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Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson: Temperatures Soaring Over Masks

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

TOGETHERNESS: An editorial in our local paper last week said failing to wear a mask in public “reeks of selfishness and lack of compassion.”

Reeks!

This week in the paper, a letter writer gave a columnist and other letter writers the dickens for suggesting that masks are optional. Such opinions are “bringing together a lack of character with a selfish lack of interest in the welfare of ” others. People like that are  “full of (reference alluding to raw sewage).” 

People who don’t wear masks, the letter continued, “suffer from a demagnatized moral compass. Giving two whoops in hell for other people” is beyond them.

On the facing page, an unnamed emailer (back in my editing days, people had to sign their letters) unloaded on a letter writer who does not wear a mask:

“People with your attitude are just as irresponsible and self-absorbed as most 16-year-old boys. … While you are out there socializing at the pub or restaurant or library because you are immortal, you may just get COVID-19 and then infect a bunch of other people. If that happens, I hope your conscience condemns you to a life in Purgatory.”

Purgatory! (Better than Hell, I guess.) Folks reeking of selfishness. Our mask-less brothers and sisters “full of… sewage.”

Are you sure we’re all in this together, like we keep hearing?

Even the ones headed for Purgatory with demagnatized moral compasses?

I WEAR ONE: Trying to avoid  Purgatory, or worse, I wear a mask I found in the garage from my drywall sanding days. It’s kind of ratty, and I can’t wear my glasses when I use it because they fog up. So I can’t read small print when I shop, and I tend to run into posts. 

I buy the argument that I’m protecting others from anything I might have picked up. But I’m not into scolding those who disagree.

Where I live, it’s about half people wearing masks at Walmart, and half not. Fewer masks at the home improvement store. So if you wanted to pick fights with people not wearing masks, you could be fighting all the time.

I hope someday soon masks with our favorite sports teams, university mascots, or preferred brand of pickup trucks become available. I’ll need a Ford Ranger mask before this is over.

FURIOUS: I remember the days when politicians were sheepish about our national debt. They promised to “get control of spending” every time they raised the debt limit. 

Ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one. A knee-slapper.

Today, however, when we have already spent trillions in borrowed money to battle this virus, and Democrats want to spend another $3 trillion in borrowed money, some politicians are ANGRY at anyone who suggests not heaping on more debt.  

Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, railed on the floor of the House last week:

“Are you KIDDING ME?” he yelled at Republican House members, waving his arms in fury. “Where do you guys LIVE? Food lines at our food banks AROUND THE BLOCK? In the United States of AMERICA?”

It’s too much to expect, I guess, that politicians who have already racked up $25 trillion in debt would suddenly understand how a checkbook works, and stop spending when the money runs out. That’s beyond them.

A cynic once asked why I care about the debt. 

“We’ll be dead before the day of reckoning arrives,” he said.

I can’t look my little grand daughter in the eye, however, and buy that argument.

HO HUM: Another day, another investigation of the president, this time for firing an inspector general late on a Friday. You could get worried about this, if it weren’t just the latest in four years of steady attacks on anything the guy we elected president says or does. Even the pills he takes.

This could be different, I guess. Maybe they’ll get him, this time.

Maybe this time, Ralphie gets his BB gun for Christmas.

A THEORY: I suspect that some of my Democrat friends want this country shut down all the way to election day, after which they figure that articulate ball of fire Joe Biden will step in and solve all our problems.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: For This Nomad, The Long Trek Is Over

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist, Cowboy State Daily

From an old bench at the edge of our place east of Cheyenne, you can watch freight trains fight their way over Archer Hill, making their way east and west on the Union Pacific Railroad.

Either way, the locomotives work hard to put that hill behind them. You can hear them throttle back once the hill is crested.

I take the dog out there every morning, and again every afternoon. He loves chasing rabbits, while I marvel at the sound and the feel of 4,500-horsepower locomotives – sometimes five, six, seven of them in a row – hauling the mile and a half-long trains that keep America supplied with new cars, lumber, frozen food, coal, grain, oil, fruit – everything you can imagine. A woman in North Platte once said the sound of locomotive whistles is the sound of America thriving.

