Monday, August 29, 2005

Sick of Them Whining About Taxes

Some of my compassionate conservative friends and relatives who mistakenly believe that I am either misinformed, misguided, brainwashed or maybe just plain stupid continue to send me their insipid e-mails under the false impression that I will suddenly see the error of my ways.

One that I have gotten numerous times that really infuriates me is the bogus restaurant /tax analogy. If you are unfamiliar with it, you can review it here.

Like much of the propaganda that comes out of the right wing spin machine, it is rife with hyperbole and fallacious reasoning, and it completely ignores pesky reality.

Here are the facts.

You don’t have to be a communist or a socialist to see that when 70% of the wealth of a country is owned by 10% of the population, (and of that 10%, 1% owns 38% of the wealth,) that the only way to manage the country’s finances is to impose higher taxes against the richest people. It is not “punishing” them. Is not “unfair.”

Proponents of the flat tax say, "Rich people would still pay more than the rest of us." True, but imagine if you earned $30,000 per year. What if the flat tax was 18%? This amounts to $5400 in taxes. So now you have $24,600 to live on for the year. That is a devastating blow to your quality of life. Difficult to live on 30k if you kept all of it. Now imagine you make $20,000,000 per year. 18% = $3,600,000. May make you angry, but paying that amount has no effect on your quality of life. At all. You still walk away with $16,400,000. Even with 3 big houses, 5 expensive cars, lavish vacations and a boat, you get to bank much of that money. Besides, income represents a much smaller percentage of the richest people's wealth than the rest of us.

I'm tired of the myth that the richest people simply "work harder." Consider the people who sit on the board of directors of Exxon. How hard do they work? How is it that they get to make so much money given the fact that the oil was in the ground, just waiting for whomever was lucky enough (more than likely, ruthless enough!) to claim it first? Do even the middle and upper middle classes work harder than the working poor? The minimum wage is what? $5.15 per hour? Many of us sit in air-conditioned offices, go out to lunch, write e-mails, talk on the phone and pound the keys on our computers. Compare that to the jobs that pay even $10 per hour. What do they do for that money? I think anyone reading this knows that they work very hard for that little bit. Those people lead difficult lives, and there often is no viable way out for them. Don’t they deserve at least minimal health care, decent schools for their kids, and safe neighborhoods in which to live? And who hasn't noticed how fashionable it has become to deride these people, to patronize these people, and to blame them for their lot? One only needs to flip on the talk radio station to find out.

America comprises all of us. The single most significant aspect of our country is that we are not monolithic. America is Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Wicca, Agnostic and Atheist. We are Black, White, Asian, Native American. We are rich, middle class and poor. We are intellectuals, anti-intellectuals, idealists, realists, philosophers, hedonists. We are entrepreneurs, professionals, artists, laborers. We are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual. This is what makes us great. While it often goes against our nature, we are supposed to try to tolerate those who believe and live differently than ourselves. Schools are there to teach us practical knowledge, and churches exist to teach spiritualism.

Our blood comprises both white and red blood cells. The human body can only survive with the delicate balance of their coexistence. I hear people often say, “Did you ever see a poor person give someone a job?” The answer to that question is obvious, but it is asked to make a point. The question that ought to be obvious, but is not often asked is, “Could wealthy people be wealthy without the rest of us?” Wealth has no meaning, no opportunity without middle class and poor, therefore, wealthy people have a responsibility to those who enable their lifestyle. True, the wealthy provide jobs for the rest of us, but those jobs are a contract. They pay us for our labor, and our labor increases their wealth. People do not provide jobs out of the goodness of their hearts. Rich people could not be wealthy in a vacuum. Yes, the wealthy do provide jobs for the rest of us, but, the rest of us provide the means and the benefits of wealth. Who protects their wealth from theft? Who protects their freedom? Who buys and consumes their products? This is in essence, the argument for a progressive tax system. On the surface, it seems unfair to tax the wealthy at a higher rate than the rest of us, but indeed it is ultimately to our collective benefit.

The fact is, I believe in capitalism, but in order for it to thrive, it must be regulated by the government. We must have a progressive tax structure, and it makes me feel sad ashamed when I hear people of means whine about it.

Don't forget this week's Top Ten!
Update 30-Aug-2005 - The Viscountess weighs in with this.


Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Unfortunately, the right - and I do blame them - has made the case (a bad one, but successful among many) that America was built by individuals and values individuality above all else. This is bullshit, as cooperation is what gets things done; anybody who's ever held a job knows this. But under the guise of individual "liberty" you can argue that paying any taxes is an abridgement of that liberty. (One should also keep in mind that if "the wealthy" includes corporations, they use colossal amounts of social services while paying less in taxes than they used to. Shift the burden, that's their strategy, and our government helps them do it.)

What these conservatives never say, what they ignore and attempt to cover up, is that capitalism today has run amok. No ideology taken to its extremes is a good thing. Marx's critique of capital has its good points - but to forcibly base an entire society on it is insane. Ditto every ultra-right wing idea regarding capitalism and the "free market."

1:30 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Sorry about the epic post, but here's my human take on this.

There's a large number of wealthier people out there who know nothing other than their own life limited life experience. They were born into a fortunate existence and take everything that existence has given them for granted. For if they grew up in a large clean house with every modern convenience, then surely everyone else did as well. They believe that being poor is simply a lifestyle choice – that people don’t work hard enough.

To those people I say this: see that new thing on television they’re telling you that you need to make your life happier? Or that thing in the magazine that you can’t believe you did without? It’s just what you need to make your life easier and better, isn’t it? Now you could go and buy it, but try imagining *you don’t have that choice*. The money simply isn’t there.

