Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Civil Discourse

Going through the recent election season (phew, am I glad that is over!) I became aware of this disconnect and wanted to have a discussion of sorts on my blog.

This is how I see things: I see the government as a servant to the people: it is not there to tell us what to do, but to do our bidding. That is why we have an election: we choose who is going to do the work, according to what those candidates say they think is important to get done.

I see the President of the US as the leader of the government, and the person we have chosen to represent us. We have willingly given him a certain amount of power (of attorney) to act on our behalves (is that proper grammar?). Although he (or possibly one day she) has this power, I don’t feel that they have power OVER us, and neither should the rest of the government, unless we have violated some code. The government is of the people, by the people, for the people.

So for me, it is hard to understand how this now turns around in the government demanding that certain people pay more money. And yes, that is how I see this whole talk of the wealthier paying a higher percentage of taxes.

We all live in a society together, but it seems like this society is so huge and far removed from each other that people feel comfortable talking disparagingly about fellow citizens and making generalizations without ever having met them.

You have Palin’s comments about “real America” vs. I guess, fake America? Whereas I can understand what she meant (I think many people feel that the “heartland” of America is being forgotten in favor of more urban areas), rural Arkansas is no more real than Manhattan. I will digress here, but I was thinking that when they made the electoral college it was meant to balance out the power between larger states and smaller states, and now I sometimes wonder if the power needs to be balanced between rural areas and urban areas?

You have Joe Biden making disparaging comments about Joe the Plumber on Leno. I was reading the comment section here:

And found these comments:

That was a politically idiotic statement for Biden to make. He must not be aware of the leagues of unlicensed contractors and handymen who work out of their pickups all over the country, and vote. That's akin to telling them they aren't good enough. Smooth as always, Joe!


How many plumbers live in Joe Biden's neighborhood? Does he socialize with any? Are there any in congress? I imagine it would be easy for the owner of a plumbing company to make $250,000 a year by contracting plumbing out and selling the products. However, that's not the point of the Joe the Plumber story. The point is the answer he was given by presidential candidate Barack Obama. Does Barack Obama want to spread the wealth around by taking it away from some and sharing it with others below them? Ask him that question outright. 4


That's pretty sad that Biden/Obama are now poking fun at Joe the Plumber now but they were all for the Joe the Plumbers before he got upset at the Obama's Socialist Tax Plan, who wouldn't. And for Biden's information, I work for a builder, yes, some builders are still doing well, and the plumbers we use have crews of over 25 trucks and some have crews of 10 trucks. Either way, when we pay up to $20,000 to plumb 12 custom homes a year, these "small businesses" make more than $250,000 and we are not the only one's paying them. I do consider these small businesses, as well as the builder I work for. The builder builds up to 12 homes per year from $600K to $1 million. Although that sounds like a good deal and he's rolling in the dough, he's not. I see the bills and he pays 5 employees, not 30. Since they are in their own little bubble when it comes to what they think of small business, they need to educate themselves. Some small businesses dig themselves a hole before they are even hit with taxes. And Obama/Biden evidently do not know that Plumbing companies and their employees make good money. At least the ones that make a name for themselves and push for business. It's sad that they were pushing for the "little people" and now they are bashing them.

The this one:

It was obvious that when Obama said "spread the wealth around" he was talking about using tax dollars to improve education,healthcare,and the economy so that more people are able to make more money and "grow the middle class".This is not socialism,its good government. And Joe the Faux Plumber would have a very hard time competing with licensed plumbers and contractors in the area that he lives in.Some additional education ,in both building codes and plumbing techniques,along with some acounting education so he can understand the tax system ,would allow him to actually be able to make it to that $250,000 a year level that he is concerned about,at which time he would owe an additional 3% in taxes,while the benefits for him,his son,his employees,and his partner would more than offset that 3 %.


Okay, so I am biased, but I have taken three comments that I feel represent how I feel (I have "bolded" the thoughts I especially agree with), and then one to show what I think is a gross misunderstanding of how government should operate (the last comment and I have "bolded" what I disagree with).

I was watching Dr. 90210 the other day (I am reality show addict…so sad) and Dr. Robert Rey is a workaholic, and his wife takes care of their 2 kids on her own (her mother helps, but they don’t have a nanny or anything, despite having a lot of money). Dr. Rey really dislikes his mother-in-law, so when she is around, he works even longer hours. Anyway, now his wife wants to buy a bigger more expensive house, move further away from Dr. Rey’s work, so his commute would be longer, because it would be a better area for the kids and nearer to her parents, whom she would like to spend more time with, because Dr. Rey is never home and she feels lonely. When she proposes this new house purchase to Robert, he balks, and then she says: “well, you don’t have any say in this matter!” I was bug-eyed watching that. What, she wants to move, wants to spend $9 million of their money, and he is the breadwinner, but he has no say in this, because she is the one taking care of the kids all day and he is never home any way? I just didn’t get it, but I think it kind of illustrated the tug of war between the breadwinners and the bread-spenders in the US.

