Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Mailbox Economics

There was a time when a "mailbox" stood on the street corner downtown instead of looking at you from your monitor. Are you old enough to remember when every town had several of those red, white, and blue mailboxes? I remember them only in my mind. I've been looking on the web for one, but can't even find one there. The closest representation I can give you is a "Mayberry" type scene I found in my own picture file.

It's a thing of the past. Now, on every corner, we see the monotonous blue of federal deposit boxes. If we're lucky, they have one pick-up a day (the red/white/blue ones had several pick-up times daily). They also have warnings about what we cannot put in the boxes. Whatever happened to those brightly-colored mailboxes? Some time in the '60's, someone decided that it cost too much to vary all those colors, and recommended a drab, but more economical, blue.

You may think I'm complaining about that, but there was a fiscal responsibility that cost us those prettier boxes: The U.S. Government was actually trying to save money! We were willing to give up some aesthetic pleasantries in exchange for lessening the debt.

I wonder what happened to that government. I am amazed that there ever was a time that the government actually tried to save a few bucks. When I see the out-of-control spending that is going on now, I wonder if there's anyone left who still tries to figure out how to save a few bucks by simplifying a paint scheme. Now, when we sell aircraft to an ally, we round the amount off to the nearest even million or billion (but short the IRS 12 dollars by accident, and they will come looking for you).

Government is paying for education; it is paying for prescriptions and counseling, for electric wheelchairs for senior citizens, and for those lounge chairs that come up to meet you when you're ready to sit. They finance studies on whether money makes you happy or not, on how to get more meat per pig. They pay for art, for scientific research (Would George Washington Carver have been as effective if he had been on the federal dole?), and I hear that in 2009, they are going to pay us paupers who still get TV signals over the air 40 to 80 dollars so we can get the digital TV signals that will be required.

It's hard to believe that at one time, some agency or congressional committee took time to step back, examine the savings, and recommend an economic alternative. Somewhere we changed countries. I used to live in one that tried to save money.

I have a suggestion for whoever is in charge of these things. The red, white, and blue boxes were prettier. I'm sure that they didn't cost but a few million or hundred million or billion more dollars to be that pretty. Hey, that's nothing. We can afford it. Spend the money. It's a drop in the bucket. After all, who's counting? I would love to put my card in one of those pretty boxes as soon as I get my medicare and send off for my free chair that rises up to meet my behind when I want to sit down. Nobody saves money anymore. Why should you?

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