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Chewing the fat about politics, Chubb Chubb

December 12, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

So, the dude who tore down the Hagers-town Roundhouse is going to be the next treasury secretary. Gotta love that. Smash something in Hagerstown, win a prize.

CSX President John Snow wrote back in 1998 that he saw "no realistic alternative but to proceed with demolition" of the historic roundhouse. Now he's President Bush's top choice to get our 401(k)s out of the gutter.

Of course, it doesn't take a demolition expert to know how to do that. Heavens, even Bill Clinton was able to figure it out: Eliminate the deficit. With no deficit there's no debt repayment and no interest charges. Money that would have been spent on debt now is spent on capital. Capital investment makes capitalism work good.

There, what did that take, a paragraph?

Fortunately for those of us who don't go to movies or watch television or visit comedy clubs and are entirely dependent on government as our sole source of amusement, 90 percent of the people in Washington are too stupid to figure this out. Too stupid or, more likely, too attached to their big-spending ways. Since they like spending so much, they could have at least given us a mil or two to fix up the roundhouse.

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So that's our luck. The roundhouse is gone and our 401(k)s are in the tank anyway.

As a corporate executive, Snow spent the decade of the '90s preaching about the evils of the federal deficit, so there is always the danger that he might try to fix things. But I have confidence that two weeks with Karl Rove and he'll be out leading the charge, telling us how our own personal welfare is utterly dependent on the government running up huge debts.

Actually it was the now-former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (who by the looks of him really went downhill fast after he retired from the Yankees) who first warned of a return to the days of deficit.

Best I can tell, here's why the two economic guys lost their jobs: O'Neill was too honest for the Bush White House, and Larry Lindsey was too fat. (Bush complained that Lindsey didn't exercise.) This has to be worrisome to some of the staffers. Lindsey is out, the porky Harvey Pitt is out and so is the porkier John Dilulio. I believe if I were Tommy Thompson I'd be cutting back on the Twinkies right about now.

Which brings me to Chubb Chubb.

If you have ever wondered why it's so hard to make it in business, take a look at the city of Charles Town, W.Va., where a sub shop owner says the local government has been browbeating him because they don't like his logo.

What could this evil logo be that has the city so up in arms? What is so offensive that it is worth the city's time to threaten Fat Boys sub shop owners Craig and Sunshine Ricketts with hefty fines and even jail time?

Is it subs in the shape of a swastika? The spelling out of a racial slur in salami?

No, it's a 2-foot-by-4-foot cartoon fat man named Chubb Chubb eating a sub, and the city wants it down.

I will be the first to admit that Chubb Chubb is not art I would choose for my living room wall. But this is one of those exact same logos that, had it been drawn up 100 years ago for Ye Olde Elija Subbe Companee, would be considered "historic" and the city would be threatening the Ricketts with fines and jail time if they TRIED to take it down.

Now you might be thinking here that the logo is a sign out on the street, but that is not the case. In fact, it was in the window, and then further and further back INSIDE THE SHOP. And the city still may not be satisfied; so long as the logo can be spotted from the sidewalk, apparently it has to come down.

So there you have it. Be it federal policy at the very top or municipal policy at the very bottom, private enterprise these days has no chance.

But if I were the Ricketts, I'd walk up and down main street, peering into the window of every shop. And if I spotted anything painted after 1910, I'd file a complaint. With any luck, I bet I could get the entire Chamber of Commerce membership locked up.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or you may e-mail him at timr@herald-mail.com.

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