He was once a young man in difficult circumstances.
I deeply loved and respected my dad. Any 17 year-old is going to be grief-stricken by the death of a parent, and I was no exception. Shock, grief, and fear came in like a flood. Then over the next few days came an aching emptiness.
May 15, 1969, I was soon to discover, marked not only the day my dad died, but the day that I, as the oldest son, was confronted with a new reality – “man of the house.”
With a disabled mom, a 13 year-old sister, and a 5 year-old brother, what would I do? What would be the source of our family income? How could I pay the bills? Would I need to forget about college and go to work? What work could I find? You can imagine the thoughts that raced through my 17 year-old mind amidst the deluge of emotion that comes with losing a parent.
Today, he’s a physician, a published author (the book is still in print), and the owner of 33 Subway sandwich shops and a regional developer for UPS Stores called Fleming Expansions, LLC. But apparently he’s not making enough money to create jobs.
Fleming is himself a businesses owner, so Jansing asked, “If you have to pay more in taxes, you would get rid of some of those employees?” Fleming responded by saying that while his businesses made $6.3 million last year, after you “pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment, and food,” his profits “a mere fraction of that” — “by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over.”
Jansing pointed out that whining about tax increases while making $400,000 annually is “not exactly a sympathetic position.” Fleming could only respond by saying that “class warfare has never created a job” and that his success is a “virtue.” But he noticeably never answered Jansing’s question about whether he would actually be forced to lay off workers if his taxes went up.
There are a couple of problems with his assertion. First, Fleming’s off-the-cuff math is a little odd considering if you divide $6.3 million by 500 employees, even before extracting expenses, taxes and his take-home, comes out to $12,600 on average per employee. Either he actually has less than 500 employees total or most of the types of “jobs” he creates are of the minimum-wage, poverty-level type. You know, like working for Subway. Second, Chris Jansing of MSNBC only mentioned his businesses, not his physician’s private practice or his book on preventing addiction. I wonder how that affects his gross income.
So how did he go from impoverished young man with little hope to a rather well-to-do purveyor of cardboard-like sandwiches in Louisiana? Well, I’m sure the congressman would respond with something like “prayer” and “hard work” (working hard, admittedly, was a likely factor). However, it would be honest of him to give a healthy amount of gratitude towards public assistance.
One day while in class, I was called to the school office. Walking down there, I was wondering what this was about. It was a phone call from Mr. Martin the head of the Financial Aid at Ole Miss. He said, “John, we got your letter and let me tell you that you should not worry about a single thing! Your grades are excellent, you have great letters of recommendation and we have a special budget for sudden financial reversal situations like yours.” A feeling of warmth and relief passed through me. God had heard my prayers and had delivered me from my fears!
God or no, the funding set aside by a public university for prospective students in difficult financial straits insured young Mr. Fleming his place at Ole Miss.
College would not begin for three months. I had a little time to prepare my family for the future and myself for college. Things were tough financially. It would take a while for my dad’s Social Security survivor’s checks to start coming and for funds from his life insurance policy to arrive. All we had was a small check from my mother’s disability.
We were forced to turn to the local assistance agency for help. That was a humbling experience! They gave us basic food items for our shelves. I still remember how odd it was to see peanut butter in a large, metal, generic can rather than a jar.
Aside from the life insurance, all of these things take taxpayer money. The creation of a John Fleming, doctor and entrepreneur, a creator of jobs, could not have occurred without government investments made into public schooling, social safety nets and, oh yeah, the United States Navy.
But the military got him anyway when sudden family difficulties made it necessary to recruit the funding to finish medical school.
“I accepted one of the first scholarships back in 1972,” said Fleming. “I was knocking on the recruiter’s door the next day.”
His way to success was greased with taxpayer funds, a taxpayer base severely burdened right now meeting these bare minimum safety nets, while he clearly is unable to provide an honest answer about whether or not he would have to lay off any of his own employees should a tax increase be levied on his rather nice income. Another good question to ask would be: if we got rid off all of these onerous taxes, Congressman Fleming, how many new Subways will you be opening? And if they are hiring, how many of those jobs will provide more than just the minimum wage?