The Truth, Mainly - 02/05/2001

Getting over the election: Om, om, ooommm
by Leon Satterfield

It's Inauguration Day and pro-Bush demonstrators and anti-Bush demonstrators are yelling unkind things at each other. Yes they are. And here's one of the things the pro-Bush people are yelling:

"Go meditate and get over it!"

What they mean is that the anti-Bush people are a little flaky, probably into meditation, and that they should get over their indignation that the election has been settled by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision instead of by a count of all the Florida votes.

And what they are yelling seems like awfully good advice, so I take it.

I meditate and try very hard to get over the election.

I make little O's with my thumbs and forefingers. I close my eyes and I say "Om. Om. Ooommm."

I read no newspapers, watch no television, listen to no radio. I become very serene.

My wife notices.

"Your brains have dried up," she says. "And I believe your eyes have blunked out."

"Om," I reply, holding up the little O's of my thumbs and forefingers for her to see. "Om. Om. Ooommm."

And I almost succeed in getting over the election. I stop breaking out in mad peals of Poe-like laughter—at least when I'm awake. I stop sucking my thumb—at least in public. And after a while I am over it enough that my wife lets me go out of the house alone—at least if it's after dark and I promise not to talk to strangers.

I catch flickering television images of the President as I walk by the uncurtained windows of neighbors' homes. He looks good. He looks relaxed and presidential. He doesn't look confused.

"I'm getting over it," I tell myself. "I really am. I'm getting over it."

Then I make a mistake. I start reading newspapers, watching television news, listening to "All Things Considered." And guess what?

I'm not over it.

I start being not over it when I read about the unofficial recount in Florida. I read that thousands of ballots were not counted in November because voters punched their cards for more than one of the four presidential candidates. I read that Gore was voted for on 46,000 of those discarded ballots, Bush on 17,000.

Then I read a piece in the New York Times about the President's plan to repeal estate taxes. The way it is now, you can inherit up to $675,000 (soon to go up to $1 million) without paying any tax on it. If you inherit more than that, you pay tax on the excess.

But here's how it will work if the President's plan goes into effect: Estate taxes will be phased out totally by 2009. It's a great plan for those who intend to inherit more than a million bucks, but it's a lousy plan for the rest of us.

Here's why:

Say it's 2010 and the President's plan is the law of the land.

Say you're an incredibly industrious newspaper columnist and through your hard work and keen insights, you earned $20 million last year. You're pleased about that, but then you notice that you've worked so hard you've had no time to study tax law or accumulate dependents. So with no deductions and no loopholes, you have to pay about $8 million in income tax.

And say your neighbor is a ne'er-do-well who doesn't work hard or have any keen insights at all. In fact, he doesn't do diddly-squat. He's too lazy to study tax law or accumulate dependents. But he's got a stupendously rich grandfather who, sure enough, dies the day before Christmas and leaves your neighbor $20 million.

You say that's not fair. One of you works hard, the other doesn't do diddly-squat, but you both end up with $20 million. But here's what's really not fair: you pay $8 million in income tax, but because the President's plan to eliminate the estate tax is now law, your ne'er-do-well neighbor doesn't pay diddly-squat.

And if that doesn't make your blood boil think of this: because the estate tax will be gone, you'll have to help make up for it. Jonathan G. Blattmachr, an estate tax lawyer who calls himself "a card-carrying Republican," says the Bush plan "will shift the tax burden from the wealthy to everyone else."

Somebody's got to pay for the President's Star Wars missile defense.

You know what I think? I think Star Wars money would be better spent on new voting machines in Florida. Not only would they cost a lot less, they wouldn't let anybody vote for more than one presidential candidate.

But there I go again. I'm not over it.

"Om," I explain to my wife, my voice all trembly and non-serene. "Om. Om. Ooooommmmmmm."


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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