FEEDBACK TO MY TV SCREEN

I’m sorry, but that was a pretty lame speech. You know the routine where you open fortune cookies and have everyone append “between the sheets” at the end of each one? (“You will find fame and fortune. Between the sheets.“) Well, after almost every paragraph, I found myself inserting, “by enacting a massive tax cut for the rich.” That’s how to make sure every senior has prescription drug benefits – by enacting a massive tax cut for the rich. That’s how to help the neediest of our children get health insurance — enact a massive tax cut for the rich. Need to beef up our military preparedness? Simple – build a $60 billion defense system that most other nations oppose and that almost every expert says can’t really work – and enact a massive tax cut for the rich. That’s how to improve the schools – abolish the department of education, end funding for Head Start, turn the whole effort back to the states (where most of it already resides) — and enact a massive tax cut for the rich. That’s how to renew our purpose instead of taking “the easy road” – we need to bite the bullet, grit our teeth as our parents did in World War II, and enact a massive tax cut for the rich.

Would I like to see my effective marginal federal tax bracket fall from 43% to 33%? Of course. That would be another $100,000 in my pocket for every $1 million I make. (This lucrative daily column is just the tip of the iceberg.) But I kind of like the idea of using the surplus, which I fear may be fleeting in any event, for an even grander vision. And I like the idea of making hay while the sun shines by paying down a fair chunk of our $5 trillion debt. Most of it was run up under Reagan/Bush, and for the longest time, the Republicans were talking about the need to pay it off – even advocating strongly for a balanced budget amendment (a bad idea). So now that we have a chance to make a real dent, and do some other pretty grand things, along comes Bush with a vision to renew America’s spirit and end “our long night” (huh? 21 million new jobs, a booming economy, record low unemployment, record high home ownership, the lowest crime rates in decades, vast scientific progress, real progress on diversity, almost no U.S. citizens killed in combat, a President who still has a huge approval rating) — by enacting a massive tax cut for the rich.

Yes, I’m not being entirely fair. It’s not just the rich who would get a tax cut, but most of it would go to the top 10% — precisely the folks who need it least. And, yes, maybe the Republicans would no longer abolish the department of education, and maybe Cheney, had he to do it over again, would not have voted against funding Head Start and against funding AIDS research and against restrictions on cop-killer bullets. Maybe two rich Texas oil executives are just the ticket to champion the environment (which isn’t just snail darters, it truly is “earth in the balance) — but I don’t think so.

Finally, that line that got the best reaction of the night, about Al Gore inventing the Internet? Readers of this column know – and Bush surely knows — that Gore never, ever said he invented the Internet. Does that matter to anybody?

What he did do was champion funding of the Internet in Congress. What exactly was Bush doing in those years?

Now, this is already a long column — and half of you are furious with me — so feel free to read the rest Monday. But here’s more:

SILVER

Gray Chang: “In the early 1980’s, I bought several bars of silver bullion, at an average cost of $10 per ounce. After waiting 18 years for the oft-mentioned supply-demand imbalance to drive up the price, I gave up and sold out for a 50% loss (not counting inflation). I figured that with digital cameras becoming more and more popular, silver consumption and silver prices would have to come down in the long run.”

Alex Relyea: “I don’t think that it is a bad idea to buy silver coins at current levels, but please note that [the Investment Rarities offering prices] were nowhere near current levels. A quick check of wholesale prices shows 1921 Morgans (uncirculated) to sell for $11 each [not $17]. Circulated they go for $6.40 to $8.25. And 1964 Kennedys go for $3900 for the thousand dollar bag ($5.41 an ounce). But the best way to bet on silver is to buy war nickels. From 1942 to 1945 (since nickel was a strategic war metal) nickels were made of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese. That is .05626 oz pure silver. The wholesale rate of those nickels is $800 with a melt value of $1125. In short, buying coins for silver value isn’t a bad idea, but make sure that you don’t overpay.”

“How can this be?” I asked Alex. “Are you saying right now wholesalers will sell you bags of nickels for $800 that they could melt for $1,125? Why would they do that?”

To which Alex replied (and I have not verified his math):

“It boggles my mind as well, but doing the math: bags are $200 face value or 4000 nickels. At .05626 ounces of silver per nickel, that is approximately 225 oz silver per bag. Dealer bid is $810 this week and ask is $885, or $3.60 to $3.93 per ounce. Even retail it shouldn’t run you more than $1,000. I don’t understand the why of the vast disparity in price, but it exists. Perhaps there are difficulties in separating the manganese? Also, these prices are for well-worn coins, so perhaps as little as 220 oz. per bag, but still it is a very good value. The coin market sometimes does that. Last spring wholesale prices on 1980 U.S. mint uncirculated sets were $4.80 for about a month. Face value is $4.82, and I picked up a bunch from a dealer who habitually pays 10% less than the wholesale price, or $4.30 for $4.82 face value. I don’t understand it myself, but you might try calling some major coin dealers and getting their prices on the War Nickels.”

(And here I thought it was clickles that would make my fortune.)

JESUS DAY

Daniel H.: “Hmmm… Looks like you may have ruffled a few feathers. The Jesus Day link was working last night, but lo and behold it seems to have been removed tonite. Thanks to Google for caching it, those that missed it can read it at:

http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:www.governor.state.tx.us/Proclamations/May00/5-00Jesus.html+jesus+day+bush&hl=en .”

☞ Hmmm, indeed. If you go to the Governor’s official proclamations page, sure enough, June 10 Jesus Day has disappeared. June remains official Water Smart Month. June 5-11 remains official Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Week. June 11 The Spirit of ADA Torch Relay Day. But June 10 has disappeared.

In fairness, it turns out that the Governor has proclaimed other religious days. But you have to wonder whether they disabled Jesus Day because, on reflection, they realized it’s a bad idea to mix church and state, or simply out of political expediency. For now.

CHENEY

Both Cheneys seem unwilling to talk much about their daughter Mary. Which makes perfect sense if they think it’s shameful that she’s gay. But she apparently doesn’t think so – she worked at the Coors Brewing Company doing outreach to the gay and lesbian community. Read conservative Andrew Sullivan for more. It’s a powerful piece.

ONE-CENT STAMPS

Kurt Hemr: “A hang-up in your proposal [that first class stamps be good forever, no matter how their price may rise]: If I recall correctly, nondenominational stamps cannot be used in international mail. I believe the post office warns people who buy the “H” stamps or whatever when rate increases come about this very problem.”

☞ OK. So they should perhaps say “Domestic First Class.” Or else they should have their price printed on them — 33 cents, currently — but still be good forever.

Steven Coultas: “This is, in fact, the way England sells stamps now. They used to sell stamps using the price, same as America. But someone there obviously thought like you. See this [First Class sunflower stamp], for an example.”

Have a great weekend . . .

 

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