Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Metaphors Make for Oversimplification (and Bad Propaganda)

I got an entertaining email the other day. It was a political story, a metaphor that was intended to give me a new way to think about why Republicans are right in their approach to taxes and money and why Democrats are wrong about those things.

Father/Daughter Talk

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and was very much in favor of 'the redistribution of wealth.'

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the addition of more government welfare programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, 'How is your friend Audrey doing?'

She replied, 'Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'

Her wise father asked his daughter, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That wouldn't be fair! I have worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'
The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, 'Welcome to the Republican party.'
In the box to the right is a copy of an email. It's making the rounds, posted on a few blogs. And there are problems with it...

The story equates academic achievement at college with people's financial place in life. You have the daughter who has a 4.0 GPA because she works hard; and you have Audrey, who is on the verge of flunking out because she "played" instead of working.

If the message was about college I'd have no problem saying that at the college level you should get the grades you earn. I'd have no problem agreeing that you have to work for your grades. I have three degrees and what amounts to about 11 years of college. But the message isn't about college; it's about wealth...

The idea that all wealth is the result of hard work on the part of the wealthy is ludicrous. The majority of truly wealthy people are born wealthy. I remember a quote from the era of the senior president Bush; someone said that George Bush thought he'd hit a triple when in fact he was born on third base. Wealth is largely inherited.

The corollary assumption of this little email tidbit is also flawed. If grades in the story are supposed to make us think of money in real life, we're suppose to draw the conclusion that people are poor because they "play" too much. Poverty comes from being lazy and immoral. But I teach at a school where more than nine out of ten kids qualify, technically, as "poor." And in kindergarten, I don't think it's their fault. I work in a county where 56% of the adults between 18 and 65 don't have jobs. Maybe a few dozen of them could run out and get jobs tomorrow; they haven't because, well, they're lazy and immoral. But there's no way that all of them could find jobs this week, or this year, without leaving the place where generations of their family has lived. And because they don't have jobs, they don't really have the resources to just up and move, anyway.

The truth is that poverty, like wealth, is more or less heredity. Grades in college might have to be earned, but poverty is something you get free from your mom and dad...

There are additional flaws in the story. It talks about redistribution of wealth as though that is an end in itself in the Democratic Party. I'm a pretty active Democrat. And I don't think redistribution of wealth is really the goal any more. I'm not sure it has been for a long while now. I think the goal now is redistribution of opportunity. Heck, it's probably not even a case of redistributing opportunities. We don't want to take anyone's opportunities away, no matter how rich they are; we want to expand the opportunities that are out there and make them more available to people who haven't had opportunities in the past.

There's some misdirection in the story, as well. I have daughters. Sometimes they believe things that are wrong - and think I'm stupid. I know how that feels. This story wants you to think of that feeling (it happens to all parents), and to feel something about Democrats instead of thinking about the arguments.

The email talks about "fairness." I've never heard that term adequately defined. But I pay seven and some odd percent of every penny I make to the payroll tax. Many rich people don't. How is that fair? I'd like to make life fair by having people who make several million dollars a year pay that same seven and some odd percent of their income to payroll tax to help support the social security system. If I pay seven percent or so, why shouldn't they? But Republicans scream and moan and call me a communist when I talk about it.

Since we're talking about fairness, let me ask this question. My wife and I pay 28 percent or so in taxes on our relatively piddly income as educators. My sister and my sister-in-law, both registered nurses, pay about the same I suspect. And yet someone who makes most of their income by trusting a stockbroker to invest their money for them pays a lower rate and calls it capital gains tax. How is that fair? I get up and leave the house at 7am, spend the day trying to figure out new ways to get fourth and fifth graders who live in poverty to actually understand what they read, go home a worry about lesson plans and such, and pay 28% while the guy who writes his stockbroker a check and then goes home to watch TV pays a lowewr rate. I can't see how that's fair. I've heard people argue about how it's somehow "good" for society. But it's still not fair.

I'd like to live in a society where kids don't go hungry, even if their parents as drug addicts. I'd like to live in a society where kids can go to college even if their parents can't read. I'd like to live in a society where military veterans with PTSD don't end up homeless. And (call me a communist) I'd like to live in a society where anyone can afford to see a doctor (and take their kids to the doctor) whether they have a job or not.

