The other night on Fox Chicago News, Robin Robinson, one of the anchors, had the poor form to say that there is no Santa.
“Stop trying to convince your kids that Santa is Santa,” Robinson said in a segment on children’s expectations during the holidays. “That's why they have these high expectations. They know you can't afford it, so what do they do? Just ask some man in a red suit. There is no Santa.”
There was a predictable firestorm from parents, who accused the offender of taking the wonder and magic of Christmas from their children. One mom, named Laura, tweeted, “Robin, it's not your right to tell EVERYONE’s kids this!” Another, named Pam, said, “When my children finally realized that there was not a Santa it just broke my heart. Stop taking the joy out of Christmas for our children and let them BELIEVE.”
Far be it from me to instruct parents what they should tell their kids about Christmas—but I can’t resist mentioning the obvious: that this holiday is supposed to be first and foremost about Christ.
Of course, the search for wonder is not wrong, especially at this time of year; we just need to know where to find it. Perhaps if we focused on the real reason for this season of joy, we wouldn’t be so tempted to pump up substitutes that are bound to deflate like a holiday lawn decoration when our children get older.
However, we need to acknowledge that too many adults still seem to believe in Santa—someone who comes down the chimney with free toys and goodies. We still think that we can get something for nothing if we just want it badly enough. We get as much stuff as we want and say it’s someone else’s responsibility to pay. It’s a comforting myth—until the bills come due, as they have during this economic crisis.
The national debt is $15 trillion and climbing, or more than $50,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. The annual federal budget deficit is around $1.5 trillion, meaning that Uncle Sam must borrow 40 cents of every dollar he spends. Why not? We all believe in Santa Claus.
Making federal ends meet is even harder because a whopping 47 percent of citizens pay no federal income tax at all, meaning the other 53 percent must make up the difference. And many people who pay no income taxes actually get a check from the government—not a welfare check, but the Earned Income Tax Credit. So not only do they not contribute any federal income taxes, they actually get money from the rest of us. Like I said: Santa Claus is alive and well in America.
Given a per-capita net worth of less than $150,000, a median household income of just $46,332, and a real unemployment rate of about 11 percent (the official jobless rate plus all those who are too discouraged to keep looking for work), Santa Claus is more than a nice story for many Americans; he’s a necessity.
Last year, President Obama signed a bill temporarily cutting the payroll tax—the sole source of funding for Social Security—so that wage earners could take home a bit more of their pay and (the theory went) stimulate our moribund economy. Well, a year later, this “stimulus” didn’t work. The economy is still in the dumps, and the Social Security “trust fund” is even less solvent than it was before.
The Democrats, led by President Obama, say this is no time to let the “temporary” payroll tax cut expire, however, because people have come to depend on this money—about $1,000 annually—to make ends meet during these tough economic times. Folks, that’s what’s known as dependence, and the current government has been actively creating not more jobs, but more people who depend on the state.
Republicans, most of whom acknowledge privately that the payroll tax cut is a bad economic idea, nonetheless are going along. They just want to “pay for” the payroll tax break with other spending cuts in the federal budget. Don’t hold your breath. Several months ago, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rightly said he opposes cutting the payroll tax. Now, as the clamor for Santa Claus grows louder, Romney says he supports it.
It’s hard to tell children that there is no Santa Claus. Social-welfarist Europe is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into reality. Faced with a looming economic meltdown, profligate countries such as Italy and Greece are finally trading in their Christmas wish lists for an economic menu that features austerity as the main course. Describing the expected cuts in social welfare payments coming to her country, an Italian finance official actually broke down in tears. If we don't drop our belief in Santa, pretty soon we will be the ones shedding the tears.
Like kids who have indulged in too much eggnog and are half-buried in torn Christmas wrapping paper, the harsh light of economic reality is finally beginning to dawn on us. Santa has just handed us our bill.
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