Overvalued: Oh oligarchy, oh obligations!
Hang on, kiddies. Here we go an yet another rambling, non-cohesive post that travels all over hill and dell and even has a little Octomom thrown in for good measure, if you read all the way to the end…
For three decades, the United States has seen the movement of wealth from the bottom to the top. Thus, this question has to be asked: Is this a good thing?
Not surprisingly, I’m sure most of the wealthy would answer, “Oh yeah. So good. Oh yeah, that’s it. Don’t stop. Uh huh, uh huh.”
That’s just ducky for them!
Those giving up the wealth, however, might not be that eager to agree.
In my humble opinion, though, the question, “Is this a good thing?” needs to be couched in a broader context. To properly answer a question like that, I suggest that we must consider it on a societal level, not on a per individual basis.
What good is accomplished by shifting wealth from the many to the few? Does it make America stronger? Does it create more jobs? Does it reduce the crime rate? Does it lessen the amount of pain and suffering? Does it put more food in the bellies of undernourished children? Does it improve or hurt the standard of living for the most members of our society?
Wikipedia says an oligarchy is “a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, corporate, or military control.” I suggest that the last three decades have decidedly moved us in that direction.
Even with the last three decades under our belt there is still much debate about the tax rates paid by the wealthy. Earlier today on CBS Sunday Morning I saw someone claiming that multimillionaires in the United States pay about 17% percent in taxes. Down near the bottom of the barrel, I make a few bucks an hour more than minimum wage and can barely afford a new pair of sneakers. Yet my tax rate is double than that. How can that be? How can my rate be double compared to people who own mansions, boats and multiple cars just for fun? That is fucked up.
How about we say, “Fuck higher tax rates for the wealthy? How about they simply pay that same rate as those who have much less wealth?”
So the debate rages on. Those on the right say we need to cut government spending (but hold steady or increase defense) while reducing taxes on the wealthiest among us as a way to reduce the deficit. Those on the left say than an increase in the tax rate on the wealthy is needed.
In the past the top marginal tax rate on the wealthy was high, at or above 90% in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. But it has declined ever since. By the time of Nixon it was down to 70%. Under Reagan it dropped to about 50%. The George W. Bush tax cuts kept it around 35%.
The results of the last 30 years are now known. The rich are richer and the poor are poorer. Is this a good thing? I think the results speak for themselves. The U.S. unemployment rate is too damn high. Too many American jobs have been outsourced. We’ve had the recession, the mortgage crisis, and the bailouts. And the debt is out of control. Things are clearly not working as they should.
I don’t know a lot about money. I find economics too abstract and confusing beyond a very simple level. When I was in the first or second grade, I remember wanting a book called “Money.” My teacher told me if I read enough books I’d earn the book I wanted. I read those books, and I remember winning my prize. Unfortunately, I no longer remember what was in it.
What I know about money is that it is paper. Beyond our belief that it has value, money is basically meaningless. I’m reasonably certain, however, if you give me $4 U.S. dollars, there is a very high probability I can take those four pieces of paper to my nearby Carl’s Jr. and trade them for a delicious turkey hamburger. That is, if they are dumb enough, like me, to believe those pieces of paper have actual value. They will agree to that trade, and give me the hamburger, if they expect to trade the pieces of paper for something they want, and so on and so forth.
I’ve heard that money used to be backed by gold, something known as the gold standard. But I’ve heard that money is no longer backed by gold. I know that a dollar bill used to say “United States Note” but now it says “Federal Reserve Notes” but I’m too fucking stupid to know what that really means. I’ve been told that means each dollar bill I receive is actually a debt (or liability) that I now owe to the Federal Reserve. I think. But I don’t even really know what that means. One of my favorite movies is Zeitgeist and a portion of the film is dedicated to this sort of thing. They sure make it sound ominous as shit, and I feel bad I don’t really know what it all means.
It’s a lot like The Debt. I know, as a country, that we have debt. And I know it is large. I’m not economist, but I know what happens when people have too much debt. They declare bankruptcy and the creditors generally take it on the chin. I can’t help but wonder: What will happen if our country does that, too? It seems to me that if you have a system that is unsustainable, eventually it will fail.
Will we all have to speak a foreign language? Will we be herded into camps? Will there be war on United States soil? Perhaps Americans will be the latest people to work for a few dollars a day while people in other countries specialize in drinking Starbucks and buying expensive toys? Maybe the United States will someday become the trendy country to outsource jobs? At this point, there is probably literally nothing that would surprise me. Let’s just say that these are confusing times and I, for one, am glad to be on the backside of 30. I’m not so sure I want to hear how the story ends.
I do know this: I’ve worked all of my life since the day I was 16. During that time, I have been forced, by the terrible power of government, to pay, against my will, into a program known as Social Security. My understanding of this program is that I pay in to help other people retire, and on the day I retire, the program will automatically end and I’ll get absolutely nothing back. When that happens, I will feel … irritated. To say the least. My situation will no doubt be bone-chilling compared to someone like Ida May Fuller, the first ever recipient of a Social Security check back on January 31, 1940. She shrewdly paid $24.75 into the system but took back out $22,888.92 in monthly benefits. Now that is one whopper of an investment!
In other news, for all you sadistic get-to-the-bottom readers out there…
Octomom. Gone but not forgotten. At least by me, and certainly not on the day of the “O” post. What’s she been up to?
By the way, did you know she had six children before giving birth to octuplets? Words fail me. That’s a lot of poop!
Anywho, I hear that Octmom is facing the possibility of being evicted from her $585,000 California home. Apparently she needs money. A couple of web sites have reported that she’s considering using a dating service that will pay her $5,000 t0 $10,000 for each “first date” that she goes on.
So listen up, people! If you’ve been saving up your money for a rainy day, this could be it. Blow it all on a first date with a woman who has 14 children.
I can see the personal ad now. “Must love octoforms.”
This is my “O” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”
I’m crashing the tea party
I have decided to become a self-appointed “junior member” of the tea party movement.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are many areas where I differ with some of the movement’s main themes. But my understanding is that the movement is “grass roots” (in spite of some corporate sponsors), still doesn’t have an official leadership structure, and that localized parts of the movement are free to support their own priorities. Members are defining the terms of their own involvement in the movement.
I’m taking that same initiative. I am now a “tea party patriot.”
I should point out that I represent the citizens of the abyss, population one, where I now hold the position of tea party president. Unlike other elements of the national movement, however, I will not be doing things like starting a web site, selling merchandise for profit (buttons, tshirts and bumper stickers) and developing my own flag. The national flag of the United States works just fine for me, thank you.
I’ll begin by enumerating my concerns as I see them:
- The federal government employs about two million people (not including the postal service.) Source.
- The number of federal employees could grow to 2.15 million people in 2010. Source.
- “Federal employees earn an average annual compensation of $106,871, including pay and benefits, compared to just $53,288 in the private sector.” Source.
Now the areas where I differ with the rest of the tea party movement:
- I don’t think this is all about Obama.
- I agree that dissent is patriotic, but I also believed it during the Bush administration.
- The first TARP happened under Bush. (Yes, I know Obama also supported it.)
- I don’t blame everything on liberals. 82% of our national debt was spent by Republicans. Source.
I have seen pictures of some of the hateful signs that have been displayed at tea party tax day protests. For my slogan, though, I wanted something edgier:
Let’s work together in good faith to make America the best it can be.
Now, when will someone show up to teach me the secret tea party handshake? 🙂