To Pee or Not To Pee—That’s a Question?

Ed Raymond

The Rich Live 20 Years Longer Than The Poor

   Several recent incidents in the airline industry are sending messages to the Ninety-Nine Percent around the world. If you can’t hold it, don’t book a flight. A male passenger was removed from a flight because he had to pee while the plane was sitting on the ground. He violated the rule that toilets are closed while waiting for take-off. He had been sitting in his seat for more than half an hour and had told the attendants he had to go. They refused permission but he used the toilet anyway. They removed him the flight.

   An emergency room nurse on a United flight with what she described as an active bladder, was told she could not use the bathroom during a flight because the seat belt light was on. She was told they were in descent although the attendants were still selling booze and other drinks from beverage carts in the aisles. Passengers from first class were using the toilets. Pleading her active bladder case, the nurse told an attendant she would either have to use the toilet or use a cup. The attendant handed her two cups. She filled both of them while passengers around her gawked. She was then escorted to the toilet by crew attendants and emptied the cups. Welcome to the cheap seats and a brave new world. To sum up her story, she said: “And to top it all off, once on our final descent, a gentleman got up from first class (yes, the seat belt light was on and the plane was flipping tilted) walked right by a smiling flight attendant and entered the bathroom!”

A Private Terminal With Access To Suites With Bathrooms

   Over 80 million passengers from paupers to billionaires fly out of Los Angeles International  Airport (LAX) each year. They are treated differently. The elite and millionaire-billionaire class can now escape the long lines and the packed terminals by using a new $22 million terminal called Private Suites. The One Percent can enter the airport utilizing a private entrance through armed guards and proceed directly to 13 luxurious suites where TSA employees screen them quickly so they can enjoy the bathrooms, TVs, drinks, snacks, WiFi, and toys for child passengers. It even provides prayer mats for rich Muslims. 

   At take-off time the passengers are driven directly to their airplane in a BMW limo to board their first-class seats. According to the contract, an annual membership in the Private Suites costs $7,500 and you pay an additional $2,700 for each domestic flight for up to four people. An international flight will cost $3,000 for each use. Not a paying member? The bill climbs to $3,500 for a domestic flight and $4,000 for an international flight. There will be no peeing in cups for these passengers. Arrivals for the Private Suites are greeted by platters of chocolates, leather armchairs, and very friendly immigration and customs officials. The manager of the new terminal estimated it would provide $34 million in new revenue for LAX over the next nine years. In an answer to the question whether the terminal emphasized inequality in Trumpistan, he replied: “It’s a voluntary tax on the wealthy.” I wonder if the nurse with the active bladder and the guy who couldn’t hold it would agree with that. 

   A recent Forum article covered the entrance of TapJets, Inc. to the private and charter jet market in Fargo and the U.S., where the business can arrange for a charter to pick up customers at the nearest airport and fly them to any destination in 48 states—for a price of $1,800 to $10,000 an hour, depending on the size of the jet. TapJets has about 600 subscribers and is rapidly gaining about 500 users a month. Private charter flights to the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, and hot vacation spots such as Aspen are a major part of the new business. As we have always had dogs and watch the national dog shows, I was not particularly surprised dog shows were described as a very profitable part of the charter business, flying One Percent dogs from one dog show to another. 

Part of Our Economy is a Real Doggish One

   As we are long-time members of the Ninety-Nine Percent, we have purchased only one dog out of the dozen we have loved over the years, the rest coming from dog shelters. We bought a Cairn terrier from a friend who raised them. Peter O’Toole spent 17 years with us. After reading that private jets were often used to fly One Percent dogs from dog show to dog show, I thought I would check up on the size of the dog economy. Things have changed since we had our first few mutts. Americans spent $63 billion on pets in 2016, mostly dogs. I was somewhat shocked to learn from the manager of an outfit called Neuticles that 500,000 dogs have had testicular implants to give male dogs that have lost their “doghood” “a more natural look.” I wonder if those well-formed “neuticles” make a neutered dog really strut around the dog show carpet.

  We know when lawyers are involved there must be money to be made in an enterprise. Over 150 law schools now teach entire curriculums on pet and animal laws. According to an article in The Atlantic, one California woman spent $146,000 in her successful attempt to keep custody of Gigi, a pointer-greyhound mix. I wonder if her ex-husband was granted visiting rights. The sale of health insurance for pets is gaining ground every day. In the 16 years between 1996 and 2012 pet health costs rose 60% while human health costs went up 50%.

