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Works and Days

Our Battered American

February 20th, 2009 - 7:47 am

I am meeting a few battered Americans these days. There are not many left, but those that are seem to sound alike. Yes, I think I am beginning to understand Mr. Battered American, and he sounds tired and a bit like this.

“I’m sorry Mr. President, but we are just not dictatorial in the Middle East. You said the Saudis, not America, showed courage over there. But, Mr. President, the Saudis, they live under Sharia law! And my God!—they once engineered crippling oil boycotts against our nation. And wasn’t it they who produced 15 of the 19 killers on 9/11? So no, Mr. President, those Saudis—they simply are not courageous. Now Mr. Biden, there is no reason to set the reset button on foreign policy, as you promised all those Europeans. None at all. Tell that resetting stuff instead to Ahmadinejad, Chavez, that Korean nut, Putin, and all the other thugs who kill and cause misery, but not to our America that saves and feeds and helps. Mrs. Clinton, it’s now your turn. We are not impulsive as you told the world. So you can stop apologizing for America’s recent behavior—unless you think the world would be a better place with the Taliban, and Saddam and his two boys in power. Or maybe Europe should have Schroeder and Chirac back, or Libya with nuclear weapons, or Khalid Sheik Mohammed freed from Guantanamo. Or maybe America shouldn’t have given that $15 billion for AIDs relief in Africa, or helped with earthquakes in Pakistan and tsunamis in Indonesia. Now all that was sorta impulsive.”

As he thinks about this apology business, the battered American always gets a little angrier, “And another thing. Mr. Holder, I’ve never said or done a racist thing in my life, not one. Always supported equal opportunity, always will. So don’t call me a “coward” or my countrymen “cowards,” not when you’re my Attorney General. You are The Attorney General of the United States of America, so please, no more playing Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, leveling the latest shake-down charge on television. That’s not really in your job description to call your own countrymen “cowards.” When I was in high school I was taught that name-calling like that might be what they said was “projection.” So maybe, just maybe, you have been cowardly—and arrogant too—but not those whom you accused of all that. At least if someone asked me to help pardon a fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list, I would have said “no.” Always, no exceptions, period! Anything else? That would be cowardly.”

Our battered American I noticed gets even more riled up and would say to our new energy secretary, “And another thing Mr. Chu, California isn’t going anywhere. What’s this dry up and blow away nonsense? You’re our Energy Secretary, not Jimmy Carter in his cardigan sweater or Al Gore doing interviews on that private jet. So Americans aren’t going to “vanish” in rural California. We’re proud that we created, by blood, and hard work, and suffering, the richest agricultural valleys in the world. They won’t disappear soon—at least not if you allow us to have the water that our great-grandfathers tapped and brought down from the Sierra, instead of letting it run full blast into the sea so that Speaker Pelosi’s mice can live more nicely in the bay than we do on our farms.”

I think this battered American would also say, “Mr. President, I passed on buying that bigger house. When I wanted to refinance and put in that extra room, I also backed out, since I couldn’t meet that additional $400 a month on the debt. I never flipped a house; I never missed a mortgage payment; and I never took out a second, third, or fourth mortgage either. I didn’t even know there were such crazy things. So please don’t tell me that the 93% of us that played by our grandfathers’ rules are obligated to come to the rescue of the 7%, who did the exact opposite. At one of your town meetings, just one, instead of pandering to those who defaulted, ask one of us to stand up for paying our debts and then say to the crowd, “Give a hand to Mrs. Battered American. She pays her mortgage, so the rest of us don’t have to!” Try that just once.”

Mrs. Battered American would go on, “I have two credit cards, and only use one, and it is not maxed out. And when I hear the radio blaring to renegotiate my mortgage, to renounce my credit card debt, or stick it to the IRS, I turn it off. I was raised to pay what I owe—or not to borrow the money in the first place. I never thought what I make today I would necessarily always make tomorrow, and so I did not go into debt on the chance that our government—other Americans—should pay off what I charged.”

“I tried to put away a little away for college, Mr. President. Just a bit for tuition and such. But when I did, my kids no longer qualified for loans, and scholarships and federal help. So, yes, I want more education. But we are in debt for over a trillion dollars this year, and maybe, just once, you might advise us to pass on that big-screen television, that digital camera, and instead put a tiny bit away for our girls’ tuition, or our boys’ books, so others won’t have to.”

“And Mr. President,” the battered American would add, “When I add up my federal income tax, my state income tax, my Medicare, and my Social Security taxes, I am paying half my income to the government. Wait— far more than half my income, when I figure in my sales and property and car taxes. My accountant, when I can afford one, tells me to pay, not dodge, what I owe. And, oh, Mr. President I am so tired of all those taxes, so tired, but I am so lawful as well. And so I pay the bill, all of it. Every dime. Unlike your Treasury Secretary, who runs the IRS, I never cheat. I don’t write off my kid’s camp as a business expense—hell, I don’t even send him to camp in the first place. And unlike your cabinet nominee Mr. Daschle, I don’t have a limousine. And if I got a free one, I would think someone had to pay for it. If used it every day, why shouldn’t I pay taxes on it? And unlike your Labor Secretary nominee, I have no liens on my property, Mr. President. But if I did, I’d pay them off before you nominated me—or bow out if I didn’t.”

This battered American would remember all that—I’ve seen it happen—and get angrier, “Mr. President, I have never been nominated for much, but when I did serve someone or something, I never bowed out like Mr. Richardson, because the government was never investigating whether or not I was a crook. Sorry, never happened.”

Finally, Mr. Battered American would snap back to Mr. President: “I played by the rules, and put a little away in my 401(k). I knew the risks, not because the broker, the bank, or the firm told me all the risks, but because I never shook hands with any of them or even knew those who took my money and promised it was safe—and so I was never sure it really was. And I lost 30% of it. I will live by that too. But please, don’t tell me I must pay for AIG, and the state of California, and all those who charged too much on their VISAs. Just take more of my money in taxes to do all that—but, again, please, no more lectures that I have to, that I must, that I am obligated to. And no more of your team’s lecturing me about being patriotic in paying my taxes, and unpatriotic in not wanting to borrow more trillions that my kids’ kids will have to pay back.”

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