Saturday, February 1, 2020
The Horrible Husband: A Parable
Don looked out over the setting sun, as the sound of ocean waves sitting a hundred feet below rhythmically lulled him into the perfect state, not awake, not asleep, pure relaxation. The only thing on his mind came out as he looked over at his beautiful wife snuggled next to him in the infinity pool. “We should have done this years ago.”
She gave a smile, it wasn’t a perfect smile. It was a smile that did convey a happiness to be there but it also carried doubt. “We couldn’t afford it years ago. Frankly, I wonder if we can afford it now.”
“You worry too much honey. This home is perfect for us, and think about all the people we helped when we had it built. Did you talk to that Roy the carpenter? He hadn’t worked in months, it was just what he needed. The countertops came from Utah and gave jobs there, the entry flooring from Washington. This home helped us, and hundreds of others.
“Trust me. I have it under control,” he said, as he turned back to the setting sun, allowing for himself to completely clear his mind.
She too tried to relax, to enjoy it. Don had always been in charge of the finances, and he had always pulled through. She told herself there was no reason to worry, to doubt him. But all this seemed too good to be true. She forced her fears to follow the setting sun.
“Daddy, daddy get up. Look what the night ferry left us in our sleep.” The kids bounced on the bed, the girl holding a new doll and the boy trying to both jump on his parents while keeping his new drone in the air.
Don smiled as he got up to start a new day. The kids rousing him in the morning used to really irritate him, but since he had rebalanced his life he loved nothing more than to see their exuberance. It was his idea to invent the night ferry who left them little gifts each night, this ensured he would get to see the happy exuberance that only a kid with their simply joys can bring.
“You kids excited to try out the new boat?” Don asked with anxious anticipation for their response. He was not disappointed, cheers filled the air. One person did not cheer.
“I thought you were going to finish that order for work,” his wife noted.
“I can do it later. The open sea air beckons.”
While it is technically true that the vessel they entered a short drive later was a boat, most would have chosen the more descriptive term, “yacht”. The deck was expansive, and the “barracks” as Don liked to call them, had a kitchen, living room, 2 full baths, a master suite and a room for each kid.
The afternoon found the couple again relaxing looking out over a blue expanse. “Honey,” his wife opened the conversation.
“Yes, dear,” followed the ever responsive Don.
“This boat is really nice, but why did we need a new one? I mean the old one seemed to meet our needs.”
“Dear, this was really best for everyone. The guy from the dealership called me, he had a good deal because it had been a slow month for him. Plus the kids are getting older and need their own space.”
“Did he at least give us much money back for the old one.”
“Bill down the street always wanted one, so I gave it to him.”
“You did what?” His wife asked in surprise. “I am glad you are always so generous, but are we really in a position to be giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars to the neighbors.”
“Honey. Don’t worry. Have I ever let you down?”
“No you haven’t. I just don’t understand how we can pay for all this.”
“We will be fine.” Don didn’t like to talk about money, but he could tell his wife was worried, and he didn’t want her to worry. So he decided he better give her some of the details. “I have done some projections and while we may be a little upside down, we should balance in the next four years. And our financial trajectory after that looks really good. Let me worry about the money and I’ll work to give you and the kids the life you all deserve.”
The fact that they were a little upside down, whatever that meant, was not reassuring, but at least it sounded like he had a plan. She did need to know one more thing, “You aren’t doing anything illegal are you?”
Don almost laughed but looking down at his wife he realized she was serious. “No Dear. I am not doing anything illegal.”
She could sense the sincerity and took a deep sigh of relief. Maybe it would all work out.
The knock came loudly at the door. It was extremely rare that anyone came to the door. The home was on a private 10 acres and the driveway looked more like a road, a road that was only ever driven by the family, and the many amazon drivers delivering daily, life conveniences and joys. Not only that it was pouring rain, it seemed that no one would be out on a night like tonight.
But this was not a delivery service. Two large police man stood in the doorway. “Can I help you?” She asked.
“I’m afraid I have bad news. It’s your husband.”
Their lives had almost been a dream for the last 10 years and she wondered if this would be the moment they all woke up.
The police continued, “It appears he was driving along the coastal road, he must have been in a hurry to get somewhere and in the rain...he skidded.” The policeman paused, it was never easy to give this kind of news. “He was in a terrible accident.”
“Is he alive? Can I see him?”
The faces told the answer before their voices could. “He flew off the road, his car fell down over 100 feet. I’m sorry miss, he didn’t survive.”
