No time to pass the hat for the well off

asnow@newsobserver.comJune 23, 2012 

Some of my best friends are lawyers.

It was a lawyer who told me an apocryphal story about two balloonists who, out on their maiden voyage, became hopelessly lost.

Drifting down over a neighborhood, they saw a man going out to pick up his morning News & Observer.

One of the balloonists called out, “Halloooo down there. Where are we?”

The man on the ground yelled, “You’re in a hot air balloon!”

The chagrined balloonist turned to his friend and said, “He must be a lawyer. He gave us the answer but it ain’t worth a dern!”

Yes, some of my best friends are lawyers. But I don’t love any of them enough to be passing the hat for them. I don’t think most expect a handout at taxpayers’ expense.

I refer to the GOP-dominated state legislature which, in passing a bill for tax exemptions for “small businesses,” forgot or deliberately failed to put a cap on how large a firm’s income can be to qualify for the tax break.

For example, the state’s largest law firm – Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice – last year brought in $279 million and generated profits equal to $590,000 per equity partner, according to The American Lawyer, a trade publication. Each of those partners will be able to avoid state taxes on his or her first $50,000 of income – roughly $3,500 less in taxes.

For low-income taxpayers scraping by in these tough times, this kind of legislative shenanigans is no joke.

If the legislature’s leadership has any conscience and common sense, it will amend the legislation to include an income cap for businesses benefiting from the tax break.

A dog story

When an emergency called Dave Kesterson’s Raleigh neighbors out of town and their regular dog sitter was not available, Dave agreed to look after Simon, their lovable Labrador, including stuffing Prozac down Simon’s throat morning and night to calm his nerves.

“Everything went well the first day,” Dave said. “On day two, as the skies darkened in the afternoon, I hurried home to put Simon inside, knowing he hates thunder.

“When I got there, the gate was chewed up at the bottom and forced open far enough for a half-crazy, congenial, fun-loving Labrador to escape.”

Knowing that when Simon usually escapes, he hangs out with a neighbor, Dave grabbed a leash and drove through the neighborhood. Nobody had seen hide nor hair of Simon.

Finally, in desperation, Dave called Simon’s owner in Charleston and asked, “Drew, where does this dog of yours go when he breaks out?”

The owner chuckled and said, “The PR. Try the PR.”

As most Raleighites know, the PR is the long-standing Players’ Retreat, a popular Oberlin Road pub and restaurant.

When Dave arrived at the pub, he found Simon curled up in a corner with three pretty girls petting and fawning over him, much to his obvious delight.

“We stayed until the thunder and lightning were over,” said Dave, adding that as he and Simon left, he thought, “This could have been a great adventure for a much younger, single man.”

Oh, to be a dog for a day!

On Day One

My 9-year-old grandson, Wade, received the end of the school year accolade “Most likely to be President.”

He’s come a long way since he said he coveted a career of selling peanuts at the Tampa Bay Rays baseball games.

Well, as Robert Browning said, “A man’s goal should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?”

Seizing the opportunity to peer into the political mind of a 9-year-old, I asked Wade to tell me what he’d do on Day One of his administration. He made a list:

1. Hire more spies to find people who are making bombs.

2. Keep our soldiers safer.

3. Give Secret Service agents a day off to go swimming and not be so serious.

4. Make parents stop forcing kids to eat their vegetables.

5. Make the weekends one day longer.

A senior’s prayer

Among my wife’s birthday cards I found this gem:

God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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