COLUMBUS _ "I know how the Democrats can hold all their seats in Congress," Uncle Chet opined Sunday afternoon, leaning back in the rocker with a laptop computer.
"How's that?" I asked as I painted the back door brown, trying to make it look more like wood.
Buddy was on the computer that runs the stereo, and we were listening to "Cry Me a River" by Justin Timberlake.
"Turn that down a little," I asked our young technician, who immediately complied.
"I know how the Democrats can kick ..."
"I heard what you said. How?" I asked as I dipped the brush into the thick, brown semigloss.
"Extend the Bush tax cuts for the working class, but not the rich."
"Are we rich?" Buddy asked.
"Not even close," I said.
"The threshold of `rich' is $250,000 a year," Uncle Chet said. "And the idea is to let the millionaires and billionaires return to where they were under Clinton and Papa Bush, saving the country $700 billion over a decade."
"Enough for another stimulus, or half an Iraqi War," I observed.
"A break for those who need it, while the fat cats pony up. What could be fairer?" Uncle Chet asked. "Especially now, when the gap between rich and poor has never been wider, when the U.S. is turning into New Feudal Land, with right-wing billionaires and their flunkies controlling the media and the military, stacking the Supreme Court, bribing congressmen with one hand, swift-boating them with the other."
"Those bad, bad billionaires," I said.
"Billionaires are bad for America; they're a malignancy on the body politic," Uncle Chet said. "They suck up too much lifeblood, and there's no incentive for them to be economic patriots. If they can fatten their wallets by shifting factories from Detroit to Shanghai, they do it, because they, and their ilk, will see bigger dividends -- no matter what happens to Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, no matter what happens to the United States of America."
"You're saying billionaires aren't patriotic?"
"I'm saying capital flows around the world, looking for ways to multiply, and patriotism doesn't even enter the calculation," he said. "I'm saying that under the rule of the rich, much of our heavy industry has been moved out of the country, that good-paying, house-sustaining jobs have been deliberately taken away from Americans and offered to Asians so that now, our cars, our computers, even our flags are made overseas."
"What about labor?"
"Labor's stuck at home, so by nature it's patriotic," Uncle Chet said. "Our workers are our real patriots, the ones who should be running this country, but instead the wealthy control everything."
"Not me," I said.
"Ultimately, everyone," he said. "They control mass communication. They tell you, me, everyone what to think, what's important. Then they take a poll, and to no one's surprise, a majority thinks the billionaires are right about everything."
"Remember, you're talking to a reporter," I said as I glanced back at him.
"Listen to this, from the Huff-Post," he said: "`At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, the data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower."'
"The rich got richer, even last year," I said.
"Especially in New York." Uncle Chet said.
"Well, you know Republicans are going to vote against tax cuts, unless their base can cash in," I said.
"I say call the question," Uncle Chet said. "Let Congress vote on tax cuts before the election, then we can cast our votes accordingly."
Cooperstown bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week. For more of his columns, visit www.thedailystar.com/tomgrace