Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Parable For Our Students Regarding Wealth Redistribution

I have seen this following story before and thought it was an excellent parable in explaining the unfairness of wealth redistribution to our "enlightened, liberal students".

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very liberal, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, "How is your friend Audrey doing?"

She replied, "Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over."

Her wise father asked his daughter, "Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA."

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, "That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!"

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, "Welcome to the conservative side of the fence."

H/T: Carrie


S.W. Anderson said...

This is what's known as a straw man argument.

It's concocted so the hard-working daughter with the 4.0 gpa is challenged to give part of her grade to a complete slacker.

Obviously, the slacker doesn't deserve any of the hard-working student's grade.

OK, let me pose the opposite. Why should wealthy heiress and party girl Paris Hilton not have to pay another 5.6 percent or so on wealth earned by someone else long ago? What's her contribution to America, a porn video (oopsie daisy) leaked to the media, to draw attention to herself as a professional naughty girl?

Now let me pose quite a different situation.

There's this woman, widowed in her late thirties when her husband was killed in a car accident. She had a high school education, but had been a housewife for years. Too late and no money to get a college degree, so she went to work as a waitress. She worked hard and did a good job for over 25 years. She lived simply and put a modest amount of money away for retirement.

When this woman's mother became desperately ill, she got her hours cut to provide extra care. She also paid for things not covered by her mother's insurance. Three years later, her mother died, and her savings were nearly wiped out.

A few years after that, the waitress developed health problems that made it impossible for her to continue working. She retired with little more than Social Security, and lived teetering on the edge of having too little money to pay for her rent, heat, food and medicine.

This woman worked hard and productively for nearly 30 years. She at times gave to charity but never asked for any. She never got what you'd call a good break.

So, tell me Paine, how much should this woman suffer because she wasn't born into a rich family? Because she wasn't blessed with some special talent to sing, dance, write novels, excel in sports or what have you?

Should society make this old woman rich at someone else's expense? I don't think so.

But, should society leave her to grow old in constant fear of being put out on the street, or going hungry, or not being able to afford her medicine? And if society does leave her to sink or swim on what little she has, does society claim it's a just outcome because the billionaire Koch Brothers, the Waltons, Rupert Murdoch, etc., are free of having to provide so much as a dollar to help her out?

Maybe that's the kind of America you want, Paine. It's not the kind I want. And from my admittedly incomplete and imperfect understanding of God, at least going by the example Jesus is said to have set, I gather it's not what God want from his children, for his children, either.

S.W. Anderson said...

One other remark on your little story intended to make us liberals ashamed of ourselves.

The story is about one student giving up part of the grades she earned to help another, undeserving (of course), student.

The rap, though, right from the second paragraph, is about taxes and government programs.

Do you have any idea how many billions are spent by the government every year on arms, munitions and technology mainly as plums for favored businesses and industries, not because the purchased goods are particularly needed or wanted by the military or other agencies?

Do you begin to appreciate how many deserving people who are poor or near poor could be helped with the money wasted on just one of Halliburton's hundreds of no-bid, padded-costs contracts in Iraq?

Those are government programs, Paine. They're what's known as corporate welfare. They take heavily from working and middle class people to greatly benefit the wealthy and well-connected few.

Yet, for an example of unfair, unjust taking from some to benefit others, you focus on a hard-working college student and her slacker counterpart. It's not just you, of course. Movement conservatives and the right-wing noise machine do this kind of thing all the time. Corporate welfare and breaks for the undeserving rich go politely unmentioned.

Why is that?

T. Paine said...

Anderson, I am not in disagreement with you regarding corporate welfare. There is absolutely no excuse for this or the "plums" you cite. That too, is the nonsense that needs to be cleaned up and the corrupt politicians involved punished. The government should pay a fair price for private industry goods and services that it NEEDS and is constitutionally authorized to purchase.

That being said, the abuse in many of the federal welfare programs is even worse. In the example you cited, I don't have and I suspect most people of good conscience would not have a problem helping a poor person that is not able to adequately care for themselves. Indeed that is the very purporse for which welfare is intended.

I think this should be administered on the state or community level though so as to reduce costs and better weed out corruption and abuse. When we are paying for able-bodied people NOT to work or provide for themselves, that is ludicrous.

Redistribution of wealth is not the answer though. That is simply nothing more than government-sanctioned theft, sir.

Most of the wealthier people I know tend to be very generous with their charitable contributions. Indeed, there is a reason why American's are the most generous in the world. We do not need the government taking our money and spending it for us to "help others".

J. Marquis said...

You left out the end of the story. The girl's father and many other conservatives demanded that their taxes stay low and so the government was forced to release criminals from prisons prematurely and the girl was murdered by one of them. The end.

S.W. Anderson said...

What happened to my first comment? I got a "too long" error message at first, but I came back and it was here, published.

T. Paine said...

Anderson, I am not sure what happened to your first comment either. I also saw it and read what you posted. I responded and then all of a sudden it was no longer there. I assure you I didn't delete it. Damned blogger software.

Jim, that is very clever and indeed what is likely to have happened in a "liberally governed" city.

I bet such a city would still have their midnight basketball league and arts festival tax-payer funded though, even though they would scream about cuts to vital services in an attempt try to blackmail taxpayers for more money.

If you cut fire, police, prisons, and roads but still fund head start and park beautifaction projects, who's fault is this really? Not the conservatives....

J. Marquis said...

Hey, that's cheating. I should have said the convict was released from the state prison in Wyoming or Alabama!

T. Paine said...

Jim, I saw where that argument was heading, buddy! :)