There’s a quote going around from Timothy Geithner that again demonstrates why he has no business heading the Treasury Department.
In it he says things which are hard to attribute to a Treasury Secretary but certainly indicative of someone who could be labeled a political hack.
"That’s the kind of balance you need," said Geithner. "Why is that the case? Because if you don’t try to generate more revenues through tax reform, if you don’t ask, you know, the most fortunate Americans to bear a slightly larger burden of the privilege of being an American, then you have to – the only way to achieve fiscal sustainability is through unacceptably deep cuts in benefits for middle class seniors, or unacceptably deep cuts in national security." [emphasis mine]
James Pethokoukis literally takes this quote apart line by line and makes the technical argument as to why it is poppycock. It’s worth the read.
However, I’m most interested in those phrases I’ve emphasized in a more cultural/political/philosophical vein.
Since when do Americans, any Americans, have to pay government for the “privilege of being an American?”
I can’t think of a quote that more starkly differentiates the philosophies of right and left than Geithner’s. At its base it points to a philosophy that puts the state and collectivism before the individual and liberty. It is the polar opposite of the philosophy on which this country was founded. It is a mindset which must constantly be exposed and rejected.
We, as Americans, don’t pay anyone for any such “privilege”, and certainly not government. But the Elizabeth Warrens, Tim Geithners and Barack Obamas of world believe otherwise.
That statement tells one all they need to know about a philosophy that drives this current administration and much of the left. Americans, apparently, exist to serve government (and pay whatever cost government deems necessary) and not the other way around. The fact that they’re only attempting to use the “rich” in this case doesn’t mask the fact that they don’t limit this belief to only the “rich”. It’s just that politically, that’s all they can get away with at the moment. Make no mistake, they are elitists and collectivists and the path they want to take this country down is a path of limited liberty and no return.
As to the final emphasized phrase, note the false dichotomy. It is as fallacious as any argument you’ll ever see. The “only” way to achieve fiscal sustainability is by cutting only those two programs?
There are entire executive departments, agencies and bureaus which could be dismissed and cut before either of those other areas had to be touched. There are literally billions of dollars that could be saved by reducing government at all levels. To pretend that the only solution is to make “deep cuts” in benefits for “middle class seniors” or “national security” is the biggest crock of crap yet foisted on the American people since Al Gore invented his get rich quick scheme called global warming.
Obviously both of the areas mentioned by Geithner are areas in which cuts must and will be made. But it is pure and unadulterated sophistry to pretend that they alone will suffer if we don’t tax the ‘rich’ for the ‘privilege of being an American’.
I can’t tell you how much Geithner’s words rankle me. It is people like he, Obama and Warren that must be shown the door (or, in Warren’s case, never let in the door), politically speaking. They are a danger to liberty and freedom. The philosophy under which they operate is unacceptable and as I’ve said many times, must be defeated.
If you value your liberty at all, I suspect you feel the same way. How we got to this point, where high government officials feel comfortable saying such nonsense should bother you. It points to a tacit acceptance of their view by many. To those who love liberty, their view is unacceptable. It just makes you wonder how many of us are left that actually do value and love liberty, doesn’t it?
I’m sure you’ve seen this by now, but ESPN fired a couple of folks for using an old, old, old saying in a perfectly appropriate way because they, apparently, aren’t familiar with the difference in use and misinterpreted a word for a racial slur.
The PC police, apparently just as ignorant, called for the heads of two members of ESPN when they used the phrase “chink in the armor” to describe Jeremy Lin’s on court vulnerabilities (turnovers as it happens). But, but, but, Jeremy is of Chinese descent, so “chink” is therefor a “racial slur”.
Pure and total outraged ignorance. Those who’ve pushed this ought to be ashamed of themselves. HuffPo, naturally, is at the forefront of the stupidity:
And, now, we may have found our most offensive headline from a mainstream media outlet.
Several hours after the Knicks’ Lin-spired winning streak was snapped by the New Orleans Hornets, ESPN ran the headline "Chink In The Armor" to accompany the game story on mobile devices. ESPN’s choice of words was extremely insensitive and offensive considering Lin’s Asian-American heritage. According to Brian Floyd at SB Nation, the headline appeared on the Scorecenter app. The offensive headline was quickly noticed, screen grabs, Twit pics and Instagrams were shared and it began circulating widely on Twitter.
