Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns are satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which. This column’s characters, for example, are fictitious.
Howard Bashford, an ardent Democrat, was feeling quite well – splendid, in fact – following adoption of the tax “cut” giving $400 to persons who didn’t earn enough to pay taxes in the first place.
“It’s only fair,” he thought. “Why should one class of people get all the benefit, just because they happen to earn more money than the less fortunate?”
He remained in this expansive frame of mind right through his workday, which happened to be payday, and cheerfully accepted his paycheck from the secretary who dispensed the weekly envelopes.
Whistling “Impossible Dream” under his breath, he slit the envelope, eager to see the reduction in his own withholding, now that he was sure everybody would get a fair share.
Indeed, his federal tax withholding was reduced, but his take-home pay actually was smaller, due to a new deduction, oddly labeled “Harry.”
Howard jumped up and sprinted to the payroll office, arriving just ahead of a throng of colleagues, all with paychecks in hand and facial expressions ranging from puzzlement to outrage.
The payroll officer, Willie Lovelace, had just locked up his desk and was heading for the door, but Howard and the others blocked his way.
“What is this?” demanded Howard, holding up his check stub, with his index finger indicating the mysterious deduction.
“Yeah!” shouted others in the crowd of employees, also waving their checks.
Before Lovelace could answer, Amy Handleman pushed forward and said, “What’s this ‘Walter’ deduction?”
“Walter?” said an incredulous woman. “Mine says ‘Helen.’”
“And mine says ‘Eddie,’” declared a rather angry man.
Lovelace backed behind his desk, looking at once frightened and defiant.
“It’s our new equity policy,” he said. “If you’ll just gather in the conference room, I’ll explain it, though, frankly, I didn’t think it would be such a big deal.”
In minutes the employees were assembled, and some noted that several workers were missing: Harry the custodian, Helen the file clerk and Eddie the gardener among them.
Lovelace’s explanation was brief and stunning, and he made a quick exit while the group was mulling his words. They all had college degrees and, as a result, were paid more than the clerks and laborers.
“We decided this wasn’t fair,” Lovelace had said, so we’re distributing just a little of your pay to the others – as a matter of equity.”
Finally, Howard, a bit dazed, rose and walked out, muttering, “I guess it’s only fair.”
On the way home, he stopped at the grocery story and presented the clerk coupons he had clipped from his newspaper for savings on several items.
But checking his receipt, he noticed he hadn’t received full credit for the discounts.
“That’s our new equity adjustment,” the clerk explained. “Not everybody subscribes to a newspaper, so we’re taking a portion of the coupon savings and distributing them to non-coupon shoppers. It’s a matter of fairness.”
Howard, now entirely distracted, stopped at a vending machine on the way to the door and bought a scratch-off lottery ticket. He brightened as he plied a nickel to expose the numbers underneath and determined he had a $100 winner.
“Now that’s fairness!” he exclaimed inwardly, smiling broadly as he presented the ticket at the customer service window.
But the clerk counted out only $93.50.
“Equity adjustment,” the clerk grunted. “The $6.50 goes to a couple of funds, one for people who buy lottery tickets and don’t win, and one for people who don’t buy lottery tickets.”
And so it went for Howard as the days went by: a surcharge on his utility bill, a deduction from his new-car rebate check, a new gasoline tax.
Finally, Howard called his congressman and, of course, got to talk with an aide.
“I want to be fair,” he said, “but it seems to me all kinds of people are taking our money and giving it to others, like those people have a right to it. Most of the time we don’t even know who they are or if they are deserving.”
“Well, we don’t want to get into judgments about who is deserving and who isn’t, do we?” said the aide, patronizingly. “You should have thought about this before you bought into the concept.”
Later, over lunch a bemused Howard told Amy Handleman, “He was right, I guess. I just never thought everybody would start acting like Congress.”