Wednesday, November 13, 2002

The Steffans Manifesto-Part III-A Nation of Investors-One thing that we forget is that the average American is a stockholder, as a majority of Americans own stock, either via directly owning stocks or owning mutual funds that hold stocks. Even more people have traditional defined-benefit pension funds that hold stocks in their portfolio. Thus, most swing voters will have a vested interest in corporations being treated fairly, for their profits are paying for their retirement or their kid’s college. An underlying theme of this free-market campaign is that the average voter is a “have” rather than a “have-not”, and is likely to pay more in taxes than they get back in government services. Taxing corporations means taxing themselves; regulating businesses means regulating themselves. You’re hitting Joe Average in the pocketbook when you start going after businesses. Even Joe Shoprat has his pension play tied up in stocks and bonds; We’ve met the class warfare enemy, and they is us. Even for those whom don’t own stocks, treating corporations as something other than a boogey-man will help the economy. A common line with economic conservatives is “I’ve never had a poor man offer me a job.” It’s people with money (or the consortium of people with money that is a corporation) starting businesses that make the private sector possible. People understand that in theory, but often forget that in practice. Here’s my second ad. In the Sesame Street tradition of the Count, Placido Flamingo and Meryl Sheep, I present the Merchant of Tennis, a Muppetesque character to be our tongue-in-cheek spokescritter. He’s blue-faced (think Cookie Monster color) with a preppy sport coat with a tennis racquet on the lapel and a tennis-ball tie. He has a veddy, veddy British accent that’s a light mocking of a serious English actor; I’m shooting for three parts Rex Harrison, one part John Cleese and one part Charles Winchester from M*A*S*H. Start with picturing The Merchant in his office, overlooking a factory floor producing tennis racquets, staffed by a few Muppetty characters in the deep background. Given the character’s name, we’ll of course do a send-up of the classic Shylock soliloquy. Play the old Masterpiece Theater theme in the background for starters. Merchant-“Hath not a corporation eyes? Are we not afflicted with the same inflation, plagued with the same high oil prices, subject to the same recessions? If you regulate us, do we not bleed red ink? If you tax us, do we not mourn? If you give us subsidies, do we not feel joy? If you wrong us, do we not seek vengeance?” Pull out TV screen-voice over “Senator Jones is the devil incarnate. Remember that in November” Wise-acre sidekick Homer pulls out big magnifying glass to show bottom of screen “Paid for by Merchants for a Better America-Merchant of Tennis, Chairman”. The Merchant swats away magnifying glass. Homer-“Boss, I don’t think corporations have eyes.” Start playing some patriotic music in the background-maybe American the Beautiful Merchant-“This is not China, Homer, where they can rescind your poetic license. Ladies and Gentlemen, businesses are people too. It might surprise the class warriors to know that most people own stock. So, when you attack corporations, you’re smiting the majority of Americans who are relying on the profits to pay for their retirement, their kid’s college and other meritorious things. You’re also smiting business’ ability to build up new plants, new stores and new jobs. When you’re hurting corporations, you’re hurting the American Dream.” Homer and Merchant-”Corporations are People, Too!”

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