So anyway, spliting your grades with someone isn't the same thing as paying your taxes. And it was a Republican named Oliver Wendall Homes who said that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.


Janssen said...

What a great great post! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I haven't seen that email, but if I do, I'll be sure to forward your post back to those who send it to me.

Fon said...

Thanks for the information on topics.I was excited by this article.
Thank you again.

College online for good ideas.

diana said...

You and I agree on being active Democrats and grades can't be compared to political preference. I have always had to "work" for everything and agree that Uncle Sam gets MORE than his share before I get mine - good points.

Greg_Cruey said...

Hi Diana,

Thanks for the comment...


Anonymous said...

I have to take issue with the notion that all wealthy people inherited it. I started a company when I was 22--paid myself absolutely nothing for the first 5 years (worked at 5:00 a.m. to earn money to pay my bills). My business is now very successful. I have almost 100 employees and my business helps others to get jobs (several thousand others). Nobody handed me anything. I used to live in a trailer. I still have a modest home, and do not believe that the government should take 45% (now it will be more with higher taxes) of what my business brings in. It just doesn't make sense. The metaphor is, in my experience, quite accurate; I know several people who, like me, have worked very hard and done well. I know noone who had wealth handed to them on a platter.

I have seen and consistently see a direct correlation between how hard people work and financial compensation.

Greg_Cruey said...

Hi Anonymous,

You're welcome to "take issue" with whatever you like (even here on my blog). But I can't figure out who you're arguing with, since I didn't say "all wealthy people inherited it."

What I said was that "the majority of truly wealthy people are born wealthy." I doubt you're "truly wealthy" (worth more than, oh, $20 million without including the business assets of your company). And "majority" means more than half - which in turn means that even if you and a dozen of your friends are "truly wealthy," your personal situation alone doesn't make my statement untrue. Maybe you can find some statistics on the subject and look beyond your own life to the condition of America as a whole to make your case...

You know other people who did well because they join the chamber of commerce, the country club, and the Kiwanis - just like you. You don't know anyone who had wealth handed to them because such people don't talk to people like you, and because you'll likely never make enough to join one of their clubs.

When you say that you "consistently see a direct correlation between how hard people work and financial compensation," it's clear you're in the private sector somewhere where the local economy is pretty healthy. I live in a rural area of Appalachia where the economy is not very healthy. I get paid what any other teacher with the same years of experience in my school district gets paid, regardless of how hard I work. And in my county, the school system is the biggest single employer, period.

I believe there is a correlation between how hard you work and how much you make. I don't believe it is a DIRECT correlation; I believe there are a number of intervening variables - like the health of your local economy and the amount of training you have. A trained architect or computer programmer will generally make more by just dabbling at work for 20 hours a week than a high school graduate who didn't last long in college will make earning $6 or $7 an hour for 40 hours a week.

It’s just not as simple as saying “the harder you work, the more you make.” Anyone who thinks it is that simple is turning a blind eye to much of the American countryside…

TheCarlsonCrew said...

A friend of mine sent me a link to this post, and I wanted to take a moment to comment, if you don't mind.

First, your response to the comment above mine is missing a key component. You say that working harder isn't directly related to financial success, and use the example of an architect or computer programmer compared to a non-degreed person. The problem with your comparison is that the architect/computer programmer worked their butts off to obtain their education and open a different (more profitable) set of doors than the non-degreed person did! Sure, there are other factors involved with anyone's career and financial success, but Anonymous' rule of thumb is valid. You just have to be smart about where you decide to work hard, and put your efforts into something that will return high dividends (like education). I came from a farming family in the Midwest, and they work harder than anyone I've ever seen! My father is a great example. He grew up dirt-poor on a farm and loved farming, but he knew it wouldn't put him where he wanted to be. So, he worked his way through college, worked his way through the Air Force, and became an airline pilot making great money. If you look at where he came from and where he is now, it's a whole different world. He got there by working hard, but also by choosing wisely where to work hard. It can most certainly be done! If you're in a place that doesn't reward merit or experience, you can complain about it or you can do something about it (move, or work to change the policies in your school). It's up to you.

Now, on to your original post...

