These are difficult economic times. People are losing their jobs, their houses and that good feeling that comes when you charge a big-screen TV on your credit card in time for the Super Bowl and pay it off next year or whenever.
To dampen the effect of decades of consumer excess and Wall Street bloat, the American government has taken drastic action. It has borrowed money from the Chinese to buy sheets of special banknote paper and printed gobs of greenbacks, specifically the billions of bucks it threw willy-nilly at banks, big car companies and CNN in an effort to convince people that their government had the situation under control.
Printing money works well for the federal government, sparing it the embarrassment faced by states such as California for whom the worse the economy gets the lower state revenues get. When California hits the "RUN" key on its Quick Time State Budget Program nothing happens.
California is caught between a cliff and a cashless place. It has little room to make spending reductions as the bulk of its expenses are locked in by entitlement programs and legislative handcuffs. The obvious source for additional revenue, raising taxes, is blocked for California, the only state in the Union stupid enough to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to approve a budget orto increase taxes. The last time the California Legislature voted over 2/3 in favor of anythingwas the last time its members voted themselves a raise. And you thought bipartisanship was dead.
As usual, Californians are thinking parochially. A solution to their dilemma is staring them in the face — well, not technically in the face, more like in the shins. We shouldtax animals. Yes, I'm referring to Fifi, Fido, Speedy the Killer Snail and all the other coddled critters living in our homes rent-free.
Admittedly, cats do catch the occasional mouse and potty train themselves, but they are constant complainers. My cat, Ashes, whined to a rival newspaper reporter, "My human uses the same can opener for both tuna and salmon and we have basic cable."
As for dogs, they are 100% on the dole.
We could tax wild animals but we'd have to catch them first and taxing chickens and pigs and cattle fated for the abattoir would be adding insult to injury. Besides, what would be their motivation to pay, other than to sidestep off the food chain? "This empty hamburger bun is brought to you by Elmer the Cow — a proud California taxpayer."
Household pets, on the other hand, are the largest sentient species in California using services and not paying anythingfor them — if you exclude landscape industry employees.
However, before we go running to Sacramento with this proposal, we need to work out one slight glitch — pets need income in order to be able to pay taxes. I don't know about your household but Ashes has a total lifetime income of 23 cents and that's only because she swallowed some loose couch change one night while stalking a spider.
Here are just a few ways your pets could add to the household income:
* Dogs are natural retrievers. People would pay good money to have someone on call to find and fetch their car keys and TV remotes.
* Longhaired yippy dogs and shedding unspayed cats provide excellent unwanted houseguest deterrents.
* Ladies: Locking a petulant pet in your husband's closet for a few days while he on a business trip is a blame-free way to shred and shed your husband's wardrobe, most of which he's had since high school.
* Guys: Everyone knows a cute dog is a proven chick magnet. Renting one for weekend walks in the park is a lot cheaper than owning one.
* Even non-traditional pets have income potential. Hooked up to a battery charger, an ambitious rodent in a hamster wheel can cut cents off your PG&E charges.
It is time to corral your cats and coach your canines in the fine art of making money the old-fashioned way. I'm thinking if I order the big screen plasma TV now, I can see most of the NFL season in hi-def.