A Tale of Two Monies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

–Charles Dickens

Here is my takeaway from one of these tales: I haven’t seen my SpongeBob piggy bank, which looks like this, since before we moved.

In keeping with the spirit of Dickens, I have run across two recent expenditures of money. I leave it to you to decide which is wise and worth believing and which best emphasizes the age of foolishness and incredulity.

Way down in Texas — sometimes you just have to wonder about the people making the news down there these days  — a man with more money than brains named Steven Hotze hired a former Houston police captain turned private investigator, a captain fired after a mass arrest of 300 people, mostly families out shopping (accused of drag racing), resulted in payouts of over $840,000 by the city to settle lawsuits.

Mr. Hotze was hotze on the trail of election fraud this year, even before the election took place, and the former police captain was just the man for the job. For the low, low price of $270,000, he set his sights on a likely suspect: a Spanish-speaking air-conditioning repairman who lives in a mobile home on Houston’s south side.

For at least four days in mid-October the air-conditioning repairman was put under round-the-clock surveillance. And then he left one morning, before dawn as he always did, in his work truck, followed by the former police captain, who also during his law enforcement career was acquitted by a jury of criminal charges of official oppression, which stems from abuse of of power.

The ex-police captain moved from observer to vigilante on the highway, when he took it upon himself to ram the repairman’s truck, forcing it off the road. At which point he pulled a gun on the repairman and put his knee in the man’s back.

A passing actual police officer intervened, whereupon the failed police captain accused the repairman’s truck of harboring 750,000 ballots, all signed by Hispanic children whose fingerprints could not be traced.

Now, you may think you have conspiracy theorist tendencies, but let’s just parse that: 750,000 children, because obviously each child could only fill out one ballot, all of them Hispanic and apparently all instructed only to vote in the presidential race, chosen because their fingerprints are not on file anywhere, were handed ballots obtained from some uncertain place and then this repairman who lives in a mobile home was driving around Houston with all of these ballots stored in the back of his truck.

The truck was searched, and what do you suppose was found? This may be hard for you to believe, but here it is: air conditioning parts. The repairman allowed actual authorities to search his mobile home and his shed. It turns out, after paying an ex-police captain who is now perhaps every bit as effective as a private investigator as he was as a cop $270,000 (over $200,000 of which was paid out by the Liberty Center for God and Country the day after this whiz kid assaulted his mark) that sometimes a repairman is just a repairman.

For all the dollars Mr. Hotze spent, not a single instance of voter fraud was uncovered. Although an innocent man was harassed and intimidated. That seems very much like liberty for god and country. (You should also know that legalizing same-sex marriage may have led to teaching Texas kindergarteners to practice sodomy. Based on a 2015 campaign by Mr. Hotze.)

Meanwhile, over in Utah, a sports reporter received a fateful call from his mother a few days before Thanksgiving. Essentially, it was one of those mom calls: I found more crap of yours in my house; come get it. So the sports reporter, Andy Larsen, drove to his mother’s house to pick up his old SpongeBob piggy bank, which his mother figured probably had $60 worth of coins in it.

Instead, it turned out to contain $165.84 and Mr. Larsen decided to tweet about this. He hadn’t needed the money all these years; perhaps there were people out there who needed it more than he did.

To his surprise, one of his first responses came not from someone who needed assistance, but someone who wanted to offer it. That man chipped in $150. Others among his 27,000-plus Twitter followers sent Mr. Larsen money. Within 36 hours he had inadvertently amassed $55,000.

He also heard from 192 people, most of them in Utah, who said they could use some assistance. He put together a spreadsheet and vetted the stories, and look how far $55,000 went earlier this month: $13,560 to 64 families for help with the holidays; $11,486 for 15 families needing rent assistance; $7,769 to 26 folks who needed car repairs or utility bills covered; $1,632 to nine households for groceries. A woman trying desperately to stock a food pantry for the high school she works at received $1,000.

He also heard from dozens with crippling medical debt, much more debt than he had money. In the end, he sent each of those families $200, but then sent $10,000 to an organization I’ve never heard of but am already a big fan: RIP Medical Debt. It buys up bundles of debt from collection agencies for about a penny on the dollar and then forgives the debt in full. With Mr. Larsen’s $10,000, it can forgive $1 million debt for 400-500 Utah residents.

And all because Mr. Larsen’s mother wanted a SpongeBob piggy bank out of her house.

So I put it to you, readers of the classics: whose money was better spent, Mr. Hotze’s $270,000 or Mr. Larsen’s $165.84? I have a thought, but I’m keeping it to myself. ; )

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