Tuesday, February 8

Turns Out Steaming Bullshit Will Melt Ice, But You Need An Awful Lot Of It

FIRST off, we're indebted to alicublog commenter Freshly Squeezed Cynic for pointing out this bit of humor from the Michael Reagan Wiki page:
"One childhood story he has told that introduced him to politics was how at the age of eight, he asked his father for a raise in his allowance. At the time, around 1953, his allowance was $1.00 a week. Ronald Reagan said that since he was paying 90 percent of his earnings to the federal government as income tax, he was not able to increase Michael's allowance. Mr. Reagan further said that when the President would give him a tax cut, then he could give his son an increase in his allowance. This, according to Michael, was how he was introduced to the subject of tax cuts and how that affected people."

Okay, we're not sure who's lying--the smart money's on "Michael Reagan, Ronald Reagan, whoever relayed the story, whoever posted it to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, and your ISP"--but there's this: the top marginal tax rate in 1952 was a nominal 92%; that was on income over $400,000. In 1953 Ronald Reagan was two years removed from making Bedtime for Bonzo; that is, he wasn't a movie star. He was what he always was: a contract player with a major Hollywood studio--Warner Brothers--which didn't make either of his two 1953 popcorn pitchers (Tropic Zone and Law and Order). He didn't make $200,000 per on those. He seems to've still been contracted to the Brothers Warner, but he'd "renegotiated" his contract around 1950 to allow him to take work outside the studio. It's difficult to find out what his contract might have paid him (I saw "$2500 a week" given as his peak somewhere, with no time frame specified; GE reportedly gave him $125,000 a year in 1954), tougher to decide what is believable, and impossible to figure why Warner would still be paying him in the Fifties when it didn't use him in any pictures. I doubt the Screen Actors Guild was making up the difference, though maybe HUAC had a generous per diem for friendly witnesses.

In short: it's unlikely Reagan was in the 90% bracket in 1953 (which had only been reestablished because in those days we made some attempt to pay for our wars as we waged them); it's simply not the case that he, nor anyone else, was "paying 90% of his income" to the government (perhaps 90% of their incomes over $400,000, in which case they needed to spend some of the net on better accountants); $1 a week seems pretty generous to me for an 8-year-old in '53 (a dozen years later I'd get 25¢ at ten); and if you show me the eight-year-old who's swayed by an appeal to marginal tax rates I'll show you a family of fucking liars. Reagan may have, and apparently did, gripe to High Heavens about the income tax. Maybe he really was more incensed about taxes than he was the fact that he was that his acting services were no longer required.

Many years later, Reagan would famously tell Don Regan, who in many ways was older than eight at the time, that he'd "lazed around" rather than make more movies because all the income would have gone to taxes. Have a look at what he "chose" to do in the period, and consider what he might've passed on. Consider that it was William French Smith and Ed Meese who engineered the California real estate deals which, in the early Sixties, made him wealthy enough to run for President for sixteen years. It forces you to admit it: a Festival of Confabulation is precisely the way we should celebrate The Gipper Centennial.

Meanwhile, it was a fun week in Indianapolis, which is all set to host Scab Bowl LXVI next February, or May, or maybe. To begin with, we sent all our elected officials, public school superintendents, and surplus news/sports/weather hairdos to Dallas, an act which managed to improve local conditions despite the fact that a foot of ice fell from the sky almost contemporaneously. At least it did until communications were reestablished.

The same storm that sent much of Indiana home for the week dumped on North Texas, which isn't prepared for it, and is too full of pussies to deal with anything that can't be shot or given a lethal injection. So beginning about Wednesday we were treated to gleeful accounts of how Big D wasn't ready for the Super Bowl, and how the bars were half-empty, and how This Couldn't Happen Here, which was sorta ignoring the point that we still couldn't get kids back to school four days later. By Thursday this could only have been described as "gloating". By the time the thing was over--after the Roof Avalanche Scandal, the Extra Seating Scandal, the Mouseketeer Forgets The Words To The National Anthem Scandal, and the The Blackeyed Peas Just Weren't All That Good* Scandal † --Mayor Gomer was reduced to publicly chalking the whole thing up to Bad Luck. Like he's got to explain Bad Luck to the city which has him as its Accidental Mayor.

