Another Perspective

Important to Decide

A flying lesson for the Supercommittee.

By 11.9.11

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Years ago, when I was a boy, there was a small airfield on the west side of town where you could take flying lessons for about 7-dollars an hour. There were Piper Cubs and Aroncas and a lot of us youngsters paid the small sums to learn to fly, courtesy of paper routes and lawn mowings

Near one end of the field stretched a high-voltage power line that presented something of a challenge. My instructor noted this and said early on, "You can fly over them, or under 'em on taking off."

And he added: "But, it's important to decide." He meant on the take-off roll, determine which it would be and don't wait until airborne to choose over or under.

It wouldn't make a lot of difference. My Father intervened, saying when he discovered my aerial endeavors, "Gosh, son, I really wish you wouldn't do this. If anything happened to you, I'd be alone and don't think I could stand it." My Mother had just died. He was grieving, as was I, and he was truly concerned. I made the right choice, promising to give up the flying lessons.

But the adjuration, "It's important to decide," has remained with me. When faced with a choice it is important to make a decision, and the sooner the better.

I wish the caution for the Super Committee now facing the choices involved in the great national debt: to increase taxes and cut spending, or some ineffable combination thereof. But, I say to the Senators and Representatives: It's important to decide. You guys can fly over, or under, but decide, secure in the knowledge that you can't have it both ways.

We all face these choices. Some inconsequential, some vital. Nowhere are these choices more vital than here in Washington, and nowhere are they more likely to be ignored. The recent past is prologue to what we face today -- trillions in debt -- with the prospect of much, much more to come.

So, take a tip from that old flight instructor, surveying the power line at the end of the runway. Over, or under.

It's important to decide.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.