Dear Stephen King: America Needs To Be A Better Prom Date

Ron Cowie reacts to Stephen King’s Daily Beast article titled, “Tax Me For F@%&’s Sake!”

Dear Stephen King,

I’m going to talk to you about unrealistic expectations and high school sexuality.

Let’s say America is the high school sweetheart of our school. She’s beautiful, smart, aristocratic, and highly athletic. Everyone wants America to eat at their lunch table; especially the exchange students. Oh sure, the D&D club doesn’t like America but they all smell like milk, onions, and whatever else the British eat (cigarettes and booze).

I ask America to the prom. She says “of course,” and I feel like I’m the luckiest teenager in the world. I go into debt making reservations at the steakhouse, renting a limo, buying some flowers, renting a tux, because I’m investing in what I hope to be the best night of my teenage years. Maybe America and I have a bright future?

Prom night arrives. At dinner, America orders the king cut prime rib but only takes three bites. She drinks all the scotch from my hip flask on the way to the dance. She’s allergic to pollen and can’t wear the flower. America dances with everyone else but me. She makes out with the Chinese exchange student and slow dances with the rich guy. She smokes dope with the Organic Farming Club behind the gym.

After the dance, America gets carsick and ruins my tux. She keeps talking on her cell phone with the rich kid (whom she loves to hate) about how she needs to be free and her parents don’t understand her.

After that, America says she’s still hungry and wants pancakes. At this point, my driver suggests I can still save the evening by putting the pancakes and coffee on my dad’s credit card. “He’d be an asshole for not letting you do it.”

I like pancakes too, so I do it. After that, America gets a text that there is a great party and the rich kid picks her up from the diner. I get a smile and a hug for my efforts. “Let’s do this again sometime,” she says before disappearing into the teenage midnight.

It would be great to castigate America for being such an ungrateful and self-absorbed person, but what were my expectations? What did I really think was going to happen? I thought, foolishly, that taking America to the Prom would make me popular. I thought a relationship with her would solve all my teenage problems.

America is complicated. Her parents don’t speak to one another. Her dad is going bankrupt and their pastor is sleeping with her mom. Her cousins have been fighting about who gets to sit where at the Thanksgiving table for decades. Her brother is a pothead and her sister is Canadian (I don’t know what they do up there). America has been told all her life that she’s special and she doesn’t quite know what that means because everyone tells her something different about what they think “special” is.

In light of that, America is doing the best she can. She’s perfectly broken. Every now and then America has to change, but that’s hard to do when plenty of people like her just the way she is as long as she does what they say.

The solution isn’t giving her more money or cutting up her credit cards. Maybe we could help America by lowering our collective expectations and start to live sanely in our own worlds. We don’t need to take her bad behavior lying down, but we also can lead by example.

You can switch the gender around to fit your preference but the point is a relationship with America will never be simple or just a matter of money.



PS You have a potty mouth.








Photo courtesy of Jim, the Photographer


  1. One quick note … if we’re so unpopular, why are there so many trying to become American citizens?

  2. Sorry, but I have to throw this out there and ask … HeatherN, you live in Canada, right?

    Now, as for the USA …… We have a lot of problems that need fixing. Taxing the rich is one thing, “loop holes” is another. I’m not gonna get in the middle of this because there isn’t enough room on this site for a conversation to be constructive. This could go on for months and no one wins. What I’ve experienced in situations like this is that people throw out propaganda and it doesn’t matter. No one is going to change anyone’s mind. At this point, I tend to lean toward Mike L. I also see that he’s the minority with this and accordingly, will more then likely either be moderated and/or put on blast.

    All I can say with certainty, Illinois is stuck in the mud and getting deeper as the days go by. Start at your local level of government and follow the money and then go from there.

  3. I’m curious, and I’m serious, was there a reason you used so many high school clichés?

    • I think high school mentality and national politics have a lot in common. What feels so real and important at any given moment is based more on emotion than reason.

      For the record, every single one of my prom dates were wonderful and I had a delightful and completely gentlemanly time with each.

      America is very popular. We might not be loved, or even liked by everyone, but everyone has an opinion of us.

      • Except, all of the stereotypes you used aren’t actually what’s it’s like to be in high school. The stereotypes you used are what a bad ’90s teen movie made high school look like. Really, I just read this and got pissed off…not at the economic ideas or the politics. I actually didn’t care what you were trying to say about economics because I just got pissed off at the rather tired and offensive clichés. Not just the high school ones…but like, what’s with the dig at the British? And do we really need another joke about how Canada apparently doesn’t matter? And the paragraph about her having a screwed up family, and then you say something about her always being told she’s special? Like, what?

        As for the idea that America is popular (in at least as much as we can’t be ignored), I don’t get what that has to do with raising taxes.

        • ron Cowie says:


          • ron Cowie says:

            It’s okay if you don’t think it was well written or clear.

            • Except, it’s not okay, actually. I’m honestly not taking a personal dig at you, Ron…but here’s the thing, it’s not much use to write an opinion piece if people can’t figure out what your opinion is. And there’s not much point in using an analogy if people get so caught up in the analogy that they stop caring about the deeper topic you were trying to discuss.

