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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:23 pm 
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So, Prim, does that class me with Paris Hilton and Bill Gates? I own neither a mansion, a yacht, nor a luxury car. I have no servants, not even a weekly cleaning lady or a kid to mow the grass on my rolling quarter-acre. I do not have a beach house, a ski cabin, or any second home at all. I do not belong to a country club. My children go to parochial schools because I can't afford the tonier privates, and I would despair of college but for the fact that U. Va. and William & Mary are instate. They have never been to Europe. I do not go on cruises, quick trips to Vegas, or the Super Bowl- even a regular baseball game has to be budgeted for in advance. My great-grandfather's place is in the senior branch of the family, and my grandfather's passed to my aunt rather than my father's line.

So why does Presi- er, Senator Obama think I have more money than I can be permitted to keep?


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:26 pm 
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Vision, I suppose that would mean you would much prefer to have Iran, rather than us, as your next-door neighbor.


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:41 pm 
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solicitr wrote:
Speaking as a very middle-class individual who, according to President-in-waiting Obama, doesn't pay enough in taxes because, you see, I'm 'rich,' I find this line hard to swallow.

The rich are always going to benefit disproportionately from broad-based tax relief, because they (actually, we) pay a disproportionate share of the taxes to begin with. I suppose you want a continuous ratchet, so that increases are placed on the 'rich' and relief only applies to the 'non-rich', so that eventually we evildoers pay all the taxes.


Herre's a crazy notion- stop spending so much damn money!


As an also-middle class individual who newly (and temporarily) falls into this demographic, I feel increasing sympathy for this point of view (but not enough to vote Republican to reduce my tax burden ;)). It's really a Sméagol/Gollum situation for me.

Here's Gollum. Gollum dominates when I'm working a lot of hours, tired and frustrated with the world. Right now I'm Gollum. :D

I was raised by parents squarely in the middle of the middle-class who live within their means, choose to forego niceties in the present in order to ensure they could pay for their children's higher education and won't burden anyone else in retirement, and who taught me that credit card debt and living more nicely in the present at the expense of the future are cardinal sins. All lessons that I (for the most part) have taken to heart. Here far more than with the overweight issue we were debating last week, I absolutely feel entitled to judge people who choose to go into credit card debt to take expensive vacations, go shopping, and buy their kids far too many presents - then whine and moan about how "the rich" (in which they include many of us who are very much still middle class) should bear the tax burden they "can't afford" to share - because they are living beyond their means.

I'm working around the clock for the money that I make (without even time to spend the damn money). I see people enjoying jobs with far less arduous hours, a still middle-class QOL, and oh yeah, having time to spend the money they're sometimes *not* even making (forget putting aside money so they won't burden the rest of us (especially us young workers who are paying into a SS system we'll never see) later), then my patience drops quickly. Especially when they whine and moan about a tax cut that might benefit me (shock! horror! even though it's benefiting them too! but it's only okay if it benefits them WITHOUT benefiting me, because i'm above the arbitrary income threshold they've set for "who deserves to benefit from tax relief"). And especially when "benefiting me" really means allowing me to put more money towards my student loan payments or saving for a home downpayment in the absurdly expensive area in which I live. At that point I say, cry me a damn river. Also, come talk to me when you're working 80-100 hour weeks like so many of the "rich" people you like to malign. (If you live in a big city with a skyline, go walking late at night and look up at the fortieth floor office lights that are still on at midnight. Those would be the "rich" people you hate up there. Working. While you're out walking.)

Here's Sméagol. Sméagol's around the rest of the time.

I see the above sentiments frequently expressed by people like me. Young, urban middle-class-plus professionals who have had a fairly easy ride through school and into the professional world (and who will become, if they demonstrate staying power, the next generation of General Counsel, Board of Director types, etc., who really are the rich people who the rest of the world loves to hate. Not me because I don't have interest in that career route - but I know some of my colleagues are going to be corporate bigwigs twenty years from now.) So ... we are in the situation of working very hard for what we have, and usually paying off significant student loan debt. Odds are we've made some fairly good choices (with respect to education, career, and money) - and it's easy to start feeling self-righteous about that. ESPECIALLY when you're working such long hours and then you look at your pay stub and see how you got absolutely *reamed* by the government. When I hear people saying of my peers and me (who, again, are NOT rich, but are in the tax bracket we're discussing) how we "don't need" tax cuts - I really want to invite them to look at how striking an amount comes off the top, and how little is left after student loan payments, the fact that my San Francisco rent payment on a studio exceeds my parents' Virginia mortgage on a 5 bedroom, maxing out my 401(k), and oh yeah, attempting to save up a cash cushion because I don't have a rich mommy and daddy to help me out financially if anything goes wrong in my life (not to mention, at some point I'll probably need to help them financially). I'm NOT saying folks like me have it hard or need sympathy, of course - but it would be nice to have some understanding that the people at the very bottom of the high-end tax brackets aren't necessarily rich at all and indeed are trying to save while working very hard and living a responsible, non-lavish middle class existence in expensive areas of the country.

