Monday, December 19, 2011

Jobs for Kids

My five-year-old Max doesn’t want to wash off his autograph from Buffalo Sabre Tyler Ennis. “What? You want to be a piece of memorabilia all your life?” I say. To which he answers yes. It’s not a bad line of work, really. I’m just not sure of growth potential.

All of which got me thinking about Newt Gingrich and his wish to have poor kids work an janitors in public schools in order to fashion a work ethic, while earning money. I’m assuming Newt grew up on London in the mid-1800s. I would have guessed as much from the Dickensian first name. While I applaud efforts to teach our children about the world, I’d like to get more value out of them. My kids are not, by nature, cleaners. Of anything. If you want to get some work out of them, we should play to their strengths. There are some jobs my kids could perform.

iPhone coach. To earn a little money after school, kids should hold seminars for people over 40 who use their iPhones for making calls. I’ve seen kids make backing tracks using voice memo, place reminders by location and Facetime homework assistance. They use technology in ways older people don’t immediately grasp.

Negotiator. If you’ve ever seen my two-year-old niece have ice cream for dinner, you know what I mean. I may never sit down with my publisher again. I’m going to send her. “More” “Now” You think the teacher’s union is powerful, wait ‘till they start employing their little guns.

Racketeer. You can try to organize children into a work force, but organizations, like guns and fire, can lean a lot of ways. Informing your local 711 that you can keep a roving band of six-year-olds out of their store for a small monthly fee could prove to be a lot more lucrative than sweeping floors.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It takes a hack

‘To Catch a Thief’ was on the other night and it occurred to me that I should be more like Carry Grant for all kinds of reasons. Stealing jewels isn’t my thing – due to high coffee consumption my hands are only steady when I sleep (and even then only in delta stage) – and I tend to hum when I’m nervous, which has got to be all the time if you’re a criminal, so the whole stealth thing is out. What I can do is write things, twisting words to my will. So, a la The Cat, in the spirit of “it takes one to know one” I’m going to start calling out other people who abuse language.

Today, it’s the pollster Frank Luntz. Frank is on my watch list for turning the estate tax into the “death tax.” The kind of cleverness one might expect from Lex Luthor or Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Frank spoke at the Republican governors’ conference on the last day of November, and showed off some new verbal judo moves.

According to Frank, raising taxes on the rich should be called “taking money from hard-working Americans.” The spirit of the phrase is disingenuous, but he means it. Franks feels that Warren Buffet and crab fishermen should be lumped together. (They’re not taxed the same now, but that’s a different diatribe.) The real problem is technical. Taxes don’t take money from you. They are imposed on a transaction yet to take place. They are a cost to doing business. If you made $22 million like the hard working Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz did last year no one is going to take it away from you. Taxes are on thing to come.

My other favorite quote from Franks’ speech is this:
“You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”

He’s actually telling you he’s performing a trick. He’s taking your eyes from one focus to another, like a stage magician. Except, you expect illusions if you you’re watching an illusionist. The fact that the White House has been ineffectual in getting any of its economic policies passed in the last two years doesn’t matter. The real leaders of the economy are not in the White House, they’re not even in Washington, and Frank’s slight-of-word wants to keep from seeing them.

And that’s the saddest part of Frank’s misdirection to Republican governors. Legerdemain works. If you don’t believe me, watch ‘To Catch a Thief.’ Carry Grant’s character could sell derivatives to Occupy Wall Street. But, don’t forget, he was burglar.