Happy Holidays, my friends! And here’s hoping that this will be a happier month than the one we’ve just endured.
First of all, I’m looking forward to the Longest Night Masquerade Ball in Pennsylvania on December 10th. It will be a fabulous affair with costumes, pageantry and custom-bottled joie, and it’s all to raise funds for Petapalooza.
But yeah, I’m going to talk a bit about politics. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s read my books (although sometimes it does), with their themes of inclusivity, justice and civil liberties, that I’m an ardent liberal. I was shocked and devastated by the election of Donald Trump, a narcissistic billionaire with no experience in government who appeals to many of the worst impulses in Americans.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been. One of the primary ideas behind Banewreaker and Godslayer is that whoever is telling the story determines who’s good and who’s evil. That’s an example writ large, but I think this election certainly demonstrated that whoever controls the narrative, wins. There were other factors, but it’s certainly true that, with the aid of a complicit media, Hillary Clinton lost control of the narrative. And I think it’s a shame, because she had the most liberal platform of any candidate in my adult lifetime, and I believe her policies would have benefited millions of people who voted against her.
But you didn’t hear anything about those policies, did you? Policies are wonky and boring. The mainstream media barely covers them. Lots of us tune out when they do, like we’re listening to the teacher’s voice on a Charlie Brown show. And yet they matter… a lot.
Let me offer an example. At a dinner party the other day, one of the guests expressed a commonly-held opinion that Social Security wouldn’t be there when he retired. I noted that it would actually be quite easy to make the program solvent. Americans only pay Social Security tax on $118,500 of their taxable income. That’s the cap. Beyond that, nada. So if your income is $70,000 per year, you pay tax on 100% of your income. If your income is $1.2 million, you only pay tax on 10% of your income; and so on, and so on.
Is it unfair to ask high-income earners to pay more in terms of dollars when they’re paying far, far less in terms of a percentage? I don’t think so.
We don’t have to cut benefits or raise the retirement age to “save” Social Security. All we have to do is raise that rather modest cap, something Hillary Clinton proposed doing. One young guest stared at me in blank astonishment. She had absolutely no idea any of this was true. Most of us don’t, because most of us don’t earn more than $118,500 a year. It’s the people who do who are paying attention to these policies.
Later, I related this story to a wealthy friend who’s very liberal and very politically active. He’s not private jet-rich, but he maintains two houses and imports expensive cars as a hobby. And he stared at me in blank astonishment, because it was inconceivable to him that the fact that there’s a cap on Social Security taxes wasn’t common knowledge.
That’s a problem. And I don’t have a solution, but I’m a storyteller, so all I can do is contribute my bit in an attempt to make some of these policy issues a little less boring, and maybe change the narrative in the process.
Don’t worry, I’ll get back to books and writing, too! Miranda and Caliban comes out in February, and I’m excited about it. More on that to come!
And here on the homepage, in lieu of Michigan snow, a photo of me preparing to climb a glacier in Iceland, a personal reminder that at least some parts of 2016 were awesome.