You raise some good points, but I think you're reading too much into the story. After all, it is just a metaphor, which means that by definition it only goes so far. Still, I think it is a very good metaphor, and has a lot of validity. There is perhaps a bit of oversimplification, but not as much as you suggest.

I don't know what the numbers are on inherited versus earned wealth, but I would ask where that inherited wealth came from. Someone had to earn it at some point in the past, right? You're just transferring it to another generation by playing the inheritance card, but that doesn't mean it wasn't earned. Now, that obviously doesn't change the situation for those who are the descendants benefiting from the ancestor, but we're talking about the principle rather than the people, aren't we?

A couple other things I would point out. If you look at the Forbes list of richest people in the world, you'll find the very top of that list much more full of people who have earned their wealth than people who have inherited it. Inheritance can catapult a normal person like you and me into relative wealth, but if you want to be RICH, you have to work for it.

It saddens me to hear anyone make a statement like 'poverty is hereditary'. That's simply not true - one's financial status may be given to them at birth, but it certainly doesn't have to remain static! In fact, many people drastically improve their financial status as they go through life. It's a slow, difficult process, but it is done every day by millions of people. To assume you'll always be poor just because you started out that way is to give up before you even get started. To anyone who would make that statement, I would say: have some belief in yourself!

Regarding redistribution of opportunity - that's a great way to phrase it! But, I think that opportunity is waiting for anyone who is willing to look for it. Just because something may be hard to do doesn't mean it's impossible.

I totally disagree with your suggestion that rich people don't pay their 'fair' share of taxes. The 'rich' in this country pay a HUGE amount of taxes (almost all of them, in fact):

- the top 1% of wage earners paid 37% of all taxes
- the top 5% of wage earners paid 57% of all taxes
- the top 10% of wage earners paid 68% of all taxes
- the top 50% of wage earners paid 97% of all taxes
- the bottom 50% of wage earners paid only 3% of all taxes

With all due respect, the IRS says you're wrong.

I can't help but think of the irony here. You seems to be a normal, intelligent, middle-class working guy with a serious chip on your shoulder against wealthy people. But, don't you want to improve your own financial status in the future? If you believe you're locked into the same economic status as when you were born, maybe not, but don't shortchange yourself! If you support hammering the 'rich' even harder now, you may end up getting hammered yourself someday.

Good blog, thanks for the opportunity to comment!


Greg_Cruey said...

Hi Carlson,

First, I have to laugh. We’re discussing the relationship between effort and income. That’s what the parable was about and what my response was about. You make it sound like a kid at Virginia Tech (about 120 miles from my house) whose parents are co-signing his student loans while he studies Visual Basic and C++ in an air conditioned computer lab (and perhaps puts in 20 hours a week at the Arby’s near campus) is working a lot harder than the oldest child of a one-parent family in Central Virginia or nearby NC who went from high school to the textile mill for 50 hours a week because his family needs that money to make ends meet. After all, the butt is coming off the kid at VT…

I don’t think you actually believe that. Anon’s statement (“I have seen and consistently see a direct correlation between how hard people work and financial compensation”) is limited to his personal experience in a particular location where the economy may be great. And you’re statement seems from the outset to deny his, since you’re saying that hard work is not so much the issue; it’s the choice of what you work at that matters.

Anon takes issue with something I didn’t say – that all wealth is inherited. In the original post I said that “The truth is that poverty, like wealth, is more or less heredity.” The phrase “more or less” was specifically intended to communicate that this is NOT an absolute rule.

Perhaps we should define “direct correlation” for the purpose of this discussion. I’m saying that at least some of the time people work hard and don’t make much, or decide to work harder (they either work more, or find a way to do better work – or both) but don’t see a substantial increase in their income as a result. I’m not suggesting that such efforts aren’t usually rewarded. But I am saying that some of the time such efforts go unrewarded by fate, society, whatever. I’m also suggesting that in some places it pays off better than working hard in other places – the result being that if you’ll just move, you may not actually have to work harder in order to make more.

Simply working harder doesn’t mean that you ALWAYS make more. That would be a DIRECT correlation. I’m happy to say that there is SOME correlation between effort and income, just not a DIRECT one.

