MARK OF THE LEE: For some courageous souls, the unexamined life ain’t worth living. But for me, I’ve found that denial, compartmentalization, and outright amnesia are indispensable for getting through the day. Little wonder, then, I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew. Or in some cases, more than I ever wrote. Over the weekend, it was brought to my attention that Newt Gingrich’s middle name is Leroy. It was as though for the very first time, even though, years ago, I’d actually written a column highlighting this same ominous fact. Where Newt is concerned, amnesia is no random malfunction of cognition; it’s the desperate act of a sane mind seeking to save itself by shutting out facts that do not comport with how the world should function. Yet here he is, as undead as all the zombies and vampires currently choking our collective pathway to cinematic escape.
For those of you from Mars, the Theory of Lee reveals that anyone with the first, last, or middle name of Lee, Leroy, and all the variants therein is the secular equivalent of Cain’s child. While a few Lees manage to resist the destructive nature of their destinies, most grow into born-again, card-carrying sociopaths. When Cottage Hospital got fined $50,000 last week, for example, it was because a woman named Leianna, dressed in a nurse’s scrubs, had abducted a brand new baby there a few years ago. Those of you who mutter about Cottage’s stricter security procedures should remember it’s a Lee thing. The middle-aged perv from Carpinteria who planted a tiny video camera in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul and planted it in the bookcase of his girlfriend’s daughter’s bedroom — so he could watch — was also a Lee. The crazy guy who shot and wounded Arizona Congressmember Gabrielle Giffords — and killed six others — was a Lee. He’s now asserting his inalienable rights not to be forced to take his meds. By so not taking, he can remain safely as he is, which is not competent to be tried for his crimes. Prosecutors should simply cede that point and quickly move to change the shooter’s middle name instead. The results, I assure you, would prove far more dramatic.
Republican voters, it seems, find alleged frontrunner Mitt Romney so offensively earnest, false, and boring — not to mention Mormon — that they’re willing to allow the self-disgraced but engagingly self-intoxicated Newt a new lease on life. Poison-penned purists like conservative columnist George Will are wonderfully horrified. He derided Gingrich as “a hired larynx” for the special-interest profiteers who’ve made “modern Washington repulsive.” By that, Will referred to the $1.6 million Gingrich was paid by Freddie Mac in the wake of the home-loan scandal. Newt — a former history professor — has insisted he was paid, instead, for his historical insights. The last time Gingrich sought to peddle his historical insights, he got officially bitch-slapped by his congressional colleagues — the vote was a very bipartisan 325 to 28 — for multiple ethics violations and was sanctioned $300,000. Gingrich had created multiple political organizations that masqueraded as educational institutions — a tax-code violation for which Gingrich sought, and obtained, multiple tax exemptions — another tax-code violation. Newt’s record for hypocrisy, however, remains unmatched for leading the impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton — stemming from his infatuation with beguiling hair hopper Monica Lewinsky — while simultaneously cheating on his own wife, who was suffering from cancer. Gingrich, who has embraced almost as many religions as he has women, knows you can get away with murder as long as you express contrition later. He has yet to apologize, however, for twice shutting down the federal government long before such self-destructive tantrums would become an almost weekly ritual.
The richest 130,000 taxpayers would see their tax bills drop $1.9 million per year. The poorest 10 percent would see savings of $63 a year.
Now that it’s become socially acceptable to discuss class warfare, it’s worth noting that as Speaker of the House, Gingrich was responsible for passing the biggest capital-gains taxes in history. Now, he’s back at it, having unveiled a new tax scheme that would cost the federal treasury $1.3 trillion its first year. When you consider the “super” Senate committee couldn’t figure out how to trim $1.2 trillion over 10 years, that’s impressive. With his plan, Gingrich qualifies as the second coming of the Newtron Bomb. The richest 130,000 taxpayers would see their tax bills drop $1.9 million per year. The poorest 10 percent would see savings of $63 a year. In the meantime, the federal government would have to gut programs and basic services at a rate that truly staggers the imagination. While Newt is working overtime to squeeze the needy to grease the greedy, it’s worth meditating on a recent study — put out by the Public Policy Institute — showing that since the Great Recession, California’s poorest people saw their incomes drop 20 percent, while those at the top experienced a 5-percent reduction. In the Central Coast — from Monterrey to Santa Barbara counties — median family income dropped the furthest and the fastest, from $56,973 to $46,783. Since the Great Recession, the percentage of low-income households on the Central Coast rose from 40.2 percent to 47.6. But when the higher cost of living is factored in, the real number is 51 percent. Fifty-one percent! Despite what Newt thinks, most economists agree few new jobs are created by giving the very wealthy even more money. To the extent tax breaks help, they argue, payroll tax breaks for businesses hiring new employees can be genuinely useful. But long-term, education remains the single best investment if you want to help people move up the economic food chain. But education is clearly the next white meat, and that hacking and hewing sound you’re hearing is that of schools under attack.
Undeniably, Newt’s throw-down showdown with Mitt Romney constitutes delicious theater, but when I go out to a show, I’d rather not lose my dinner in the process. In the meantime, I’ll be hanging out in the lobby, working hard to forget what I never wanted to know.