Jack Kelly is a retired Special Forces officer who once interviewed me for a series he was doing for the Toledo Blade. He's the real deal and he calls 'em like he sees 'em. Jack wrote the following column on the situation we find ourselves in today, pointing out that this is nothing new under the sun. He notes:
"I used to infuriate my English teacher in high school by declaring that all anyone needed to know about life could be found in the works of Rudyard Kipling. (She was not a fan of the bard of the barrack-room.) But the more I see of the world, the more sure I am that this is so. My favorite Kipling poem is "The Gods of the Copybook Headings."
For those unsure of the terms of poem's title, here is an explanation from John Derbyshire:
Published in October 1919 when the poet was 53 years old, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" has proved enduringly popular, despite the fact that copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War 2. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one's handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings—the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings.
Kipling had lost his dearly loved son in World War 1, and a precious daughter some years earlier. He was a drained man in 1919, and England, with which he identified intensely, was a drained nation. . . With all this as background, it is hard to disagree with the general opinion that "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" is a clinging to old-fashioned common sense by a man deeply in need of something to cling to.
"Old-fashioned common sense" is one way to put it, "out of fashion principle" would be another. I'm with Jack on the universal truths to be found in Kipling. But here is Kelly's modern parallel. Kipling's entire poem will be found after, and my own final observation at the bottom.
The Economy Needs a Painful Period of Adjustment
By Jack Kelly
Our government now owes more money than all of us in the country put together possess.
As of Sep. 30, federal financial statements showed approximately $56.4 trillion in debts, liabilities, and unfunded promises for Medicare and Social Security, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation reported. The Federal Reserve estimated total household net worth at that time at $56.5 trillion.
Since then the stock market has crashed, tens of billions of dollars of personal wealth have evaporated, and the government has committed $700 million to bail out financial institutions.
A government which long has been morally and intellectually bankrupt is now financially bankrupt too.
An example of moral and intellectual bankruptcy is the $1 trillion "stimulus" package Congress is contemplating to encourage us to continue the behaviors that got us into this mess in the first place.
We've been living beyond our means on money borrowed mostly from the Chinese. Like Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, this had to end at some point, and could only end badly.
The stock market crash has sobered many of us up. We're saving as much as we can to guard against the rainy days that appear likely in our future.
But tens of thousands of Americans make their living selling us things we don't need and can't afford. If we live within our means, their jobs are in jeopardy, and the recession could deepen.
The theory behind the stimulus package is that we can spend our way out of the recession. As former Sen. Fred Thompson put it, this is like telling a fat guy the way to lose weight is to eat more.
The stimulus package Congress passed last Spring didn't work, and this one probably won't, either. But it will delay necessary reforms, and could make the inevitable crash more painful.
We're like alcoholics who've been on a 30-year bender. We can't quit cold turkey without a painful period of adjustment. But if we don't go through that period of adjustment, we can't ever get well. America can't in the long run be prosperous unless we make things other people want to buy, and finance most of our investments through our own savings.
Democrats will run things for the next four years, so the recession should last at least that long. That's because the economic philosophy of the Democratic Party is to subsidize failure and punish success. Bailing out auto companies that couldn't make money in good times, and raising taxes on those job creators who are still making money may be good for gathering votes, but not for growing an economy.
I used to infuriate my English teacher in high school by declaring that all anyone needed to know about life could be found in the works of Rudyard Kipling. (She was not a fan of the bard of the barrack-room.) But the more I see of the world, the more sure I am that this is so. My favorite Kipling poem is "The Gods of the Copybook Headings":
"We were living in trees when they met us. They showed each of us in turn, that water would certainly wet us, as fire would certainly burn. But we found them lacking in Vision, Uplift, and Breadth of Mind, so we left them to teach the gorillas, while we followed the March of Mankind...
"With the hopes that our world was built on, they were utterly out of touch. They denied that the moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch; they denied that wishes were horses, they denied that a pig had wings; so we worshipped the gods of the Market, who promised these beautiful things....
"In the Carboniferous Epoch, we were promised abundance for all, by robbing selected Peter, to pay for collective Paul. But though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy, and the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: 'If you don't work, you die.'
"...And after this is accomplished, and the Brave New World begins, When all men are paid for existing, and no man must pay for his sins, as surely as water will wet us, as surely as fire will burn, the Gods of the Copybook Headings, with terror and slaughter return."
The complete text:
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
OK, I don't post these just to make you think. I post them to make you think AND act. Get busy.