Menckens Ghost

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Pow! Bam! Bonk! Zap! Pummeled and bloodied by the state of the nation

By Mencken’s Ghost
Nov. 29, 2012

The constant bad news about the sorry state of the nation has left me feeling like a cartoon character being pummeled in one frame after another in a comic strip, as if balloons are floating over my head containing the words:  Pow!  Bam!  Bonk!  Zap!

Pow!  Chris Cox and Bill Archer recently punched me in the jaw with their joint commentary in the Nov. 27 edition of the Wall Street Journal:  “Why 16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt.”

Cox is the former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Archer is the former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.  Both are now in the consulting business and no doubt making a lot of money advising clients on how to deal with onerous legislation that they passed while in office. 

Of course, when they were in office, they didn’t stand on top of the Capitol dome and threaten to jump if Congress didn’t stop buying votes by giving free stuff to the masses and to their crony-capitalist buddies.  Patriots they are not.

Still, what they wrote in their commentary is true.  They said that if the government confiscated all of the gross income of taxpayers, plus all of the net income of corporations, “it wouldn’t be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities [primarily for entitlements].”

Yet in spite of this sobering and potentially fatal fact, the media moo-cow herd has been tricked once again into mooing about the fiscal cliff instead of the real problem of the national government being broke and staying broke unless it breaks its implied contracts about entitlements and welfare.  Dumb as cattle, reporters, pundits and editors moo in unison as they are herded to the slaughter house.  Dumber yet, most of the American people follow in their hoof prints and sophomoric manure, unaware that they are soon to be ground into hamburger, or maybe Soylent Green.

If ignorance is bliss, then the American people should be the most blissful people on the planet.

Bam!  The next blow came from a front-page story about federal tuition loans that also ran in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 28).  It was even more troubling than the Cox/Archer commentary, because it showed the insidious nature of government, the desperation and gullibility of the masses, and the brilliant but evil strategy of the Obama administration to make everyone beholden to them.

Here are some of the depressing statistics:  93% of student loans are now made by the government, which, according to the Journal, “asks nothing or little about borrowers’ ability to repay, or about what sort of education then intend to pursue.”  (Sounds like government housing policies.)  Student-loan debt rose by 4.6% in the third quarter alone and now totals $956 billion, 11% of which is delinquent.

The administration has already put a policy in place to forgive student loans after 20 years.  No doubt, plans are being hatched to accelerate the forgiveness as a backdoor way of making college tuition free, as it is in Greece.  Of course once it’s free, there would be rioting in the streets by spoiled-brat college students if the government ever tried to reinstate a tuition charge.  Also, the inevitable result of college being free would be that a degree would become devalued, just as a public high school degree has been devalued.

The Journal article followed the standard media formula of including sob stories about people who took out student loans but can’t repay them.  It’s always amazing and instructive that the individuals featured in such stories have no apparent shame or embarrassment over their indebtedness and no regret that they will be sticking their neighbors with the bill.

One featured woman had filed for bankruptcy three times and was unemployed when she took out tuition loans for her son through the government’s Parents Plus program.  Her mother co-signed the loan.  Unemployed and disabled, she owes $184,500 on the loans.  In addition, her son owes approximately $45,000.  Her monthly tuition repayment of $1,985 exceeds her $1,600 monthly disability payment.  (Perhaps her disability is legit, but there has been a huge increase of enrollees in the Social Security disability program, or SSI, many of which are fraudulent.)   

Another woman stopped paying the $2,900 outstanding balance of the student loan she received to take on-line courses at the University of Phoenix.  In a sign of the times, she is married to a tattoo “artist” and earns less than $20,000 a year in an entry-level job at a construction company.  Her credit history before getting the loan included filing for bankruptcy, having her car repossessed, and amassing several thousand dollars in credit-card debt.

Bonk!  Still another blow came from an op-ed in the same edition of the Wall Street Journal by Rob Green, the executive director of the national Council of Chain Restaurants.  It described the awful consequences of Congress enacting the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, which mandated the use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline.  The mandate requires that 15 billion gallons of ethanol be produced annually by 2015.  This in turn will require 5.3 billion bushels of corn per year, or more than 40% of the 2011 corn crop.  Corn prices are estimated to increase by 27% and cause a ripple effect in the price of meat and other commodities.  According to a study commissioned by the author’s restaurant association (and possibly biased), the federal mandate increases costs by approximately $18,000 per year per restaurant.

Zap!  In the same Wall Street Journal issue once again, the weekly columnist Holman Jenkins lambasted his fellow journalists for their willingness to accept obvious fallacies.  He used as an example how most of the moo-cow herd got it wrong about the Hostess bankruptcy.  They made it seem as if the troubles stemmed from the bakery union walking out over bad management and greedy investors.  The true story, he wrote, is that Teamster featherbedding and restrictive work rules stuck it to the bakery union and to management. 

Unfortunately, my reading habits go way beyond the Wall Street Journal and include, on both the right and the left, other periodicals, scholarly studies, my own primary research, and books on history, philosophy, economics, finance, and politics.  As such, I spend my days pummeled and bloodied from the never-ending bad news and dire outlook for the nation:  Pow!  Bam!  Bonk!  Zap! 

It’s time for me to have a life of bliss by smartening up and becoming ignorant.  Like a lot of Americans, I’m going to start getting all of my news and information from the Today Show.



Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at


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