Thursday, December 27, 2007

Compassionate Conservatism

Reading that Paris Hilton’s $2.3bn inheritance is going to be diverted to some foundation or other that is run by the Hilton family instead of being paid directly to her made me think of compassionate conservatism. “Compassionate conservatism” of course means showing compassion for the rich instead of wasting it on the poor. The poor don’t understand what a drag being rich and having everything you want and being waited on hand and foot and never having to work a day in your life really is. It is a real bummer.

I saw this today when I visited a man I shall call Carl. He was sitting on a genuine antique Louis XIV chair in his white marble study with his head in his hands. I asked what was the matter.

“I won the lottery!” he moaned.

“Again?” I said.

“I just can’t seem to lose,” Carl said. “No matter what numbers I pick, those little balls just line up to make me win. I am twenty million dollars richer.”

“That does sound like a problem,” I said. “I feel sorry for you.”

“Now I have to go to Austin to turn in my ticket. I can’t decide whether to ride down there in my Ferrari, my Porsche, or my Lamborghini.”
“Terrible,” I said in my best sympathetic voice.

“The poor don’t know how easy they have it,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about riding around in a Lamborghini because they don’t own Lamborghinis.”

I had to admit it was true. Driving around in some old rust bucket is much more pleasant than being in a high performance Italian supercar.

“But couldn’t you just ask your chauffeur for a recommendation?” I asked. I was trying to be helpful.

“Which one? I have so many chauffeurs. Another decision I have to make.” He buried his head in his hands again. I could hear him sobbing softly.

“Why don’t you just fly down there?” I asked. “That would be simple.” I was thinking Southwest Airlines, but flying meant something else to Carl.

“Can’t” was the response. “My entire fleet of personal airplanes is being re-fitted with new carpeting. And don’t suggest going down the Brazos River. My yacht displaces too much water.”

I started to suggest that the Corps of Engineers could dredge the river bottom just for him, but thought better of it. He had undoubtedly already thought of that angle and eliminated it.

“I had no idea being rich was so hard,” I said. “I am becoming more of a compassionate conservative by the minute.”

“It’s hard. It really is. I wish I were poor.” He pounded his fist for emphasis. “I wish I were poor.” More sobbing.

I started to say that it could be arranged. I would be happy to give him my checking account number and an electronic routing code so he could arrange a wire transfer. But before I could speak, his private secretary walked in.

“Sir!” she said with military precision. “I just received word from the doctor. Despite years of gross overeating your weight is perfect for your height and age, and your health is perfect as well. Your cholesterol and triglycerides are excellent. The doctor says you can overindulge yourself all you want.”

“And I don’t even have to diet or exercise to do it,” he moaned. “Oh why oh why must I have it so hard?”

The lady left the room.

I decided to leave my friend to his misery. He certainly had taught me something about the curse of wealth. I had heard of it, of course, but never realized how awful it really is to be rich. Until now. I quietly slipped out of the mansion, down the endless flights of stairs which led to the parking area, and to my old broken down Honda. One of Carl’s chauffeurs greeted me as I approached my car.

“Your tire is flat, sir. Someone in your neighborhood must have buried a knife in it before you came here.”

I looked at the tire, and, sure enough, he was right. The knife was still there, producing a slow leak. No wonder the thing was hard to steer.

“Would you like for me to change it for you, sir?” he asked.

“No way, Vanderbilt.” He was one of the members of the Vanderbilt family that did not get any money from old Cornelius. That was undoubtedly the reason he always went around with a perpetual grin on his face and a song in his heart. He was broke.

“No way I am giving up any of the pleasures of being poor, Vanderbilt,” I said to Vanderbilt. “I am changing this thing myself.”

“Very good, sir,” said Vanderbilt. Then he retired to the side of the building with the spring in his step that can only come from the joy of being a poor man.. He whistled as he walked.

Well, let me tell you, I got grease and dirt all over my white shirt. Normally that would be a bummer because I only have one white shirt, and now it is ruined. But having found out what a pisser it is to be rich, what an ecstatic experience to be poor – well, let’s just say I enjoyed every minute of it.

Having changed the tire, I pulled the knife out of the one that had been slashed, then noticed the knife was mine. The people who slashed my tire stole one of my knives, which meant they must have burglarized my house. I smiled with gratitude when I realized that. Thanking my lucky stars for all this poverty, I drove off.

Poor Carl finally had to ride down to Austin in his classic restored Lincoln Town Car. All the lights turned green as soon as his chauffeur pulled up to them. But with all this misfortune he never did break the habit of winning the lottery again and again.


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