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The I’m-Rich-And-You’re-Not Argument

01 Mar

It’s not really an argument, it’s just a blustering, bullying response that you hear whenever you suggest (or demand) that the tax burden – especially here in the middle of this historic, nationwide financial crisis – ought to be carried by the wealthy. 

I mean, you hear it all the time.  “Oh, so you want ME to pay for it.”

Or, “Ah, so you want to penalize people for being successful.”

The idea is, the rest of us are dipshit kids with our hands out, and the rich are like the grownups.  They roll their eyes as they reach for their wallets – What is it now, Billy?

Even though frequently, I sat there and watched these guys get handed everything in their lives by their moms and dads, from kindergarten right through college, and on into the business world, where their daddies use their connections and resources to get them started.  Then suddenly years later, their business up and running, they delude themselves into believing that they did it all their own selves, those Big Boys, and so the rest of us should, too.

Currently I’m hearing it when we’re talking about teachers.  When I point out, for instance, that we just extended tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, then immediately we added, hey you teachers and cops and firefighters, you need to tighten your belts. 

Usually with a condescending shrug and palms held out wide.  “There’s no money!”

But there’s money.  Sure there is.  That’s the definition of wealthy, and no, I don’t want to penalize you.  Why is it that when we tax you, it’s penalizing you, but when we go after teachers’ benefits, it’s just telling them to tighten their belts?

We’re always worried about financially de-incentivising doctors or giant corporations.  That’s what was so awful about health care, yes?  Nobody will want to be a doctor if their six-digit salaries get too small?

And that’s why we had to cut taxes for the wealthy, yes?  We wouldn’t want them to pay taxes with the money instead of hire people, would we? 

But then when it comes to teachers – oh, screw them, right?  I mean, let’s focus on the ONE financial aspect of being a teacher that is awesome – the benefits – and then let’s pretend that is Teaching In A Nutshell.

Why should they get health care and retirement?!  The unions are spoiling them?

A really backward argument, don’t you think?  We used to ALL get health care and retirement and then slowly over the years, those benefits eroded until suddenly we all think of that as being spoiled. 

“Why don’t I get those benefits?”  That’s what people seem to want to know, and I’ll tell you.  Because you weren’t in a union.

People look at the insurance and retirement and benefits of the average union worker, and they compare them to their own and say “Hey, that’s not fair!”

And they’re right – it’s not fair.  But it doesn’t mean those things should be taken away from anyone.  It means that we should all get those things.  That used to be what America was all about.  Being an American worker used to be something to be proud of, something people around the world envied.  Sure, they still envy us in the Third World – is that the yardstick now?

Suddenly the norm from thirty years ago is characterized as a cushy, undeserved perk.

And the people at the top get the real perks.  If you’re making two hundred fifty grand a year, and you’re comparing your benefits to a teacher’s, and then you’re concluding, “That teacher’s benefits are way better than mine and she needs to tighten her belt!”

Then aren’t you ignoring the salary?  Teachers, it’s no secret, are not paid well.  The benefits are what offset the mediocre pay.  Also, they do get guaranteed raises, but again if you make eighty grand a year and you’re mad at a teacher who gets to look forward to rocking over the forty thousand a year mark, long about Year Ten, then again – apples to apples, please.

And if you’re not making 250K a year, then please stop telling me that I want you to pay for it, because I’m not talking about you.  You’re pretending I’m talking about you.  You’re aspiring to condescension.

You can say, I don’t want you raising taxes on the people whose boots I lick all day, but you don’t get to act like you’re going to be paying for anything I’m talking about, because you’re not.

Equal Representation Regardless Of Wealth

I can’t stress this enough:  You paying more taxes than Bob does not mean that you get more of a say in what is done with the tax revenue than Bob.  That’s not how America works.

Bums and millionaires get the same vote, one apiece.  If you are bringing up your income or financial status in a political debate about this, then all you are trying to do is bully and/or shame the person you are talking to into closing his or her mouth.

And it works for a lot of people.  Being broke, living hand-to-mouth – it’s a bad, shameful feeling.  A favorite, modern rhetorical strategy is to posture as one of the wealthy who’s being taxed – again, whether it’s true or not – and to then apply pressure to that exact feeling of shame and inadequacy, in the person you’re arguing against.

It’s not logical, it’s bullying.  But a lot of people are too passive to respond to it, so it’s an effective argument-ender, minus the logic.  Simply act like the person you’re arguing with wants you to personally pay for their stuff because of their sneakiness and laziness and innate inferiority, and if you can spread out your colorful economic peacock feathers while you’re at it, all the better.

It’s bullshit.  You pay your taxes, and the money stops being yours.  It’s the government’s now – you don’t get to micromanage your share any more than anyone else does.  Where on Earth did you get the idea that you did?

We don’t live in a flat tax society – the wealthy have always paid higher taxes in recognition of the fact that it’s so much easier to make money when you already have a giant stack of it

That’s the basis for taxing the wealthy.  You are at a level where in our system, you can keep on cranking in the money.  You’re doing so in a system occupied and maintained by your fellow taxpayers, many of whom are for instance teachers, who will never reach the level of income you are at, where one can really start slicing through the waves.

