Thursday, September 01, 2011

Bringing a knife to a gunfight: A leftie takes a shot at defending Van Jones' 'Contract for America'

I'd made a couple restrained (for me) comments on Van Jones 'Contract for America' site, before I began my last five posts upon it (here, here, here, here and here). Finally, after a long wait, I got a reply from a supporter of the contract, and as luck would have it, he illustrated the theme of my posts: That this thing is just an assemblage of words meant to appeal to excited emotions, without any consideration for what those words actually mean, or for what they must then mean, when put in practice.

The commenter, one 'revjmike' (no site links for his name), passed this off as his opinion:
"So you are opposed to "redistribution of wealth," which means to you that the wealthy can have as much as they can steal, whip, beat, coerce, and in any other way get from the working person. So the problem isn't redistribution. The problem is the inequality of opportunity afforded in our nation's "free market" capitalism that steals from the poor to give to the rich. Yes. I, too, believe redistribution of wealth is a problem. It's just that you define it incorrectly. And, yes, I'm picking a fight, you idiot."
Amazing, isn't it? For the proregressive leftist, opposing redistribution of wealth 'means' supporting stealing, whipping, beating and otherwise intimidating working people. It's tempting to say 'case closed'... but I am a flogger at heart and couldn't let such low hanging fruit go unpicked.

I'll let this post concern itself with my reply - which in my defense is just a stream-of-conscious reply, and the followups by both of us (and I'll sweeten the pot with an oldie but goodie - a video of Milton Friedman responding on nearly the same topic to Phil Donahue from several decades ago):

revjmike said "It's just that you define it incorrectly. And, yes, I'm picking a fight, you idiot."
;-) No, picking a fight is something you do face to face, tossing insults behind the safety of anonymity and distance is something petulant cowards do on webpages. Hence the whole of your comment. Interesting that you should spell the word 'define' though, how about we have a look see at how well you've thought about what those words you’ve spelled actually mean, shall we?
""redistribution of wealth," which means to you that the wealthy can have... "
'Can have', which means that someone is to be in the position of allowing them to have. You perhaps? Unlikely. Someone you trust... someone you trust to violate the rights of people you don't like. Hmmm... you wish to trust someone who has little or no regard for anyone's rights, and you are going to trust them with power... power gained by them through winning over the favor of 'the people', and that 'favor' is based upon whatever the current darling of public opinion is.

Tell me revjmike, have you ever noticed, in all your vast and attentive experience, how the mood of public opinion seems to change? Where do you suppose the person you trusted with power over the wealthy... and unquestioned power over anonymous folk like you... just how far do you suppose you'll be able to trust them to stand up for your 'rights', when the winds shift, hmmm? Once you've done away with the idea that Rights apply to everyone, rich & poor, the nice & the mean, the thoughtful and the idiot alike, once you've exempted some, 'the rich', from the protection of Rights, you no longer have Rights, all you are left with are privileges which the powerful have deigned to allow you to have - for now.

Do you really think trusting the powerful with absolute power over you, is a wise idea?

But I suppose that's trusting you to think a thought or two down the line... not something you show much promise at doing, I’m afraid.
" much as they can steal, whip, beat, coerce..."
Unless folks who unthinkingly 'pick fights', such as yourself, manage to do away with Rights completely, the Law still rules, and as such it has rules against theft, assault and swindle, and the only way 'the wealthy' can be above the law is if the concept of rights is weakened so that power and influence can set aside the law for those with power.

Are you able to see how that might become more of a problem, the more foolish ideas such as you favor here, should become the rule, rather than the shameful subterfuge?

Probably not.
", and in any other way get from the working person."
'Get from the working person', get... lets see... if a person has an unquestioned right to their property - possessions, earnings, etc - how could anyone, poor or wealthy, 'get' something from them without committing theft and risking jail?

On the other hand, if you succeed in weakening the right of your working man, and everyone else, to their property - their possessions, earnings, etc - then what possible security can they expect for their property, or their rights, from what remains of 'the law'... a law which would then (and much so now) that will be administered by people with the power to dismiss the rights of the wealthy, and the inconsequential, alike.

