Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Rich and the Greedy

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Portland, the Johansen Family (not their real name) lived down the street from us.  They had a son that was two years older than I was and a daughter that was two years younger.  They went to the same Methodist Church that we did at the time and were exceptionally warm and loving people.  I used to love to go and play at their house and to hang out with my friend Mark. 

Now Mr. Johansen was one of the heirs to the Levi Strauss company fortune and they had lots of money.  They didn’t flaunt it in anyone’s face and were never obnoxious about it though.  Although they owned what was arguably the nicest home in the neighborhood by far, they really were just another typical American family.

I remember loving Mr. Johansen’s showroom-condition convertible ’66 red Mustang!  And their house!  It was awesome!  They had converted their basement to look like the local Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor.  They had a pool table and a wet bar with their very own soda fountain!  And in the room next to it, they had the new Atari game console!  In the summer, they would always invite me and my little brother over to swim in their huge pool!  It even had a slide. 

I remembered thinking how wonderful it must be to be rich and have such nice things.  More importantly, I remembered how much I truly liked them and enjoyed being around them as often as I was able.

The Johansen’s were a wonderful family.

If I were to be honest, I suppose I was a little envious of Mark and his sister Debbie, but they were my friends and I never thought ill of them.  It would never have occurred to me to think that it was not fair that they should have all of those cool things and live in such a neat house with its own built in swimming pool.  I never considered that Mr. and Mrs. Johansen came by their money by somehow taking it from the poor or needy.  Indeed, I suspect they were quite generous with their money.

You see, I was taught by my parents, and indeed by the entire culture of my youth, that if I studied hard at school and put my mind and hard work into it, I too could grow up to be financially successful – just like my friends the Johansen’s.

Sadly I see very little of that same strong work ethic and play-by-the-rules mentality taught to our youngsters these days.  Instead the prevailing mindset today seems to be one of greed and wanting to take what others have earned.  There seems to be damned little interest in having to work hard to get ahead.  Too many of the younger generations today are looking for the shortcuts to wealth and to get rich quick.  They all want instant gratification.  And the rich, well they obviously got their money by taking it or cheating it out of the poorer people.  It seems only right that they should thus be punished and have a substantial amount of that ill-gotten wealth taxed so that it could be redistributed to those people that were not lucky enough to have “won life’s lottery”. 

Look at the college-aged kids today as an example.  Look at the Occupy Wall Street Crowd.  What was one of their many complaints?  Capitalism is unfair.  And it was unfair that they should have huge student loans.  Those loans should be forgiven accordingly.  Never mind the fact that these kids knowingly applied for those loans and entered into the agreement to pay those loans back.  People now want something for nothing.  And as we just saw earlier last month, they evidently comprise the majority in America now and vote accordingly.

Instead of working hard for one’s self and attempting to better one’s financial standing through talent and the sweat of one’s brow, today we want to tax the rich even more and redistribute that wealth to those who have less – even if they haven’t worked for or earned it, nor have any intention of every doing so, for that matter.

Instead of looking at the rich and seeing that as a goal to strive for, like I did when I was a kid, today we want to tear them down and punish them for having the temerity to have more than the rest of us do. 

Ironically, instead of being frugal and financially responsible ourselves, we try to imitate those rich people we inwardly loathe by buying things we cannot really afford.  “I am going to strain my budget and buy that Lincoln Navigator or that Escalade instead of buying that Hyundai that I can actually afford.  And, since Fannie Mae doesn’t require that I have a well-paying job or any collateral, I will go out on the limb and get a loan for that 2500 square foot house, even though I really won’t be able to keep up with payments, unless I settle for that 1200 square foot home instead.  It just isn’t fair!  All of these young people in the movies have nice cars and beautiful homes and Ivy League Educations.  I want that too and it just isn’t right that these things are seemingly only available to the rich.  If I cannot have such things, then they should be punished for not contributing their fair share to society.”  Such seems to be the prevailing mindset among many Americans today.  Never mind the fact that as of July 2009, the tax burden of the top 1% of wage earners in America finally exceeded that of the bottom 95% combined. They should still pay MORE, they say!  One wonders what they think the rich's fair share should actually be.

