We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, September 30. 2011
The other day, former Google employee Doug Edwards asked President Obama to please raise my taxes. Edwards has the luxury of being "unemployed by choice." This is a very nice choice to have, one which I wish I had when I was unemployed. Not having the financial wherewithal Mr. Edwards has, it forced me to make some very different choices during my period of unemployment. One of them was not related to raising my taxes at all.
Where Edwards, and Warren Buffett, go off the rails is their assumption that raising their taxes is something they should be allowed to impose on others who may not share their views. If Mr. Edwards has a very good friend who is also making money by selling his stock from "a small startup that did quite well", it's quite possible that friend is happy with his tax rate. Is it fair or right for Mr. Edwards to tell his friend that his taxes should be raised?
More importantly, what is Mr. Edwards doing with his money that he wants the government to have? He pointed to Pell Grants, infrastructure and job training programs as things he considered important and worthy of having his money taxed. We could all agree that infrastructure is in need of improvement. But couldn't Mr. Edwards put his money to better use by setting up scholarships and grants on his own, or becoming an entrepreneur and doing his own job training program by starting a business? Mr. Edwards, I don't want to tell you how to spend your money. After all, it's yours, and I have no right to tell you how it is best used. That's up to you. If you want to pay more taxes, then pay. After all, you can gift money to the government. Nobody's stopping you.
On the other hand, if I had the luxury of Mr. Edwards' position, I'm fairly certain I could set up a scholarship fund and provide money for schools far more efficiently than the government. Why would I want the government to take my money, spend hundreds of thousands of what they collect on bureaucrats who don't add value, and have those people distribute the money to needy school students? There's less money to help the students. Of course, it does become a remarkably inefficient jobs program. I suppose that's the joy. You've been taxed and given several people useless jobs that you could probably do better on your own.
If I had the background that Mr. Edwards has, and lived in the startup capital of the US, I could probably be an entrepreneur. Then my money does several things. It becomes productive, I get to have my own jobs program, and the company and all its employees get taxed. Funny thing about the free market; you can actually be quite effective with your money if you have a good idea.
Mr. Edwards and Buffett aren't asking not for their taxes to be raised, but for everyone's taxes to be raised, and they have missed the very point that not raising taxes creates value if people want it to create value. Edwards and Buffett think the money has to go to the government to be effective. Sadly, the money will produce nothing of value, and the government will only ask for more later after this money is misspent.
Mr. Edwards, the only thing I can think is that you mean well, but you have missed the boat entirely. It would probably be far more useful to everyone if you and your "Patriotic Millionaires for Higher Taxes" set up a Venture Capital Fund or funded some schools in down and out regions of the US. I'm sure all of your "Patriotic Millionaire" friends are very smart and capable people, so one option would help create jobs and taxes, while the other would reduce our reliance on the federal government for handouts. Either way, you get to feel better and we all win.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The left argues that they are the compassionate ones because they come up with welfare programs. The fallacy is that they are always paid for by "other people". If they truly wanted to contribute to someone else's welfare, they could do it by contributing to charities or starting one of their own. One of their counter arguments is that voluntary contributions would not generate enough money. That is because in general, those on the left do not contribute nearly as much to charity as the right.
Same with global warming. What's that nice Glenn Reynolds line? Something like, "When people claiming global warming is serious start acting like it's serious, then I'll take it seriously." Big bags of hot air, the lot of them.
Exactly! It seems to be a common trait of the left - make somebody else pay for (or do something) that they like. Remember during the rolling black outs in CA, Bab's Streisand "suggested" all sorts of great ways to conserve energy like using your lights, washer, etc. less? Somebody asked her if she were going to do any of them to conserve energy. She replied to the effect, "who, me?"
Bab's joins Gore as the poster children of the "you pay for it" group, but then it's a big club!
In her 2007 book, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, Amity Shlaes points to the following from The Forgotten Man and Other Essays (1876) by William Graham Sumner:
"As soon as A observes something which seems to him wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or, in better case, what A, B, and C shall do for X."
Sumner's "Forgotten Man" was "C", the one coerced by law to "charity", e.g. through taxation.
To promote his New Deal in a "fireside chat" radio address (April 7, 1932), President Franklin D. Roosevelt perverted the term to denote "X", the man in need succor.
Kudos to Bulldog in his "maiden sortie" for examining the "Buffet-Edwards stance" in this light.
I like your emphasis. Use your money to create value. Government do a piss-poor job of creating value (e.g. Solyndra). You'll do better.
It turns the old saying around: instead of "you need money to make money", it's "use your money to make money".
"Edwards and Buffett think the money has to go to the government to be effective."
Actually, Buffett is on the record as saying exactly the opposite....which of course makes him a hypocrite. Soon after Buffett issued his first complaint about not being taxed enough, he was asked by a reporter why he was turning his immense fortune over to the Gates Foundation instead of letting the government collect enormous estate taxes, and Buffett said the charitable foundation would make much better use of the money than would the government. Honest. That's what he said.
And, BTW, no one (especially the MSM) seems to have caught on to another trick Buffett and his company Berkshire-Hathaway are pulling in order to avoid taxes. The company has retained earnings of $46 billion in cash, for which it apparently can find no good business use. Normally, what a company should do if it's sitting on a huge mountain of unused cash is to distribute the money to shareholders as DIVIDENDS. But dividends are taxed at ordinary (i.e., high) tax rates. Instead, Berkshire-Hathaway plans to use the money to buy back shares of the company from its shareholders.
Note that any shareholder who accepts the offer and has seen the market value of his stock rise ends up with a capital gain (rather than a dividend from a distribution of the company's excess earnings). In many cases I'm sure it will be in the form of a long-term capital gain, which is taxed at lower rates than dividends and wages (15% max). In effect, what this stock repurchase stratagem does for many of Buffett's shareholders is to convert a high-tax dividend into a low-tax capital gain. Imagine that! Quelle surprise!
