Tuesday, May 15, 2007

From each according to their ability ...

Wow, thank goodness.

Finally there's a person in Washington who knows how much of my own money I "need." I would have hated to make that decision myself.


Doug said...

Well, considering that Obama is talking about the top 1 percent of income-earners in this country, I wouldn't be so sure he's talking about your own money, guv'nor. Nevertheless, your sympathy for those poor, oppressed souls barely scraping by on incomes many orders of magnitude greater than what you or I will ever make is touching.

So who had Falwell in the dead pool?

alex(andra) said...

Dammit!! Doug beat me to it. I was just going to ask when it was that you joined the top one percent of the population earnings-wise.

Josh said...

I knew that response was coming. I'm not in the top 1% (yet), but if Obama thinks its the government's responsibility to decide what the top 1% needs, then why wouldn't it be the government's responsibility to decide about the rest of the 99%? As y'all like to say, "slippery slope" and all that.

And any way, I do believe my dad is in the top 1%, and the less he's taxed, the more inheritance I will one day receive (and shocker upon shocker, but he actually goes to work every day and doesn't spend his free time lighting cigars with $100 bills.) So yes, it does affect me directly.

Josh said...

"...incomes many orders of magnitude greater than what you or I will ever make is touching."

It doesn't take millions of dollars to make the "top 1%," by the way. In fact, making a little less than $300K a year will get you there. So while that is nothing to sneeze at, don't think that being in the top 1% automatically guarantees you a private plane and your great-grandchildren being set for life.

alex(andra) said...

You must be particularly concerned about guys like this, then, who barely scrape by making $1/yr.



Lu said...

If Obama wants the Democratic nomination, he just needs to shut the phuck up. If he becomes a mute he can beat Hillary Rodham. Otherwise he's doomed.

Josh said...

Alex: Those guys would be included in the government's poverty statistics, by the way, since only annual income (as opposed to holdings) is considered.

alex(andra) said...

I'm sure these guys have annual incomes well beyond the federal poverty line despite their $1 salaries. Annual income does not = salary. For instance, I just got a bonus that will be counted as part of my 2007 income, but is not reflected in my salary.

Megs said...

I guess it depends on how you define "need". Don't get it confused with "want" or "would like" or "would be cool to have". "Need" to me implies things you must have in order to maintain a healthy standard of living, i.e. food to eat, clothes to wear, a place to live that is safe and secure, the ability to see a doctor if you are sick, and to afford medecines if prescribed, these kinds of things. I see your argument for the government not making decisions about at what point or amount money should begin to be considered superfluous, but at the same time, I gotta agree with Obama that rolling back the tax cuts to that top one percent will probably not affect any of those people's abilities to provide the above basics for their families, but may in fact enable the government to provide those basics for countless other families in this country and abroad who simply cannot. And tax cuts, once given, do not become a right. They’re nice to have, but it is certainly the government’s prerogative to decide if that money could better be used elsewhere, and it makes a lot of sense to stop giving the money to the top 1% rather than to any other income bracket. (see: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9803E1D61331F934A25751C1A9609C8B63 )

alex(andra) said...

Well said Megs. I read the NY Times article you linked to, and of all eight pages of it, one line jumped out at me: ''To whom much has been given, much is expected.''

dennis said...

Let's not forget that the top 1% are most of the small business owners that provide jobs for "those less fortunate". Rolling back the tax cuts will simply cause them to find other recoup that $$. i.e. downsizing.

Josh said...

"it is certainly the government’s prerogative to decide if that money could better be used elsewhere"

It IS NOT the government's job to have final say with what I can do with my money, or at what point I have too much of it. And Alex, I am shocked that you'd use that "To whom much has been given" line. If I'm successful in my new job, I will make quite a bit of money. At no point, though, will I consider that money given to me. It will have been earned. There IS a difference.

Oh, and what Dennis said as well. As I stated earlier in this thread, your apparent view of the top 1% as billionaires sitting in their lofty penthouses eating bald eagle and sipping on a minority's blood is amazingly off-base. Your typical member of the 1% is an employer whose business just happens to make sure those "less fortunate" (an absurd term) are able to eat.

The modern Democrat's inability (or unwillingness) to grasp simple economics baffles me.