The use of the word "chink" is especially galling as Lin has revealed that this racial slur was used to taunt him during his college playing career at Harvard. After a brief run, the headline was changed to "All Good Things.."
Being so ignorant of the proper use of the word “chink” in this context is even MORE galling.
Professor Jacobson educates the dummies:
Chink in the armor” is a non-racial idiom, not a single word, denoting:
A vulnerable area, as in Putting things off to the last minute is the chink in Pat’s armor and is bound to get her in trouble one day . This term relies on chink in the sense of “a crack or gap,” a meaning dating from about 1400 and used figuratively since the mid-1600s.
The term “chink in the armor” is used frequently in sports analogies, as this 2005-2010 Google search indicates.
“Chink” standing alone also is a slang pejorative for someone of Chinese or more generally of Asian descent.
In discussing Jeremy Lin’s playing vulnerabilities, an on-air ESPN announcer used the phrase “chink in armor” and it was repeated in an ESPN web headline early the next morning.
Absurd, disturbing, ignorant.
A virtual trifecta brought to you by oversensitive and ignorant popinjays who cost two people their jobs because they were too stupid to understand the proper use of a word. And ESPN, you’re no better.
Actually, there’s a lot Ron Paul says I agree with, but there’s about 5 to 10% of what he says that makes him, at least to me, unsupportable.
But he and I see eye to eye on this thought (from an article about an interview he did with Candy Crowley):
Paul seemed almost baffled that everyone has been talking about social issues at a time when he and others are more concerned with preserving basic civil liberties and the economy.
Folks, for this election social issues is a loser. Sorry to be so blunt, and burst the social issue’s activists bubble, but this is the distraction the Obama administration badly needs and it is playing out pretty much as they hoped, with the candidates concentrating in an area that is so removed from the real problems of the day (and the real problems of the Obama record) that it gives relief.
Additionally, it gives visibility to the one area that usually scares the stuffing out of the big middle – the independents who are necessary to win any election (and, until this nonsense started, pretty much owned).
What is going on now is a self-destruction derby. And the tune is being called by the left (if you think the George Stephanopoulos question on contraception that started all this nonsense during one of the debates was delivered by an objective and unbiased journalist, I have some beachfront land in Arizona for you) and kept alive by the media.
How I see it is Americans, in general, don’t give much of a rat’s patootie about all this nonsense at this moment in history. They’ve watched their economic world collapse, they’re upside down in their houses (or have lost them), they’re seeing their children, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren enslaved to government debt, they’re out of work and they’re suffering – economically.
And the GOP goes off on the usual nonsensical social issue tangent when there is a table laden with a feast of issues that are relevant to the problems with which the majority of Americans are concerned.
Really? Could we maybe see attacks on Obama for adding 4 trillion to the debt, or the highest unemployment rate in decades, or the failed stimulus, or his persistent attacks on fossil fuel even while we sit on more of it than most of the world combined but are getting much less benefit from that because of him? How about Keystone? Gulf permatorium? Solyndra? ObamaCare?
Instead what sort of attacks are made against Obama? Senior Obama Advisor: Rick Santorum’s ‘Phony Theology’ Comment ‘Well Over the Line’, which spawned, Santorum explains ‘phony theology’ comment, says Obama is ‘a Christian’ which results in, Santorum denies questioning Obama’s faith.
I cannot imagine a stupider subject being the focus of headlines at this time in our history nor a worse place for a GOP candidate than talking about other people’s faith or lack thereof. There is no upside to that. This is the sort of nonsense and ill discipline that has cost the GOP elections in the past, and is well on its way to doing it again.
The middle is watching and my guess is it is not happy with what it sees. If ever the GOP wanted to lay out a strategy to drive independents back to the Democrats, they’re well on their way. They are playing to every stereotype the left puts out about them.
Take a hint from the Clinton campaign GOP (as loath as they are to do so, I’m sure): “It’s the economy, stupid!”
More on the increasing culture of dependency on government:
The percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 14.8 percent in 1984 to 49.5 percent in 2009. This means that in 1984, 34.8 million tax filers paid no taxes; in 2009, 151.7 million paid nothing.
