The soup and salad portion today will be a joke an English comic once told: He said, “You Yanks are a strange lot. You pass by the mansion on a hill, look up and think to yourself, ‘One day I’m gonna be that guy’. Back in England, we walk by, look up and think, ‘One day I’m gonna get that guy. With a cricket bat'.”
Now for the main course:
A rather revolutionary article appeared on USA Today’s webpage & was mirrored on AOL. The notion of taxing fully the wealthy was brought up for serious discussion. Currently, only the first $90,000 an individual makes a year is taxable for Social Security.
The opposition’s argument is that since the wealthy are already carrying the economy, why should they be obligated to contribute into a system they have no need for? At the heart of this argument are two fallacies.
The first and most obvious is that there is an implicit evaluation of human worth in this notion. The wealthier you are, the more important you are as a human being and to society. The fact that you’ve had to put in more hard work than others to amass this wealth is the “proof” of this. Can you honestly tell me that swinging a golf club is more difficult labor than working a nine hour shift hauling trash, or an eight hour shift on your feet at a restaurant with no consecutive days off? Are the latter jobs more difficult than being a vapid whore, there by the grace of inheritance like Paris Hilton? By whore I do not refer to her sexual experiences, but rather to her shameless self-promotion and conspicuous consumption. Who cares who she fucks, as long as it ain’t me. Maybe after she goes through puberty, puts on 35 pounds, some clothes and miraculously conjures 65 IQ points, maybe then she might be attractive. I reserve my doubts, though.
The second fallacy is the notion that the wealthy are getting nothing out of putting into a system that they don’t need to reap the benefits of. The fact of the matter is that we do in fact live in a society, which means that we are interdependent on each other. This is a rudimentary fact, but one that the followers of Ayn Rand and Liaise-Faire/invisible hands, etc., forget. This means, you can’t eat, you can’t get shelter, you cannot be assured of police response, of being taken care of medically, of having someone come to your rescue if your damn mansion is on fire. Unless you live on a desert island by yourself and entirely of your own construction, your daily necessities are provided to you by a network of other people. These people have needs, too. If you expect them to provide you services, you need to be responsible for their well-being if you have enough resources to do so. The fact that they are doing jobs that do not make them millionaires is what in fact allows the millionaires to become and maintain their status as millionaires.
It’s an inherently unjust system, which I’d like to see come to an end. Wishful thinking aside, the fact that there is currently inadequate protection for people in regard to health care, hunger issues, child care and housing, does not mean that it is ethical for it to remain so. The wealthy have skated along too smoothly, and it’s time to pay the piper. It won’t really hurt them; the most difficult aspect for them will be the contortions their faces will make as they struggle to find some pseudo-philosophical position that will absolve them of their responsibility. It won’t “kill the entrepreneurial spirit” to finally pay the bill for the services the wealthy have received. People are always going to need things, and are always going to want to find some edge to make more money. It’s absurd to think that finally paying a sum closer to what peoples' time is worth will “kill industry”.
One of the funnier points that the article makes is to note that according to popular sentiment, somehow it is bad for Social Security to become some kind of welfare program. I don’t have the numbers to prove it, (if anyone does, please send them my way, I’d love to see them) but isn’t Social Security already a type of welfare? You can call it an “investment”, but the fact of the matter is that you are putting money into an account at a fixed amount over a prescribed duration. There is no profit interest, only cost of living adjustments, to the best of my knowledge. The longevity of a person’s life after retirement is not a fixed number (despite the Republicans efforts to make it so by taking money out of Medicaid and Medicare). If this money is not being placed in a situation where it can appreciate, how is it an investment? From this angle, it’s easy to see why the Republicans want to make it a private account: that way it actually does become an investment, and becomes more in line with their (backwards) thinking. So, since Social Security is already welfare, so why not make it more so, and allow it to benifit more people?
