Meet Richard White, a detective with a worldview that prevents him from using deductive reasoning or empathizing with others.
I was alone in my corner office, perusing the latest Heritage Foundation tweets, when my lovely unpaid intern, Ann, walked in.
“Potential client here to see you. Says she’s from the Chamber of Commerce.” I remembered that Chamber fondly. Ann made an hourglass shape in the air with her hands. “I’m sure you’ll want to see her right away.”
“Send her in. Thanks, Sugartits.” I straightened my tie and my pocket square.
She was from the Chamber all right, dolled up in a black silk dress that curved in all the right places—nice to see an emphasis on business presentation, if you get my drift. Glossy red lipstick shone on her porcelain white face. Across her slender shoulders was a lush fur stole, head still attached. The cumulative effect: I wanted to bend her over my desk and give her a lesson in feminism. Instead I gathered myself, stood, and reached for her slender silk-gloved hand.
“Mr. White, I’m Chastity Cummings. We’ve heard great things about you in the Chamber.”
“A man’s reputation is his most valuable possession, Ms. Cummings. As you well know, character counts. Please—have a seat.”
She sat down opposite my desk and set her handbag on the floor. I found it hard to maintain eye contact on account of the distracting glare from the face—mink? stoat? Some expensive animal—on her shoulder.
“Now, Ms. Cummings, what can I do you for?”
“Despite what you may have heard, we in the Chamber are very well attuned to what’s happening in the outside world. And I’m afraid we’ve heard some very bad news from our friends in Washington.”
“Keurig?” I asked.
“Coffee. From individual pods. I have Freedom roast.”
“Is it smooth?” she whispered.
She smiled her approval and I began preparing our drinks, but soon realized I was out of coffee pods. Damn it all to hell, Dwight.
“As I was saying, Mr. White, I have it on good authority that the current administration plans to raise taxes on corporations.”
“Yes, and now the welfare queens want even more. We have to put a stop to it. We in the Chamber want you, Mr. White, to find us the evidence we need.”
Just then Dwight returned from lunch, finishing off his customary Ding Dong. He stopped cold when he saw our guest.
“Ms. Cummings, this is my junior partner Dwight Knight. Clearly he didn’t know a client was here, or he would’ve finished his lunch beforehand.”
Dwight swallowed, hard. “Um.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Knight.”
He shook her proffered hand, smearing chocolate across her white silk glove, then wiped his hand across his trousers.
“Say, Dwight, we’re out of coffee pods. Run down to the corner and grab some? Thanks, my good man.”
Dwight left as quickly as he’d come. I turned back to Ms. Cummings.
“I’m very sorry about that. So few men know how to treat a lady these days.” She stared at me. Fearing she could tell how aroused I was, I looked away—into the beady eyes of her stole.
“Are you up for the job, Mr. White?”
I refocused my mind. “So, you want evidence. A red herring, if you will, to get the media off your scent. And more to the point, the political winds blowing in different sails.”
“Despite your way with metaphors, Mr. White, I think we understand each other perfectly.”
She opened her purse, removed a stack of Ben Franklins, and set them on my desk.
“Ms. Cummings, we are engaged.”
She smirked and I imagined her red lips blowing the smoke away from the tip of my gun. That is, until Dwight came back with the coffee pods and spoiled the moment.
“Sorry it took me so long; there was a line of wetbacks out the door buying lotto tickets. Lazy bastards don’t know the dignity of work. Shall I brew us a cup? I mean three cups, not one big cup for all of us. That would be like one step closer to one-world government or something.” He giggled.
I need to teach him to stop that; it’s unmanly.
Ms. Cummings demurred. “None for me, thanks. I must be on my way.”
“Thank you, Ms. Cummings. And don’t you worry, we’ll keep Uncle Sam from dipping his hand in your pocket.”
“Why, Mr. White, I don’t seem to have any pockets.”
“So you don’t. Well, in your something else then.”
“That’s reassuring.” She whisked out of the room.
Dwight whistled. “Some dame, huh?”
“She’s with the Chamber of Commerce in DC.”
“What’s the job?”
“A little misdirection for a good cause.”
Dwight and I drove down to the law library. “A case like this is simple,” I told him. “All you have to do is follow the money.” We passed a concrete island where a bum stood holding a cardboard sign: Anything helps. I rolled down my window. “Read Atlas Shrugged.”
“Nice one, sir.”
At the library, we perused the last 40 years of federal budgets looking for a pattern. There had to be something here we could use.
About an hour in, I began to feel perturbed. If this library were privatized, this whole research business would be a lot more efficient. But do these lib-tard librarians have any incentive to help?
Just when I was about to scream at the nearest librarian, I hit pay-dirt—a pattern that could mean only one thing.
“Look at this basic arithmetic, Dwight. Over the last 40 years, Uncle Sam spent an average 21% of GDP annually, while taking in 18% of GDP in revenue. Could it be more obvious?”
“What? Al Gore again?” he said.
“Spending, Dwight. Spending is out of control.”
Dwight straightened up. “Oh, yeah. Totally!”
