Robin Smith, former Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and congressional candidate.File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Growing up in the era of Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales, the phrase, "once upon a time" was an often-heard part of bedtime reading. Sadly, such a make-believe, contrived culture is alive and well today and driving our public policy.
The absolute absurdity of an adult having a "girlfriend" whom he actually never met, but supposedly began "dating" in November of 2009 through an online relationship is a pathetic snapshot of our superficial world. Notre Dame University football star Manti Te'o made an exasperated attempt in a television interview with Katie Couric to justify his lying even after learning of the hoax: "... my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12."
Only in 2013 could we see someone "committed" to phone conversations and social media.
Just prior to the unraveling of the fake-girlfriend-hoax was the Lance Armstrong "admission" that he had blood doped and was the superstar bully of cycling after years spent denying such charges. Winning and personal notoriety being the apparent obsession of Armstrong, extravagant blood transfusions and use of performance-enhancing substances was embraced as part of his routine. This ruse of "Livestrong" elevated a narcissist who was only superior in performance because of cheating and lying.
Moving into the realm of public policy, we watch with disgust, adults claiming to be leaders of our nation ignore the dangers of a government that has promised too much, spent too much and now, plans to "increase revenues" by taxing the shrinking productive population too much.
The hoax perpetuated in Washington, D.C., includes countless examples, but let's look at just at one.
Social Security does not need reform.
According to the Heritage Foundation, among others, "Social Security paid out $48.9 billion more in benefits than it received in payroll taxes" in 2010 with no reversal in this trend seen without addressing the reality: there are not enough workers paying into the system to fund all the benefits being paid.
This debunks the Social Security Trust Fund. The fantasy of an account that exists that has been holding in "trust" one's contributions and matching funds by the government has been dissolved by facts.
In 2000, there were 45 million citizens receiving Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration estimates that 79 million citizens will be on the rolls of the program in just 12 years, in 2025. To save Social Security, there have to be reforms and aggressive spending cuts in programs that have been living off the "IOUs" issued by the U.S. Treasury.
The 2012 Social Security Trustees report includes this admonition, "Lawmakers should not delay addressing the long-run financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare. If they take action sooner rather than later, more options and more time will be available to phase in changes so that the public has adequate time to prepare."
Are they kidding? Address challenges? Sooner rather than later? Remember, this is a group of folks who work on two-year cycles called elections.
So, while we shake our heads in embarrassment at the Manti Te'o and Lance Armstrong charades and lies, exactly how is it different to accept the inaccuracies coming out of our nation's capital about the authentic crisis of spending that exists?
Unlike the stories of our childhoods, I'm not sure we will "live happily ever after."
Robin Smith is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009.