Stephen King: Tax Me, for F@%&ās Sake!
The iconic writer scolds the superrich (including himselfāand Mitt Romney) for not giving back, and warns of a Kingsian apocalyptic scenario if inequality is not addressed in America.
Chris Christie may be fat, but he aināt Santa Claus. In fact, he seems unable to decide if he is New Jerseyās governor or its caporegime, and it may be a comment on the coarsening of American discourse that his brash rudeness is often taken for charm. In February, while discussing New Jerseyās newly amended income-tax law, which allows the rich to pay less (proportionally) than the middle class, Christie was asked about Warren Buffettās observation that he paid less federal income taxes than his personal secretary, and that wasnāt fair. āHe should just write a check and shut up,ā Christie responded, with his typical verve. āIām tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, heās got the ability to write a checkāgo ahead and write it.ā
Heard it all before. At a rally in Florida (to support collective bargaining and to express the socialist view that firing teachers with experience was sort of a bad idea), I pointed out that I was paying taxes of roughly 28 percent on my income. My question was, āHow come Iām not paying 50?ā The governor of New Jersey did not respond to this radical idea, possibly being too busy at the all-you-can-eat cheese buffet at Applebeeās in Jersey City, but plenty of other people of the Christie persuasion did.
Cut a check and shut up, they said.
If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.
Tired of hearing about it, they said.
Tough shit for you guys, because Iām not tired of talking about it. Iāve known rich people, and why not, since Iām one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing āDisco Infernoā than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. Itās true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesnāt go far enough.
What charitable 1 percenters canāt do is assume responsibilityāAmericaās national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich canāt fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, āOK, Iāll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.ā That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.
And hey, why donāt we get real about this? Most rich folks paying 28 percent taxes do not give out another 28 percent of their income to charity. Most rich folks like to keep their dough. They donāt strip their bank accounts and investment portfolios. They keep them and then pass them on to their children, their childrenās children. And what they do give away isālike the monies my wife and I donateātotally at their own discretion. Thatās the rich-guy philosophy in a nutshell: donāt tell us how to use our money; weāll tell you.
The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but theyāre giving right-wing creepazoids. Hereās an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it wonāt do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where food fish are now showing up with black lesions. It wonāt pay for stronger regulations to keep BP (or some other bunch of dipshit oil drillers) from doing it again. It wonāt repair the levees surrounding New Orleans. It wonāt improve education in Mississippi or Alabama. But what the hellāthem liāl crackers aināt never going to go to Deerfield Academy anyway. Fuck āem if they canāt take a joke.
Hereās another crock of fresh bullshit delivered by the right wing of the Republican Party (which has become, so far as I can see, the only wing of the Republican Party): the richer rich people get, the more jobs they create. Really? I have a total payroll of about 60 people, most of them working for the two radio stations I own in Bangor, Maine. If I hit the movie jackpotāas I have, from time to timeāand own a piece of a film that grosses $200 million, what am I going to do with it? Buy another radio station? I donāt think so, since Iām losing my shirt on the ones I own already. But suppose I did, and hired on an additional dozen folks. Good for them. Whoopee-ding for the rest of the economy.
Tired of hearing about it, they said. Tough shit for you guys, because Iām not tired of talking about it. Iāve known rich people, and why not, since Iām one ofthem?
At the risk of repeating myself, hereās what rich folks do when they get richer:they invest. A lot of those investments are overseas, thanks to the anti-American business policies of the last four administrations. Donāt think so? Check the tag on that T-shirt or gimme cap youāre wearing. If it says MADE IN AMERICA, Iāll ā¦ well, I wonāt say Iāll eat your shorts, because some of that stuff ismade here, but not much of it. And what does get made here doesnāt get made by Americaās small cadre of pluted bloatocrats; itās made, for the most part, in barely-gittinā-by factories in the Deep South, where the only unions people believe in are those solemnized at the altar of the local church (as long as theyāre from different sexes, that is).
The U.S. senators and representatives who refuse even to consider raising taxes on the richāthey squall like scalded babies (usually on Fox News) every time the subject comes upāare not, by and large, superrich themselves, although many are millionaires and all have had the equivalent of Obamacare for years. They simply idolize the rich. Donāt ask me why; I donāt get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just canāt seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber ā¦ which is to say, with wide eyes, slack jaws, and the drool of adoration dripping from their chins. Iāve gotten the same reaction myself, even though Iām only ābaby richā compared with some of these guys, who float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills.
In America, the rich are hallowed. Even Warren Buffett, who has largely been drummed out of the club for his radical ideas about putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to patriotism, made the front pages when he announced that he had stage-1 prostate cancer. Stage 1, for Godās sake! A hundred clinics can fix him up, and he can put the bill on his American Express black card! But the press made it sound like the popeās balls had just dropped off and shattered! Because it was cancer? No! Because it was Warren Buffett, he of Berkshire-Hathaway!
I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies.Mitt Romney has said, in effect, āIām rich and I donāt apologize for it.ā Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us wantāthose who arenāt blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn moneyāis for you to acknowledge that you couldnāt have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That itās not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? Itās un-fucking-American is what it is. I donāt want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means thatāsorry, kiddiesāyouāre on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to payānot to give, not to ācut a check and shut up,ā in Governor Christieās words, but to payāin the same proportion. Thatās called stepping up and not whining about it. Thatās called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesnāt cost their beloved rich folks any money.
This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. Itās a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (āLet them eat cakeā) or Ebenezer Scrooge (āAre there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?ā). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isnāt fairly addressed, last yearās protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.