Dolly Parton’s Axiom: “It Takes a Lot of Money To Look This Cheap”

   Particularly over the last 50 years our society has entered into, as one economist put it, “the relentless pursuit of more.” According to a research outfit called the Global Footprint Network, studies estimate excessive biological resources (fishing grounds, forest land, coal and oil, etc.) are necessary to fulfill the consumption of a country and absorb its waste. We are one of the world’s greatest consumers, using up 13% of the world’s resources. Because of its huge population China is very close to us. The world’s population is now devouring  resources at a rate that requires 1.7 earths to support the present rate of consumerism. To paraphrase Dolly Parton’s axiom: It takes a lot of money to use up all those resources.

   A study of our consumerism by economist Frank Trentmann, who uses the “conspicuous consumption” theories of Thorstein Veblen and those of John Kenneth Galbraith (“private opulence and public squalor” is the result of consumerism), estimated that by 2010 each person in the 34 richest countries consumed 220 pounds of resources and stuff every day. Wow! That means we are consuming each other out of house and home and destroying the planet at the same time. This growth in consumption is affecting the life expectancy gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. Our rich now live an average of 87 years while the poor expire at age 66—and the gap is growing. Every country with universal health care is increasing life expectancy among the rich and the poor. In 2017, 64 million Americans make less than a living wage while millions of adults and children live without access to adequate healthcare—while a Republican Congress attempts to strip access to health care from millions more.

Can The One Percent Survive In a Society Without a Middle Class?

   So far the One Percent has been able to ignore the signs of a very unhappy society on several protest marches toward more economic and social equality. So far protests such as Occupy Wall Street, the fight for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, Black Lives Matter, Moral Mondays  in North Carolina, the Women’s March in Washington, the People’s Climate March in most cities, and the No Ban/No Wall (Texas-Mexico border) have not impressed the One Percent. Now the Democratic Resistance movement is morphing into the Poor People’s Campaign for a Moral Revival in America. The black Episcopal Bishop William J. Barber who ran the successful Moral Mondays protests in Republican-dominated North Carolina has been tapped for leadership in the new organization.

   At this writing the future of King Donald as president of the superpower United States seems to be on a very slippery banana republic peel. Even David Brooks, a proud Republican columnist on the New York Times staff, has demolished Trump in his May 15 article, “When the World Is Led by a Child.”  First, he describes trump as an infantalist who has not mastered the maturity of an adult: (1) has not learned to sit still while acting like a seven-year-old boy bouncing around in a classroom, (2) is constantly seeking approval, telling heroic tales about his actions, and (3) lives in a fantasy land where he learned everything there is to know about health care in very short time. Brooks really nails him when he writes that King Donald is “the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychiatric condition in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence.” Two examples of the “effect”: (1) he knows more than any of his generals about warfare (he matches Dick Cheney’s five deferments during Vietnam because, according to his doctor, he had bad feet), and (2) he knows more about aircraft carrier technology and the use of plane catapults than his admirals.

The Vultures Feeding on the American Carcass

  How long King Donald will desecrate the Oval Office is debatable, whether it will be just a few months or a full term, but the Republican Party, out of touch with the Ninety-Nine Percent, continues to pursue programs in both Houses of Congress that show utter contempt for the middle-class. They believe a person acquires wealth because he works harder, that the poor and minorities are lazy and look for handouts. Paul Buchheit of Truthout has a good summary of the Republican assault on the Ninety-Nine Percent: (1) health care is a privilege not a right, so they want to repeal Obamacare and slash Medicare and Medicaid, (2) weaken consumer protection laws that protect citizens from economic predators, (3) repeal fair wage, workplace safety laws, and overtime pay, (4) jeopardize civil rights by passing “religious freedom” laws which will allow them to discriminate against the LBGTQ community, (5) increase penalties for drug use and reduce funds for treating addiction, and (6) turn designated public lands over to states for fossil fuel, natural gas,  timber, and other developments. There are many other proposals that would widen the income inequality present in modern America. That problem is turning us into a real banana republic.