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The Rich, They Are Stupid

By Robert Pagani

I remember it like it was yesterday.  When I was being a little wise-ass, my Mom would say to me, "If you're so smart, how come you aren't rich?"  Of course, a logical answer to that would have been, "'Cause I'm ten years old, Ma!"  I mean, how many ten-year-old millionaires do you know?  Remember, this was pre-dot com days.  Anyway, the point is that I was brought up with the notion that rich people were smarter in some way than the rest of us poor slobs.  Like a lot of stuff I was taught back then, in the Age of Duck and Cover, this has turned out not to be especially true.

Since I "grew up", as I laughingly like to call what's happened to me since I was shorter and used to fall down a lot, I've had the opportunity to work for a few millionaires.  At the risk of contradicting my dear old Mom, it has not been my experience that those guys were particularly bright.  In fact, one or two of them were--how can I put this nicely?--dumb as a fucking stump.  At least one of them was an outright lunatic.  (I'll give you a hint.  He owns the New York Yankees and his first name is George.)

So, since I have had dealings with less-than-Einstein-caliber intellects of the wealthy persuasion, I was not surprised to see that the residents of Palm Beach County, Florida (one of America's richest) are considering a proposal to make Coke or Pepsi or whoever will cough up the dough the "official soft drink" of the county.  The highest bidder gets to have the only soda available in public buildings and at county-sponsored functions.  The argument in favor of this is the usual soft-skulled nonsense.  "I have no problem with having an official sponsor if it provides money to the economy and keeps our tax rates low," said Commissioner Warren Newell.

Um, lemme wise you up there, Commissioner.  Besides the fact that you're whoring out the good name of your county to the highest bidder, I guaran-damn-tee you that the fizzy water money you get will not "keep your tax rates low."  How can I be so sure?  Well, see, I grew up in New York City.  All my life I heard how one thing or another was going to stave off a tax hike.  Toll roads, Off-track betting, the state lottery.  Everyone of those was supposed to help hold the line on taxes.  Wanna take a wild guess as to whether taxes are higher or lower in New York than they were before all those things were implemented? 

When the lottery was started in New York (around 1970, I believe), the residents of the state were told that the money raised would benefit education.  Given that the lottery has generated billions and billions, the kids in New York public schools should be sitting at solid gold desks.  Instead, the schools in New York City are decrepit and the education third-rate at best.  Why, it's almost as if the politicians lied to the public! 

Lest you think I'm saying this is a New York phenomenon, ask anyone in a state that has legalized casino gambling lately if their taxes have gone down.  The fact of the matter is that politicians are like drunken sailors on weekend leave in Times Square.  Give 'em money and they'll piss it away as quickly as possible.

Listen up, you stupid rich SOB's in Palm Beach County.  If you cut this deal, your elected officials will find useless things to waste the money on (the same way Congress gives itself federally-subsidized "fact-finding" vacations every holiday season). Your schools will not produce better-educated students.  Your social problems will not be addressed. Your taxes will not go down one red cent.  You will, however, have chipped away at the American tradition of business competition by giving your citizens less choice. Is that really something for a democratic government to be engaging in? 

Has it occurred to you idjits that whatever company pays for "official" status has to make up that cost somehow?  The smart money says the price of your "official" soft drink will go up to enable the company to recoup the money they pay you for the imprimatur you bestow on it.  See, there was another thing my Mom used to say to me: "There's no such thing as a free lunch."  About that, she was right.





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