while I faint. KLOMP!

 

Whew. Okay, I’m back. You see, I just checked my bank balance after the deposit of my first paycheck of 2013. I was anxious—fretting is the better word—over what sorts of new and exotic deductions would further erode my take-home income this fine year. But I had no idea it would be this bad.

 

Well, my Social Security deductions went through the roof; health insurance coverage for my family soared like a Roman candle (ooh, ahh); and we just added our oldest daughter ouch ouch ouchto our automobile insurance coverage because she’s of that age so new and terrifying to all parents. Lindsey’s actually a good driver, but try telling that to a car insurance company. To car insurance companies, teenage drivers are like the proverbial golden geese, except with braces and acne and blue jeans full of holes.

 

Holy smokes. Counting federal income tax, Medicare tax, dental insurance, life insurance, anti-insurance insurance, death insurance, dismemberment insurance, dismemberment cleanup insurance, disability other than dismemberment insurance, retirement, retirement insurance, and, of course, insurance against not having enough insurance insurance, I’m practically taking home less actual money than if I wasn’t working. Counting cost of gas, car upkeep, work clothes, lunches, the imposition of regular hygiene, etcetera, I do believe I’m virtually paying for the privilege to go to work.

 

Wha? Wha happen? How did it get to be like this? I thought that after about 30 years of the daily grind, I was supposed to be doing at least okay, relatively speaking. And speaking of relatively speaking, I’m certainly glad my relatives are speaking to me, because I may very well have to hit them all up for some low-interest loans. These be hard times, people. And the weird part is, my family’s not extravagant. We really don’t have any corners to cut to re-mash our household budget because all of our cuttable cutting cornerscorners have already been trimmed long ago. We’ve cut so many corners that every piece of furniture in the house is circular. We’re so bent on cutting corners that we switched from Saltines to Ritz crackers. (Get it? No corners. Bah-doom boom.) We’re saving coupons, taking cold showers, eating at home, bundling services—you name it. We’ve bundled so many services that AT&T provides our cable, phone, internet, water, electricity, sewage, and even medical and pharmaceutical needs, I think. The last time I was on the phone to the AT&T technician in India about a cable outage, he reminded me that I needed my regular allergy shot. That’s how bundled we are. I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch just about every day, and I’ve worn the same dress shoes since Bush was president—the first Bush, that is.

 

Yes, if this first measly paycheck of the new year is any indication, my little family has barreled over our own personal fiscal cliff. All we’re waiting for is the big thud. I’ve actually sought out assistance to soften the thud. I’ve been to many an online “cost savings” site. They all say about the same thing. Buy store brands. Duh. We’ve been doing that forever. And I must say, “Everything’s a Dollar” brand beer is quite the sacrifice. They say to use up your leftovers and freezer foods. We’ve done that. Just last week, we Our Gourmet Joeused up our last can of Manwich and our final jars of Tang powdered orange juice and Taster’s Choice instant coffee, all circa 1972, I believe. Another savings tip from these online cost-cutting gurus is to buy only what’s on sale. Well, we tried that one, but now we’re stuck with 30 jars of gefilte fish, 10 pounds of leeks, and two dozen turkey necks.

 

Who’s up for pot luck?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Pennies from Heaven? How ’bout a Trillion Bucks?

23 Jan

by Roger White

I’m a bit of an amateur coin collector, so you can see why I might be all aflutter these days. By no means am I a serious numis— , numith—, coin collector, but I do have my box of old favorites: mercury dimes, Indian head pennies, Franklin half-dollars, Chuck-E-Cheese commemoratives. I even have a Word War II-era French franc from occupied France I picked up at a yard sale. This beauty is signed by a platoon of U.S. GIs who stormed through the countryside chasing the Nazis back to Berlin. That tattered old bill is a keeper.

