Stephen King Knows Monsters

… even when those monsters are wearing nice suits and blathering about fiscal responsibility. Thanks to commentor RalfW for the link (which is well worth clicking, however you might feel about the Daily Beast):

Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!

… I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry….

The U.S. senators and representatives who refuse even to consider raising taxes on the rich—they squall like scalded babies (usually on Fox News) every time the subject comes up—are not, by and large, superrich themselves, although many are millionaires and all have had the equivalent of Obamacare for years. They simply idolize the rich. Don’t ask me why; I don’t get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just can’t seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber … which is to say, with wide eyes, slack jaws, and the drool of adoration dripping from their chins. I’ve gotten the same reaction myself, even though I’m only “baby rich” compared with some of these guys, who float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills….

I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

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40 replies
  1. 1
    donnah says:

    I have always been a fan of Stephen King, and now more so than ever. He came from an average economic background and started writing when he was young. He didn’t give up and he kept writing when things were tight. Good for him, stepping up and talking about the upper one percent paying their taxes. And good for him, donating millions to charities and causes in his area.

    I’m glad I bought all of his books. ;-)

  2. 2
    Triassic Sands says:

    but it doesn’t go far enough

    Some of the reasons why wealthy people should give generously to charity (and to graciously accept higher taxes):

    1) To say “thank you” to the society in which their own skills are highly valued, and to assist others who have been less fortunate;

    2) To acknowledge that while they may have worked hard, success is never about what one person did alone; on the contrary, luck plays a huge role in success and luck is not fairly distributed;

    3) To try to level out the rewards scheme in the US where “winners” receive disproportionately great rewards compared with “runners-up” and where the correlation between the value of what one contributes to society and the reward offered for that service is imperfect at best, ludicrous at worst;

    4) To help strengthen the nation as a whole, without which their success and wealth would most likely be diminished considerably;

    5) Because no matter how much government does, it will never be enough; there will always be unmet needs;

    6) Because it feels good; if it doesn’t feel good, then before donating, spend some money on therapy, because there is something seriously wrong in your head, e.g. your parents raised you on a diet of Ayn Rand for lunch and Milton Friedman for supper.

  3. 3
    Rebecca says:

    How does donations work in the US? Where I live you can claim: the lesser of 33.3333% of the total donations you have made, or 33.3333% of your taxable income. Can you claim the whole amount there?

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    @Rebecca:

    Can you claim the whole amount there?

    Yes, up to a certain percentage of income. The rules are complicated, but I think the absolute most you can deduct from your income is 50% of your income.

    ETA: Where do you live? Just curious.

  5. 5
    Jamey says:

    Here’s my feeling on what it means to be rich in America and pay taxes: When you have a hot night at the casino, it’s really–REALLY!–poor form NOT to give the lady or man who dealt the cards a taste. Nobody wants to hear whinging about paying for Messicans’ dentistry or hippies’ college tuition from the Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.

  6. 6

    Related to this, I cannot eat Papa Johns pizza anymore. Schnatter is not just voting for Romney, he’s backing him financially and helping him fund raise. I ain’t funding that.

    Schnatter is a true entrepreneurial success story of a man who worked his way up from not much to fantastic wealth through hard work, good business sense, and a dedication to quality. Then once he got there be became a classic corporate jackass, and the company descended into Dilbert style stupidity.

    I worked for them at the time (such a wandering career path I’ve had!) and I got to watch it. Hell, I was fired for it. Their accounting rules were so asinine and murderously tedious to follow that every general manager, ALL of them, ordered their assistants to fudge the paperwork involved because the change lost one day was always found the next. I was the assistant when we were caught, and got thrown to the wolves. It was Wrongful Termination, but I was still out of a job.

    Despite that experience, the pizza beats the Hell out of the competition ’cause he came up with the system when he gave a damn. So I haz a sad, ’cause I won’t buy it if he’ll throw in with the lunatic modern GOP to get one more tax break.

  7. 7

    (Edit didn’t save)

    Seriously, what a corporate toad he became. Massive, massive cronyism, paperclip counting, starving the workers to build insanely luxurious offices for upper management, contradictory orders every month, the whole nine yards. I met him, and he did not give a fuck about the employees, but boy did he want the store to look fancy and impressive.

  8. 8
    k488 says:

    I have been a Stephen King fan for years, not just because he’s fun to read (which he is), but because he’s true to his roots and in his words. And the people of Bangor have seen that in action. This latest passage is part and parcel with everything else I’ve seen from him. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. 9

    Incidentally, if anyone’s wondering how bad the rules could be to make managers wide scale order something as scary and dubious as accounting fudging, listen to this: You were required by the rules, at 2am, to call and wake up and get the review of the area and regional manager if the money did not add up. The money did not add up, for me or any manager I worked for or with in any store, even once, in the years I worked there. It doesn’t in fast food. Too many small cash transactions, too many people handling the money. It evens out over time, but every single day it’s wrong above or below.