And this was before it came out that some bozo Dallas councilman put on a sash and gave Mike Vick a Key to the City Saturday.

There has, in short, been enough whistling past the local graveyard to wake the dead. My favorite of the genre was the near-constant reminder that the Red State Small Government Powers-That-Be who've been swiping tax dollars since 1969 to pay for all this were wise enough to plan for covered walkways between all the venues they've bought with our money, so no out of town visitor will get his shoes slushed, so long as he stays at, and eats all his meals at, the new World's Largest Marriot, or one of the other fine hotels and gravy centers downtown, and doesn't venture outside to get a look at the local culture. Which I personally don't recommend anyway.

This was really capped off by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assuring the locals that there really, really would be a Super Bowl LXVI, cross his heart, swear on a stack of Paul Tagliabue's last speech to Indianapolis, the one where he swore the NFL absolutely had to have a franchise in Los Angeles, unless we ponied up for a new football barn. One that would bring us a Super Bowl. Promise.


* Okay, let's just mention here that like the BCS College Football Championships and the Second Iraq War, the agitators for a More Hip Hopful Super Bowl halftime got exactly what they demanded, and where are we now? Nothing survives being thought of, and even if it did, nothing survives being thought of by a committee. As with those two earlier examples of the power of modern American thinking, people were jumping ship before the damn thing was ten minutes old, and rightly so; the question is how they ever convinced themselves any different, and why the rest of us don't know better than to listen to people who think this sort of thing amounts to a problem dying for a solution, which they or their committee just happens to have. It's the motherfucking half-time show of a motherfucking football game. It's time to go to the can, and hit the fridge. It does not need to appeal to a "younger" audience. It shouldn't appeal to anyone. Twelve minutes is exactly right. If America has to be entertained in the interim, let Snooki come out and fall down, or let Texas execute a prisoner.

† The aftermath of the Great Halftime Fiasco unleashed not only the sort of wholly unlettered, Snopes-worthy speculation which makes you despair of Democracy ("Who gets to chose the halftime entertainment--the NFL or the host city?" was a favorite query for the legal minds who inhabit the comments sections of local media sites), but encouraged some itinerant hairdo to elicit from Mayor Gomer the fact that he "hopes it isn't Lady Gaga".


Keifus said...

That Reagan-family tax thing sounds suspiciously like that Ayn Rand anecdote in which her mother tricked her into "investing" some toys for charity. The result: the West's most treasured sociopath. Perhaps Mike Reagan is mythologizing his own life to parallel his own personal savior. Instead of stigmata, look for cigarette burns, maybe.

RobertB said...

My bet's on Carrie Underwood next year, assuming they even have one. She'd fit the "big, safe, relatively non-genre-specific" criteria.

map106 said...

Aw, come on. He was in Dark Victory with Bette Davis and, AND Humphrey Bogart. Surely that's enough for an acting (and Presidential) resume.

Also. Too. I think there's a problem with the last sentence in your third paragraph.

D. Sidhe said...

Oh, man. I started out the day with a migraine like old school speed metal, and you--you bastard--had to go and make me laugh. A LOT.

I'm going back to bed until the pain goes away, and then I'll love you again. I can't resist chocolate covered orange peel, either, despite the migraines they give me.

Some things are worth a certain amount of pain, I guess.

scripto said...

I really enjoyed learning about King George with Roger and Colin. Next year it will be 3rd graders reading the entire Constitution and the fucking game will start sometime around 2 in the morning. Still, I'm glad we finally have a state religion. It's something we can all share.

Freshly Squeezed Cynic said...

Cheers for the props, dude.

Many years later, Reagan would famously tell Don Regan, who in many ways was older than eight at the time, that he'd "lazed around" rather than make more movies because all the income would have gone to taxes.

When rich people decline to take jobs available to them, they are making sound decisions based upon their personal circumstances and showing a shrewd business sense.

When I do it, I'm a fucking moocher. So it goes.