Other bits and pieces

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Want My Two Dollars!

I'm watching all these protesters 'occupying' Wall Street. They're angry. They've had enough of watching our country morph into this situation where the top 1% of the population control the bulk of the wealth. And I get it, they've played by the rules, they've worked hard. Many have gone to college and have student loans for bachelor's degrees that don't pay off in terms of the jobs they expected. Meanwhile, they see those of fortunate circumstances, be that family money, or just plain luck enjoying all the good times. Tea Party and far right conservatives' claims that the very wealthy use that money to create jobs seems to be class A hokum considering they retain and play with the bulk of their money. So how did our country get to this point?

Actually, that's a dumb question for me to ask. The better question is: When wasn't our country, or any other this way?

Dear Wall Street occupying, disenfranchised hipsters,
Put down your PBR and medical THC for a minute and pay attention. This is not new! The very tippy top minority holding the lion's share of the money and power has been the case in pretty much every society for thousands of years! It's not a Capitalist thing. It's not a Socialist things. It just...is.

It started when one big strong caveman wielded physical and sexual power over his fellow cave dwellers. He commanded the best food, flattest rock to sleep on, most pimp-ass saber toothed tiger fur, and had his command over the hottest (though hairy) cave chicks. The Pyramids of Egypt were built by hundreds of thousands of slaves to satisfy the opulent post-mortem obsessions of like 20 people. The Senators and Emperors of Rome had enough scratch to spend building giant stone houses off the backs of the proletariat. The Kings and wealthy land owners of Europe bathed in hot and cold running fat cash while basically everyone else squirmed around in their own filth.

But what about the noble and enlightened? The Chinese? Yeah, same story but with fireworks. The American Indians...yup. Powhatan's people knew full well who their daddy was. Marxists? Sure, they rage against the machine until they are the machine. Life was good in the USSR if you were a member of the Politburo...not so much if you were a farm-hand in Azerbaijan. How about the Inca, the Maya, or the renowned street gangs of L.A.? Uhh...yeah, same thing.

About the only society where this wasn't the case would have been the early post-colonial United States; the land of opportunity where everyone could succeed and attain the American Dream. After we kicked King George in the ding ding and founded the greatest nation ever to exist, every man, woman and child in the country made it big. Yeah right. One word: Plantation!

Our country didn't just get this way. It started this way. George Washington's humble little mansion on a hill overlooked a spread of around 5,000 acres and was operated ENTIRELY by slaves. Talk about disenfranchised. The founding fathers of this country were the top 1%. Everyone else would spend their entire lives sucking hind tit. But that's okay, right, surely the likes of George, Thomas, Ben, and the boys started out from humble beginnings and worked their way through college to get where they were. Heck, anyone in America could have had what they did at that time. Some did, but most didn't. The larger part of the signers of the constitution were privileged. Washington and Jefferson were rich from the get go...born to a couple of the most prominent families of Virginia at the time. Carnegie, Getty, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Ford, and Mr. Gates. Whether from privileged beginnings, or superior endeavors, these people became very very very rich while most of the rest of America goofed around in the middle class or lower.

Is it wrong? Well, that depends on how you look at it. In once sense, sure, they should share...I guess. Should they put more of their personal money back into the businesses they build and create more jobs? Should the government take it away from them through taxes and give it to everybody else? It doesn’t' really matter. Because, and here's the secret so really pay attention, you can start chanting again in a minute: Wealth redistribution will be the same whether you tax them more or not! Not better, not worse...the same.

Here's how: All the re-distributors are getting their knickers in a twist over the fact that, contrary to Tea -Bagger claims, those top earners and executives squander their wealth instead of using it to create jobs. That is a myopic view of job creation. Just because they don't re-invest every penny in theirs and other companies for growth (and therefor job creation) doesn't mean they're not creating jobs. What do you think the 2nd and 3rd order effects are when one of these grotesquely rich dudes has a custom 10,000 sq/ft house built? SOMEONE HAS TO BUILD IT. The same goes for yachts, summer homes, restaurants that make you taste the wine before they poor you a glass, private airplanes, expensive cars, cosmetic surgeons, strippers, escorts, entourages, and discrete 'pharmaceutical' suppliers.

Those who have money spend money. Most of them have money because for the most part they are smart with their money and save first and spend the residual. If you tax them more, you're just cutting into the money they spend. So, the only difference between redistribution by tax, and redistribution by squandering, is that at least with the later you have have a chance to get in front of the spend train and make a little for yourself. Or, you could let the government take it and waste it on pork-barrel spending that won't help anything, anywhere, ever.
Right, wrong, or indifferent...this situation has been an economic constant for as long as their have been people. It exists because it has to. Every model of society that has ever endeavored to be different ends up in this state very quickly because it has no choice. Someone has to mop floors, and someone else has to be at the top. But that doesn't mean that you can't start off with a mop in your hand, and end up with the keys to the executive washroom. It also doesn't mean you will. You make choices, you try and fail and try again, and if you're lucky, something you try will coincide with an opportunity and you'll be up, out and on top..and don't forget about the luck.

Bill Gates is a brilliant innovator. But that's not why he is where he is. He has all that he does because of pure, dumb luck. Check this out: Gates just happened to be fortunate enough to attend a very exclusive private school in the 8th grade. This school happened to have a computer AND access to a block of time at a better computer over at General Electric. This was 1968 folks. Bill gates, a driven and tech-savvy braniac just happened to fall ass-backwards into a situation where he could learn to program computers at a time when really no one else in the country could do the same. Talk about a head start! Sure, he made a lot of good decisions that made him wealthy, but none of that would have put him where he is without the one in ten million chance he started out with.

So, quit whining. You're not going to change this economic constant. Go back to whatever you do for a living, or figure out what that's going to be. Do your best, hope for some good luck, and remember...as Denis Leary said, “Life sucks, wear a helmet.”

© 2011 Raymond Smith

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