11.25.2008

Double Duty


Dad was in the market for a one ton dooley truck. We drove to Amarillo, to Plains Chevrolet, because they had several without beds and he wanted to put a custom flat bed on it. We looked at several on the lot before a salesman with a polyester tie, that was much too short (or perhaps his belly was too big) came out and asked if we needed some help.

After some discussion out on the windy lot about engines and transmissions and such we repaired to his "office" ... a glass walled closet with a desk, a filing cabinet, a calculator and an overflowing ashtray. We sat in molded plastic chairs while our new friend took down pertinent information.

At one point the salesman made some comment like "It looks like that orange truck is the one that fits what you need. What do you want to give for it?" I had never been part of any sort of price negotiation before and I thought it was quite generous of the man to let us make the first offer. Dad didn't see it that way and replied with a phrase that I have used many times. Dad paused for a second or two, as if he was thinking about throwing out a number and then he stood up slowly and said,

Son ... I can't do the buyin' and the sellin' both.

Then he looked at me, said "Come on, let's get some dinner." and we headed out of the office.

Predictably, the salesman caught up with us and began the 'let me talk to my manager' dance. They got down to an acceptable price, Dad said he'd think about it and we went and got some dinner. We came back and bought the truck after we got done eating.

Fundamentally, the problem with any government program, whether it's a bailout or national health care or social security, is that we, the citizen and the consumer, the source of funds and the recipients of the services, are responsible for both ends of the transaction ... and the government just sits in the middle, collecting its commission.

I understand that the transaction is not always perfectly balanced, that some citizens pay in more than they receive and vice versa, but I'm talking about the collective we, as in 'we the people.' And we are getting screwed in this deal.

I've often said I just don't get it ... why anyone would think that the government has any answers to problems, but I'm beginning to realize that where you ride on the transactional teeter-totter probably determines what you think of the deal in general. If you pay your taxes and take care of your own business then extra taxes are just a burden you don't really need because you likely won't take advantage of all the services. It's a bad deal. If you pay few or no taxes and depend on programs for a job or health care or housing then you might think it's a good deal.

I'm rarely afraid to stretch an analogy too far so let's say that the two people on the teeter-totter represent the opposite ends of this transaction. The person on the ground is the taxpayer. The person in the air is dependent on programs. I can understand why the person on the ground gets tired if it's their job to keep the other person up all the time. And I understand why the person in the air is nervous, they have no control of their situation and they might even be a little envious of the ground person's position.

But what I still don't understand is why either of them tolerate the government, standing off to the side shouting ...


KEEP IT LEVEL!
STOP IT YOU'RE BOUNCING TOO MUCH!
YOU'RE KEEPING THEM TOO HIGH!
NO, YOU CAN'T BE ON THE GROUND!
STOP SWINGING YOUR LEGS! DON'T TRY TO CHANGE THE BALANCE!
JUST SIT STILL!
JUST LET ME TELL YOU WHAT TO DO!
DON'T LET THEIR FEET TOUCH THE GROUND!

When you are a kid you avoid the "bossy" kids on the playground like they had the ultimate uncool cooties. Unfortunately, it appears that the bossy kids have a talent for getting elected to office.


2 comments:

  1. I can understand why people are lured into thinking that the best teeter-totter position is being in the air. You see, I have a son in college. After the election I was complaining to a co-worker about the cost of tuition and other obscene fees. After a while, I started to think that if Obama wants to triple or quadruple the amount of government subsidized loans and grants available to college students, then what the hell should I care if my car pool buddy with no kids pays for it. After all, my son deserves a handout as much as the next guy. And so the entitlement mentality begins...keep me up!

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  2. Reminds me of another Dad thing ... you take better care of the things you pay for than the things that are given to you. I guarantee you that the number one reason I finished college in 4 years was because I had to fry chicken to pay for it!

    I can't think of a damn thing I'm 'entitled' to ... must be due to bad parenting ;)

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