Hmmm? As Pooh might say: "Think, think, think..."
"So the problem isn't redistribution. "
Correct. The problem is the diminishment of rights, and the theft made possible because of it.
"The problem is the inequality of opportunity afforded in our nation's "free market" capitalism that steals from the poor to give to the rich."
Well, unfortunately, due to folks like you, if describing our economic situation of the last seven or eight decades, I have to put quotes around 'free market' too, but only because folks like you have diminished the right we have to our rights. Through laws and regulations, the govt, and those favored by it (consult Hank Paulson & Timothy Geithner for a list of those they've favored with gobs of your earnings (assuming you work) and mine), have undermined the law's ability to secure our property for us, and even our right to make our own choices about what to do with what we are left with, and with our own lives (your Life is something you have property in as well... though thanks to folks like you, your right to your own life is no longer unquestioned) as well. Today we no longer have a free market, we have the mixture of state and market, the 'mixed economy', which is what Marx advocated as a way of doing away with the free market altogether - and individual rights along with it.
The first step he advocated towards that, btw, was to cease calling the Free Market by its proper name (the Free Market), and to begin referring to as as 'Capitalism', because it is a lot easier to demonize something that refers to 'money', than it is to denigrate a system that requires people being free to make their own choices over their lives and property.

And what was it that Marx advocated most of all? What did he say, in Chp. 2 of his 'Manifesto', was what his entire methodology could be boiled down to?
Marx: "In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. "
(closing out)
"Yes. I, too, believe redistribution of wealth is a problem. It's just that you define it incorrectly."
No, it's just that you never bothered to define it at all.
"And, yes, I'm picking a fight..."
Next time you try, you might want to think a bit about what you'll have to fight with - bringing poorly 'thought' out cliché’s and name calling, to a debate which requires thinking through ideas... is like the proverbial 'bringing a knife to a gun fight' - but then I guess that that is the 'Chicago Way', isn't it.

I won't bother with the name calling, I think you've identified yourself clearly enough to those who care to think the matter through, and to others such as yourself boasting of opinions you've not thought through ... who cares?

I expected some type of reply that would rebut what I'd said, something that clarified what revjmike had hastily quipped. No such luck. This was what revjmike wrote, as a follow up to his 'picking a fight':
What you say only makes sense because you want it to make sense.
I don't trust politicians any more than I trust most people; but not taxing wealthy people is a completely insane thing. They break the backs of the poor then complain that they don't think they work hard enough while drinking champagne at $300 plus per bottle and doing nothing of value much of the time except continue to be rich.
Show me where I am wrong because nothing you said refutes this.
I don't think I could have asked for a worse confirmation of my concerns that this contract, and its supporters, were using words without a care for their meaning or implications. I replied:
"What you say only makes sense because you want it to make sense."
I eagerly await your next insightful argument... something along the lines of "I'm rubber, you're glue..." no doubt.
"I don't trust politicians any more than I trust most people; "
Which illustrates what I said about your not paying attention to the meaning of what you say. You say you don't trust politicians more than anyone else, and yet you trust them to create, or further rig, a system of taxation which CAN give loopholes to those they favor - and if you propose either tax breaks or tax penalties for one group over another, our present tax code is what you'll get, which will be administered by guess who: Politicians.
"...but not taxing wealthy people is a completely insane thing."
Who said anything about not taxing the wealthy? There can be NO right for anyone to not support that which makes the defense of rights possible - the government - and taxation is the only practical method of funding the government. Outside of taxing for particular services (ports, highways, etc), taxes, to be fair, have to be evenly applied to all, rich and poor alike, and I've never said or implied anything differently.

Who is saying that some should be taxed less than others? That'd be you (redistribution of wealth). If you pay attention to the meaning of your words, what that means is that some people have more right, and some people have less right, to their property than others do, and worse, it means that some people even have a right to another person’s property - which amounts to saying that NO one has a Right to their property any longer, which effectively does away with Rights altogether; and there's only one group of people who can benefit from that: Politicians.

If you haven't been paying attention to the last hundred years, the only way to administer such a soak the rich plan is through the progressive income tax, which means putting politicians in charge of deciding who will have to pay, and how much, and it means decisions have to be made about what is income, and what isn't, and what that means are reams and reams of definitions, caveats and loopholes - a veritable glory hole of power for who? Politicians.

