Tuesday, June 09, 2009

How You 'Earned' It

As some of you are aware, it has long been my hobby to dally in Right-Wing Extremist Land, trying to wrap my head around how the other 23% thinks. For years I read extensive diatribes on Those Evil Feminist Baby-Killers, Those Satanist Socialists and Those F*'n Libtards, setting aside the odd surge of incredulous rage and regarding their venomous screeds with scholarly detachment. I came out of it with only a mild case of Stockholm Syndrome, thinking, "Gosh, they're so CUTE. Good thing they're not running the world any longer, though."

But all honeymoons must come to an end, and around the time Obama sealed the nomination, the State of Grace in which I had been dwelling abruptly evaporated. It's not just that I like Obama, and believe that it is High Time that an empath with a balanced global perspective was running things; it's that when a person calls Obama a moron and takes Sarah Palin seriously--well, words and empathy both fail me.

So it is with the full understanding that I am preaching to an empty hall that I take on the issue of Taxes.

There are those of you out there who object to Paying Taxes on What You Earned. You state that Progressive Tax Rates Are Patently Unfair. The horror. The cruelty. The Economic Stupidity. You declare, righteously, that rather than pay those Taxes you will take your marbles and go elsewhere. After all, you EARNED it.

Yes, darling, you did. But if you earned more than a quarter million dollars last year, you didn't do it working freelance. That is, you didn't do a physical job in a measurable amount of time and get paid market rate for it. You didn't dredge up clients one by one, and convince them to pay you for a single object or a single service, one by one.

No, if you earned more than a quarter of a million dollars, you did it by positioning yourself--or being positioned--at a strategically superior position in a very large system. I.e., you were a high-ranking officer in a large corporation, a lawyer, an investor, or an entrepreneur on a large scale. You received a percentage of the profit from the labor of thousands of people. Your 'earnings,' then, are inseparable from both the existence and the smooth functioning of this system, and thus dependent upon the system in a far more pervasive way than the labors of a freelancer at the bottom of the pyramid. To put it mathematically--a freelancer's earnings are linear. Yours, by virtue of your advantageous connections within the system, are exponential.

So you may complain to me about paying Higher Taxes--if, and only if:

• You, and all of your employees, and all the employees of every corporation you invest in, never use roads.

• You, and all of the above, have never attended a public school, including a state university.

• Your business does not utilize any standardized weights or measures.

• You, and all of the above, do not require a working environment free of cholera, malaria, polio, war and pestilence of all kinds.

• You, AAOTA, do not use the Internet.

• You, AAOTA, do not require clean drinking water, sewers, or garbage removal.

• You, AAOTA, and none of your progenitors ever staked a physical claim--say, to a piece of land or a sum of capital--that was upheld in perpetuity by the rule of law.

You may tell me until the cows come home that you don't care about Those Other People, that lazy people don't deserve healthcare, that your right to prove to God that you are a Good Person by Giving Voluntarily is inalienable, and that Government is Evil. Fine. So why don't you go where there is no government--say, the moon--and keep 100% of everything you find there.


Anonymous said...

Um, I think the moon-landing and all space travel was funded by taxes, so good luck getting there, guys! Don't let the hatch hit your beehind on the way out!

Chris Rywalt said...

This line of argument never, ever works. Because, in my experience, the people who have had the most help -- from friends, family, colleagues, and the government -- believe least in giving help to others. All of the aid they've received is invisible to them: They honestly, sincerely, and completely erroneously believe they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.

Pretty Lady said...

Oh, I'm not expecting the line of argument to work, Chris. As I mentioned, these are people who take Sarah Palin seriously as a representative of the United States on the world stage. Their level of narcissism and contempt for literally everything other than themselves is limitless. Plus, they don't believe the moon landing happened.

No, such 'arguments' are only useful in clarifying my own line of thought, when contemplating what systems are actually for, and thus how best to approach them. All I can do when contemplating the hard-core right wing is to be aware that such people are on the tail end of the ethical evolution curve, and try to be patient with them.

Chris Rywalt said...

I wish it was just hard-core right wing paranoid nutjobs. I'm talking about rock-solid Americans -- firefighters, auto mechanics, computer engineers, lawyers. People who should know better but simply don't. People who really do believe in the Apollo landing but continue somehow to believe that taxes are theft.

george said...


Not having attained the quarter million dollar level, I assume I’m free to complain about taxes without fear of exile to “the hard-core right wing” and “the tail end of the ethical evolution curve”? If I refrain from stating “Government is Evil” (possible), can I at least go about chanting “Government is Profligate” (unquestionable)?

Mr. Rywalt,

Taxing is not, in and of itself, theft, but there is a line and it can be crossed and that can be called theft.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, people used to say Property is Theft. But then, I grew up in a communist cult.

a formerly frequent commenter who hesitates to comment now that another frequent commenter here inexplicably refuses to acknowledge my existence, thus making conversation, the free flow of ideas and indeed, common courtesy, difficult. Sorry, Steph, but it had to be said.

Chris Rywalt said...

It's true, George, that a lot of taxes are not, shall we say, well spent. But I imagine everyone would quibble with something -- that's democracy.

Pretty Lady said...

Indeed, George, your complaints as described come squarely under the heading of 'sensible concerns of decent people,' as opposed to 'narcissistic whining by overprivileged robber barons.' Carry on.