Wednesday, August 27, 2008

He said, She said - A Tale of Two Views

I had a friend of mine (We'll call him Joe) email me an article that sparked a debate that shows the true differences between us Progressives and the empathetic Conservatives (I hope you detected sarcasm). My other friend (We'll call her Monica) got involved when I emailed her after Joe made a statement that finally put into words exactly how I felt.

I will now share with you this argument, in it's entirety for you to enjoy. I will begin with my response to the article Joe sent me regarding McCain's statment that $5 million is what he considers "rich."

The Argument:

From: Dan
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 1:40 PM
To: 'Joe'
Subject: RE: McCain's $5 Million dollar mistake.

Not bad. And I do think McCain was stupid to throw out that number. With $15,000 being the poverty line, $5 million is obviously WAY off on what would economically be considered 'rich.'

My personal opinion is someone making above $300,000 a year is rich. What's your opinion?

Progressive Response:

From: Joe
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 2:30 PM
To: 'Dan'
Subject: RE: McCain's $5 Million dollar mistake.

Without going in to too much detail, primarily because most of America is feeling the pinch right now, I think anyone that makes enough to never have to worry about getting the best bargain, is rich. There are many rich people that always look for the best bargain, but they don’t have to. I’m talking about people, families that have to find the best deals so that they can put food on the table. With that said, I actually think Obama had this one right; I think a family (4 members) that makes $250K doesn’t have to worry about such things.

One last note, we don’t truly know what poor is. There are hard working people in our own community that don’t make enough to feed their families, and they are still richer than 80% of the world.

We should all pay taxes and we should all stop trying to weasel our way out of it. I think we should have a tax system that gradually increases in percentage as the income grows and the deductions should be reduced to almost nothing. I believe the percentage should increase as the income grows because I love Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” We do have a responsibility to take care of each other; to ensure a future for those that follow behind us. The more you are given, the more you should give. As for tax deductions, get rid of them. If you want to have kids, fantastic-it’s your choice, but why should that be a tax deduction? If you want to give to your favorite charity, fantastic-it’s your choice, but why should that be a tax deduction? If the stock you invested in lost a bundle, I’m sorry-but it was your choice, but why should the government give you a tax deduction? Make it simple.

This is the part where I sent Joe's response to Monica as a testament to exactly how I felt.

Conservative Response: (Monica)

I totally agree with SOME of what he is saying tax-wise. That's why the Fair Tax works- it takes away all the credits and loopholes. Take some time to read about the Fair Tax. It's not a flat tax.

Seriously, I want you to understand why I so strongly disagree with you about these things. America was founded on the idea that the INDIVIDUAL, born to nothing, can make something of themselves in this country- whether they choose to or not is their CHOICE. There is strong incentive in the US to WORK and do well for yourself because there are REWARDS for that financially. That is what makes a strong economy and makes America a wonderful place to live. If you take that away- meaning tax people more for being successful, basically punishing them, you RUIN that. What is the point of educating yourself, being entrepreneurial, taking risks, starting companies, etc. if the gov't is just going to take it away from you? We ALL enjoy the lifestyle we have in this country b/c of capitalism and b/c of the "high achievers" that make more than 250K. I suggest reading up on what's happened in Cuba since it became a communist state. No one works- what's the point???

The top 1% of earners pay 40% of federal taxes collected (IRS data). Why is that not enough?

This country is full of complainers- it's "what can my country do for me?" time. They have cell phones, highlights, new cars, computers, the list goes on and then complain about $4.00 gas. The problem isn't the economy. The problem is people spending above their means and not saving. No one wants to take responsibility for themselves. They would, instead, rather look to the gov't to solve their "problems". These people used to be a small fraction of society, but no longer. Instead, we have a faction of people who can't make good financial decisions in their own lives that think they can elect a President to do it for them. Yes, those are the folks that should be deciding who the President is, right??? (NO)

Why should it be the gov'ts responsibility to decide when I make "enough"??? What is enough?? Why 250K, why not 150K, or just 50K?? can the gov't, or anyone else for that matter, decide when I make enough not to "worry" or " have to find a bargain"??? IT/ THEY SHOULDN'T.

And as for the poor/ disadvantaged you like to speak of. The Jones family has given over $5000 so far this year to charity. Not to mention what we give at church that goes to community outreach, food banks, etc. Don't think we're "stingy" conservatives!!! How about you?