          • Which brings me back to my question of, why did you want it to be cliché? What were you trying to say by being cliché? And if you wanted to make your reader angry, then what was the purpose behind it? I’m trying really hard, here, to ask some clarifying questions and not just react to what you wrote, and your responses to my questions aren’t helping.

            If, as you said, you were trying to make an analogy between America today and high school, then why use stereotypes? And why write it as though you were saying these stereotypes are real, or at the very least a source of humour? A lot of the things you are trivializing aren’t funny.

            And, also, what does your analogy have to do with taxes, specifically?

  4. I got it. I like it.

  5. I also confess to falling in love with my editorial voice at the expense of clarity so your response is appropriate and appreciated.

  6. The idea we have about what or who our government (America) is and the reality are two different things. I think it is better to engage with the government as it is instead of how we want it to be. If you want to take the most popular person to the prom, plan on sharing the attention. Expect a little of the stardust to wear off around midnight.

    • As for this…I’m curious…how is America so popular? If you mean internationally…well then no we’re really not popular. We’re the thorn in everyone’s side, really.

      • Mike L says:


        I think you may need to reconsider your definition of “popular.”

        The popular kids at any school are the most loved and the most hated, and it’s always for the exact same reasons.

        That sounds exactly like the US. We’ve got to be loved, otherwise we wouldn’t still have millions of people waiting on all of our various immigration-related waiting lists.

        But we’re also reviled, with regimes all over the world blaming us for all of their problems, regardless of their own ineptitude.

        That sounds exactly like the relationship between popular kids and everyone else at any given high school.

  7. Sorry, I’m not sure what your solution here is. Can you clarify?

    • I don’t have a practical solution because I’m not in politics and I’m not an economist. However, I think having taxes is important, and since America’s government has taken on more responsibilities it needs the funds to support those responsibilities. So I’d like to see raised taxes for the rich to provide the cash for necessary public services, and at the same time cutting back on overspending on unnecessary programs.

      • Mike L says:


        I’d really recommend you read this piece over at bloomberg:

        The point of the article is that Germany is doing a great deal better than the rest of the countries on the “European Model” because it borrowed a whole bunch of strategies from the US playbook. Among them were the reduction of taxes on high-earners, the reduction of capital gains taxes, and the reduction of unemployment programs (unemployment is now limited to 12 months considerably less than the 99 weeks still available in much of the US).

        The New York Times also ran a story this week about how the US recovery really is substantially better than the one taking place in Europe, regardless of the indicator you look at. Jobs, aggregate growth, factory output, you name it, and it’s better in the US.

        So if Europeans do better by following the US model, and if the US model is producing better outcomes than the European one, why would we want to take on a tax policy that looks distinctively European?

        To me, this was the major point of Ron’s article.

        Sure, there are clearly problems with the US economy. Unemployment could definitely be lower. We should definitely take steps to get college tuition under control. Similarly, we will need additional medical care reform, because the costs seem to continue spiraling upward even with Obamacare.

        But, just like the promdate analogy, it’s easy to look at these problems and lose sight of the “big picture.”

        America doesn’t have a perfect economy, but if the policies we’re already pursuing are better than their alternatives (and Germany seems to have thought so, or they wouldn’t have changed course), then we need to re-calibrate our expectations. If we expect utopia, we’re never going to get it, and adopting a tax policy that is actively being abandoned by other countries most certainly isn’t going to deliver.

        • Right well, he’s talking about how apparently America getting attention from other people somehow means he’s (the American people, I guess?) getting less attention from America…which various European countries using U.S. economic models doesn’t translate into other people grasping for our attention.

          Not to mention, the example of Germany isn’t, actually, following a U.S. model, exactly. It’s still taxing much higher than the U.S. and it’s not got the military spending that the U.S. has. You can’t just say – oo this one country in Europe is doing these things and it’s working for them, so it should work for us too. That’s also over simplifying. Sweden is a country that’s doing really well, and it’s got some of the highest income taxes anywhere. Should we then speculate that the solution to the U.S.’s economic woes is to tax everyone at 50%? No, of course not, that oversimplifies.

          What the U.S. needs to do is raise more money and spend less at the same time.

          • Mike L says:


            I didn’t just look at Germany, I also mentioned a New York times article, but if I put more than 1 link into a post my comment gets “lost in moderation” basically every time.

            The New York times article is here:

            And the point of the article is that if you look ALL OVER Europe, the US is still doing better.

            You mention Sweden, and that’s fine, because Anders Borg, the finance minister of Sweden, decided to push for tax cuts as a stimulus plan. He paid for it by cutting spending on welfare and entitlement programs. The UK’s Spectator Magazine ran an article on this late last month (again, I’d post the link, but then I’ll get lost in moderation).

            At a certain point you have to acknowledge that “more taxes” really isn’t the answer, because the countries that are doing well, whether it’s Germany, Sweden, or the US, have succeeded by getting away from the high-taxes-high-benefits model. It just doesn’t work.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      I got stop feeding the beast out of this. No more taxes as long as they’ll just be wasted. And it’s a good solution.

Speak Your Mind