Friday, February 6, 2009

Two Weeks and Wealth Envy

The First Two Weeks of Obama

"Change We Can Believe In" was an effective slogan. So was the the line from the 80's commercial that asked"Where's the Beef? " (Bonus points if you can name the politician who used it). And where President Obama is concerned, he's not putting out.

Many of the accusations over the last eight years have been the standard ones: Corruption, incompetence, etc. So let's look at what we've seen over the first two weeks of the new administration:

(I'm leaving out the social issues and GITMO, which he did deliver on for his base. There was change there, but the kind we expect of any politician.)

Three nominees who have pulled shit with their taxes, two of which have pulled out.

One of his "changes" was to get rid of the influence of lobbysts. So he hired some lobbyists.

And finally, the obscenity that is Porkulous, which was started under Bush in the form of the Dastardly Bastardly Bailout.

It's early, and the administration has yet to face it's first defining moment, so it's still possible we could "hope" to see Obama "change" DC. More to come.

Wealth Envy is Still Envy

There's a reason envy got billing as one of the seven deadly sins. It's a cancer of the mind. It eats the soul. And it poisons the heart. It comes from a desire to see others suffer as you perceive you suffer. It's driven by the desire to tear down, not to build; to destroy, not to create; to kill, not to give birth.

And yet, when it's applied to the wealthy, it's a liberal Democrat vote-getting slogan.

I'll spare my liberal bloggers the pleasure of being quoted and mocked for their predictable and tired diatribes of how the "rich" are screwing everyone. Suffice it to say, an example is in order. Now for clarification, this example is based on a world where laws are not written to manipulate, nor is there illegal activity. Those two things are problems involving government and must be dealt with there.

The question at the end will be thus: Has each brother earned what he has, or should the money be taken and distributed by another man's definition of "fair?"

Three brothers work in a business together making shoes. The first brother is a bookkeeper and manager, and specializes in getting materials cheap. The second works the factory floor, and leads in the production. And the third runs the retail store, selling the shoes. And all three do their job well and are compensated.

The first, being shrewd with finances, invests heavily, earning a good return on his money. The second remembers the old days when the market crashes, and sticks to a combination of savings accounts and his mattress. And the third, being popular with the ladies, buys nice cars and scores regularly.

The brothers, being brothers, fought vociferously, but as all prospered and lived as they chose, all was well. Then hard times came upon the land. Changing tastes, a shrinking customer base, and an opportunity to get out before the bottom fell out forced the brothers to close and sell the factory. This bred some anger among them, which led to silence amongst them over the following years.

The first brother, with his share, moved on to another company where he continued to grow his wealth. The second, having enough to invest in tools and the knowledge of shoemaking, opened a shoe repair shop (I know, but go with me on this) and, while he was not wealthy like his brother, lived a decent life. But the third, having nothing saved, and facing an economy, was forced to find work where he could. But without the facade of the shoe business, he was shown to be lackluster at selling at best. So he mostly lived off the money from the sale of the shoe business until it too was gone.

Then the third brother went to the second brother for a job, or for money. And the third brother said, "I have no money available but for what I have invested in this business. And the business does not justify a second person working. I am often idle, myself. And while I live well enough, to give you a portion of my money would mean I would be poor. You chose this, I did not."

Then the third brother went to the first brother, and seeing he was quite well off and not wanting to be subordinate to his brother, sought only money. The first brother was incensed in his response, "You are a squanderer of money. When we were all prosperous, your brother an I grew our wealth. But you chose to spend every penny you earned to entice women with large breasts, creamy thighs, and expensive tastes. And even when the money became finite, you chose to continue this until you were at the end of your money. I would not waste a nickel in this bottomless well."

The third brother stewed in his anger, wondering, 'Why will he not share the wealth he does not need?' But being unable to meet his own needs, he went to his representative in government and explained the situation. "I have two brothers. One lives a humble life, ans one lives an extravagant one, while I live in squalor. It is not fair that we all received the same salary and are now so unequal. Can you pass a law to make us equal?"

The politician, being shrewd, realized that if one brother could ask this from government, then all could. And the law was passed, the first brother lost some of his wealth, the second lost a little, and the third was propped up enough that he could subsist.

