Columns 2009

Joe enters our world in debt…. pay up!

Welcome to the world as we know it, Joseph Patrick Kanayurak Stuermer. Your portion of the bill for our national debt with interest will be approximately a gazillion dollars, no personal checks accepted. Please have a certified check for the amount made out to your favorite Uncle Sam ASAP.

OK, I guess I should back up just a minute here and start at the beginning. And, thinking about it, I guess the beginning was back in 1968 when I realized that I could get a scholarship to go to nursing school in Brooklyn and a part time job that would pay for an apartment, adding up to an opportunity to live in NYC very cheaply. The problem, as it turned out, was that I really didn’t want to be a nurse and I wasn’t all that good at it.

So I got out of nursing soon after moving to Barrow, while always maintaining a mountain of respect for those people who do it and do it well.  I met some of them at Providence Hospital last week when I was one of the labor and delivery partners for a dear friend from Barrow.  The nurses were simply amazing. They were so very gracious and helpful and cheery. But not the kind of cheery that made me want to urp. The kind of cheery that kept spirits up while the long work of labor progressed.

And then, at the end of it all, this amazing little miracle appeared, screaming even as he emerged into our world, as though he’d already heard the day’s news and wanted to go back to the safety of the womb. And that trillion dollar debt we are incurring for future generations to pay suddenly had a face attached to it – a tiny, wrinkled, red little face that was blissfully unaware that from the second of his birth, he was way over his head in debt.

I tried to imagine explaining this to him as he grew up. I found myself with some reasonable explanation for the stimulus package just passed by Congress that constitutes some of the debt he’ll inherit. I can point out that the stimulus money went to meet America’s needs.  I think I’ll have more trouble explaining to him the debt incurred in our Iraqi War of Choice, followed by the famous rebuilding of the country sans any oversight or real exploration of where our money went.

When he hears that money was literally sent to Iraq in $100 bills on pallets, many of which to this day remain unaccounted for, he may wonder how serious we really were about either rebuilding Iraq or restraining our national debt. When I explain the no bid contracts that went to companies like Blackwater and Halliburton for work that verged on criminal, he might wonder if the debt he carries was well thought out. When I try to explain how Congress never blinked at voting more and more money to rebuild a country half a world away while running up the debt he has to pay, he might wonder why there weren’t more questions asked and more accountability demanded for those pallets of money.

Yet, when it came time to vote on billions of dollars to save American jobs and companies, those voices that were silent as his financial future was mortgaged building substandard office complexes in Baghdad, became enraged at how freely the new administration was dispensing American dollars to meet American needs.  It’s as though all those fiscal conservatives were secretly working for the Iraqi government and their only job was to keep voting for more and more of our money to be spent there. Because if they were really Americans, they wouldn’t be horrified at spending money to rebuild America after they found it so easy to spend our money to rebuild Iraq.

Yes, Joseph Patrick, the truth must now be told. A group of supposed fiscal conservatives in Washington seem to think its safer to hand pallets of money over to a foreign government and Halliburton than it is to trust the American government and Americans to spend it wisely. You might want to ask them to help you with a loan for your part of the debt. Maybe they have a pallet or two of those bills still around.