More Dogs on Main
August 13, 2010
My favorite news story of the week, maybe of the entire summer, is the Steven Slater saga. Slater is the JetBlue flight attendant who, after a quarrel with a couple of passengers that seemed to last the whole flight from Pittsburgh to New York, finally had enough. After one of the women involved cursed at him over the all-important overhead-bin loading protocol, he blew. He is reported to have dropped the f-bomb over the p.a. system, grabbed a couple of beers from the galley, then deployed the slippery slide emergency exit. He deplaned before the plane had come to a full stop at the gate.
He was arrested later, and as of Wednesday morning was out on bail, with a throng of fans holding vigil in front of his apartment. He said on one of the news shows, "Something kind of resonated here." He will almost certainly be fired. Airlines don’t like that kind of thing, and point out that the slippery slide could have landed on the ground crew which was below the plane mis-sorting the luggage. Cursing out a customer (who really sounded like she had it coming) is also not in the training manual. Personally, I think he should be awarded "employee of the month."
If there were any alternative to flying, the airlines would be out of business tomorrow. I used to have to go to Boulder, Colorado, a couple of times a year on business. The difference between flying and driving, from door to door, was less than an hour by the time I factored in the airport waiting time, security check, car rental or shuttle schedule, and the travel time to and from the airports on both ends. So except in the depths of winter, when the driving could be pretty nasty, I drove. But for longer trips we are at the mercy of the airlines.
Air travel is probably one of the outer rings of Dante’s hell. It’s bad enough alone, and then you factor in other passengers, each determined to let you know that their suffering is significantly worse than yours. I don’t know how anybody gets up and goes to work every day in that environment without snapping.
So when Steven Slater blew, and chugged a beer while descending the slippery slide to a new life, people cheered. Sadly, the two women whose fight over the overhead bin set the whole thing in motion remain anonymous. In a world full of cell-phone cameras there is no video. So they will escape the derision they deserve. But for every waitress who has wanted to hit a customer in the face with a pie, and really for anybody who is just trying to get his or her job done despite insufferable people they have to deal with, Steven Slater has given hope.
Speaking of people who deserve a pie in the face, Congress is about to get very interesting. The Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of this year. The Republicans couldn’t get the votes to make them permanent, so the cuts were made under temporary rules. So starting January 1, the top rate reverts to 39 percent from 35 percent, dividends get taxed as ordinary income instead of at a special rate, capital gains (like anybody even remembers what those are) go up to 20 percent, and the estate tax goes from nothing to 40 percent on big estates. (There are reports of rich old people seeking asylum in Canada or hiring security to keep their heirs away until New Years Day.)
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Obama wants to keep the cuts in place for households with incomes less than $250,000 a year, and let the rates bump up for people above that level. The Republicans want to keep the cuts, despite a $700 billion addition to the debt. Nobody thinks it will be helpful to raise taxes on anybody with the economy as sick as it is. So something will have to be done. If Congress does nothing, which is about the only thing it is good at, everybody’s taxes go up.
The fight is going to be interesting to watch. The Democrats want to raise taxes on the upper 2 percent of households, and the Republicans really seem to believe that if there were no taxes at all, the government miraculously would be rich. It would be nice to see them address the problem before the November election so it is fresh in voters’ minds when we go to the polls. But don’t count on it. My guess is they won’t deal with it after the election, and we’ll end up with the new Congress making some retroactive deal next year. Nobody knows what to plan on.
It’s enough to make you deploy the slippery slide and bail out.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs on Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.