Columnist: “J.O.L.T. the bill” • Bill Dudley
It’s a breezy 70 degree spring morning on the back porch. My butt is well anchored to the goose down of my overstuffed and over-easy chair, feet up on the railing, drinking what’s left of the coffee that hasn’t already found my “Bad Cop…No Donut” T-shirt. I got one eye on this week’s paper, the other on the three cranes gliding low into our corner of Sand Wedge Bay...ah, wilderness.
The back screen door squeaks open, “Did you remember to take out the trash? It’s Monday, trash day.” I nod noncommittally to this unseen intruder, “so is every Monday. I’ll get to it; not like there’s a shortage ya know.” I feel Big El’s glare red dotting the base of my neck. I’m back to the paper, but now she’s rattling the squeaky screen, “Did you ﬁx this? Bill, you were going to ﬁx this door last fall!”
Unless I change the subject, this list of “Didya” will never end. So I embrace the intrusion! “Hey, here’s good news. You remember that group in Madison, did such a good job shooting down the proposed City Impact . . . whatchamacallit? She does. “ ‘Fee Ordinance.’ It was called an ‘Impact Fee Ordinance,’ and the activist group J.O.L.T. argued effectively that it was an unnecessary tax that…”
“Whatever!” I’m outa my chair exclaiming, “Well, not they’re pushing for a property tax exemption for Morgan County senior citizens. Hubba, hubba, maybe this’ll catch on in Greene County! I fire up my sexy Elvis wiggle and break into Billy Joel’s “I want the easy, EEEEASY money. I want the good life, I want it BAaad.” Swiveling my hips, I finish with a bodacious riff on the air-guitar. I hold my patented King of Rock n’ Roll pose, lasciviously leering at Big El through my eyebrows and snarl-curling the left corner of my upper lip...right leg still twitching. Needless to say, she’s speechless as she attempts to harness her stampeding libido.
The quiet extends...uncomfortably, and then it hits me. She’s not lock-jawed from restraining her ardor, she’s...she’s thinking. Never a good sign.
Finally, “Don’t property taxes fund the public school system?” She asks. “And aren’t they assessed according to relative property value?” OK, she is CLEARLY off-message. I drop the air-guitar, un-snarl my lip and issue a clever rejoinder.... “So?”
Big El’s pacing now, building steam. “You know,” she says, wig-wagging a finger under my nose, “seniors own the more expensive homes in Morgan, Greene and Putnam counties. So, if this initiative passes, who’s going to pay for our school?” My answer’s a doozie; “Not us, that’s who!” I drape an imaginary scarf around her neck...and twitch anew. “And you’re the Devil in disguise, oh yes you are...the Devil in disguise.” Elvis dies hard.
Again with that glare. “The State has been cutting its funding, and local property tax revenue is being legally siphoned from us and sent to the poorer counties. This initiative would further reduce funding for our schools. How many teachers are you and J.O.L.T. willing to ﬁre to balance the loss in tax revenue?”
“Oh, well uh, Honeybee,” I stall, marshaling thoughts for my next Aristotelian rebuttal, “don’t you worry your cute little head ‘bout high ﬁnance, shugah…owf.” A full marshaling is short-circuited by Big El’s ball peen elbow which ﬁnds my seventh cervical rib. “…I was just sayin’,” I grab a ragged breath, “no…budget…won’t get cut.” And wheeze, “Naah, they’ll just …raise taxes on the…next sucker.”
She moves in bobbing and weaving like Apollo Creed versus Rocky I.
“And have you stopped to think, who’s the next sucker?” I begin circling to my left, away from her hook. “Young people, working people…our kids! They’re your next sucker.”
I counter brilliantly with, “Yeah, but we seniors live on ﬁxed incomes that have to cover rising expenses. What’s left for fun?” Apollo backs Rocky against the porch railing, where I assume the Ali, rope-a-dope, defense; hoping she tires…but knowing she won’t.
“And why shouldn’t we Baby Boomers pay? We are more ﬁnancially capable than any generation in the history of the planet! We control 80 percent of America’s personal ﬁnancial assets, account for over 50 percent of total discretionary spending, and 77 percent of the leisure travel market! So don’t whine, “What’s left for fun?”
Jeez, I hate it when she starts throwing facts around during a brawl…discussion. I try for invisible, but that trick never works on just coffee. She presses my retreat and muscles Rocky into the corner for a fresh assault. “We Boomers got good jobs right out of school, in an era of low unemployment and spiraling wages that lasted throughout our careers. From 1960 to 2000, the stock market gained 1500 percent. So if we can’t fund our retirement and pay our share for education, shame on us. We worked during the greatest economic expansion ever.”
If this was a Little League game, someone would have invoked the Slaughter Rule. “Compare our good fortune to every later generation. Their careers have included the bursting dot-com bubble 2000-01, the U.S. ﬁnancial crisis 2007-09, the global ﬁnancial melt-down 2008-? The collapse of the real estate market. And you want THEM to pay YOUR property taxes?!”
The phone rings and Big El moves off to answer…saved by the bell. But she turns and gets in one last shot, “I’m pretty sure our parents were ‘The Greatest Generation,’ but you and J.O.L.T. are making us look like the greediest generation...Oh, and today IS trash day.”
I drop into my chair, rubber legged, winded and sure of only two things: She’s not an Elvis fan, and I’m not getting up for the next round.
Printed in the June 14, 2012 edition