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BUSH TAX CUT: a one-act play by Al Franken

Al Franken, from Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,

#1 Ney York Times Best Seller

DFutton 2003, P. 304-312




The Waitress and the Lawyer: A One-Act Play



In a radio address on February 3, 2001, President Bush said:

Picture a diner in one of our cities. At the table is a lawyer with two children. She earns $250,000 a year. Carrying her coffee and toast is a waitress who has two children of her own. She earns $25,000 a year. If both the lawyer and the waitress get a raise, it is the waitress who winds up paying a higher marginal tax rate. She will give back almost half of every extra dollar she earns to the government.


Both of these women, the lawyer and the waitress, de­serve a tax cut. Under my plan, both of these women, and all Americans who pay taxes, will get one. For the waitress, our plan will wipe out her income tax bill entirely. 

On May 30, 2003, Al Franken's The 'Waitress and the Lawyer was presented at the Belasco Theater in New York. It was directed by Mike Nichols, with the following cast:

donna Drew Barrymore

allison Helen Hunt

urban cowboy Brian Dennehy


Scenery and lighting by Alex Jones, costumes by Edie Holway. The action of the play takes place in a diner in Houston, Texas, on April 14, 2003. It was performed without intermission.


The Waitress and the Lawyer A One-Act Play

by Al Franken (from an idea by George W. Bush)


Set: A clean, well-lit diner. It's eleven at night. allison, a slim, well-dressed lawyer in her middle thirties, sets herself down at the counter. donna, a plump waitress in her late .twenties, approaches with a pot of coffee and a friendly smile.

donna: Can I help you, sug?

allison: Yes, please. Double cappuccino and a biscotti.

donna: Sorry. How 'bout coffee and a slice a pie?

allison: No pie for me. I'm on a diet.

donna: You, on a diet! If I had your figure, I'd have pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

(They share a laugh.)

allison: Oh, what the hell! That lemon meringue looks great. Besides, it's gonna be a long night.

donna: You workin' the night shift, too?

allison: Well, in a manner of speaking. I'm a tax attorney and April's my busiest month.

donna: Well, don't look for any business from me. Thanks to President Bush, I won't be paying any taxes this year.

(allison laughs as donna pours her a cup of joe.)

allison: You mean income taxes, Donna? Do you mind if I call you Donna? I read your name tag.


donna: Sure, sug.

ALLISON: Donna, how much do you make?

DONNA: Well . . .

allison: C'mon, just between us gals. donna: Twenty-five thousand.

allison: Wow. That puts you in the top 10 percent of all waitresses. And how much in tips?

donna: That's including tips. I report every cent. In this country, if you play by the rules and work hard, you can make a better life for yourself.

(allison laughs again, spraying her coffee all over the counter.)

allison: I'm so sorry.

donna: Don't worry about it, sug, I'll wipe that up. But what's so funny?

allison: It's just that what you said is so sweet and naive. Sure, you're getting a $365 cut in your income tax, but you're forgetting the $3,825 that was withheld in payroll taxes.

donna: Oh, I don't mind the payroll taxes, because I'll get back every cent in Social Security and Medicare when I retire.

allison: Honey. Bush raided the Social Security and Medicare trust funds to pay for my tax cut.

DONNA: He did?

allison: Yes. He took a $4.6 trillion ten-year projected sur­plus and turned it into a $1.8 trillion deficit. Let me show you what I'm talking about.

(allison empties the salt shaker onto the counter.)

allison: Let's say this pile of salt is the surplus that we had under Clinton. And . . .

(allison tears open a packet of sugar and pours it on the counter, as well.)

allison: And this pile of sugar represents the Bush defici—

(donna eyes the growing mess, half listening.)

donna: Would you mind not doing that?

allison: Sorry. My point is that eventually someone is going to have to replace all that sugar in the packet and, well, clean up the mess. And I've got a feeling it's going to be you or your kids. You have kids?

(donna starts cleaning up allison's mess.)

donna: Two! Teddy's six. He has some learning disabilities, but he's the sweetest boy. And Debbi's two, and quite a handful, let me tell you. Especially for a single mom like me.

allison: You know, I'm a single mom myself. donna: No kidding!

