Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Brainwashing is the Only Explanation

Am I jealous of the rich? You're goddamned right I am! I know it's not p.c. to say it. We're all supposed to pretend that "oh, my, no, I'm not a bit envious. Bless their hearts, they deserve what they worked hard to earn." No class resentment here.

And some of them did work hard and I do admire some of them. I admired Steve Jobs, for instance, who created a brand new thing, or at least, hugely improved an old thing. I admire Bill Gates. I admire the Google guys and the Facebook guy and old Bill France, who brought NASCAR into being (with a little help from his friends).

I admire all these visionaries and don't mind that they all became enormously wealthy from the fruit of their creativity. More power to them. That's good old American capitalism.

I don't even mind their children also being rich. We all want to be able to pass on a big chunk of what we've accumulated to our kids. What I do mind is the way our society coddles those second and third generations, encouraging them to rack up even more riches by giving them special treatment like lower tax rates and devious tax shelters and exemptions and loopholes.

What I also mind is people (I'm tempted to say men because of course, they are mostly men) who made their vast fortunes, not by inventing and creating products, but by shuffling papers and and manipulating money, often in ways that go against the best interests of the rest of society.

I mind very much that the U.S. Congress evidently believes that unearned money is preferable and more valuable than earned money. Income that is derived from interest and dividends is taxed at a lower rate than wages. In other words, the Mitt Romneys of the world can choose to lounge on the beach in the Bahamas as their investments wrack up dividends and interest and pay less than those of us who punch a time clock every day...or teach kids...or build houses.... The result of this tax policy is that the rich just keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

Mitt Romney is, in fact,  a perfect example of what I mean. First, he says he didn't inherit money. He "made it" on his own. Well, of course, "on your own" doesn't mean exactly the same to a Romney as it does to poor people. If anyone doesn't think that not having to worry about tuition at Harvard (while being able to afford frequent plane tickets back to Michigan to visit your fiance) isn't a head start, you're naive. If anyone believes that when you graduate with your MBA, having a father who was the CEO of an auto company (American Motors) and twice governor of a state (Michigan) isn't an advantage in the "Looking For Employment Sweepstakes", you're nuts.

So, Mitt says he didn't inherit any money from his parents. George Romney was an extremely wealthy man himself. Did he just give all away to the poor, do you suppose? Later, Romney amends his statement to say, well, yes, in fact, he did get a check from his father but he gave it to charity and shared it with his kids. I wonder if that has anything to do with the "Dynasty Trust" that exists in our tax code that allows you to pass on wealth tax-free by skipping a generation? We won't know unless Romney releases more of his tax returns than just 2010 and 2011.

We do know that Mitt made almost $50 million in those two years, for doing absolutely nothing. We know that he had off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland for tax sheltering purposes. We know that he paid 13.9 percent in taxes in 2010 and estimates he will pay about 14% in 2011.  That's compared to the approximately 30% most of us who earn a low-to-middle class income will pay on wages we earned by working.

That's not good old American capitalism. That's the rich taking freaking care of their own while taking unfair advantage of the rest of us!

Is there such a thing as being too rich? To me, when you can buy a $12 million house on the beach and tear it down so you can build a larger house - going from a piddly little 3009 square feet to a more worthy-of-a-rich-man 11,062 square feet, you're probably too rich. But that's me. Hell, I'd feel rich if my $60,000 house (a cramped 2310 square feet!) was paid for. I guess richness is relative.

What I don't get is how middle-class people can support the candidates who espouse the very policies that screw them. During one recent debate, Mitt asked Newt Gingrich if he believed there should be zero tax on capital gains and Newt said, "absolutely".  Mitt followed that with a chuckling, "you realize if your policy was in effect, I'd have paid no taxes in 2010?" Newt allowed as how that would have been just fine and dandy with him. "Hey, all us rich folks are in this together."

Truly? This is what you working-class Republicans feel is fair? A mega-wealthy Mitt Romney who pays no taxes at all? (I haven't looked but I assume Newt, also a wealthy man, would benefit from a zero capital gains tax as well).

The only thing I can figure is that a lot of you are brainwashed by delusions of grandeur, hoping you'll end up as one of them. That's probably isn't going to happen considering the way they have the deck stacked in favor of themselves and against you.