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Gary Horton: We’ve got to float our national boat

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: August 3, 2010 4:55 p.m.
Updated: August 4, 2010 4:55 a.m.

There are few things a boat full of Democrats, Republicans and independents can agree upon besides “Want another beer?” But when night comes and you’re out in the dark in the deep blue sea, that’s when conversation turns more serious.

While we’re all in the construction industry, we’re a diverse group bobbing around off Santa Cruz Island. Two Fox-type guys, a no-TV-at-all guy and a news-channel surfer. We’re older dudes between ages 45 and 62. We’ve all been around that block apparently none of the bubblehead and bobblehead newscasters remember or know about.

So we old dumb-as-our-hammers guys cooked up dinner, sat down and got talking about politics and the state of affairs.

Between a glass of wine and a hunk of fresh salmon, we were a hung jury on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Two remembered the sales gimmick President George W. Bush used to get those ruinous cuts passed by the Senate. “They run out in 10 years, so this won’t hurt the budget.” With a Sarah Palin-style wink, that gimmick got the deal done, the tax breaks became law, the budget got blown and America’s finances began their nine-year decline into deficits as deep as the deep blue sea.

This year is showtime for those tax cuts. Congress can do nothing — the 10-year gimmick dies, the tax breaks automatically expire and the richest of the rich will pay the rates they paid back when we had balanced budgets and things were good. For once, Congress can be smart by doing nothing.

But our vote ended up 2-2, with independents and liberals letting the cuts expire just as they were intended to when passed, while the Fox guys voted for new tax cuts when the old ones expire, per their original terms. Contention in the ranks had begun.

I jumped in to head off the mutiny. “Hey guys, let’s figure out what we do agree on. And can I have more salmon, please?”

We surprisingly agreed with the Arizona immigration law — at least in general intent. Immigrants should be compelled to immigrate legally, orderly and within specific quotas and for specific purposes, just as in most every other country. Ten million undocumented aliens is excessive, and while the vast majority of these people work very hard, still, they’re here illegally, not schooled in the laws of the land and do depress wages in certain industries.

We agree we need a national plan, need it fast and want it enforced — fairly, logically and humanely. America likely needs most, or maybe all, of these people. But per a sane, enforced immigration policy, please.

Our biggest agreement was about ending the Afghanistan war. Four votes, straight up, arms and hands raised high. Get us out of that rocky burial ground of empires. Going into its 10th year, with 1,216 Americans killed and expenses of more than $130 billion a year — and some $700 billion since inception — this is one hugely expensive response to 16 guys with box cutters surprising a nation suffering from sleepy air-travel safety. “Overkill” is a sad pun that is appropriate.

We agreed America isn’t as selflessly principled as our lore. Honestly, we haven’t been for nearly ever.

Sooner or later, economic realities take precedence over national image, values, morals and tradition.

We’ve emptied our household coffers to the dreaded “Red Menace” China — our biggest competitor and world’s largest commie state. So much for, “Better dead than red.” We sell our financial souls for oil to Saudi Arabia — a nation with women’s rights issues and personal freedoms far, far different than our own.

Economics, not principles, ultimately determine the direction of all empires. Time and again, there’s much hand-wringing when nations sober up and finally comprehend they can’t afford all the colonies, outposts, bases and wars their national self-image demands. If the books can’t withstand the red ink, well, it’s the national pride that has to go.

Britain, France and the Russia all pulled their horns in, winding up wars, closing bases, freeing colonies, reducing international influence to consolidate back home for the good of their finances and the good of their people. Those pullbacks must have surely been tough on the national pride, but they all got over it and got better.

We’re in the same boat as these friendly post-empires after our 10 years of continuous war and $2 trillion in expenses. We no longer have the wallet to remain the world’s policeman.

And so, two Fox News guys, one independent and one liberal all voted thumbs up to end the wars — now. Let the chips fall as they may, just as we allow them fall in China, Saudi Arabia and so many other America-challenging places. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but pressing economics demand we take the cure.

The overriding agreement out there afloat on the boat: Taxes remain contentious. But overall, we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do to float our national boat. Old construction guys know there’s no sense suffering holes through economic hulls. Things are broken. We gotta fix ’em.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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