A Run of Luck

     One day I got lucky.
     It was many moons ago, during the Carter or Reagan administrations. I was living on an Indian reservation in Arizona and during summer vacations I’d ride my motorcycle to Berkeley and spend the summer there.
     I’d spend a week in the Sierras on the way out and another week on the way back, fishing for trout. I’d motor up remote canyons to little lakes every afternoon and fish with a little Daiwa pack rod and camp out. No fish, no food, the rule was.
     I didn’t bother to buy a California fishing license. That was part of the sport. I knew it was illegal, and I ain’t proud of it, but I believe the statute of limitations has run.
     So. One night I didn’t catch any fish. The next day I was hungry. So I headed off the paved road early and got to a little alpine lake earlier than usual. A handful of other campers were fishing there. I threw my line in and nailed two trout in about 5 minutes, cooked them up on my camp stove and downed them. It started to rain, so I threw my tent flap over my stove and pack rod and what was left of lunch, and I crouched under a pine tree to wait out the storm.
     Then the game warden showed up. He checked everyone for fishing licenses except me. He looked me in the eye and I looked back at him, sweet as pie, but all he saw was a biker, waiting out the rain. He left, it stopped raining, and I packed up my stuff and rode out of there.
     Dumb luck. Had he busted me, I’d have had to pay a big old fine. I’d have paid it without squawking. I’d have been nailed fair and square.
     The reason I bring this up is the national debt we’ve run up, of about $15 trillion. That’s 1 million times $15 million.
     It seems to me we’ve run up that debt pretty much the way I put myself in hazard with the game warden. You could call our national debt credit abuse, or you could call it fishing without a license.
     We were awfully lucky in this country for an awfully long time. We paid 30 cents a gallon for gasoline when I was a kid, after fishing it out of Saudi Arabia, not without a license, exactly, but that license was awfully cheap.
     When the price went up to 75 cents a gallon we groaned and said how unfair it was, and we whined again when it went up to a buck, and to $2, and $3.
     But there was nothing unfair about it. We’d just been nailed, fair and square, and we had to pay.
     Same thing with that $15 trillion national debt. We ran up that bill on our national credit card. Now that the bill is so enormous our creditors are coughing, and raising their eyebrows, and holding out their hands, what are we doing?
     We’re whining. Because we don’t want to pay. We want to keep fishing for free forever.
     Well, guess what? It ain’t gonna happen. The game warden has asked us for our license – not for our credit card, for our license – and we’re going to have to pay some of that money back.
     I’ll tell you something else. We ain’t going to pay off $15 trillion by cutting expenses. No country in the world could do that.
     Our national debt comes out to $50,000 apiece for all 300 million of us.
     If you owed a bank $50,000 and the bank asked you for the money, do you think you could get away with saying you would pay it back by cutting expenses?
     No, sir, you would have to pony up some real money.
     Anyone who tells you we can pay off that $15 trillion national debt by cutting expenses is a lying son of a bitch.
     I realize I just called every elected official in the Republican Party a lying son of a bitch, but I don’t care about that. The fact is, we’re going to have to rustle up some extra money to pay that bill off, and the only way we can do that is by raising taxes. This may come as news to you, but it’s not really news, any more than it was news to me that I could get busted for fishing without a license.
     Our national luck has run out. So? You can live on luck only for so long. No use whining about it. We’ve been fishing for free for years. Now it’s time to pay up.

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