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Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc.
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Omnia pro aegroto

The Invisible Man

By Craig J. Cantoni

I do not exist. Millions of people like me also do not exist. Or at least that is how we are treated by the mainstream media.

Why are we nonexistent to the media? Because we pay taxes-a lot of taxes. In my case, almost 50% of my income goes to city, state, and federal taxes.

We know that we do not exist because reporters never include our views in stories about taxes and government spending. If we existed, reporters would certainly be quoting us. After all, reporters are taught about balance and diversity in journalism school.

Taxpayers may not exist, but the recipients of government handouts and entitlements certainly do. Their views are almost always covered, especially when cuts are proposed in taxes, government spending, or social programs. The standard story line goes like this:

"Mary Jones does not know how she will survive if the state budget is cut. A single mother of five children, she says that she will have to move into a cardboard box and eat grass if her child care subsidy is reduced."

It is forbidden by the journalism code to ask Mary what happened to the father or fathers of her children. It also is verboten to ask why she keeps having children she cannot afford.

If a reporter were to ask me what I think about budget cuts, I might give an answer that is at odds with the reporter's ideology. Thus, I do not exist.

Single moms are not the only ones who exist when state budgets are in the news. Public school teachers exist. College professors at state universities exist. State workers exist. Private nonprofit agencies that depend on government handouts exist. Anyone who depends on government money exists and finds a voice in the mainstream media. But those who foot the bill vanish into thin air.

The Arizona Republic proved my point on March 22, 2002 in an article on state budget cuts. The article quoted 11 tax takers and not one taxpayer.

Taxpayers also vanish when new entitlement programs are under consideration. Take the issue of adding prescription drugs to Medicare. The standard story line is to quote Medicare beneficiaries, who are already charging other people for their medical care, on what they see as the need for free drugs. The script never includes quotes from a taxpayer like a young clerk at the local convenience store who earns $8 per hour. If it did, an article on prescription drugs might read like this:

"Tom Smith, a twenty-something who earns $8 per hour in a convenience store, is not happy over the prospect of prescription drugs being added to Medicare. He is not happy because about $10 of his daily earnings is taken from him to subsidize the Social Security and Medicare of current retirees, including wealthy retirees. He thinks that his one-year-old son needs the money more than a retiree who drives up to the convenience store in a $40,000 Cadillac."

Unfortunately, the convenience store clerk does not exist in the eyes of reporters. Taxpayers are not real people with real families. They are all caricatures. They are all greedy fat-cats, selfish right-wingers, or heartless Republicans.

The curious thing about all of this is that the mainstream media are losing market share because their prime audience, which is made up of people like me, is turning to talk radio, cable stations, and the Internet for news. Those non-mainstream media know that we exist. They have our names in their Rolodexes and cover our views in their news stories.

The mainstream media are committing suicide. The good news is that when they vanish, I will come back into view.

* * *

E-mail from Mr. Cantoni's invisible readers:

"My poor neighbor earns $12 an hour as an electrician, drives a beat-up car, is raising his baby by himself, and has to support the RVs ... at the RV park as those retired folks use our money to gas them up! And we pay for their pills! Say, now you know why they (reporters) don't ask my opinion either. I am not on any government handouts, and we barely make it but don't qualify for the free lunch program that neighbors who drive better cars get for their kids, and we pay for, while paying for our own son's lunch too. We are law abiding, unlike the drug dealer that lived down the street and had every play toy. He now sits in Florence [state prison], his wife collects AFDC for his two sons, and they have ATVs, good cars, and go on vacation and eat out more often than I can even think about. Just doesn't make sense, does it?"

"I was talking with a mother, and her story is even worse. She and her husband own a very small printing business. They have been self-employed and worked together most of their married life. They live in a modest middle-class neighborhood and have always paid out of pocket for their children's births. Their oldest son cost them $10,000 as he was born by C-section. Each child cost them, and they paid off the bills through hard work, savings, and sacrifice. [But]... `the lady next door' was an unwed mother, and the father of the child was incarcerated in another state for some crime. She had all of her medical bills paid for by the taxpayers, and doesn't owe a dime. [My friend asked]: `Do you think that is fair? It took us ten years to pay to have our children.' I agreed, no.... I want to change the system by going to a consumption tax and totally eliminating government's ability to tax my income. [Then I could] at least decide how much I want to give to the government to redistribute to those who purposely make bad choices so that the decent people have to pay for them. It really is an idiotic system that we have created whereby government rewards people who abuse the system and punishes those that live functionally within their means."

Mr. Cantoni is an author, public speaker, and consultant. He can be reached at [email protected]. This article, used with permission, will not be published in the mainstream media, for obvious reasons.

Pamphlet No. 1090, May, 2002