Great taste, less filling, Washington style

Published 7:16 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The advertising campaign for Miller Lite, our country’s first “light” beer, is listed by Advertising Age magazine in its Top Ten advertising campaigns of all time. It’s at No. 8, right before Clairol’s “Does she or doesn’t she?” at No. 9.

You remember the ad? It might have begun with two calm men having a cold Miller Lite. One man might comment on the great taste of the beer, while the other would speak of its ability to quench a man-sized thirst with only half the calories.

Instead of being able to simply agree that each had an equally appropriate reason for enjoying the beverage, their discussion would deteriorate into an argument about which one had the best sense and, before long, there would be black eyes and broken bottles over the head of each and a huge quarrel as to which was primary. Was it the great taste of the beer or the less filling nature?

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The campaign was hugely successful and highly entertaining. So much so that it seems, to me, that our two major political parties have copied the principle while modifying the text. They seem to be going toe-to-toe, so to speak, with their debate of “more money … less spending.”

Central to their debate is the situation of the national debt. Most all concerned Americans are aware that we have been spending much more than we have been taking in. This problem is not new; it has always the elephant (sorry, Republicans) in the room.

It’s the can that has been kicked down the road so many times that it is no longer simply crinkled. This can of national debt has cracked wide open and about the only thing that both sides of the political aisle can agree on is that something has to be done.

On one hand, Democrats have painted the GOP into the Party of Callous, never meeting a social safety net program that it didn’t want to cut. On the other hand, the Republicans love to point at the donkeys and claim that they have never met a tax that they didn’t like and want to hike. Thus, there is the Washington parody of the Miller Lite commercial.

There is a great difference, though, in the two. I have said that the beer commercials were funny and there was great anticipation as to who they might get to be in them. Since they were aimed at the potato couch crowd of sports spectators, ex-athletes who were well-known were employed to say humorous lines. Seeing them out of their comforts of competing made for entertaining moments. Plus, beer was not so serious.

So a minute with Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner fussing and fighting was funny. The New York Yankees owner, Steinbrenner, had fired Martin so many times that when they got in a fight and Steinbrenner fired him during the commercial, we all laughed like it was Donald Trump firing Charlie Sheen.

This fight over the national debt is not so funny. Or at least it shouldn’t be. I am one who believes that our country is playing with fire and we’re going to get burned. Certainly, we are loading burden upon burden on the younger members of our society.

There are award-winning economists, educated at the finest of our universities, who feel that the debt is not all that important. Where they can get that idea, I don’t know. Maybe I’m not smart enough to understand, but I know that year after year of deficit spending in my personal life, or in the life of any family or business, will bring ruin. It’s a matter of principle and principles hold true, large or small.

So which is it? A problem of spending too much or a problem of needing more revenue? Great tasting or less filling? I guess the election of 2012 will be all about one side or the other. But can we wait that long?

Our president chided the Congress last week, at least the Republican side of Congress, for not solving the problem. He told them that the problem was theirs and it was time for them to quit “lollygagging” around and TCB (take care of business). I guess they should have passed his budget earlier this year that proposed adding another $2 trillion to the debt.

President Obama told them that his daughters in grade school exhibited more responsibility than they. He ended with some great demagoguery as he accused the GOP of kowtowing to millionaires and billionaires, to oil companies and corporate jet owners. He said that leaders lead and that’s what he expected. In his way, he took them to the woodshed.

Since I do not think the president a fool, I am sure he knew that they would not go quietly. Instead, he was staking out some ground. He was taking the “We need more” side of the equation. The Republicans seem to be comfortable with the “We need less” position.

So just like in the Miller Lite commercial, we have the two sides set in their positions, one at one end of the spectrum, while the other side is at the opposite. Guess who is right in the middle? If you said you and me, you’re just about right. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of getting squeezed.

Too bad that Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner have both passed on. I believe I would rather have them in Washington than the ones we have. They were a heck of lot more honest. And entertaining.

The Rev. Lynn Roberts is pastor of the Sutton Chapel United Methodist Church, located on Vada Highway.