This class envy nonsense that has been stoked by progressives has become so prevalent today that class warfare is a standard tactic amongst many of the less scrupulous Democrats in office.  Why?  Because it seems to work.  Never mind the fact that our economy is tanking and growth, when there has been any in recent years, has been anemic, the Democrats still scream that the rich aren’t paying their fair share.  They have gotten their wealth off the backs of the poor.  Therefore, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are bound and determined to right these wrongs and ensure that the rich finally pony up what is owed.  The irony of that is that to do so will only make our economy worse and thus hurt the poorest among us even more so.

Mitt Romney was castigated severely during the presidential campaign for having had the temerity to point out that 49% of Americans today pay no net federal income tax and are often beneficiaries of others’ tax dollars.  Now granted, many of these folks are retirees living off their well-deserved social security, or military retirees, etc.  That said, when nearly half of America doesn’t have any skin in the game and our politicians are stoking the fires saying they deserve more from those that are paying taxes, well the sustainability of such a system is obviously not a very long term possibility.  I long ago learned that we don’t often appreciate what is simply given to us without us having earned it.  If anything, that tends to breed more resentment and further foster an entitlement attitude. 

On the other hand, when we work hard and achieve some success through the sweat of our brow and the sacrifices we have made in time and effort, we are often far more appreciative of our accomplishments.  It is a concept that is seemingly lost on many today.  They would rather rant and rave at the unfairness of their situation and blame the rich for having more than they do, rather than working hard to become rich themselves. 

Many decades later, I have long since moved away from my beloved childhood neighborhood.  I sometimes wonder what became of the Johansen’s.  I suspect that Mark and Debbie both grew up, worked hard, and became successful and productive citizens, just as their parents were.  After all, they were taught that same work ethic and respect that I was taught.  I wonder if they look at society today with bewilderment at the loathing and envy many folks have towards them for their great success.  After all, that was something that was never seen or even considered as they grew up in a wealthy family nearly forty years ago.  Sadly, that is the norm today.  It is an upside down world now when it is considered greedy to want to keep most of the money one earned himself. Evidently it is not greedy though to be an unemployed-by-choice and slothful person that thinks that other people’s wealth is owed to him without having to work for it.  Yep, I think the transformation of America that President Obama and the progressives were looking to build has finally started coming to fruition.  It is an America I no longer recognize and I mourn greatly for its loss.


Jerry Critter said...

And imagine, they did it with a tax rate probably more than twice what they would pay today.

T. Paine said...

Jerry, that is probably true. The fact remains though that it was THEIR money and NOT the government's. It sure as hell doesn't belong to all of those other Americans that are laying claim to the "richs'" money in the form of redistribution today!

Jerry Critter said...

"The fact remains though that it was THEIR money and NOT the government's."

That statement has absolutely nothing to do with the tax rates and the fact that they were very successful with a high tax rate. And if it was theirs then, it is still theirs now. The state of money has not changed.

T. Paine said...

Jerry, they were successful despite the tax rates. This was during the Carter years. In the mid-80’s, when Reagan cut taxes, they moved away to a nicer area. I think they had a home built which would have provided more jobs. I wonder if they would have chosen to do so had they not been able to keep more of their own money that THEY EARNED, sir.

Jerry Critter said...

"they were successful despite the tax rates"

Yeah, how about that! It is amazing how people can be successful with high tax rates. Maybe higher tax rates aren't such a drag on the economy as you would like us to believe.

T. Paine said...

Yeah, except for the fact that history showed how the economy took off and grew enormously after Reagan cut those tax rates significantly.

jim marquis said...

And Clinton raised tax rates on the wealthy and we had 25 million new jobs produced. You know what Reagan and Bubba had in common? They both came into office as we were recovering from a recession cycle. This myth about tax rates and job creators is just a fairly tale perpetuated to justify selfishness.

Jerry Critter said...

It took off so well that he had to raise taxes later and he ran up a huge debt. He tripled the debt. Can you imagine the republican outcry if Obama did that?

Just the Facts! said...

Wow, if higher taxes are so great, if they are the solution to our problems, it higher taxes are only fair, why stop at 40%? Just think how great it would be if the govt got to keep 90% of "their" money we earn with a 90% flat tax rate on income for ALL!! With no "loop holes" or deductions of any kind!

After all who would need money when the government would provide all that we need. There would be no class envy, no racial strife, every body would have just enough to live on and not one penny more.

That would be very fair. Don't you agree?

T. Paine said...

Jerry/Jim, the problem for Reagan was that for every new dollar of revenue raised, the Democratic congress under Tip O’Neil refused to make cuts as promised and instead increased spending on a 3:1 ratio. I will stipulate that there was a big portion of this that was for military buildup during the Cold War and to replenish a rag tag military that had not been upgraded since Vietnam and really languished under Carter. Much of this was pork barrel spending under the Democrats once again though.