You said: “You just have to be smart about where you decide to work hard, and put your efforts into something that will return high dividends (like education).” I can’t resist asking… Are you saying that poor people are poor because they’re not smart?

You’re welcome to think as you like about the validity of the metaphor. The metaphor has two students in it – a lazy lush who won’t study and a hard working girl that makes straight A’s. The problem with the metaphor is that there are other types of students. As a teacher and educator I’ve taught college classes and worked with kids in the classroom at almost every grade level. Some kids fail trig in high school or college because their particular cognitive abilities are unsuited to higher level math, and it doesn’t matter how hard they try or how much they work. Grades may measure effort to some extent, but the further you go in school, the more grades tend to reflect intelligence. The metaphor assumes that money comes from hard work; often it does – just not always. The metaphor assumes that studying hard gets you A’s and that the only reason people ever fail in college is that they didn’t try. All of those assumptions lack validity.

You said “I don't know what the numbers are on inherited versus earned wealth…”

Let’s talk about numbers for a moment. Part of the heat in this national discussion is that there isn’t a clearly defined set of numbers or framework for the discussion that everyone agrees on. You use the term “wage earners” and I’m not sure how your source document defines that. Is it a euphemism for “taxpayer” or is it making a distinction between people who work for a living and people who do not? Many people who do not work for a living still pay income tax because they have capital gains. Many people have an income that is small enough so that they pay no income tax on it; in my view they are still taxpayers because they are citizens (and because they have to fill out a 1040 form to get back money that’s been withheld). Then there’s the problem of what social unit to use in discussing income. Some figures talk about individual income while other numbers are arranged by household. Data that is divided up into quintiles (the bottom 20%, the second 20%, etc) is I think usually based on household income. Since a husband a wife usually file jointly even if one of them has no income, that makes sense; it also means that there are more people ion some quintiles than in others because household population varies. Then there’s the difference between income and wealth. Statistics about wealth are harder to come by because the government is more concerned with income. I can’t give you exact figures; you can fault me for that if you like. And in a moment I’ll point out the problems with your numbers…

You go on to suggest that someone earned the money, so we’re just passing it on (an act that is taxable, by the way). And you suggest that this discussion is about the principal, not the people. I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I thought we were discussing primarily the relationship between financial success (income & assets, or wealth) and hard work. Somewhere along the line this discussion also seems to have become about the fairness of the tax code. But that’s secondary.

We’re also thrown the term “rich” around a lot. I’m aware that when we talk about the incredibly rich (the Forbes 400, for example), that many of them (perhaps most) built their own fortunes. I know about Bill gates and Warren Buffett. The Forbes 400 at the moment is less than the top 0.000002% of American adults. In 2006 the Census Bureau estimates that there were 225 million people over the age of 18. When we talk about the richest 1% (the top 1% of wage earners?), we are not talking about the Forbes 400. We are talking about 2,250,000 people. According to one source I found, own more than 60 percent of all corporate stock in individual hands. Economics With A Face says that in 2005 you had to make $238,000 a year to be in that group, and that the average income (without looking at assets) was over $1 million a year. Are you personally friends with anyone whose taxable income was more than a million dollars last year? Friends: like, you’ve been to their house for a private dinner or you’ve been to the lake to go fishing with them?

You said: “Inheritance can catapult a normal person like you and me into relative wealth, but if you want to be RICH, you have to work for it.” I think it’s the other way around. If you want to be relatively wealthy (Top 20%, or maybe even top 5%), hard work may get you there. You want to be one of the Forbes 400, the odds in any given year are 750,000 to 1 against that. It takes more than just work.

Between 2004 & 2005, incomes went up an average of $200 a year for people in the lowest and the second quintiles (the bottom 40% of the population), by $400 a year for the third and fourth quintiles, and by $11,800 for the top 20% of the population. The top 1% saw their incomes go up an average of $179,900 in that single year. President Bush cut their taxes. I think he should have cut mine, instead.

You said: “It saddens me to hear anyone make a statement like 'poverty is hereditary'. That's simply not true - one's financial status may be given to them at birth, but it certainly doesn't have to remain static!” I agree that it’s sad. I agree that it doesn’t have to stay that way. I’m just saying that most statistics indicate that it does stay that way more often than not.

