Fat Cat Manifest: Rev. Ike’s Thinkonomics

If you guaranteed most folks an income next year of one million bucks, but it came with a 70% tax rate, what percentage would sign on the bottom line? Do you suppose there would be a huge groundswell of tea baggers with five-figure incomes turning up their noses on principle over this outlandish top marginal tax rate (which still prevailed in Reagan’s first term)? I, for one, would sign up in a heartbeat then register Republican and rejoin the NRA, lest anyone try to get their mitts on my remaining $300,000.

“As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” –Proverbs 23:7

If you guaranteed most folks an income next year of one million bucks, but it came with a 70% tax rate, what percentage would sign on the bottom line? Do you suppose there would be a huge groundswell of tea baggers with five-figure incomes turning up their noses, on principle, over such a top marginal tax rate (which still prevailed under Reagan)? I, for one, would sign up in a heartbeat then register Republican and rejoin the NRA, lest anyone try to get their mitts on my remaining $300,000.

The income gap between the top tier and everyone else continues its seismic expansion. Nonetheless, only one-third of Americans, when surveyed, see themselves as ‘have-nots.’ On the contrary, recent census data finds that “a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.”

Liberals shake their heads over how wage slaves continue to vote against their own economic interests in favor of Fat Cat bennies like terminating the estate, er, death tax. Like Huey Long’s fictional alter-ego, Willie Stark, kept saying to his minions: “You’re a hick. Nobody ever helped a hick but a hick himself.” Average mokes being played for suckers resonated back in the Great Depression. Not in today’s Great Recession.

A captive (audience like the American Public) can become in thrall to their captor’s cause. So suggests the Stockholm Syndrome. It was invoked to defend media heiress Patty Hearst for her gun-toting, bank-robbing spree with the Symbionese Liberation Army after they had kidnapped her. The prosecution case portrayed a poor little rich girl acting out, posing all radical chic in her Ché beret and M-1 carbine. It is probably a symbiosis of both, as it is for the American consumer – conditioned to be who we wannabe.

Back when Patty and her SLA pals were liberating God knows who, I was a young man on the make, angling to become a millionaire before I turned 30. I started up a couple of promising ventures, raised a bunch of bucks, but, alas, came up short. Subsequently, I took to quipping that, “I have a negative net worth, but a wealth of self-esteem.” Though, truthfully, that may well have been a pre-existing attitude.

In college, I became intrigued with dynamic ‘visualizing’ through Maslow’s ‘self-actualization,’ particularly its commercial applications. I wrote a paper on Holiday Magic and other nominal purveyors of cosmetics which were really in the business of selling ‘distributorships’ via pyramid schemes. It was classic bait-and-switch, mesmerizing marks in revivalist-style marketing confabs featuring ‘Mind Dynamics.’

Then I went on a pilgrimage to the rococo Palace Cathedral in Northern Manhattan’s Washington Heights to catch the Prosperity Gospel of the Rev. Ike. While Reverend Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter’s mother was AfroAmerican, his paternal fore-bearers, like mine, came by way of the Dutch East Indies. Rev. Ike’s was a “do-it-yourself church” with a biracial congregation whose “only savior…is the God in you.” And he wasn’t talking about “that stingy, hard-hearted, hard-of-hearing God-in the-Sky… you learned about in Sunday School.”

A self-professed heretic, Rev. Ike stood four-square at odds with St Paul: “the best thing you can do for the poor is not be one of them.” As one of the pioneering televangelists, the Rev. Ike reached an estimated congregation of 2.5 million. Critics brayed that he played his flock for suckers, a condescending, sanctimonious judgment that sold his flock short. Rev. Ike was almost always square with them. “Be proud of the way I look because you spend $1,000 a week to buy my clothes,” and “my garage runneth over.”

In one sermon he nailed the pious Focus on Family types who shill for special interests in the name of the Lord:

Oh the Games People Play now
Every night and every day now….
People walking up to you, now
Singing glory Halleluiah, now
As they try to sock it to you, now
In the name of the Lord.

Like Lady Gaga, Rev. Ike channeled the yearnings of followers who live vicariously through their icons. Devotees could Be Like Ike by Thinking Like Ike. Rev. Ike’s Thinkonomics teaches the Mastery of Mind and how that mastered mind can be a magnet for money: “If your mind can conceive it, then you can achieve it!” This mantra was lifted virtually verbatim from Napoleon Hill’s 1937 classic, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ which, in turn, draws on the ‘autosuggestion’ of Émile Coué’s “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” It all goes back, as Rev. Ike reminded his flock, to Proverbs 23:7.

My parents, in their diametric ways, bore out Milton’s observation in Paradise Lost that, “the mind is its own place and in itself in his life, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Rebounding from a career-ending stroke at 52, my father, Ernest, retained his comprehension even as his speech remained truncated. His pat phrases emerged mostly upbeat, like “Up & up!” “Always laughing!” and remained so “Till the end!”

As an advisor to captains of industry, Ernest liked to share a Sufi-style anecdote on Dale-Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Noting that his clientele, not unlike Rev. Ike, had done quite nicely by themselves, if not by others, he would refer you to Baudelaire: “Brigands are convinced – of what? That they must succeed. And so they do succeed.”