Just beyond the tracks is Interstate-80, and from our old bench you can see the cars and trucks heading east and west on that vital American artery as well.

For years, long before we owned our place here, in the first week of August I would be in one of those cars heading west on I-80, along with one of my kids, unaware that we were passing by land that would someday become our home. On the way west, it was always with intense anticipation of two weeks in the mountains.

When my son was finally old enough to “go to the cabin with dad,” he was so excited that he slept the night before we left Illinois in his t-shirt, cargo shorts, and little hiking boots, so there wouldn’t be any chance of being left behind. It was that kind of family ritual.

The trips were always timed to coincide with the end of mosquito season, after one cold night wiped out the swarm, and the perfect warm days of August in the mountains arrived. They don’t last long. It can snow after Labor Day.

After our two weeks in the mountains, we would get up at 4 a.m., board up the cabin, and around breakfast time we would be one of the cars headed east on I-80, visible from land that would years later become our home, hurrying back to Illinois. There wasn’t much eager anticipation expressed on the trips back home.

(One year, heading back east, we stopped at a convenience store in Cheyenne, and my son bought Mountain Dew, Slim Jims, and “Pop Rocks” candy. The clerk looked at me like the world’s worst dad, letting his kid have such a breakfast. But we’d been up since 4, and on the road for hours. It was lunch for us.)

Our home in Illinois turned out to be a great place to raise a family. We still have good friends there, friends who would never consider living anywhere else. A friend who served as mayor of our town said once the “taproot” was set, folks tended to stay, and grow to love the place.

But, while our kids consider that town their hometown, we were nomads, going wherever my boss told me to go. It was the job that was most important, the career, and whether it was Wyoming, Colorado or Illinois, when the boss said go, we lined up the moving van. At one point we owned houses in all three of those states, and it was tough, but we never missed a house payment on any of them.

Over those years, I met folks who were the opposite side of the coin. They loved where they lived, and wouldn’t let any job or opportunity take them away. I envied them. They had a peace of mind about their surroundings that fly-by-nighters like us seldom experienced. I’m still not sure which side of that coin – to favor place or opportunity – is right or wrong.

It took many years before we were able to pack up our stuff and get back to the place we always liked best, where the dog and I now take our walks every morning and afternoon.

From my worn bench, as I watch the cars and trains go by, I’m thankful that this old nomad finally found his home.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: It’s Almost Time To Get Out of Dodge

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If ever there was a summer to head for the hills, this is it.

Where I go in the summer – way up in the mountains, just shy of 10,000 feet – folks prefer to stay six feet away from each other, if not more.  We’re not huggers. And you’d have to work hard to come up with a crowd of 10 people or more.

This will be my 39th year up there, in a small log cabin that an old college roommate and I built with our bare hands, lots of sweat, and the smallest chainsaw Homelite ever built. (At $79, it was all I could afford.)

The place is 14 feet by 14 feet, because a 14-foot log was the longest two young guys with more muscle than sense could lift. The place became a lifetime project, and still isn’t finished.

Pretty soon, when the snow up there melts (last time I looked there was still six feet of snow on the ground), I’ll be leaving my in-town problems behind and heading for the simpler life.

And when my cabin season is over come September, I’m hoping the picture down here in town will be clearer.

Some issues I hope will be resolved by then:

– My inalienable right to get a haircut has only this week been restored by our governor (just in time to avoid a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet). But I still can’t walk into our local McDonalds and enjoy a senior geezer discount cup of coffee.

 If someone told me a year ago that politicians could “close” an economy, I would have said, “no way!” We’re all scared of what this virus can do – especially to the over 65 crowd like me – but the notion of politicians forcing businesses (even churches!) to close would not have occurred to me. I didn’t think they had that much power.

– You can call people who want to get back to work impatient and ill-advised, I guess. But you’re wrong if you call them selfish, which I see in comments and social media posts. Getting back to work, earning a paycheck, taking care of your family and paying your bills can be called a lot of things, but selfish isn’t one of them. Being out of work now, after all, isn’t their fault.

If anyone is unreasonable in this equation, it’s those who demand that everyone see things the same, staying home, not making a living.