So, has each brother earned what he has, or should the money be taken and distributed by another man's definition of "fair?"

In the end, the choice is clear. While charity is a virtue, it is not the role of government to take money from our brothers and sisters to support our other brothers and sisters. And it is simply not right. And the principle does not change, no matter the number of zeroes, because we still possess the freedom to choose.


Gayle said...

My husband and I give to charities of our own choosing. The thought of the government taking our money that we worked long and hard for and doing the choosing for us makes my blood boil!

Your analogy here is excellent, Patrick. I don't know where the Democrats get off. As of late it's becoming exceedingly clear that many of them are so cheap they don't even pay their taxes.

TAO said...

Nice story Patrick...

I believe they are called fairy tales.

Now, your story misses one main part and that is why their is a difference between conservatives and liberals and thats called reality.

Reality is the third brother spent all his money and that stimulated the economy and caused the investments of the first brother to be successful. Companies do not grow unless there is demand and purchases for their products. We seem to forget what makes investments so profitable.

Then if hard work is what we value then why do we take hard work income more than we tax investment income? A person who spends more than he should, a stupid person, is not allowed to write off his stupidity but a person who loses money on a stupid investment is allowed to write off his losses from his stupidty.

We have spent 20 years following the idea that people with money need lower taxes than people who spend their money because people with money create jobs and economic growth.

So, now we sit here after 20 years of this harebrained logic and we have what to show for it? Less jobs than in 1976 (as a percentage of employable folks) That stock market is slowly working its way back to the 70's as is everything else.

So, the path of the great white hope, Mr. Ronald Reagan, wasn't the right one....and after 2 weeks we want to start attacking the democrats again....

Just because Republicans gave you lower taxes doesn't mean you have more money lets not forget that we still owe the government $184,000 for every man woman and child in the USA...

Now, I know you will follow up with your "I am for flat tax reform" which is great...but you also fall trap to the mentality that it is the evil democrats that caused all the problems we face today when the reality is quite different....

The poor might envy the rich and want to share the wealth...but the rich believe that no one but them is entitled to anything....

Then they want to whine when they lose money and expect tax breaks to make it up.

Its like an employee I had once who wanted our health insurance to pay for her breast reduction surgery so that she could enjoy an improved quality of life....

I told her that if our plan did that then I would have to pay for breast implants for women who believed that bigger breasts would allow them to enjoy an improved quality of life...

Someplace along the line we have to find a balance and quit flirting with the extremes....there are cliffs on both sides and we have just fell down off the cliff of 20 years of subsidizing the wealthy...

Toad734 said...

So the third brother was the Bush Administration right?

Again, you think lazy black people on welfare are making your taxes high but that isn't the case. Rich white, incompetent, leaching people/corporations are making your taxes high along with the cost of our military empire...Wait, you don't pay taxes, I do. You have nothing to bitch about. How about we move on.

Toad734 said...


But you are ok when they hand your money to Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, Egypt,Iraq, Lockheed Martin, Exxon, ADM, Citigroup, AIG, Corn Farmers, Tobacco farmers, Sugar farmers, etc.??

Toad734 said...


And lets not forget that those tax cuts increased the national debt, which decreased the value of the dollar which increased the cost of oil and imports and still came out of our pockets anyway but instead of the Government ending up with it Exxon did and they are hording, not putting it back into the economy.

Toad734 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arthurstone said...

What would Joe the Plumber do?

I think that's a key question.

TAO said...


That is why that at the end of the day it is just easier to:

Blame the democrats, blame the poor, point to government and demand lower taxes.....and comment that you know how to spend your money better than the government does...

Never noticing that while the government may be giving you your money to spend they have really sucked A CITIZEN that isn't even born yet dry....

OMG! That is the real relationship between social conservatives and conservatives! They want abortion to be banned so that their will be more future citizens to suck that that way you can deficit spend to your hearts content.

Or,...Increase our population and it lowers the cost of the deficit on a per person basis...

Brillant! :)

Toad734 said...

But then they are against immigration and health care for those extra citizens who would decrease their tax burden assuming they could afford to have the surgery...go figure.

