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"Opportunity Knocked"

     A few days ago I received a call from Newt Gingrich.
     Why would he call me? I wondered.  He doesn't know me at
all, and I regard him as a principle and impressive reincarnation
of the Spirit of Evil in our time.  He is the enemy of women,
children, the poor, the elderly, blacks, browns, reds and greens. 
Like Molly Ivins, I refer to him consistently as "Newt draft-
dodging, divorced, dead-beat dad Gingrich."  
     If he had no power, he would be a comic figure, with his
desire to go back and take us all back to before Social Security,
Medicare, food stamps and the Bill of Rights.  He worships
invisible and non-existent "market forces," using them as an
excuse, that is, for deliberately driving more and more people
into poverty, placing ownership of an ever-larger portion of the
world's stuff into fewer and fewer hands.  
     I have nothing to say to him.  Why would he call me?  My
instinct was to hang up on the "office assistant" who was
inviting me to listen to a recorded message -- "less than a
minute long."  Curiosity made me hesitate.  What is he up to now? 
"And please stay on the line after the message --"
     Well, the message was clever, all right.  Addressed to
"business owners," it was.  All about the evils of the IRS, and
the complicated tax system we have, and the ever-enlarging bite
the tax system takes from people, especially business owners.  He
wants the IRS "as we know it" done away with.  He wants a flat
     I almost hung up again -- I am convinced that the flat tax
is unwise and unfair.  It oppresses the poor, taking its bite out
of what they need for food and health care.  It relieves the
rich, taking an even smaller bite out of what they have for
luxuries and entertainment and "investments."  What makes the
current tax code so complicated and frustrating and hard to
figure out is not the table of progressive tax rates, but the
reams of loopholes that exist now solely to benefit the wealthy.
     Gingrich and the rest of that so-called "conservative" gang
play on people's dislike of taxes, without allowing any real
discussion of what taxes should be for.  He, and his local
hatchetman, our own Senator Domenici, love B-2 bombers at $2
billion apiece, and the ongoing upgrading and "improving" of
nuclear weapons, while proclaiming that this tax-hating country
can't afford free measles vaccine for its children.  "It would be
nice, but the country can't afford it," is a direct quote from
Domenici.  What with all the war preparation we can't afford
clean water, standing forests, railroad travel or structurally
safe schools, either.
     So I hung up, before the office assistant could come on the
line again, almost certainly preparing to ask me for money.  Ask
me for money...  The instant I hung up, I wished I hadn't.  I do
have something to say to him.  It is the following:
     "This business owner will not be sending any money to any
politician again, until after bribery is made a serious crime. 
To offer, to give, to solicit, or to take any money or any gift,
whenever a government official or candidate for public office is
involved, is bribery.  It should not be called 'campaign
finance,' and does not need to be reformed.  It needs to be
stopped, and punished severely.  Your efforts at preventing
'campaign finance reform,' are a shame and disgrace.  As of now
bribery is not punished at all and the results are evident in the
news.  'Isn't that a crime,' a naive one asks about any news
story, and the correct answer is, 'Not any more.'
     "Selling poison, dumping poison, selling war implements,
giving war implements away -- every imaginable horror has now
been made legal, because the perpetrators of those horrors have
purchased the people who decide what is legal and what isn't.
     "I cannot participate in that process with any degree of
effectiveness, so I will not.  Let me know when you have the
bribery stopped."
     My views on this are admittedly extreme.  I do not believe
that any government official at any level should receive any
"gifts" while in office.  Candidates should collect birthday
gifts and Father's Day gifts in advance, before announcing any
intent to run for office.  Candidates, and incumbents in office,
should be disqualified from holding any office at any level for
life plus one hundred years, upon proof of acceptance of any gift
of any kind or any size from anyone.
     "Well, it won't happen," you say.  "You're impractical," you
say.  "We have always had government by bribery, since the days
of George Washington.  We'll always have that."
     And you call me the cynic!
               [Next month: "Art for Art's Sake"] 
* * *
Copyright © 1998 Harry Willson

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