The late comic, Rodney Dangerfield, would often preface his classic appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the late 1970s and 1980s with this memorable phrase: “We got a lot of problems, Johnny; a lot of problems.” When one considers the deplorable paralysis that plagues federal, state and local government at nearly every level, never were Rodney’s cautionary words more true. Back in the day when I majored in Political Science at Millsaps College, I never used the pejorative term “politician” when referring to elected officials. Unfortunately, after decades of witnessing the ongoing hypocrisy, grandstanding, egomania, irresponsibility and borderline and not so borderline corruption that characterizes what our political system has become, “politician” is the only term I now use. Politicians of all stripes do what they do best — use misleading terms and feel good phrases to rationalize their serial irresponsibility so as to keep the masses distracted, confused and uninformed.1 Yes, there are a few exceptions, but they are increasingly more difficult to find as each week passes. In sum, most politicians don’t give a happy damn about anybody other than themselves and their campaign contributors, be they wealthy individuals or corporate deep pockets. The quid pro quo they have to offer is measured in donor ego stroking, government funded favors, and/or the unending flow of taxpayer dollars to those who curry favor.
And so, given my ever expanding, cynical worldview, let me offer a comprehensive solution to all that ails us at the federal and local level. Captain Equity’s “Big Fix” is based on two seemingly inconsistent premises. One is that instead of Government being too big, I contend it is not nearly big enough. The second guiding principle is that instead of the Tea Party being motivated largely by irrational hate and irresponsibility, it is rather the one rational approach to meeting and prevailing over all of our challenges. How does this work, you ask? Let me show you.
Wiping Out The National Debt. The biggest overriding problem America faces is our ever increasing federal debt.
Since an inordinate share of federal expenditures can be traced to Social Security and Medicare payments2 (socialistic Democrat Party programs that Grumpy Old Tea Party Conservatives seem to like and depend upon) we could just raise the eligibility ages to 78 and 77 respectively. That buys us another dozen years of windfall FDIC and Medicare tax withholding which will quickly shrink the growth of federal borrowing down to zero and even allow us to reduce principal. As an added bonus, blue collar seniors will likely die off quicker if made to work longer while white collar employees would have an easier go of it. But in the long run, as the death rate grows the government gets to keep more of the money that all the soon-to-be deceased taxpayers have paid to the federal government over the years. Score one for fiscal sanity. There is of course a minor political problem, but not to worry. Under my “Federal Safety Net Solvency Act,’ every senior citizen who makes a campaign contribution to their respective Congressman would receive a monthly amount back from the government equal to the federal benefits they would have lost under this dynamic new program. These amounts would be known as “Sponsors of Liberty Freedom Vouchers.” In other words, contribute and live or sit tight and die. It’s the citizen’s choice. What could be more democratic? Wouldn’t Ted Cruz be proud?
Stopping Gun Violence In Its Tracks — In the aftermath of multiple mass shootings involving mentally unstable people in America, there is nearly universal agreement that something must be done. Since we know guns don’t kill people, it has to be mental illness that is the culprit. But treatment of mental illness is both problematic and expensive. So, drawing from another Democrat Party initiative created by Franklin Roosevelt, we would simply ship all mentally ill people to federal internment camps out West to be known as “Comprehensive Care Centers.” Hey, if it worked in World War II, why not now? Having large numbers of patients at central locations would cut treatment costs drastically. The government would purchase antidepressants in bulk, at deep discounts, from Canada and Mexico. These drugs would then be shipped to the centrally located Comprehensive Care Centers. This would allow government helicopters to drop large amounts of pills to patients in the CCC’ Exercise-Therapy Yards for the hour a day that these brave and courageous, mentally challenged American patriots would be allowed outside of their cells. Walmart couldn’t do it any more efficiently. Patients would of course get to keep their guns, but supervised internment would curb their ability to buy bullets. And even if they did, they would just be shooting each other rather than innocent American citizens. Now there is a solution even the NRA could get behind.
On a more local level, we are all aware of the ills suffered by Jacksonians. Here are a few “Big Government — Sweet Tea” solutions.
