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An American Tragedy
by Freda Douglas
04/29/04
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AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY

Swifty was an industrious rabbit. Always alert to the needs of his community, he seized every opportunity to make a little dough. When he had accumulated some capital he secured the advice of his friendly banker, the squirrel. The squirrel advised him to use his capital to open a general store. He assured Swifty that he would be fulfilling a community need.
And so Swifty invested in a general store. He developed into a good manager and his store prospered. He was careful to put some of his earnings back into the business. As his enterprise grew, he found he needed help. He hired Kitty, the cat who had retired from her position in the house across the street, as his clerk. She knew how to deal with the public, and soon she was generating enough extra sales that she was more than paying her own way.
When John Bull, the farmer from whom Swifty bought his eggs, raised his prices more than Swifty liked, Swifty enlarged his business. He built a hen house and hired a crew of chickens to produce eggs. He paid them a piece rate so that he would not be taking a chance losing money by putting the hens on salary. He even insisted that the rooster do double duty as a janitor.
For several years things went along smoothly. Swifty was filling an economic need in the community. He was providing productive employment and adding to his account in the squirrel’s bank. And then he heard from the government.
It was a sunny day in June when Scotty, a Scottish terrier, walked into the store, and identified himself as an agent of the Department of Revenue. He explained the government had created an income tax, and from now on Swifty would have to withhold money from his employee’s wages, and send that money to the government. He would also have to pay an income tax on his profits. This forced Swifty to hire Chippy, the chipmunk, as a part-time bookkeeper. This bothered him because all the other help paid their own way. Chippy would be non-revenue producing overhead.
Now his employees were unhappy because they were not taking home as much pay. They demanded more wages, and Swifty denied the requested increase. He could not afford to cut into his profits.
After all, he, too, was now required to pay taxes out of his profits. The employees argued, but Swifty held his ground.
The issue did not die. About three months later, Kitty approached Swifty one morning while he was inspecting the egg production and said, ”Swifty, we can’t live on our reduced wages. We must have an increase.”
“But you are getting the same wage,” Swifty responded. “It’s just that the government is taking some of it away from you. Don’t look at me.”
Kitty was about to continue the discussion when a customer came into the store. She left Swifty, and went behind the counter to help the customer. All day she thought about the income tax while she went about her duties. She liked working for Swifty, but with the government taking a bite out of income she knew she just had to have an increase in pay. She made up her mind to get the other workers to side with her so they could insist on a pay raise from Swifty.
In a few days a bull dog walked into the store, and demanded that Swifty talk with him. Swifty was working in his office when Kitty stuck her head in the door, and told him he had a visitor. Swifty left his desk and walked into the store where he saw the stranger. He extended his paw, and spoke to the bull dog. “I’m Swifty, the owner. May I help you?
“Yes”, the bull dog answered. “I am president of the local labor union. Your employees have asked that our union represent them.”
“But they don’t need representation,” responded Swifty. ‘I pay my employees a fair wage and they have good working conditions.”
“Yes, you did pay them a fair wage, but they need an increase to offset the loss of the tax they are paying the government.”
“Can’t we talk about this?” Swifty asked.
“Yes,” said the bull dog. “I have arranged a meeting tomorrow at ten o’clock in the morning at the Holiday Inn.”
Swifty shook his head, and his ears drooped in disgust as he told the bull dog he would be at the meeting. He did not see any other course of action.
The next morning Swifty went to the Holiday Inn, and met the bull dog, who directed him to the meeting room. He walked into the meeting room, and was surprised to see a boxer dog sitting at the table. The boxer introduced himself as a government arbitrator. The three sat down at the table and began to talk. They talked non-stop through the lunch hour, and shouted through the afternoon. About six o’clock in the evening they had sandwiches brought in and continued negotiations. About midnight they reached an agreement. Swifty would give his employees a ten percent increase, and he was forced to deduct their union dues from their pay, and remit the dues to the union office.
The news was well received by all those working for Swifty, except one. Chippy complained that the extra work of deducting the union dues was more than he could handle as a part time worker. He refused to increase Chippy’s hours, and that led to the first labor grievance against Swifty.
After meeting with the bull dog and the boxer, Swifty agreed to put Chippy on a full time basis. The dogs agreed that he could give all the bookkeeping work to Chippy to justify the full time status.
Swifty adjusted to the fact that his profit was less with a full time worker, who was not an income producer, added to the payroll. He hoped that would be the last government interference.
He was wrong.
About two months later, a basset hound and a dachshund came into the store, and presented their credentials as building inspectors for the Department of Labor and Industry. They made a complete investigation of the buildings, and advised Swifty that he would be receiving their report, in triplicate, in about 60 days. When he received the report, his ears stood up and his whiskers bristled. He filed an appeal, and lost.
As a result of the report, he had to borrow money to install a fire sprinkler system and put non-skid rubber grips on the chickens’ roosts. He also had to put hand rails on the front steps leading into the store.