Joe the plumber would not pay his taxes and then stage a phony hypothetical question to sound sincere when he knows he really isn't about to do the things he said he was about to do.

dmarks said...

I'm not against immigration at all. Guess I am not a conservative?

Shaw Kenawe said...


Trust me. You're a conservative.

Patrick M said...

Tao: The point is that wealth envy is the motivation of the third brother. And he uses the police power of the state to take it. And while I don't have a problem with a tax structure that is a little progressive, it needs to avoid feeding the wealth envy folks.

Now, I know you will follow up with your "I am for flat tax reform"

No, I'm for the FairTax, which involves abolishing the IRS, repealing the 16th amendment, and eliminating all other federal taxes. Reform is pointless.

Toad: I think you forget, my problem is with burgeoning debt by the government no matter why it is being created. And you're dodging the point of wealth envy. Do I really have to go back and pull quotes?

For all of you, the danger we have is the sense of entitlement, whether it be welfare, corporate welfare, social security, medicaid, bailouts, subsidies, etc. And when people and companies who are struggling are looking to have the government get money from somewhere else to keep them afloat, we're in trouble.

Wait, we're in trouble.

TAO said...

Ah, Patrick...

The concept of wealth envy is not an exclusive disease shared by the poor and the liberals.

It also manifests its self among the wealthy as never having enough.

Greed is wealth envy too.

Thus it is not only the motivation of the poor and liberals who then use the police power of the state to take is also the rich that use the police power of the state to maintain and or increase their wealth.

TAO said...


Bless you!

Typical liberal desire to help their fellow man by reaching out to dmarks with his identity crisis!

See, dmarks, liberals are nice people! :)

dmarks said...

Tao: Yes, aren't we supposed to always believe it when a liberal says "trust me" ?

TAO said...

Actually, I thought Shaw was quite generous...

Personally, I would have labelled you a reactionary...

So in one sense you are absolutely correct that a liberal should never be trusted...

...on the other they might actually be exhibiting kindness and compassion...

I guess it is just a matter of how much truth we actually want which will determine whether or not we can trust liberals or not...

dmarks said...

I actually dislike reactionary philisophy at least as much as extreme statists.

TAO said...


'Statists' is that someone who lives by statistics?

Is that like the opposite of philosophy?

Satyavati devi dasi said...

It is not fair that we all received the same salary and are now so unequal. Can you pass a law to make us equal?"

And this is where we depart from reality, because we don't all make the same salary even when we do the same jobs (talk to Ms. Ledbetter before you argue this point). We aren't all given the same opportunities, we aren't on a level playing field to start with, due to a myriad of reasons whether they be the amount of money your parents had, whether you grew up in the ghetto, what colour your skin is, your sex, or the accent you speak with.

It's not like we're playing Monopoly and we all started out with the same $1500, and inequalities are due to people's mismanagement or personal irresponsibilities. Have we not gone over this a million times before?

Not all poor people piss their money away on bullshit, and not all middle class people become poor because they pissed their money away on bullshit. Blanket generalizations cannot be made that it's somehow, without a doubt, the fault of the poor person that he or she or they are that way.

dmarks said...

Tao asked: "'Statists' is that someone who lives by statistics? Is that like the opposite of philosophy?"

The dictionary works wonders when one does not know a word. I suggest you use it for "statist".

The word for someone who lives by statistics might be "statisticist". If such a word existed, but it does not. There is, however, a word with yet another meaning but has a similar spelling: "staticist".

The Greek root words of "philosophy" tell us that it is the love of wisdom. There is an opposite, actually, and the word is "misosophy"

Patrick M said...

Tao: I oppose anyone using government to enrich themselves. It's ultimately the path to our country's destruction.

Saty: I'm not saying we all start out on a perfectly level playing field. But you tell me in what reality a person has more possibility to go from nothing to great wealth and success than in the free market.

And the story is for a specific point and deals with only three people. I wasn't shooting for a generalization of any group.

Which is one of my pet peeves. I don't like slapping all people into groups. If I did, I'd be wholly intolerant of any view other than my own. Because "my people" would be right and yours would be wrong.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Because "my people" would be right and yours would be wrong.