I'd like to leave you with a few of my favorite quotes, b/c it's said far better than I could. And sorry, I believe that EVERYONE should take personal responsibility for themselves (unless a child or mentally/ physically disabled). Nothing will ever change my mind about that, therefore I will vote REPUBLICAN and we can agree to disagree.

"America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to 'the common good,' but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance -- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way." [Ayn Rand]

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage." Alexander Tyler on the fall of the Athenian empire.

And one more thing...
"the more you are given"??? As in, people who earn more than the "average" person didn't really have to "work" for it. I love it....
like those people owe a greater debt to society b/c they are successful? NO- they drive the same roads, are protected by the same military, etc.
Hey- how about instead- "those that earn less, have less"???? Otherwise, it's just socialism.

Progressive Response: Dan

Our government has created more wealth since its inception than all other countries combined in history. That was created due to an educated upper class society deciding to help out those less fortunate. The choices that were made for the good of society...not for the good of the ONE. This choice thing you keep bringing up isn't a valid argument to me because society creates circumstance and circumstance, in a lot of cases (such as you and I), creates wealth. Your children and my children will be better off than most in the entire country because of our place in society's middle to upper class.

Maybe if you or I were born into poverty with 10 brothers and sisters who's father had left we may have grown up differently. Sure each child still has a CHANCE to be great...but too many generations of poverty stricken people have not allowed EVERYONE to be great like you think. Some people have no choice. That's just the way it is and you can't ever tell me otherwise.

Let's also not forget another important fact...not everyone is as bright as everyone else. We have different brains...different levels of education... some are born gifted...some LEARN to be gifted. On the other hand...some people are born stupid...and yes, some LEARN to be stupid (generally because of poor parenting or a poor education system).

You give money to Charity? That's great, so do I. Does everyone? NO. How about most everyone? NO. Why? Usually, because they can't AFFORD IT. Most of the rich that I know only give the allotted amount that you can claim on your taxes. Sure that's great...but they are doing it for the wrong reasons. I'm certainly not saying you are because I know that isn't true. I just feel your fundamental argument has no merit because of my need for a capitalistic/socialistic environment instead of just plain capitalism.

Just don't pretend we're all equal and all have EQUAL chances in life. We aren't and we don't and we never will in our lifetime.

p.s. I love how the republicans are attacking Barack Obama's tax plan calling it the "welfare tax plan." Why are they calling it this? Because it gives tax breaks to the poor and the middle class INSTEAD OF THEM. I'm a member of the middle class who lives paycheck to paycheck because of the investments I put away for later + Salvation Army monthly donations.. I'd certainly like a better cushion than I have now and Obama's tax plan will provide that for me.

Also here is Joe's response below. One thing to keep in mind is that the total income of his family is likely less than $80K/yr. Makes yours and my donations seem pretty insignificant doesn't it? :-) My wife and I operate on less than $80K/year and it would kill us to give that much. Kudos to Joe and his family for making that sacrifice.

Progressive Response: Joe

With all that being said, we don’t have a FairTax system, and my previous comments regarding simplification were in regard to working within the parameters of our current system. I am for capitalism. If a person’s goal in life is to make money, let him, but not at the expense of someone whose goal in life is to serve society in a less lucrative career, such as law enforcement, teaching, or even retirement plan administration (HA). I do not favor communism or socialism; the less government interference, the better. But, we have to draw the line. The government does have a responsibility to serve all and do so for the greater societal good.

America was founded on the ideal that all men are created equal… liberty… blah, blah, blah, but truly we all know that not everyone has the same opportunities. How many times have you been “rewarded” for who you know? How many times have you been in the right place at the right time? I agree we have a problem with complacency in our country. I don’t however believe that complacency is the root of the problem. Somehow, a path that leads to self sufficiency needs to visible to people. Most people don’t see this. They look around and if they’re fortunate enough to see past the “projects” what they see is the “rich” getting richer. An infinitesimal percentage of poor children are recipients of “who you know” or “right place” opportunities. These comments are being made solely on economic status; there are countless others as it relates to race, religion, gender, etc…

No one should decide when anyone makes “enough.” It should be a personal choice. The inherent problem with that is that people won’t make that choice. All people have their problems and, in general, those that have money give a smaller percentage of that wealth to the benefit of society than do those that don’t have money. Even if Ted Turner gives a 60 million dollars to the UN, that’s only about 3% of his net worth. I know poor people that regularly give a much larger percentage to church and charities, frequently. Does Ted’s gift make a difference? Absolutely. Would more be used for the good of society if his wealth was divided amongst more people? I don’t know, for sure. Not every one would be a good steward of that kind of money, and there are many rich people who fit these criteria. My point in this segment is, the government’s obligation is to set the bar. I believe the bar can be set such that a capitalistic minded individual with the opportunity can pay a gradually larger percentage of what it takes to run the government and still live comfortably and/or luxuriously. And at the same time provide less of a burden on those who, in general, haven’t been afforded the opportunities or who aren’t capitalistically minded.