– Maybe by September we’ll know when you accumulate enough “anecdotes” that results aren’t “anecdotal” anymore. From what I can tell, the only way results aren’t anecdotal is if you set up a trial that takes months or years, hoodwink half the people into taking placebo sugar pills, and see if they don’t get better, while the people who took the actual pills do get better. (Sucks to be a placebo recipient.)

– As it stands now, that drug HCQ has it’s supporters, and some folks say it saved their lives. But it lost media favor when President You Know Who expressed optimism for it (an unpardonable sin). Then along came something called “Remdisivir,” which looks pretty good, except the president is hyping it now, so there must be something wrong with it, too. Drugs are partisan now, at least in the media, so the best advice is to be an Independent so you can take all the drugs.

– Could someone explain how “herd immunity” ever gets going if the herd is social distancing? If all the cows are six feet apart, or sheltering in place in their bovine basements, how does this herd immunity get any traction? Don’t we have to be a herd to get herd immunity?

– I’m betting we’ll have enough masks come September. I notice that “Shamwow Vince” – the funny, loud-talking guy who used to hawk car care sponges on TV – is back, selling some pretty nice looking face masks.

Is this a great country, or what?

– And finally, I notice that the governor of California has closed the beaches. If a governor can close the beaches, could a governor close the mountains?

I better get up there as soon as possible.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Trump Column Unleashes the Beast

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

We keep hearing that “we’re all in this together” in this crisis, (did you remember to wash your hands?), but that doesn’t mean we’re getting along very well.

First, an aside: About 30 years ago, an unhappy column reader invited me to take a dip in the local sewage lagoon. I taped that letter to the wall, a reminder that there are a lot of unhappy campers out there. I was also grudgingly amused by his creativity.

I was new to Illinois at the time, and another unhappy column customer dubbed me “the Big Wind from Wyoming.” One day a local business took $90,000 in annual advertising away from us, in the wake of our coverage of some controversial issues. Ouch. (It didn’t change our reporting.)

Another aside: A longtime friend who is liberal met me at a local bar in Casper, Wyo. – Frosties it was called, and it still exists – a few times back in the 1980s. We had a good time debating politics over pitchers of Coors. We liked each other – still do – even though he saw me as a money-grubbing Republican who would snatch porridge away from starving orphans, and I saw him as a wild-eyed Democrat who would pound hard-earned tax dollars down every crazy liberal rat hole he could find.

We laughed a lot on those occasions. I’m not sure that’s possible anymore. (Recently, when I asked for viewing suggestions, he came up with two Michael Moore movies, but did not include an “lol.” I did not respond with an “lol,” not wanting to press my luck in these contentious times. We do what we have to do to hang onto old friends.)

Which brings us to what I wrote last week in this space. I said that while I often wish Donald Trump would say things differently, avoiding his habit of walking into screaming buzz saw issues with the media and Democrats, I continue to support the job he has done as president. And I included the appraisal of my wife – a well-educated person – that Trump “has our back.”

She predicted, “You’re gonna get some flak over this one,” and once again she was right. (I hate it when she’s right.)

Most readers were supportive, saying they felt exactly the same way. Trump rambles, he blusters, he blowtorches reporters, and he sometimes gets carried away. But we support the results he has gotten, cutting regulations, appointing judges, and until recently, helping take the stock market all the way from 18,000 to almost 30,000. That’s good for our life savings.

The column reached a remarkable 2,549 people on Facebook [Simpson’s personal page], and was re-posted 34 times. Most were in agreement. I hope it’s taped to some refrigerator doors.

About a dozen didn’t like the column at all. While some were polite, asking what Trump had ever done to have my back, there was some amazing name calling. One dubbed me a “synaptic dendrite of the GOP” (smile when you call me that, mister), and called Dick Cheney “a war criminal.” He suggested I might drive one of those “coal roller” pickups that spew smoke. (Not true, Your Honor.)

Another person posted on Facebook that he would rather not respond to my “unbridled idiocy,” but wondered nonetheless why anyone could like Trump. He found my explanation lacking, and called Republicans “mouth breathers.” Another unhappy customer raised the ante, calling Republicans “booger eaters.” (This, from the folks who claim to have a corner on compassion, intellectual superiority, and articulate debate.)

