Sunday, May 29, 2011


With the Schwarzeneggers, another political/showbiz marriage has come undone. It's hard to see why this one has attracted so much attention. First of all, Arnold's proclivities (I'm going to call him Arnold, to save space) were well known when he first ran. People who voted for him anyway don't get to act all surprised and righteous now. Second, he's no longer in public office and is one of the five Republicans who definitely won't run for president, so who cares? Third, this scandal doesn't even come with the sweet smell of hypocrisy. Remember when we found out Strom Thurmond was implacably opposed to race-mixin' everyplace but his own bed? That was fun. Arnold, on the other hand, has cheerfully maltreated women of every ethnic background.

To my mind, the interesting question is one that nobody has raised: How will this marriage end? The Catholic Church does not permit divorce, but has always managed to accommodate the Kennedy family and their money. One of Maria's cousins was granted an annulment despite the fact that his marriage had produced several children, and over the bitter protests of his wife. (The Church has always had trouble hearing the voices of women without money.) I have no idea how much an annulment costs, but clearly they are beyond the means of rank-and-file, dollar-in-the-collection-basket Catholics. And perhaps in anticipation of his coming de-legitimization, the Schwarzeneggers' son has announced his intention to use the surname Shriver. Of course, it's easier to spell.

If this seems crass, it's probably because the religion/money nexus has been much on my mind since the Rev. Camping's prediction of doomsday last week turned out to be another disappointment. He has run through his arithmetic again and announced the next doomsday for October, which means the believers will have to invest in new t-shirts and bumper stickers. Somebody is doing very well off their credulity, and, as Harry Lime would say, "Free of income tax, old man, free of income tax!" Religion is the best legal racket in this country.

The Cheney-Bush regime succeeded in creating a deficit which would, in conjunction with two pointless wars, cripple the government's ability to meet social obligations like Social Security and Medicare. States and cities are laying off police, teachers and firefighters, and casting about for ways to raise revenue without the political suicide of raising taxes. And here's Big Religion, enjoying a tax exemption apparently based on a wildly generous interpretation of the First Amendment and dropping nothing in the basket for over two centuries. When this nation began, "religion" meant the parish church, a parsonage, and maybe a school, orphanage, or other charitable institution. It didn't means shopping malls, amusement parks, publishing houses, radio and television stations, and all the other properties currently off the tax rolls. When the church was richer than the government in sixteenth-century England, Henry VIII took action. It's time for another reformation.

All great ideas, from women's suffrage to abolition, started out unpopular. The sooner we move on this, the sooner we can achieve revenue justice. Maybe not in my lifetime, but it's coming.



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