June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Dusting off old column ideas

It’s mid-summer and time to recycle the crushed pop cans of ideas and sweep the dusty sentences out of the column garage.

Question authority

Is it just me or do half the posts on Facebook seem passive-aggressive?

Ever notice an icing cookie tastes better if you eat it upside-down? Not you upside-down, of course, but the cookie? Calls for a series of experiments, don’t you think?

Anybody else share a strange obsession with collecting little metal binder clips?

‘Fess up: You ate that first ripe tomato right out of the garden, didn’t you?

Wouldn’t pesto sauce taste better if it wasn’t green?

Remember the good old days last month when the news was all about former Congressman Anthony Wiener?

On a similar note, what would it take to get the name “Moussa Koussa” back into the news?

Regarding the Roger Clemens trial, what if the federal government prosecuted everyone for allegedly lying to Congress? Wouldn’t that send just about every president and every lawmaker who ever spoke on the House or Senate floor to jail? Not a bad idea, eh?

Fair share

The red-meat rhetoric about spending and debt makes one thing clear — at least to many of us who populate the political middle: Underlying those problems is a tax-collection problem.

Roughly half the households in the United States pay no federal income tax. Several of the country’s most profitable corporations — General Electric, Exxon Mobile, Chevron, Bank of America — have achieved the ultimate goal of paying no federal income tax. There’s a long list of major companies that pay less than 5 percent in taxes, far below the much-discussed 35 percent corporate rate.

Many elected leaders serve as enablers, constructing a rat’s nest of credits and loopholes to curry political favor.

It’s hardly a new issue. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan supported closing loopholes exploited by GE, according to the memoir of his Treasury Secretary Donald Regan. The administration’s reforms advocated a 32.5 percent effective tax rate for the company.

America’s budgetary meat and potatoes are national defense and so-called entitlement programs, which are difficult to cut. Discretionary spending amounts to a spoonful of corn on the plate. Take a kernel here or there and it doesn’t make much difference.

The threat of global terrorism networks demands significant resources. Hard to cut defense. Those of us who learned the lesson of the Good Samaritan in Sunday school believe Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are part of our obligation to our brothers and sisters. Hard to cut there, too.

But it’s impossible to know how much government should spend or cut when so many flaunt the tax rules. If Democrats and Republicans could get away from their turf wars, they might find common ground on tax reform that makes sure every person and every corporation is paying a fair share. Then the real budget and debt talks could start.

Bucket list

Let’s shift to something much more exciting and useful than politics, which is the subject of five-gallon buckets. Last week’s column was a silly poem extolling the virtues of this versatile — and relatively free — resource.

I asked readers to share uses for five-gallon buckets I missed. As always, you came through. Among the ideas: Chipmunk trap, paint can stand, legs for a plywood yard sale table, extension cord holder and storage for sidewalk salt.

But the champion was Jean, a reader who chimed in with a rhyme of her own. Here’s an excerpt:

“Though your ‘bucket list’ is a poetic treat, / We grandmothers know isn’t complete. / My bucket’s in the garage even as I write, / Harboring mussels found in the pond last night.

“Often my bucket is a home for toads / The grandkids find along country roads. / Occasionally the toads are replaced by a frog, / Found resting in a mud hole on top of a log.

“The grandkids wash the dog with my bucket and I confess, / You’ll never see a bigger mess. / When I could use it to do something enjoying, / Their use of my bucket’s a little annoying.

“But when the windows are dirty, I’ve one great excuse: / I can’t wash them now, my bucket’s in use!”

Thanks to those who contributed and thanks to all for reading.

Contact John Gladden at gladden@frontier.com or on Twitter @thatjohngladden.