Stanicek said...

I THOUGHT SPIDERMAN 3 WAS OK!! Oh wait...am I on the wrong comment page?

Doug said...

But has, say, Paris Hilton "earned" her money? Has Brandon Davis? Leo Mullin ran Delta during a period when the airline lost billions of dollars and eventually had to enter bankruptcy, yet he and his co-execs walked out with eight-figure golden parachutes (even as they asked their pilots to accept big pay cuts) -- did he earn that?

Based on your contempt for the term "less fortunate," it seems like you live in this black-and-white world in which every wealthy person has worked hard for every single dollar, while every poor person has sunk to that point based on their own stupidity and bad decisions. But that simply isn't the world we live in. Sometimes lazy, good-for-nothing skanks get absurdly rich through no achievement of their own; sometimes good people work hard and are still laid low by simple bad luck and events that occurred through no fault of their own.

We can debate the relative merits of progressive/flat taxation all you want, but don't condescend to me that I don't "grasp simple economics" simply because I don't think that poverty automatically connotes significant character flaws, m'kay?

Josh said...

The "simple economics" remark refers to your party's inability (or, again, unwillingness) to understand that the vast majority of the "top 1%" isn't Paris Hilton, Brandon Davis or some fatcat CEO.

The majority of the top 1% are hard-working business owners whose very enterprises employ those in lower tax brackets.

You can put devil horns on the "top 1%" all you want, and dishonestly call those out of it the "working class" (implying that rich people don't work), but taxing the top out of existence will hurt everybody below them.

That is simple economics.

alex(andra) said...

I'm having a hard time with the simple math here. One percent is a small minority that accounts for the large majority of small businesses? Really? That doesn't sound right.

And with the "To whom much has been given" line, I didn’t mean “To whom much has been handed on a silver platter while they sipped martinis by the pool.” I meant “Those who have been blessed with the good fortune and education necessary to work hard and be compensated well for it.” I make a decent amount of money and I’ve worked hard to get here, but I certainly can’t take all the credit for where I am today, or wherever I’ll be in the future. God blessed me with a family that encouraged education, paid for me to go to college, supported me when I was laid off, etc. So yeah, I work hard, but the circumstances that allowed me to work hard weren’t my doing. That’s what I’m talking about.

I wanted to know just how much money the top one percent have, so I did some digging. According to the Economic Policy Institute:

- In 2004, average wealth of the top 1% was about $15 million.
- Wealth for an average household (the middle fifth) was $82,000 in 2004.

Josh said...

Doug, you said, "Based on your contempt for the term 'less fortunate,' it seems like you live in this black-and-white world in which every wealthy person has worked hard for every single dollar, while every poor person has sunk to that point based on their own stupidity and bad decisions."

I say the term "less fortunate" is actually the black-and-white part of all this. Using "less fortunate" to describe financially strapped folks puts all of them under some "unlucky" umbrella. By eschewing that terminology, I mean that I refuse to believe that every poor person is where they are because of some, gee, aw shucks, just goshdarn bad luck. Sure, a lot of folks do have a run of bad luck and are placed in truly unfortunate circumstances, but I say a large percentage - larger than you'd care to believe - of so-called "poor" people are there because of decisions they have made. "Less fortunate" is the generalization, not the lack of using it.

Alex: I'll dig into those numbers, but I refuse to believe one person out of every 100 in this country makes $15 million a year (I know, or averages out to it.) It's much easier to believe that 99 out of 100 folks in this country make less than $300K.

alex(andra) said...

To be clear, that statistic shows household (not individual) wealth (not annual income).

Megs said...

Josh, I'm not just saying this because I'm typing it in the world's poorest country (see: UNDP Development Index), I also say it after the time I spent in Western Louisiana: you will have a very, very hard time convincing me that the majority of people who are poor in the world are so largely through "decisions they have made." There are some, yes, but the majority have faced situations and institutionalized marginalization, corruption, and discrimination (yes, in America) that are hard to conceive of unless you've seen them with your own eyes.

But I do agree that terms like "less fortunate" should be eschewed. Those terms sugar-coat what is going on and makes it easier to talk about without having to actually grasp the reality of what is being discussed. These people are not "unlucky" or "less fortunate", they are poor, and so many factors go into that it would be nearly impossible to list them all, but you do the poor a disservice by listing only one or two. It ignores the whole of what they are dealing with and what we have to solve.