It is the conjunction of these two trends—higher spending on dependence-creating programs, and an ever-shrinking number of taxpayers who pay for these programs—that concerns those interested in the fate of the American form of government. Americans have always expressed concern about becoming dependent on government, even while understanding that life’s challenges cause most people, at one time or another, to depend on aid from someone else. Americans’ concern stems partly from deeply held views that life’s blessings are more readily obtained by independent people and that growing dependence on government erodes the spirit of personal and mutual responsibility created through family and civil society institutions. These views help explain the broad public support for welfare reform in the 1990s.
This ethic of self-reliance combined with a commitment to the brotherly care of those in need appears threatened in a much greater way today than when this Index first appeared in 2002. This year, 2012, marks another year that the Index contains significant retirements by baby boomers. Over the next 25 years, more than 77 million boomers will begin collecting Social Security checks, drawing Medicare benefits, and relying on long-term care under Medicaid. No event will financially challenge these important programs over the next two decades more than this shift into retirement of the largest generation in American history.
And yet we just got a budget from the President of the United States which essentially ignores that fact. Just like his previous three.
But more important than that is this culture of dependence that has perniciously grown in this country over the preceding decades fueled by politicians and the ideology of the left.
Libertarians and many Conservatives have been warning about this phenomenon for years. But in 2008, what had been a relatively slow ride to growing dependence became a ride on a rocket sled:
Not only did the federal government effectively take over half of the U.S. economy and expand public-sector debt by more than all previous governments combined, it also oversaw a second year of enormous expansion in total government debt at the federal level. Much of that growth in new debt can be traced to programs that encourage dependence.
In 40 plus years we’ve gone from a dependency percentage of 28.3% to over 70% in 2010. I don’t think anyone realized how big the change has been or what significance it has. But it has made us a nation of takers vs. makers.
As Heritage’s Bill Beach and Patrick Tyrrell explain, "the index score has grown by more than 15 times its original amount. This means that, keeping inflation neutral in the calculations, more than 15 times the resources were committed to paying for people who depend on government in 2010 than in 1962."
It is the same trap that countries like Greece were in and will result in the same collapse.
Ed Feulner adds some context to the increased percentage of dependence:
Perhaps the most startling part of the index concerns how much assistance is being distributed. Americans who rely on government receive an average $32,748 worth of benefits. How high is that? Higher than the average American’s disposable personal income: $32,446.
More than 67.3 million Americans rely on assistance from Washington for everything from food, shelter and clothing to college tuition and health care. These benefits cost federal taxpayers roughly $2.5 trillion annually.
So the president offers a 3.8 trillion dollar budget of which, according to these numbers, all but 1.3 trillion goes to “assistance”.
And in order to offset these “assistance” payments somewhat, the president decides that the only Constitutionally mandated expense within the budget – defense – has to pay the butcher’s bill.
We talk about “tipping points” often, but looking at that chart, I’m convinced that tipping point may have been passed years ago.
Some quotes to leave you with. Rep. Allen West, this past weekend said he has no problem with a safety net. His problem is “when that safety net becomes a hammock.” In this case a $32,000 hammock.
Alexis de Tocqueville reputedly said that the American republic will last only "until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury." We’ve seen that majority discover it with a vengeance.
And finally, George Bernard Shaw said, ““Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
70% dependence says a majority now dreads “it”, and has decided it likes others, the makers, paying their way.
As one friend aptly described it on reviewing these numbers, “we’re screwed”.
At Powerline, John Hinderaker points to an article by Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph and ponders the question she asks – “why has the collapse of Communism had so little impact on political discourse in the West?”
[I]n spite of the official agreement that there is no other way to organise the economic life of a free society than the present one (with a few tweaks), there are an awful lot of people implicitly behaving as if there were. Several political armies seem to be running on the assumption that there is still a viable contest between capitalism and Something Else.
If this were just the hard Left within a few trade unions and a fringe collection of Socialist Workers’ Party headbangers, it would not much matter. But the truth is that a good proportion of the population harbours a vague notion that there exists a whole other way of doing things that is inherently more benign and “fair” – in which nobody is hurt or disadvantaged – available for the choosing, if only politicians had the will or the generosity to embrace it.
Why do they believe this? Because the lesson that should have been absorbed at the tumultuous end of the last century never found its way into popular thinking – or even into the canon of educated political debate. …
he fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism which followed it are hugely important to any proper understanding of the present world and of the contemporary political economy. Why is it that they have failed to be addressed with anything like their appropriate awesome significance, let alone found their place in the sixth-form curriculum?
