Tuesday, June 19, 2012

To Not Be Wretched

A starting point for my inane rants starts from two articles I've read by the maverick, Op-Ed columnist in the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby. I have no idea if he is an actual maverick nor do I know what op-ed means. Regardless we'll start from here.

Progressing forward, recently I was reading his piece "Tax Avoidance is Lawful and Logical" arguing that Senators Chuck Shumer and Bob Casey go too far in disliking Eduardo Saverin, an ultra - wealthy facebook founder who recently renounced his U.S. citizenship to move to Singapore. I too like Durian and don't want to be allowed to spit or chew gum. Shumer and Casey wanted to double the capital gains tax for any ex-patriats that attempt to do business in the U.S. Saverin made some reasonable arguments that he broke no rules and that we might as well tax those who move from states like New York to Florida as their motivated in a same way. He argues that, though unseemly, it's not something we should try to tax as what Saverin did breaks no legal code what so ever and was based on logical economic incentives.

Going further Jacoby had a previous article entitled, "Thanks Obama, but wealth is not Theft", really is something that I was more aghast of. He counters Obama in arguing that economic inequity is not a problem and Obama is utilizing this to engender sentiment in his campaigns. He different between different types of equality and discusses why Americans in the end will not agree with the president. Here I'll try this things and cite some piece of it:

“In a democratic, capitalist society, gaps in income are inevitable,” write Peter Wehner and Robert Beschel Jr. in the current issue of National Affairs. “Yet it is worth noting that democratic capitalism has done far more to create wealth, advance human flourishing, and lift people out of destitution than any other economic and political system. . . A policy agenda that has as its top priority the elimination of income gaps. . . not only encourages resentment but also threatens the American economy — because a narrow focus on closing gaps tends to go along with reduced overall growth.”

There's this. Yes gaps are inevitable. I can agree that wealth created as well generally.  Hold on though, here's Jacoby's conclusion...

There is no fixed limit to the wealth a society can produce, and today’s “1 percent” produce an amazing amount of it. But their wealth takes nothing away from the other 99 percent. We are all free to rise as high as talent, education, and hard work will take us. Wealth is not theft. Productivity is not zero-sum. If economic disparity is a problem, then the way to solve it is by raising those who are stuck near the bottom, not tearing down those who have climbed to the top.
I'd like to attack this on two ends. I absolutely believe people should be motivated to be successful, however, not to the extreme we are seeing. Alluding to Saverin, I don't understand why ultra wealthy people work so hard at maintain there ultra wealth. I always want to ask, what else do you need with your extra millions? How much can you gorge upon in global economy you hollowed, empty soul?! Having enough money is crucial, and being rich is a nice thing, but just being hugely rich beyond all schemes is something different. Mind you Saverin will probably invest his money again maybe and we call fiddle about in his oppulence as it theoretically trickles down. Maybe people just see the government as so dysfunctional and thus don't want to pay taxes to support it? Still though, I don't get why the ultra rich work so hard to hoard so much.

Obviously the ultra-rich are good at it, often making and sustaining this ultra-wealth, but literally billions of other people could use just a little bit of all the life blood that they have and it would really make their day. It could help to sustain a school so it could maintain reasonable class sizes, or it could ensure the access of a system of public transportation, or it could help a family stay insured to be able to receive adequate medical care without the threat of financial ruin in trying to pay it off. That .5% of their hundreds of millions or billions could ensure access to the basics for the millions that need it; food, clean water and shelter. The institutions that people like Saverin probably relied upon (roads, schools, hospitals, environmental sustainability for agriculture) are struggling right now. Yes, these institutions are failing as a result of mismanagement sometimes. Largely, I think they fail because rather than having a citizenry that's involved in supporting them and ensuring their solvency we have so many individuals effectively taking such a proportion of the resources needed to sustain them.

I would argue the opportunity that was present in America for those willing to work hard, play by the rules and be successful for themselves and their family is not nearly as present as it once was. No longer are there that many jobs, albeit factories and agriculture previously to that, where you can work full time and make enough to support yourself and move up the economic ladder. A college education is becoming the requirement and the norm and this is costly.

Climbing a ladder with broken rungs

There is a foundation that is pushed up in our day and age in our global economy that requires a huge investment to get into. I would generally say that the ultra rich are significantly much less likely to have started out with little economic resources to begin with. Most likely (by no means all the time) they had a foundation; families with money in a wealthy community, the unquestioned ability to go to college, great schools to prepare them, maybe test prep classes to get a higher SAT or ACT score, great technological access, and basic access to more than everything they needed to prepare themselves and enter our global economy. I think if they made in the global economy they still have worked incredibly hard, but it was unquestioned for them that they were  able to enter.

Contrast this to those growing up in families and communities that do not have as much resources readily available to them. Where schools are overcrowded and staffed less; where their is more crime, less access to healthy food, reasonable transportation and health care, more access to environmental pollutants and contaminants leading to higher rates of asthma, cancer and birth defects; more access to crime and drugs, and less access to reasonable to alternatives. This day and age especially, with such costly requirements to enter our global economy; the idea that these individuals need to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps is disgusting and those who typically say it don't begin to understand what it would be like coming of age in these circumstances. 

Education Inflation

I would fervently argue that the ultra rich really must have a harder time swallowing their drivel of the beautiful essence of an unfettered free market. You all have fettered up the free market so it's really not that free anymore. Between the bail outs for corporations that were too big too fail; the feverish amount of lobbying securing tax cuts, regulatory change and immense financial contracts, this is not an open and free market. This is not a market where only the fittest or best survive. Our major financial actors in some way contort the landscape to suit their needs and thrive not nearly as much because they deliver a superior product, service, or have the greatest methods; they often have the current level of wealth and are well in grained enough to ensure that the financial environment suits their specific needs at the cost of others.

Rather than just being disgusted all the time, and I'm no means above most if not all of my drive. I would urge the ultra-rich to tone down their ultra richness; to step back and see if you can get a broader view of the economic horizon we're facing as a society. We're struggling. It is your responsibility to share, give, donate, invest, advise and take whatever steps need to be done in whatever way is best but actually making sure that your clout spreads to those who have so much less so that we can function again as a country and society. It's not a nice thing for you to do, it is what you have to do. You need to be focusing not on how you can further your personal gain, or the gain of just the sector of society you belong in, but how you can create the opportunities for others to enter our market place and contribute; where more of our citizenry has the credentials, background and education so that they can sustain themselves and the communities around them.

 I would say to Jacoby that at some point in American History it was fine to tout the glory of becoming rich, that it's part of our American passion, and that inequity is just fine; but to the degree we have our inequity right now, this message is obsolete. We can't justify the continued greed and bad behavior of our upper tiers by saying that this is just logical based on principles of our free market. We need to have advanced further than this; we need to be at a place where the immense wealth we've reaped since WWII is put to better use in strengthening the foundation of what we call a nation and where the immense power that our upper tiers of citizenry is not used solely to entrench their continued power but to grant them the chance to better their support and spur the growth of the larger communities that they are a part of.