I know very little of Ayn Rand, of which you quote. I do know that she cared very little about reaching out to those less fortunate and she opposed government aid. As a result, I would not expect a quote by her to support my primary reason for everything I’ve said above. How about reading Luke 18:18-25 to see what Jesus has to say about it? Give, and give till it hurts, which I believe is completely contrary to Rand’s point of view.

By the way, I don’t know how much $5K means to your family, but my family has given more than $6K during this calendar year, not to mention our non-monetary commitments of time and other resources.

As for the quote by Alexander Tyler, he name was actually made by Lord Woodhouselee, Alexander Fraser Tytler, and there is no record of The Fall of the Athenian Empire. See It states, “In no case was text identified that was remotely similar in words or intent to the alleged Tyler quote.” But to the point that you agree with the statement, OK, but I believe that we, all of civilization, have the power to break such a mold, if we chose to take care of each other.

So, have we solved a problem? Probably not, but please poke holes in my logic. My goal is not to prove anyone wrong but to find out how we can improve each other.

Conservative Response: Monica

Yeah, all that "society" crap is just that- crap. Tell that to any poor kid who MADE HIMSELF into a billionaire.

As I stated before, the "richest" people in this country pay the VAST majority of all taxes. The "middle class" pay very little tax- so Obama pandering to those financial dimwits, well, they don't pay anything ANYWAY, so giving them a break is really quite redundant. It shouldn't be up to the gov't whether or not people have "given" enough or make enough and at the end of day, if you believe in the redistribution of wealth, you are a SOCIALIST.

I also failed to mention what SBG gives to charity, so if we're counting dollar for dollar.....shall I mention my hours as a Guardian Ad Litem, too? Please....
I will not address how much I earn.That's b/t me and the IRS (unfortunately). I have taken advantage of opportunities I earned, taken risks, spent many years in higher education and I DESERVE what I earn. I am not a schoolteacher, a firefighter BECAUSE I know what they EARN and I want to earn more. If you choose to be one of those, then that is your CHOICE- live with it. I sell insurance. Why? Because it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside? NO- because it affords me the lifestyle I want to lead. MY CHOICE. I think that is what Rand is saying- YOUR MONEY, YOUR CHOICE.

The gov't should have ONE function and that is to keep me safe/ keep the Russians (well, the Taliban) from invading. It is NOT to take my money and give it to someone else. Oh, yeah, let's divide Ted Turner's wealth amongst the people. What would you do with your DOLLAR???
Obama- all I'll say is that to win, he has to get the least common denominator to vote for him- all those on welfare, all those slackers making minimum wage b/c they WOULDN'T go to college, all those having kids they can't afford. He has to get those people to come vote for him to win. Yeah, that's NOT the boat I want to be in. I expect more of myself. I have more respect for myself. So, by assuring his "followers" he will take more from the rich and give it to them- that IS a welfare state.

You can't say "I'm for less gov't" - oh, unless it applies to me. Those people with more money than me, that's who I mean!! Nope, doesn't work that way.
Society is filled with people that believe they are owed something, or people that believe the RICH owe someone something. There is absolutely no accountability.

So, you either believe that the gov't has the right to take your money and give it to someone else, or you don't. I DON'T. So, I don't think we'll "solve" anything.

I am not a socialist. I believe in the right to accumulate as much wealth as you want and to spend it as you like. I believe in a free market and free society.
My grandfather said the best days of this country are behind us. I used to not believe that. Now I do. There are too many people with their hand out, too many wanting to "punish" those doing better than themselves. How sad and GREEDY.

I've enjoyed reading Joe's writing. I'm not sure who he is but he's very eloquent. I agree with him that people can and should do more for those that have less. That is the Christian way. However, it's not a gov'ts job to make sure they do.

A quote I can substantiate-
"In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, 'Make us your slaves, but feed us.'" [Dosteovsky's 'Grand Inquisitor']- maybe the mantra for the Democratic party????

