Riding the Gravy Train

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Among the many sales people who worked at stations I managed over the years was one individual I’ll call “Bert”. As with some who gravitate to sales, Bert was quick with excuses when he failed to reach his sales goals. He gave every appearance of working diligently, but the big sales that were always “just around the corner” never managed to materialize.

One day, Bert was overheard being warned by a fellow sales rep that management wouldn’t continue to accept poor sales performance.

“Oh, I know they won’t keep me on much longer”, Bert replied, “but I’ll ride this gravy train until the tracks run out.”

Bert’s comment returns to me now and again, especially as our nation continues to blissfully ride the “gravy train” of reckless spending. Various talking heads in the media caution of the dangers should the United States fail to increase the debt limit. President Obama expresses doubt that Social Security checks will continue to be issued, and we might not even be able to pay the military. So we just have to extend the debt ceiling, which will let us continue borrowing money that we know we can never hope to repay.

Perhaps it has not occurred to these people what will happen should the United States dollar collapse and our currency become worthless. This could be because no one can envision such a catastrophe happening to a nation as prestigious and powerful as the U.S. I recall the people of Rome once felt that way, too.

A collapsed economy means every special interest group (and every organization vital to our existence as a nation) will be unfunded. Will the fire department continue to fight fires if the firefighters are not paid? Will the police continue to patrol our streets if their paychecks are not worth the paper they’re printed on? A collapsed economy means no Social Security checks…ever. And that’s just the beginning.

Ah…but it can’t happen here! After all, this is the United States we’re talking about!

So the politicians continue to increase the speed of the “gravy train”, adding another trillion dollars in new debt each year. We now approach the point where our debt will be in excess of 90% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. History shows that no nation — regardless of how prestigious and powerful — has survived financially beyond that point.

Yes, just as it did for Bert, the tracks will eventually run out, perhaps sooner than anyone suspects. While Bert was able to weather that event with a minimum amount of discomfort, I wonder if our nation will be as fortunate?