There are times when my brain reminds me of those kitchen drawers filled with buttons, rubber bands, pieces of string and old recipes for sponge cake. If you’re anything like me, you finally reach the point where you decide that if you don’t clear the stuff out, you’ll soon find yourself up to your knees in clutter.
So, here I am doing my version of housecleaning, tossing out some of those notions that have been piling up in the dusty old drawer I call my mind.
The only two groups of people in America who actually get to decide how much money they’ll be paid are politicians and CEOs. As a result, all of them are paid far, far more than they deserve. It could honestly be said of politicians that anything over the minimum wage is excessive. After all, their main job is to decide how to spend the tax dollars of people who, unlike themselves, are productive members of society.
Speaking of the riff-raff who hold elected office, I recently saw a list of what the 50 states pay their state senators. Although their duties are obviously similar, their salaries range from Alabama’s $10-a-day to California’s $113,098-a-year. New Mexico somehow gets away with paying their 42 senators nothing in salary, but a $142-a-day per diem allowance, plus mileage. Which, I think you’d agree, is still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
As for CEOs, probably the less said, the better. After all, I wouldn’t want to be accused of provoking widespread bloodshed. Still, when I hear about people whose sole function seems to be firing employees and outsourcing American jobs in order to temporarily improve the bottom line and, thus, inflate the value of their stock options, I find myself thinking that a certain amount of bloodshed in corporate boardrooms might not be such a bad idea.
But even the obscene salaries are not the most galling aspect of the present system of executive compensation. Worse yet are those things known as golden parachutes, whereby CEOs who have failed to be quite as effective as some of their cut-throat colleagues are paid tens of millions of dollars to just go away and mismanage some other company.
Moving on, how is it that so many priests are pedophiles? I realize that the majority of priests are honorable men, but how can they stomach interacting on a daily basis with the perverts in their midst? I know I couldn’t do it. And how is it that these degenerates, who are supposed to have Jesus as their role model, can live with themselves, knowing that they have debased Christ’s loving “Suffer the little children to come unto me” into their coming on to the little children?
Another question that bears asking is, how is it that Jimmy Carter feels entitled to constantly bad-mouth George W. Bush? I mean, it’s one thing if you or I do it, but Jimmy Carter?! I mean, wouldn’t you think that the man who saw inflation soar to 21% and unemployment hit levels unseen since the Great Depression during his administration would have adopted a live-and-let-live, let-sleeping-dogs-lie, attitude long before now? Lest anyone forget, it was Carter’s lack of a moral compass that allowed him to sit back while the Islamic fundamentalists overthrew the Shah of Iran. The Shah, for all his failings, was a U.S. ally, unlike such dictators as Castro, Chavez, Arafat and Ahmadinejad, whom Carter has been playing footsies with these past couple of decades.
With the Shah gone, thanks to Carter, it was just one little baby step from the Ayatollah Khomeini to Osama bin Laden and the tragic events of 9/11. The only good thing to be said for Carter’s disastrous four years in the White House was that it led to Ronald Reagan’s overwhelming victory in 1980. In that memorable election, fed up with the sanctimonious incompetent, America saw to it that Carter carried just six states and, of course, Washington, D.C., which would elect Hitler so long as he had a (D) after his name.
In conclusion, not long ago, I was being interviewed on a San Francisco radio station, talking about my book. Something I said prompted a listener to call in and ask me if I was proud to be an American. I even shocked the host when I said, “No, I’m not.” But I quickly went on to explain that I had no cause to be proud. I loved America, I said, and I certainly realized how fortunate I was to have been born here. But I’d had no hand in it. It was entirely due to my two sets of grandparents, Russian Jews who had gathered up their families and traveled 6,000 miles across Europe and the Atlantic, not knowing English or what the future might hold. It was thanks to their dream and their courage that I got to be born in America, thus winning the equivalent of a cosmic lottery.
There is a world of difference, I told the caller, between unwarranted pride and profound gratitude.