People in the library turned and glared at us. I shook my head. Sometimes I wonder why I ever took on a junior partner—but then, of course, I remember that growth is the means and the justification for all this. One day the White Detective Agency will span the globe.
Dwight looked around. “Where’s the bathroom in this joint?”
“Why don’t you ask that slack-jawed parasite over there.”
Library information wouldn’t cut it. Dwight and I needed to get to the bottom of things—and that meant an all-expenses-paid trip to the Caymans.
As soon as we touched down, we grabbed a taxi straight to the Bank of Cayman, its charming colonial façade belying the power and glory held within.
I approached one of the tellers, a lithe man with keen eyes and a deep tan.
“How much money you got in here?”
“Sir. We hold somewhere in the vicinity of 21 trillion dollars in assets.”
“Did you say 21 trillion?”
“Why, that’s more than America’s GDP, isn’t it?”
He smiled, revealing remarkably even teeth. “More than America’s and Japan’s combined.”
“Ain’t that something,” Dwight said, grinning at me like a schoolboy. “And keeping it all safely away from Uncle Sam, who’d do some damn fool thing with it!”
I shook the banker’s hand. “You, my friend, are a true hero.”
On our first-class flight back home, the stewardess brought Dwight a bacon-and-egg sandwich on a silver plate, a pair of fuzzy blue slippers, little powdered donuts, and a Diet Coke. I confined myself to a single-malt old enough to vote, courtesy of the lovely Ms. Cummings.
“I don’t get it,” Dwight said between bites. “I mean, the palm trees were nice and all, but why did we have to go to the Caymans?”
“Because when you’re asked to come up with a red herring, it’s nice to know exactly how large that herring needs to be.”
“And how large is that?”
“Very, very large.”
“I never ate herring before. You?”
When we got back stateside, we went right to work. But how to divert attention from 21 trillion dollars? To shine the spotlight where it belonged—on wasteful government spending? I paced the office for days, reviewed the usual subjects, put an abundance of greasy chink takeout on the lovely Ms. Cummings’ tab.
Finally, late one night, it hit me. Schoolteachers. Unionized schoolteachers.
A little directed research on Dwight’s part, and… paydirt. Teachers in America make 35 grand a year. Worse, the older ones get pensions when they retire. Unfunded liabilities and entitlement spending—bingo! We had our evidence. America didn’t have a revenue problem. No sir, it had a spending problem, and teacher pay was problem number one.
The next morning, I left Dwight to clean up the office and headed out, evidence in hand.
I must admit that I was hoping to see Ms. Cummings again, but the Chamber was empty, all shadow and echo. I passed the abattoir and noticed the meat-hooks on the wall. An old black janitor was hosing down the floor, guiding the runoff toward a big central drain. He didn’t even shut off the hose, just directed me further down the Chamber. I’d forgotten how a man’s voice echoes off the walls of that place.
Finally I saw a proper Chamber man, a dead ringer for Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. He said nothing, just raised an eyebrow and held out a small moist hand. He took my envelope, opened it, and eyed the contents. He looked pleased.
“The teachers and their unions. Of course.” A stiff, emphatic nod. He stuffed the evidence back in the envelope. “Excellent work, sir.”
I expected him to say something more.
“Can I offer you a breath mint?” he asked.
“Thank you sir, but I have a strict no hand-outs policy.”
His smile faded. His eyes grew cold. “You passed the test.”
My duty done, I emerged from the Chamber onto the wintery expanse of the Washington Mall. It wasn’t just the icy wind—all those hideous monuments to Big Government made me shiver. Still, I was glad to be on the side of the good guys.
Dwight had kept the car running. As I climbed in, he asked, “Brunch at Morton’s?”
“You bet. I could go for a nice juicy steak right about now.”
“Besides,” Dwight added, “there’s always the chance we might turn up some new clients. Senators. Bankers.”
“You learn fast, kid. Let’s go forth and surround ourselves with good men doing God’s work.”
- Of 160 countries on Earth, America is ranked 144th in spending as a percentage of GDP. The governments of first-world peers spend 2 to 3x as much—40 to 60% of GDP annually—despite not having massive defense budgets.
- For the past 30 years, Uncle Sam’s spending averaged 21% of GDP, while he took in just 18% of GDP in tax revenue. The gap between 18% taken in and 21% spent accounts for much of the deficit.
- US corporations pay just 1.2% of GDP in taxes annually, and routinely get billions in tax refunds. For example, G.E. recently reported profits of $14.2 billion worldwide. Its American tax bill? Less than zero: G.E. got a tax refund of $3.2 billion.
- The Chamber of Commerce has emerged as the largest lobbying organization in America; it and its subsidiary groups spent $95,660,000 on lobbying in 2012. The Chamber itself has more than 150 lobbyists from 25 different firms working on its behalf. The major issues that it advocates for are in the categories of torts, finance, banking, and taxes. Typically over 90% of the Chamber’s campaign contributions go to Republican candidates.
- The Guardian estimates that a minimum of $21 trillion is currently held in offshore tax-free havens including the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. Just repatriating this unofficial shadow economy would dramatically change the official economy.