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The XX Files 

Steal away

There are few thrills as great as the one you get the first time you steal and get away with it. When I was in junior high, roughly my older son's age, I shoplifted some Necco Wafers from the little market near my school. I just slid the cylinder of colored disks into my mitten, browsed for a few more minutes, and left with my friends. Outside, with the cold sweet snap of candy in my mouth, I celebrated my victory --- getting stuff free and outsmarting The Man. My life of crime ended soon after, when my friend Tammy was caught with a fur coat under her parka in Filene's. I've led an honest life since then. Until now.

Over coffee at a diner recently, my husband mentioned that we need to put money into both our sons' college accounts. Hadn't we been doing that all along? No? Oops. An unmaternal thought popped into my mind: let's not. Let's keep the money for ourselves. A shiver of excitement ran up my spine. We can do this, I said to my disbelieving husband. We can keep the money because we have the power and we won't get caught. It's the perfect crime.

Of course, I can't take credit for the idea of stealing from our children's future. President Bush is way ahead of me there. He's running up America's debt to record-breaking heights. When the bill comes due --- for $7.5 trillion and counting --- guess who'll have to pay it? Now, I'm not happy about my kids getting saddled with the nation's debt and I do feel a pang of guilt when I consider keeping their college money for myself. But just a little pang.

Besides, haven't I done enough for my children? They lived inside my body for, what, a year or so? And then I coochy-cooed and sang and generally made a fool of myself for a few more years until they were old enough to walk and talk and play Halo 2.

I'll take a page from Bush's book. You don't see him saving for America's future by paying for any namby-pamby education initiatives. No. Bush has the sense of entitlement and steady hand that an old thief like me can appreciate. Envy, even. It's like taking candy from the corner market: He's slipping tax cuts into the mittens of rich folks and he won't get caught.

The trickle-down theory of tax cuts for the wealthy will work for my family. Just as the tax cuts are intended to spur the economy and help build America, keeping the boys' college money for ourselves will spur our own little family economy and help build this kitchen addition I've been dreaming about. Rather than encourage college aspirations, we'll give the kids the real-time opportunity to eat in our brand-new kitchen. And clear the table. And load the dishwasher.

This must be how W and Cheney and their cronies feel: deliciously naughty, bathed in the dark green flow of free money, money that would be better used elsewhere but is so much fun to have here, now, all to ourselves. They must. Otherwise, why would they ignore the dire economic situation Americans are in?

America is experiencing the trifecta of dismal economic scenarios: a soaring national debt, an ever-weakening dollar, and rapidly rising credit-card fees. As a nation, we've never had so much personal debt and so little money saved. Like so many Americans, my husband and I are still paying off our own school loans and credit cards --- how are we supposed to save for college?

Plus, what's so great about saving, anyway? It's a risky venture no matter how you slice it. If you're saving for college, for example, your kid could turn out to be a deadbeat. He might take your hard-earned kitchen-addition money and party until all hours with coke fiends and fornicators (that reminds me: a shout out to all my college friends!).

I'm starting to see where W stands on this --- it's a risk to waste perfectly good money on the little people. If he restores slashed police-department budgets, insures the uninsured, and improves port security, who knows who will end up with the money? It's much more desirable to hand the money directly to his wealthy pals who have the experience to responsibly handle large sums. And, in the case of my family, to hang onto our money instead of putting it into college savings accounts.

Okay, so we'll forge ahead with the new kitchen. Now we must steer the children away from college. They're already looking forward to college; we've told them about the exhilarating discourse, the magnificent libraries, and the preponderance of lead guitarists looking to join garage bands. We need to lower their expectations. But how?

I thought of a great solution while watching the precipitous slide of the dollar, which has lost 30 percent of its value against the Euro since Bush took office. He says the weak dollar will spur exports and create jobs. So what if economists warn that we're headed for a fiscal crisis? I got inspired to do a little devaluing at home.

What if we reduce the worth of our most valuable asset: our kids? Encouraging them to fail --- to let their grades plummet like the dollar --- will remove the costly option of higher education. They can drop out, get jobs, and pay their own way.

For now, our kids, like the American public, are clueless about the bleak economic future. As long as there's Soy Crisps on the table and SpongeBob on the television, they're happy. When the time comes, if they're unable to score one of the few jobs left in America --- Wal-Mart clerk, coffee barista, porn website administrator --- they can take up stealing. If it's good enough for their mother --- and the president --- it's good enough for them.

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