Maybe what we need is another neat little war


SLATS GROBNIK scowled, carefully folded his newspaper and dropped it on the barroom floor.

"You know what this country needs?" he said. "A neat little war."

Are you crazy? We just had a war.

"Yeah, and now what?"

Now what? Now we have returned to a normal life.

"That's what I mean. Who needs normal? Normal is a recession. I don't want to think about a recession. Normal is we got too many poor people. I don't want to think about poor people. Normal is we got too much crime. I don't want to think about crime. Normal is the schools are producing young boobs. I don't want to think about the schools. Normal is that this country is a mess, but it don't know it, and I don't want to think about that."

Aren't you being unduly pessimistic? Things aren't all that bad for most people. You're working, eating regularly and have a sturdy roof over your head.

"I'm lookin' at the big picture. That's your problem. You don't look at the big picture."

I have weak eyesight.

"If you'd look at the big picture, you'd see it ain't too pretty."

Ah, but we are still the world's greatest superpower.

"Yeah, then how come we're leading the world in savings and loans and banks doing the el foldo, huh?"

A setback, yes. But one can look at it, as many economists do, as a financial adjustment.

"Uh-huh. A bunch of pin-stripe goofs take my savings and they loan it out to a bunch of hustle-bucks, and then the deals fall apart and they go bust, so I got to pay my taxes to keep these bozos in business."

Crudely put, but I suppose you have a point.

"Yeah, and the next mess we're gonna get is the insurance companies and the pension outfits that put a lot of our money in all them junky bonds. So when it comes time for my old lady to plant me, maybe she won't be able to collect the price of the casket. And my old lady will have to pay taxes to keep those yo-yos in business."

Many economists say the insurance and pension problems are exaggerated.

"No kiddin'. Hey, what's an economist?"

An expert on economics. They study the figures, the numbers, the indicators and predict where we are going financially.

"Oh, yeah. They're the same experts who didn't know that junk bonds was really junk, and that S&Ls; and banks were shoving money at deadbeats a mob loan shark wouldn't trust, and all those companies that were going in hock to take over other companies were just putting people out of work. Hey, why don't they change the law so that if those Wall Street hustlers can't pay their debts, they get hit in the shins with baseball bats the way Tony the neighborhood loan shark used to do?"

Please, violence is not a solution to economic problems.

"Says who? The country is crawling with dope peddlers who solve their economic problems by knocking people off. What do you think guys are doing when they pull a gun and heist a grocery store? What is a guy doing when he steals a car except solving his economic problems? We got to have 10 million people in this country who are solving their economic problems every day by grabbing somebody else's loot."

That could be an exaggerated figure.

"Nah, that's conservative because I ain't including the stockbrokers, the lawyers, the bankers and the other legit purse snatchers. If I toss them in, then I figure half the country is stealing from the other half."

Many economists say there is light at the end of the tunnel; that we are coming out of the recession and good times are around the corner.

"Yeah? Well, it's like the guy said: The light at the end of the tunnel might be a train coming your way. So you explain this to me. If we're going to be in good shape, how are we gonna do it if our schools ain't working, if we're up to our ears in hock to the rest of the world, if we can't afford to take care of our old people and sick people, if our businesses are getting aced out by Japan and Europe, and if our politicians ain't got the guts to tell us what's going on and they got a good deal going for themselves and they don't want to screw it up by telling us the truth.?"

I concede that we have problems. But why do you think we should have another war?

"To take our mind off our troubles."

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