The failure of communism should have been, after all, not just a turning point in geo-political power – the ending of the Cold War and the break-up of the Warsaw Pact – but in modern thinking about the state and its relationship to the economy, about collectivism vs individualism, and about public vs private power. Where was the discussion, the trenchant analysis, or the fundamental debate about how and why the collectivist solutions failed, which should have been so pervasive that it would have percolated down from the educated classes to the bright 18-year-olds? Fascism is so thoroughly (and, of course, rightly) repudiated that even the use of the word as a casual slur is considered slanderous, while communism, which enslaved more people for longer (and also committed mass murder), is regarded with almost sentimental condescension. …
[I]n our everyday politics, we still seem to be unable to make up our minds about the moral superiority of the free market. We are still ambivalent about the value of competition, which remains a dirty word when applied, for example, to health care. We continue to long for some utopian formula that will rule out the possibility of inequalities of wealth, or even of social advantages such as intelligence and personal confidence.
The idea that no system – not even a totalitarian one – could ensure such a total eradication of “unfairness” without eliminating the distinguishing traits of individual human beings was one of the lessons learnt by the Soviet experiment. The attempt to abolish unfairness based on class was replaced by corruption and a new hierarchy based on party status.
If the European intellectual elite had not been so compromised by its own broad acceptance of collectivist beliefs, maybe we would have had a genuine, far-reaching re-appraisal of the entire ideological framework. [Emphasis mine].
We could spend a week discussing any of those highlighted passages, but the question remains – why? In fact, if you think about it, the collapse of communism was all but shrugged off by the left. It wasn’t, as it seemed, of any consequence to their ideology. In fact, for the most part, other than a few “good riddance” quotes, it was business as usual for the left, pushing many of the same ideological principles that underpinned communism as if they were not a reason for that horrific system’s collapse.
As Daley says, its failure should have been a turning point in geo-political power and thinking about the state and its relationship to the economy. But instead there was silence while left leaning governments both here and in Europe doubled down on state intrusion into the economies of their respective states.
The key is to be found in the last emphasized sentence. Unfortunately, there has been a sea-change in much of our thinking which has indeed seen a “broad acceptance” of “collectivist beliefs”. If ObamaCare leaped to your mind immediately, what actually makes the point is Medicare Part D. That’s the “broad acceptance” necessary – compromise of principle on the right – to carry this sort of an agenda forward.
Sure ObamaCare was passed without a single GOP vote, but it was set up by many past GOP compromises. The problem is the right has allowed the left to define both the playing field and the principles of play. It has also framed what little discussion that goes on. It has decided on envy as its vehicle and class warfare as its methodology. And the right has meekly accepted those parameters. Watch the current crop of GOP candidates spend much of their time apologizing for their success instead of celebrating it and tell me the propaganda war hasn’t gone to the left.
And on the left? Why has the result of communism’s collapse been essentially ignored? For two reasons. John Hideraker’s take on the left for one:
I think a very partial answer to the question Ms. Daley poses is that leftism has never been based on idealism. It has always been based, for the most part, on hate and envy. So when Communism was conclusively proved to be a failure, leftists (including not only leftists in politics, but more important, leftists in the media and in academia) didn’t change their minds or admit their mistake. For in their eyes, while there may have been disappointment, there was no mistake. Their resentments and hatreds remained. They merely sought other vehicles, other terminologies, other tactics to bring down the West and the free enterprise system and democratic institutions that define it. Yesterday’s socialists are today’s progressives. They barely missed a beat.
I think there is a lot of truth to that analysis, although I’d quibble somewhat on the dismissal of idealism. I’ve always said the left never viewed communism as a systemic failure but more of a failure based on the fact that the wrong people were executing the idea poorly. There’s never really been an acknowledgement on the left that communism itself was “wrong”, “bad” or even totalitarian. Just that some of those who got into power under that system were (if they’ll admit even that).
And it is hard to look at the left of today, view their ideology and conclude they’ve learned a thing by its collapse. While they’ve certainly learned that it is unwise to use certain words or phrases when pushing their agenda (you won’t see “proletariat” or “bourgeoisie” tossed around by today’s lefty, but “middle class” and “[pick your favorite class to denigrate] elite” work along with “Big this” and “Big that”.
The truth in Daley’s point is to be found in reviewing how we’ve gotten to where we are today since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. We’re much less free economically and politically. The left continues to define the debate and the right continues to accept the framing. How can you have a real discussion about the failures of communism specifically and collectivism in general when you continue to allow the collectivists to frame the discussion? Naturally they’re going to pretend that nothing untoward happened with the demise of the USSR and Warsaw pact. Why would they?
