You can only spend it once


There’s an old law of physics…

“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”

It’s known as Newton’s Third Law, and an important part of his Laws of Motion.

Now I’m not here to go deeply into a physics lesson with you, but I think this is the most simple and direct way to explain the mess the United States is facing. Because… go read it again… it seems to me we have a huge group of people that don’t understand fundamental realities.

And while we can get caught up in definitions… trying to determine what’s an action or a reaction or equal or opposite… the simplicity of the statement shouldn’t be overlooked.

Back in 1997 Terry and I brought the boys to Disney World. It was the first long vacation for the three of them… first trip on a plane, first extended stay in a hotel, and you get the idea.

Justin was 7 at the time. And for the trip, he had been given a preset amount of money to spend. Some of it came from grandparents and his father and others wishing him well on the trip. Some of it came from terry and I. Some of it came from what he had decided he wanted to bring from his savings. The big thing to understand… he had his own spending money.

Well… I suppose I don’t need to tell you that when you bring a 7-year-old to Disney World and Universal Studios and the beach and… you get it, central Florida… his discretionary funds are at risk on day one.

About two-thirds of the way through the trip, he was done. I suppose you could join us in being surprised he last that long. But for us… well…

As we left one morning for the Disney-MGM Studios, Justin was sitting in the car, smiling, and fully understanding his financial situation. It lasted until we visited the Muppets. Folks that love Disney and the old major theme parks understand the concept of rides and attractions exiting through a themed gift shop. Muppet*Vision 3D is no exception. I can still picture Justin’s face when he saw it.

(I should point out that back then, Justin’s favorite character was Eeyore. Back to the story…)

We were walking around in the store. Honestly nothing more than meandering and poking around. I can’t recall if we were purchasing anything in particular, but Justin was by my side when he literally froze in his tracks… jaw-dropped… eyes wide open… and I’m pretty sure he had completely stopped breathing.

In front of him was a display of baseball caps… and the… most… amazing… Eeyore… hat… ever!

I’m pretty certain I haven’t fully collected on all of the car washers and lawn mows and future chores promised at that moment. And I fully recall violating the “this one last thing” agreement we had a few days later on that vacation. But what could I do? The scenario was simply adorable and amazing and memorable… a true cherished Disney memory for us… and $10 wasn’t going to break me. I bought it.

I’m sharing that story with you because there is a funny lesson in it. Occasionally, you may find yourself in a difficult position, with the good fortune of having someone to bail you out. In 1997, Justin had Terry and I. It worked.

But the reality of the world is that in a neat and tidy philosophy, you only get to spend a dollar once. If you have twenty dollars in your wallet… and reach in once or twice or twenty times to spend the contents of that wallet… your action (spending money) will eventually be met by a reaction (running out of money). The twenty dollars doesn’t magically replenish itself wen you put your wallet away.

(Unless you’re in Vegas. But it happens there even more rarely than finding someone to bail you out does. And the legendary Vegas adventure of 2004 is a completely different story.)

Pension reform in Rhode Island. (Your magic search words for more on this are “Rhode Island pension reform Chafee 2011”… enjoy.) Parks filling up across the country. (Use “occupy wall street protests” as a good start, and toss in “Oakland” for some variety.) The election cycle beginning with news and notes and debates and primaries and mudslinging and factchecking.

We’re in for a beauty in 2012.

And yet, I can’t help but be fascinated… like a 7-year old looking at an Eeyore hat.

And I can’t help but wonder… how many dollars do they think we have in our wallets to sacrifice?

“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”

I’m just waiting for the magical realization that there’s nothing left. Because until that realization comes… well… we’re left with miracles like, well…

The great state of Maine. And a little over a year ago, this article. The miracle? Someone in Maine thinking Rhode Island had the answer:

“An analysis of the new Rhode Island plan by the state found that 60 percent of resident taxpayers will see a tax decrease, averaging about $226. About 21 percent would see no change, and about 19 percent will see an increase, on average about $654 each.”

Now, I admit to not having the facts about how the specific law cited worked out for Rhode Island and its citizens. However, I do invite you to call any Rhode Island taxpayer and ask them how things have been going since June 17, 2010.

Yes indeed… a beauty of an election year in 2012.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at