  10. 10

    @Frankensteinbeck: Wonder why that is so.

    Are they convinced this is how they keep the money? Is it peer pressure? Is dickishness so much a human default that the application of wealth brings it out?

    And eight years ago, in Ohip, I had Papa John’s. Not impressed. Perhaps it is East Ciast snobbery on my part. Perhaps it was Ohio

  11. 11
    dr. bloor says:

    I need a cigarette. And some fresh boxers.

  12. 12
    serge says:

    I’ve never been a huge Stephen King fan, but he’s just gone up in my estimation. “The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar.”

    That’s rich, every pun intended.

  13. 13
    Paul in KY says:

    I’ve enjoyed his Gunslinger series & some of his other books, but I think I’m now in love with Stephen King.

    Preach it, Roland!

  14. 14
    RSA says:

    I haven’t read much King since the 1980s, but I thought this piece was very good.

    What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts.

    He hits the nail on the head here. America has this Horatio Alger mythology about working your way up from the bottom, and it’s a great, optimistic perspective. But the downside is the common belief that you’re entirely in charge of your own destiny. As a class, rich people have forgotten “There but for the grace of God go I,” and “the race is not to the swift, etc. etc. but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

    Helping less fortunate people in society can involve charity, but it’s also necessary if we want to keep society together as a whole. This kind of pulling together is hidden, I think, by political phrases on the right like “wealth transfer” and “redistribution”. You can’t have a society without sharing. Not one that I’d want to live in, anyway.

  15. 15
    Valdivia says:

    I read this a few days ago and had to have a cigarette afterwards.

  16. 16
    SW says:

    Christ, now I’m going to have to actually read a Stephen King book.

  17. 17
    MomSense says:

    We love our Stephen King here in Maine!

  18. 18
    TR says:

    Outstanding.

    The closing warning about Scrooge and Antoinette is going to get him accused of “class warfare,” but it’s worth saying. So many of the rich live in a bubble they really don’t get the anger out here.

  19. 19
    Elizabelle says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Sorry to hear that about Papa John’s.

    And Stephen King rocks.

  20. 20
    redshirt says:

    So I’ve got all kinds of connections to King and I can attest: He’s the real deal. Great guy, and very great for the Bangor community, which needs all the help it can get.

    More of this please, from others. Keep speaking – shatter that damn Overton Window!

  21. 21
    EconWatcher says:

    Stephen King could be known as one of America’s greatest living serious writers, like Philip Roth or Pat Conroy. He’s got the talent. But he likes to have more fun and sell more books by plugging in monsters and whatnot. More power to him.

  22. 22
    handsmile says:

    @MomSense: @redshirt:

    Would it be possible for you to expand upon Stephen King’s political profile in Maine, i.e., how active he is in state political affairs?

    Does his international renown translate into his being a respected voice and participant in state issues? Does he play a role in the Maine Democratic Party, endorsing or contributing to its candidates? I am aware of his annual contributions to fuel assistance programs. Is his activism directed more towards that kind of non-partisan economic and social services programs?

    Also, has Governor LePig or other Maine Rethugs yet weighed in on Mr. King’s essay?

    ETA: FYI, I am a disenchanted resident of NYC, actively seeking to move to Portland, so Maine state politics is an area of keen interest to me.

  23. 23
    Lojasmo says:

    @SW:

    Check his new one. It’s time travel fiction. The images jump off the page.

  24. 24
    redshirt says:

    @handsmile: First, move to Portland. You won’t regret it. Most restaurants per capita in the US, just for starters. Wonderful place, and close to so many awesome things (nature wise. True big city living is not one of them).

    As for politics, hopefuly Davis X. Machina can chime in as well as he’s more connected, but I don’t think he gets overly involved in local or state politics. He gives speeches here and there, writes columns/editorials, but I’ve never seen him campaigning or actively working for a candidate. Could have missed it though.

    As for community participation, he’s huge. He spent 5 million dollars or so on a kick ass baseball field for the Bangor region, to name one of many examples.

    As for overall Maine politics, it’s a very liberal state, but a gruff, rough kind of liberalism that I find perfect. This is mostly concentrated in the South of the state however, as the rest of the state is far more rural and is more evenly split liberal/conservative/truer libertarians.

    LePage is a disaster and most everyone in the state knows it, but there’s no way to recall a Governor, so we’re stuck. He got in because of two good liberals running for the governorship, and he just squeaked by each of them – ergo, MANDATE TO UNLEASH THE WINGNUT!

    He’s starting to get checked by Maine state Republicans, and I’ll bet he’ll be further checked by the upcoming elections.

    Come on up!

    EDIT: Email me if you have any specific questions. I’m very familiar with both NYC and Portland so I’ll help you if I can.