I mean think of the irony – over 20 years after its collapse, the principles of socialism and its offspring communism continue to touted as “the answer” while the system that sharply defined the West until then and made it more successful by orders of magnitude – capitalism (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) – is under constant and sustained assault.
Talk about a world upside down.
James Q Wilson makes many of the same points that have been made here over the last few months concerning the argument about income inequality that the left has been trying to use as a reason to tax the rich even more than they’re taxed now. In sum, most of the left’s arguments rest in the premise that the economy is a zero sum game and that the income the “rich” are taking had to come from someone else’s slice.
That argument, much like the climate change debate, depends on a measure of ignorance among those they’re trying to influence.
In reality, income inequality is nothing to be concerned about when it meets certain conditions. Or, in other words, it isn’t a zero sum game and everyone has an opportunity to do better.
The first measure as we’ve noted before, is income mobility. Wilson:
The “rich” in America are not a monolithic, unchanging class. A study by Thomas A. Garrett, economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, found that less than half of people in the top 1 percent in 1996 were still there in 2005. Such mobility is hardly surprising: A business school student, for instance, may have little money and high debts, but nine years later he or she could be earning a big Wall Street salary and bonus.
Mobility is not limited to the top-earning households. A study by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that nearly half of the families in the lowest fifth of income earners in 2001 had moved up within six years. Over the same period, more than a third of those in the highest fifth of income-earners had moved down. Certainly, there are people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates who are ensconced in the top tier, but far more common are people who are rich for short periods.
In sum, you have both the top and bottom quintiles changing constantly as income earners move up or down fairly regularly. That means those moving up must be getting the opportunity to do so somewhere, and the fact that there is a change of about half in the period studied says many are succeeding.
Who are these people that get ahead? Well as Wilson mentions, a poor (I’m talking income here) student who graduates and gets a job in his or her field most likely won’t be poor in the sense of income very long. And that goes for most of the “rich”:
Affluent people, compared with poor ones, tend to have greater education and spouses who work full time. The past three decades have seen significant increases in real earnings for people with advanced degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that between 1979 and 2010, hourly wages for men and women with at least a college degree rose by 33 percent and 20 percent, respectively, while they fell for all people with less than a high school diploma — by 9 percent for women and 31 percent for men.
Also, households with two earners have seen their incomes rise. This trend is driven in part by women’s increasing workforce participation, which doubled from 1950 to 2005 and which began to place women in well-paid jobs by the early 1980s.
Preparation, delayed gratification and a work ethic. The old Puritan ideal. Amazing the staying power it has, no? That and adding a spouse with similar traits has a tendency to boost income to the household significantly. Yet for some reason, the left (who, btw, are all about workplace equality and equal pay) now want you be jealous of those accomplishments.
If, as the left would prefer, we should be concerned with income inequality and the mechanism that advances it, the solution is simple:
We could reduce income inequality by trying to curtail the financial returns of education and the number of women in the workforce — but who would want to do that?
Well certainly not the left, who doesn’t want the rich to go away. Instead it simply wants to make you hate them so they can justify taking more of their money. But Wilson’s point is spot on. This once was the key to the door of the American dream. Now it’s the key to a class of citizen who is vilified and called greedy and accused of not paying their “fair share”. If anyone is killing the American dream, it is the American left.
The tax on the rich is offered as a panacea to all that ails us. It will help pay down the debt and it will “level the playing” field. One assumes that means that it will somehow help the poor not be poor.
But Wilson points out, poverty in the US isn’t a function of the rich making a greater percentage of the national income. Poverty is a cultural problem that has nothing to do with the rich or taxing them:
The real income problem in this country is not a question of who is rich, but rather of who is poor. Among the bottom fifth of income earners, many people, especially men, stay there their whole lives. Low education and unwed motherhood only exacerbate poverty, which is particularly acute among racial minorities. Brookings Institution economist Scott Winship has argued that two-thirds of black children in America experience a level of poverty that only 6 percent of white children will ever see, calling it a “national tragedy.”
Making the poor more economically mobile has nothing to do with taxing the rich and everything to do with finding and implementing ways to encourage parental marriage, teach the poor marketable skills and induce them to join the legitimate workforce. It is easy to suppose that raising taxes on the rich would provide more money to help the poor. But the problem facing the poor is not too little money, but too few skills and opportunities to advance themselves.
