Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work

By Cornelia

It has been a very, very long time since the government has done anything I was happy about. I'm not happy about the war, or the No Child Left Behind fiasco, or the lame-ass response to the ginormous growth in autism cases, or anything else they've done since, like, forever.

But about two months ago, the government made me very, very happy.

I was lying on the sofa minding my own business, wondering if it was worthwhile to turn off the TV at the end of Jeopardy, when the phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but luckily turned down the volume on the opening theme of Wheel of Fortune before I picked up.

The guy on the phone said, "Hello, Cornelia?"

I said, "Um. This is Cornelia."

And he said, "This is Dana Gioia, from the National Endowment for the Arts."

I swallowed kind of hard, thinking "wow, am I EVER glad I turned down the volume, because how embarrassing would it be to have someone shriek 'I'd like to buy a vowel, Pat!'" In the background while you've got the chairman of the NEA on the phone, you know?

Here is what Mr. Gioia then proceeded to tell me:

As of several days ago, I can actually tell people that it happened. YAY!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!

Here is the official version:

The 2008 Literature Fellowships recognize... writers of prose, encouraging the production of new work by affording these writers the time and means to write. Each literature fellow receives a $25,000 award.

This seems like a great deal of money to me. I am tremendously grateful both to the NEA and to my fellow taxpayers for their largesse. I feel kind of guilty.

I keep reminding myself that the war in Iraq costs about $300 million a day.

And that assuages my guilt a little, you know? I mean, writers are cheap, compared to the price of war.

And then I get to thinking about what the WHOLE war is going to cost. I'm hearing something like $1.2 trillion dollars. Let's write that out all the way so we can look at all the zeros, shall we?


Got that?

Think about how much cancer research that would buy. Or college tuitions. Or teacher salaries.

Or how much of, say, New Orleans it could rebuild.

Or how many kids it could feed.

How many veterans it could provide honest-to-goodness healthcare for.

As the Beach Boys used to sing, "wouldn't it be nice?"

(WARNING: the above is NOT the Beach Boys.
It is Country Joe and the Fish.
Saying "fuck."
A lot.)

What would you buy with $1.2 trillion, if we could end the war and stuff?


  1. First off, congratulations, Cornelia! That's great news! Nice to see our kind of fiction getting some respect from the NEA, and I can't think of a writer more deserving of that respect.

    Don't know if I could improve on your suggestions on how all that money could better be spent.

    Oh, and small nitpick: Joe doesn't really say "fuck" in that clip--that's the crowd. It was a beautiful moment, though, wasn't it?

  2. Cornelia, congratulations! I'll echo Dusty - this award is extremely well deserved. Your concern for the national debt vs. your good fortune reinforces that.

  3. This is really great news, Cornelia.

    And I love that song and can still sing all the words.

  4. Way to go, Cornelia! And thanks for including New Orleans in your list of ways to spend all that money.

  5. Briliant, Brilliant news! What an amazing thing to happen - fantastic.

    And as for all that money - I'd probably start with healthcare, because I just don't get a country that doesn't take care of its people. Then with that as my guide, I'd look after all the aspects of life you've mentioned: Education, homelessness, poverty, hunger ... wouldn't it be nice.

    Congratulations again, our Miss C!

  6. Yay! Congratulations, Cornelia, such good news...

    And I agree with your ideas about how best to spend $1.2 trillion. Might be nice to spend some on the environment, too....I kinda like breathing ;-)

  7. Congratulations!!!
    (So now, whatcha gonna write, huh?)

  8. Oh my goodness, Miss C. What an amazing event. I'm breathless. So, so exciting. What would I spend the war money for? For starters, I'd give selected writers a bit more than 25 grand.

  9. Congratulations, Cornelia.

    Wow. I'm impressed you watch Wheel of Fortune. I can never figure them there puzzles out.


  10. congrats again, miss cornelia! it's always so nice to see someone get these things who deserves it. you are an inspiration!

    if i could spend a trillion dollars, it would be on the children: food, health care, education, gentle guidance, freedom from fear. that cause would probably gobble up the trillion immediately. but if there were leftovers, i'd focus on the environment because after all, what are we giving our children? biodiversity is sacred and one of these days i plan to get around to bird watching. so i'd like there to be some birds left to watch.

  11. Wow, I'm impressed! Congratulations.

  12. Holy Moley!

    You're an artist!

    Can a MacArthur genius grant be far behind?

    Congrats & also thanks for posting my favorite clip from Woodstock. It's almost as if Country Joe & the Fish put "i sing of Olaf glad and big" to music.

  13. Simply fantabulous news, Cornelia!!
    Merry Christmas!


  14. Now that's synchronicity: The Wheel of Fortune theme song cranks up just as the NEA calls. I'm absolutely thrilled for you. A Field of Darkness was my favorite mystery in 2006 -- it dynamited me out of my chair.

    So congratulations, Cornelia, for your much-deserved good fortune. And thanks for the Country Joe memory. The song keeps playing, only the lyrics have changed.

  15. Wonderful, wonderful news, Ms. C!!! I'll raise a shaker of salt in your honor this evening...

    And as for all that money ~ children, healthcare and the environment.


  16. Just to pile on here, congrats of the highest order to you, Cornelia.......How much tax money can we set aside for NARNIA.....or better still NARBF?

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  18. Wonderful news, Cornelia! Congrats!

  19. You guys are awesome! Thank you for encouraging my snoopy dance... and I like the way you'd spend the war money, too!!

    This has been kind of a crazy day. In the best way.

  20. fantastic, exceptional, deserved-- and how about more money for teachers and librarians and free books for all kids and dog parks in every neighborhood and mental health care and maternal health care and family leave and elder care and just plain old CARE and repair to our cities and our schools and higher pay for our cops and fireguys and nurses and can-I say- again- TEACHERS - and subsidies for education and tear down the prisons and build affordable housing everywhere .... and .....

    LOVE YOU ! Congrats!

    Mags mbh

  21. Mags, in "Cornelia's Islamic Republic," you are going to be my Vizier of Budget. And fancy dog parks.


  22. Congratulations, Cornelia. Loved your new book. Thanks for including Country Joe in the article. Maybe he could update it for Iraq?? I liked your ideas on how to spend the money we're using to kill people, including our soldiers, and would include elder care. Right now, I'm fighting with my mom's HMO to get them to give her the 100 days allowed by medicare for skilled nursing facilities (She's 91, fell and broke her leg, and the HMO is cutting her off as since she can't bear weight on her leg, she can't make "significant progress" grrr

  23. You totally ROCK!! Wonderful news.

  24. Did I mention that i'm so happy about this I could just cry? Okay, I did a couple times.

    Life currently sucks frogs - I SO love this news. Honest and true, no envy, just love it.