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Massive mountain of debt puts squeeze on programs

Let us all collectively grieve for the plight of boxer Mike Tyson, who despite having earned an estimated $400 million over the last 20 years, now has filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

I mean, after all, when one requires $400,000 a month just to scrape by (not including a $400,000 birthday party, $230,000 on cellphones and pagers, $9 million in legal fees, millions for mansions, vehicles, jewelry, and assorted other necessities), one can hardly expect that $400 million will last very long. And, nearing 40, he's behind the curve in terms of physical fitness, training, etc., so the fighting biz ain't likely to be nearly so remunerative as the years pile up.

While we're shedding a tear for Mike, it is difficult not to also find parallel in the course of financial profligacy that seems to characterize our government these days.

Bush administration budget wizards have floated a figure of $455 billion as the deficit for the current fiscal year, the largest in this country's history. Office of Management and Budget bean counters project $1.9 trillion in new debt through 2008, for a total national indebtedness of $8.6 trillion.

Nobody with an ounce of awareness for the myriad ways in which books can be cooked doubts for a minute that the numbers won't be even higher — much higher. Not included, for example, are the costs of the ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, for which we've already spent $50 billion or so, with another $3.9 billion to $5 billion being added each month.

All this in a period when tax revenues fell nearly $70 billion below forecasts and other government spending as a result of legislative measures increased more than $25 billion. Into all this, toss record high unemployment in an economy that keeps reeling downwards and hundreds of thousands of jobs being exported overseas by corporations that seem not to care that they're furthering the decline of the prosperous workforce that made this country the economic envy of the world.

So, whadda we do? Pass a many-billion-dollar tax cut, which most of the public didn't even support, and which it is estimated comprises 23 percent of the deficit deterioration from just two years ago, when the U.S. Treasury had a surplus of more than $450 billion. Through 2011, it is estimated the tax cuts will result in evenue losses to the government of $3.7 trillion.

Almost every state in the nation, coping with elimination or cuts in government-funded programs and services, is on the ropes financially. While taxes are being cut at the national level, they're being increased at the local level, making citizens boiling mad as they have to pay ever higher property taxes, auto licensing fees, etc. Some state leaders are warning of a “meltdown.”

But the attitude seems that of Mad Magazine's addle-brained icon, Alfred E. Neumann (or high-living Mike Tyson): “What? Me worry?”

We can only wonder at the legacy we are creating for our children and grandchildren 10 years from now, or 20, when all these overspending chickens come to roost.


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