Most of the lack of economic opportunity and dearth of skills comes not from the rich making too much, but those in that condition making poor choices early in their lives. Combine that with some of the less desirable cultural aspects of poverty and you end up with a fairly permanent underclass with little hope of advancing.
But that has nothing to do with the rich or how much they make. Problem? Yes. A product of income inequality. No.
And even then, poverty in this country is a relative thing:
Between 1970 and 2010, the net worth of American households more than doubled, as did the number of television sets and air-conditioning units per home. In his book “The Poverty of the Poverty Rate,” Nicholas Eberstadt shows that over the past 30 or so years, the percentage of low-income children in the United States who are underweight has gone down, the share of low-income households lacking complete plumbing facilities has declined, and the area of their homes adequately heated has gone up. The fraction of poor households with a telephone, a television set and a clothes dryer has risen sharply.
In other words, the country has become more prosperous, as measured not by income but by consumption: In constant dollars, consumption by people in the lowest quintile rose by more than 40 percent over the past four decades.
Income as measured by the federal government is not a reliable indicator of well-being, but consumption is. Though poverty is a problem, it has become less of one.
I always think of my mother when I read things like this. She was defined as “poor” after retirement and my father’s death. House paid for, cars paid for, and had more money in retirement (very large savings account) than she could spend, but when measured against the arbitrary income line, you’d have thought she was eating cat food and living in a cardboard box. She lived very well, but her “income” – all she received a year from Social Security – put her under the poverty line.
So Wilson’s point is correct – measuring consumption paints a completely different picture, and that picture says things are getting relatively better for the “poor” in this country even while the rich seem to be getting richer. Something about “lifting all boats” in there.
All of this is, simply, class war populism. President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “call it class warfare if you want.” Okay, I will. That’s precisely what it is. It is the demonization of a class designed to shift blame from one entity (in this case the Obama administration) to another (the rich) and blame them for all the problems now extant.
The fact remains that income inequality isn’t a problem. It is certainly not even a major problem. And for the most part, American’s reject the argument:
American views about inequality have not changed much in the past quarter-century. In their 2009 book “Class War? What Americans Really Think About Economic Inequality,” political scientists Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs report that big majorities, including poor people, agree that “it is ‘still possible’ to start out poor in this country, work hard, and become rich,” and reject the view that it is the government’s job to narrow the income gap. More recently, a December Gallup poll showed that 52 percent of Americans say inequality is “an acceptable part” of the nation’s economic system, compared with 45 percent who deemed it a “problem that needs to be fixed.” Similarly, 82 percent said economic growth is “extremely important” or “very important,” compared with 46 percent saying that reducing the gap between rich and poor is extremely or very important.
So why does the left continue to pursue it? Well, one of the reasons is, as mentioned, a need to blame someone else for the perceived failings of this administration. “It’s not our fault. If only the rich would pay their fair share. But the Republicans won’t allow it”.
The second, of course, is that left – champions of progressive taxation – see this as an opportunity to advance that ideal again. Wilson asks the pregnant question which you’ll never get the left to agree too:
But what is the morally fair way to determine tax rates — other than taxing everyone at the same rate?
The case for progressive tax rates is far from settled; just read Kip Hagopian’s recent essay in Policy Review, which makes a powerful argument against progressive taxation because it fails to take into account aptitude and work effort.
Those are traits that can never be made “equal”. Those are what propel some out of the lowest quintile and keep others in the highest quintile. Since you can’t make people work harder or increase their natural aptitude for work, the only way to make things “equal” is to do what?
Penalize those who excel.
That’s precisely what the progressive tax system does. In the case of this country, it then subsidizes those who don’t excel, thereby getting exactly what those subsides pay for – a permanent underclass, or at least the basis for one.
So, income inequality isn’t our problem. Poverty is. Or at least the American version of poverty. And taxing the rich won’t do a thing to solve that problem. Nope, the answer is much more complex and involved than that. That’s what the left doesn’t want to face. Because if it does, it is likely to find the root of the current problem of poverty in this country directly in programs leftists have touted for decades.
And we can’t have that, can we?
I’m stunned every now and then when I see a story like this. By the way this isn’t an indictment of Germany, necessarily, its not the only country in which you’ll find such knowledge gaps. Japan has hidden its atrocities during WWII as well. In fact, most countries would prefer not to discuss such behavior.
