Of the Buffett debt-escape plan


Filthy rich businessman Warren Buffett, one of America’s wealthiest citizens (that’s filthy in a good way, of course) obviously has some strong ideas about what’s wrong with America, specifically our nation’s staggering national debt.

Mr. Buffett told a cable television interviewer some time back that he could end the deficit in five minutes. Just pass a law, he explained, that says that “any time there is a deficit of more than 3 percent of gross domestic product, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.”

If his flight of fancy were in fact the law of the land, nobody in the 113th Congress would be eligible to run again and reclaim his or her seat in the 114th. The deficit stands at 4 percent of GDP and isn’t likely to diminish much in the foreseeable future, despite sequestration and the howls of complaint it has engendered.

It’s an intriguing thought, but I see a couple of problems. Would Congress pass a law that ensures its members’ own political demise? Don’t hold your breath.

And if such a requirement became law, the U.S. Supreme Court probably would declare it an unconstitutional restraint on government, as it did the notion of congressional term limits in 1995. Of course, Supreme Court justices serve for life, but I digress.

Still, if using an arbitrary timetable to throw the congressional rascals out for doing a bad job is considered a violation of the people’s right to choose their leaders — as Justice John Paul Stevens declared for the majority in that case — how do we get away with telling a president he has to leave office after eight years even if he’s doing a good job?

Mr. Buffett’s comment, made in a CNBC interview, took on a life of its own on the Internet, even though most members of Congress would submit to waterboarding before they took his idea seriously.

I’m a big fan of entertainer and laid-back tropical philosopher Jimmy Buffett. No place on this planet is farther outside the Beltway than Margaritaville, and while there is no genealogical link proving they are related, I’d like to think that Jimmy and the man he calls “Uncle Warren” are blessed with the same wisdom.

Plenty of good journalism is practiced in northwest Ohio, and not just by my colleagues and friends at The Blade. We lost one of the better practitioners last month, and the profession is poorer for it.

David Miller, editor of the Bowling Green Sentinel Tribune, died on a trip to Pennsylvania. He was 66 and had been battling health issues for some time.

Mr. Miller was a hands-on newspaper editor, in the sense that if he saw a way to help his community, he had his hands all over it. His passion was working on behalf of mentally retarded and developmentally disabled people, a commitment that was long-lasting and sincere.

He served as a board member of the Wood County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities for 30 years. He was not a board member who accepted an appointment and rarely showed up.

He showed up, and he walked the walk. Today, one of the group homes at Wood Lane in Bowling Green bears his name.

Mr. Miller also loved libraries, a love that was reciprocated with recognition and awards at the local, state, and national levels.

What also impressed me was the depth of his insight into what made our region work. I would often invite Dave to join me as a guest on Northwest Ohio Journal, a public affairs television program I frequently hosted on WBGU-TV, Bowling Green State University’s public television station, after I retired. No matter how many folks we assembled for our roundtable discussion, he invariably was the best informed person on the set.

He loved to fish. He loved to travel. He loved to take pictures. I always wondered how he found the time.

I thoroughly enjoy and respect people who are passionate about our profession and excel at it. It was easy to enjoy and respect David Miller.

Doug Neckers of Perrysburg was puzzled by two recent encounters with the U.S. Postal Service. He mailed 21 letters at the post office. Their contents were identical in every way.

But seven of them came back marked “Postage Due, seven cents.” The other 14 apparently sailed through.

Even stranger was a letter that arrived in the mail recently that informed him of an important informational meeting for new members of his Rotary Club. As a soon-to-be member, he was expected to be there.

Just one problem: The letter was postmarked July 25, 2009. It showed up in his mailbox on April 29, 2013.

Apparently, his absence from the meeting was not a deal-breaker. He’s been a member now for four years.

Even so, maybe the post office really does need Saturdays off.

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on WGTE-FM 91.

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