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November 14, 2005

Republican Myths of Merit

A friend of mine recently received the following “joke” from a Republican friend of hers:

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and was very much in favor of the redistribution of wealth. She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the addition of more government welfare programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school. Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, “How is you friend Audrey doing?” She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.”

Her wise father asked his daughter, “Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.”

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, “That wouldn't be fair! I have worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the Republican Party.”

Of course, my friend didn't find this very funny. In fact, it made her kind of mad. So after giving the matter a bit of thought, she sent the following back to her Republican friend:

Her eyes wide open now, the daughter pauses for reflection. “Gee, dad, I guess I see your point. How could I have been so stupid?” With a new pride, the father watches his daughter pack up her bag and head back to UT for the spring semester.

As professor Mitchell ends his lecture on the socio-economic factors that determine class structure in the US, he runs his chalky fingers through his thick, black hair and continues, “So, as you can see, in what many conservatives today call the 'good ole days', marginal tax rates on the wealthy were about twice what they are today, which essentially freed the lower classes from the burden of financially supporting those public institutions from which they had yet to benefit.”

The newest republican promptly raises her hand to protest, “But, professor, why should the wealthy pay more? Poor people would be wealthy too if they weren't so lazy and irresponsible.”

Professor Mitchell raises his eyebrows and grins. “And wealthy people are wealthy because they work hard?”

“Well, yeah. My dad works hard. He tells me all the time. Once he told me 7 times in just 90 minutes that his job was hard work.”

“I think I remember what you're father does, but tell me, how did he acquire his wealth?”

“I think he was part-owner of a baseball team for awhile.”

“And what did he do there? Did he make smart investments for the team? Did he mow the grass on the fields?”

“No, he mostly just talked to people. You know, he networked.”

The professor suppresses an urge to chuckle.

“Why was he so successful at networking? What made people want to talk to him? Was it his brilliant oratorical skill?”

The class laughs.

“No, I think he was already a well-known businessman.”

“Was he well-known for his hard work? For his business acumen?”

“I don't really know.” she admits.

“Well, was he a successful businessman?”

“He had four companies- he must have been!”

Again, laughter erupts.

“More doesn't always mean merrier. Do you know why he had four companies?”

“No.” She begins to wonder where her professor is going with this.

“Well, I do. They went bankrupt. Each and every one of them.”

“But that doesn't make any sense! Why would people continue to trust him if he couldn't keep any of his businesses afloat?”

“That's an interesting question. Why do you think people kept bailing him out?”

She thinks for a minute and answers, “Because he's a good man... trustworthy... affable. And he went to a prestigious university.” she smiles and continues, “Not as prestigious as ours of course- Hook em' horns! Go Bevo!”

The class erupts in wild applause.

“O.K. Settle down, class. So what you're saying is that your father is an all around nice guy.”

“Yeah, with a great education to boot.”

“And how does one get into one of these schools like the one your father went to?”

Exasperated now, she answers “You know, professor. The usual- good grades, test scores.”

“Hmmm.” The professor takes a deep breath and continues. “You know, not everyone that has good grades and test scores get into those colleges.”

“They don't?”

“Not always. Sometimes it helps to have a family member that has also gone there. It's called a legacy. And you get extra points for being one.”

“Like extra-credit points?” she asks.

“Yep. Except you don't have to do any work yourself to get them.”

“Well, that doesn't seem fair.”

“No? Do you know if your father was a legacy?”

“Actually, I'm pretty sure Poppy went there, too.” She is visibly upset now. “But once my dad got there, he made the most of his opportunity. That has to count for something, doesn't it?”

“I hate to break this to you, but I actually went to school with your father. And he wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Even when he was sober. And the worst part was he seemed proud of that fact. It was his badge of honor. He was the stereotypical frat boy.”

Three guys from Delta Felta Thi cheer from the back.

“Really? He never told me that? He sounds just like my friend Audrey.”

“So you see, Jenna, sometimes it has nothing to do with how hard you work. Laziness and irresponsibility can lead to wealth and power, too. And sometimes hard work leads nowhere if you don't know the right people.”

The professor gathers his things and announces “Class dismissed. Don't forget, midterms are Monday after the break!”

Jenna sits in silence as the class files out the door. She thinks to herself “my dad sure has a lot of explaining to do.”

A few days later, back at the ranch, Jenna confronts her father.

“Dad, you convinced me that in our society, the great thing is that deserving people are rewarded with wealth and the undeserving remain poor. My professor proved otherwise. He showed me that sometimes even the most undeserving among us rise to the top with the proper connections.”

“What?!” He's surprised to hear the tone in her voice. Can't she see he's busy clearing brush? “Was he talkin' bout that lazy, good for nuthin' friend a yers? What was her name again?”

“You mean Audrey? Audrey Delay?”

“Delay??? You didn't say she was Tom's little girl! She's a great gal- why, you let her know that when she graduates I'd be happy ta have her as my deputy chief of staff. You know, that position's opening up again.”

“But dad!” she shouts. “She doesn't deserve that!”

And that's when Dubya puts an arm around his daughter's shoulder and gives her another wink.

“Jenna, honey, being a republican means knowing that you and your friends are ALWAYS the deserving ones.”

How would you have replied to the original “joke”?

Posted November 14, 2005 07:47 AM | general politics

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Posted by: resipsacrap at November 14, 2005 05:49 PM

How amusing. Yes, running a business and the hard work that it takes to get there is a matter of networking and good connections. Neither joke is particularly good, but the first is bad mostly because of poor writing: it's simply not punchy. The second is wrong because it makes all sorts of assumptions about wealth redistribution, especially that G.W. Bush would be "typical" of a high-bracket taxpayer.

Ah well. The funniest part of this is the assumption that your standard sociology professor knows squat about what it takes to run a business.

Posted by: A. Rickey at November 16, 2005 11:43 AM

obviously a stunning piece of literary achievement. :)

Posted by: fikigrrl at November 21, 2005 10:17 AM

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