Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Test to See Whether the Average American Should Be Allowed to Vote

I want to make a confession here that is certain to get me into trouble. Mainly, I fear it will get me into trouble because what I am about to admit may be rabidly anti-American and mostly misunderstood. But I'm going to say it anyway and invite you to call me names afterward: sometimes, I wish there was some sort of test required in order for a person to get to vote.

Let me clarify by saying that this is not prompted by any sort of age, race, or demographic snobbery. It isn't even based on IQ, as the kind of test I am proposing would change from election to election based on the current democracy-ending, economy killing, Western Civilization overthrowing issue we are currently facing. This year, it seems, we are headed for financial catastrophe, and so a little economic test should be given before anyone is allowed to vote in the voting booth.

First, I imagine a very sagacious old man politely stopping each voter before they go into the booth, and after apologizing for the inconvenience, he would say that he has to ask them a few simple questions before they are allowed to vote. Should they fail, they will have to go home and steady, and furthermore, they have to stop commenting on Congress and the President until they come back and pass the test. Here are a few sample questions this wise old man might ask:

1) Friend, is debt always bad?

If they answer Yes! They are not allowed to vote. Now, being out of debt is always preferable to being in it, but just because someone owes money or owes nothing is no indication of their financial status. The bum on the street who owes nothing and has $10 in a tin cup has no debt. The recent college graduate may have $120,000 in debt because he has a mortgage and an education and a job that pays $50,000 a year. Who is in better shape financially?

2) Friend, how much, exactly, do you owe in credit card debt in proportion to your personal income?

Now, a formula would have to be worked out for this, but if the statistics of indebtedness to credit card pirates is any indication, this would flunk the average American right out of the voting booth. But not for the reason you might think.

See, the current debate over borrowing and raising the debt ceiling is all about credit ratings and ...well, borrowing. If a fellow cannot figure out that paying 25% interest on three pairs of Gap Jeans and two Polo shirts is fairly stupid, coupled with a barely manageable mortgage and two car payments, then the old man should tell them stories about why it is good to save aluminum foil and string until the potential voter is embarrassed and goes home.

3) What are the reasons that the Congress and the President are debating the debt ceiling?

The voter would only be required to have a passing knowledge of such things. Anything other than a blank stare, and also they cannot simply say, "It's just politics!" There are very good reasons why this debate is happening: Democrats and Republicans have significant disagreements on government spending and borrowing and what things fall into the category of "goods" and what falls into the category of a "right". For example: Health care. If it is a right, then the government must figure out a way to pay for it. If it is a good, then the government might help, but it is not an obligation.

It is a good thing that we are almost in long as we don't actually default. It should present us with a chance to discuss the direction of the country and how we can move forward economically without a digging ourselves a hole we can't climb back out of.

4) Why is Social Security an entitlement?

This one is a no-brainer. It is an entitlement because we (most of us, anyway) paid for it. The problem is that we also blew the money and the current wage earners aren't paying enough taxes to pony up the dough for those retiring. The guys who stuck their hands in the cookie jar are either dead or are playing golf and nobody wants to be the dude left holding the bag. It's like a horrific game of musical chairs and every politician is raiding Social Security in order to find a seat. Someday, the music will stop and somebody is going to be standing there like an idiot.

I think that this little quiz should be sufficient. Bad answers, even Democratic ones, would be allowed. Just please, no blank stares. Let's actually think about this for a bit, and if you don't, you are hereby banned from saying that Congress is stupid, that our politicians are acting childish, or anything else of that nature. Also, if you make an average wage, and you are contemplating buying a new X-Box game on your third and nearly maxed out credit card, all the Congress is going to come over to your house and horse laugh you if you post something about financial responsibility on any social media.

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