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Matthew Towery Columnist

Published Monday, April 09, 2012

In the year of the flying car

When I was a kid, we dreamt about someday owning a “flying car” like the ones we saw in cartoons.

Back in those days, I also heard my dad warn that “someday we will have another depression, where the financial world just collapses overnight.”

And even those many decades ago, I remember my parents, uncles and grandparents saying that “this country is moving towards socialism ... someday the government will be telling you what to say, what to eat and how to get your medical care.” Well, guess what: The year of the “flying car” has arrived.

And I mean that quite literally.

This week both a Dutch company and a U.S.-based manufacturer unveiled their versions of “flying cars.” The Dutch version is perhaps more like the concept we saw on the cartoon “The Jetsons” or years later in the movie “Back to the Future,” allowing for immediate take off from car to flying vehicle. The other, the U.S. version, allows one to drive on roads, find a comfortable small airstrip and take off as a plane.

The U.S. version is already taking orders for commercial sales in the near future.

And with the fruition of the dream of the first real, if not likely primitive “flying car,” one must reflect on what has happened to this nation since, let’s say, the 1960s, when “The Jetson’s” and the idea of cool things like the “jetpack” were popular.

Obviously there have been many good things, such as an end to segregation, and huge advancements in technology, communications and health care procedures, as well as many other aspects of life. But as I think back on those conversations that I would listen to on Sunday afternoons where my grandparents hosted loads of relatives and talk after lunch among the grown-ups turned to the issues of the day or stories of the past -- and, more importantly, predictions of the future -- I have come to realize that much which they just guessed about may well now be true.

For instance, I remember my father always talking about two things. First, he would focus on the collapse of the German economy pre-World War II and how currency became worthless overnight, and although separate in its occurrence, would then harp on how the United States would almost certainly see another Great Depression in his lifetime.

As it turns out, he was right. The United States let debt get so out of control that our financial markets seized up in 2008. If this has been just a “Great Recession” to you, be thankful -- most of us have been depressed.

Another issue he would focus on was the fact that America needed to remain a strong source of manufacturing. As the late ‘60s approached, we slowly noticed more VWs, Mercedes and later Toyotas on the roads. We started buying products from companies with foreign names -- at first Japanese and later, of course, with names that were generic and gave no clue that they were made outside of our country. Consider where we stand now as a source of manufacturing.

I think it was one of my uncles who constantly talked about how someday our nation would be in such debt that “other countries would own us.”

Does that sound familiar? Three years, and the U.S. Senate still has not even passed a budget. Trillions of dollars in debt, and still we have no real end in sight. And we owe so much to nations such as China -- almost unimaginable years ago.

Another one of “the grown-ups” who would gather in the crowded kitchen was always saying that Medicare was a fraud and an effort for the government to ultimately “control our lives.”

Well, Medicare is still paying out currently, but more and more physicians are unwilling to take on Medicare patients for fear of additional reimbursement cuts.

And yes, we now have a law being challenged in the Supreme Court that basically allows the government, over a period of years, to control our health care.

The talk would meander from subject to subject -- some no longer relevant to our times, others sort of crazy (I think in the 1970s one of my relatives had Henry Kissinger pegged as the Antichrist from the Book of Revelations).

Then again, some of the stuff I thought to seem whacky, even as a kid, has some validity today. Like the idea that “someday they would be able to track everyone electronically.”

That seemed a joke then and perhaps to some now -- that is, if you don’t realize the impact of cellphone tracking and computer IPs.

Yes, for better or worse, the day of the “flying car” has arrived.

Are you ready for it?

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