During the course of a long career in journalism and the countless hours spent standing in line at grocery stores, I’ve noticed some amazing and shocking headlines. Most of them have to do with Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and Hillary having given birth to two-headed aliens.
One that topped an “adventure” story I once wrote for the National Enquirer heralded the fall of a window washer from a high-rise in Topeka or some place like that. A fairly short piece, the window washer who had fallen noted that he had found Jesus somewhere around the fourth or third floor. He lived.
But it was just a couple of weeks ago, I read the most shocking headline of them all: “The Rich Pay Fewer Taxes.”
How did that happen? And when? Why wasn’t I told?
After Herbert Hoover, the one-time humanitarian president best known as the “do-nothing” president, proved that the “trickle-down” economic theory produced no positive results for a nation during the Great Depression, FDR came along and raised taxes to fund the government programs that would help restore a robust economy. People went back to work—much of it focused on building an infrastructure and encouraging private enterprise. He focused on work, not relief.
Oh, and there was a war going on that demanded goods and sacrifice.
Most of FDR’s programs disappeared in the boom years following World War II, many of them replaced by a return to manufacturing and housing. The war machine was briefly put on hold and business taxes would reach a 90% rate. Those taxes could only be lessened by businesses actively investing in research, development, equipment, and employment.
It worked. Despite all odds, Joe Biden has embraced this same model.
The high tax rates helped build our interstate highways—highways that provided routes for delivery of goods and services—and underwrote public and private transportation in general (street, rail, air).
We became a prosperous nation. One 40-hour-a-week job was all it took to make a family’s living. A private home, a new car every couple of years, a two-week vacation to the beach, college for the kids—it was all doable on one income.
Although there was a stagnation of the economy during Gerald Ford’s term, it’s imaginable that following Nixon’s disastrous administration we could have ended up far worse. Jimmy Carter, perhaps the best ex-president we’ve ever had, at least slowed the war machine in his efforts to stabilize the economy. He now contributes his time to building houses for those in need.
And then along came Ronald Reagan, the B-movie actor, who systematically tore down a working country by kowtowing to his rich friends and dropping their tax rates. Reaganomics, a euphemism for “trickle-down theory,” instituted tax cuts, decreased social spending (his court appointees dismantled our mental health system, no doubt at his direction), increased military spending, and reduced market deregulation. It didn’t work in 1931 and Reagan only further proved the point with his own idiotic, selfish policies. A free-market economy does not exist when businesses are generously rewarded with subsidies, tax cuts and loopholes.
Mario Cuomo, the late governor of New York, described Reaganomics as being the crumbs from a rich man’s table that fall to the poor.
Our latest round of helping the rich get richer came from Trump, our national wart.
By allowing industry to regulate itself, ignoring the dire warnings of climate change, and making sure that three of the richest men in the world can compensate for their penis size by traveling to the edge of space and floating weightless for a minute or two wearing designer space suits by Ralph Lauren, Trump rewrote the American story.
It’s a sad story.
I’ve seen countless suggestions that this trio of miscreants should pay their taxes. The truth is, of course, that they do pay what is required of them to pay which, as it works out, is at a rate less than a minimum wage earner with three part-time jobs pays.
And that, kind readers, is what has become of our government. Our government taxes us to help them, capitalists with no moral conviction or courage.
A society that allows CEOs to make 600% more than its lowest paid employee is not one geared to accomplishing the basic rules of governance: peace, well-being, meaningful work, and opportunity. What the hell, toss in safety. The basic needs of people—food, health care, shelter—should not be considered a privilege reserved for the rich.
But then, I’m a bit of a pinko commie.
If, as a country, we were not able to provide basic human services, then so be it. But America is a rich country with access to extraordinary resources. Farmers have fallow fields, industries shuttered by out-sourcing employment to countries our government claims as enemies, labor unions busted by the likes of Amazon, Virgin Atlantic and Tesla. A nation built by slaves is reluctant to teach that part of our history. Land we stole from indigenous people is known about by few.
I have known several wealthy people in my life—most of them fine, upstanding folks. My closest friend in that mix seems unable to give his money away fast enough. He quietly puts kids through college, donates to every reasonable cause he hears of, hosts theater and symphony parties to encourage cultural awareness, and sits on the boards of what seems like scores of charities.
The mega-rich of the past—robber barons though they might have been—at least built libraries, museums and concert halls. They endowed scholarships and invested heavily in progressive industry and science.
Space flight might not have been an option for them, but to suggest that the few minutes spent soaring above the earth is some kind of “exploration” is an unfunny joke. For the two whose missions have so far been accomplished…they are what they are: really, really expensive carnival rides for selfish bastards.
Photography by Courtney A. Liska
Roast Greek Chicken
I love Greek food (Opa! Opa!) and this is as authentic as it gets. Pair it with a dry white wine and avoid retsina like the plague.
2 Tbs. olive oil
lemon juice from half a lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried dill
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
In a medium bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, oregano, dill, paprika, salt, and pepper.
Place chicken breasts a large shallow bowl and pour the marinade over top. Toss chicken in the marinade to ensure that they are fully coated.
Cover the bowl with plastic cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or overnight, to allow the chicken to marinate.
Heat oven to 450 F. Place chicken on a quarter sheet baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink inside and the internal temperature reaches 165 F in the thickest part of the chicken breast (as read on a meat thermometer).
Remove the chicken out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve warm with a side of Greek salad, pita bread, rice pilaf, and Greek lemon roasted potatoes. And don’t forget the tzatziki sauce