Monday, January 21, 2013

An Inaugural Lament

Today is Inauguration Day. I won’t watch, since I’ll be at work, but I probably should. I did watch last time. I watched Jimmy Carter’s, and the first Ronald Reagan one, and the first W. one I think, so I have a spotty record.

Today is also Martin Luther King Day, and I won’t be participating in any memorial activities honoring him either. I have nothing against MLK, just as I have nothing against George Washington or Abraham Lincoln when I completely ignore them on President’s Day. See, since I’m not a teacher, or a government employee, and since I don’t work for a bank or the Post Office, I don’t get the day off with pay. I’m one of those greedy evil guys you hear about on the news who works for himself, and let me tell you, my boss is a real jerk.

Don’t misunderstand, owning your own business has it’s benefits. You never have to ask for a raise, never have to ask for time off, never have to worry about getting fired. I’ve never once in 30 years been sent home for being inappropriately dressed. So, I’ve got those things going for me.

But being your own boss has its drawbacks. I have no one to blame for my failures. I don’t have sick pay. I’ve never taken a paid vacation. I have to provide my own health insurance, and it’s terrible. There’s no employer’s contribution to my retirement plan, and I have to pay both halves of my Social Security tax. But, the worst part is that I have to be a success every single week or there’s no paycheck. Well, not exactly “no” paycheck, but rather a greatly diminished one. There is no room for failure or even slumps because the effect is immediate. 30 years ago, I traded relative safety and stability for independence and potential. When friends get laid off from their jobs, I think I made the right choice. When I endure a slump and have nothing to pay myself, I’m not so sure. But I made my choice. It’s a free country.

30 years ago, guys like me were celebrated. We were called entrepreneurs, risk takers, the drive-shaft of the engine of commerce. Now we’re vilified as greedy, self centered and unpatriotic, mostly by the men and women who will fill the grandstand behind the President at today’s ceremony, and especially by the President himself. He won reelection largely because there are far too few of “us”, and we are an easy target. Fair enough, it’s a democracy after all. But forgive me if I don’t participate in the festivities today. I’ll be busy trying to make enough money to pay my “fair share”. Trouble is, after paying the Feds on the 15th, my State on the 27th, my property taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, licensing fees to all the States where my clients live, business taxes, errors and omissions insurance, and after trying to dig out from under six years of putting my two kids through college, there just isn’t much left. And yet when I look at the sea of faces behind the President on that grandstand today, I will see an average net worth per capita of somewhere around 5 million, and it is these people who derisively call me…rich.

So, I harbor the President no ill will. I wish him every success over the next four years. We could use some success about now. But, no, I won’t be tuned in today. I’m a little busy here.