Two called me both stupid and ignorant. I “disgusted” another.

One asked, “Isb you. a (blanking) idiot?” obviously so worked up that he botched the typing.

Answer: No, I isn’t.

Another unhappy column customer (hey, they’re FREE!) offered this: “If you can support him (Trump) and sleep at night, you have no moral compass.” To which my wife responded, “if you support the Democrats who murder full-term babies, I question YOUR moral compass.”

Feisty, ain’t she?

We may all be in this together, like everyone is saying. But don’t look for much love over there on the other side if you like the president.

The name calling is enough to blow your hat in the creek.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Why We Support Trump, In Four Words

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist for Cowboy State Daily

It’s not like we don’t see the humor in this.

And that’s what separates us from our liberal friends. (We have so many. And some seem so angry.)

Our liberal friends are mystified that we still like a president who sometimes rambles, who repeats himself, who often blusters, and who rips the hide off reporters. How could educated people like us, they wonder, like a president who has told us many times about that “perfect” call to the president of Ukraine?

At first, that one gave me pause. What is a “perfect” call? Did he get the phone number correct? Did he make all the points he wished to make? Were his parting words hopeful? What about that call was perfect?

I spent decades as an editor, and often wish I could fix something someone wrote. I cringe when a public official speaks awkwardly. I can almost always think of a better word or phrase. So supporting Donald Trump has been, well, a minefield. I avoid watching his press conferences, because I dread what his mortal enemies will make of every hyperbolic utterance, every awkward rejoinder, every word that seems an unfortunate choice.

“Oh gosh,” I think, “I wish he hadn’t said THAT! Imagine what Joe and Mika will make of THAT on ‘Morning Joe’ tomorrow.”

And they do, in full Trump Derangement Syndrome contempt.

After almost four years, however, we have decided that while we would almost always put things a bit differently, it was Donald Trump who was elected president, not us. And we have seen the humor in his hyperbolic interludes ever since.

“Did you call your brother back?” my wife will ask. I respond, “Yes. And it was a PERFECT call. Absolutely PERFECT. Couldn’t have been better in any way! One of the GREATEST CALLS ever made.” And we laugh at the oblique reference to our president, who often gets a little carried away, but whom we still like very much.

We have started to view people we don’t like as “TOTAL LOSERS, absolute DISASTERS,” who are probably “FAILING” and “CORRUPT.” We laugh at that, as well.

When I mow the lawn, I say I did a “TERRIFIC JOB, FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE.” When I barbecue burgers, they are the GREATEST hamburgers ever barbecued in the HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.

We’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of this, even as our liberal friends meticulously dissect the utterances of our president, examining every word under an electron microscope. And they are uniformly appalled, horrified. When you hate a guy enough, if he says “good morning,” you can read it as shocking lack of empathy for those poor souls who are not having a good morning.

Our president gives them countless things to get their guts in a knot over, every day, and make them sputter in disbelief at the uncouthness of the man. How dare such a person be our president?

The other day, my wife – who has more advanced degrees than you can shake a stick at – summed it up in a mere four words. We still like the man, despite the disbelief of our liberal friends, for one reason:

“He’s got our back,” she said.

Bingo!

He talks about American greatness at every opportunity. He’s an optimist. He’s determined to restart our shuttered economy. He stands by those who have saved their money so they can live the American dream. Despite relentless opposition, he gets things done. He helped make a massive run-up of the stock market happen, and promises to do it again. He put solid justices on the Supreme Court.

And he has cut federal regulations. (Can our liberal friends justify government declaring a creek and stock pond in our state “navigable waters,” and defend suing a rancher into near oblivion? Even liberals have to admit that previous administrations got carried away with regulations.)

And despite all the people who hate everything about him, he still seems to like the job.

Just about every day he makes us laugh, saying something we wish he hadn’t. Something no other president would have said.

But, after almost four years we remain sure of that one thing:

He’s got our back.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: When Hunkering Down Isn’t Enough

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

We’re a month into this Coronavirus imbroglio – probably the worst case of cabin fever we have ever suffered – and you have to wonder how long this can go on.

