by Ari Lox
This story arose after taking the opponent's position in a debate. 1250 words
This Pen for Hire
It's a good living, even in the Great Recession. It will remain so as long as politicians want to appear as benefactors when they're actually predators. That's where I come in. I sugarcoat politician's desires so that the hoi polloi will be tricked into thinking it's in their interest. No one would vote for any politician if they knew the unvarnished truth.
I'm working on a short position paper for Governor Richards on economics. Show that less taxes on his rich backers benefits our society. It's child's play to sprinkle pixie dust over the fact that less taxes on the rich mean more taxes on the rest. Oh, my juices are starting to flow. I look forward to distracting the foolish masses with sleights of word. It's so nice to have power and to get paid well for it. My sound bite logic will praise Richards, attract independents, and destroy President Cramden.
Every occupation has its heroes, even mine. Pietro Aretino, a 16th century Italian, is the patron saint of pens for hire. My hero. I follow the tools of the trade he developed so well. To start with, forget all my personal beliefs. Take the assumptions of my patron as gospel. Interpret all facts as supporting his positions and as undermining his opponent's views. Ignore all mitigating factors - why clutter a winning argument with facts that'll just confuse a voter who needs to be told what he thinks.
Most 21st century Americans are just like those ancient Italians. So busy living that they pay as little attention to politics as possible. You have to hit them over the head to get their attention, then make an argument that can be understood over the noise of the marketplace and their family.
Simple and powerful is the ticket. Truth and depth are not even on my dance card. Let the insiders find holes in my argument. What do I care? Insiders are like flies on the ears of a racehorse. A bother yet not worth wasting energy on. Six-pack buddies and soccer moms only have time for catch phrases that grab them. That's my job. End the pitch with a sound bite they just can't forget. My last broadside, perhaps you saw it quoted on Fox News last night, was my best yet for Richards.
The deficit problem must be solved. We must cut wasteful government. When I am president, I will balance the budget by the end of my first term.
President Cramden's record shows he can only make the economy worse. Are you better today than you were when he came to office?
I will lower taxes. More money in free enterprises means more money for new hires and more money for new businesses. That's the way forward for America. That's the way the country will grow. We must get off President Cramden's wayward path, where everyone ends up equally poor.
My 25 years of business experience make me uniquely qualified to help straighten out the economic mess this President has made.
President Cramden's never had to make a payroll in his life. Do you want a President who thinks that government should take money from hard-working taxpayers to give it to those who won't work?
Taxes should not be the penalty for being successful.
I was so proud of how well it came off that I couldn't wait to get to Governor Richards's office this morning. Richards's political adviser told me they loved the sound bite, "taxes should not be the penalty for doing well." He said I had swept the economic argument. President Cramden would be afraid to speak on economics again. Then he continued, "Thanks for the great work. Now that's done. As in business, your job's done. You're fired."
I lifted my chin and said, "You have no heart, only a cash register."
The look on his face said, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass as you leave."
I still have bills, alimony, and child support to pay. Damn! Since the Republicans have the money, I've only worked for them. I'm really only familiar with their mindset.
Well, perhaps President Cramden will be interested in my talents now that his economic message is in such a pickle. Let's see. Approach this like I did with Governor Richards. Build a sound bite story that carries thought along the path the client desires. Ignore the arguments I made for Governor Richards. Real voters will be pulled by a vivid argument like children by the Pied Piper.
I'd better anchor my thinking with President Cramden's thoughts and weed out the reflexive threads I've used over the past years, before I write a sample for my prospective patron.
Deficit is a big deal, but Democrats can't admit that now. Must convince the Independents that growth now, with balance later is only logical path. When the government shrinks, it'll take years, before the real economy, the free market economy can create new jobs to replace the lost governmental jobs. And the new jobs won't take the same skills as the lost jobs, but I can't mention that now. When it happens, that'll be soon enough.
A few hours later, I send this email to President Cramden economic adviser.
President Cramden has been assailed by naysayers bought and paid for by the moneyed interests since he came to office. These are the same people who laid our economy low. Now they fight against our President's every attempt to right the economic ship. Do you recall the Senate Minority leader's first words when the President was elected? "My goal is to make Cramden fail." Not whether actions are good or bad for America, but whether they are good or bad for the President. The Republicans have shown that to them politics is more important than country.
President Cramden believes in the free market, but the deregulation of the preceding administration must be reversed. We are still paying for the reckless practices Wall Street used. The President made the difficult decision that the auto industry must be saved by the government, something the Governor Richards was loudly against. The President knew he'd take political hits for that action, but he knew it was right, so he did it.
Richards's experience in the Unwinding Hedge Fund colors his judgment and is contrary to the country's interest. The US needs building, not dismantling. Where would our military be, if the auto industry and all the suppliers had gone under? At the mercy of foreign suppliers and foreign interests. That's all right with Richards. Outsourcing saves money and that's all that counts to him. Is that all that counts with you?
The 1% prospers when society works, not merely by their own efforts. Everyone will need to pay more taxes, including the rich who have gained the most.
Social Security must continue. Government must be made more efficient. Belt tightening will be required.
Taxes are not the penalty for success. They are the price of civilization.
A day later, President Cramden's camp replies. They're happy I've finally seen the true cast of reality. They offer me a contract through the November vote. I insist on a doubled rate.
A week later, I ran into Governor Richards's political adviser on the campaign trail, he was not so generous. He welcomed me with a sly grin, his chin held higher than mine. "Where are your scruples? When you're bought, you're supposed to stay bought."
Cover. Pietro Aretino by Titian