Monday, April 30, 2012

I am the "One Percent"!

I am the “One Percent”
Robert A. Hall

There is a lot of talk about how the “One Percent” is different from the “99 Percent.” I think that’s true, but I also think almost everyone is in the “One Percent,” depending on criteria. There are a lot of ways to get in the One Percent besides income.

Here’s what puts me in the One Percent:

  • I volunteered for the Marines while still in High School, and went to Parris Island boot camp in August of 1964. I still recall vividly the names of my DIs, and appreciate the great life I’ve had because of the discipline they gave me. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
  • I’m bowlegged, which attracted unfavorable comment from my Senior DI more than once.
  • The Marines sent me to electronics school in San Diego in 1965, which doubtless saved my life, because I wanted infantry. I finished second in my class, and was a pretty good radio relay operator. But though I was smart enough, I wasn’t a great tech—detailed hand work is not my thing. Buddies I beat on tests were far better in the shop than I was.
  • In 1966, my arty outfit was slated for a six-month cruise in the Caribbean. We weren’t fighting Communists there, so I volunteered for Vietnam. And I was very lucky to have a fairly easy tour. But I don’t play video games like Call to Duty. Most of the players would wet their panties if they heard real metal buzzing overhead.
  • The Marines sent me to NCO school on Okinawa, and I finished first in a class of 57. Army soldiers finished second and third, so the Marines were pretty happy with me. At least until the next time I opened my mouth at the wrong time.
  • I served for four years with honor, if not distinction, earning no Purple Hearts or medals beyond a Good Conduct, and was discharged with the rank of Corporal.
  • When people thank me for my service, I say, “It was the privilege of a lifetime to wear the uniform of the Republic.” And I mean every word.
  • I attended college on the GI Bill (which I think I earned as part of my compensation for my USMC service). I also worked all but one semester 20-36 hours a week, usually carrying more than a full load, and getting mostly As or Bs. I finished college with no debt. I served in student government for three of the four years, though this was during the Vietnam protest days.
  • My dad was a school teacher with three kids and a part time job as well. His total contribution to my college education was a roof, a bed and dinner—if I was home at dinner time. That was fine with me, I understood.
  • I graduated from U-Mass with a BA in political science in June of 1972, but missed my graduation as I was out knocking on doors, running for the Massachusetts Senate.
  • In November of 1972, at age 26, I was elected to the State Senate, defeating a Democrat incumbent by nine votes out of 60,000+ votes cast, in a 4-1 Democrat district that had last elected a Republican in 1938. There are about 5 million folks in Massachusetts, and I was told that under 6,000 have served in the State Senate since it was founded. I tried to make my constituents proud.
  • I’ve never been in a protest march, but I did sleep two nights in front of the Senate chamber door, to prevent the Senate President from passing a bond issue at 2:00 am with no other senators present. Still, we were friends—I went to his funeral a few years ago.
  • I met George H. W. Bush before he was president and Jerry Ford while he was. And I debated the death penalty on John Kerry’s TV show. I was for two chairs, no waiting, like a barber shop.
  • I was re-elected four times, by large margins, carrying every city and town in the district. In 1976, I ran as a write-in candidate in the Democrat primary and defeated a Democrat write-in candidate by 150 votes, so I was the nominee of both parties.
  • I’m far prouder of being a Marine than of being a Senator.
  • While in the Senate, when my colleagues were going to Law School so they could be lobbyists, I rejoined the Marine Reserves, where you could see old Cpl. Hall sweeping the deck or manning a radio one weekend a month. It kept me sane. Somewhat.
  • I also took history courses at night for my own amazement, and in 1980, Fitchburg State University handed me a MEd in History. I think it has helped me get a job or two, but I don’t know why it should have.
  • Frustrated with politics, I retired undefeated in 1982 to become an association executive.
  • Since then, I’ve managed seven associations. All have been financially successful and grown in paying membership during my watch. A couple were tough turn-around situations. I’m very conservative with other people’s money.
  • I married for the first time in 1992, at age 46. I’m still married to my first wife, and have been a faithful husband. (I know—who else would want me?)
