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Opinion

As this is being written, it's the last day before the “fiscal cliff.” While it doesn't quite have the ominous ring of the Mayan end of the world prediction - the metaphor of a cliff has been an effective media attention grabber. To be sure, there are some real consequences down the cankicking road such as spending cuts, significant tax increases and immediate unemployment benefits expiring for a couple of million people. On the other side of the ledger is a national debt exceeding $16 trillion that has been increasing at a rate of nearly four billion a day over the last five years. Sixteen trillion in a giant sheet of hundred dollars bills could be folded into an origami swan the size of the former planet Pluto.

Deadlines create drama, because at least in theory, there is no extension or reversal. Y2K was much anticipated largely in part because of its fixed point in time. Oh boy, a countdown to the end – I can't wait. For instance, I could tell you a meteorite will slam into the earth where your house is located at some undisclosed time in the future and get a big yawn. However, if I said it will happen next Tuesday at noon, now, that would get your attention and the proper ensuing sarcasm and ridicule when the deadline passed.

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For many people around the world, the end is near ... or at least they think it is. There have been many end-of-world predictions over the course of history sourced from both religious and non-religious beliefs. Just as recent as last year, it was predicted that the rapture was going to occur on May 21, 2011, and again on Oct. 21, 2011. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released an emergency preparation plan based on a Zombie Apocalypse to get people’s attention about emergency preparation for things like Super Storms, and we are just days away from one of the most famous and most imminent predictions: The end of the Mayan calendar on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.

With the threat of doomsday looming, several theories support the claims of the end of civilization as we know it. The believers are divided into two groups: Those who think that the earth is about to be destroyed, and those who believe that Dec. 21 marks the end of one major time cycle and the beginning of a new and better one.

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Among other things, the holidays are a time of giving and receiving gifts. The question most often asked of people is, "what did you get?" Much less frequently asked is, "what did you give?" Invariably, the inquiries concern material gifts. Purchasing a gift can certainly be thoughtful and a wonderful gesture, especially when it's backed up by your actions.

However, the most valuable presents are those that aren't sold in stores. When you give your love, your time, help someone in need, aid another in solving a problem or overcoming an obstacle, you give something priceless.

The true spirit of the holidays is giving. When you give, you receive. You can get anything in life you want by helping enough others get what they want. But only if you give without expecting anything in return. The impact of giving isn't limited to just the holiday season, it's something that has value all year.

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This article can be filed under the “be careful what you wish for” heading. The row between the Franklin Main Street Program and many of the downtown merchants is unfortunate, but predictable. A few years back, merchants were enthusiastic about reconstituting the Main Street Program that had fallen by the wayside. I didn't share that optimism. The downtown merchants were and are, capable of making their own individual and collective decisions for promoting their businesses. Creating a government entity creates an additional barrier to entrepreneurial flexibility. At the time, I argued that if we were having difficulties promoting joint business ventures, why did we think a layer of bureaucracy would solve that problem?

Theoretically, the Main Street Program should be working to improve the business climate and in the process - make itself obsolete. What are the odds of any government program working toward its own demise?

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published: 10/18/2013
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