Pay-It-Again, Sam

Pay-It-Again, Sam

By Ed Henry

Americans love it. We’ve always favored the crafty good-guy crook. Especially the Cagney or Bogart types who threw it right in our face while singing a patriotic song and doing a little slip-and-slide side step. Like Liberace, “Look at all the rings you bought me.” The audience laughs and clamors for more.

Send me your poor, your tired, your hungry. I’ll put them to work someplace. Give them part of what they earn. Let them pitch in to the melting pot of justice and compassion for money. Build a nation free to contribute. Free to carry their share. Free to keep me on top where I can oversee everything and keep it all going.

These things don’t come easy, you know. It takes effort to keep everyone free enough to find a mellow spot in a marshmallow world. To keep the wolves from your door. To keep the bad guys from taking advantage of your wife and children while you’re out working day and night to make things better, building your nest-egg, paying your utilities, your mortgage and your credit cards. Doing your part. Sometimes, accepting less so others can have a little more.

Who cares if I get a bigger share of the pie? Don’t I deserve it? Isn’t that why you put me here? You gave me the task of being your leader, dumped the caretaker’s job on me. You made it impossible for me to play the money game like you do. You made me wrangle and connive for your welfare. So what if I end up with a lifelong task and a little piece of beach on the Riviera? I’ve been willing to work hard and sacrifice. Who else is going to keep things going? I deserve it. I earned it. You need me.

So what if you pay a little extra? It’s not going to kill you. There’s still plenty to go around. By the way, you remember all those boomer bonds I set aside for you? Securities willingly exchanged for all that surplus retirement, medical, and fuel money you contributed since about 1983. As you know, I used all that cash to protect and nurture you. I spent it where it had to be spent. But I set up trust funds in your name. Trusts filled with IOUs, accounting for every cent, plus interest. Fair annual interest, mind you, that’s been piling up all this time, strengthening your Social Security. Good for you and good for your children.

Well, now it’s time to start paying them off. Cash them in. It’s time to ask for a raise, get another job, put the kids to work, or somehow earn enough to redeem these promissory notes of yours. Send larger checks. Borrow or do without something. It’s time to pay the piper. You can’t live high off the hog, and I can’t keep the wolves away from your door forever.

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