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Saturday, February 8, 2014

America the leaky life-boat

Insanely high marginal tax rates are a disincentive. They cause the wealthy to seek methods or avenues to avoid being punished for their own success. The United States has in the past had marginal rates as high as 94%! Whether you term these rates punishment or disincentive, either way they discourage further output/effort/work once these near-total confiscatory brackets have been reached. If you think of the government as a parasite, then for the very rich it's almost as though they had a government-tapeworm—Uncle Worm?—that was so big it blocked off 94% of their intestine.

Metaphors are useful shortcuts to help describe a concept which would otherwise be difficult to put into words. Those with only a modicum of common sense nevertheless usually understand that creating disincentives to engaging in certain behaviors, tends to reduce engaging in those behaviors. It seems to be self-evident—to me at least—that if I could earn more money by not working, than I could by working, then I would almost certainly choose to not work.

Let me eliminate the obligatory preliminary objections at this point. Yes, it's true...people on unemployment are not exactly living high on the hog. They're making less than they did when they were actively employed. However, even though this is the case, they may still not be able to find a job that pays significantly more than their unemployment benefits. A family on unemployment receiving only 50 or 65% percent of their former $200,000 income may well have to subsist for 99 weeks on a mere $130,000.00! As you can see, because unemployment is based on what you used to make, not what you can make, there's a certain type of person—perhaps existing in their millions—that will happily beat that dead horse until it turns into Maggot Mountain.

Do you think it's fair or unfair to describe unemployment benefits as being paid not to work? The answer to that question goes a long way towards indicating whether you are a conservative or a liberal. Do you believe that people are masters of their own destiny or victims of fate? If an excuse is always your answer to failure, you might be a liberal.

We Americans are all living in this leaky life-boat together. There's a bunch of people paddling. There's a bunch of people bailing. There's a bunch of people who're making sure the paddlers keep paddling and the bailers keep bailing—and making up new rules all the time about the proper methods whereby each task must be accomplished. Finally there's a bunch of people—about 47% who're just sitting there, not doing anything. Some of these are too old. Some are too infirm. Some of them were treated badly back before the cruise ship sank. Some of them are from other life-boats and they didn't like the less than optimal conditions on those other life-boats, so they swam over to the only one that seems to be making any headway.

Metaphors are useful but they always lack that certain something. How about a little reality? There is this video I saw today on, that really gets to the heart of this idea. These two guys are—I kid you not—debating about whether it's a good or bad thing for a person to decide whether-or-not they will live off the sweat and labor of someone else. To be a parasite or not to be...that is the question?

Can you imagine it? The left is arguing that it's great that people have the option to jump on the back of the hard working and just ride them wherever they feel like going. A parable must be mentioned! Going the second mile. I encourage you to read the entire text of Jesus's third way by Walter Wink. It is an exegesis of the Bible that is compelling and provoking. If you thought of Jesus as a pacifist then you need to re-read his words in the context in which they were uttered.

I should work more hours so that somebody else can sit at home resting? This is not just redistribution, this is slavery! I want a nice life for my wife and children, but apparently that "nice" life comes at a premium. I have to subsidize the exiguous yet indolent lifestyle of a multitude of families before I can purchase a bowl of gruel for my own children?

Now is the time when I tell you something surprising. I've told several people this fact and watched as their faces rapidly displayed a variety of expressions. The most prevalent was disbelief. We are all so used to lies. So many people tell lies—as a matter of policy apparently—that our first instinct is to immediately disbelieve. Here it is: I work 75 to 80 hours per week. Now, when I say that. I don't mean that I'm at home working. I don't mean that I'm driving long miles in my car on the clock. What I mean—in unequivocal terms—is that I clock-in on Monday at 7:00 AM and I clock-out at 7:00 PM. The same is true on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Sunday I get a break. I only work a half day.

Let's not talk about choices. Those of us who work for a living really have very few choices. We work because we have no choice. If working was really what we wanted to do, all along, they probably wouldn't pay us to do it. Let's instead talk about audacity. The question of the moment is how dare they?

Christ Hayes of MSNBC pigeon-holes the debate as this: Liberals want to allow people the choice to work fewer hours—via redistribution—while the mean heartless conservatives want everyone to have to work full-time—perhaps even ... gasp! more than full-time!

Because I work 75 to 80 hours per week to support my family of six in a nice neighborhood with good schools, because I want more for my children than a mediocre high-school diploma, because I dream of one day retiring at the age of sixty-five or seventy, and because the accomplishment of all the foregoing requires not just hard work but long, long hours ... does any of that ... give my opinion any weight or substance at all? Do I have standing to argue my own case? Is it fair that I work twice as much as some people and that other people live almost as comfortably as I do and they don't work a single minute? And this absurd fact is made possible for the sole reason that twenty-five to thirty percent of my paycheck is siphoned off-the-top to allow them their indolent choice? Should these people actually be allowed to have the choice to make people like me be their slaves? How dare they!

The contempt I feel towards the left is a sentiment that is ineffable and infinite. The desire I feel to curse and scream and—I must admit—do extreme violence—is almost ineluctable. Is this some kind of nightmare? Is it a joke? Are they serious? 2.3 million more unemployed living off my eighty-hours-per-week sweat and toil is a choice?

As a discouraged and pissed-off Tiny Tim might well scream... God damn them, every one!

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