  25. 25
    RedKitten says:

    Good for Steve! He’s always struck me as one of those eminently down-to-earth, unimpressed Maine Yankees who doesn’t give a sweet shit how much money you have — you’ll get his respect when you’ve darned well earned it, and not a second before.

    The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar.

    The man DOES know how to paint quite the word-picture, doesn’t he?

    I love his writing, and admire the man, and now I admire him even more.

  26. 26
    Wilson Heath says:

    We have a new frontrunner for the Moore Award. Fits the tacit requirement that every word be true.

  27. 27
    gaz says:

    Steven King is a national treasure.

  28. 28
    slippy says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Schnatter is a true entrepreneurial success story of a man who worked his way up from not much to fantastic wealth through hard work, good business sense, and a dedication to quality. Then once he got there be became a classic corporate jackass, and the company descended into Dilbert style stupidity.

    I’ve met John Schnatter. Classic little man’s syndrome. About 5′ 5″ of total self-assured prick hiding a very insecure little shitbag of a man.

    I would far rather have met Stephen King.

  29. 29
    handsmile says:

    @redshirt: (#24)

    Thank you very much for your generous reply! Regret moving to Portland?? We’d be packing moving boxes tomorrow if the situation were possible. (While my own professional work can be relocated, dr. mrs. handsmile must find a suitable position, and with cutbacks to state health programs….)

    For fifteen years, we have been summer vacationing on the Pemaquid Penisula (Round Pond and New Harbor) and visit Maine a couple more times each year. Over this time, we have gotten to know and adore Portland (Duckfat, Arrabica Coffee, Local 188, Longfellow Books are a few favorites). It offers all the amenities and civic spirit we seek, but at a scale more humane after twenty years of being ground down by the urban hellhole. Frankly, we feel as if we’re now in exile.

    Also, thanks for your summary of the political landscape in Maine and King’s stature within it. Each week I read the “Dirigo Blue” website to keep somewhat informed on the situation there.

    I really appreciate this exchange and look forward to more. Cheers!

  30. 30
    handsmile says:

    @redshirt: (#24)

    I have just submitted a reply to you which to my complete and utter astonishment is “awaiting moderation.” Hopefully it will come through soon. Thanks so much for your response to my first comment!

  31. 31
    redshirt says:

    @handsmile: The spam filter here works in mysterious ways. :)

  32. 32
    karen says:

    @TR:
    So many of the rich live in a bubble they really don’t get care about the anger out here.

    Fixed.

  33. 33
    liberal says:

    @Triassic Sands:

    3) To try to level out the rewards scheme in the US where “winners” receive disproportionately great rewards compared with “runners-up” and where the correlation between the value of what one contributes to society and the reward offered for that service is imperfect at best, ludicrous at worst;

    This should be number one in the list. Better yet, there shouldn’t be a list, just this item.

    For the fact is that most of the truly rich got that way by collecting economic rents, aka legalized theft. Meaning, no contribution whatsoever, just parasitic skimming.

  34. 34
    Hungry Joe says:

    I know a lot of people in the book world — most of them writers — and I’ve never heard a bad word about Stephen King. Everybody loves the guy.

  35. 35
    Adam Robert Ryan says:

    King’s 11/22/63 isn’t just a rocking good time travel adventure novel. There are acute political and cultural observations all through the book.

  36. 36
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    I’m so pleased that he went head-on at the standard smart-alec fucknut response (“here’s the address of the US Treasury, mail a check”) and left it a bloodied mess.

    There was a time when private charity was considered the basis of social welfare, and that time was the 1800s. If you’re advocating a return to that model, then go ahead and fucking advocate diptheria while you’re at it.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    redshirt says:

    @handsmile: You know all you need to know then – awesome. With that record of summer visiting, you’re 25% Mainer already. Make the plunge when you can – maybe your timeline will align with LePage getting booted out of office in 2014?

    If you’re ever in the Bethel area, give me a holler.

  39. 39
    Haydnseek says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Exactly! The quitcherbitching and write a check if you don’t like it autoresponse by the inhabitants of the bubble pisses me off no end. They are blind to the idea of simple basic fairness that underlies progressive taxation, and blind to the incredibly powerful symbolism of their I’ve got mine, fuck you, you communist hippie attitude.
    Pseudonymous, you nail it again when you call them out on their “charity will take care of everyone” bullshit. When Ron Paul says we don’t need medicare or medicade because charity and family members will pick up the slack, I can’t believe anyone takes this asshole seriously. My mother died last year after an operation for colon cancer. She was on Medicare, and also had a supplemental insurance policy. I saw every statement from everyone who charged medicare of Blue Cross for anything. The final total was north of 200k. Multiply this by the hundreds of thousands of people per year that rack up similar charges. Your charity would be bankrupt in about 45 fucking minutes.

  40. 40
    Haydnseek says:

    Damn! I meant “medicaid.” Medicade sounds like a horrible drink made from military physicians.

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