But it sure makes it hard to say “Never again” and have it mean anything if part of the population doesn’t know what it refers too.
One in five young Germans has no idea that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp, a poll released Wednesday showed, two days ahead of Holocaust memorial day.
Although 90 percent of those asked did know it was a concentration camp, the poll for Thursday’s edition of Stern news magazine revealed that Auschwitz meant nothing to 21 percent of 18-29 year olds.
And nearly a third of the 1,002 people questioned last Thursday and Friday for the poll were unaware that Auschwitz was in today’s Poland.
Maybe it’s not significant that 21% didn’t recognize a name that is so identified with concentration camps that it could be a synonym. Perhaps it is good enough that 90% of the total knew it was a concentration camp. Or does it signal that the shame and the knowledge of the shame brought to Germany by the Nazis is beginning to fade (of course my guess is if you asked the question of the same demographic here in the US, the percentage to which the name would mean nothing would probably be higher)?
Or, does it perhaps point to a demographic in which a portion is so self-absorbed that history like that represented by Auschwitz simply doesn’t register?
I wonder at times, as I watch the WWII era dim as veterans die off, whether things like D-Day and its import or Pearl Harbor will even get a mention in a few years.
But back to the poll. If ever there is something every German school kid should know about it is the Nazi era. If ever there was a subject to which they should be exposed, to include all of the atrocities by that regime, it is the subject of Germany and Nazism.
I can’t help but believe, and I don’t know it for sure, that the subject gets taught but it isn’t something that is lingered over by schools. And I wonder how sanitized it has become now days.
The fact that a fifth of the young demographic said the name “Auschwitz” had no meaning for them has thinking it is both short and sanitized when presented.
Wonder if they knew the name “Dachau” (10 mines northwest of Munich).
For the left, Paul Krugman has become a reliable flack, constantly pushing ideological themes with a veneer of “critical thinking” that simply crumbles upon examination.
His latest bit of nonsense, and I’m really at a loss at what else to call it, is his riff about “equal opportunity” and how disadvantaged Americans are in that regard. In fact, per Krugman, we’re a much more economically stratified and “class-bound” society than Europe and Canada:
And if you ask why America is more class-bound in practice than the rest of the Western world, a large part of the reason is that our government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity.
The failure starts early: in America, the holes in the social safety net mean that both low-income mothers and their children are all too likely to suffer from poor nutrition and receive inadequate health care. It continues once children reach school age, where they encounter a system in which the affluent send their kids to good, well-financed public schools or, if they choose, to private schools, while less-advantaged children get a far worse education.
Once they reach college age, those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to go to college — and vastly less likely to go to a top-tier school — than those luckier in their parentage. At the most selective, “Tier 1” schools, 74 percent of the entering class comes from the quarter of households that have the highest “socioeconomic status”; only 3 percent comes from the bottom quarter.
And if children from our society’s lower rungs do manage to make it into a good college, the lack of financial support makes them far more likely to drop out than the children of the affluent, even if they have as much or more native ability. One long-term study by the Department of Education found that students with high test scores but low-income parents were less likely to complete college than students with low scores but affluent parents — loosely speaking, that smart poor kids are less likely than dumb rich kids to get a degree.
Let’s start with his premise. HIs premise is it is the job of government to pick up those who’ve made bad choices, in the name of “equal opportunity”, and do what is necessary to “level the playing field”. As you might imagine, government is Krugman’s answer for all perceived wrongs.
Unlike the real world, in Krugman’s world there apparently should be no consequences for bad choices. There should, however, be consequences for good choices – those who have done what is necessary to have advantages in life should see their priorities for their money shifted, by government, to digging those who’ve made poor choices out of the holes they’ve put themselves in. Make no mistake about it – anything government does it has to do with money it takes from someone. Obviously we’re not talking about those who are the subject of Krugman’s lament – the “poor”. They shall receive.
You see, in the universe from which Paul Krugman comes, “equal opportunity” has to do with outcome. It is a total redefinition of the word “opportunity”, something for which the left is famous. Take a common term and redefine it by turning it on its head. Who isn’t for equal opportunity or fairness? But the left never means those terms as commonly accepted. In almost every case, it means government intrusion and penalizing those who are successful in the name of their redefined word or phrase.
