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No Heroic Measures

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To no surprise, the super-committee served up the Congress of 2012 right in time for Thanksgiving. We gave Washington the bird. This holiday it came home to roost. Solving the long-term budget gap just isn't something our country can do for us. That's something only we can do, for our country. And we can each do it with the stroke of a pen and two postage stamps. 

The United States is on course to certain insolvency by providing dying baby boomers with something we don't want -- a year of living hell. A reality horror show of epic proportions, a cast of millions and a production budget in the trillions; America's Night of the Living Dead, sponsored by Medicare. The GenXers (who run most everything now) and that Greatest Generation (who invented the modern American way of death) assumed the Me Generation would die with the same feckless fiscal and civic irresponsibility as we lived. That might be a fair assumption. The country did go from history's greatest creditor nation to all-time biggest debtor under our stewardship. 

Fortunately, we never did anything the way our parents did. Our fathers marched patriotically off to war. Our generation made a moral crusade of doing the opposite. Our parents came of age, discreetly fooled around some and got married. We came of age and had a sexual revolution; a moral crusade to end militarism, racism and patriarchy with a few ecstatic strokes. Our mothers bore us in hospital settings, often with full epidurals. We made a moral crusade out of natural childbirth. Our parents often put us on baby formula within weeks of birth. Us boomers turned breast-feeding into a moral crusade. And that was just the start of a vast moral crusade about nurturing children.

We've stood by in horror as too many of our parents passed on, after enduring what surely felt like an eternity of discomfort and humiliation, punctuated by moments of searing agony. Millions of us have already quietly determined to die differently. But quiet resolve isn't really how we roll.

We may not be the Greatest Generation but when it comes to creating moral crusades we're the tops. Now we need a moral crusade to die when our time comes. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren will sacrifice the best years of their lives to pay for the worst year of ours. Each of us must leave clear instructions, a living will, to our loved ones, that draws a line beyond which we heroically refuse heroic measures. One copy gets sent to the Congressional Budget Office with instructions to recalculate their Medicare cost projections accordingly. Another copy should go to our congressmen with instructions as to what we'd like done with these savings. 

As usual, we'll make a big deal out of doing something most past generations managed to do without thinking twice. There will be shelves of self-help books, a booming industry of physical and spiritual enablers for this ultimate rite of passage. A reality TV show is in the works. Well worth it to be rid of us in a timely fashion.

The 1% has a point. Raising their taxes might solve our near-term shortfall but there isn't enough money in the world to keep an army of zombies hooked up to a vampire-like medical system indefinitely. We don't need death panels or magic marketplaces to tell us when it's time to go. The 99% percent have nothing but one life to give to our country. Let's offer it right now and seize the absolute moral authority to insist that the 1% contribute their share, too.

Since our kids won't be paying to keep us in living hell maybe we can borrow enough to rebuild the roads and bridges they'll be using for the next thirty years. Our babies on board are behind the wheel now and I hate to think of them driving on that crumbling infrastructure. Making it child-safe could become our next-to-last moral crusade.

Hopefully, we can each take out our inner zombie and save the better half of a generation from a fate worse than death with more good humor than grandiosity. There's an off chance we might start to heal our ailing, flailing body politic with the best medicine there is. What is surely our final moral crusade could also be our funniest. Rather than exit kicking and screaming, let's go out with one last twist and a shout. Keeping America the land of the free might require only that it remain the home of the brave.