Swifty sat at his desk chewing on a pencil, and rubbing his ears together as he pondered the situation. When he first began his business, it was all so simple and it was easy to make a profit. Now his profit was being eroded with higher wages, taxes, increased staff and building remodeling. Surely nothing more could happen.
But it did.
Swifty was painting his new hand rails, required by the Department of Labor and Industry, when he was approached by an Irish setter. The setter introduced himself as a representative of the Office of Consumer Safety. He said he was there to make an inspection of the premises. Swifty accompanied him as he made the inspection. When he was finished, Swifty invited him into his office. “Well, how do you find things?”
“Very good,” replied the setter. “I only find you have two violations.”
“What are they?” asked Swifty.
“Your front steps must go. They should be replaced with a ramp.”
“My God, man. I just paid for new steps to satisfy the Department of Labor and Industry.”
”Tough,” said the setter. “Steps or stairs may be acceptable to the Department of Labor and Industry, but the Office of Consumer Safety insists upon a ramp for the benefit of the handicapped.”
Swifty knew there was no point in arguing so he asked, “What is the other violation?”
“Your restrooms are too small.’
“What do you mean – too small? Nobody has ever complained.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” said the setter. “”But they aren’t big enough to accommodate an elephant.”
Now Swifty was irritated. He carefully explained elephants were never seen in these parts. Those restrooms had served his employees and customers adequately all the time he had operated his business.
“No doubt,” said the setter. ‘but you never know when an elephant might drop in, and our regulations require that all consumers must be provided for.”
The Irish setter wrote a notice and handed it to Swifty. The notice gave him 30 days to comply, or the government would close his store until he complied. The setter bids him good day, and departed.
Then Swifty walked from his office to the storeroom and told Kitty to look after things. He had to contact the construction company, and arrange with his banker, the friendly squirrel, for another loan. He said he didn’t feel so good, and was going to drop in on his doctor.
Dr. Quack was a gentle duck who seldom ruffled his feathers, and had been Swifty’s doctor for many years. In his quiet manner he told Swifty he had an ulcer. Dr. Quack gave him some medicine and advice about taking things easy. Swifty wasn’t surprised that he had developed an ulcer with all the problems the government was giving him. He thanked the doctor, and returned to his store.
As he walked into the store, Kitty grabbed him, saying, “There is a Ms Pekingese in your office waiting for you.”
“Who is she?”
“All I know is she said she was Ms :Pekingese from the Office of Equal Opportunity.”
Swifty entered his office, and introduced himself. He asked the caller “What can I do for you?”
With her nose in the air to balance her spectacles, she barked, “We at the Office of Equal Opportunity have learned you don’t employ cows. You produce and sell eggs which are considered a dairy product. Milk is a prime dairy product, and so you should be employing cows.”
“My gawd, lady, I don’t need cows in my business. I can buy my milk cheaper than I can produce my own,” he said, taking a gulp of his ulcer medicine.
“That is immaterial,” Ms Pekingese informed him. “According to the population of this area, and the number of chickens employed by you, you should have at least two point seven cows on your payroll.”
“Just how do you propose that I hire two point seven cows? What can I do with the point three that I do not need?”
“Come, come, Mr. Swifty, be reasonable. Hire three cows. If you hire less you will be fined $500 a day until you comply.”
Ms Pekingese wrote an order and gave it to Swifty. Then she arose and pranced out of the office. She turned her uplifted head toward Kitty, and spoke to her as she walked through the front door. With her nose in the air she did not notice the workmen at the front door. They had removed the stairs and were building the forms for the ramp. Ms Pekingese stepped into space and tumbled forward, landing on her face.
The next day a Siberian husky came to the store. He introduced himself as the attorney for Ms
Pekingese. She was prepared to sue Swifty for damages and medical bills. After a two hour conversation it was agreed that if Swifty would pay all the medical bills plus $15,000 it would not be necessary to go to court.
That night Swifty could not sleep. After tossing for a couple hours he got out of bed and went to the kitchen. There he poured himself a glass of milk. He sat at the table sipping the milk and munching a carrot
while he pondered what had happened. Things have been so good until that Scottish terrier laid the tax program on him. Then that bull dog, backed by the boxer, organized his employees. He might have been able to cope with that but that basset hound and dachshund sure raised the roof. That Ms Pekingese took the cake. Together they had gotten the best of him. Swifty sat there mulling things over in his mind until the dawn began to erase the darkness of the kitchen.
When he arrived at his office, the first thing Swifty did was to call that Siberian husky. When the attorney answered the phone, Swifty found himself saying “Mr. Husky, yesterday I agreed to pay Ms Pekingese’ medical bills plus $15,000.”
“Yes, that’s right. You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”
“As a matter of fact, I have,” said Swifty.
“What do you mean?” shouted the husky.
“I mean I have changed my mind. You bring the necessary papers over here, and I will give you the keys to the place. I might as well, because this business has already gone to the dogs.”

















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