Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tom's reply on Wealth Distribution


Your sympathy for the rich folks forced from the U.S. for the lowest taxes they've paid in decades is misplaced. They're doing just fine. Also, your equation of them with golden geese is pretty astounding. The fact is that they've been, as a group, more like pigs feeding at the trough than golden geese selflessly providing the little people with glowing gift eggs of gold.. Were their taxes raised to the levels they were paying when Reagan was president, the argument that they are being put upon unduly would remain a ridiculous one. Those who most benefited from Bush's tax cuts (even as he lead us blindly to war) would not even notice they taxes except as lower tallies in the bank balances by which some measure their competitive success.

Sorry. I don't give a damn about those keeping score by looking at their balances. It's those who are trying to raise, provide for, and shelter their families that I concentrate on. Scare tactics about what the richest will do if they aren't treated like royalty should be sources of anger -- not fear.

I suggest that more appropriate objects of sympathy might be: a) the largely forgotten poor and b) those falling out the bottom of the middle class as their jobs have disappeared; those struggling to hang on by lowering their living standards as they find new jobs paying a fraction of their old jobs, c) those being devastated by health care bills they cannot pay -- many because they have no insurance and plenty more because their insurance proved woefully inadequate.

As for "reckless spending," I assume you're talking primarily about the unnecessary Iraq War that Bush refused to put on budget and for which he refused to levy taxes. That spending, it's legacy, and the pottery barn rule of Colin Powell (that is, "If you break it, you bought it.") were the back breakers when coupled with an irresponsible tax cut benefiting the top so that it could trickle down (via your golden eggs I guess). The SECOND wave of bailout spending that came under the Obama presidency came (the first was under Bush) was delivered with a gun at the temple -- "Do it or see a depression" was the threat echoed by virtually every economist across the political spectrum. Virtually the unanimous opinion at the time was: a) it had to be done and b) it had to be done quickly.

Now, we have the Republican revisionists and many of those who are frustrated and shocked by the debt that we've run up looking for scapegoats.

In hindsight, the stimulus certainly wasn't done well. Accountability was weak. Concessions weren't demanded. Some who should not have benefited (or benefited so fully) gained. The emphases were often wrong. And so on and on. I agree with many of these items wholeheartedly.

BUT. But, when a fireman grabs and carries someone from a burning building, it's always possible that he won't have first checked to see whether the person could be moved without causing harm. Possibly, in hindsight, there was time to secure the person in a stretcher and evidence that the stairway rather than the ladder would have been possible -- thereby avoiding the paralysis that ensued.

Maybe. But in emergency situations triage is necessary. Action has to be taken quickly and will, inevitably, involve a far lower standard of care than normal times would excuse. The perceived (and I think real) urgency of the moment changes the game but certainly leaves the door open for Monday morning quarterbacking.

I agree. We'll all be paying (and are paying in many instances) a price for years of bi-partisan bad decisions by those in charge . . . and by the politicians that they own as well. But, I have a helluva lot more sympathy for the firefighters than I do for those that set the blaze and a helluva lot more tolerance for those forced to do triage than I would during normal times.

For Republicans, taxes are the greatest evil of government. They aren't. The greatest evil is to sabotage government -- which sometimes includes the evil of starving it by NOT taxing. The recklessness of a guns and butter mentality has a clear-cut motive -- political expediency that appeals to the ignorant knee-jerk antipathy for paying as you go. The difference between today's two parties is that, when in power, the Democrats tax and spend; the Republicans, when in power, reduce taxes and spend just as freely.

Going forward, I hope that the Congress somehow shows the courage to demand a new tax to pay for our new level of commitment in Afghanistan. THAT will finally make the necessary DIRECT connection between our war policies and their consequences not just to families on military bases but to arm-chair generals in their comfortable living rooms -- safely removed from the bullets and explosions -- who have no stake in the war beyond wanting to see their ideologies prevail.

Sorry, Tony. The fact remains. The system strongly favors the wealthy to the point where even the more thoughtful and fair-minded of their ranks feel that they SHOULD bear more of the burden. My guess is that they, not the Rush Limbaughs, comprise most of those who contribute to the golden eggs with which you credit them. Warren Buffet, Ted Turner, and many of those alleged Hollywood elite, among others, are patriotic and fair-minded enough to acknowledge that they are paying LESS than their fair share.




Hi Tony,

Were I writing on the other side of the issue, I'd "lose" the debate too. There just aren't sufficient language skills to make the case that a society's victims are its rich -- a very curious argument indeed!

