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The Tentacle


October 24, 2005

A Little Larceny in the Heart

Norman M. Covert

It takes a bit of larceny in your heart, one observer remarked, to be a success in such things as raising money and selling things. No doubt you've been the object of someone well versed in the sales pitch.

Think about the last time you negotiated with an auto dealership. Ignore this if you paid cash for your 2006 automobile, or if you have never considered a price tag of $25,000 for a car because the one you have only cost a fraction of that 20 years ago and you know 175,000 miles isn't too much.

Anyway, work with me here. Consider that you really wanted that vehicle and when they checked your credit rating, Snidely Whiplash, the salesman not the 'Toon, came back and had to wipe the drool from his upper lip.

He immediately took you to the expensive rack of vehicles because you could afford a lot more debt. Your Sears account at 24 percent is up to date; your 21 percent credit Visa, Master and Discover cards have some room on them and you've never declared bankruptcy. You could use one of the credit card offers with zero percent transfer fees that will come in the mail tomorrow to move some of that debt around.

You are convinced that this automobile/pickup/SUV is what you've always dreamed of and it is within reach. Snidely and his financial cronies inquire what monthly payment you seek, then if you would accept this warranty program for so much a month, they could drop the interest rate. And on and on.

I don't mean to cast aspersions on that fellowship of car salesmen, many of whom have made me extremely happy over the years as I tried to make the monthly payment on my '65 GTO, and subsequent family vehicles. They were great fellows, but they took advantage of me - and I loved it!

There's something wrong with that picture, though. The similarity struck me recently when I watched the exciting broadcast of our Frederick County Board of Commissioners in deliberation soon after Hurricane Katrina engulfed New Orleans and environs. There was a reputable non-profit executive, whose words told me he was looking to make a buck.

I'm sorry if I misread what he was trying to do, but when he urged the commissioners to set a fundraising goal to help survivors of the hurricane, it seemed over the edge with the implication that he would be ideal "to manage the fund."

Professional non-profit executives have the mission of raising their own salaries. They also must maintain, retain and build programs and activities for their deserving clients, who are: young, old, not handicapped, but disadvantaged by height, weight, hair, feet, eyes, voice, color of hair, income, housing or some other means of deprivation.

The audience also may be designed to develop: young Americans; young communists; defeat the ethnics; support the ethnics; or bail out some Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, South Pacific Islander; Native American; and on and on.

The bottom line is MONEY. Get folks to donate MONEY. Get you to be so concerned that you will give them YOUR MONEY. Convince you that YOUR MONEY can make YOU rich, powerful, influential, ready for Stardom and a benefactor of mankind if only you would give YOUR MONEY.

The secret is that YOUR MONEY must be managed by someone who knows how to do it and Snidely is your man.

I'm sorry, but my friends and I have been supporting many good causes our entire lives. In fact, I have raised my children to understand that in this world there are takers and there are givers. We are givers, despite the fact that we are about as middle class as any one you know, and we must keep working to support that habit.

My children have been and are volunteers, giving time, money, resources for all those who are the takers. We devote our attention to the short termers, while the long termers slip through the cracks. We don't notice them until we remember their hand has been out too often.

We don't begrudge anything that was ever given to those in need. Sometimes these folks must help themselves. Our bank accounts primarily need to provide for our family's needs. We must pay taxes, mortgages, car payments, gasoline and taxes and taxes.

Snidely Whiplash, the car salesman, isn't a taker in the sense of the layabouts we see every day on the street corners. He/she is a person living by the law of supply and demand, working the angles we can't foresee because of the big engine or the beautifully appointed interior.

When I look who has been at one disaster site after another recently with their hand out and nothing to offer it has been the Jesse Jacksons, who live in luxury while pretending to be good Samaritans. I also see Larry Jones of Oklahoma City, OK, who has delivered food as quickly as he could, buying and delivering it with the hope that someone will donate to his bonafides "Feed the Children" effort.

I'm reluctant to support organizations like the celebrity fund-raising activity Farm Aid, which spends most of your dollars on the backup bands and equipment, plus exorbitant admin costs. Precious little reaches the farmer!

I'm sorry to be hard on my local acquaintance, who may have legitimately been looking to help out the hurricane victims, while feeling he would be worthy of his hire. The commissioners, wisely, thanked him for his concern.



Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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