Some thoughts from solitary confinement:

– I live in one of the eight states that are not currently under “shelter in place” orders. The governor of Wyoming has urged us to stay home, but hasn’t ordered us to shelter in place. And he gets right testy when asked about it.

Reporters and many Democrats (they’ve got a lot in common) suspect we’re not doing our part. Why haven’t we joined the other 42 states, they ask, in issuing a shelter in place order? Our local paper ran a long editorial last Sunday, beseeching the governor to order us to shelter in place.

What are folks in those other states doing, however, that we’re not? Beats me.

Our schools are closed. The university is closed. Churches are closed. Restaurant dining areas are closed. Coffee shops are closed. Bars are closed. Exercise gyms are closed. The library is closed. Bank lobbies are closed. Barber shops are closed. Beauty shops are closed. You can’t even get a commemorative Coronavirus tattoo or piercing, because those joints are closed, too.

You can still go to the grocery store, but try finding a bottle of hand sanitizer.

I don’t know how to shelter in place any more than I’m already sheltering in place. I’m as hunkered as I can hunker.

Even rock star doctor Anthony Fauci said last week that folks in our state are doing a good job avoiding each other. (It’s easy. We have tons of distance, and people are scarce as hen’s teeth.)

So, what’s all this “shelter in place” fuss about?

– Speaking of rock stars, if the barber shops stay closed for much longer, I’m going to look like Meatloaf.

My wife cut our son’s hair, but he wears his hair like a recruit at basic training. Cutting his hair is about as complicated as mowing the lawn. She wanted to cut my hair, but I said, “Uh, no thanks.”

My father cut my hair when I was a kid, and whatever directions you gave him, you always got a crew cut. Every time. One time I said I wanted sideburns like Elvis, and he laughed out loud.

The barbershops better reopen before a man bun becomes an option.

– I’m wearing a mask when I’m at the grocery store. I get a little dizzy if I wear it too long, and my glasses fog up. (In scuba diving, they teach you to spit in your mask to keep it from fogging, but that’s not an option here.)

Wearing a mask takes some getting used to, but an old saying comes to mind:

“Nobody’s going to get down off his horse” to notice that I’m wearing a mask.

It’s the least we can do.

– To stay busy, I’ve cleaned out the file cabinet, tossed out old magazines and newspapers, tested the sump pump (it works), serviced the lawn mower, cleaned off my workbench, made peanut butter cookies, read four books, made onion soup, finished watching “Breaking Bad,” and started watching “Making a Murderer.”

This is an amazing opportunity – time to get things done. I’ve even hung a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling of the garage, so I know exactly where to park my pickup.

You can’t get much more organized than that.

– Little things can become issues when cooped up like this.

My wife and son pick their favorite jelly beans out of the jar, leaving the rejects for me.

It’s starting to get on my nerves.

– President You Know Who caught a lot of flak for saying it, but didn’t we all want this to be over by Easter? Was that so crazy? And don’t we all hope that HCQ drug helps people with this disease? And don’t we all want businesses to reopen and everyone to get back to work? Don’t we?

Our politics, however, have become so hateful and deranged that expressing any optimism at all is politically incorrect.

Didn’t these folks once embrace “hope and change?”

I guess it depends on who’s president.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Bored? Pick A Fight On Facebook!

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

It was getting a little boring here at Camp Quarantine the other day, so I decided to light things up on Facebook, posting this:

“Let’s just pray that Coronavirus isn’t as virulent and incurable as Trump Hate.”

Most of my Facebook pals thought Old Dave hit the nail on the head.

“It’s unbelievable, Dave,” a friend from Nebraska replied. “Absolutely unbelievable. And you can’t reason with it. It is hate at it’s lowest form!”

A Wyoming friend said, “It’s like flying in a plane and hoping the pilot fails.”

“They just can’t let it go,” replied a relative from Ohio, “even in a time of crisis.”

An editor friend from Nebraska said she just finished reading an article in “The Atlantic” magazine. She had “never read anything from there before, and I won’t waste my time doing it again. Just hate Trump junk.”

The jury, however, was by no means unanimous in its verdict. The loyal opposition was awake, and ready for a fight.

