Monday, December 7, 2009

Pitying the poor by Tom R.

It is often astounding what people find worth defending.

Not that facts ever move anyone away from their beliefs of choice, I've nevertheless looked into the wealth distribution percentages;

An interesting line was this one: In 2003, the 1% with the highest salaries paid more than 34% of the nation's federal income tax; the 10% with the highest salaries paid nearly 66% of the total income tax; the top 25% paid 84% of the income taxes; and the upper 50% accounted for nearly 97% of US income tax revenue, primarily because, as stated above, the bottom 40% had comparatively no wealth (less than 1%) to be taxed in the first place.[19] The US has a progressive tax structure which taxes less for smaller incomes; correlating income taxation to wealth is misleading.

One could argue, I suppose, for economic natural selection – where those who make it do so because they are more fit and those who don't are low lifes deserving of their fate (i.e., the 40% who pathetically share 1% of the wealth). And it's not too painful to think that way if we simply close our eyes.

They aren't making much noise. They are, in fact, pretty close to invisible for those of us who have comparative wealth and comfort. But, if you want to see them, just pay attention.

Here's a way. Go to a grocery store – not to shop but to observe. Notice the person behind the Salvation Army bell doing his or her part for that group. Put a dollar in the bucket and they'll thank you and bless you for it – as though that dollar is anything to you. Now, go inside. Look at the faces of many of the customers. Notice them picking up an object and returning it to the shelf. Notice the tension or resignation in many of the faces. Look in the carts. Now, go stand behind the registers and casually watch as people check out. Listen too. You might get little clues such as, "Just swipe it as though it's a credit card." Good going, detective. You've just identified someone new to his food stamp card.

But, you'll see what you want to see, won't you? Like the fellow who saw a food kitchen with people standing outside it near a sign that advertised a job. What, he wondered, were they doing standing around with jobs available? He made up a story in his mind that reinforced his desire to see them as worthless individuals – and maybe he was right. Or, maybe they already had jobs but still needed a handout. Or maybe they had applied for several jobs and got nowhere because of their crummy interview skills or appearance. Or maybe they weren't recipients but volunteers taking a break. Or maybe they WERE bums. I don't know. I'll let the hard ass judge them however he needs to if he's to maintain the world view he finds comforting.. Me? I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and simply hope that they got fed if that's what they were there for. All I know is that I have no need to be in that line, so I have a helluva hard time playing hard ass with those who – for WHATEVER reason – do. Nobody chooses to fail. Many who fail do habitually make lousy choices. But, others have lousy karma. Either way, they don't wish it on themselves.

It's hopeless to write about this stuff. The audience falls into two camps – those who already agree and those who never will unless they personally fall hard. So it is that Dick Cheney, professional hard ass, is not so hard on gays as on so many others. Because his daughter is gay – and for no other reason – gay isn't something to bash for him. One wishes that he also had a son in the military. That might have changed recent history.

Most of us here are relatively wealthy. Not necessarily rich. But, I suspect that few if any of us are on food stamps or uninsured or under foreclosure. A few of us are probably quite wealthy (though, of course, not as wealthy as many others we know of). And most of us are pretty comfortable even if we aren't absolutely secure for the future.

Some of us, alas, respect wealth as though it is a measure. I've heard many praise Bill Gates even though his charitable endeavors don't come even close to affecting his ability to buy what he wants when he wants it for the rest of his life. No, he doesn't have to do it. Yes, it's great that he does (as opposed to, say, Donald Trump). But, I more admire the mother who called in to offer up $5 of her food stamps when she was listening to the stories of people in need during a money-for-food drive. That $5, had it been accepted. would have been not just a donation but a sacrifice. She didn't offer it because she had extra. She offered it because she was on the cusp of not getting by and, thereby, felt empathy for those who were NOT getting by. (This is no made up story. I was on the phone recording donations when she called in and happened to get my line. I refused the offer because she might well be risking the loss of the food stamps should it have come to light that she didn't use them as intended.) It depressed me to the point that I never volunteered again to work the phones.

I can neither understand nor readily stomach this defense of the rich -- as though taxing them is onerous to them. When I argued against torture during the Bush Administration, I argued alone. That wasn't worth joining in on for some of the same characters who now find it a moral imperative to protect the rights of the richest among us. (I argued against torture not because I give a damn about the twisted bastards that comprise the hate-filled extremists but because I don't trust any government to distinguish between true terrorists and mere suspects. And, in fact, we did torture and outsource yet more torture of some who proved innocent.) When I argue for the poor, I argue alone. But, the rich are finding defenders who haven't posted on anything else on this board. They get more sympathy in the topsy-turvy value system of some than the true victims of society.

With all due respect, there is little respect due to such misplaced concern. That concern, it seems obvious to me, needs to go to the 40% at the bottom of society who scrape by on no wealth at all.

It's just ugly.



1 comment:

  1. Beside the showmanship, I do not agree.

    Yes, progressive tax is good. The rich eventually move outside the US to avoid excessive taxes. We're just killing the geese that lay the golden eggs.