The difference is that the double digit inflation and high unemployment improved drastically under Reagan because the economy grew for nearly all Americans at the fastest rate to date at that time.

Now we have an idiot Senate under Harry Reid that wants to raise taxes and hasn’t fulfilled his primary obligation to pass a budget in THREE years. The ONLY spending cuts that slimy incompetent fool wants to make is those to the military on par with going over the fiscal cliff.

Obama and the Democrats don’t give a damn about the fiscal cliff though. What happens if we go over it? They slash the military that most of them loathe anyway and they can then spend where they choose to do so. Taxes will go up for everyone, and they can blame it all on the Republicans. The sycophantic statist media will broadcast that message for them too. It is a progressive’s dream.

JTF, I honestly think that many progressives would indeed give up 75% of their income or more to the government if they didn't have to worry about providing for themselves.

Jerry Critter said...

Actually, in terms of economic growth, Reagan is number 5 behind four Democrats.

Just the Facts! said...

Hang with me as I cut and past a few headlines and their sources from which my opinion about this threads subject supported.

"( – The federal government ran a deficit of $292 billion for the first two months of fiscal year 2013 – October and November 2012 – amounting to $4.8 billion of borrowed money each day.

"The federal government borrowed 46 cents of every dollar it has spent so far in fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, according to the latest data the Congressional Budget Office released Friday."

"They may have had better luck on Santa’s sleigh, but more than 35,000 holiday-themed rubber ducks from China were detained by U.S. Customs officials at the Port of Los Angeles.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized the ducks -- dressed as snowmen, gingerbread men, penguins and reindeer -- which were valued at $18,522, after determining they contained the chemical phthalate in excess of the limit which may be harmful to children." LA Times

"As an illegal immigrant, Jorge Mariscal waited eight years for a kidney transplant he feared would never come.
His persistence paid off Thursday when he underwent the procedure at Loyola University Medical Center.
"Why can't we be treated the same?" he asked while sitting in his hospital room. "Health care should be a human right, not a privilege. At least give us the chance to fight for our lives with dignity."
Mariscal's treatment is far from over. The pills he'll need to make sure his body doesn't reject the new organ can cost upward of $10,000 a year for the rest of his life." Chicago Tribune

Ok, here's my take:
Currently we are are in the middle of a class war the like that hasn't been seen since the Russian Revelation of 1917. The President and his party continue to spend and borrow faster than our economy could ever grow. The President and his party claim that the only way to stop this process is raise taxes on the top TWO PERCENT of us. The math does not work, they know it, we know it but that does not matter. Therefore it is my belief that their real goal is to start raising taxes on all while continue the current spending level with goal of changing America into a European type economy.

Second, items, our current boarder security. There is none. We are great at keeping rubber ducks out, but an illegal can hide in plan sight for 8 years without any fear. Reason? See above, the changing of America.

T. Paine said...

JTF, you are absolutely correct on all accounts.

The fact of the matter though is that we are doomed either way. The Democrats and the Republicans are both complicit in the the fact that they will not control spending. The Republicans only want to cut growth in future spending, not actual spending. The Democrats only want to cut military spending. Both will collapse our economy long before the 3rd term of our Dear Leader begins in 2016.

Jerry Critter said...

Are you implying that cutting any spending other than military spending will not "collapse the economy"? What gives military spend this special adverse economic effect that other spending does not have?

T. Paine said...

Jerry, I am saying it is already too late. We do need to cut military spending. We also need to do entitlement spending cuts. We also need to overhaul our income tax system. We also need to cut every damned expenditure that the federal government is not constitutionally authorized to spend tax payer dollars on. The fact that neither party can or will do this means that our economy will collapse, and ultimately it is We The People that let it happen by not holding the idiots in both parties accountable. The fact that we delude ourselves to think that this won’t happen and just keep skipping down the road as our debt burden teeters on the brink means that a lot of people are going to be shocked, surprised, and badly hurt when the collapse does come, sir.

Jerry Critter said...

So, you are saying that everything will collapse unless we cut spending? All Categories of spending? Drastically cutting spending is the way to save the economy?

