Largest private university donations (2009):
Stanford $640.1 million
Harvard $601.6 million — LA Times February 4, 2010
Kennedy Center receives $22.5 million in single gift.
— Jim Handly, NBS News May 4, 2010
U.S. Treasury Department operating balance: $73.76 billion
Apple Corporation operating balance: $76.156 billion
–Matt Hartley, The Financial Post July 28, 2011
Health club membership: $1,238.56; Hair care: $333.87; Gift shop allowance: $1,666.73; Use of Foreign Currency: $44,164; Miscellaneous costs: $135,249.22. A few of the perks for each U.S. Senator which, coupled with salary, benefits, retirement, total $8,162,000 per Senator each year!
–Joshua M. Brown, The Christian Science Monitor July 29. 2011
Since The Hill and Lake Press is a monthly newspaper, pressing issues of the day may resolve themselves, which is why I tend to write about garage sales and dogs. At the risk of belaboring old news, as I write, the debt ceiling has been grudgingly and sloppily raised with the result being Standard and Poor’s downgrading the U.S. economy from a AAA rating to AA+. S&P warns that we may lose our + and possibly an A if we do not figure out a way to increase our revenue. In the meantime Americans have been ordered to tighten their belts, stop talking smack about Uruguay, and put away their giant foam fingers that proclaim “We’re # 1.”
In spite of evidence to the contrary I have always believed that a nation capable of producing Abraham Lincoln, Silly Putty, and baseball cards will prevail. Lately I am having serious doubts. We seem hopelessly paralyzed politically and philosophically between militant, uncompromising forces that decry as treasonous even the mention of shifting the tax burden toward the wealthy, and more moderate Americans who spend much of their time seeking deductions, underreporting income, and searching for loopholes to avoid paying taxes.
We need money, and unless the government can quickly create a better iPad it appears our economy is in for very difficult times. Searching for ways to cut spending, we against all logic turn to the people who have the least to sacrifice. We blithely raise the public transportation fees for those who cannot afford cars, cut back on free and reduced lunch programs (ketchup as a vegetable is ready for a revival), reduce aid to dependent children, and trim Medicare for seniors. There are relative pennies to be saved.
As first-hand survivors of The Great Depression dwindle, there are too many public officials who seem to have no sense of history. Their simplistic ideas are at best naive and more likely mean-spirited. They seem inured to the number of lives their rhetoric could effect. Aside for money for foreign wars, they believe in a small “g” government in providing aid to our citizens. Their take on A Christmas Carol is that if Jacob Marley had only lived, he and Ebenezer Scrooge could have taken the company public, moved it to Belize, inflated stock prices and sold short before Tiny Tim died of consumption. For a final touch, they have persuaded contemporary Bob Cratchit to refuse government medical aid as socialism, even as Tim’s leg is deemed a preexisting condition and therefore not covered by insurance.
How can we raise revenue and get back on par with Finland when we have so little trust in the politicians that allowed this to happen? Who can blame us? Our hard earned money seems to go for unpopular wars, even less popular defense contractors, bank bailouts, and Senate haircuts.
If Apple won’t lend us the money, we can only cut expenditures so far. The poor and the middle class have done more than their share. On the whole we are a generous people. Some of the most fervent opponents of raising taxes privately spend more than their progressive tax share would be in funding organizations and candidates to beat back the dreaded tax man. A further irony is that many hardline tax opponents give very generously (and tax deductably) to their alma mater, the arts, hospitals, disease research, the disadvantaged, and religious organizations.
Many of us believe in helping others but resent paying taxes to the weasels in Washington.
If we are unable to get the Bush tax cuts eliminated, can we at least find appealing ways to interest the super wealthy in helping to support their government? Hospital wings, art museums, opera houses, and college buildings are named for their benefactors. The local Kiwanis club sponsors a mile of highway clean up. We need a few philanthropists to step forward and adopt an underfunded federal government Department in exchange for naming rights. Imagine The Warren Buffet Department of Commerce. The Mark Zuckerberg Department of Education or, my favorite, The Steve Jobs Department of Labor.
Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer who remains in exile. He will be returning home and reading stuff like this with the poet Tom Cassidy on September 17th at Black Forest Inn (26th and Nicollet).