Of course they should pay "their fair share" of taxes. Where the debate comes in is over what a fair share is. It's NOT an equal share. There is a difference between cutting out someone's bone and liposuction. A flat tax for all people, for example, has nothing "fair" to it. When 2% controls 90% of the country's wealth, that is one extreme. When the communists argue from each according to his ability to each according to his need is another extreme.

Guess what? We are now firmly lashed to the first extreme. It is as though 100 of us are sharing a lifeboat with 2 extremely muscular guys who are claiming 90% of the food and water and leaving the 10% for us to compete for -- arguing that they worked very hard on their bodies and that if we had done the same we, too, could be writing the rules. Some find their argument compelling!!!!

And seated next to me is Tony -- expressing his fears that we might unfairly take too much of their "fair share" from them. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAArrrrrrrrrrgggggggh.

Good grief, Tony. Stop worrying about the muscled duo or the dream you have of becoming one of them. It ain't going to happen. Again, they're doing fine. Stop worrying about them and start worrying about the 98%. Or even yourself since you're arguing against your own best interest (in the hope of getting one of those mythical golden eggs!)

Strawman: "You're arguing for wealth redistribution."

Me: "To a degree, yes. They already redistributed it -- from the middle class to themselves. Pushing the pendulum our way isn't killing capitalism. It's putting the breaks on government of, by, and for the privileged few.

There is a HUGE expanse between a communist kind of wealth redistribution and today's plutocracy. The two extremes are not on a line but on a bracelet that has a small gap between the two extreme ends. We need to move considerably left just to reach the center -- away from corporatism and its increasingly brutal financial Darwinism (capitalism run amuck).




  1. Joe says:

    Let me note few key points Tom wrote:

    The fact remains. The system strongly favors the wealthy......

    objects of sympathy :
    1. the largely forgotten poor,
    2. Those middle class as their jobs have disappeared
    3. Those being devastated by health care bills they cannot pay

    Excessive bail out money: "Do it or see a depression" mentality
    Tom AGREE. We'll all be paying a price for years of bi-partisan bad decisions by those in charge . . .

    Can we fix our problems...
    We spend 16% of our GDP on health care but.. 15% of our poor cannot afford health care....
    Do our health care personnel are being overpaid? If yes, is there a solution to reverse the situation. If NOT, what make you think we can fix the problem by adding burden on top of our excessive health care bill already?

    The System strongly favor the wealthy already, then why our corporations are still moving out. Are we overpaying our Union workers, our nurses, our police, our ....? Are we over burden our corporations with thousand of fees that they cannot afford? Our average house size was small but now our average house size is 2600 sq. ft. We love to live in single family house. That is why LA spread out so far. That is why public transportation is a waste of money. Is our value system incorrect? Can we continue to support our wasteful life style? If YES, what make you think other nation cannot compete with us and win. As the world is 'over technology'. What I mean is when 10gbit networking and 40gbit networking really has very small benefit. Those nation who already able to massively producing 10gbit networking system can be very effective without knowing how to do 40gbit networking.

    Our education system is broken. Our teachers are underpay. Our kids are not perform well. Can we fix it?
    If NOT, what make you think our corporations don't have to move out to other nations where other unfortuante kids are not so fortunate. What make you think when our corporate management, when they see some kids, even after earthquakes, the first thing they do is crowding around the hot tents to prepare for examine, they won't come up with the idea that those kids might be more productive than ours. While we tease those 600K Beijing kids who worked long hours to perform perfect formation. Do we ever think about our corporate management may think that those kids are the perfect kids to hire. They can endure heat, and hunger to perform, they might be willing to work hard for the corporations as well.

    Well! I have no answer. Does Obama really have one? I wonder!


  2. I do not think much of politics. However, we know we need to create jobs. In order to do so, we need to help the business. There are many just move outside the US (so is China with several high tech companies setting up firms in Carribean islands to avoid taxes) or setting up factories/research centers outside the US.

    The rich is doing same to avoid taxes - about 1% of top US income paying more than 30% of the tax. When we provide generous welfare and expensive legal lawsuit in the name of human rights, our business cannot function and compete with outside world. It is great to talk about helping the poor. We cannot help the corporation and the middle class if we cannot compete, hence cannot help the poor.

    More black and Hispanic politicians and they will help their own folks that are in welfare system/prisons by the numbers. So, US is looking bleak in the future.