The Washington Post

Tax Day and the mixed (mixed-up?) economy

It’s Tax Day, and here in Washington we’re thinking about the debt limit, and budget battles, and the Gang of Six, and social compact, and all the difficult decisions that go with the operation of a global superpower that has a “mixed economy.” My advice to the leaders of Washington comes from personal experience: You can always file for an extension. Delay, punt, retreat, cower. (I keep meaning to change my middle name to “Procrastination” but I can never seem to get around to it.)

I did actually PAY my taxes, I should note. I pay happily, knowing that it’s all a bargain, since I’m not actually paying nearly as much as I would if the government didn’t choose to borrow the balance of what it needs. In effect, the government loans me MY OWN MONEY, from the future. I’ll have to pay it back eventually, but in the meantime, I’ve got a little extra lettuce.

The future might never happen. Now, this moment, the present, is when I am SURE to find gratification.

And thus, with this extra money that I’ve borrowed from my future (decrepit) self, I’m planning to buy a lawn mower.

My ultra-wimpy, electric mower, the Lady Norelco, emerged from winter with an undiagnosed malady, such that she can mow only about two square feet of grass before tuckering out and attempting to go to sleep. She now has about as much vim as my ancient cat, Phoebe, who is 18 years old and running on fumes.

I got the electric mower from a friend who was leaving town – a freebie. It succeeded a gas mower that I had purchased for $50 in 1991 at a garage sale. The gas mower was great, very loud, very manly, but gradually it fell apart, and I mean that literally: Parts fell off as I mowed. I’d pick them up and think: What’s this? What did it do? How important is it to the operation of the mower? And then the mower would keep functioning, only with an extra rattle, or with smoke belching from the engine. Somehow it kept going, crankier and crankier, until finally it just completely disintegrated. The Lady Norelco filled the gap for a while, but here I am, in mowing season, needing new technology.

Fact: I’m 50 years old. A man of my stature should have a real mower. And thus I’m making the big plunge and will soon go out and buy a new, no-nonsense, gleaming, sporty, snazzy – dare I say sexy? – lawn mower.

“Wow, exciting stuff!” my youngest daughter said with instinctive mockery when I told her my plan.

Yeah, let’s just see what the little snot says when I come home with my butt-kickin’ mower!

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."


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