The fact that you are reading these words means you probably had a merry Christmas, or whatever you celebrate this time of year, although you have only six more days before the arrival of another projected day of doom — financial doom, that is.
I am delighted to report that the world did not end by Saturday, as many people thought the Maya had predicted thousands of years ago with their calendar, but now we are about to plunge off the "fiscal cliff" on New Year's Day.
Particularly concerned about that looming catastrophe is U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., a resident of the Lehigh Valley, who seems to be horrified over the possibility that millionaires and billionaires may have to pay tax rates as high as, or even higher than, those imposed on the rabble.
If nothing is done to forestall it, the fiscal cliff means tax rates for the rich will automatically revert to where they were before President George W. Bush cut them.
Toomey is among Republicans who are happy that the fiscal cliff deadline also means there could be drastic spending cuts, except that they do not embrace spending cuts that apply to the military.
Do you realize what that could mean? Fewer $11.5 billion aircraft carriers for our admirals to play with, and fewer V22 Osprey aircraft ($119 million each, and they crash about as often as they fly).
I'll get back to the fiscal cliff, but the Mayan calendar problem troubled me more, because I have more faith in the wisdom of the pre-Columbian people who lived mainly in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula than I have in our current politicians.
In Saturday's edition of The Morning Call, you may have noticed a story and a picture of the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, where thousands gathered Friday to await doomsday.
I have been to Chichen Itza, and nothing ever impressed me more, not even Yosemite or Phoebe Cates on a diving board.
You simply cannot believe the skill that went into building El Castillo, an enormous pyramid, or El Carocol, an astronomical observatory with openings that accurately tracked the movement of Venus, the moon, the sun and other celestial bodies.
The Mayan calendar accurately predicted every solar and lunar eclipse until today. It did not say the world would explode on Friday, but that was the final day of its 400-year "Bak'tun" period, giving rise to fears that the Maya felt nobody would need a calendar past that day.
I got up Saturday, looked out the window and the world was still there. Oh, the bliss.
Now all I have to worry about is next Tuesday, when, unless there is an agreement on legislation to prevent automatic tax cuts and spending reductions, the rich will see their tax rates jump from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Those making less money also will see a rate increase.
As for the non-military spending cuts, I tend to agree with the Republicans on them, but I'll save that topic for another day.
As I pointed out last year, the rich pay much less now than when Republican President Dwight Eisenhower was in office (rates as high as 92 percent). Sen. Toomey, however, has at times called for the top tax rate on the rich to be cut to 25 percent, less than what middle-income people pay now.
A liberal think tank, the Economic Policy Institute, reported that in 2010, people making over $350,000 a year benefited from tax cuts averaging 450 times as much as the cuts given to average Americans.
Another study, by the Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, reported last April that 99 percent of Pennsylvanians pay higher tax rates than America's richest people. Those making over $2 million, it found, actually paid an average of 17.2 percent (loopholes, etc.), about 22,000 millionaires averaged under 15 percent, and more than 1,400 millionaires paid no income tax at all.
Billionaire Warren Buffet said he should not be paying a smaller tax rate than the middle class, and a proposal named after him would set a minimum of 30 percent for those with incomes over $1 million, but it was blocked by Senate Republicans.
When President Obama ran for re-election last year, he scored points by citing facts the Republicans could not refute. The actual average tax rate for middle-class Americans, he said, is 20 percent, while that for millionaires is 18 percent.
Meanwhile, news reports said the fiscal cliff, if it happens, will not represent a sudden drop from an economic precipice. For example, it will cost a person making $50,000 a year just $7 in extra taxes on New Year's Day, and then $7 a day after that.
Foes of taxing the rich wail that it's the rich who pay most of the taxes now, and it would be heartless to ask them to pay more. The reason they pay most of the taxes, however, is that they now have nearly all the money. The old saw about the rich getting richer has reached obscene proportions.
The Keystone report said 57 percent of all the income in Pennsylvania now goes to just 1 percent of the state's population. If the very rich have all the money, it stands to reason they should be paying a larger share of the total revenue burden.
When I hear "fiscal cliff" sob stories from the millionaires, it almost makes me wish the Mayan calendar had been right — at least as far as some people are concerned.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.