The problem with your numbers…

You said, “the top 1% of wage earners paid 37% of all taxes.” That statement would have seemed more powerful if you could tell me what percentage of the income that make. To get any sympathy with that statement you need to be able to say something like, “the top 1% of wage earners paid 37% of all taxes and they only make 20% of the income… And while they might pay 37% of all INCOME tax, there are other types of tax. The rich and poor alike pay the same gasoline tax, for example. The rich do NOT pay an equal share of the FICA, which maxes out for then at a certain point.

Based on the chart here I’d say that the top 50% (which I’m in) makes at least 80% of all income. If you agree that we should tax money (not people), then you’d agree that the top 50% of people should pay at least 80% of the income taxes. If you agree that our tax code should be at all progressive, layered in some way so that those with higher incomes pay a higher rate than those with lower incomes, that 80% figure goes up.

If you want to argue that the top 5% of taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay 57% of all income tax, you need figures to show what percentage of income they receive. Otherwise, the numbers are only impressive if you don’t examine them much and you have a juvenile definition of the word “fair.”

With all due respect, the IRS doesn’t even know I blog – and they definitely don’t say I’m wrong. They just publish numbers. Your picture is incomplete within a breakdown of incomes for those different groups of taxpayers.

You said: “You seem to be a normal, intelligent, middle-class working guy with a serious chip on your shoulder against wealthy people.” I’m a teacher. I teach in a county in the coalfields of Appalachia, a county where 90+ percent of the kids qualify for free lunch and where 50% of working age adults don’t have a job, and since over 40% of working age adults have given up looking for one in our depressed economy, we have an official unemployment rate of 7% or so. I have three degrees, including a graduate degree linguistics from the Australian National University. My father is a retired military officer. And my wife and I fall into the fourth quintile. So I suppose I’m middle class. And I’m educated (whether that means intelligent, I’ll leave to you). Whether I’m normal gets debated from time to time. If I have a chip on my shoulder, it’s against people who don’t understand the numbers. The GOP has a lot of people out there who are nowhere near rich by any definition arguing that we should leave the rich alone – let them keep their income in spite of the fact that they often have a large reserve of wealth n addition to their income. Those people often do it because they have no understand of the numbers involved and they think that next year, they may be rich (even though their income is going up by $400 a year no matter how hard they work). It’s a numbers chip…

TheCarlsonCrew said...

Greg - hey, this is fun, isn't it? Okay, I think we're both parsing words a little too much here.

Shall we agree that there isn't a DIRECT correlation between hard work and financial success, and that (generally speaking) hard work results in financial success in many cases (though not all), especially where working smart is combined with working hard? I think that would remove a number of paragraphs of our disagreement!

No, I'm not saying that poor people aren't smart. I'm saying that it is possible to work incredibly hard and never see that financial success because that hard work is directed to something that has only limited long-term potential. That was my point about adding the smart bit - hard work is rewarded far more when smart work is also involved. It's not a direct cause-effect relationship, but there is most certainly a strong linkage there.

You are also absolutely correct that each person's situation adds a unique spin (i.e. some people just aren't good at math). No question. I thought that was a given when dealing in generalities, so I never bothered to specify that. I agree with you there - that sort of variable can always throw off the general case.

When I say 'wage earners', I am basing my numbers on IRS income tax data. I also agree with you that income and wealth are two very different things (this agrees with your point about inheritance, by the way), but since we don't really have any good quantification of wealth, the best we can do is income, and if I recall correctly, my figures were based on households rather than individuals. I brought up the wage earners and tax bracket thing because you originally mentioned the fairness of how much the wealthy pay taxes compared to the non-wealthy, and yes, it is secondary.

I'm glad we agree on the ultra rich. Regarding the simply wealthy, I had a bit different numbers (higher, actually) in mind than you, but not significantly, so your number works. I actually have two relatives who have income over $1 million, and we regularly spend time with them. I personally know several other friends and relatives who make easy six figures (and are likely multi-millionaires overall), though I'm not big on fishing. Why do you ask? What does it matter?

