It was a mixed crowd. A few local business folks (my plumber was there). Mostly commuters to the Big Apple. Lawyers, a doctor or two. I met one accountant. The Madison Avenue types are always a laugh. A number of Wall Streeters (more women than men). And one blogger.
So I started an argument. It got out of hand. Some spouses had to break it up. One lady later accused me of pushing the row; I was ‘raining’ on the holiday fun. And anyway, “there were kids around”. What type of example were “we” setting arguing like that?
At one point I found myself in a small crowd of folks. Being the provocateur that I am, I asked the ‘right’ person what she thought of Obama’s comments last week about taxing the shit out of those who use corporate jets.
The response was an unequivocal (and predictable) voice of approval. This person is a teacher. She knows first hand about the squeeze her profession is facing. She says:
“Those who fly on these planes have to pay!”
I asked this particular question because I happened to know that one guy in the mix worked for GECC (and knew a thing or two about aircraft financing). Another has a wife who makes a decent buck as a ‘Stu’ on private flights. They jumped all over the teacher.
“You think it’s okay to put my wife out of work? So teachers can get a bloated pension?”
The GE guy:
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. Private aviation contributes $150 billion to the US economy. It employs 1.2mm people, most of those are union jobs. This is a success story. And you want to cripple it!”
The teacher looked like she was hit with a brick. But she has supporters. The local Veterinarian comes back with;
“What are you? Tea baggers? (the growing crowd of kids loved that insult) Why do you attack (the teacher). She’s been making a real contribution most of her life!
I guy I don’t know chips in:
I work for IBM. We have a 401 plan, but there is no guaranteed pension for me. Why should there be for a teacher? For that matter, why should a conductor on Metro North get that?
This was great. The IBMer stepped into a trap. He didn’t know that there were many attendees who work on the trains. (The main rail yard is right here in town) So right away it was; Fuck that! and Bullshit! and Fuck you! The poor IBM guy slinked off mumbling something about needing to ‘refresh’ a drink.
The Vet, (who now thought he was on the high ground) rang out:
The Republicans are stupid. We should roll back the Bush tax cuts. Rich people can afford to pay more!
I thought it was time to stir the pot a bit more. So I shook things up. I knew that the damn Vet was overcharging a bundle tending for the dogs and cats. So I say:
What’s rich? And who will pay these taxes you want? This plan will also index the AMT tax. Anyone with $165,000 of partnership or S-corp income is going to get hit.
Then I rubbed it in with:
If you own a business and live in a high income tax state and also pay property taxes and have kids you’re about to be whacked!The Vet, of course, has all of that working against him. He looks surprised and says:
So I add:
You can’t move the dial on our problems with more taxes. You have to cut expenses. If you’re not willing to talk about Social Security and Medicare you’re just blowing in the wind.
That took things over the top. Those that were AARP eligible looked as if I had farted. Those under 35 gave a Yeah! Or a Right on! So I closed the door on any chance of civility when I asked a young (hot head) who works construction:
“How do you feel about paying Social Security for old people”.
He comes right back with the response I was looking for:
That got everyone going. Out of no place there are now 20 are so arguing about one thing or the other.