Progressive Response: Dan

It's really sad the things you say Monica. You certainly didn't used to be like this. I can only think that you making decent money (what Obama would consider rich, not McCain) caused the view you have...I certainly hope money never does that to me. If me not minding helping the less fortunate through government means makes me a socialist, then so be it.

This government was created for the people, by the people. The statue of Liberty says to "bring us your tired, your poor." It's really sad that at least 26% of America (those that still approve of Bush) have lost their way in all respects of helping those less fortunate...and yes even the lazy few who keep their hands out when they should not.

Progressive Response: Joe

Obviously, we are on different pages, maybe even different books. But I think, at least, we’re in the same library. Clearly we are not going to see eye to eye. As such, I would like to take but one of your statements for comment: “I am not a schoolteacher, a firefighter BECAUSE I know what they EARN and I want to earn more. If you choose to be one of those, then that is your CHOICE- live with it. I sell insurance. Why? Because it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside? NO- because it affords me the lifestyle I want to lead. MY CHOICE.”

I made a similar choice as you did when I was in school. I wanted a career that would provide financial security; not leave me short on cash. Fortunately, I believe I have come to respect these less lucrative positions, all the more, since making my career decision. I want to live a modest life, without worry if I will be able to make a critical financial decision such as, to feed my family or fix my car, so that I can get to work to feed my family… Consequently, I think for a strong society that supports itself, including insurance sales, we need school teachers, firefighters, other public service industries, even garbage collectors. Particularly, as it relates to teachers, directly affecting our children, influencing the future, don’t you want the best qualified individuals. Do you really think that you deserve more money selling insurance than the best teacher that you had in school? Do we not have a responsibility to ensure that these professions receive the right people for the job? I know now that I could not excel in those industries because it takes a special gift to do extremely well.

Mathematically speaking a personal making $100K a year could be taxed 50% and still take home 36% more than a person making $25K at 28% tax rate. We don’t have a 50% tax rate. I used this just for absurdity purposes. Let’s just agree that you do work hard and deserve every penny. Let’s look at the “rich” in general. I don’t know the statistics, but my guess is that most people who have such incomes, don’t actually earn it, but they inherit or sponge off dad. So I’m not only talking about the Ted Turners, but so many more. So, it’s easy to say the poor of the world are slackers and don’t earn what they should because they don’t work for it. I say, there are so many that “earn” much, much more than they deserve that putting their money to better use could encourage people and actually allow the government to help, train, free them from poverty.

Do I wish for less government? Absolutely. But there are so many people that abuse their wealth that if it wasn’t for the government doing something that our country would turn into one such as Haiti or Cuba, where there are only two economic classes: a country where 1% of the population has 99% of the wealth.

In case Jesus’ command to give, in the Luke passage I used before, doesn’t resonate, consider Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” We’re here for each other.

--------------- End Argument


As you can see there are vast differences between the core thought process of a Progressive and the core thought process of a Conservative. While I am obviously in the Progressive camp it doesn't mean that I cannot share with you the values of a conservative.

If you agree with the Conservative side of the argument then that is your right. After all, we are a free nation, not because of Democrats, Republicans, Progressives or Conservatives, but because of the American spirit that embodies everyone and everything around us.

I would love to hear your thoughts and/or continuation of the argument.


TheNightFly said...

A few years ago, when I had a job earning $33k/year, I would have sided with Joe. Ironically, I'm earning well below poverty today but, I will happily side with Monica. What changed? Well, I've learned alot about economics and government and taxation over the years and I've come to realize that it is by design that our economy fails to provide us with the opportunities that a truly free capitalist market would provide.

First of all, we don't have a free market. Most economists would call what we have a "mixed" market but I would call that a serious understatement. It's so heavily regulated that it's more like a command economy. The top ten largest companies and their subsidiaries sell 80% of all goods and services. Competition is so low that companies routinely collude to maximize prices and minimize consumer purchasing power. That's why we only have three video game consoles on the market instead of thirty, and each is positioned comfortably in it's own personal niche. Gee, what a coincidence! [/sarcasm]

Second, we don't have a democracy, we have a republic. It's true that we elect representatives into Congress and they then vote on legislation in a democratic mannor but, that's still not a democracy. A real democracy requires that the people participate directly in the legislative process. Of course that's impractical for various reasons so, to maintain the balance of power- to keep the government in check, it is necessary for the people to be able to withold their financial support from government if and when our elected officials fail to do their jobs of protecting our rights, protecting our property, and protecting our borders.