Often when I see discussions about why the rich should pay higher taxes, it quite often paints the rich as not so nice people. People who suck the life-blood out of the poor. People who profit from others losses. Greedy. People who have no hearts. It makes me sad, because I know a lot of these “rich” people. I know how difficult it is to become wealthy, and stay wealthy. Also, I understand how important it is not to eat the seed potatoes…meaning, it is not in an employer’s best interest to mistreat or take advantage of his employees or do shoddy work. So when I hear generalizations to that effect it reminds me of how distant and divided we are a country. I wish that it weren’t so.

So my question is this (to proponents of higher taxes for those who earn more): What would you say if society were smaller (kibbutz-like almost) and you had to explain to others why you felt it was necessary for them to pay more taxes? Like in a one on one conversation?


Blogger Marc Miyake said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:09 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Exactly. I know that I am also guilty of demonizing abstract classes, and would be willing to do such an exercise with a similar question.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Marc Miyake said...

In short, what would you say if the rich weren't faceless?

It's easy to demonize abstract classes.

It's harder to look someone in the eye and demand, "Gimme."

11:14 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I heard a woman on the radio last night. She seemed very nice, very well-meaning, but she said that "the rich" already have plenty of money to live on, so they should be happy to give more so that others have a higher standard of living. She was very cheerful about it, as if it would be hard to disagree with her. I found her nonchalance interesting.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I feel compelled to answer, not because I have anything of interest to say but since I'm one of Sarah's three commie readers I thought I should come over and say something. :)

I voted for Obama, but for the most part disagree with his tax policy. That's not new, though, because I disagree with everyone's tax policy. I support a flat tax. I think it's crap that anyone should pay a higher percentage than anyone else. I also think it's crap that I get to deduct from the income taxes I pay because I have children, even though I will potentially use MORE government services because of them. And I think it's really really crap that anyone would EVER have to give nearly 40% of their hard-earned income to the government.

I would like to see a complete overhaul of the system, but other issues were more important to me in this election.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Marc Miyake said...

Sis B,

One down, two more to go. Will? pinko commie friend? kevin doesn't count. He's too new, and something about him just ain't halal.


Thank you for sharing that anecdote. This issue can easily degenerate into a battle of cartoon images: capitalist fat cats on the one hand, and whiny proletarians on the other. Most people don't fit either stereotype.

For example, the woman you described isn't screaming, "You owe me!" Her stance is much calmer and is more moral than materialistic: "You should play your proper role in the world." She has a vision of cosmic order in which the rich are supposed to "be happy to give more." It's not clear to me whether she thinks this order should be enforced by the government. And it's debatable whether this is "moral."

Given the diversity of people, what is the proper relationship between individuals who are not the same?

2:09 AM  
Blogger airforcewife said...

I think an interesting stat to look at is charitable giving. Before fingers get pointed at "the rich" for not doing their fair share, let's talk about exactly how much they are already doing, and not just through their tax contributions.

Charities usually run their operations better than the government ever does, and quite frankly I would far rather money to there than back into the beauracracy.

Furthermore, what really bothers me about the whole "government will provide, you pay" line of thought is that when the government guarantees a service of some sort, the community ceases to offer it. And this allows our society to move further and further apart.

I went to 16 different schools growing up and moved quite frequently - and yet everywhere we moved had neighborhood barbecues and the neighborhood grandma that your parents could call on in an emergency for babysitting - and so many other things like that.

I've yet to move to such a community off-base in my own adult life. The community does not band together anymore, and as a result when we NEED to (like for a natural disaster), chaos ensues. Katrina is a perfect example of that. Government should have, failed blah blah blah.

Sure, all that happened. But PEOPLE failed, too. The people who drove to safety without checking on their neighbors? FAIL. The people who had some extra supplies in the house and didn't share with those who had none? FAIL. The people who didn't band together in areas with intense looting to provide safety in numbers and a place for the weaker? FAIL.

We were conditioned to think government would do everything for us, and thus we did nothing for ourselves and each other.

And that is, I think, the biggest future problem from the "tax the rich, give to the poor!" mindset. When we believe government will provide for our needs by seizing the assets of a faceless person we feel has been more fortunate, we do not work to fill those needs ourselves.

//sorry for the thesis

3:06 AM  
Blogger Momily said...

I agree with airforcewife's post wholeheartedly. Those are exactly the reasons I worry about our entitlement-rich society nowadays. When people are depending on the government for their needs, what motivation does that give them to work to fulfill those needs for themselves?

And on a more specific basis, if getting a raise is going to bump you up a tax bracket to a much higher rate (as it does in Obama's plan at roughly the $27k, $45k, and $105k marks (according to a WSJ article I read back in October); that $105k mark is fairly easily obtainable for city-dwelling dual income couples (i.e., my parents), it's hardly motivating to push for that raise.

I actually know a girl who is smart and friendly and likeable, except for one thing that I can't get over. She is 8 months pregnant and refused to marry her long-time boyfriend; not because she doesn't want to be with him, but because she wants to have their finances separate so that she can go on welfare when the baby's born. Seriously. Somehow she grew up thinking that that was just the way you do it. I cannot understand that at all.

8:09 PM  

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