CLOVIS -- I bought a can
of soda at a vending machine yesterday. The sign on the machine
said "50 cents." As I didn't have change, I inserted a dollar bill
in the machine, pressed the button for my soda, and waited for my
When my change didn't come out, I noticed
that this was a new high-tech model and it had a microphone where
you could talk back to the machine. So, I decided to
ask the machine why it hadn't given me my change back.
"I am not sure that you deserve that change
back, ma’am," the machine replied.
"What do you mean? Sodas
are fifty cents and I paid one dollar. That means I get fifty cents
"It is not quite so simple," said the machine.
"I first have to determine whether you deserve the money back. How
much money did you earn last year?"
"Why should I have to tell you how much
money I earned? What does that have to do with anything?"
"Our company has discovered that a disproportionate
amount of the change we give back has been going to the rich. In
fact, the top 5% of all taxpayers get more change out of our machines,
than do the bottom 10%."
"So what! I would imagine that the people
who have more money, spend more money in your machines. What's wrong
"But we have to be fair, ma’am. The rich
shouldn't get more benefits then they need," replied the machine. "Now,
I might be able to give you a quarter back if you just answer a
"A quarter? But you owe me fifty cents.
And what kind of questions do you need to ask?" "Well, first, what
do you plan to do with the change?"
"What does that have to do with anything?
It’s my money---I paid more than you asked for and I
should be able to spend my change on whatever I want!"
"Ma’am, you are sounding awfully greedy.
Our company has decided that it could really use the extra change
that it has been giving back to people all these years. So, I need
to determine whether you will spend this money more wisely then
"What does your company want to spend my
"Some of the workers have asked for more
benefits. Child care, medical insurance for cosmetic surgery and
sex-change operations, shorter work weeks. We also thought it would
be socially responsible to refund more of the change to people who
have been economically disadvantaged by the system. But we can't
afford to do those things that unless we keep your change. Now please
tell me why you think that you can spend this change better than
our company can?"
"I'm hungry. I need the change to buy something
from the snack machine next to you."
"No, that won't do at all. Nothing but
junk food in that machine. I'm glad I asked you these questions
because you might have spent this change very unwisely."
"But what will I do for a snack? I’m hungry!"
"I can print you a voucher for twenty-five
cents worth of organic brown rice which you can redeem at the workers’
"But I can't stand brown rice."
"I'm sorry---it really doesn't matter what
you like or not. We have done scientific studies which show that
brown rice is more nutritional than junk food from a snack machine.
You really should be thanking me for saving you from making
a bad mistake. Anyway, I already have your money and unless you
want some of it back, you will need to do what I say.
"Well, is there anything else you will
let me do with my change other than buy brown rice?"
"Sure, push this red button right here
and we will credit it as a donation to the Democratic National