Nov 30 2008

Daily Kos mythology

Category: economy,left,taxesharmonicminer @ 10:04 am

On the Daily Kos, we get this narrative about a conservative dad and a liberal daughter:

A blue collar man came home from a long day’s work to find his idealistic daughter had dropped in while doing some local community organizing. Like so many others in his income bracket, he considered himself to be a God fearing conservative, and along with most conservatives, was very, very much against income and capital gains taxes, especially on the rich.

But today he was deeply worried about the economic future of his naive, liberal daughter and his two grandchildren. Based on stories his parents told him about the Great Depression, his own shallow prejudice, and selected morsels of misinformation fed to him by right-wing talk radio, he decided to confront her right there and then for her own good.

He started by calmly and politely pointing out that Barack Obama was a Muslim, not a US citizen, and the President-elect was going to raise taxes on millionaires and force government funded abortions on everyone — even the men. Before the girl had a chance to respond to her father’s breathtaking ignorance, he muttered something about unions being responsible and trailed off. The girl, sensing something more was going on, asked him instead about his own job.

A bit taken aback, the man admitted it was lousy. Truth be told, he was slowly falling behind on his bills. And yet he knew was relatively fortunate: Half the plant had already been laid off when their jobs were outsourced to cheaper overseas labor. The managers had run the company into the ground even as they awarded themselves lavish bonuses, while the remaining unskilled workforce was slowly let go one by one for what sounded like trumped up reasons, merely to save the company from paying any unemployment in the man’s Right to Work state. The man rarely missed a day of work in ten years, he had excellent employee reviews, and sometimes he even clocked out and worked for hours with no pay. But as a senior employee making more than newer ones, he was worried his job might be next. And if he lost his income and healthcare at the same time, years before Medicare or Social Security kicked in, his diabetic wife could go blind and the family might lose their home.

The girl said “Wow, that is awful. Well, too bad you’d turn down a million dollar raise.. “

The man shot back in surprise, “Why that’s crazy! I wouldn’t turn it down, I’d love it!”

The daughter replied coyly, “but to be fair you’d end up with less than $ 700,000 a year after taxes.”

The man laughed and said with more than a trace of patronizing contempt, “That’s almost twenty times what I make now! I wouldn’t complain a bit!”

Then the daughter slowly smiled, winked, and softly said, “Welcome to the Democratic Party, dad.”

It’s hard not to contain the laughter on this one.  Almost no conservatives believe Obama is a Muslim.  Almost no conservatives believe Obama will force abortions on anyone, and certainly not “the men”.  (?!?)  And of course, any prejudice held by a conservative is “shallow”, which means, I suppose, that prejudices held by Lefties are “deep”.  They’re deep, alright.  REALLY deep.  So deep it would take shovel and lots of experience cleaning barns to dig out.  But I digress.

And no, conservatives don’t worry about “raising taxes on millionaires”, because you can be a millionaire and only make $100K per year.  Conservatives worry about raising taxes on people who are creating opportunities for normal people to have normal jobs, whether they are millionaires or not.

It’s interesting that releasing “unskilled workers” is considered to be a bad thing.  “Unskilled workers” are lucky to have any job, and should remedy their situation post haste.  In the meantime, employers are not welfare agencies and make-work institutions, they are there to make a profit for the people who risked their money and time to create the businesses, which list does not include those unskilled workers.  Message, in all realism:  if you’re an unskilled worker, learn how to do something useful.  After you learn that, and get a job with it, expect to KEEP learning things, to upgrade yourself to take advantage of new opportunities in a constantly changing economy.  The world was not put here to give you cushy billet to recline in, but you were put here with the opportunities you need to do well, if you take advantage of them.  I have to wonder about someone who has worked in the same job for 10 years, and is this idealized employee, and is only making $35,000 per year.  What could they have been doing during those ten years to improve their options?

I don’t really know many people who “clock out for hours and work for no pay”.   Do you?  If you do, do you know five such people?  I didn’t think so.  Message to people who do this:  knock it off.  You aren’t helping yourself, or the rest of the employees in your company, or even your boss.  If you value yourself so little, go mow your neighbor’s yard for free or something.  At least that’s just straight ahead worthy service.

In any case, notice the obvious way we paint this guy as Mr. Sympathetic Character, complete with diabetic wife and extra-super-ultra work ethic?  Except, of course, that apparently he’s been too foolish to upgrade his skills over the years so that his value to his employer exceeds his cost to his employer.  But in the world of the Left, no public policy can be sold without having a victim to highlight.  So we’re treated once again to the caricatured evil employer, as if this is the norm all through the USA.

But the really, really stupid aspect of this:  the daughter is supposed to have triumphed over her stupid, stupid, ignorant father (the one who helped her get through college, most likely, and fixes her car when she’s run it into the ground driving around doing unprofitable community organizing), by pointing out how lucky he’d be to get to keep $700,000 of the year’s million dollar income, if he was so productive.

Several levels of stupidity here:

1)  Under Obama’s tax plan, he wouldn’t be keeping $700,000 but something closer to $600,000, and quite a bit less if he lived in a state with high income tax like California.  So her example is inherently a lie.  It’s entirely possible that he gets to keep only a little more than half, unless, like other well to do people, he shields his income in some way.  But since he’s so stupid that she wins the argument by lying and he lets her get away with it, he probably isn’t smart enough to do this.

2)  If he got to keep, say, $800,000 of his annual million, including state taxes, what would he do with the other $200,000?  I’m guessing it wouldn’t go into a mattress somewhere.  It would be in bank, and being loaned to other people and stimulating the economy.  Or it would be invested in the stock market, and fund companies that employee lots of people and create products that improve our lives.  Or it would just be directly spent on whatever he wanted to buy, which would itself create economic activity that will employ other people, both directly and indirectly.

3)  When he realizes that he gets to KEEP almost as much money by only earning $800,000 as by earning a million, and reduces his economic activities to suit, the entire economy loses a little, both in terms of his own productivity, and in terms of the productivity that he has less excess cash to fund, by investing, saving, or buying.

4)  When the government gets that extra money that is extorted by higher taxes, by definition, it won’t be placed where it will do “the most good”, for a very simple reason:  NO ONE, not one person on the planet, knows where that is, certainly not some congressional subcommittee or federal bureaucrat.  Only the market “knows”, and only the market has mechanisms that, in aggregate, attract money exactly where it needs to go to provide the most value to the society as a whole.

This silly little tale gives me hope, though.  If this represents the understanding held by common Democrats of how the world works, and what conservatives actually think, their tenure in Washington DC might be quite brief.

The punchline of the narrative should be:  “Welcome to the Dumbocratic Party, Dad, none of us can count, either, and we all understand that wet-behind-the-ears girls with no understanding of how the world actually works can beat Dad in an argument every time.”  Which is exactly what she was taught in college, of course, by her Lefty profs, many of whom have never held an actual job in the market economy, but are experts in it nonetheless.  “Breathtaking ignorance” indeed.

The punch line?  This really IS a fairy tale.

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