A former neighbor from Illinois accused Old Dave of “media hate,” to which, in some instances, I have to plead guilty. I have noticed that being a White House reporter these days doesn’t just involve asking tough questions, but also arguing with the president, interrupting him, and refusing to stop talking when he tries to move on to the next question. You’ve noticed that too, right?

One of the best publishers I ever worked for said it’s perfectly all right for reporters to be skeptical of those in power. In fact, it’s their job. But it isn’t all right for reporters to be cynical. There’s a difference.

I recall President Barack Obama telling a reporter who persisted with followup questions that, “I didn’t come here for a debate!” and maybe Trump should do that. (He won’t.) Press conferences these days sound more like episodes of “The Bickersons.”

My Illinois neighbor finished by calling Trump “the Hindenburg president,” full of gas, and prone to explosions.

Ouch. (But funny.)

Another Illinois friend questioned my use of  “Trump Hate,” asking if I begrudge those who merely ask questions. Does that make one a hater? he asked.

Having worked in the news biz for a while, I do not think asking questions makes one a hater. However, when almost every action taken by a president is met, in many venues, with vociferous contempt – tune in “Morning Joe” if you doubt me –  I believe that cynicism and hate are rampant. When questions become heated arguments, the true leanings of the questioner become clear. I recall a reporter caught on tape, shortly after Trump was elected, hoping his plane would crash.

I see hate when the opposing party in Congress does everything possible to hold up cabinet appointments, when Maxine Waters urges Democrats to get in the faces of Trump supporters in stores and at gas stations, and when a guy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat gets a soft drink dumped on his head. I see hate when, unbelievably, Nancy Pelosi petulantly, childishly rips up Trump’s State of the Union speech, for all to see.

And just last weekend, in a tweet, President Obama’s White House photographer Pete Souza reportedly called Trump “a pathetic human being,” and said, “(blank) you potus.” (Potus is the too-cool-for-school Washington term for president of the United States.) Nine thousand people reportedly re-tweeted his foul-mouthed tweet in agreement.

Yup. That’s hate. I may not be able to precisely define it, but know it when I see it.

A friend in Florida said it’s the “drumbeat” of criticism that makes this different. But a friend in Norway said calling it a drumbeat just makes us “numb” to Trump’s “lies.”

I replied, “It’s a matter of intensity. The level of opposition to this president is something we haven’t seen before.”

Overall, it was an action-packed way to spend a day of social distancing, with political distance often outdistancing the physical distance (even between Wyoming and Norway).

Lately, people keep saying “we’re all in this together,” but I have my doubts. Because I have no doubt at all that Trump Hate is alive and well.

I rest my case, Your Honor.

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Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: What Will You Do With Your $1,200?

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

“Will you be taking the money?”

The question came in a Facebook thread, after I wrote this initial post:

“Don’t anyone tell them what comes after a trillion.”

That observation, as the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill had just passed in Congress, drew mostly friendly replies.

“McZillion sold,” one friend responded. “A Gazillion? Asking for a friend” another replied.

(The answer: A “quadrillion.” And I don’t even want to think about it.)

So the mood was light regarding a heavy subject: This country’s mountain of debt has grown over most of my life, and is growing much faster in recent years. It stood at $23 trillion before this latest stimulus bill. It will soon be $25 trillion. And Nancy Pelosi promises that more trillions will be needed before the coronavirus nightmare ends.

A friend of almost exactly 40 years asked if I will take the $1,200 that will soon be on its way to most Americans. This guy is about as far left on the political spectrum as I am to the right. He seemed to be asking if I would be a hypocrite, and take the money despite my national debt worries. The question had an edge.

I hadn’t given the matter much thought. Not taking the money hadn’t occurred to me. And turning it down would be a tough sell with my wife, who is twice as frugal as I am. (We crawl under doors to save wear and tear on the hinges.)

So I replied:

“I’m thinking of giving it to my grand daughter. It’s only fair. Her generation will get stuck with the debt. It’s stupid to give it to people like us. (We’re retired.) The people out of work need the help. What will you do?”

I added this: “And what on earth do the Kennedy Center and NPR have to do with this crisis? Why shower them with millions?”

Well, that last part must have struck a nerve, and my old friend replied that he would be giving his $1,200 to people in his family who are out of work, and to a young man he helped pay for college, “who now finds his whole world slipping away.” He added, “What did you think I would do?”