Now take it even further. You need that new dress or that box of cigars. You don’t have the money. You have to make do with what you’ve already got. Imagine that one dress has to last you a couple of *years*.

My dad’s a company director, and even as a child I used to sit in his office during the school holidays and try to figure out exactly it was that he did all day, for he was clearly *doing nothing*.

In contrast my mother works in a huge tin shed with no heating or air conditioning and no windows, doing hard physical labour. I’ve worked there. In summer the sweat runs into your eyes due to the heat, and in winter it’s so cold you can only work by donning a pair of fingerless gloves, or else you can’t feel your hands to do the work required. She’s a smart woman, there’s no reason why she couldn’t do what my father is supposed to be doing, for she can see the problems within the business she works for, and why they’re not making money, but she’s only a worker so her opinion doesn’t matter. Her life might have led her many more places, but she took the work she did to *survive*.

She was proud of struggling so hard and sacrificing her needs to keep us children fed and clothed. She mentioned to me last night that she thought she was doing *so well for us*, until she received a letter from the government telling us that we were eligible for $20 a fortnight for ‘school supplies’, since we were living ‘below the poverty line’. She felt deep, embarrassing shame at that moment.

She was working from 7:30 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon at strenuous physical labour that’s gradually destroyed her body over the years, and yet she was living ‘below the poverty line’. She didn’t smoke, drink or buy herself things. She had the one ‘fancy dress’ for 15 years, and her other clothes would wear out until she simply *had* to replace them. Holes in her shoes, because she wanted us kids fed and happy. She joked to me that the upside to her cancer was that she suddenly had a ‘whole new wardrobe’ – her clothes from the sixties that are now fashionable again, and that she could fit into from the weight loss.

So it’s not that she wasn’t working hard enough, it’s simply that *she wasn’t being paid a fair wage that would allow her to escape her poverty*. (She was also paid a lot less than a man for the same work, because ‘they have families to support’, which is another matter).

To everyone who looks down their noses and judges the working poor: we’re the ones who clean up your shit. You think you’re too good to wipe your own arses, but you need us, because if we weren’t there to exploit, you’d have to take away your own household garbage or clean your own toilets, and how quickly society would crumble because the very idea of getting your hands *dirty* is abhorrent to so many.

My Own Experience:

Look at something as simple as a compact disc. It’s not an ‘impulse purchase’ for me. I have to weigh my choices carefully because the cost means sacrifice. Limited petrol for the car, forcing how often I can drive somewhere. No social outings with friends for those $12 meals add up quickly. No visits to the cinema or trips to the pub.

I’m too proud to sponge off my partner - I pay my own way. Though I’ll admit if he wasn’t here I wouldn’t be able to afford the small but nice house we live in. Sometimes the cost of my medicines are simply impossible to afford that week so I have to go without, because the combined cost of them are so ridiculous I have to select the ones I can afford and make a slight improvement to my quality of life. More often, the beautiful joyous music I hear takes away more of my pain than any medicine.

I’ve never owned my *own* guitar, just old ratty hand-me-downs that don’t quite stay in tune. Recently I saw a $200 12 string acoustic (the starting price is usually around the $500) mark. Buying it meant 6 months of sacrifice, hoping that my shoes would last another few months, bundling up in coats and clothes instead of running the heating, turning to my library for entertainment instead of purchasing any.

So at 33 years of age I finally get my own guitar - It’s got no plugs for audio, and I have a suspicion it was so cheap because it was under the heating vent in the store, and if a string breaks I don’t know if I’ll be able to buy another right away, but it’s mine. *I’ll make do*. I have a malfunctioning amplifier that buzzes and the sound output drops in and out. My headphones for mixing jump from mono to stereo depending on how the cord is moved at the moment in time. But *I’ll make do*.

To the rich. Try making do with what you have. See how long your discipline lasts.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

The problem is the rich don't even THINK about it. George Bush is so notoriously cheap that he has NEVER, repeat NEVER picked up a check in his entire life. I was watching a documentary on IFC and they had this quote, on camera, from one of his oldest dearest friends.

Reporter: Is it true that George W. Bush has never picked up a check in his life?

Friend: Yup. Never. And I mean never.

5:42 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

The greed and indifference of some rich people is certainly deserving of our contempt, but what about the members of the middle and lower classes who actually make their argument *for* them? I had a woman at work tell me "I feel sorry for rich people having to pay so much of their money in taxes." I had a "conservative Christian" tell me, "I hope to BE one of them one day, and I won't want to pay those taxes!" It makes me sick that their strategy of getting people who are hurt by their policies of greed to support them has worked out so well.

If I actually accumulated (notice I didn't say "earned" - not sure that word applies when we are talking about so much money) $20 million and had to give $12 million to the government I imagine it would be mildly annoying, but the net $8 million would sure help to ease the pain. We aren't asking them to pay even that much.

I guess that is why I will probably never be rich.

NS: "Bush - born on 3rd base but thinks he hit a triple!" - Jim Hightower

6:20 PM  
Blogger fuckstick2020 said...

"I'm tired of the myth that the richest people simply "work harder."

I just don't see that as possible. What do they mean by harder? Playing golf? Acting like prostitutes on MTV? What does working harder mean?


12:04 AM  
Blogger fuckstick2020 said...

Yeah. None of that was very constructive. Had a rough night in class. Watched "The Fog of War"

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree they deserve some health care as it is a great aspect to many lives.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spoken like someone who has rarely had to pay taxes in his life. Or does your "partner" do that for you as well?

10:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home