18-foot hedges and a motion sensor
Great discussion in the comments section yesterday, and I really do have to continue this line of reasoning further.
Put simply, I'm constantly amazed at how the conservative mindset seems incapable of understanding just how uneven the playing field is. For instance, my buddy craighill said that people who want the good life need to earn it by choosing a high-paying vocation. But let's look at what that usually entails:
- having some sort of childhood role model that encourages success
- surviving whatever neighborhood you grow up in
- doing well enough at a good high school in a good neighborhood to be taken seriously at a good college
- getting into that good college, and have enough money to pay for room, board and tuition (or pray for a scholarship that gives you enough to get by)
- graduating, which is easier said than done in many cases, given family obligations and money
- coping with the possibility of enormous debt after school
- having enough contacts to get an interview somewhere, and be taken seriously
- living, arbitrarily, in a part of the country that still has the kind of economy you can flourish in (or moving)
- managing to work through the lean years long enough without any health issues, let alone the problems of a family you're probably starting.
Make any one of the above statements mandatory, and you've just eliminated millions of people in your state alone. You've effectively bounced the entire neighborhoods of El Monte, East St. Louis, Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn, South Boston, and about 8,000 others.
Guys – and I'm including myself here – we have NO FUCKING IDEA the amount of incumbent largesse we were born into. Our way has been paved for us in so many hidden instances that it staggers the imagination. Old boy networks, legacies at prep school and college, inheriting a nice neighborhood from our parents, friends that encouraged our academic achievements, fantastic doctors, healthy and plentiful food as babies... hell, just being WHITE opened doors we didn't even know were ever closed.
I get it, you work hard. And other people, like Emma mentioned, abuse the system. But where is the empathy? When you've got nothing, no prospects, and don't even KNOW to ASK how to START getting a $250K job, wouldn't you game the fuckin' system too? And do these despondent poor people truly cloud your vision of the entire lower middle class?
Let me repeat the stats: The top one percent of Americans own 34.7% of the total wealth. The top TEN percent own 69.8% of the wealth. By conservatives' own logic, that must mean 90% of Americans are lazy and don't deserve to be wealthy. Do any of you honestly think that's true?
And rich people, let's be honest. Obama's tax plan constitutes a difference of puny percentage points in your overall portfolio. We could probably find that much cash lost in the back seat cushions of your Lexus. I know it physically pains you, and it's abject torture to part with what you believe to be rightfully yours, but you know what? I have this funny feeling that you're going to be just fine.
Posted by Ian Williams at October 23, 2008 11:50 PM
Ian makes a good point today. I can't stand the people who were born on third and thought they hit a triple.
My parents were the first generation in their families to attend college. The question in my house growiung up was never "if" I was going to college, but "where". Because of my grades and their sacrifice, I was able to both attend and afford Carolina. Because of my neighbor who happened to like how I lead the neighborhood basketball games on my driveway, I got an interview after college for a job at State Farm. Because I had that job, I could afford to take a $795 six-week prep course for the LSAT. Because I took that course and had the advice of friends like DFB's & T's (among others) and the good recommendations of professors from UNC, I was able to go to law school at Carolina. Because of my Carolina connections, I was able to garner an interview at a big firm in Atlanta upon graduation from law school. Because of that job, I was able to land successive job interviews to get to where I am now.
Notice how I said I got opportunities. Not handouts. Opportunities.
I know I was lucky. I told my mom just this week that I know I've worked hard but I also realize [metaphorically speaking] that I was "walked" to first because of my parents' efforts and had a good head start that others didn't.
I sometimes think of the uncompassionate rich or wealthy as the guy in the photo on top of a mountain. Sure, he accomplished a rare feat climbing the mountain, but he also relied on some friends to help him; some Sherpas to carry his supplies and others to assist him on the way. Yet, he stands on the mountain top all alone and thinks he did it all by himself.
For those of you small business owners on this list, somewhere along the way you got an assist. Whether it was a bank loan or loan from family, you had to start out somewhere with a business plan, with your hat in hand and you had to rely on someone.
Why forget that compassion shown to you for everyone else who might follow?
I don't begrudge the rich. I don't begrude the people who are self-made and I don't even begrudge the folks born on third who get knocked down and reinvent themselves to work their way back to third.
I just wonder how many of them did it without a little assistance along the way.