He agreed that showering the Kennedy Center and NPR with millions is crazy, but added that he also didn’t want to see money go to “huge corporations” that spent millions on stock buybacks last time we doled out borrowed stimulus billions.

Off to the races…

So I asked why he was picking this fight, when we both knew we would never change the other guy’s mind on anything political. He replied that he’s getting cabin fever being cooped up in his house, and just needed to vent. My post gave him the opportunity.

I replied, “I have lost a couple long-time friends over politics, and I don’t intend to lose you. Not gonna happen.”

Then I had a better idea. A couple weeks ago we were about to move my 95-year-old mother-in-law from assisted living to a nursing home. Then the coronavirus hit, and because we couldn’t visit her in the nursing home, we decided to bring her to our home instead. While moving her, on top of everything else, downed power lines knocked out electric service to our neighborhood.

We live outside of town, with a well, and a lift station for the downstairs plumbing. So nothing was working as we moved her in. And for a while, there was no power for her oxygen machine.

“That’s it,” I said. “We’re getting that standby generator we’ve been talking about.”

It’s the perfect solution. A good cause: Caring for an elderly family member. Money to a local electrician who has a passel of kids. And money to Home Depot, a business started by Ken Langone, who has given $200 million to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

The project will cost more than the $2,400 my wife and I will be getting, maybe as much as $10,000.

But the government money will quickly be out there, stimulating up a storm. And everyone will be happy.

Maybe even my old liberal friend.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Still Hunkering in Wyoming, After All These Days

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

We’ve been hunkered down for over a week now, which is longer than we’ve ever hunkered before.

“Social distancing” is starting to look like the mother of all cabin fevers. But, we’re soldiering on.

Let’s touch some bases:

– Watching Walmart handle shortages is like seeing an oil tanker turn around. It takes a while. For the time being, Sam Walton’s super store behemoth is at the mercy of folks for whom security is a closet full of toilet paper.

We’ve still got 19 rolls – I’m keeping track  –  which ought to be enough. But when supplies return to the shelves, I’ll pick up a 12-pack. As Buffalo Springfield once sang, “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your heart (and the toilet paper aisle) it will creep.”

Fresh meat comes and goes at our Walmart, and potatoes are back, but you have to be there at the right time. I scored a five-pound bag of spuds last weekend, and felt like I should  high-five someone. There has always been milk, but you have to shop early to get eggs.

Apparently the milk cows have stepped up to the challenge of keeping America safe for democracy, even in these trying times. (Next time you see a cow, thank her for her service.) The chickens, however, aren’t about to be pushed around by panicky, hoarding shoppers. The laying hens must have a stronger union, and membership is holding the line.

The good news is that asparagus is dirt cheap and plentiful. You can get lots of kale, but I don’t know anyone who eats that stuff. And someday soon, even toilet paper will be back on the shelves. So don’t get your innards in a knot.

– I stocked up on books at our library before it shut down on account of the virus.

“A Warning” by “Anonymous” is surprisingly devoid of things we haven’t already heard on the “We Hate Trump” cable news networks. The world is full of back-stabbers who want to dry gulch someone without having their name attached to the deed. Editors see them from time to time. But these days, anonymous attacks are much more frequent, as social media makes us all publishers. My advice: Don’t waste your time on “A Warning.”

“Start By Believing,” on the other hand, by Dan Murphy and John Barr, will keep you up late reading. It’s about that creepy Olympic gymnastics doctor from Michigan, Larry Nassar, and you can’t put it down. That guy’s lucky some dad didn’t kill him.

Around the house, I’ve taken this opportunity to thin out the filing cabinet, and finally put the silverware holder in the dishwasher for a good scrub. (It makes me happy now, every time I reach for a spoon.) And I’m not opening any envelopes regarding my Individual Retirement Account, firm in the belief that you don’t lose money if you don’t panic and sell at the bottom. I believe there will be a roaring comeback, and wish I had more cash on hand to pick up some incredible bargains.

My gym shut down, but lately I’m getting my exercise walking around the pond down at the park.