Fat Cat Manifesto

Dorian Dale examines the success of Grover Norquist’s No Tax Pledge and argues that the benefits should extend to everyone. Why waste perfectly good tax cuts and loopholes just on the rich?

In the wake of the Big, Bad Debt Deal, Grover “No Tax” Norquist declared victory.  We should all concede.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  Every Man & Woman a Fat Cat!  Warren Buffet keeps griping that his secretary shouldn’t be paying taxes at a rate 67% higher than he and his fellow billionaires. So level the playing field.  The Fat Cat Manifesto proposes to extend billionaire/ corporate breaks, subsidies, loopholes and deductions to everyone:

ESSENTIAL POINTS OF THE FAT CAT MANIFESTO:

  1. Any wage earner will avail themselves of the same 15% capital gains rate heretofore available only to hedge fund managers the likes of Bain Capital’s Mitt Romney.
  2. Cars, ATVs, jet skis, bicycles etc. will be depreciated at the same rate as corporate jets.
  3. Backyard gardens will be subsidized at levels comparable to “genteel farmers” like Dave Letterman and the Waltons of Wal-Mart.  The cost of looking for vehicular and housing fuel will also be subsidized.
  4. Joe & Jo Q Citizen will get to incorporate and catch all the breaks of corporations. This follows the logic of the Citizens United v FCC ruling delivered by the activist majority on the Supreme Court in 2010 declaring that corporations are just like citizens and will have unrestricted First Amendment rights to lavish unlimited amounts of money electing their quislings.

Who is this Grover Norquist, Patron Ain’t of taxation misrepresentation?  First, know that he is a Harvard grad, not the effete, elitist type of Harvard grad like Obama and the Winklevoss twins, but the regular-guy type like George Bush and Bill O’Reilly. After his Americans for Tax Reform pitched in to help Reagan chop the top tax rate from 50% to 28% in 1986, Grover declared he was out to “reduce government down to the size where it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub.”  Drowning the Federal government in the tsunami of debt that swept over America in the first decade of the new millennium is not exactly the same principle, but the result is the same. 

To date, Grover has gotten 336 congressmen, 41 senators, 13 governors and 1,247 state legislatures to sign his Taxpayer Protection Pledge otherwise known as the “No Tax” pledge.  Stephen Colbert pressed Grover on whether there were any circumstances under which he would accept a tax increase:

“Terrorists have kidnapped all of our grandmothers and they’ve got them in a subterranean burrow and all of them have been slathered with honey and they’re going to release fire ants into this burrow that will bite them to death.  Their only demand is that we increase the marginal tax rate for the top 2% and they will release them.  Do we increase the tax rate or do we let our grandmothers die from ant bites?”

“I think we console our self with the fact that we have pictures,” quipped Grover

Momentarily jaw-drop speechless, Colbert blurts “That’s the right answer!”

A few years back, Grover served up a bigger whopper of a jaw-dropper to NPR’s Terry Gross.  At the time, Grover was representing for another one of his noble causes – elimination of the estate tax which he had renamed the Death Tax while successfully convincing many average folks that it applied to far more than the top 1%.  Never one to shy away from over-the-top metaphors, Grover was claiming that arguments for higher taxes on rich people echo the ones Nazis used to single out Jews for gas chambers.

“I mean, that’s the morality of the Holocaust,” said Grover.  “‘Well, it’s only a small percentage,’ you know. ‘I mean, it’s not you, it’s somebody else.’” 

It took Terry Gross twenty-six seconds to lift her jaw off her microphone and say, “Excuse me. Excuse me one second. Did you just …”

Norquist: “Yeah?”

Gross: “…compare the estate tax with the Holocaust?”

I ran into Grover’s dad at a fraternal gathering in Langley soon after Gross’ interview and suggested his son might want to reign in the Holocaust Tax metaphor, particularly when he is talking to a Jewish host.  Unbeknownst to me, at that point, was that papa Norquist was the one who had given little Grover his first taste of anti-tax fervor.  Copping bites from his son’s ice cream cone, he labeled each bite “sales tax” or “income tax.”  But was the ice cream loaded with loopholes and subsidies trickled on top?

America has come full spiral since Louisiana’s Huey ‘Kingfish’ Long delivered his ‘Every Man a King’ speech during the Great Depression proposing to ‘Share Our Wealth’ (SOW): “It is not the difficulty of the problem we have; it is the fact the rich people of this country – and by rich people I mean the super-rich – will not allow us to solve the problems.”  Within a year, 7.5 million Americans had joined ‘Share Our Wealth’ clubs. A year later the Kingfish was assassinated.

Today Grover Norquist & Co has convinced the descendants of SOWers that the acronym stands for Spare Our Wealthy.  Super-rich job-creators are the solution, not the problem.  Their cause is everyone’s because we all aspire to be wealthy.  Who Wants to Be a Millionaire then Pay Taxes?  Soon the average Jersey Shore Fat Cat wannabes who get hit with 50% higher tolls to drive over the bridges into Manhattan to maybe glimpse Donald Trump gnawing his way through  rib eye at the ‘21’ Club will be able to deduct those tolls from their taxes.  Got that Grover?