Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  May 15, 2020

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Tax Avoidance Schemes for the Recently Immobilized 

Some extraordinarily rich people, accustomed to flitting about the globe in a tortuously complex dance of leisure and tax avoidance, have, in the time of the coronavirus, encountered a touch of friction in what is usually a seamless stratagem to avoid contributing to society in any meaningful way. With borders closed and travel limited, many high net-worth individuals face the frightful prospect of paying higher taxes after spending too long in a foreign country. Others, and here one’s heart really does ache, have been forced to postpone plans to flee their home countries for far off locales with lower taxes. “Taxes are only going to go one way—up,” wails one tax avoidance specialist. “Someone has to pay for all of this.” But come hell or high water, it sure as shit won’t be the rich. 

 

Wish You Were Here

But one must practice empathy for these wayward spirits of the upper echelons—especially when they’re stranded in implausibly beautiful places, whether the pristine beaches of Honolulu, the lush environs of Bali, or the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. It is, after all, a strain on one’s psychic life to sprawl out on the warm sand before the crashing waves while, elsewhere, the death rattle of a society that cares not for human life rises bellows across the land. The cognitive dissonance! Think, too, of their well-kempt children! One woman, stuck in Hawaii and apparently daft enough to speak to the New York Times on the subject, worried of the long-term impact an extended vacation will have: “They get that there is a virus that is making people sick, but I’ve never seen them happier,” she said. “They think they’re on an extended vacation. It makes me wonder if I’m robbing my kids of the experience of understanding what the world is going through. Are they not going to relate to their peers because they will have experienced this time in such a different way?”

 

The House That Pizza Built

Other rich people are doing fine. Exhibit one: buff and bald dickhead-human-type object Jeff Bezos, as we move with remarkable speed toward neo-feudalism, is set to become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026. Exhibit two: “Papa” John Schnatter, miraculously still capable of human speech despite the gallons of botox residing in his jowls, took to TikTok this week to show off the mammoth sculpture of two eagles mating mid-air in the marbled foyer of his moat-encircled Kentucky mansion. Lest one think it’s impractical, the fucking fowls also tell time! 

 

Trashed

Dozens of garbage workers in New Orleans—where more than eight hundred predominantly black individuals have died from Covid-19—went on strike this week, demanding hazard pay, paid sick leave, and protective equipment. To avoid giving into such outrageous demands for dignity on the job, the city has brought in prisoners to continue collecting trash. They will be paid approximately $1.33 an hour—13 percent of what the striker workers are paid. 

 

A J.C. Penney Earned 

J.C. Penney may be barreling toward that wonderful magic trick in which, through a series of complex legal maneuvers, they shed massive amounts of debt along with any pesky financial commitment to their employees (otherwise known as “bankruptcy”), but not before they took a moment to award millions in bonuses to their top executives

 

No Coffee No Workee

“Art critic” Jerry Saltz, roundly and rightly mocked for his patently insane coffee consumption habit, has taken to the pages of New York magazine to explain, in detail, how he goes about keeping the electrons firing around the empty expanse of his skull

In normal times, every few nights I buy six large black deli coffees; three caffeinated and three decafs. I put them in the fridge. Each morning, I combine the two into a 7-Eleven Double Gulp cup, add ice, Lactaid, and stevia. I drink two a day, which I tell myself equals one big cup of coffee. We bought a dozen 7-Eleven cups and tops in 2017; we wash and reuse them; ditto four metal straws.

This monstrous behavior, Saltz explains, is actually quite normal and used to be all the rage: “I grew up in an art world where everyone drank this kind of coffee, but the world has changed, and I get it.”

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