The US Government as a Sleazy Salesman

I know a guy who knows a guy who used to be a vacation timeshare salesman.  I say "salesman" with apologies to honest salespeople everywhere: he was a hustler.  To give you a sense of his era, he drove a Lincoln Continental.  The rules of employment required that he own a four-door vehicle and an umbrella and prohibited "excessive alcohol or drugs on the job."

No doubt you're getting the picture already.  Guys like him were slick.  They could drive a prospect around the yet-unfinished "resort" with a binder full of drawings showing what it soon would become: the pool, the tennis courts, the game room.  They sold sunsets — dreams of sunsets, actually.  They made their money on weekends when city folks headed up to the mountains to look into buying a little slice of paradise.  "Investing" was the preferred term.  What price paradise, right?  You only live once.

They weren't con artists — the resort would be built, though not quite as the "concept" drawings showed.  (That was in the fine print, which nobody read until later.)  All they needed to close their share of deals was a steady stream of customers.  The developer knew how to bring them in.  They did what hucksters often do: offer something that looked valuable but wasn't in exchange for a chance to talk you out of your money, the product of your labor and ingenuity, always valuable.

I'm describing their methods because our current government is using them right now. 

You'd get a mailer saying you'd won one of several prizes.  You scratched off a sticker to see which.  To claim it, you had to tour the resort and listen to the pitch.  First prize might be, say, an Oldsmobile Cutlass.  The mailer with that winning scratch-off probably found its way to Guam — but if not, no problem.  That was the cost of doing business.  The timeshares weren't cheap.  The prize that brought the most people in was a "Zurich gold ingot."  "Zurich" was meaningless, but the ingot was actually pure gold: gold leaf, an inch square, and 12 microns thick.  Paper is ten times thicker.  An ounce of gold beaten into gold leaf would cover the ceiling of a room.  The "ingot" lay on a little piece of foam in a clear plastic box.  The whole thing cost under a buck.  Sounded great, though, didn't it?

If you knew its real value, you wouldn't make the trip.  Deception was key.  So it is with manufactured dollars being showered on the public by the federal government right now.

Two trillion, three trillion, four.  Why stop there?  People are hurting.  You know — COVID.  Everything is "infrastructure," which everyone uses, right?  Even the huge deficits some states ran up over a period of years spending money on heaven knows what are now being underwritten by federal "stimulus."  Government is making it rain.  Its largesse is so great that many employers can't staff daily operations.  Their former employees still need grocery money, but they no longer need to clock in to earn it.  They're finding it elsewhere.  Nice work if you can get it — and many millions can, apparently.  Who can blame them?  Work is hard.  Wake up early, make the commute, and spend eight hours doing something you wouldn't otherwise do.  Most jobs aren't all that rewarding.  Even a relatively small amount of well-timed government money is an acceptable substitute, especially when a chunk of it is tax-exempt.

The problem is that direct payments to individuals are hideously expensive when those many millions of citizens, plus an unknown number of illegals, may be eligible.  "Direct payments to individuals" have been growing as a share of the federal budget for decades.  I remember a display on the wall of D.C.'s Air and Space Museum in the '90s showing how they were increasing even as funding to NASA was shrinking.  That display surely landed in a dumpster long ago.  Now, as the Elected Official Formerly Known as Joe Biden wields total control over the government, the sky's the limit.

"America will never be a socialist nation," said President Donald Trump, famously.  It was amazing that he had to say it out loud.  American citizens will, indeed, never vote for socialism, but they won't need to.  Instead, a level of entitlements unsustainable under anything but a socialist-style structure will be doled out regularly, despite the faintly bleated objections of "mainstream" Republicans and the kicking and screaming of real ones.  Recipients of the free money will not reject it.  When the inevitable massive consequences kick in, taxes of various kinds — excise taxes, value-added taxes, mileage taxes, carbon taxes — will be added to the current mix, along with rate increases, to avoid financial catastrophe.  Brits, Europeans, and Scandinavians are accustomed to them.  A socialist level of personal taxation will be a fait accompli, and it will have been done intentionally.  Our real future income will go to pay for the cascade of "free money" that was long ago spent on...something.  The Kennedy Center.  The Railroad Retirement Board.  Gender studies in Pakistan.  You know — COVID.  "Infrastructure."  The prizes we won won't amount to much when the payments come due on that timeshare we signed up for.

The salespeople at that long-ago resort weren't nice guys.  When a prospect looked like a waste of time, they ditched him quickly and moved on.  On those occasions, they took perverse delight in revealing the gambit.  Tossing the little plastic box containing the ingot to the customer, they'd warn him with a straight face: "Be careful.  Don't open it in a strong wind."

They could be honest when they wanted to be.  Socialists?  Not so much.

Image via Pexels.

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