I have three great deficiencies in my life:
I cannot spell.
I certainly cannot add and subtract; carrying a number from one to another has always proven to be too much for me.
And after three typing courses resulted in humbling failures, I regressed to the hunt and pick method. I am a "sneak," I just cannot seem to resist peeking at the keys.
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Now, with this huge mathematical incompetence being forever present in my life, I have struggled to understand the numbers passed out by the presidential combatants. It was only recently that I heard $10 billion was spent every week in Iraq, and even with my math, it was hard for me to understand. So I went to the index.
The index is a handy little notebook I keep filled with information on the rare and outstanding personal resources of this area, geographically ranging from Blackstock to Winnsboro to Lancaster, Great Falls, Richburg, Chester, Edgemoor and Rock Hill. People are listed by their expertise, such as nursing, painting, sculpting, potting, violinists, drummers, highly intelligent persons, guitar players, lawyers, horticulturists, tomato growers and the ones who have grapevines. I have pictures, family histories, participants of the Revolutionary War, ladies of the DAR and Dames of the 17th Century. The little book is bulging with information on everyone in the county I have encountered through the years, most of whom I truly love, including preachers, political activists and even Republicans.
It was in this trove of information that I found Larry Powell, the man who restored the old Willis house, who seems to have a pure natural talent for translating "political speak." His name was in the index under "highly intelligent."
He knows when a contender says we are spending this amount of money every week in Iraq, he doesn't mean that. He really means that is the sum being spent every week including Iraq. It is combined with Social Security, welfare, Medicare and Medicaid, and all other federally inspired programs. It is a whale of a lot of money, and the word billion seems to have replaced million, and we are no longer shocked by its use.
Larry and I sat in his lovely dining room, surrounded by his wife Ann's Russian china, a gift from her grandmother, lovely pictures and a "coffered ceiling that was done by Larry, no small feat for one person. Everything was in place, neat and centered, a condition that bespeaks the orderly minds of Larry and Ann Powell.
He began a mathematical soliloquy, which was, in truth, understood only by the Powells. However, in time, the numbers began to make sense, so I will pass on few of the things I learned.
He first asked a question. What is the longest working government in the world today?
I wandered around in my little knowledge of ancient history and ended up stumbling. He waited, I smiled and then he said, "It is your country, the USA." "Really," I countered. "Certainly," he said, "just look at history. Governments are destroyed by only two things: the invasion of a superior force or overspending. Our government has lived because of the gold standard and free enterprise.
The Germans had Hitler, the Italians had Mussolini, and the British kept their monarchy in a safe and non-interfering spot and added a prime minister and Parliament. Many others reinvented themselves time after time. The French were done in by their extravagant King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who shopped themselves right into the blade of the newly invented guillotine, which was in 1789.
Powell said there once was a man who introduced taxation to his newly conquered people. It was none other than Genghis Khan, as he romped across China, Russia, and every other place that fell onto his shadow. He subdued with organizational care of his armies and the management of his newly acquired nations. He was a simplistic man who ruled by three laws: religious freedom for all; a 2 percent sales tax on everything sold, traded or bargained for; and there was no debt buying. If you did not have the money, you waited till it came your way. This took place in the 1200s, and it worked in all of the places from the Pacific Ocean to the Persian Gulf, as long as Mr. Khan lived.
But one day, he fell to his death from one of those trusty little Mongolian ponies. It was, of course, the end of this utopian debt-free government, and other leaders began to practice their own forms of governing, all changing and reinventing through the centuries.
I have pages of numbers totaling 11 digits, too many for a short column on the opinion page. However, the end result, without overwording my allotted space, is quite simple. We have to face higher taxes and decrease spending, or possibly we, too, will see Mongol hordes at out gates led by one not so socially or financially "savvy" as the much feared Genghis.