I'm reminded by a couple of things — the seasonal attention to Eb Scrooge, and the grousing over extending the Bush tax cuts for jillionaires — that we should be more appreciative of our rich people.
They're stingy and hoggish, by and large, yes. They want their fair share and yours too. They've enjoyed getting where they are by stepping on people, and they generally scorn the notion of "giving something back," though publicly espousing it for the p.r. They've corrupted our politics beyond redemption for fun and profit, and if that corrupting influence finally crashes the economy – ours and everybody else's – well, then, they won't be totally disappointed by that result, and likely will be found doughtily and affectionately recalling the hoary fable of the scorpion and the fox.
Maybe I'll never learn, but I continue to trust they'll come around someday if only the rest of us forbear. Impatience on our part might loose bloody chaos — of course it might not, too — and while a measure of that might feel good in the short term, as Jefferson suggested, it's probably not a long-haul plan that any of us would even want to come together. So give them that giant tax break; relieve them altogether of the indignity of the death tax; free them of penalty for their humongo capital gains; fork over the two cents on the dollar that they haven't already extracted and squirreled away.
Then bow and scrape, bonus them and bail them out, and trust the trickle down to thwart the wolf on your hovel stoop. And don't expect gratitude. Grateful is the one thing that they're never ever going to be.
You know it's not their fault that they're rich. Well, with some of them it is, but not all of them. And even those who've had it thrust upon them could unburden themselves easily enough, give it to the poor as J.C. warned them they'd have to do in order to be saved, but, begging the Lord's pardon here, what good would come of that?
Because the poor are never satisfied. Give them a mite and they'll want a bushel. Give them your all and tomorrow they'll be banging their cup again, your rueful quondam Croesus banging his along with them, demanding return of his treasure, with interest. And reparations. And punitive damages. And cheese.
That's the real understory here: how it's never enough, whether you have hardly any, a little, a medium amount, a comfortable amount, an obscene amount, or a veritable s—tload; it's not enough. Never enough. You never get where you can unlax and try to remember why you went after it so hard so long. And if you do get to that point, you're so used up by then, so compromised, so lost and mystified in the wreckage of what you had intended and hoped, that you don't even know what the question is anymore.
But you've got a nest egg — or you did have. You've got grandchildren you had to take to raise, and after them probably just one more generation. You've got crown molding in the "master bedroom" of your previously-owned doublewide. You might even be like the big-name singer I knew once, hated unanimously by kith and kin but in every one of his mansion bathrooms a solid-gold commode.
Fifty billion ill-got smackers wasn't enough for Larson E. Madoff, just as 5 million murders wasn't enough for Stalin. Past that certain point, there's just no good stopping place. Never enough smackers; never enough whacks. Think the exbro-exgov will ever be satisfied with what he's socked away from sucking all your succor? No, you know and I know and the American people know he's the man chasing the horizon in the Stephen Crane poem. The Lord just wasting 2,000-year-old breath on him. And on Larson E. And on Sarey Refudiate and on all these ball players who won't even dress out for less than $150 million, which pretty soon won't be enough either.
But if we asked the rich to pay their fair share, wouldn't it devastate the butler trade? All those lackeys and minions, flab-rubbers and valet parkers, laid off, let go, queuing to the jobless window with the huddled masses, full aware of being eyed there as new meat by cashiered stevedores and muleskinner toughs and burly ice-road truckers whose crystal route to riches north out of Yellowknife went to warm muck under this man-caused climate change.
And for what? Getting their obliging, obsequious old asses stomped for what? For the rare thrill of just this one time seeing it stuck to the Man? Ah, if only it were so. But that's not how this never-enough narrative would spin out. Maybe for one news cycle it would, but by the next it would drift back to Talking Point No. 1, in which the rich are the always the victims of the piece, the "real victims," they like to say. For example Linda Lay's piteous yowling when the receivers proposed taking back on behalf of otherwise screwed Enron pensioners just one of her and Ken's five ski-vacation chalets; or Ruth Madoff, after the enduring Everest of goozled sturgeon roe, waiting in her stretch outside the Taco Andale after having sent her sole remaining driver inside, with double-Wednesday coupons, for subsistence burritos.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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