Friday, August 7, 2009

Fresh air about cash for clunkers

I’m enchanted by “cash-for-clunkers” because I’m hopeful the program will fulfill an offbeat prediction I heard years ago in a progressive publication.

The magazine quoted experts who said the way to solve air pollution problems was to take all the cars from the 1950s and simultaneously empty the air from all their tires.

This would release the sweet, wholesome air of the Howdy Duty era and allow it to crowd out the pollution. The ozone hole would magically close, asthmatic coughing would be eliminated as the more pure air circulated, and network TV censors would find themselves out of work as people began to say things like, “Gee, Beaver . . .” instead of “Holy @*&#!” when stuck in traffic.

The magazine was the great Weekly World News.

Feel free to dispute the wisdom of “experts” who would allow themselves to be quoted on pages next to stories headlined,
“Baby Born with False Teeth!”

How that lively magazine went out of business while weekly snoozers like Newsweek and Time remain solvent still mystifies.

But the story points out something even today’s bona fide experts are overlooking, and that is that good things can sometimes come from unexpected places.

I tried to make this point the other day with a cranky WWII veteran from The Greatest Generation.

He told me the country is in the midst of a historic collapse. He cited the exploding deficits, the trade wars and the legitimacy of a president who may not even be a real American.

Want to take a wild guess where he gets his news?

There was a time not long ago when I would reflexively bow to the opinion of any man who’d bled on the beaches of places like Normandy.

No more. I’m no longer a young whippersnapper. I’ve been alert and informed for more than 40 years now.

Sure, for many of those years I’ve been tipsy from various heady inebriates, but the parking lot at the VFW near my home’s always full, too, so it’s a fair fight.

And he may have toted a M-1 in Europe, but he’s not going to outgun me in any political argument about current events.

“Now, hold on, friend,” I said. “Are you telling me this isn’t the greatest country in the world? Are you saying we can’t, when challenged, roll up our sleeves and solve any problem?

“Because I refuse to believe that. We are the most exuberant and energetic people the world has ever known. We have for more than 200 years been an enormous force for good and liberty.

“Solving an economic problem is nothing. Remember just 25 years ago when Reagan exploded the deficits there were stories that your generation was ruining the future for my generation? Well, that never happened. Bill Clinton balanced the budget, vanquished nutty Ross Perot in the process and wound up leaving George W. Bush an enormous surplus.

“This is the county that produced Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, and Bugs Bunny. We are capable of greatness when summoned. So I’ll not stand here and allow you or anyone else to bad mouth the United States of America.”

It was roughly the same speech Otter gave to Dean Vernon Wormer in “Animal House” when the Omegas were trying to have the Deltas thrown off campus.

We are in the midst of historic times. I believe there is innovation about to be unleashed that will render many of the old arguments obsolete. Our brightest minds have at their finger tips problem solving computers that would make Albert Einstein snap his stubby little pencils in envy.

Prepare to be amazed by some of the startling improvements that are going to appear out of thin air.

Not to mention old tires.

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