Prim: this goes to your point - not all $100,000 salaries are created equal and it frustrates me that this isn't recognized by the federal tax code.

Oops, I'm STILL ranting. See, Gollum's still out. Let's get back to Sméagol.

When Sméagol's out, I recognize that many members of the lower and middle classes are working as hard or harder than I am, for less money, fewer benefits, and often with more mouths to feed. I recognize that not all of them had the academic opportunities that I did and have faced challenges that I know nothing about. I also recognize that some have legitimately chosen to work fewer hours for reduced pay (a choice that I aspire to make myself at some point in the not-so-distant future). I know that there are many people who do not spend lavishly on their children, do not have credit card debt, and who are still struggling to get by. Some work multiple jobs which total the same hours (or more) than I'm working. Some work a single job and then are the single-caretakers of their children. Others pay a tremendous amount for out-of-pocket health insurance or go without.

What is near-universally true of this group is that they will feel each $100 taken by the government in taxes more than people in the higher tax brackets. And this recognition alone makes me feel that some abstract concept of "fairness" says that the latter should pay more - at least for services near-universally used - the roads, public transit (in big cities), water and sewer facilities, maintenance of parks and common areas, the public schools, the police force, the military. I don't think it makes sense for our tax system to ignore the fact that for truly rich person Joe, an extra $500 in taxes this year is just the magnum of wine he was going to buy in Napa for a dinner party he's going to; for someone like me, the $500 represents savings I'd *like* to have but nothing absolutely crucial; for a lower-middle class person, the $500 may represent much-needed rent money; and for a poor person, the $500 may be the difference between eating and not. A tax system that doesn't appreciate and react to this is devoid of humanity.

As for the "wealth redistribution" aspects of our tax system - where rich person Joe's money or soli's or my money is taken to provide services to people at the other end of the financial spectrum - the homeless, the chronically unemployed, substance abusers, etc. - well at some level I do have a "That's not fair!" reaction (Gollum), but my Sméagol side, which dominates here, says that there is a price to pay for living in a society of humans. First, on a selfish level, because the people who need those services are likely to be more of a societal burden if they don't receive them. But more importantly, because I am a sometimes-bleeding-heart liberal who feels that there is value to living in a compassionate society that provides assistance to its down-and-out, and believes that the cost of providing that assistance should again be disproportionately borne by those who feel it least.

Particularly since my stint in my current tax bracket will not be long-lived (I expect), I think Sméagol will ultimately win out. But I don't think it's hurt to have the perspective that Gollum brings - because the unnuanced manner in which many members of the lower and middle classes view "the rich's" ability to pay (in which they incorporate many members of the middle class) is really quite alienating and frustrating.

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:44 pm 
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solicitr wrote:
Vision, I suppose that would mean you would much prefer to have Iran, rather than us, as your next-door neighbor.


Oh, sure. I gotta say, your "logic" is impeccable and, moreover, you figured it out really fast.

I am the chief organizer behind the "Let's Send the US to the Middle East and Bring Iran Here!" movement. I accept donations large and small but I am sorry I can't issue a tax receipt. Not yet, anyway. But once my Reign begins, one of the first edicts I - ah - edict(?) will be to have my minions at Revenue Canada send out the receipts.

I think you guys will like being over there. You'll be real close to Iraq, for one thing, and the costs of sending the troops and whatnot will be much lower. You'll be able to party with your friends in Saudi Arabia, drinking and carousing and womanizing all night every night. You'll be able to put straws right into the oil wells without having to go to all the trouble of hauling it over an ocean. You'll all be tanned. (I also own a suntan lotion factory and I'm anticipating HUGE profits.) You'll be able to enjoy camel racing which I hear is much funner than NASCAR.

