MAD DOG: So That's What's The Matter With Kids Today

Back in the good old days, which for our purposes is defined as any time before Regis uttered the phrase "Is that your final answer", it was easy to know what was wrong with kids. They were lazy, spoiled, didn't study enough, never cleaned their room, chewed their gum too loud, forgot to wash behind their ears, and didn't put dad's Playboys back on the top shelf of the closet where they found them.

But those were the idyllic days, known to sociologists as the Cleaver-Brady Era. Nowadays kids are under so much more pressure, what with wondering whether they'll get into the college of their choice, whether they can sell their Internet start-up to Microsoft before the government splits it up, and which would be more appropriate for school today, the Glock 9mm or the Smith and Wesson .38 Special. No wonder it's so hard to know where to focus our concern.

Luckily we have researchers to help us out. If you can trust two recent studies, and I can't think of a single reason why you should, two of the biggest problems facing kids today are that beer is too cheap and cars have too many seats. Believe it or not, people actually got paid to come up with these conclusions. What I can't figure out is how I get their job.

The first of the studies was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency that obviously has more money than good ideas on how to spend it. Apparently the scientists, having run out of logical causes and effects to link, cut up little pieces of paper and wrote random words on them. They tossed them into a beaker, then reached in and pulled out "beer prices" and "sexually transmitted diseases", giving them their next project. It's a good thing they didn't draw "job security" and "useful work" because they never would have figured out that the two go hand in hand for those of us who aren't lucky enough to work for the government.

Thus they hunkered down, held meetings, did research, and came to the conclusion that cheap beer is a leading contributor to the spread of gonorrhea in teenagers. Kind of makes you wonder what kinky things kids are doing with those beer cans, doesn't it?

Somehow the scientists discovered that when alcohol taxes go up, gonorrhea goes down. They explain this by saying that the cheaper beer is, the more of it teenage boys can buy. The more they buy, the more teenage girls drink. And the more teenage girls drink, the more often they go down, which in turn sends the gonorrhea rate up. To put it in Einsteinian terms, beer equals sex and sex equals gonorrhea, therefore beer equals gonorrhea. No one can accuse CDC scientists of being overly complex.

They concluded that we can curb gonorrhea by raising the tax on beer. According to them, adding twenty cents to the price of a six-pack would reduce gonorrhea by about nine percent. This comes to just over two pennies a percent. If that's the case, why stop there? Why not slap a $2.00 tax on a six-pack and stamp out gonorrhea completely?

The problem with this idea, of course, is that no one likes taxes. That's why we should take another route and teach kids to appreciate more expensive beer. They'd buy less and, if you've been paying attention, you know the result: less gonorrhea. We could accomplish this though education in the schools, much like sex education only without the giggling when the teacher puts a condom on the banana. And in the case that a few diehard libertarians like Bill Maher still think gonorrhea should be available to the American public, we could accommodate them by cutting out the middleman and putting it in right in specially marked cans of beer, much like bread and cereal is fortified with vitamins and Cool Whip contains one natural ingredient just for yucks.

Another recent study, which amazingly had nothing to do with the CDC, found that for teenagers, the risk of fatal injuries in an automobile crash increases with the number of passengers in the car. Having one passenger increases the chance of being killed in an accident by 39 percent. Having three or more increases it a whopping 182 percent. This means that if your kid leaves the house with a car full of his or her friends you should take that opportunity to kiss them goodbye because if they're in an accident they don't stand a chance in hell of making it home for dinner. The researchers say this has nothing to do with the price of beer, but rather to more people in the car being a bigger distraction, though I'm sure that's only because, not working for the CDC, the idea didn't cross their mind.

Finding indirect ways to solve problems is a great thing. If higher beer prices will help decrease the incidence of gonorrhea, and only allowing teenagers to drive two-seaters will save lives, imagine the other things we can do. We could outlaw mobile homes, which would eliminate tornado damage in this country and lower home insurance rates. We could make it mandatory for TV talk show guests to take IQ tests, which would mean the end of the Jerry Springer Show, Change of Heart, and Farrah Fawcett being on David Letterman. And we could make presidential candidates wear suits with bulls-eyes on the back, which would weed out all but the most serious ones, shortening the campaign season to, oh, about an afternoon. Hmmmm, I wonder if the CDC has any openings.

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