I dispute your sources on the income changes. According to a Heritage Foundation analysis on the latest census report from last fall, incomes are up across the board:

"The report shows that median family income increased by .7 percent in 2006—from $47,845 to $48,201. With the unemployment rate below 5 percent and more Americans working, the poverty rate fell from 12.7 percent to 12.3 percent, the lowest the poverty rate has been since 2002.

The average income for each quintile group increased. The bottom quintile increased by more than 3 percent and the top quintile increased by 2 percent. The amount of income needed to reach the top quintile increased as well—from $94,712 to $97,032."

Now, in addition to a direct contradiction of this recent report, it seems to me that your numbers seem a little suspect because they rely on dollar amounts. What are the percentages? To me, that's what counts. For example, let's say we look at a person making $30,000 a year and $300,000 a year. If we see that the first had an increase of only $600 a year while the second had an increase of $6,000 a year, that sounds pretty unfair, right? But, how does the situation change when you crunch the numbers and find out that they both increased by 2%? Obviously, someone making more dollars is going to have a larger dollar increase for the same percentage increase. It works exactly the same way for tax cuts, too, by the way.

[Side note: the facts of Bush's tax cuts are that he targeted the middle class more than any other group. The 'rich' still got more money back (dollar-wise), but the percentage was much smaller. I don't understand how this can be construed as unfair, unless you're talking about it being unfair to the 'rich'.]

Your source and your numbers come from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a well-known left-leaning think tank. Mine come from the Heritage Foundation, a well-known right-leaning think tank. I think all we can agree on here is that smart people can massage numbers any direction they want. I don't have the qualifications to contradict either group, and I'm not inclined to spend the amount of time it would take me to be able to do it, so that's why I choose to believe the numbers from the group I trust (because they are smart enough to do it).

Your last paragraph again strikes me as somewhat fatalistic, and that you don't ever plan on elevating your financial status. That may be fine with you, but not me for two reasons.

First, I recognize the fact that even if I'm not 'wealthy' yet, the 'wealthy' in this country benefit all the rest of us indirectly. They spend a heckuva lot of money on goods and services, many of which are provided by people in the middle class like you and me. If a rich guy buys a yacht, someone has to build it, and those people are probably in the working middle class. If some rich lady buys tons of diamonds, someone had to mine those gems, cut them, ship them, and set them into the metal settings. Chances are good those jobs were done by the working middle class. And, of course, the principle is the same for the middle class as it is for the wealthy - the more money they lose to taxes, the less they have to spend. That means that the more the wealthy are taxed, the less they spend on jobs and services provided by you and me.

Second, as my life goes on I fully intend to raise my financial status so that I can better provide for my family (and descendants in the future) and enjoy life more fully. As such, I look forward with hope, and want the wealthy to have the best possible scenario within which to live and work. I plan to join them someday. I'd love it if you joined me there, too, as well as anyone else who cares to. That's the promise and the hope of America - we are limited only by our own intelligence, education, and drive to succeed. I sincerely hope you're not taking yourself out of that opportunity just because you didn't start out 'wealthy'. You deserve better than that, as do we all.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed the volley between each of the posters. All have some good and bad points. I think what we are missing is that the point is simple. Outside of the wealthy and poor and the politics of it all, the constituion does not gaurantee you anything but the freedoms given by it. No one deserves to be forced to give anyone anything. (exceptions being granted, handicapped ect, you all know what I mean.) You have the right to life liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness. What that means to you is your own. Make of your life what you will and what you can. But dont pretend that anyone OWES anyone else something for nothing. Do away with all the crazy rules and make it one, pure and simple. Consumption tax, you spend more you pay more. Now its fair on taxes but rememebr life is not fair and it is not our place to FORCE it to be so.

Greg_Cruey said...

Re: "But dont pretend that anyone OWES anyone else something for nothing."

Oh, Mr. (or Ms.) Anonymous... I MUST disagree. We owe lots of people something for nothing. They're called children. The circumstance of their birth is not their fault. In a country as rich as ours, it is society's obligation to provide them with a basic level of services - like the guarantee of certain vaccines, protection from abuse, a free appropriate public education (which the courts say they have a right to, with or without a disability), food and shelter - I could go on. If their mother is on drugs and their father is somewhere else, that's irrelevant.

My thoughts on a consumption tax can be found elsewhere.