So it’s just a question of how much more you’re going to pay.  The Bush tax cuts for example were a 3% slide, but all you hear is how outrageous that would be, penalizing their success by ending that 3% tax cut. 

I guess the Outrageous line is right in there in the middle of that 3%, yes? 

Listen: if the People decide you’re paying more taxes, then you are paying more taxes.  Sit there in your eight-bedroom house bitching about it all you want, the simple fact is, this is what happens when there are more of us than there are of you in a representative democracy.

At least, it’s what happens when corporations do not own the elected officials.

Here’s Why The Rich Don’t Care

Take the most affluent neighborhoods in your city and notice that since schools are funded by local property taxes, those neighborhoods already have the highest paid teachers.  They can already afford it.  I know, they’ll tell you it’s because they earned it – again, they’re rich and we’re not.  But they’ll still have superior schools.  What they won’t have is a monopoly on effective teachers.

And that right there is why it’s so essential to keep the unions.  The affluent neighborhoods will be largely unaffected by this – they can afford to pay teachers more, so they’ll help themselves to the best ones.  The middle class and inner city schools get the leftovers, whoever is willing to teach for mediocre pay and deteriorating benefits.

If you are so interested in people helping themselves and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, then education is the most important ingredient.

And If the current attack on the public workers’ benefits is successful, then there’s no reason to believe that additional attacks won’t follow.  Soon, there will be very little reason to be a teacher or a cop or a firefighter, anywhere except where the wealthy live.

A great deal for the wealthy, if they’re shortsighted enough to believe that millions of people will sink into poverty, right down the road from them, and that they’ll never rise up and take back their dignity, whether it’s with words or votes or fire bombs.

For my part, my wife will be a teacher next year.  We’re not going to fight anybody, plain and simple.  It’s a big world, and if our own country adopts this disgusting and shameful attitude toward educators, then we will leave, and educate people elsewhere.  And we are not alone.

Why would teachers remain in a place where the people don’t respect them?  Why would firemen and cops risk their lives in a culture where insurance salesmen are valued more than they are?  Why should doctors drive Hummers and teachers ride bikes?

It’s a widespread lack of education funding that has led to this situation, an entire population that is so easily swayed by corporate propaganda and upper class avarice.  It sure looks to me like they’re doing this on purpose, so we won’t know what to do about it when they decide to do more.

And you know what?  If we let them then we’ll get exactly what we deserve.

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Earlier:  How About A Nice Tall Glass Of Socialism?
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And:  Maxwell Harrington: The Best At Being Born

 
13 Comments

Posted by on March 1, 2011 in News/Commentary

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 responses to “The I’m-Rich-And-You’re-Not Argument

  1. Circle City News

    March 1, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Very nice article. Well written and good points.

     
  2. Jason

    March 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I’m with you. Let’s burn something.

     
  3. bex

    March 2, 2011 at 1:03 am

    really enjoying these political pieces, Future Tom, more than Common Dreams now.

    i worry about your country and hope someday you guys will leave or revolt or rebel. part of the responsibility, the right of living in a democracy is the People’s right to overthrow the elected government when we like.
    bravo.

     
    • Tom Chalfant

      March 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      Thanks Bex! I’d be interested in hearing how things are for Canadians right about now.

       
      • JohnMoonlord

        March 2, 2011 at 11:11 pm

        Again, bravo Tom, right on the money (pun semi-intended).

        Up North, there’s been a similar tendency: in the last few years, teachers got bashed a lot because they started demanding better work conditions and salaries. I don’t know if this was for Canada at large, but in Quebec, this has been a hot topic recently.

        I have many friends who are teachers and I’ve been seeing some of them breaking down, while “resident rednecks” would reply to them things like: “if you can’t do the job, just quit” or “you should’ve known what you were getting into in the first place, deal with it”. They act like if poor work conditions were a part of the job description, but I’m pretty sure those same folks would go to the barricades if their jobs were the targets.

        Our current government, the Conservatives, does a lot to promote such line of thoughts. So we also have to deal with those issues over here.

         
      • bex

        March 4, 2011 at 1:34 am

        i think your commenter JohnMoonlord really captures the goings on up North.

        can’t quite figure out why the swing over to the right, it is a pretty sad state, the last poll i heard (not to put too much in polls) about the possible outcome of a possible Federal Election had the conservatives/reform party again forming the minority.

        it makes me want to start a revolution some days.

         
  4. Brian

    March 2, 2011 at 2:23 am

    The rich don’t make more money by creating jobs. They make more money by cutting jobs. Nice correlation between the doctors and teachers Tom.

     
    • Tom Chalfant

      March 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks Brian – that is right. There’s a reason while they’re all making money right now while the rest of us struggle..

       
  5. Aimee

    March 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Very well said. I found you through Sparrow and so glad I did. Can I share this article on my FB page?

    Aimee

     
    • Tom Chalfant

      March 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Definitely – there’s a link to my FB page in the blog roll to your right, where you can just click share or you can copy and paste the link – thanks Aimee.

       

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