Just what is it you think politicians are going to do with that power? They're going to turn it into personal influence and wealth (aka: political power)... who are they going to get that from... the poor? or from those who can afford them and give them favors in return?

And you say you don't trust politicians more than anyone else. You have a funny way of showing it.

An income tax is bad enough, but if it were at least a single rate, you'd go a long way towards reducing political chicanery and favoritism. But a progressive tax, which is the only way to soak the rich and spread their wealth around, can only mean in practice that no one has a Right to their property, you reduce everyone to only having the privilege of keeping what politicians allow them to have, and in the end the rich are ALWAYS going to win out on who winds up with the most privileges.

Personally I think the only way to ensure that everyone pays an equal share, is by a sales tax... you want the rich to pay more taxes? With a flat sales tax, the more they buy, the more they'd pay. But that's another argument.

I pretty much figured that that would be that, but revjmike came back with another blurb:

revjmike replied:
But a sales tax makes the poor pay a higher percentage of taxes than the wealthy.
And I agree about politicians using taxation to buy votes but also don't believe there is a better system. Equal taxation simply makes the poor and lower middle classes poorer.
This one is really fascinating.
"...don't believe there is a better system."
Wow. Based upon what? What comparisons have you made that you think that a tax system which is comprised of tens of thousands of pages of rules and regulations, a system which NO ONE is free from being in violation of, a system which consumes billions of dollars every year in attempting to either comply with it, or in trying to finesse it, that is the system which you don't think there is a better one than?

Just wow.

Even Russia has abandoned the progressive income tax for a flat tax, and have experienced great success with it. Have you looked at any of that before deciding to believe there isn't a better system out there?
"But a sales tax makes the poor pay a higher percentage of taxes than the wealthy."
And when the poor pay for a pound of butter or a gallon of milk, it represents a vastly higher percentage of their wealth than it does for the wealthy, what's your point? That when those with less money spend or invest in anything, it represents a larger percentage of their wealth than it does for those who have more wealth than they do?

Congratulations on the insight, but as startling as it may have been for you, I don't think any Nobel prizes will be winging their way in your direction any time soon.

Or do you mean that the poor don't pay income taxes at all now, and having to pay any taxes would be unfair? Such a statement also assumes that the poor pay little or nothing in taxes today, which seems to undermine your earlier assertion that it is the who rich pay no taxes at all, doesn't it? Well, if the poor aren't paying taxes now - they should be. If the rich aren't paying taxes now - they should be. How is it fair that anyone should be exempt from supporting their govt?

The only perspective from which it matters whether one group pays a higher percentage of their wealth for taxes, or anything else, than does those with more wealth, is one of spite and envy... which really shouldn't be displayed in public. And forget the percentages, the actual totals of money which are paid by the rich, now, today, make any that the 'lower classes' pay, to be miniscule in comparison. The actual totals that would be paid towards supporting the govt by the poor, and by the wealthy, if it was supported through a sales tax, would be of such enormous disparities, that even putting them into percentages would make such complaints stand out as being as silly as they actually are.

For instance, if you make $20,000 a year, and spend $18,000 of that, with... say (ballparking off a couple proposals that are out there)... 20% of that going towards Federal sales taxes, that'd be $3,600, and the $2,000 you managed to save would be just that - saved. Not taxed at all. Your savings would be able to accumulate year after year, earning interest, without the penalty of taxation either as it grows, or on withdrawing it or investing it elsewhere. Can you imagine what that would mean to 'the poor' over a lifetime?

On the other hand, if you were wealthy, and you spent... say... $2,000,000 a year on the sorts of things that keep you amused... lots of $300 bottles of wine and so forth; at 20% Federal sales tax on all you spend, that would mean $400,000 to the govt coffers.

Whether you're talking real numbers, or percentages, that's certainly a difference I could live with - and not that it's a legitimate concern, but if you're petty enough to want those who benefit from America to have to pay more for that 'priviledge' than others, it seems to me that that's the way to do it. No?
"Equal taxation simply makes the poor and lower middle classes poorer."
Do you make an effort to attach meaning to the words you say and the positions you hold? Do you bother trying to see even the first level of implications of the words and positions you advance?

