Yesterday I picked up my newly cruise control-enabled car at the car modification shop. I needed a way to get to my car, so naturally I ordered a Lyft. What did I see in the back of my Lyft, but a Make America Great Again hat? American flags were on full display throughout the vehicle. So I asked my driver, “I take it you’re pretty happy with the president?”
He was. John, as I will call him, said he was happy with the president’s actions cutting taxes to help the middle class. He said he was pleased with the efforts to secure our borders, and he even said the president was making great strides on environmental issues. I asked for more detail on that point, and he told me that his family in California were going to benefit from rules allowing them to use their water supplies how they saw fit. I hadn’t heard of any such decisions, so I didn’t press on that one.
Eventually, John asked me, “what do you think of our president?” I didn’t want to upset him and make him clam up, so I said there were certain things the president had done with which I disagreed. He asked like what, and I said that I don’t believe the tax cut is going to benefit the middle class as much as the very wealthy. This set him off. Not in an angry way, just an energetic one. He told me all about how he was going to benefit as the owner of a small business and how already several companies had given raises to their employees. It was about then that we missed a turn.
The next thirty minutes were spent John telling me all about how keeping out the illegal immigrants would reduce the unskilled labor pool and increase employment and wages for real Americans while he made apparently random turns and took me on a tour of the lesser known parts of Raleigh. Repeatedly he would stop and try to ask me where we should be going, but I would ask him something like “what if the people you’re calling junk are the same people the Statue of Liberty calls ‘poor, huddled masses?'” and he would start driving around randomly again while he explained how great strict merit-based refugee restrictions would be for the American economy. We had both become so involved in our surreal discussion that we just couldn’t seem to find the shop where my car was. We just kept taking U-turn after U-turn. I briefly toned the conversation down after I had to shout at John not to turn into oncoming traffic.
It was in the midst of trying to argue that cutting taxes on corporations forever so some of them would give their employees a one-time bonus wasn’t a good move when the shop appeared in my vision and I shouted “there it is!” John swerved into the parking lot and started telling me about how he liked the tax cut because really what we should have is not a tax on income but a tax on wealth. I was floored – this guy wanted a wealth tax? When he said “yeah, just charge 30% tax when people make purchases.” I sat in the car another fifteen minutes trying to explain to him that what he was talking about was just a very high sales tax and it would discourage spending and disproportionately affect the poor. He kept saying “who knows what one guy with a billion dollars will do with it” as if there were a 50% chance that he would give it all to a private charity that would immediately put it to use solving the country’s problems better than government ever could.
John asked me “you’re telling me you wouldn’t be happy if I gave you $1,000 right now?” and I said I would be sad because it wouldn’t cover my $20,000 of medical debt when my medicaid gets cut. He asked if I really had $20,000 of medical debt. I asked if he really was going to give me $1,000. He told me I shouldn’t lie to him. When we got honked at for the third time by the line of cars forming behind us in the middle of the parking lot, I realized I had to leave. I don’t think I changed or even opened anyone’s minds that night, but um, changing the world one conversation at a time?
Yeah, let’s go with that. I’m changing the world one conversation at a time. Also I’m very happy with my new cruise control. I do a lot of highway driving.