The Ribald Reign of King George the Second

A Working Definition

Today, I got my tax rebate check in the mail. I was a little miffed that, despite being promised a $600 rebate in an official letter from the IRS, my check was only for $131. I guess this is what George W. Bush means by "fuzzy math."

But what really grabbed my attention was a line of largish text at the lower center of my merely middlin' check: "Tax Relief for America's Workers."

"Tax Relief for America's Workers."

Now, hmm, gosh, I know that government agencies aren't supposed to engage in blatant partisan boosterism, so I guess this is just supposed to be informative in a perky, helpful, civic kind of way. What could Bush's bureaucrats be trying to tell us?

The phrase's implication seems pretty straightforward to me: America's Workers got some Tax Relief. Here it is -- congrats, Workers!

But who got that Tax Relief? Who are "America's Workers" according to this Republican dictum? Who doesn't count as one of "America's Workers?"

There are 34 million taxpayers who won't get a dime. I guess they aren't America's Workers. That sassy woman who pours your coffee down at the donut shop and works 50 hours a week to feed her kids on a subminimum wage, I guess she doesn't really work by Bush's reckoning. The folks who clean out the toilets in your hotel rooms aren't real workers. The one who handed you a SuperBurger with Cheese today? Not a worker. My own brother, one of millions of "independent contractors" kept on a short lease by employers who skirt labor laws (you know, pesky things like unemployment, workplace safety and health insurance), even though he clocks over 60 hours a week he's not getting a check -- I guess he doesn't really Work. Drive by a nice neighborhood and look at all the nicely manicured lawns with "Bush/Cheney 2004" signs on 'em. The people who manicure those lawns and trim the ivy to look like leaping dolphins and keep Mistress Elizabeth's poodle groomed just so, they don't count as America's Workers in George W. Bush's America. They may toil until their fingers bleed, but they're not getting diddly squat under the Dubya plan.

On the other hand, Mistress Elizabeth, who had the dirty-handed "help" put her "Bush/Cheney" sticker on the Range Rover for her, who even pays other people money to go shopping for her, who spends 4 months on the French Riviera, 2 months at a Colorado Ski Resort and the other 6 months sipping tea by the pool, who hasn't held an actual job in her entire life, but who gets six figures in income every year in interest dividends from stock she bought with her inheritence money, oh yessiree Holy Jesus, she counts as a Bonafide American Worker according to George W. She gets the full check. (The companies she's a part owner of make Mistress Elizabeth's dividends by shortchanging employees' -- don't call them workers -- paychecks.)

Lance, who hasn't lifted a finger in 30 years except to pick up his pager, who owns a company that makes its money by charging 100%-plus interest to loan out cash advances for a week (come on now, you've seen them spring up like Kudzu in your town on the wrong side of the tracks, haven't you) to dirty-handed people desperate to pay their electricity bills and feed the kids on minimum wage (but don't call THEM "workers"!), who goes to church and prays with his clean hands for the abolition of Sin, oh yes by all the authority invested in Dick Cheney he is a Bonafide American Worker. He gets the Full Lebowski.

I must have had it all wrong. The fatcat, caviar-stuffed, trust-funded, rolls-driven, first-class-flying, soiree-attending, sun-and-surfing, leisure-class millionaires -- they're the real heartland, my friend, America's Workers. The rest of us are just anonymous, forgettable, irrelevant schmucks.

Well, guess what, George. Although those of us who were shortchanged or just plain ignored by your megabucks handout may not be "America's Workers" in your own upper-crusted book of life, we do happen to retain at least one meaningful title: Voters. And we'll remember what you've done, at least long enough to put you out of Work in 2004.

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Is it true that the Great American People are actually Hideous?

These aren't just absurd times, they're irregular times.