Opinion » Bill Cope

The Ides of April

Who's who in the class war?

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How're them taxes coming, partner? Better shake a leg. You've got two days left. If I were you, I'd chuck this newspaper before you read another word and go H&R Block-hopping until you find one that'll take you this late. Don't put it off any longer, bub. Seriously, you don't want the IRS on your tail. And even if you have a refund coming, you're gonna need the extra money for gas. Thank goodness Bush cut you that tax break a few years back, eh? That oughta fill your tank a time or two.

Of course, if you had real money-you know ... trust fund money ... or Texas-sized, CEO-golden-parachute money-the Bush tax policy would be enough to get you that Hummer you've been dreaming about. But pshaw ... what am I thinking? If you had the kind of bread to get one of Bush's top-tier breaks, you'd already have a Hummer, wouldn't you? Never mind then. Sometimes I forget who I'm talking to here. Not like I get a lot of Hummer owners reading my stuff, anyhows.

Oops. I went and let some class resentment slip out, didn't I? Don't want that. We lefties get accused of trying to start a class revolt any time the subject of money and taxes and who bears the heaviest burden comes up. But gee, the last thing li'l ol' me wants is to incite ill will down here among my class of underachievers towards our upper-percentile swells. As it is, they want as little to do with us as possible-other than our business and our vote-so we ought not intrude on their sensibilities any further by resenting them. Golly, we don't want them resenting us, do we?

So best you forget I said anything about how the richer they are, the richer they keep getting-particularly in the Gilded Age of Bush. You go back to itemizing out your Form 10-something-something, loser, and don't trouble your noggin one bit over inequity or disproportionality or none o' that stuff. Before you go, though, let me pass on a few fun facts as to what some people do with their money when they have so much of it they don't have to worry about where their next vacation home is coming from. It'll give you something to think about while you're looking for the Folgers can you keep last year's receipts in.

•One Spokane big spender has so much disposable dough, he dropped $180,000 on an Idaho big horn sheep tag this last winter. That's right, 180,000 smackeroos, just for the possibility of blowing an offshore bank-sized hole in one of the Gem State's big curlies. Guess he's not concerned with how high gas prices might go, huh?

• The Boise State University athletic department, a favorite diversion many local Capitol City moneybaggers like to amuse themselves with, will soon be renting out luxury suites at BSU games for $40,000 a year. (Think of it as a gated-community for well-heeled sports fans, if that helps.)

Now, with 12 games a year at three hours per game, I round it off to $1,100 an hour they'll be paying, just to enjoy a football game without having to sit close to people like you. (Eleven hundred? Why, that's about what it cost you to rebuild the engine on your wife's mini-van, isn't it?)

Need I say, when a fella hands over that kind of cash for a cozy seat, he expects to drink whatever he damn well pleases. So while the other 30,000 BSU fans will be wishing they had a beer to go with their pretzel, the FOEOs (Friends Of Each Other) up there behind the Plexiglas will get to chug-a-lug, untroubled by any such provincial ordinances as you and I have to live by. And since the suites will likely be paid for out of various corporate slush funds anyway, the nobs won't even feel the pinch. And who says you can't buy luck?

• Oh, and our state leaders just approved a cap on corporate property taxes. Next time you see a luxury suite full of Steve Appleton's buddies relishing a kickoff and some Kentucky bourbon, you'll know where a part of those tax savings went.

But for gosh sakes, don't be bitter. This is America, remember? Land of Endless Possibilities? It's possible you, too, might get a cap on your 1/8-acre bungalow, and then you can afford your own luxury suite ... maybe even have that beer you were thinking about at the last game you attended. (See, there's nothing wrong with idle dreaming and it doesn't cost a cent.)

• Incidentally, 1997 figures show that the poorest 60 percent of Americans accounted for 29.8 percent of all income earned that year and owned less than 6 percent of the net wealth, while the richest 20 percent received over 47 percent of the total income and possessed over 84 percent of all wealth. A measly 39 percent of all wealth was in the hands of the top 1 percent.

But don't you feel sorry for those 1-percenters. That was way back in 1997, before Bush came to their rescue. I'm sure they're doing better now.

• The national debt has passed $7.5 trillion (that's 12 zeroes, if you're interested) and is still going north.

• One last thing: As settlement for a divorce in Connecticut, the wife ended up with the apartment in Manhattan ($3.6 million), the ski house in Utah ($2 million), the cottage in upstate New York ($800,000), jewelry ($2.9 million), six mil in spending money and eight cars. (No word on whether there was a Hummer in the lot.) Hubby got to keep the other 75 percent of his assets.

Now, doesn't that make you feel better, knowing Bush offered some relief to these relationship-damaged souls? Isn't divorce miserable in itself, without having to worry about that stinky old national debt? Haven't they been through enough? And isn't an enormous tax break the least we can do for them?

Whoa. For a minute there, it was almost like I was trying to stir up some class resentment again. Forget I said anything! Sometimes I can't tell myself whether I'm being sincere or sarcastic.

No, never forget that it's just like they told you: If you work real hard-and if you don't let things like outsourcing, downsizing, cheap labor, corrupt corporate practices, exploding healthcare costs, exploding higher ed costs and exploding gasoline costs get you to take your eyes off the ball-you, too, might someday be up there in the sky box with the big boys.

And push any suspicions for your mind that, possibly, there's always a class war going on ... that you and I have already lost ... only we're not supposed to know about it ... and if we do, we're just supposed to keep our mouths shut and take it.

But look, I didn't mean to distract you. You get those taxes done, partner. Get humpin'! We've got a country to run.