Budget Woes Hurt Everyone

Copyright © by Len Holman, 4/19/12


  America’s cities are in disrepair.  Roads are crumbling, bridges cracking, police being laid off, and blocks and blocks of foreclosed homes stand empty and—in many cases—vandalized.  Schools across the country are scrambling to find money to pay for teachers and to fuel buses to carry students to and from class.  School lunch programs and aid to the elderly and disabled are being scaled way back, if not completely dismantled.  Colleges and universities are cutting classes and capping enrollment, and even the homeless are worried about the shortage of cardboard boxes. 

  Every time some politician makes a suggestion, war ensues, complete with the blackest of calumnies, distortions and general verbal and written vituperation.  In the midst of union benefits being scaled back and millionaires being concerned about yacht maintenance, there is this latest money flap: a prostitute in Cartagena, Columbia filed a police report because she hadn’t been paid. This is bad enough because not paying a prostitute is certainly a breach of contract, and once services are rendered, payment must be made.  In some places non-payment can result in the customer visiting the ER—or the morgue.  In this case, the non-payer was a U.S. government employee—either a Secret Service member, a military person, or some mid-level gofer who carries all the clipboards.  Or maybe all of the above. 

  The Secret Service was in Columbia to do the set-up preparations for the President’s trip there and now “advance work” has taken on a new meaning.  I’m sure that someone with our government must have explained to the lady that the American economy is going through a rough patch and that the customer was as good for the debt as the American dollar—which she probably didn’t take as very reassuring.  The President, true to his distant and, to the faithful Dems, puzzling and infuriating calmness, pronounced that he would wait for the impending investigation, and—if the charges proved to be true—he would be angry. Wow, angry! 

  One wonders if the Secret Service will need a bailout to pay for its indebtedness to Columbian working girls?  Does the Secret Service so underpay its workers that they have to give call girls IOUs?  Where was Clint Eastwood while all this was going on?  The Secret Service wasn’t secret enough, and now everyone knows that the American economy is in such bad shape that a government employee couldn’t afford to pay a brothel worker.  She should have checked the financial news in the New York Times before agreeing to the deal. 

  It’s not that the American economy doesn’t have some money sloshing around in it.  The General Services Administration had a get-together in Vegas and spent some $800,000 and change on stuff like a clown and videos of guys playing ukuleles and gifts like iPods and plenty of booze.  Of course that wasn’t THEIR money, so we are somewhat miffed they spent the taxpayers’ bucks on this.  But the Secret Service?  I mean, it’s sort of like finding out Batman is afraid of the dark or that Maria Callas lip-synched all her operas.    

  If the economy gets any worse, the Secret Service will have to cut back—as the rest of us already have—to one or two ladies per foreign visit.  Maybe they could use coupons from Wal-Mart to pay for services, or some gift certificates from Best Buy—if there are any Best Buy stores left by then.  As a proud American, I am embarrassed to know that our once-proud, and benefit-heavy, government employees can’t even afford to buy a little pleasure once in a while.  Where’s the union in all this?  If a teacher’s union can get nose-job benefits for its members, why couldn’t the Secret Service union negotiate some flesh for ITS members?  The public is being assured that no Presidents were harmed in the making of the prostitutes; that Obama wasn’t even IN Columbia yet, that the men and women of the Secret Service are still willing to take a bullet for the Leader of the Free World. 

  There is outrage in the ranks of conservatives, who suspect that this is just the tip of the iceberg, that the Service is riddled with corruption, laziness, poor judgment, and inefficiency.  They may have confused the Secret Service with Congress, but still…they’re in a tizzy.  Either the American economy needs to get roaring again so the visiting government types can enjoy the night delights of places like Columbia, or we need to give these people credit cards good for a certain amount of tricks, or maybe—because the latest reports have the number of companions brought back to the Hotel Caribe as 20—group discounts.  Economics seems to govern people trying to fill their tanks and buy prostitutes, but not some people who hire clowns and spend their Vegas nights making videos. 

  It’s not an exact science, the experts like to tell us, until gas goes to more than four dollars a gallon or breakfast cereal becomes impossible to buy without taking out a loan—then these same experts confidently tell us, without a pause or hesitation, that it’s all about supply and demand.  Certainly the people who work in the sex industry can attest to this, but to know that there isn’t enough money to fix potholes, but there is to party in Vegas or Columbia is to know that Sen. Ryan’s budget plan will not work because “supply and demand” or “free market forces” or “unrestrained capitalism” is not about theories in academic texts.  It’s about people, and as long as people do what they’ve always done, a democracy is going to have problems doing what NEEDS to be done.  Will fixing the budget mess fix the Secret Service or the GSA?  Probably not, but they DO make for great reading.


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