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To the editors:

I was happy to see Mike Miner make a clean breast of his own guilt in incidences related to Zoe Baird's (and now Kimba Wood's) Nannygate, in his Hot Type column of January 29. The real issue, however, isn't compliance or noncompliance with employee tax law, it's wages--an issue which the upper-middle-class media have been reticent about, understandably: in 1987, an informant tells me, Miner and his wife, a successful small-business owner, paid baby-sitters four dollars an hour for the care of three children, aged four to ten, and light housework. When a person is being paid so little to be responsible for the health and safety of human beings, of course she will prefer "to be paid off the books"; that is, not have taxes withheld.

Perhaps it's the prick of unspoken class conscience that caused Miner's pen to veer towards the grisly, with a metaphor reminiscent of the French Revolution: the media, he wrote, having been "handed a new crime of the week . . . can grill every parent of a certain age in the public eye. They'd decapitate a generation." The vilified but unbeheaded Zoe Baird can't be attorney general and must go back to her half-mil-a-year job at a gross insurance company. The sympathetic columnists shake their heads and say "It's so hard to find good help," but because they're liberals they feel guilty about saying it and don't say it straight. At least Marie Antoinette wasn't mincing words when she said "Let them eat cake."

Mike, I'm a fan of your writing, you were a pleasant if inscrutable coworker, and I remember having a charming conversation with your youngest daughter when she visited the office one day, so, come the revolution I certainly won't advocate for your being sent to the guillotine, but I do hope you're paying your domestics better.

John Shaw

former Reader proofreader


Michael Miner replies:

As Mr. Shaw also worked for the Reader, I assume he doesn't think that I was getting rich; but as he conflates us with half-mil-a-year corporate attorneys I'm afraid he's profoundly misinformed about "successful" small-business owners--small in this case meaning a shop. My wife and I remember Mr. Shaw's informant; she was a bright, able woman who worked a few afternoons a week watching the children once they were home from school. Her heart clearly was never in her work and we were not surprised when she resigned; it was a little disconcerting, however, that she left our kids to take a position in the field of abortion rights.

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