In the nation’s capital and all across the country there is an ongoing debate about raising the debt limit, the level of federal spending and the broader issue of the role of government. This historical debate will affect adults over 65, now and in the future, and it is important to understand the issues so you can form your own opinions which you will have a chance to express in the 2012 elections. One place to start is to understand where the federal government currently spends taxpayer’s dollars.
I will try to present a short and simple framework. And so you won’t forget - and can impress your friends at late night political discussions - I will use the memory trick of mnemonics - connecting information to pictures. (And in response to my wife, yes, I am using stereotypes but at least I am not using any risque images which some research suggests significantly increases the ability to remember!)
So close your eyes and imagine one big humongous pie – an American cherry pie made of 3.5 trillion cherries. Now also imagine a family of five all wanting a piece of that pie. The strong burly and hairy father – and in this mnemonic represents defense - sits down at the table and devours one fifth or 20% of the pie. The mother, eight months pregnant, represents Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance) and wolfs down another fifth plus a few extra cherries or 21% of the pie. The retired grandmother - strong, active and a volunteer at the local senior center, represents social security and eats a fifth or another 20% of the pie.
The remaining two fifths or 40% is left for the two children. The teenage girl with her own credit card eats 14% of the pie - representing the safety net programs including Social Security Income for seniors and disabled, school meals, low income housing assistance, low income energy assistance and other programs. And then eats another 6% representing the interest on the national debt. Her share of the pie totals another fifth or 20%. And the young boy playing legos in the corner consumes the other 19% - again about a fifth – representing what is left of the pie including benefits for federal retirees and veterans, scientific and medical research, transportation infrastructure, education, and other programs.
So does that help to understand in a very broad sense where your federal tax dollars are spent? Yes? No? Or are you still trying to figure out what is a mnemonic? There are many other pieces to the puzzle including how the money is spent and how to increase revenues. But those pieces I will leave to another day.
Mayor Jim Wilcox and his wife Lyn stopped by for a Cowboy Breakfast – they are becoming regulars these days - but someone should check what Jim is wearing before he leaves the house! And it was a pleasure to have breakfast with Fort Dalles Rodeo Queen Brandy Young before her busy day began. Becky Bailey was the winner of the hand stitched quilt by the Center’s own quilters who already have another quilt hanging in the Center’s lobby. The drawing for that quilt will be at the Center’s December Breakfast – just in time for Christmas.
The “wide awake American boy” encountered exciting adventures in the comic strip “Terry and the Pirates”. And the winner of a free breakfast is the avid comic strip historian himself - Joe Usatine. Moving from fine literature of the daily comics, and back to something a little more recent, the game show Hollywood Squares first appeared on television in 1968 featuring comedians such as Cliff Arquette as “Charlie Weaver”, Rich Little, George Gobel, Jonathon Winters, and Rose Marie. This week’s “Remember When” question is who was the comedian/actor who found his greatest fame occupying the critical middle square from 1968 to 1981? E-mail your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 541-296-4788 or write it on the back of a celebrity photo of Uncle Arthur from the TV series Bewitched.
Well it has been another week trying to stay awake in the afternoon. Until we meet again, remember the advice of Carrie Snow “No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap.”
“Lord, where we are wrong, make us willing to change; where we are right, make us easy to live with.” Peter Marshall