And, what we CAN solve, which, getting back to the original point, is what we can start to do by discontinuing to discount taxes for the richest people in the nation.

Josh said...

Megs: Rest assured, I'm talking about the United States only. Trust me, despite the complete insanity of our government (especially today), I still consider myself lucky to live here. I'm sure you can attest to the fact that many of our "poverty stricken" are practically wealthy when compared to people in other parts of the world.

Megs said...

It is true that I can agree that some of our "poverty stricken" are wealthy in comparison to other parts of the world, but what I was trying to get across was that you would probably be shocked and dismayed over just how many more are NOT wealthy by comparison, and have it just as bad, or worse.

What makes it almost worse is that here in Sierra Leone, poverty is a common condition that afflicts the overwhelming majority, and hence it cannot be overlooked or ignored; it MUST be addressed. In America, people just don't see the poverty. The country is huge and so there are large pockets of extreme poverty that are just too far off the I-10 for anyone to see. And even if they could, most people don't want to look, or they try to excuse those people as "unlucky" or "lazy", or any of the other words I said we should avoid.

American Idol is like the nerdy kid in school who figures out after the fact what's rad and shows up wearing a Hypercolor t-shirt long after they are totally not cool, but their special highlighting poverty in America and Africa was a great step. I know it is en vogue to give aid to Africa right now, and the step to include America in the special was likely inspired in part to attract donations from people who don't see the benefit to America or Americans in giving money to foreign countries, but at least the special showed a glimpse (albeit a sugarplum-fairy one) at the bleak plight faced by many Americans today.

And I doubt you'll be surprised to learn I think it would be great to legalize all the immigrants. Very positive move.

Megs said...

By the way, it is fun to finally participate in some of these discussions! Normally I don't have the time to respond, only read, but I've got malaria and so am just hanging around the house getting better. I was really lucky and when I started feeling ill went straight to the doctor and was diagnosed. Cost of the hospital visit, including doctor visit, and blood, urine, and stool lab analysis? US$ 7. Cost of the three-day malaria medecine course? US$ 4. I'm one of the lucky few who can afford to walk into the doctor's office and pay that much, however. Mostly people here try to treat with aspirin and Immodium, and only come to the hospitial when they are too sick for the symptoms to be masked by these common drugs, and then it's too late for them. I think one of the leading contributors to poverty in this country is time out of work: people get sick for weeks at a time, and many die, which lowers productivity. Oops! This was just meant to be a funny aside as to how malaria is kind of fun to have, as it lets me participate in things like this, but now I'm feeling pretty guilty about it. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

Today I am proud to be your sister. And Meg is my hero!

Jamie Massey

Anonymous said...

Help In Understanding Democrat Tax Refunds

If you don't understand the Democrats' version of tax refunds, maybe this will help explain it:

50,000 people go to a baseball game, but the game was rained out. A refund was then due. The team was about to mail refunds when a group of Congressional Democrats stopped them and suggested that they send out the ticket refunds based on the Democrat National Committee's interpretation of fairness.

Originally the refunds were to be paid based on the price each person had paid for the tickets. Unfortunately that meant most of the refund money would be going to the ticket holders that had purchased the most expensive tickets. This, according to the DNC, is considered totally unfair.

A decision was therefore made to pay out the refunds in this manner:

People in the $10 seats will get back $15. After all, they have less money to spend on tickets to begin with. Call it an "Earned Income Ticket Credit." Persons "earn" it by having few skills, poor work habits, and low ambition, thus keeping them at entry-level wages.

People in the $25 seats will get back $25, because it "seems fair."

People in the $50 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot of money and don't need a refund. After all, if they can afford a $50 ticket, they must not be paying enough taxes.

People in the $75 luxury box seats will each have to pay an additional $25 because it's the "right thing to do."

People walking past the stadium that couldn't afford to buy a ticket for the game each will get a $10 refund, even though they didn't pay anything for the tickets. They need the most help. Sometimes this is known as Affirmative Action.

Now do you understand?

If not, contact Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John Kerry or Senator Hillary Clinton for assistance.