Opinion Columns & Blogs

One thing we Americans know is how to overdo it

Who was it that said the American philosophy is “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing”?

Was it Bernard Baruch, Bertrand Russell or Winston Churchill? Nope. It wasn’t John Maynard Keynes or Adam Smith, either. John Bartlett doesn’t know, but somebody said it. Somebody had to, because it’s such an accurate statement.

Americans today have a plethora of gadgets, of cars, houses and, most of all, people. Humans should be our biggest concern since a birth rate that comprises an inordinate number of unplanned and eventually uneducated and untrained are our future labor force. The specter of the blessed event needs re-examining. There’s a fair chance many will never have a fair chance.

A new threat has surfaced in the form of immigration. The overture, “Give me your tired, your poor,” has run its course.

Benjamin Franklin proclaimed that moderation was the cure to all ills. He decreed that one shouldn’t spend too much, drink too much or engage in too much sex — except, perhaps (titter, titter, wink, wink) when one was out of town.

Franklin Roosevelt had a card or two up his sleeve when, in 1933, he jump-started the nation’s economy by dreaming up jobs for people out of work. His brazen gambit made Wild West poker games appear tame by comparison when he flooded the marketplace with printed currency, thus breathing hope into a defeated, desperate nation.

It was as though the new president was flouting the very principles of capital stewardship. He was mortgaging Boardwalk and Park Place in a deadly game of winner-take-all.

While critics in the far reaches of the globe gleefully anticipated the outrageous ploy’s collapse, flowers of expectation started blooming in the crooks and crannies of America. Hudsons, Studebakers and Packards began rolling down project highways as Gershwin tunes, Romberg operettas and Artie Shaw’s clarinet filled the country’s air waves.

Hoover’s chicken in every pot was pilfered away by the man from Hyde Park. Happy days were, indeed, here again!

The country had come to believe in the good times the 1932 election had promised. Roosevelt had delivered America from the waters of despair onto the shores of sound economics. The election returns of 1936 branded this belief as a certainty. Roosevelt’s popularity rivaled only that of Caesar’s. Middle-class America rewarded its demigod — in spades.

But storm clouds were building. In 1937, the infusion of funny money was showing its true colors. The midterm elections of 1938 brought balance back to both houses of government. Reality was rearing its ugly head. Out of the mist, in 1939, Roosevelt’s cornucopia appeared in the form of what it truly was: an empty bucket.

The Great Experiment wasn’t to fail, however. Hitler and Tojo would make certain of that.

Today, economic stability is uncertain. The stock market resembles a carnival ride. Along with a plethora of entitlements, President Obama has installed a public health plan that favors the indigent. The idealistic moonstruck love affair the country has had with this president is ducking behind a cloud, and his approval rating is slipping.

Complementing this propensity to indulge, the good old US of A has always been an easy target for panic. We were never short on fossil fuels, as the administration would have had us believe a few years back. Now, the planet is facing a new threat: global warming.

Well, the world has the same water it’s always had, and in a few years, we’ll look back at climate change, realizing it was nothing more than another overreaction.

Meanwhile, we’ll go on doing what we do best: overdoing.

Al Bartlett of Gig Harbor, a retired teacher and farmer, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email him at albert.bartlett@comcast.net.