Epidemic of fiery flags continues

The U.S. Senate came up one vote short last week of passing a constitutional amendment that would ban the burning of the American flag and, by golly, the conservatives are hopping mad about it.

It’s a damned shame, too. The senators obviously know nothing about the way America works. Don’t they know the flag is under assault?

|I know that I can’t even display the flag anymore, because just as soon as I hoist it up the pole, some hippie comes by and burns it down.

I went to Wal-Mart the other day to buy a flag. I had it in my hand and was walking to the checkout lane when a terrorist grabbed it and set it on fire.

It’s a shame that just as soon as a flag gets made, someone sets it on fire.

I drove by a cemetery right after Memorial Day. It pained me to see hundreds of miniature flags ablaze. If we put big statues of Jesus in front of every government building, maybe that would stop the flag burners.

I’m glad the president and Congress are trying to make our flag flame-proof. There certainly aren’t any other problems to worry about, are there? Things are going so well in Iraq, the economy is humming along and the Cubs are going to win the World Series. Right?

Meanwhile, spending for the Iraq war has surpassed $500 million, with no end in sight. Back in the innocent days of 2002, one estimate of the war’s final cost was $100 to $200 billion. The Bush Administration went into an outrage.

That estimate is “very, very high,” said Bush’s budget man. A more realistic estimate would be $50 billion, he said.

“There’s just no reason that this can’t be an affordable endeavor,” he told reporters at the time.

Bush’s budget man at the time is now our governor. In Mitch Daniels’ defense, maybe he was suffering from a bout of temporary dyslexia. He meant to say $500 billion but it came out wrong.

Or maybe he just underestimates everything by a factor of 10. Ask him how long an hour is and he’ll say six minutes. Ask him how to roast a turkey and he’ll tell you to put it in an oven at 37.5 degrees for 30 minutes.

If our governor was so wrong back then, how can we trust him to be correct on anything now? In Daniels’ world, the sun goes down at 10 p.m. in the summer and selling off our highways is a good thing.

Let’s get back to some basic questions facing all Americans these days.

Start with the question Ronald Reagan first posed when he ran for president: “Are you better off than you were” before this president?

If you make more than $200,000 a year, the answer is unquestionably yes. You’re making more and paying less in taxes. A suite of new laws has been enacted specifically to help you earn even more money.

If you’re a shareholder in Halliburton, this is the golden age. Thanks to no-bid government contracts, no foreseeable end to the Iraq war and possible expansion of the war to other areas, Halliburton is having a great year.

The conservative media, which these days means just about all media, keep obsessing about the growth rate of the U.S. economy. Figures released last week show the economy expanding at an impressive rate of 5.6 percent.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Inflation, negative savings rates and out-of-control government spending are making people even more broke than they were before Bush and his buddies got the keys to the mint.

The Economist, the London-based magazine, has something it calls the Big Mac Index to keep track of how average Americans are faring in the economy. In 2000, the average price of a Big Mac was $2.15. Today, it’s $3.15.

If there’s one thing I understand, it’s Big Macs. A 33 percent rate of inflation will make your wallet as small as the burgers will make you large.

In 2000, the median price of a home in the U.S. was $165,000. Today, it’s more than $230,000. That’s good if you’re selling your home and planning on living in a cardboard box, but bad for anyone who wants to buy a home.

The compensation rate for CEOs has expanded to the point where they make $431 to every dollar their workers make. Consumer debt is up 12.5 percent in the last two years. Forty percent of Americans aren’t saving any money because inflation has destroyed their ability to do so.

College tuition is skyrocketing and the rate of indebtedness faced by recent grads is at an all-time high. Don’t look for any relief on student loan interest rates, because they’re going up, too.

What’s happened here is that this Republican administration has long since abandoned any idea of fiscal responsibility. We’ve resorted to printing up more money than ever before, and this increase in the money supply is punishing us all.

The president has been successful, however, at raising the national debt. In fact, he may well succeed at doubling it before he leaves office, which means higher interest rates in the short term and an unbearable financial burden for our children in the long term.

What’s astonishing is that the president has a 30 percent approval rating on the economy. Either they’re all millionaires or they’re all blind to the truth.

Either way, there’s 563 days left for this president to further wreck this country. Hopefully, at the end of those 563 days, this country will still be worth a damn.


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