Editor’s Note: North Carolina author Wiley Cash wrote the following opinion essay hoping it would be picked up by a North Carolina newspaper. It wasn’t. So I asked if I could post it here since I have a lot of friends who live in the Carolinas and I wanted to make sure you all saw it. Please, if you have not yet become a fan of Wiley’s books, now would be a great time to order one from your local bookseller. He is one of my favorite authors. A truly kind-hearted compassionate advocate and all around wonderful human being.
About the author: Wiley Cash is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy. The founder of the Open Canon Book Club and co-founder of the Land More Kind Appalachian Artists Residency, he has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Weymouth Center. He serves as the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and lives in North Carolina with his wife, photographer Mallory Cash, and their two daughters.
by Wiley Cash
Today, I learned two things about North Carolina Senator Richard Burr. First, according to National Public Radio, he knew about the severity of the Coronavirus and the threat facing Americans a full three weeks ago, but he was only willing to share that information with private citizens who were willing to pay up to $10,000 to have access to him and his insider knowledge. The second thing I learned today is that, according to Open Secrets, Richard Burr also relied on his insider knowledge when unloading between $581,000 and $1.5 million of publicly traded stock over a month ago, just weeks before the Coronavirus sent the stock market into a tailspin. Almost all of the stock Burr sold off had been invested in companies he knew would be affected by the Coronavirus, something that the Trump administration was still promising would disappear, like a miracle, sooner than later.
I wish I’d known what Richard Burr knew. I wish I’d known what he was willing to share with those high dollar folks at that closed-door meeting. I assume he shared this knowledge with his stock trader, too. My retirement account, what little bit of a retirement I have as a public employee here in North Carolina, has taken a major hit. Had I known what was coming back on February 13, I may have been able to do something about, but Richard Burr didn’t tell me because I didn’t have $10,000 to buy that information, and, since I’m just a citizen and not a senator, no one else thought to share it with me.
Here’s what happened instead. Aside from my tanking retirement portfolio, I’ve lost thousands of dollars of income I rely on as workshops I was supposed to lead and other events I was supposed to hold have been cancelled. Now, had I had a month’s lead-time to make other arrangements, say, had I known about the severity of the Coronavirus on February 13, the day Burr sold off his stock, I could have easily made decisions that would’ve kept me from losing that money, but, then again, I didn’t know I had to buy that information from Richard Burr. And, not being a senator, no one told me.
In the past few days, the Trump administration and Congress has moved toward issuing Coronavirus stimulus payouts to American taxpayers. I imagine that money is coming from the Treasury, which means that money is coming from the money I paid into it with my taxes. In effect, the federal government is offering me my own money because they did a poor job of giving me the opportunity to secure my own financial future in the face of a pandemic many of them, certainly Richard Burr, knew was coming. With that in mind, this stimulus money doesn’t really make sense to me. I don’t want my own money back. I’d rather leave it where it is in the hope that it will be used in the national fight against the spread of Coronavirus.
To be clear, I don’t want my money back. I want Richard Burr’s.
How much money did you make in that stock selloff, Senator Burr? I can tell you how much I lost. Can I send you a receipt? Can the citizens of North Carolina, the people you took an oath to represent and protect, let you know how much cash they’re out? Is it too late to take out a personal loan for that $10,000 lunch where you warned attendees about the Coronavirus? Is it too late for you to send me any leftovers?
Senator Burr, while I’m waiting for the stimulus check that I expect to come from your personal checking account, do me a favor: After you sign my check and before you lick the envelope, slip a letter of resignation in there with my money.