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Marc Dion
Marc Dion
8 Feb 2016
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Can I Be Ben Franklin With You?


A number of years ago, doing my regular job as a reporter on a midsized daily newspaper, I had to attend a press conference for a local anti-poverty group that runs one of those heating assistance programs.

I was leafing through their literature, and I noticed that to get the help with your heating bills, you had to bring proof of residence.

One of the things you could bring was your cable television bill.

I'd like to say I was "offended," because I've noticed the word "offended" is the word you use if you want to sue the company employing you.

I'd also like to say I was "outraged," because if I had been "outraged," I might have founded the tea party. If I had founded the tea party, my book "Storming the Castle: Killing the Scum Who Threaten America," would now be in its second printing and I would be halfway through my second wife, who would no doubt be quite the piece of pastry.

Neither thing happened, though. Instead, I went back to the office and wrote a story about how to get fuel assistance. Then, I ate a bologna sandwich with mustard.

Later, scraping a bit of mustard off my shirt with the fingernail of my right-hand index finger, I decided that, as the economy got worse, I was gonna keep an unprofessional, not-too-mathematical eye on cable and, later, satellite television.

And now, with the officially recession-free economy spinning off new poor people like a Roman candle spitting sparks, I'm still noticing that hardly anyone is canceling their cable television or getting rid of their satellite dish.

Lotta big-screen HDTVs out there, too.

Which is fine. The Founding Fathers wanted you to make your own decisions about how to spend your hard-earned money. If "Golden Girls" re-runs, porn and the NFL are what you want to spend your "In God We Trust" imprinted cash on, then do so proudly.

You are Thomas Jefferson's true heir.

My friends and acquaintances, many of whom are nearly paupers or at least working for well under $20 an hour, are not rising up like Minutemen, taking the musket down over the fireplace and shooting the dish off the side of the house. The revolution's gotta start somewhere, but it's not going to start by throttling "NFL Sunday Ticket."

I ask people sometimes. They tell me how they're getting screwed by big government and corporate America and the banks, and I ask them if they've cancelled cable or gotten rid of the satellite dish.

They have not.

Which is, of course, great for the economy, since the numerous freelance paid-by-the-job, scare-the-hell-out-of-my-wife cable installers need work, too.

The homeless have, of course, given up their cable, which is probably why they're so damned cranky when I tell 'em I don't have any spare change.

The worst of the homeless are so filthy they can't even get served in bars, where they could at least watch cable for free. Those guys have to content themselves with the free Internet at the public library, where strict attention to the will of The Founders means you can use a computer even if you smell like malt liquor, old blood and vomit. The homeless, do I have to say, are the heirs of Benjamin Franklin.

That would be the start of a great joke, too.

Ben Franklin walks into a bar, but he's homeless and he smells like malt liquor, old blood and vomit.

"Get outta here, ya freakin' loser!" the bartender yells.

Ben leaves, but suddenly the big open sore on his skinny, white left leg gives him a twinge, probably signaling the beginning of gangrene.

Ben falls to the sidewalk in a reeking heap and looks up.

The sign over the bar reads, "Poor Richard's Tavern — Sunday Is Hot Wings Nite. HDTV!!!!"

Ben dies.

Funny, no?


To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit



4 Comments | Post Comment
We rid ourselves of cable back in '07. Keith Olberman wasn't worth it. If they keep him suspended we might reconsider.

I laughed - "...quite the piece of pastry."

And then I thought about how easy it might be to give up hope in the U.S.A.

Great writing - no wonder I don't miss cable.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Tom
Sat Nov 6, 2010 12:39 AM
I don't have TV at all. Never have. Don't want one.

But, I have to say, you touch on something that bothers me a lot. I believe in helping the poor, but there are a lot of faux poor out there. There was even one homeless guy in town who lived in a car because he was spending his money on lottery tickets.

Recently, outside the market, I overheard a woman telling her three kids that they couldn't buy much food because they didn't have much money. I trailed her discreetly in the store, waiting for an opportunity to put a twenty into her basket when she wasn't looking. I live in the kind of town where you can do stuff like that without some third person swiping the twenty.

I gave up, though, as I watched her fill her basket with wine, candy, chips, and other junk food. I suppose she gets her real food at the food bank, leaving her free to spend her money on trash. I still support the food bank, but I think about it.

I told myself that she's poor BECAUSE she makes bad choices, but--liberal that I am--I don't know where to go from here. Conservatives are apparently OK with seeing people dying in ditches, and I'm not. But is the only alternative being taken advantage of?

We have a culture of something for nothing. The rich do it big, the poor do it small. I wish I had an answer. I don't.
Comment: #2
Posted by:
Sat Nov 6, 2010 6:33 AM
I've helped out a lot of people over the years but out of it all I only have one success story. The others just couldn't change their ways of bad decision making and vice addictions. If you give a bag lady $10,000 all you have is a bag lady with ten grand and in a year you will just have a bag lady. Some poor people are spending $150 a month just on cigarettes then tack on the beer and wine and there's a car payment. I really scrutinize the poor these days because I've been burned too many times.
Watching television is about the only thing left to do if you can't afford to go out anymore but when one does the math it is easy to see that Cable TV is way over priced. I have a friend who spends $200 a month for his cable, internet and phone service. I did the math for him at $2,400 a year and $24,000 in ten and he started to think. By the look on his face I can see that he was a bit disconcerted by the news that he spent $24,000 sitting around watching television, cruising the Internet and talking on the phone. After I told him to think about another ten years and $48,000 gone down the tubes he started to mumble something about getting rid of the premium channels, going with the slower mbps and ditching the phone that no one used anyway. Well he did cut his bill in half but we could still do the math and think about how much we are spending to sit around doing nothing.
Thanks for the Non-Joke!
Comment: #3
Posted by: Thomas Parinello
Mon Nov 8, 2010 7:40 AM
Re: Anne W.

"Conservatives are apparently OK with seeing people dying in ditches, and I'm not."

First you make some great points then you louse it up because you either can't help feeling superior or mask your hate. People who don't agree with stripping humans of dignity and purpose must be OK with seeing others die?

You resort to ugly hyperbole as a matter of habit. Don't blame conservatives if they refuse to have a dialogue with you.

Go read Conason, he's more your style.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Tom
Mon Nov 8, 2010 11:05 AM
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