The Iranians will like it south of us. They'll get ski passes and take up moose hunting. Their hot temperaments will cool as we send Canadian Express after Canadian Express down across the Great Plains. They will find that tornadoes make a stimulating change from sandstorms, and they will learn to love Rock 'n' Roll.

A win/win situation.

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:46 pm 
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soli, I'm quite ready to believe that you have no private jet, etc. I know what money is worth; I can count past "many."

I don't make $100K and probably never will. But I'm happy to pay more in taxes (both in total and as a percent of income) than someone who makes half what I do. I want to see the money spent carefully (which hasn't happened for a long time), but I am aware that necessary government expenditures must be paid for. I am sure you would agree with that, though not with my notions of what's necessary.

I also believe that the burden should rightly fall more heavily on those who can afford it. I imagine we part ways there. But I don't see how we can spare the huge amounts of money making the tax cuts permanent would cost—not with so many other priorities such as the war we've been saddled with.


Edit: Cross-posted with nel and others. Nel, that is a good point that $100K is not the same income everywhere.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:54 pm 
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Great post, Nel. I'm also in the lawyer income tax bracket (although, us Denver small firm senior associates probably see half of what you big firm big city newish associates make :D ). I'm in the camp of "to whom more is given, more is expected."

Society needs the services that reward people the least. One problem with have with my two young Republican Ph.D/J.D. female coworkers is that they ahve this attitude of "I worked for where I am, why am I being penalized for it? Those lazy slobs who didn't suffer through graduate school, law school have only themselves to blame!" to which I think, well, the world needs hairdressers. And garbage collectors. And mail deliverers. And day care workers. If we were all Ph.D/JDs with professional jobs, well, where would society be? Those people make a lower income. They're necessary. I do think that I should pay more, proportionally, than they do, because truly, it is far less painful for me.

I don't have the ski chalet, the new cars, the wine cellar, etc. etc., but then again, I also don't feel entitled to such things. I would rather pay for a better society than have more material trappings.

At least, on a good day. ;)


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:59 pm 
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Seriously? There is no nation on earth I would rather live next door to than the one I already do live next door to. Once a great nation and I think the greatness is still there, hidden under the dreck that is presently piled on it.

"How are the mighty fallen" comes to mind. Great men once, little men now. Little, cheap, cowardly men not fit to polish the boots of most who preceded them.

If nothing else Mr. Obama looks and sounds like a rational, normal, intelligent human being. I doubt that his behavior will ever make any American blush with shame for his callowness, ignorance, provincialism or insane irrational belligerence. He has youth and energy on his side. He has demonstrated patience and coolness. He doesn't dodge hard questions. He is a clever politician who, so far, demonstrates great skill in politicking. He seems to be a man who would rather take the high road but I suspect he can fight dirty if he has to and given the sort of men running his opposition, I daresay he'll have to.

No doubt he will make mistakes. But I hope and believe that he won't make mistakes like invading another country and killing thousands of his own people and unknowable numbers of others. His appearance on the world stage will be an event. His very person will, amazingly enough, create good will for America.

By the way, what disasters did Carter's "failures" as president bring upon the hapless USA?

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:00 pm 
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Ellie - yeah, I figure you'd get it (and with respect to Denver vs. SF - I refer you to the COL point. Also, I wonder how our billable requirements compare to yours? :P)

Excellent and far more succinct post from you. As I glance back at my previous post, I'm horrified at the grammar (or lack thereof) in that rant. ;)

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:08 pm 
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halplm wrote:
It would be great if someone could explain to me why people that earn more, should pay a higher percentage than people that earn less.

"Because they can afford to.." is not a good enough answer.

Yet, it is the answer. Someone who is so wealthy that paying taxes will not take away from the quality of their life, can afford to pay a higher percentage than someone to whom that same percentage would make a material difference. A just tax system does ask for more from those who can afford it.


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"Didn't need them".. Oh that's right. They're the Rich, and so therefore inferior and Undeserving.

I'm going to start calling you everytime you pull this stuff, solicitr, because I'm sick of it.

Here you are employing one of your common tactics, spouting nonsense framed in the form of a reply, so as to suggest that the person actually said the stupid thing you are ostensibly 'refuting'.