  • I love my wife, Bonnie, and my granddaughter-by-marriage, Britnye, dearly.
  • I can still shoot pretty well. So can my wife. Knock before entering.
  • Though I’m on oxygen for Pulmonary Fibrosis, an eventually-terminal illness that kills as many people as breast cancer, at 66 I still work full time. I miss 3-5 days a year for doctors’ appointments or tests, but don’t think I’ve missed a day in ten years because I was too sick to work. I don’t take sick days to go to the beach.
  • I’ve trying to lose 30 lbs. to qualify for the lung transplant evaluation process, but am not sure I’ll accept if offered.
  • I’m conservative with my own money too. I’ve never bounced a check. I pay my bills on time, often in advance. I’ve always bought less house and less car than my salary would have qualified me for. Currently, our only debt is $95k on a 1,300 SF 2-bed/2-bath Chicago area condo we bought in 2009 for $160k. It’s now worth under $120k, but we are not underwater, so you won’t have to pay more taxes to bail us out.
  • I pay off my credit cards every month. Often I pay ahead on the credit card, then charge the balance down.
  • I’ve never sued anyone and never been sued, a record I hope to keep intact.
  • I’ve never been fired. But I probably would have been a couple of times if I hadn’t moved on to better things. I’m not real good at keeping my mouth shut when I don’t approve of how things are being done.
  • If the president raises taxes on folks making over $250k a year, I won’t have to pay a penny more. Unless the women who pulls the lotto numbers gets her act together.
  • I like to write and am a frequently published writer, with opinion columns, management articles, short fiction and poetry appearing in over 75 national or regional publications. I also have published seven books, but I haven’t made a penny on them, because mostly the royalties go to charity.
  • I’m a former Scottish Country Dancer (before PF), love Scotland, and met my wife when she came to a dance class I was teaching. And before you ask, I always wear something under my kilt: shoes, socks and a little talcum powder.
  • Balquhidder is about my favorite place in the world, though I’m pretty fond of the Blue  Ridge too.
  • If I could have created it, it ain’t art. Maybe excepting poetry, if you consider that art.
  • I much regret that I have no singing or musical talent, not counting beating on a bodhran in a pick-up Irish folk group a few times.
  • I can recite poetry for probably an hour without repeating myself. I’ve made people laugh and weep doing so at ceilidhs.
  • I love Single Malt Scotch, especially from Islay, but I tend to drink cheap wine. Not that I drink much anymore—too many calories.
  • I prefer local family-style cafes to fancy, expensive bistros or chain restaurants.
  • I’d rather have a beer with an old vet at the VFW than with the president at the White House. Any president. But especially this one.
  • I make my own Haggis—in the microwave. Really. Yes, it’s bad for you. And I often make soup without a recipe.
  • I watch very little TV. Even if a football game is on, I have a book in my hand. I read a couple of non-fiction books every month in history, economics and politics. I get my news mostly reading articles on-line. But I like novels as well. I’m currently reading a novel, Brave New World by Huxley and a history of the roots of violence in the 20th century, The War of the World by Ferguson.
  • I provide staffing service for three cats.
  • I've never used illegal drugs, never even tried marijuana. I unfortunately revealed that to a former boss, creating incredulity, hilarity and some harassment.
  • Golf bores me—I gave it up when I kept hitting the little windmill.
  • I used to love to hike in the hills of Scotland and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. But needing an oxygen tank has put paid to that.
  • My big wish is to have an American Bulldog named “Brute,” with a patch over one eye, named for LtGen Victor “Brute” Krulak, who was the senior Far East Marine commander when I was in Vietnam. I know it’s not going to happen.
Some of this is very common. Some is fairly unusual, if not unique. But there are certainly not over One Percent of Americans with very similar experiences, character and life choices, as each of these points puts me in a smaller subset of Americans, eventually in a group no larger than 1%, and probably much smaller. My point is, the same goes for you. We are all in the One Percent, if we define it broadly to fit our circumstances. Envy of folks with more money than you, or begging the government to get you some of their money, won’t make you happy.

Only caring about something larger than yourself will bring happiness.


Robert A. Hall is the author of The Coming Collapse of the American Republic.
For a free PDF of the book, e-mail him at tartanmarine(at)