Jen and I belong to a gym in a suburb of Baltimore that’s generally a bit higher on the income scale than other areas. We like the gym because it’s low-key and quiet during the hours we usually get there, it’s not a meat market, and the atmosphere is one of healthy workouts, not Mr. Olympiad pose-off contests. One of the reasons for this is the high percentage of older members—the area is also full of retiree communities—and the other reason is that it’s a dual health and rehabilitation facility. However, this skew to the older, more conservative demographic makes it interesting to overhear certain conversations in the locker room (and it’s not hard to overhear when most of the participants are deaf).
This morning I was listening to a conversation that had me grinding my teeth for a half an hour afterwards. Two men were discussing our current governor’s plan to deal with a 1.7 billion shortfall in the state budget. I’m going to paraphrase here.
Guy #1: O’Malley’s going to tax us right out of the state. Did you hear?
Guy #2: Yeah.
Guy #1: Raise the gasoline tax by $.50. Tax health clubs.
Guy #2: Tax all the services.
Guy #1: And then, just wait until Hilary gets in there. It’s all going to hell then.
Guy #2: We won’t be able to make enough money to survive with all the taxes.
Guy #1: I like those bumper stickers that say, ‘Don’t blame me, I voted for Erlich.’
Guy #2: (laughs)
Guy #1: ….
Guy #2: I don’t know…did you see how much the war is going to cost us? I like Bush, but they’re spending too much money. That’s not the conservative way.
Guy #1: Well, I’m waiting for Iraq to start paying us back. They’ve got a ton of oil.
Guy #2: They don’t have that much oil.
Guy #1: THey have more oil than they know what to do with.
At this point, I found it hard not to stick my liberal pinko ass into the conversation, so I took a shower. but what I wanted to point out was:
They need to pay us back? Let’s break this down for a minute, buddy. Imagine, if you will, that America actually still produced or built something that the rest of the world wanted, like, say, steel. Now let’s say the great country of Spain bombed the shit out of us one day, then shipped in a million troops and set up camps all over the place, and then set their sights on getting us to start producing steel again to pay them back for bombing us?
What part of that scenario is hard to understand? We don’t own that oil, but we act like we do. A certain percentage of our population apparently feels entitled to it. And that same percentage takes umbrage at the idea of higher gas taxes to pay for social services. Unbelievable.