I had read that the stock buyback does is assist in the transfer of power after Buffett leaves.
I hadn't heard the quote by Buffett about the effectiveness of government, so thanks for that. I found it very odd that he was asking for his tax rate to be raised - after all, he and others will find a way to avoid it. That's what wealthy people do (well, honestly, it's what we all do. Some are just better at it than others.).
And sorry about the punctuation and grammatical errors. Sometimes you don't catch them until after the post goes up. Then you get to be embarrassed. I don't think it hurt the point, though.
The Doc told me to read two grade school Language Arts texts and call him in the morning.
"that the stock buyback" = "what the stock buyback". Doc - that's a speed typing error. I know he's gonna get me for it.
I can't edit the individual comments. If anyone ever wants to prove you're an illiterate boob, well, there's the proof above, embedded in the Internet until the end of time. So it goes.
If he is one of those Libertarians who recognizes that people naturally run in packs, congregate in tribes, and set out to rape and pillage on occasion, that will be great. If he is one of those Pollyanna types who think human beings are naturally wonderful when left alone I can see some arguments in the future. Those types are as bad as marxists, if not quite as evil ;)
I'm a believer in Groucho Marx's old adage "never join a club that would have me as a member".
Then again, I joined Maggie's. I suppose that's a reflection on them as much as it is on me. ;)
I believe people are intrinsically good, but often let their worst instincts guide them when it comes to behavior. There is a difference between "you can do as you please" Libertarians and "your ability to swing your fist ends at the tip of the other person's nose" Libertarians. I'm the latter.
Want to run in packs, join a tribe, and be part of the 'in crowd'? Go right ahead, that's part of choice. But you have to remember that there are consequences to everything and you have to accept responsibility for the consequences.
Often, Libertarians (though more regularly Democrats) focus on their 'Rights' and not their 'Responsibilities'. I suppose Edwards was trying to make a point about his responsibilities when discussing increased taxes. Talk about unintended consequences, if that's what he was doing.
No, I believe there are Responsibilities which have to be considered. Recently, a neighbor wanted a variance to expand his home into a monstrosity that would have blocked my view. The changes were truly ugly. But hey - it's not my house or land. So I said to him "you can do as you please, but remember that part of the value of your home is related to the way the house is viewed not only by potential buyers, but how the buyers perceive the neighborhood. If your home is out of step, it will carry less value than you hope."
Luckily for me, he was denied the variance. He has since scaled the plans back. He and I discussed it recently, and he admitted that he'd gone too far. But I felt my response was fitting. That, to me, is a Libertarian view.
If 'intrinsically good' means given to rape and pillage, then we are in perfect agreement.
Bulldog, I agree with you on the rights/responsibilities angle, but I think chuck is making another point. I think Dennis Prager said it well that man is not by nature good or bad, but has to be brought up to be good. Freudians talk about the 'id' and New Agers talk about 'inner children' but the basic thing if we are unrestrained by something, we are really animals. We are either restrained by society or law. Basically, the weaker one is, the stronger the other has to be.
Liberals (not necessarily leftists) generally think our nature is basically good. For example, all we have to do to end wars is to stop fighting them. Or if we just made sure people got welfare, there would be less crime because it is caused by poverty and that recipients would take the opportunity to advance themselves to get out of poverty.
Obviously, there are gradients to this...
I have a Buddhist viewpoint on the nature of man. During college, I spent time working summers at a camp. The kids were all great. Most of them. The problem kids really weren't problems at all, they just had parental issues.
Kids have to be taught to be mean, or be abused or mistreated somehow. I don't agree that people are intrinsically evil. I think there are factors that make them bad (and I don't think that is a differential between liberals or conservatives - I've heard both groups use this.)
What was really revealing were the kids with Down Syndrome. At first, never having worked with disabled people before, I was not at all confident I'd be able to handle them. However, they are the nicest, most loving individuals I've ever had the chance to work with. I think their nature is indicative of the basic nature of man.
Is there a contingent of people who are bent on destruction? Sure, but I don't think that is a natural thing. I always remind my boys, when they fall into peer pressure to demean or diminish other kids, that it is "easier to destroy than it is to build, but only one choice adds value." It isn't hard to keep them in good behavior, it's just that the alternative is easier to engage.
Easier doesn't mean natural. It just means lazy, most of the time.
What's evil about rape and pillage? They have been held in high regard by many cultures. Even buddhists can learn to follow their natural inclinations in these matters. It isn't that difficult.
Doc Mercury, I think chuck has earned bonus Maggie's Points. I really can't dispute his logic with this response.
Are you saying that Chuck has convinced you that rape and pillage are perfectly acceptable because they [i]once[i] were?
Both are 'completely acceptable' in the three books I just posted about, and they make a real strong case for slavery as well. Also killing the messenger who brings bad news.
Since the news you're bringing is also bad (that you were so easily bested in an argument after my rousing introduction), are you arguing that you should be killed, or merely sold into slavery?
(FWIW, I could use a good slave. This place is a mess!)
LOL. No, I'm really saying that while neither are reasonable or even acceptable behavior in a modern sense, I can see chuck is willing to utilize 'atomic weapon' responses. When I meet people like this, I generally am unwilling to continue because:
a) if it's humor, there's no defense
b) if it's not, you're beating down a brick wall
I'm already a slave, it's called marriage.
We simply disagree about human nature. It's not a political thing, it is about natural history.
In one day?
At least, that's how long I hear it takes a real man to do it. If it took you 666 days, well, that's a different story.
Moving that river to clean the stables? All in a day's work.