It's only been a few weeks since an aghast but riveted world watched as a home-made balloon, presumably carrying a six-year-old child, soared and dipped across the Colorado sky. It seems like it's been a lot longer.
At first, people were interested in the follow up to the hoax: the public enjoyed sitting in judgment of Richard and Mayumi Heene–the erstwhile reality TV stars–who launched the balloon in hopes of increasing their fame while their son reportedly hid in an attic.
This momentary media obsession quickly dissipated and was replaced by other events. After all, this was a story that had no legs. It was just another example of our sick media culture that exploits children. Reality TV may be the latest example, but the list goes on: preteen pop stars, toddler beauty pageants, the marketing of thongs to kids barely out of pull ups.
The public rightly is outraged when faced with another example of adults exploiting children for their own ends. But recriminations should last longer than the average news cycle and shouldn't stop in Hollywood and with the media. After all, politicians use kids all the time. And despite lofty rhetoric, the claimed concern for the children's welfare often is hot air.
Consider current calculations. Washington spent $1.4 trillion more than it took in during fiscal year 2009. It will accrue another $1.4 trillion in debt next year. We justify this mammoth overspending—which will require annual interest payments of $800 billion in ten years—as necessary to jump start the economy. But when will overspending end?
The official U.S. debt is around $12 trillion. That's nearly $40,000 for every citizen, which means that each of our kids starts off life $40,000 in the hole. Talk about taxation without representation: we are effectively spending the money of those in diapers and not yet born, long before they have a say in any of the decisions that we make. But of course, all of us, their parents and adults who are supposed to be interested in making life better, not worse, for those who come after us are supposed to represent their interests. Who can say with a straight face that today's politicians are?