– I think most of us agree that people put out of work by all this, and industries on the brink like the airlines, need help from the federal government. But I get nervous when the words “massive,” “stimulus” and “bipartisan” appear in the same sentence.

Not to worry, however, says Greg Mankiw, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, and who teaches at Harvard.

 “There are times to worry about growing government debt,” Mankiw said. “This is not one of them.”

With a national debt of $23 trillion already, however, when do our great leaders in Washington EVER worry about debt? Aside from fighting wars and going to the moon, their main function these days is to provide access to the Magic Federal Checkbook, where you never have to deduct the amount of any check.

When self-serving lawmakers talk about “bipartisanship,” remember this quote from George Carlin:

“Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

Bingo!

Keep on hunkering, folks. We’ll get through this.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Picking the Walmart Carcass Clean

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

A guy in a beard, work shirt and worn jeans smiled as he tilted the almost empty bin of potatoes back, so I could see the dozen or so spuds left in the bottom.

He was willing to share what was left, a touch of humanity in a week that sure looked like the beginnings of panic. (Ammo sales were twice to three times normal last week, according to news reports.) I smiled and shook my head no, figuring I needed a bag of potatoes, not a handful.


Make sure to check-out our Wyoming Coronavirus news blog.

One aisle over, however, the bagged potatoes were long gone, snapped up earlier by folks preparing – scared to the core by what they were seeing on TV – for whatever this Coronavirus deal will bring. There’s so much we still don’t know. A Wall Street Journal columnist likened the lack of reliable data to buying a house when you don’t know what you make, and you don’t know the price of the house. We’re barking in the dark.

So, panicky/prudent folks stock up on groceries. Lots of groceries. The head of Walmart said sales last week were way ahead of Christmas season levels, as worried folks streamed in, on a mission to get prepared.

I do a lot of the shopping at our house. So I was at the big Walmart down the road on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of last week. The change, day by day, was remarkable, and from what I’ve seen in the news, it happened everywhere.

On Tuesday afternoon, most of the aisles looked pretty normal, but shopper traffic was noticeably high. (I didn’t get my usual lucky close-in parking space.) Two things, however, were already sold out: Toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The early birds of semi-panic had already come and gone, carrying off one entire aisle of every kind of toilet paper you can imagine. Same thing in the hand sanitizer shelves. As they say out here in Wyoming (I’m not sure why), “Gone Johnson.”

“Who needs that much toilet paper?” I wondered.

Luckily, I bought some the week before, and when I got home I counted 20 rolls. That ought to be enough for three people, right?

On Thursday, the toilet paper was still sold out, and half of the paper towels on the other side of the aisle were gone as well. (God help our municipal sewer system.) The real action, however, was over in the canned soup aisle, where serious folks were loading their carts, not caring that they were blocking traffic. (Some didn’t look like soup eaters to me.)

Same thing over in canned goods, as pinto beans and diced tomatoes were going fast. Something about a crisis makes folks want to make soup, I guess, and that’s probably a good thing. The dry packets of Lipton Chicken Soup were sold out, but they had plenty of dry onion soup packets left. (Folks want soup, not dip, in an emergency.)

The big change was apparent Friday afternoon. Both sides of the toilet paper/hand towel aisle were completely empty. A fresh box of towels never made it to the shelf, as folks grabbed them from the stock person. Not much left in canned goods. Potatoes: Pretty much gone. The display of packaged deli meats was picked clean.

The near-panic had spread to the dairy section, where there wasn’t a carton of eggs to be had. Plenty of milk, though.

Folks had finally found their way to the fresh meat display. No hamburger. A few of the more expensive steaks were left, but not many. The only things left in the chicken display were packages of bright green marinated chicken breasts, which didn’t interest a virus-conscious crowd. The big bags of frozen chicken were still available, but going fast.

The only thing left in plenty of supply was bratwurst. Plenty of brats, and I wondered if the same could be said at Wisconsin Walmarts.

My most enduring image of the week was the roaming computerized stock monitoring robot named “Bossanova” (we can’t blame it on him), parked forlornly in the empty toilet paper/hand towel aisle, blinking sadly.

We’ll get through this, folks. And we’ll have well-stocked freezers when we come out the other end.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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