In my world, government’s role in providing equal opportunity means that everyone is equal under the law, treated that way and thus has the same chance as any other person to get ahead through their own effort. While Krugman attempts to sell his ideas as “equal opportunity” ideas, they’re simply the usual leftist whine about unfairness and an appeal to have government do something about it at the expense of others. For Krugman it is unfair that those who make poor choices have to live with the consequences of those choices while those who make good choices, work hard and attempt to provide the best for the families they form should have an advantage. And he’s equally upset with businesses that cater too them, such as “Tier 1 schools”.
Never mentioned is the fact that the schools they are fleeing are public schools where, if anywhere, Krugman should be focusing his “equal opportunity” whine. It is there his underclass are poorly served by the very institution he claims can change their condition if only we’d take more from the advantaged.
Krugman attempts to sell the idea of permanent underclass in this country, but in reality income mobility remains high [pdf]:
• There is considerable income mobility of individuals in the U.S. economy over the 1996 through 2005 period. More than half of taxpayers (56 percent by one measure and 55 percent by another measure) moved to a different income quintile between 1996 and 2005. About half (58 percent by one measure and 45 percent by another measure) of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved to a higher income group by 2005.
• Median incomes of taxpayers in the sample increased by 24 percent after adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. Further, the median incomes of those initially in the lowest income groups increased more in percentage terms than the median incomes of those in the higher income groups. The median inflation-adjusted incomes of the taxpayers who were in the very highest income groups in 1996 declined by 2005.
• The composition of the very top income groups changes dramatically over time. Less than half (40 percent or 43 percent depending on the measure) of those in the top 1 percent in 1996 were still in the top 1 percent in 2005. Only about 25 percent of the individuals in the top 1/100th percent in 1996 remained in the top 1/100 th percent in 2005.
• The degree of relative income mobility among income groups over the 1996 to 2005 period is very similar to that over the prior decade (1987 to 1996). To the extent that increasing income inequality widened income gaps, this was offset by increased absolute income mobility so that relative income mobility has neither increased nor decreased over the past 20 years.
Or, in other words, we’re doing fine. Equal opportunity exists and those who make good choices seem to be taking advantage of it.
The fact that there is income mobility in all quintiles seems to speak of opportunities for all, and it is certainly evident that those in the bottom quintile have indeed had the opportunity to move up and have done so. And note the third bullet – even the top income groups show that sort of change.
There’s plenty of opportunity in this country – just listen to recent immigrants (legal ones) who make this country their home and are amazed by the opportunities they’ve been able to take advantage of to better their lives.
The entire Krugman piece, of course, is aimed at Mitt Romney specifically and the GOP in general. It all works toward this basic claim:
Think about it: someone who really wanted equal opportunity would be very concerned about the inequality of our current system. He would support more nutritional aid for low-income mothers-to-be and young children. He would try to improve the quality of public schools. He would support aid to low-income college students. And he would support what every other advanced country has, a universal health care system, so that nobody need worry about untreated illness or crushing medical bills.
Obviously you have to buy into his false premise to then buy into this litany of nonsense. What Krugman doesn’t realize is much of what he laments are problems caused by government or government intrusion as well as pure old falsehoods.
What would you rather have, Tier 1 schools for everyone, or the status quo in which government runs the majority of the schools and the results continue to get worse? Krugman’s answer: take more money from the advantaged and spend it trying to fix something we’ve been spending more money trying to fix for decades. Perhaps, instead of more government, equal opportunity requires less government and more private sector?
Not in Krugman’s world.
In that world government is always the answer, the disadvantaged are always disadvantaged because of those richer than them and equal opportunity simply means a different government run scheme for income redistribution.
Yeah, that’s worked out incredibly well to this point, hasn’t it Mr. Krugman?
It is an interesting 9 plus minutes because Carolla talks about something we’ve noted here any number of time. The entitlement mentality that has crept into the society. The belief that people are entitled to what others have, whether or not they’ve earned it or not. Carolla talks about the "participation trophy". He also mentions how reality deals with that and the result.
LANGUAGE WARNING – strong language
He pretty much nails what we’re seeing in the OWS protests. Interesting point about how shame is being used. Instead of being ashamed you haven’t accomplished what others have, those that are supposed to be ashamed are those that have accomplished things.
Just listen to the President, who, btw, is the first of that particular wave of “participation trophy” awardees to reach the highest office in the land.