I swung my feet out of the car the way you do when you are too exhausted to step out and stand up, one leg at a time. It had been a long day; up at 3:30 a.m., then the morning show, interns to train and guests to book. I also had to write a column on short deadline, due that day. Then I looked up.
Across the street were two young men, perhaps in their late 20s or early 30s, on tall ladders, measuring siding, cutting it and affixing it to a three-story house. Sweat dripped down from their heads, nonstop, onto their work belts which mercifully held bottles of water to go along with hammers, drills and other tools.
These men were earning a living by investing their sweat, youth and skill. I have no idea how much they made. I couldn’t help but think that it is shame they have to pay taxes and, if they did, that they would be spent wisely.
That’s a silly idea when you think about it. After all, all working people pay taxes, and who am I to decide who works harder than whom. But something else was at work inside my head.
It was the same thing that I think about when I watch Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. At the end of the show, after some of these men barely escape injury and even death to make an honest living, they announce how much each guy will get paid.
Amounts generally range from $30,000 to $50,000. And I, like you, instantly subtract the near 50 percent that will be taken away in various taxes.
How, I ask myself, can we allow such hard work and enterprise to be desecrated by profligate spending and the knowledge that there are those elsewhere who will be having babies these men pay for, others scamming the system so that they don’t have to work (including among others, welfare cheats, cops living on fake injury pensions, etc.) and still others, immigrants living here illegally, placing a burden on public services?
How, I ask myself, can candidates and office holders from both parties spend the money these men earn to buy the votes of the poor by spending money on entitlements they know don’t work or the votes of the rich giving corporations and states tax breaks that they do not need—think ethanol or oil?
The Tea Party is right to be angry, and something has to be done.
But then you read about how some Tea Partiers want to do away with Social Security and/or Medicare, to one extent or another, effectively repealing The New Deal and everything FDR stood for.
Meanwhile, Social Security has always paid for itself and is the one retirement plan Americans can still depend on. Indeed, it is common sense to raise the rate withheld based on income to get us by 2037.
Yet, they say no, it is all or nothing. If they have calculators, they know that fighting two wars at the same time we cuts taxes was economic suicide. Yet, they were OK with this.
As for foreign policy, the Tea Partiers take a too simple view that we should just let the rest of the world go to hell. Obviously, they don’t like Tom Friedman and don’t read his columns or books.
As for the social stuff the Tea Party believes in, I am just going to let it go. When I think of a 6,000-year-old earth, The End Times and dinosaurs wearing saddles, all I can think about is what my old hockey coach used to say about his mistake-prone team: “How can smart people be so stupid?”
But even I have to except that religion is the one vice about which people are allowed to say and do stupid things and still hold onto their credibility.
And so, here we are.
Both parties are wasting our money and driving our country off a cliff. The fresh, loud and needed voice of the Tea Party, the one that spoke for those men on the ladder, is at risk of fading into irrelevance because of a shortage of that which gave them life—common sense.