(donna stops cleaning up and leans forward to hear about allison's kids.)

allison: Yep. In fact, my oldest has a learning disability, too. Good thing I have him in private school, because the public schools are cutting back on special ed.

donna: Yeah, I know. They told me that next year Teddy's not getting special ed. Also, they're cutting the after-school program.

allison: That's because Bush proposed cutting the Twenty-First Century Community Learning Centers by forty percent.

donna: Bush did that? Well, I still like him. Because he cut my taxes a hundred percent.

allison: Yeah, but you only paid $365 in income taxes. That after-school program alone was spending $700 a student. So, in a sense, you're already down $335.

donna: You're good with numbers! No wonder you're a tax attorney.

allison: But, you know, Donna, I'd be less worried about the after-school cuts, and more worried about losing your kids' health insurance. Here in Texas they're reducing eligibility in the SCRIP program from $30,520 down to $22,890.

donna: SCHIP? But that's how my kids get their Medicaid coverage.

allison: Yes, you're losing—let's see, Medicaid coverage is worth . . . two kids—about $2,896 a year right there.

donna: Oh no! What if they get sick?

allison: Just hope they don't. And you can blame George Bush. Because of the huge tax cut, the federal government can't fulfill its normal obligations to the states.

donna: Unfunded mandates.

allison: Hey. You know the lingo.

donna: Yeah. We have Fox News on in here all the time. That's why I knew I was getting a hundred percent of my taxes cut.

allison: Donna, mind if I ask you a personal question?

donna: If it's the recipe for the pie, no can do.

allison: No, it's not the pie.

donna: Tell you the truth, we get it from a bakery.

allison: Donna, do you live in subsidized housing?

donna: Why, yes. We get our Section 8 housing voucher in the mail every month.

allison: Oh, dear. I'm afraid your Section 8 voucher is about to disappear. I'm guessing you live in a two-bedroom apart­ment with minimum amenities and rent in the fortieth percentile range—say, about $747 a month?

donna: That's right on target!

allison: So your voucher is about $1,464 a year.

donna: Wow! If I ever have to pay taxes again, I'm coming straight to you.

allison: Anyway, that's gone. So, let's see. After-school— $700. Medicaid—$2,896. Housing—$1,464. So, less your $365 tax cut, you're down $4,695.

donna: Well, Lord knows, I've been through hard times be­fore. But as long as I have my child-care, at least I can work without worrying about my kids. (Pause) What's that look?

allison: Texas is getting less funding for its Temporary As­sistance for Needy Families. So, they're cutting back on Child Care and Development Block Grants.

donna: But I don't get block grants.

allison: Yeah. But your child-care provider probably does. Or did, I should say.

(Long pause.)

donna: How's the pie?

allison: Donna, how do you get to work?

donna: Are they doing somethin' to my bus?

allison: Probably not. And that's the point. The state sen­ate just cut public transit funding by 29 percent. They were going to upgrade the buses to cut down on the toxic emis­sions. Now they're keeping the old buses and raising the fares.

donna: Debbi does get asthma on bad smog days. (Long pause.)

allison: Pie's great.

(Another long pause. In the background, we can hear sean hannity on the television.)

hannity (voice-over): That's class warfare!

liberal guest (voice-over): Sean, the top one percent are—

hannity (voice-over): I don't want to hear your talking points. Nearly four million Americans have been cut from the tax rolls!

(The two women avoid each other's eyes. Finally donna raises the coffeepot.)

donna: Can I top that off for ya?

allison: No, thanks, Donna. I should get back to work.

donna: So, I take it you're not votin' for Bush next time.

allison: Are you kidding? I make $250,000 a year. I love Bush.

donna: How big is your tax cut?

allison: I'm gonna get $6,000. Which is about sixteen times as much as you. And, of course, the program cuts

allison: (continued) don't affect me. But the big payoff comes when my mother passes away. She's on life support.

donna: I'm so sorry.

allison: Are you kidding? If she can hang on till 2010, I'm getting $12 million. Tax free. That's about a six-million-dollar tax break.

donna: Oh, the repeal of the death tax. I saw that on Fox, too. I guess that's fair, because that money was already taxed once when it was earned.

allison: My mom? Work? Oh, no, no. It's mostly capital gains. Never been taxed, and now it never will be. Unlike your tips. Speaking of which, how much do I owe you?

donna: Well, let's see. They just raised the sales tax. I guess $4.87.

allison: Change a fifty?

donna: Sure, darlin'.

(allison hands her a fifty. donna makes change. allison gives her a ten.)

donna: You don't have to do that.

allison: Hey. We working moms gotta stick together, right? (donna smiles wanly.)

DONNA: Right.

(allison gives her a wink, and she leaves, passing an urban cowboy, who's just put a quarter in the jukebox.)

Music: "Cryin' Time"—George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

(donna looks at the TV, then down at the half-cleaned-up piles of sugar and salt. Slowly she sweeps them into her palm, as the urban cowboy sits down at the counter.)

donna: Can I help ya, sug?

cowboy: Just a cuppa joe, I guess. I just got laid off.

donna: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. You work at the plant?

cowboy: Naw. I'm a special ed teacher.


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Politican is another dirty word!

People get the politicians they deserve, for in office the average person would behave like them.

Politican is another dirty word!