The feel-good season
The “feel-good” story is a journalistic staple, especially in the holiday season. Siblings are reunited after years apart, lost dogs return home from great distances, mysterious strangers hand out gift certificates to Rally's. A local favorite, and we'll admit to being touched by it our own hard-bitten selves, is Debra Buckner's annual quest to bring a little fairness into an often unfair world.
Buckner, the Pulaski County treasurer and tax collector, invites the media along as she personally confronts the scofflaws who won't pay their share of the taxes that the rest of us pay, taxes that support our schools, pave our streets and pick up our garbage. The offenders apparently believe themselves too big to pay taxes — Leona Helmsley famously said that only little people do — but Buckner cuts them down to size. All their excuses, all their whining, can't save them from her terrible swift sword. Glory, glory.
During her latest tour, tax dodgers again insisted that their failure to pay was “just an oversight.” “These notices that you get are oftentimes overlooked,” a spokesman for one business owner told a suitably unimpressed Buckner. Delinquents always know they're delinquent, she says; they're amply informed. (And anyone who can afford to hire a “spokesman” can afford to pay taxes.) Another subject tiresomely protested that only racists would ask him to pay what he owes. At a chain-owned bar and restaurant, a member of Buckner's staff took inventory while Buckner told the manager how the cow ate the cabbage. The staffer reported back, “There's plenty to get if they don't come through.” That's the spirit.
“The good citizens who pay before the deadline need to know they're doing something important,” Buckner says, and the other ones, the non-payers, need to know they're not getting by with it. After each of her expeditions, she says, the solid citizens call to thank her and say “You go, girl!” It's a wonderful time of the year in Pulaski County. God bless us every one, except for the deadbeats.
Her nightmare nearly over, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was simply beaming at an international conference this month as she spoke with the Saudi Arabian king, the British prime minister, and the European Commission president, ungroped by any of them. President Bush was nowhere in the picture; Merkel may have obtained a restraining order. But there'll be no need for such things much longer. Oh, Bush might take up stalking as a post-presidential project, the way Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter adopted world peace, but without Secret Service assistance, he won't make it out of darkest Texas. And Texas women are well armed.