Fulton Files 

Rich Excuses, Swiss Engineering and School Funding

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We Americans have a love-hate relationship with our nation. You don’t want to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school? OK, we’ll introduce a bill in the Utah Senate requiring its recitation, and too bad if your children are embarrassed when they don’t join in. Maybe you’ve got a hankering to abuse Old Glory? Sen. Orrin Hatch will get us a constitutional amendment banning such desecration. If we can’t instill patriotism by spirit and example, we’ll make it mandatory! Somewhere in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il is smiling wide.

• Those who serve their country in armed conflicts abroad are applauded, and rightfully so. But when a good friend tells us how, with a little help from his accountant, he managed to pay nary a dime of federal income tax, we offer congratulations. If government can lay claim to the lives of our young men and women in combat, why do we recoil in greater horror when it requires that we pay taxes? Is the dollar holier than a human life?

n Perhaps. Especially if it’s the dollars of the rich we’re talking about. Already our president has eliminated the inheritance tax. Imagine that. Workers pay taxes while those fortunate enough to have money fall into their laps pay nothing. When President Bush opens his mouth to talk of yet another round of $1.3 trillion in permanent tax cuts, when he talks about letting the well-off sock away $7,500 annually in tax-free savings, and when he talks about eliminating the tax on corporate dividends, he’s essentially saying this: “My fellow Americans, the rich of our great nation are hurting. I mean really, really hurting! It’s code orange! Somewhere in America right now there are millionaires without a second home, without enough merlot and duck confit to see them through sleepless nights. I’ve heard firsthand of how rich families today even resort to sending their children to public schools. We must all do more. That’s why I’m calling on the lower and middle classes to shoulder the exorbitant costs of occupying Iraq so my friends in the oil business can ink deals while their wives rev up the Range Rover for bouts of luxury shopping after soaking in a champagne bubble bath. Is this a great country or what?”

Sure is. Our national debt towers above $6 trillion. Budget deficits are soaring. We cling to the time-honored notion that we can always spend our way out of a recession. And who spends more than the rich?

• Government agencies are easy to hate. After all, the private sector slaves away so folks in the public sector get their ample vacation time paid. And if someone at the state’s employee retirement fund allegedly screws up, it’s taxpayers who pony up $21.3 million to keep it flush so state employees can have 60 percent of their salary at retirement. Such a deal. But by the time Bush is through with us, federal programs benefiting people who never worked for the state will have all the fiscal energy of a marshmallow with low-blood pressure.

• The Swiss have a greater historical reputation than WWII neutrality and banking accounts for international drug dealers. Archaeologists believe the 4,000-year-old grave of the “Amesbury Archer” near Stonehenge has roots in the Swiss Alps of the Bronze Age. Those early Celts sure got around.

• A quick tip on school funding for hard times: An article by Etta Kralovec in the February issue of Forbes notes that extracurricular activities at public schools consume between 5 and 10 percent of most education budgets. In 1996, the Salt Lake City School District gutted school clubs to keep out gay students. Do coming years give us a better reason to do the same?

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