Rain poured down but she knew the storm in her life was only beginning.
“Powell, Yellen, Bernanke and associates,” she read as she entered the upscale office on the 15th floor. She never hoped to take over the finances for the family, but given the circumstances she had little choice. She had tried to piece together information from bills, forms and files that her husband kept, but it was all an elaborate webb that she couldn’t untangle. She began to worry if she would have to sell the home, or if the kids would be unable to go to their private school that had been such a blessing to them.
The one person besides her departed husband that may know the answer was his lawyer. He had regularly worked with Mr. Powell to discuss finances and she hoped today she would get some answers.
“Thanks for coming,” Mr. Powell said as she entered. “I am sorry about your husband, he was a great man.”
“Thank you. And thanks for meeting with me. I was hoping you could help me understand my financial situation, I always left that part to Don.”
The tall lawyer took a big sigh. “I’m afraid it’s not a pretty picture.”
She looked down, held back tears and asked. “How bad is it?”
“Well, your husband in recent years has drastically increased his expenses. And to enjoy it, he seemed to work less and less. This lowered his income substantially. Even before he started doing this he was living beyond his means. His income went down, his expenses went up and the result is he had millions of dollars in debt.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“But, how? People just kept giving him money?”
“That is one area your husband was masterful at. People seemed to feel he would someday pay them back or make it right. Deserved or not, people trusted your husband.”
The lawyer couldn’t have dealt a more crushing blow. Worse than the money, she realized she was as deceived as much as anyone, she too trusted her husband.
“Did he have insurance?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“What about the cars, the home? Surely I could downsize and pay off the debts.”
“Each of those cars, and the home, you owe far more money on them than they’re worth.”
She had worried about private school for her kids, she now realized she should have been worried about whether or not she would be able to feed them.
She left deflated. She had indeed woken up. There are times whether it’s from dreams or nightmares that we wake and reality begins to reshape. We begin to see and sense what is real and what is not. That moment was coming for her, and one thing was for sure, while this lawyer seemed to grasp some realities he was still in the dream world on one point. Don was not a great man.
Parables are often best left unexplained and perhaps that is how I should leave this one, but I feel the need to explain this slightly. For those who think Don Amican is Donald Trump you would be somewhat incorrect. Both Don and his wife represent us as American’s. His wife perhaps more day to day Americans and Don those who should know better, politicians and other elite.
The truth is my biggest worry, for our future and my children, is our debt. This debt, 23.2 trillion dollars, is owned, all of it, by you and me, the citizens of this country. The last three presidents, Bush, Obama, Trump have all done the same thing. They have increased expenses and decreased income which has increased debt substantially. Bush lowered taxes (decreased income) significantly, while to pay for war and expansion of medicare he greatly increased expenses. Obama did not decrease taxes significantly, but did for a time decrease payroll taxes and had several bailout and big spending bills. Trump has only continued this. He has given a huge tax break, and expanded government expenses to pay for his pet projects.
Don’t these actions help our economy? Yes, in the short run, but at what and whose expense?
The recent debate related to parental leave for government employees might highlight this more than anything. Congress decided that it was the right thing to do, that is give each federal employee 12 weeks paid leave when they have a birth of a child. The congressional budget office estimates that this will cost $3.3 Billion dollars over the first 5 years. So, they debated in congress if this was wise. Was the debate focused on how we will pay for it? What things we could cut to make this big cost? What taxes we will charge to make up the difference?
No, it was, listen democrats, you want paid parental leave, and Trump wants a space force. Give us $2 billion of imaginary money to do what we want and we will give you $3 billion of imaginary money to do what you want. Who will pay for it? Our kids and grandkids, after we drive this thing off a cliff. Someday we will wake from this dream and realize someone must pay the piper.
No leading presidential candidate is talking about this. They are too busy touting even more spending, a wall, free college education, medicare for all. And indeed with the three top candidates well into their 70’s they will likely not deal with the fallout in their lifetime, since the only thing that seems to be expanding faster than our debt is the length of time we are willing to ignore it.
So when will we wake up? I hope it is in my generation, and not only my kids. Why was the greatest generation, so great? They sacrificed convenience and many their lives to make a better future for those that would come after. I worry more and more we are hoping to live out lives of convenience only to leave the bill and suffering to those that will come after.
If we were willing to pay more taxes and cut government spending to make a more secure future for our nation, than maybe we would deserve the title, and our nation truly could be great again.