In response to the comment yesterday about my fellow Carolina grads, I think the subsequent posters missed the point the person was trying to make about the residents of North Carolina. We all benefitted from the handouts of some very generous donors and alums who never forgot where they came from and helped us along the way and kept our tuition pretty low. By funding professor chairs, donating buildings and keeping excellent faculty in Chapel Hill, those donors made our time at Carolina special and our degrees worth so much more.
Sorry for the disjointed rambling. And, for the record, I voted for Obama earlier this week.
A few quickies about Small Business
1. I was a small business owner for the last 11 years. I averaged 1.3 million in annual sales, and over 100K per year in salary. I employed an average of 40 employees year round, paying over 300,000 in employee wages per year.
2. I paid more taxes (exluding payroll tax, and property tax) when I worked for someone else making half as much money. Investing in my own business was the most tax efficient thing I have ever done. Owners who chose to cheat on their taxes, have a license to steal, running most of their living expenses through the business to reduce taxable income. Even playing by the rules, TAXES were not even on the radar.
3. What caused me to sell my land and close the business? My concept was no longer worth the investment risk and profits were shrinking rapidly despite high sales volume. This was due to three primary factors.
Unprecedented all time highs in the price of Beef, Poultry, Dairy, Oils (Canola,Soybean..etc), energy costs, for consecutive years. My buffet made this a bigger issue as opposed to fixed cost "plates" at most restaurants.
Household Incomes,in my rural market were stagnant or shrinking as my prices were rising, creating a more price sensitive market. Building contractors rising fuel and material costs meant that they no longer brought their employees with them to lunch..etc.
Lastly, I made so much $#%^#^ money, on the SAME SALES, from 1996 to 2000, that I paid too much money for the land and building when I bought out my partner. Based on the economy in the 90's it was a smart deal.
Anyway, pick your candidate for your own reasons, but if Joe the Plumber has ever been held back by a Tax burden, he needs a new accountant.
....and Thank You God for for sending us Sarah Palin to derail the McCain campaign, and helping us get her out of politics and on TV with Nancy Grace where she belongs, Amen.
A few disclaimers:
(1) I am voting for Obama.
(2) I make more than $250,000 a year.
(3) I am curious to see how Obama utilizes my restributed wealth.
(4) The top ten percent have 70% of the wealth, but don't we pay 70% of the taxes, too? Just saying.
Forgive me if you've all seen this before, but I love this take on taxes. This little story about some beer drinkers explains a lot. A good lesson for our country.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.
But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
'I only got a dollar out of the $20', declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'
'Yeah, that's right', exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'
'That's true!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'
'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
Josie: Thanks for the link. I watched the whole thing. I did find it quite interesting, and I think Reich makes some good points--notably, investment vs. spending. That said, I'm not convinced that "trickle-down" as I'm discussing it doesn't work. Reich discusses it as "giving big tax breaks" at the top; we're discussing it as "not taxing more in an economic downturn." Second, while I can't argue that this is a global economy, and that huge businesses do channel an awful lot of dollars overseas, our discussion yesterday was about small businesses. As such, small businesses are far more likely to stay local, both in terms of job creation and in terms of spending. I still maintain that if you reduce the spending capability of small businesses making $250K or more per year, then such businesses will reduce their spending. This spending reduction will clearly "trickle down," and the ripple effects will be felt throughout the economy. The little guys, naturally, will bear the brunt.
Additionally, let me give another anecdotal example. My family used to spend money quite regularly at Union Market (an upscale local grocery store well known to Ian) and Blue Apron Foods (a local gourmet store). These outings have now become incredibly rare indulgences; we simply can't afford them any more.
I kid you not--I am, within the next 10 minutes, heading to Target to buy shredded cheddar cheese and Bays English muffins there, where they are much, much cheaper than at my local stores. Do I feel shitty about it? Absolutely. I love, love, love local businesses, but I can't afford them right now. If anyone local is interested, meet me there and we can discuss politics over a McDonald's cappuccino (since, as I said yesterday, I'm not buying them so regularly at Ozzie's anymore). I bet Target and McDonald's channel significantly more money overseas than my local grocery stores and coffeehouses, no? CONSUMERS with reduced spending power turn to big chain stores that send money overseas at the expense of local businesses, too, Mr. Reich.