Income taxes completely underminds the balance of power between the people and their elected officials. As long as the government has the power to take however much of our money they want without our permission or approval, they could care less about our rights or our opinions. That's why Congress is so full of money and crooks. It's also why we will NEVER be fully compensated for every dollar that is taxed (extorted) from us.

"More jobs", "better wages", "lower prices" are populare campaign promises, especially for democratic candidates. But the only way they can deliver on those promises once they take office is to support big business- patents, tax breaks and bailouts. What they'll never admit to is that they are also destroying small business in the process. It's just another plus for them though because it keeps us all employed rather than selfemployed. It's simply easier to garnish the wages and salaries of hundreds of millions of employees through a handfull of umbralla employers than it is to haggle with hundreds of millions of independant sole proprietors.

And we're back to square one. The main reason I support the Fair tax is because it will break this cycle of tax, spend, regulation, and abuse by government. The people will finally have some leverage over Congress again and of course that frightens and upsets all the crooks who don't want to loose their source of power and wealth. With the elimination of the income tax system, Congress will no longer favor big businesses over small businesses. In fact, it will be the reverse. Under the Fair tax, Congress will favor more mom and pop shops in order to expand the tax base. They even decide to repeal the patent system, or just the exclusive production rights that come with it, thereby allowing anyone to make money producing/reproducing anything. That is the hallmark of a truly free market.

RedWing-SM- said...

nightfly, thanks for posting. Unfortunately, the Fair Tax is not really the meat of the argument here. I believe Monica was using it as a point/counter-point to her argument on why those less fortunate do not deserve any "free handouts." There are parts of the Fair Tax that everyone should agree with, but that isn't the point being made in this argument. Are you sure you read the whole thing? :)

TheNightFly said...

I did read the whole thing. I think Joe's support of welfare and social saftey nets is a normal response to an abnormal economy while the principles and ideals that Monica expressed is how our economy should operate but doesn't. Both of them, however, seem to be under the impression that what we have is normal capitalism when it isn't- not even close- and that, I think, is the source of their conflict.

grey fedora said...

No matter what the philosophy, whether its socialism, free market capitalism, or some form of religious fundamentalism, the minute you decide to live your life by a single philosophy, to the exclusion of all others, you put on the blinders. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
To the conservatives who extol the virtues of the free market, I would ask: Why doesn't Wal-Mart sell crack cocaine? From a strict capitalist viewpoint, it makes perfect sense. Crack is a very lucrative product, high in demand, and guaranteed repeat customers.
But we, as a society, have deemed that crack destroys lives, families, and neighborhoods, so we have made it illegal.
While it is true that entrepreneurs create wealth, and raise society as a whole by providing jobs, scientific progress, etc, they are not the angelic captains of industry portrayed by Ayn Rand, capitalism needs to be regulated, controlled or it will destroy itself.
Monica leaves us with a quote about the republic lasting only until the populace votes un-earned benefits from the public treasure. This same argument can be made about the rich and powerful too.

TheNightFly said...

With freedom comes responsibility but, also the right to suffer from the natural consiquences of irresponsibility. People can't handle the natural consiquences of irresponsible behavior so we've rejected freedom by making it illegal to be irresponsible, as if the natural consiquences aren't bad enough.

I agree that capitalism needs to be regulated, but not controled. The reason WallMart can't sell crack is because we as a society have lost touch with the meaning of freedom. We've refused to accept the risk of irresponsibility that comes with freedom. So, we've traded our liberties for protection (prohibition). That's not a flaw of capitalism, it has nothing to do with capitalism.

Grey Fedora said...

"With freedom comes responsibility but, also the right to suffer from the natural consiquences of irresponsibility."

True, but the consequences of irresponsibility affect more than just the person making the choice. As with my Wal-Mart/Crack argument, it would be one thing if crack destroyed only the user, but it also destroys the users family, and his neighborhood. So we have decided that the choice to smoke crack should be taken from the individual.
I just had a discussion with a Republican relative about the housing meltdown. SHe maintained that the people are in trouble with their mortgages have only themselves to blame, it was their poor choice getting into the loans they did. It was like she was channeling Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life." I was expecting the "What does it get you? A lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class!"
Fair enough, but if we had banking regulations against making these risky loans, (Like we used to have, ever since the Great Depression) the housing and credit industry wouldn't be going through this present meltdown, and the "lazy rabble" who took out these risky loans would have been guided into being the "thrifty working class" Mr. Potter was so fond of.