I said the rich do not need tax relief. Do you really not understand the meaning of 'need'? Must I really go and post the definition here? Are you honestly under the mistaken impression that saying a person doesn't need something, somehow implies or connotes that they are inferior or undeserving? I hardly think so. Your posting shows that you have quite a good command of the language when it suits you. You know damned well that I said nothing about people being inferior or undeserving. Stop twisting people's words. Or, protest that you didn't twist mine, and show yourself stupid. It's your choice.

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:12 pm 
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nerdanel wrote:
As I glance back at my previous post, I'm horrified at the grammar (or lack thereof) in that rant. ;)


I thought the "grammar" fit the Gollum/Sméagol theme nicely. :P

On a more serious note, do you really think that it would be feasible for the federal tax code to recognize geographic differences in earning power? That sounds like a huge boondoggle to me.

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Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Fri May 16, 2008 11:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:12 pm 
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To make the first part of my long post very simple: whether "the rich" "need" tax cuts depends on:
1. Who you define as "rich" and
2. What "needs" you define as worthy of consideration.

Not all salaries in the highest tax bracket are created equal, and when you include the second highest tax bracket it's even more true. Certainly not all people's circumstances within those top two brackets are created equal.

My objection to an overly simplistic phrase such as "The rich don't need tax cuts" is that it usually sweeps too broadly in its definition of "rich" and too narrowly in its definition of "need."

EDIT Cross-posted with Voronwë.

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:18 pm 
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Those are excellent points, Nel. The trouble is, how can a line be drawn or a policy made? Does a family with an income of $1 million a year "need" its $58,000 tax cut as much as a median-income family earning $56K "needs" its tax cut of $1,080?

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:26 pm 
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vison:

I would still like to know what your bizarre response to my post was all about. From my perspective, I made an entirely reasonable post ( which you are free to disagree with ) and in response you talk down to me, act like I don't know Obama isn't president yet, and imply I'm being hysterical.

If people want to ignore a post that is fine. But I really insist on having clarification if a remark is addressed to me, especially if it's insulting.


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:33 pm 
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I too would like an explanation for that. Even though it wasn't directed at me, I found it pretty disturbing.

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:34 pm 
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Cerin wrote:
halplm wrote:
It would be great if someone could explain to me why people that earn more, should pay a higher percentage than people that earn less.

"Because they can afford to.." is not a good enough answer.

Yet, it is the answer. Someone who is so wealthy that paying taxes will not take away from the quality of their life, can afford to pay a higher percentage than someone to whom that same percentage would make a material difference. A just tax system does ask for more from those who can afford it.


How is that "just?" How do you define what takes away from their "quality of life?" What makes a "material difference?"

Vison, as much as Cerin is frustrated with sol's tactics, I am frustrated with yours. Your posts are filled with offensive stereotypes and strawmen.

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:56 pm 
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Hal, people who earn less money have to spend most or all of it on absolute necessities. People who make more money spend some of it on things that aren't necessities. They can spare more than someone who has to budget every penny just to eat and have a place to live can spare.

When I was starting my business 19 years ago, we spent a couple of years living very much at the "nothing-to-spare" level, and this with two babies in the house. I baked all our bread, canned a lot of our food, kept a vegetable garden, washed cloth diapers, bought most kid clothes used. At the end of most months we had precisely nothing left. I remember the huge difference even an unexpected $50 sometimes made, or the disaster an unexpected expense the same size could be.

These days, we're not rich, but we've got $50 to spend on dinner out any time we feel like it. We got here because of those hard years. But that doesn't mean we still "need" every penny we earn.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 12:08 am 
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halplm wrote:
How is that "just?" How do you define what takes away from their "quality of life?" What makes a "material difference?"

It is self-evident to me how it is just. I'm not sure how to explain something that to me seems so self-evident. An example of a material difference would be, good as opposed to poor nutrition, money to put toward college as opposed to no money to put toward college, a vehicle for driving to work as opposed to no vehicle, etc. I'm saying that for people whose tax money, if kept, would go toward changing their quality of life in these basic areas, a lower tax rate makes a material difference. For the person whose refund would enable them to buy a 27th Lexus or stained glass windows for their eighth mansion, I don't consider that their refund makes a material difference. They do not need that money, the way the person needs it whose life would be meaningfully improved by having it.