Population Decline — This one is simple and saves money. Get the legislature to pass the “You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide” Jackson Metro Government Expansion” initiative. This would exponentially increase the tax base by making the Jackson City Limits co-extensive with Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties. Besides more tax revenue, we could do away with duplicative local governments and city services. That spells EFFICIENCY in all caps, punctuated with dollar signs.
Farish Street — It has been almost a dozen years and nothing much has happened. I say embrace the minimalist approach by renaming the project, The Ruins of Ephesus West to celebrate the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. If the original is in Turkey, why can’t we have a branch here in Jackson? Nothing would change except perhaps buying a few camels and paying some city employees to dress up like Greek and Roman tribesman. This would allow us to change the name “Bold New City “to “Bold Old City” or if you prefer, “City That’s Old.” But here is the best part. After making these minor changes, Jackson sells Farish Street to the National Park Service for hundreds of millions of dollars and David Watkins is named by the Park Service as the Ranger in Charge to settle any lingering claims against JRA. Talk about a win-win.
The Jackson Zoo — Following along with the Bold Old City theme, we can rescue our financially troubled zoo by merely removing the fences and letting the animals roam amidst the ruins of West Capitol Street. Just think of the savings in maintenance. The animals could feed on squirrels and blue jays creating yet another substantial administrative cost reduction. This would be followed with an international marketing blitz aimed at diverting safari bound eco-toursists to Jackson. Tourism to Ephesus National Park and the newly opened West Capitol Street Wild Kingdom would soar. But wait…there’s even more.
The Jackson State University Domed Stadium — Some people think this is a pipe dream given the fact that JSU already has a 60,000 seat football stadium on State Street while the City faces more pressing infrastructure problems. But once again, given the Bold Old City Theme, substandard streets between downtown and JSU would not be re-paved, avoiding an expensive, time consuming process. Rather, existing pavement would be removed turning the streets to dirt and dust. Cotton and soybean producers would be offered subsidies to grow tumbleweed and cactus that could be installed where sidewalks used to be. It would also require JSU to change its mascot and name from Tigers to Cowboys. City buses would be sold to purchase stage coaches and buckboards to take football fans to the new stadium for Wild West Tailgating. Hunting permits would be issued to sportsmen to control the occasional lion, tiger or bear who strays too close to the JSU campus from the West Capitol Street Wild Kingdom. Just think about the tailgating possibilities involving grilled polar bear steaks and barbequed peacock. And once a year during the JSU-Alcorn game, the Cowboys versus Indians theme would make Jackson a Deep South Dodge City that would draw even more tourists. And better yet, in light of our Governor “New Testament” Phil’s steadfast refusal to expand Medicaid for the working poor while advocating against abortion and for nativity scenes (his words, not mine) Veterans Memorial Stadium could be easily and inexpensively be transformed into an open air emergency room with seating for more than 60,000 Jacksonians as they wait to be seen by University Hospital ER personnel. The savings realized would more than pay for a Jerry Jones like domed stadium on Lynch Street. Hey, football, tourism and medical care all wrapped up in one big inexpensive package. How can you lose?
The Republic of New Afrika — Finally, the mayor’s long standing dream of a separate nation in the heart of the Deep South could finally be realized as the crowning achievement of an economic development tour de force for which I should rightfully take credit. Simply create a new country located within the city limits which would include Hawkins Field and the Municipal Golf Course. Not only would we be eligible for foreign aid from the United States, but we would certainly draw military aid from China, Russia, Iran — you name it. By extending the runway at the newly commissioned RNA Edwin Finley Taliaferro Air Base, we could accommodate the RNA’s burgeoning new Air Force. The base would be home to RNA F-16s, MIG-17 s, C-5 cargo jets, Blackhawk helicopters and who knows what else from around the world. We keep the best military hardware and then sell the rest to other regimes around the world at a huge profit. Better yet, we could subdivide the golf course to build foreign embassies from countries around the world. The influx of diplomats and the money they would bring would allow every Jacksonian to receive an annual six figure guaranteed income for life. Raise the minimum wage? For what?
So, I say, what is wrong with Big Government driven by Tea Party logic? Not a thing. Not one single thing! Oh, and Mayor Lumumba and the City Council, no need to thank me. That is what patriotism is all about.
So here is to JACKSON — THE BOLD OLD CITY with dirt roads paved with gold — kind of.