So equal taxation simply makes the poor poorer, eh? What do you think happens to the poor when additional taxes and regulations are put upon businesses? Who do you think will be hit hardest when incandescent light bulbs are removed from the market and the poor have to buy the expensive new green energy monstrosities instead?

How devastated do you think the rich are by the 12% taxes that are imposed on each gallon of gasoline today, as opposed to the poor? Do you think those don't make the poor poorer?

But again, buying milk and butter makes the poor poorer also, but they are necessities, and eating is presumably worth the expense - why should anyone be exempt from the necessary expenses of life?

Is there some reason why the poor should have no responsibility towards supporting the govt which upholds and defends their rights? Who relies upon, depends upon and benefits from that fundamental function of govt more than the poor? The wealthy and powerful could get along just fine without rights, they've got the wherewithal to buy favors and force as needed - in fact that's a sizable motivation behind so many of the 'upper classes' supported the regulatory state in the first place, so that they can more easily prey upon the less powerful.

Ask your local small banker, who it is that they think benefited most from Paulson, Geithner, Bush & Obama's 'Too big to fail' policies, it sure as heck wasn't them! Too big to fail means that everyone else is too small to be allowed to survive.

The easily discernible truth - if you bother looking for it - is that few despise and fear the Free Market more than those who desire to remain wealthy and retain their positions without having to work for them. Take a closer look into who actually instigated many if not most of all of the regulations currently on the books, and the regulatory agencies burdening the land, starting with the first big one, the Interstate Commerce Commission. If you bother to look beyond the easy feelings, you'll find that they were mostly brought about by the entrenched and established rich, the ones who are eager to 'work with' the govt, like G.E. does today, who didn't want to have to compete with new businesses. It was regulatory policies such as those promoted by this 'contract' which enabled them to do it - and the people they hurt were, are, the poor, lower & middle classes who are the ones who have to pay so much more for their products and services (which folks like you call 'fair prices') than what they would have had to pay, if the rich and powerful had to compete on a truly level playing field.

Regulations don't hurt the rich and powerful - they hurt those who are trying to become rich and powerful, and those who are deprived of the benefits of that competition.

The fact is that policies like this 'Contract for America' favor, hurt the poor, not the rich. The rich will simply pack up their factories and ship them overseas (you might want to google up Gibson Guitar company, the Dept of Justice and Madagascar - you'll find that the DOJ just advised them to shut down their American factories and ship the mfg overseas - how's that for 'Justice'?), if the regulations and taxes get to be too much - the poor and lower classes don't have that option, they've got to suffer under the results of your unthinking - but oh so easily satisfying feeling - policies.

And lets not forget, the additional percentages which the poor, lower and middle classes have to pay to ease the positions of the rich and powerful saved from the rigors of competing by leftists regulation of the market, represent sizable percentages more of their wealth, than the differences do to the rich.

Where's your concern for that?

If you want an issue to be concerned about, the question you should be asking, is whether or not the measures you favor leave people free to live their own lives, or will they empower experts in the government to live their own lives for them?

This contract comes down solidly for the later, and there are a lot of us out here who are fed up with it. If you care so much about the poor... why aren't you fed up with it too?


mushroom said...

The five-parter was excellent. I just finished reading it yesterday. This is icing on the cake.

Unless folks who unthinkingly 'pick fights', such as yourself, manage to do away with Rights completely, the Law still rules ...

And that is exactly the problem. People like Obama see themselves and are seen by their followers as above the law -- or perhaps a law unto themselves.

The emphasis by the left in this country is often on how we need our country run by the elites, the best and brightest. Johnson thought he could do this with guys like McNamara. Roosevelt had his brain trust.

If things were run according the Constitution and the basic laws in place at the federal level, especially in peace time, the Three Stooges could run this country and do a better job than all the genius lawyers and economists. The LAW would keep them from screwing things up too badly -- if they followed it. The federal government was meant to be more or less a turnkey operation. You don't need career politicians and insiders to run it unless you are determined to make massive changes and ignore the Law of the Land.

Well done.

andrew said...

Another great job taking apart the left by the VanMan.

Van said...

Thanks guys.

Mushroom said "And that is exactly the problem. People like Obama see themselves and are seen by their followers as above the law -- or perhaps a law unto themselves."

Yep. The proregressive leftist feels that the law should be a tool to help them tell us what's best for us.