Quote:
Vison, as much as Cerin is frustrated with sol's tactics, I am frustrated with yours. Your posts are filled with offensive stereotypes and strawmen.

If you're going to make a statement like that, then you need to provide the offensive stereotype or strawman you are referring to.

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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 12:49 am 
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Cerin wrote:
If you're going to make a statement like that, then you need to provide the offensive stereotype or strawman you are referring to.


Cerin wrote:
For the person whose refund would enable them to buy a 27th Lexus or stained glass windows for their eighth mansion, I don't consider that their refund makes a material difference.


While we're talking about strawmen, let's save this great quote for posterity.

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 1:13 am 
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And I find it so "unjust" and don't know how anyone could conceive otherwise.

Prim, what you describe seems to me the perfect example... you worked hard, suffered through the lean times that meant, and have now EARNED a comfortable existence. Why, because you have done that, does it suddenly mean the government should take more money from you? That's not just in any sense. That's insane!

If you feel you have extra money lying around you do NOT need, for yourself, or your family, then I would bet some serious money you will use that money to help other people in some way. Why should the Government get a cut (and waste a lot), of that money you could use in such a fashion? Why should they be able to take it and spend it on a war you oppose? Why should they be able to take it, and spend it on a district in a distant state by a congressman taht wants to get reelected?

Yes, some portion of it will go to causes you think are right and good, but why not all of it?

Lets go to the more extreme cases... the really rich people, who buy their 17th lexus and 3rd mansion (forgetting for the moment, that while this is an absurdly small percentage of people, even if they are the most visible)...

How many people are employed making that lexus? How many people are employed building and running that mansion? How many people profit and earn thier living from selling extravigant and useless stuff to extremely wealthy people? How much of said rich person's money is really invested in companies? How much is invested in charitable organizations? How much do they give away themselves? How much more could they do with the money the government takes away?

Really, the only point I see you guys could have, is that higher taxes for extremely wealthy people, makes sure they don't "hoard" their money in big piles of gold they sleep on, that neither helps the economy or other people.

But the thing is, the skill most "rich" people really have, is earning more money. And you don't earn more money by sleeping on it. You earn more by investing and creating with it.

The Government earns no money. They do not take money, and turn it into more valuable things. They take money, and waste it, and turn it into something less valuable. Even if that something is paying for healthcare for a single mother that can't work and take care of her kids. Would it not be more efficient for the Bill Gates's of the world to directly put money into charities built to do that?

The prevailing mentality here, is that rich people only want to help themselves, at the expense of everyone else. And the end result of this, is that everyone in the entire spectrum, can look at the person making a few bucks more than them, and think "that person is looking out for themselves, and couldn't care less about me... I have no problem with the government taking those few extra bucks, and then that person and myself will be more equal..." as if equality had anything to do with wealth.

To me, a "just" system is one that does not penalize someone for earning more, and does not reward someone for earning less... but rather, treats everone the same, and benefits everyone the same. The rich need roads and national security, just as the poor do. The poor might need help with healthcare or finding new jobs, or education... and they should have that, just as the rich need help (or you could call it incentive) to start risky businesses we need, or research new medicines and technology...

Well, I hope some fo that made sense...

ETA: Please excuse the extravigant use of commas there... I'm out of practice... and the straw I usually use for my strawmen seems to have been replaced with big bales of punctuation...

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For the TROUBLED may you find PEACE
For the DESPAIRING may you find HOPE
For the LONELY may you find LOVE
For the SKEPTICAL may you find FAITH
-Frances C. Arrillaga 1941-1995


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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 1:24 am 
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I've never really understood what a 'strawman' is.

So nel, or anyone who cares to, can you explain what makes that statement a strawman, if it is? There are people with the sort of income that would allow 27 cars and 8 homes. Is it the fact that that isn't the norm, that makes it a strawman?

Or is it a strawman because I don't have a real monetary figure to go along with the notion of 27 cars and eight mansions? I'll admit, I don't know what the salaries are of people who have those things (or a comparable sort of model), but I'm willing to settle on a figure of, say, $200 million for a discussion of the justice of tax rates. Is there something wrong with that? I think it would not be a worthless exercise to examine the questions halplm asked, with this as a real example, because it seemed to be the principles he was asking about

edit for clarity and to remove extraneous sentence

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Last edited by Cerin on Sat May 17, 2008 5:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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