Why is welfare seen as such a bad thing? Are not Medicare and Medicaid each a type of welfare? Somehow, in the late 70s and early 80s the Republicans managed to frame the debate when they decided to appeal directly to the American worker. They claimed that his hard earned tax dollars were being wasted by some roustabouts (implicitly dark skinned) who sit around and collect a check for nothing. In actuality, the amount of money spent on welfare pales in comparison to defense and NASA. Somehow, the worst possible welfare situation (which is a very fringe minority, if it even exists at all, of “welfare scammers”) is seen as scarier than the truly obscene excesses of many other Federal programs. It’s easy to imagine and vilify a “welfare scammer”, but to examine the nuances of Federal Spending, is much more difficult, although not without its own characters to vilify. For example, consider the Republican Senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, who sat on the appropriations committee, and as such was able to throw obscene pork into bills such as a 1.5 million dollar bus stop. Do you think they serve Beluga Caviar and Cristal Champagne while you wait?
One of the sadder points in the article is a position attributed to Ted Kennedy. The article says he opposes it because he fears it will “undermine political support for the program and recast Social Security as a welfare system rather than a pension program.” Now suddenly instead of doing the right thing, we should not rock the boat because we’ll tip over. Sound thinking, unless the boat has a giant fucking hole in it, like Social Security does. Who, that makes under, say $70,000 a year, wants to do away with Social Security? There’s very little support for removing Social Security even among the hard right. How can we fear to do the right thing when there is only a fringe minority that would oppose us? For a so-called liberal, you really dropped the ball on this one, Ted.
And today’s desert, unfortunately is not just deserts but is in fact *just* desert. The bloodthirsty war monger that is Donald Rumsfeld actually fessed up to the fact that Camp X-ray (What Amnesty International is referring to as “the gulag of our time”) has been the site of behavior both illegal and immoral by the US.
He is on record as saying that some captives have been mistreated, “sometimes grievously”. This is like the SS head, Heinrich Himmler admitting to the world that the Nazi Death Camps exist, in, say 1941. It’s a huge concession, but unfortunately it won’t amount to anything. Even the Anti-Arab, Muslim-hating shill for the Bush Administration who is on the NY Times payroll, Thomas Friedman wants to close the camp. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/27/opini
This is coming from a man who is on record as earnestly saying he favored a war for oil if it also insures that we begin to seek alternative fuel sources. What’s a few million dead Jews when we have Deutchland’s progress to worry about? Jesusland Uber Alles! As long as we’re playing with the Nazi analogy, Friedman saying this would be comparable to Joseph Goebbels calling for the Nazi death camps to be closed down, after Himmler admits their existence. It’s common sense to anyone sane, but a major concession considering their world view. And for the record, I’m not calling Rumsfeld or Friedman a Nazi, I’m just making an analogy. However, I am calling Rumsfeld a war monger and Freidman an Anti-Arab, Muslim-hating shill for the Bush Administration, and for this I will not apologize.
I’m not a big fan of DailyKos, (for reasons that I will go into in tomorrow’s post) but one of the posters there had something worthwhile to say about the Friedman article, albeit cloaked in boredom that is supposed to pass for humor:
Friedman notes that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody, which is "deeply immoral". Tell me, at what point did it become deeply immoral? When the first fifty died, was it moral then? What about eighty, how was that? I'm apparently living in a world stuffed to bursting with experts on international diplomacy, so give me the damn number. Guantanamo currently holds five hundred people; what percentage of them can die in custody in a period of only a few years before the odometer turns over from freedom fries -burp-! to deeply immoral?
Insightful, up until that stupid last line with the freedom fries. The validity of the point stands, however.
Why is it that political humor is never really both, only one or the other? Where are Political commentators that are both genuinely funny and also insightful? They all died with Lenny. Zarathrustra asked the crowd, “Who among you can laugh and be edified at the same time?"
I try, but I know I fail as often as I succeed. People keep telling me to watch the Daily Show, but each time I do, I find the politics to be remedial, and the only humor seems to come at the expense of people, not ideas. Instead of true wit during an interview to show how, say, Gingrich’s ideas are logically flawed, we get one of the show’s interviewers making as ass out of themselves, and it’s funny, but Ali G does it better. I won’t win any friends by admitting that I don’t watch the Daily Show unless someone puts me up to it, but I’m glad it’s out there. And as long as I’m coming clean here, I’d better admit that I don’t think the Simpsons is the best TV show ever. I think Family Guy and King of the Hill are 100% better. Look, I’m not slaging the Simpsons, I just don’t think it is as intelligent as everyone claims that it is. Now that I’ve just alienated and lost my entire readership, see you tomorrow. If you come back, I’ll bring donuts! Mmmm, donuts.