The Big CoinSo when I found out that the U.S. Treasury was seriously considering minting a platinum trillion-dollar coin, I had to find out more. Can you imagine the things you could do with a trillion-dollar coin? “Why, yes, my good man, I’ll have those twin Ferraris, this condo, that basketball team, and, yes, that little island over there. Payment? Let me reach into my pocket here…”

First off, before we get into the “why” of the trillion-dollar coin, let’s consider the “how” of the trillion-dollar coin. Now, with gold and silver, coins and bars are usually valued at whatever their weight is currently going for on the gold and silver market—except for very rare coins, of course, which is a different matter, altogether.

“Which is a different matter.”

Never mind. Anyway, going by that standard, consider that platinum coins these days are selling for roughly $1,620 an ounce. So, for a nice trillion-dollar coin to contain enough platinum to be actually worth a trillion dollars, you would need 617 million ounces—give or take an ounce. That comes out to a shiny little coin weighing approximately 19,300 tons—one hefty chunk of change.

As a matter of fact, I looked up some other things on the planet that weighed in at about 19,000 tons, and here’s what I came up with:

• One of the heaviest trains ever to roam the United States, a Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range ore train pulled by a gigantic Yellowstone steam locomotive, totaled over 19,000 tons. It was so long that the front end of the train was often in a different time zone than the back end.

• The North Carolina Department of Transportation reported that it removed more than 19,000 tons of debris from state roads following Hurricane Irene. This, the NCDOT added, was equivalent to carting off 6,300 elephants. They didn’t say whether they were African or Indian elephants. I called NCDOT for a clarification, but they kept hanging up.

• Here’s another good one: According to the Los Angeles Times, the then-Soviet Union exported around $515 million worth of military equipment to Nicaragua in the 1980s, a cache of guns and bombs and nasty stuff that somebody figured out weighed—you guessed it—19,000 tons.

So, suffice it to say, the Treasury would likely have us all go on faith that their trillion-An Even Better Coindollar baby would be worth what it says on the coin, rather than build the thing out of a trillion dollars worth of precious metal. This is one coin I would bite into and inspect very closely before I accepted it on the street.

Another thing about the $1T coin: Would it be fungible? I mean, how fungible could a $1-trillion-dollar coin be? If it’s not fungible, then what good is it? Right? This doesn’t really enter into the argument, but I just had to figure out a way to throw the word “fungible” into this column.

I know, I know. The term sounds like the coin should be soft and spongy and grow in moist, shady forests. No, fungible means, and I’m quoting here: the property of a good’s or commodity’s individual units to be mutually substituted, such as crude oil, bonds, or precious metals. Ya know, fungible.

In other words, say Henry lends Olaf five bucks. Henry really doesn’t care if Olaf pays him back with another $5 bill, five ones, or 500 pennies. Okay, maybe not the 500 pennies. But the point is, the $5 is fungible, because it can be replaced with any other $5 bill or equal amount of currency. A bicycle is not fungible because if I loan you my bike, and you try to return another bike—say, your crummy piece of junk—to me, I’m royally pissed because it’s not my exact bike. Furthermore, I’m never loaning you my bike again.

Sigh. So, you see, a $1T coin would not be feasibly fungible, because if there is no other such coin in existence and I loan you my $1T coin, then you go off and lose the darn thing, you’re not going to be able to pay me back, even with a million $1 million-dollar coins. Yes, 1 trillion dollarsBecause, for one thing, I’m not accepting a million $1 million-dollar coins from you. What do you think, I’ve got a warehouse for all that? And that’s another thing, if you use the $1T coin to get a candy bar from the vending machine, you’re going to be waiting around about 100,000 years to get all your change. And who needs that?

Okay, so now the “why” of the $1T coin. Do you really wanna know? Congress. That’s why. It involves the decided lack of grownups in Congress, and the debt ceiling and projected outlays and legal loopholes and the fact that, apparently, our little old Treasury Department can create money out of thin air as long as the cash is coins and the coins are made of platinum.

The idea was to make the magic coin, announce that it’s worth a trillion bucks, and then deposit it in Uncle Sam’s bank account. Viola! Debt crisis solved. I wonder if I could do that with my checking account. “Pay to the order of CASH, 1 trillion dollareenies, signed….”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.