T. Paine said...

I am saying it is already too late because we didn’t cut spending when we should have. If you continuously spend far more money than you bring in year over year, eventually you will go bankrupt. This is true for individuals and for corporations and for nations. Yes, we should have cut ALL categories of spending and only spent what incoming revenue would have afforded us in context with the Constitution. We chose intentionally not to do this and we are headed for the end of America as you and I know it accordingly.

Jerry Critter said...

So, you are saying that it is too late, nothing can be done, and total collapse is imminent.

Just the Facts! said...


What part of the results from the Presidential election don't you get?
The majority of Americans voted for higher taxes, cuts in the defense budget and Govt Health Care.
Why would anyone one want to stop going in that direction?

Tell me, are you really concerned that America is headed for a total collapse, that it is imminent, and nothing can be done about it? Or are you happy with the direction we are taking with the re-election of President Obama?
Jerry, we are borrowing 45% of every dollar we spend. Do you really think that raising taxes 3% on the top 2% of Americans is going to change that? With our debt to GNP ratio growing so fast, how long do you think it will be before the govt consumes 85% of ALL earnings? Could you live your current life style on 15% of your current income?

You can tax every penny each of us makes and unless we stop spending at the current rate, it will not stop us from economic collapse. The results of the NOV election prove this fact, today Americans want govt to take care of them, no matter want the cost.

The liberals won, they now own the results of their policy's, they can no longer blame anyone else.

Jerry Critter said...

I am just trying to figure out what T Paine is trying to say.

Just the Facts! said...

Do you understand what I said?

Jerry Critter said...

At this point I am not interested in what you say. My discussion is with T Paine.

T. Paine said...

Jerry, yes sir, I do think economic collapse for our nation is imminent within the next four years. (Ten at the very outside) Further, I think the impending collapse is imminent for many of the very reasons JTF mentioned. Our politicians have no plans to reduce spending other than by token amounts. The voters want more “free stuff” and won’t hold the politicians accountable. Our debt burden is so great that it is unsustainable. The Federal Reserve has gone through several rounds of “quantitative easing” already by basically digitizing money. This means that when the collapse comes, inflation of the dollar will go through the roof. There is a reason why gold has skyrocketed in price over the last 5 years. Some people in the financial sector can see the train-wreck coming. Meanwhile, most Americans continue with their lives all dumb and happy assuming that we can keep spending money we don’t have and nothing bad will come of it. The only so-called knowledgeable flipping idiots that think continued spending is a good idea is Paul Krugman and other such foolish “economists” and progressive politicians from both parties. Yes, we are doomed. Yes, it is imminent. It will happen because people think it won’t happen and therefore there is no will to change the disastrous course in which we are currently headed, sir.

Jerry Critter said...

So what changes would you propose that would not crash the economy anyway? Or are you saying that there is no way out?

T. Paine said...

There is no way out because politicians and most Americans have no will to do so.

That said, if there was an informed populace and a will to save our economy, the following would be some of the necessary steps to do so.

1.) Reform the income tax structure. Streamline it and get rid of the hugely archaic and cumbersome tax code. Close loopholes, especially for the very wealthy. Broaden the tax base so more people have skin in the game.
2.) Entitlement reform. Both Social Security and Medicare are heading for insolvency. Hard decisions need to be made to cut costs and perhaps means test these programs. Slowly phasing in the privatizing of both would create lower costs, more efficiencies, and better return on dollars invested.
3.) Cut all un-constitutional and extra-constitutional spending. This starts with phasing out all cabinet level departments over the next five to ten years that are not specifically authorized by the constitution. This includes such departments as Housing and Urban Development, Education, Energy etc. Many of the these functions can be done as needed on the state level with far greater efficiencies.
4.) Means test and enforce welfare spending. Provide incentives to get off welfare rather than encourage continuing usage. Doing this strengthens families, dignity, and turns a person who may be a net financial liability into an active producer by thus becoming a tax paying citizen.
5.) Cut a lot of the unnecessary federal codes and regulations that restrict or kill job growth which harms the economy. Ensure that necessary legislation that protects workers, human rights, anti-monopolistic policies, and basic environmental and health laws are kept. Many of the others should be rescinded. The cost of complying with extraneous legislation is staggering and kills job growth. Corporate compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley alone has cost untold billions of dollars that could better be spent in R&D and company expansion which would create more jobs.
6.) Audit the Federal Reserve. Our monetary policy has been disastrous and is in danger of causing hyper-inflation very soon. I’d appoint Ron Paul as Secretary of the Treasury and give him carte blanche to audit the fed and fire people. There is no transparency there and much corruption.
7.) Insist on at least a 10% across the board cut in the budget of all remaining federal departments. (more for some departments) Not a 10% cut in the growth of future spending like these idiot politicians do now, but a real 10% slash in current spending. Many of us have had to reduce our household expenditures by that much over the last decade or so; the federal government can find inefficiencies and unnecessary functions to cut or trim too. Perhaps if you incentivized government employees by giving them a small percentage of the money they cut from the budget would motivate them to do so.