You tell me this all the time.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

But you tell me in what reality a person has more possibility to go from nothing to great wealth and success than in the free market.

The system is designed so that a very few people get from that point A to point B.

By giving people subsistence wages, screwing them with predatory lending practices they are too desperate to turn down, fucking them over with exhorbitant prices to live in the ghetto and basically creating an environment where you have to live hand to mouth, never mind have an opportunity to save any money, the vast majority of people are basically consigned to stay where they are without much hope of moving past that point.

The few who can manage to move past the shitty education they get, somehow have enough of a positive environment to resist the lure of easy, illegal money, and beyond all this manage to manifest a dream that it doesn't always have to be this way can occasionally fight their way to a place where they aren't spending all their time just trying to see the light at the top of the hole they've been tossed into.

Sure, in theory, there might be opportunities for people, but in reality, you're asking a three legged dog to run with the greyhounds. The reality is that when group A has opportunities, priveleges, and resources, and group B doesn't, group A protects their priveleged status by blaming group B for their own lack, turning it into some kind of character flaw or personal fault that they also are not part of group A. Perhaps this makes them feel better about it. I doubt it.

This country is predicated on 'greed is good'. The precendent of getting to the top on your neighbour's back is long established here. It's the American way, it's the nature of capitalism, and as long as those on the bottom keep defending the 'right' of the top to stand on their shoulders and lord it over, it'll never change.

Oh, how we embrace the very chains that bind us.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

And Patrick, honestly and you know I love you, if you were all that serious about this shit, you'd do like the Amish, who neither contribute to nor accept Social Security (nor any other 'welfare' program that I know of) from the government.

They fought a hard-won battle to obtain this right. If you feel that strongly about it, perhaps you ought to join them in this stance.

Or refuse on principle to accept said assistance.

To simultaneously accept assistance and reject the idea of assistance is somewhat circular logic.

Patrick M said...

Saty: The system is designed so that a very few people get from that point A to point B.

Want some cheese with that whine?

The system has always been designed to perpetuate the system since we formed civilizations.

But you still avoid my question (while simultaneously quoting it): In what reality a person has more possibility to go from nothing to great wealth and success than in the free market?

The things I argue against are the things that limit the freedom of the individual. That's the first principle I look at when examining a policy.

To simultaneously accept assistance and reject the idea of assistance is somewhat circular logic.

I can't completely disagree. However, to explain the danger of dependence on government, let me borrow a drug analogy. If you never had a drug, it would have no hold on you. However, if you got into it for any reason, you get addicted. And even knowing you're addicted doesn't mean you can quit cold turkey.

In this, I may be a junkie.

dmarks said...

Patrick: "The system has always been designed to perpetuate the system since we formed civilizations."

It is possible to change things. To redo the system from the ground up, from Year 0, based on socialist principles. Roland Joffé released a film about this effort in 1984.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

That's not a whine. It's pointing out that the 'possibility' you speak of is like 1%, as opposed to what? 0.6%?

You only have a chance of winning the Powerball if you play, right? But your chances are still something like 1 in 600,999.

Patrick, the real reality is that a theoretical hope of someday being able to 'make it' in a system designed to keep your ass down is the equivalent of false hope and a bigger demoralizer than just being honest, telling people that yeah, we're gonna keep you down, and letting them come to a point of resignation and acceptance. Instead, we perpetuate the fallacy that everyone has an equal chance at the brass ring.

To keep holding out this mythical carrot of wealth is a cruelty.

Patrick M said...

Dmarks: In that case, it was reallu a change in power, which usually means a body count.

Saty: It's not hope that takes people from nothing to wealth. It's a combination of skills, ideas, an assload of work, and a little luck or grace or whatever. And it's the potential, not the promise. Because a promise is bullshit.

And wealth doesn't necessarily mean a gazillion bucks and all you could want. We all measure our success in various ways. In this, I will probably never achieve a high level of wealth, because it's not my primary motivation. But I don't blame the system for this.

Therein lies the difference.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

And it's not that I didn't know how to swim, but the ten-ton weight chained to my leg that drowned me.