Klepto felt bad sometimes that he had divorced his first and second wives while his children were still small. He had missed out on all those moments he saw on TV where parents help with homework and drive the kids to soccer practice and dance recitals and dispense sage advice about dating while waiting in the dropoff line at school.
Actually he didn’t feel bad about missing all those times because they looked boring. He felt bad about not feeling bad. No. He actually enjoyed dodging the responsibility and demands on his attention that parenthood demanded. He much more enjoyed his time cheating on, bragging about and publicly humiliating his first wife, then dumping his pregnant mistress then hound-dogging around on his third and current wife, the eternally absent Tin Woman. Kids were a drag.
But he could pretend to make up for all the time he didn’t miss by helping the boys with their homework. Or as he called it, “running his businesses for him.”
“Wow,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer from under the coffee table. “We made a lot of money since you’re been Precedent, Dad. Everyone is buying condos and paying everything we ask and even more. Let’s see last week we sold one for $900,000 and another for $850,000. Let’s see. Carry the 5…that’s one million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And before that one sold for $1.5 million. What’s “point” mean? Should I add that up with the others or is it separate? Here, take a look,” he offered.
Klepto kept his eyes glued firmly to the TV where people who normally said nice things about him no matter what he did were saying nice things about Bill the Giant Leprechaun despite what he did. Actually, the sound was turned up so high, Klepto could barely hear TCLH, which was just what he intended.
“You can’t show it to Dad,” the Scarecrow said from the back of the room where he hung on his Scarecross. “Dad’s in a blind trust. He can’t see anything you show him.” The Scarecrow was the brainy brother.
“Dad’s blind?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer.
“No, the trust is blind,” Scarecrow explained patiently.
“So he trusts blindly now? I thought he was pretty paranoid,” TCLK said.
“No, no. It’s a legal thing. People buy property to channel money to Dad so he’ll do them political favors as Precedent. That’s why he has to be blind.”
“Well in that case, this guy named LLC is going to get everything he wants from Dad. He bought every property.”
“No, no. LLC is kind of corporation that buys stuff for people without attaching their names so they can hide their identity,” the Scarecrow explained.
“If Dad doesn’t know their identities, how can he do them favors?” TCLK asked, reasonably.
“Of course, Dad knows who they are. They probably call him up and tell him. Or more likely, they meet him at Club Marmalade in Florida. That’s why Dad is there every weekend instead of in the Pale House. It’s so the voters don’t know who’s giving him money. After all, how Dad sells his Precedency is none of their business.”
“I get it,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer who didn’t really understand anything except that it was one of the tricky dodges Klepto used that were too complicated for anyone but a federal prosecutor to understand.
“That’s small potatoes,” chimed in Tinkerbelle who was tête-à-tête with Harlequin at the dining table. “It’s tax reform that’s going to bring in the bucks.”
“I thought Dad didn’t pay taxes,” the Scarecrow said.
“He doesn’t usually, but there are some taxes even Dad can’t evade. For example, the alternative minimum tax. Usually Dad loses so much money on his properties, he can wipe out any income he makes through his branding or shady business deals. But this one year when he did have to pay, he only would have hade to pay $5 million, except for the alternative minimum tax. Because of that, he had to pay $15 million.”
“Wow,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer. “Fifteen is a lot more than five. It’s like double, almost.”
“That one’s gotta go,” Klepto blurted.
“Then there’s the estate tax. Almost nobody in the country pays it at all and the people who do pay a tiny fraction of the vast sums they get for doing nothing but outliving their parents. But the few people whose parents are billionaires—”
“Hey, our father’s a billionaire,” the Cowardly Lion Killer chimed.
“So he says,” said Tinkerbelle. “Anyway, we’ll have to pay tax on any money he hasn’t transferred to us while he’s still alive.”
“Wait a minute,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. “We have to pay taxes on money we didn’t even earn?”
“Can you believe it?” tsked the Scarecrow. “Big Government is killing innovation. Except innovation in how to avoid taxes.”
“So the estate tax has got to go.” Tinkerbelle said. Harlequin nodded vigorously at her side. He, too, was heir to a vast fortune and had been working on this problem for his whole life. By “working” he meant wishing it would go away.
“Death tax!” Klepto shouted. Then he realized the death he wanted not to tax was his own and he got moody.
Harlequin said, “The tricky part is, if rich people don’t have to pay any taxes because they have loopholes and corporations don’t have to pay taxes because they have loopholes, were is the money we want to bilk the government out of going to come from?”
“Mexico!” the Cowardly Lion Killer exclaimed as if he were on Jeopardy!
“No, dummy. Mexico is only going to pay for the wall. China is going to pay all the taxes. Dad is going to slap a 40% tax on anything from China and that’ll solve all our problems,” the Scarecrow exclaimed.
“Yeah, who buys stuff from China anyway? It’s all junk,” the Cowardly Lion Killer jingoed.
“Well, all my clothing customers do, but fuck them,” Tinkerbelle said.
“Wait, your clothing is Chinese?” the Scarecrow asked.
“No, it’s American. It’s just made in China.”
“Oh,” the Scarecrow said. He thought “her clothing” meant Tinkerbelle made it herself.
“It’s not all cheap,” Tinkerbelle said, then added soothingly, “But it’s true: most stuff made in China is cheap shit sold in Wal-Mart where poor people shop.”
“I thought poor people shopped in Bloomingdales and Van Cleef and Arpels,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. He had never been anywhere but Saks and Tiffany’s.
“No, those are rich people who just don’t want to show off how rich they are. Some people buy everything at Wal-Mart because they can’t afford to shop anywhere else. You know unemployed people, people on social security and disability, people working for minimum wage. People who make too little money to have to pay income tax.”
“Lucky duckies!” the Scarecrow cheered enviously.
“Now they’ll finally be pulling their weight by paying 40% more for all that junk they buy like socks and underwear and food.”
“I thought China was paying 40%? If poor people are paying 40% too that’s like a hundred percent,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. “What taxes would be left for us to pay?”
“Exactly,” Klepto said.
Tinkerbelle explained, “Actually, the tax China pays will just get passed along to the people at Wal-Mart. They’re the people who are ruining this country. …what do you call them?”
“Takers,” Klepto said.
“That’s it,” said Tinkerbelle.
“This has really been educational,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. Then he went back to doodling on the quarterly report of the Klepto Korporation he was “running” for his dad.