BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – Growing up, there were always a couple of constants that I naively took to be unchangeable truths: that the President of the United States would always be older than me and that most of the distinguished ladies and gents making up the other two highest branches of government – the Judiciary and Congress – would be smarter than me.
Now it turns out that there is a man in the Oval Office who is younger than me by I won’t say how many years. And I’m beginning to suspect that quite a few of the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are not smarter than me. This makes me extremely nervous for our country.
I’m still pretty sure that everyone on the U.S. Supreme Court is smarter than me because in order to have achieved such high status in the legal profession, they had to have had an awful lot of what we used to call in my fifth grade class in Georgia “book learnin’.” But I’m worried that they are smart in the “I Know Many Latin Phrases” sense and not in the “Hey, Get Out Of The Road, There’s A Bus About To Run You Over” sense.
Increasingly it seems that the members of Congress don’t get elected because they’ve had a lot of “book learnin’” but due to other attributes, like they are snappy dressers or they have good hair or they clinically are sociopaths who honestly don’t know the difference between the truth and a lie and aren’t particularly interested in figuring it out.
These realizations are quite disturbing to me. I’ve always known that there are a lot of problems in the world but I’ve cruised through life content that older and smarter people than me would solve those problems. What else were grownups for?
For instance, I’ve existed on this planet over a span of six decades and for half that time never even knew what “Social Security” was. It was probably sometime in my 20s that I first heard about “Social Security” but I figured it had something to do with “old people” and wasn’t my business. As I joined the workforce, I notice that a certain portion of my paycheck was snatched up by the government for Social Security and I thought, “Hey, hey, hey … what manner of thievery is this?”
I honestly didn’t know the government could just grab money out of your wallet like that. But I learned that Social Security was a financial “safety net” or “safety blanket” or something “safety” oriented for geezers. I thought, cool. Save the geezers. Not that I’d ever be one, mind you. Then as I grew older I learned that the Social Security system was this huge Ponzi Scheme kind of thing that was being so irresponsibly mismanaged that it would eventually crash under its own weight leaving millions of those of us approaching geezer-dom without a safety anything. And I thought “Where are the adults? Where are the grownups? Where are the SMART PEOPLE?”
I looked around shocked to find myself represented in government by people with good hair, nice suits, the inability to tell fact from fiction. They not only had no clue how to save Social Security but were incapable of even balancing a check book. I mean, balancing the national budget is really just balancing a check book, right? And these grownups can’t do it? When did this happen? I can balance a check book. You put money in the checking account and when it’s gone, you don’t spend any more. Or, better yet, when you start running out of money, you stop spending it.
I know I’m older than the president, but shouldn’t he know how to do this? He’s clearly smarter than I am. He’s had more “book learnin’” than me. So how can he not know that we can’t keep spending money we don’t have?
After a couple of glasses of medicinal, nerve-relaxing CWW (Cheap White Wine) it occurs to me that I must be wrong. Our young president does know what he’s doing! The halls of Congress are not populated by a menagerie of self-consumed crazy people! They really are smart! They have a plan! They will save Social Security and keep the country from bankruptcy! They will create jobs, get us out of wars and put a chicken in every pot and a Prius in every garage! And after a few more doses of CWW I get a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing the country is in the hands of people a lot smarter than me. Grownups.