My old buddy Stinky Wilmont’s first car was a hand-me-down his older brother Leonard had given to him. It was an Oldsmobile, as I remember, as big as a boat, with an engine so big he could pull a hay wagon if he wanted to. But usually he just put the hay in the back seat or the trunk.
One Saturday evening we were cruising town in Stinky’s Olds and stopped in for a fill-up. This was back in the day when gas stations put the gas in for you. The attendant pumped for a while, and then walked up to Stinky’s window and stated “You’re going to have to turn this car off, sir. It’s gaining on me.” I always figured the attendant was just being a smart-aleck, but that old car did take a lot of gas.
There is an unemployment fund in Indiana that employers pay into every week, and if an employee loses their job, they get to draw some money out of that fund until they find another job. A while back, the people taking money out of the fund started taking more out than the people putting in were putting in. The fund was going broke, so Indiana started borrowing some of the money the federal government has borrowed in order to keep the fund funded.
I suppose that might work, except that the people taking money out the federal government are taking out more than the people putting in are putting in. Kind of like that unemployment deal.
Not that it’s anything new. The federal debt, just like the federal government, has been gaining on us for years. In 1957, the federal debt stood at a paltry $219 billion. It’s gained every year since, sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot. Right now it’s approaching $14 trillion. And it’s going to gain another $1.4 trillion this year. Maybe a little more.
$10 billion of the that additional debt will come from Social Security paying out more than it takes in this year. It will gain on us a lot more when an additional 80 million people start drawing money out of it in the next ten years, and there isn’t another 80 million people to keep putting money in.
The government seems to be gaining on us in a lot of areas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 430,800 people worked in factories in Indiana in January 2010. At the same time, 442,800 people worked for the government. That makes government the second largest employer in Indiana. It’s just behind retailers, and gaining fast. And not just in Indiana.
According to Assembly magazine, as recently as 1990, 21 states still had more manufacturing jobs than government jobs. Today, not one state can make that claim.
It didn’t take my buddy Stinky too long to figure out that he couldn’t afford that big Olds, and luckily he was able to get rid of it before it broke him, in favor of a more economical model that got him where he wanted to go for a lot less money.
I hope as nation we should be so lucky.