Saturday, January 08, 2005

Found Money

Today it struck me. The $20 found between the seats at last night's basketball game was a sign from God.

Like all signs from God, it arrived a little thin in the explanation department. However, having been exposed to enough interpretations of heavenly beacons, I am able to narrow down the possibilities:

A. God wants me to be rich. This is a pretty straightforward interpretation favored by televangelists. I like it myself, but I think God has other plans.

B. Riches will be mine in the next life. I'm checking my planner, and I just don't see an opening until about 2037. Do the riches compound tax-free in the meantime?

C. God wanted to pay for our beers. Thanks. My wife and I spent enough on four Summits to buy an entire case at the Liquor Barrel. With God kicking in, we about broke even, plus tip.

D. God was testing me. He wanted to see whether my first instinct was to snatch up the lucre or leave it for the cleaning crew to find. Flunked that one, but I plan to give it away the first chance I get.

E. God was serving up a critique of current economic policy. Gee, do you think?

I don't know whether the guy who lost the twenty will miss it, but I do know that it makes absolutely no difference to my life—while it probably would for the minimum wage earner who comes by after 10 p.m. to clean up the cups, the peanut shells, the spilled beer and hot dog wrappers. But that's not the way it works.

People like me—comfortable, sitting in the good seats—are the ones who find money, in ways the cleaning crew cannot begin to imagine. Stock tips, municipal bonds, benefits and expenses picked up by our companies, 401(k) matches, capital gains, caps on Social Security taxes, mortgage interest deductions, insurance dodges and tax deductions, frequent flier miles...

We deserve it, don't we? For being born in the right family. For staying in school. For working hard. For taking risk. For working the angles. For refusing to be a sucker. And for not being so stupid as to walk past the money lying at our feet.

Do I have everything? No. Do I need more? Not really. Will another percent of tax or one lost deduction change my way of life? Not so's I'd notice. But you would think there was something unholy about asking the rich to bear more so the poor could sustain just a bare minimum.

God, if I'm wrong on this, please strike me down right now.

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