These are just a few of the items that we could do that would make America a great place to do business once again. Job creation would soar and the tax revenue would increase accordingly. All of that said, it doesn’t matter how much revenue we bring in to the Federal coffers if we fail to stop spending more than we take in in revenue. Like I said, financial collapse of our economy is imminent accordingly.

FandB said...

Just a little midday math...

Obama's 3.7 trillion dollar proposed budget would cost every employed person in the country almost $28,000 each.

But as we know, half the employed people pay zero (or less) in taxes. So the other half would have to pay about $56,000 each in federal taxes to pay for Obama's "budget".

The Median income in this country is just about $50,000.

Income tax rate will have to increase to about 112% for the half that pays taxes to pay for Odumbo's "budget".

Doesn't look sustainable to me.

Not sustainable implies eventual economic crash.

Jerry Critter said...

In other words, you have no viable solution to economic collapse given that you think "economic collapse for our nation is imminent within the next four years" and your solution will take a much longer time to implement, and most likely result in its own economic colapse.

Jerry Critter said...

You neglected a couplers of things.

1. Individual income taxes make up less than 50% of the federal revenue.

2. No one, absolutely no one, is talking about balancing the budget next year. Like TP's proposals, that is a much longer term goal.

Just the Facts! said...

Well Jerry whats your solution, increase taxes on the top 2% by 3%?

Dave Dubya said...

I appreciate you offering some ideas of reform, assumption-based as some are. But your suggestions are good in that discussion is important to any progress.

Slowly phasing in the privatizing of both (SS and Medicare) would create lower costs, more efficiencies, and better return on dollars invested.

This is conjecture or faith-based. As with health care, billions of dollars, (or in the case of safety nets, our tax dollars), will go directly into corporate pockets and will never be utilized for health care and pensions.

How are you so certain overhead costs will be lower when corporatized?

Currently we are are in the middle of a class war

The President and his party claim that the only way to stop this process is raise taxes on the top TWO PERCENT

our current boarder security. There is none.

an illegal can hide in plan sight for 8 years

I’m afraid you are in error in your haste to affirm these GOP talking points.

What class war? The real one, as mentioned by billionaire Warren Buffet, where the working class loses and the elites win? The one with union busting and off-shoring jobs? This is actually happening. Or the fictitious one that whines, “Ending the Bush tax cuts is hatred and envy of the rich and is the same thing as communism”?

No evidence is given that Obama has made such a claim about taxes, because he didn’t of course. This is pure FOX(R) Limbaugh propaganda. Obama has always promoted a balance of revenue increase, including taxes on the wealthy, and spending cuts. Honest. Look it up.

Border security? Did you know illegal immigration is down from the Bush years?

And “an illegal can hide in plan sight for 8 years” obviously arrived during those same Bush years, didn’t he?

This is showing us it is really true that the Right lives in its own bubble of beliefs. To your credit you have some awareness that both parties are to blame for the mess. Your fellow travelers don’t want to admit this.

The voters want more “free stuff”

No, that is Republican bubble dogma. It’s a rationalization for why Romney lost. Could it be maybe most Americans remember the crash of ’08 Bush left us? In reality, we want jobs and safety nets, but the so-called “job creators” are leveraging cheap foreign labor against American workers. And they want to take control of, and profit from, our safety nets.

Yes, we are doomed. Yes, it is imminent.

Fear clouds our thinking. Extremist politicians thrive on fear. They always point the finger of blame and tell us they will punish those they blame, and only they are pure enough to be our leaders. The blame is usually pointed at the working class, unions and the poor. The blame is always pointed at evil commie liberals. Notice that?

The rich and powerful have far more influence on our public policies and politicians than the former, but never seem to get the blame from said politicians. Probably due to the fact they are members of , and work exclusively for, the elites.


On another note, I hope your dear wife is getting back on her feet. She’s a good one, you got there.