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The Telegram
  • Frank Talk: Class gets fiscal cliff notes

  • The portly, twinkly-eyed old gentleman stood before his great-grandson Jimmy’s second grade classroom proudly. He took in the beaming faces before him. The well-behaved children, though clearly eager to interact with their visitor from an earlier generation, remained quiet and attentive.

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  • The portly, twinkly-eyed old gentleman stood before his great-grandson Jimmy’s second grade classroom proudly. He took in the beaming faces before him. The well-behaved children, though clearly eager to interact with their visitor from an earlier generation, remained quiet and attentive.
    Their teacher, Miss Jones (second-grade teachers never have first names), introduced the visitor.
    “Class, this is Mr. Mulligan, Jimmy’s great-grandfather. He’s here today as part of our living history program, and will answer all your questions about what things were once like. Now, I know we’ve been preparing, and you have your questions ready for Mr. Mulligan. But first, would you like to make some introductory remarks, Mr. Mulligan?”
    “Well,” the old gentleman began somewhat shyly, “what would the kids, er, children like to know? Would they like to hear about the 2013 Super Bowl when Tom Brady threw 11 touchdown passes to defeat the Seattle Seahawks by 70 points prompting Pete Carroll to weep unashamedly on national television? Or maybe they’d like to know about the discovery of that ancient, unexplained tire swing on Mars? Or I could tell them about the invention of the smart phone that could drive a car and cook dinner?”
    “Class, tell Mr. Mulligan what you want to hear about.”
    The children exuberantly cried out in unison: “The ‘fiscal cliff!’”
    “You see,” Miss Jones explained, “they’re fascinated by the fiscal cliff and the deal struck in the waning hours of 2012 and early hours of 2013 to stave off the terms of the Budget Control Act. It’s all they talk about. Well, that, and the Justin Bieber nostalgia tour.”
    “Oh, OK. It’s not really my area of expertise, but I’ll do my best. What would you like to know?”
    Hands shot up around the room, waving and vying for greater height and visibility.
    “How about you, little girl?” the old gentleman said, pointing to a pretty little moppet in the front row.
    “Was it a real cliff?” she asked breathlessly.
    “Why, yes. It was. The cliff was located off K Street in downtown Washington and it made commuting quite difficult. OK, and how about you, young fellow,” the old gentleman said, pointed to a tousle-haired boy in the third row who was waving his outstretched arm frantically to catch his attention.
    The excited boy blurted out, “What was the Tea Party like?”
    “It was very nice. It was held on the White House lawn, and everyone got tea and a choice of cookies – raisin, chocolate chip, or oatmeal. And if you didn’t like tea, you could have milk.”
    “I’d get milk,” the boy replied with a happy smile. “And chocolate chip cookies!”
    “Good choice. And how about you, little one,” the old gentleman said, pointing to a studious-looking little boy, sitting in the back row.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Should lawmakers have abandoned the debt ceiling that embroiled the country in rancorous debate in 2011 and again in 2013 as having little practical impact on spending and instead have cooperated on meaningful economic reforms?”
    “Um, I think the debt ceiling was actually in the Capitol Building, and it was so high it cost the country a great deal of money to build and put the builders in debt. That’s why they called it the debt ceiling. Who’s next?” the old gentleman said, anxious to move on …
    Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Plymouth office, and can be reached at fmulligan@wickedlocal.com.

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