Selfish Bastard

Today is the day that President Obama gives his acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention. Driving home, listening to the POTUS channel (ch 124) on XM Radio (yes, I am hopelessly a political geek), I hear the Foo Fighters complete a song at the DNC and then a video comes on the big screen. 

From the sound of it, there are about six or seven people talking about what America is to them. A land of hope and dreams, a land where you are one paycheck away from financial destruction, one illness away from bankruptcy, and a land where there is infinite possibilities if only there is help to get to the promised land.

While hearing that, I am thinking to myself, what is wrong with all of that? Then one of the speakers blamed President Bush for an all-out assault on the middle-class. Tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires at the expense of the hard-working, broken-back (not broke-back) middle class workers.

Through the gauzy music and the misty eyes, I start feeling like a selfish bastard. Why wouldn't I want everyone to have coverage for health care? Why wouldn't I want every hard working parent to be able to send their kids to college without breaking their bank account? Why wouldn't I want everyone to have a nice home to live in? Why wouldn't I want all of these wonderful things that the Democrat plank supports? Am I that disgusting of an elitist to want to deprive these noble people from their due?

Then the practical side of me starts thinking... Maybe I have just been lucky. I left home at seventeen, skipped college and joined the Navy. I stuck with it to the point where I should (theoretically) be getting retirement and full medical in a couple of years. I have Social Security benefits piled up since I have not missed a day of being employed since I was fifteen. I have not been seriously sick, but I have been paying for my own health insurance for thirty years. 

I feel like I have contributed heavily to a system of public and private support. It has taken a LOT of money to pay for insurance, house payments, property taxes for schools even though I have no children, income taxes, life insurance, umbrella policies, flood insurance and on and on. This stuff ain't cheap, but I want to be covered and I want to be prepared.

Then I hear that piece at the DNC. Health care is a right. Shelter is a right. Food is a right. Preschool is a right. Primary and secondary education is a right. College and vocational schooling is a right.

So, what about electricity? What about transportation? What about cell phones? Internet? Vacation? Where do we stop with the basic human rights? 

At what point does a logical individual say to himself/herself "Hmmmm. You know, everything that I need from cradle to grave is a right and is provided to me. Why should I work a back-breaking job just to maybe have marginally better 'stuff' than is provided for free? In fact, if I work hard, won't I look like a chump or be shunned for trying to be better than my family members or friends?"

You may snicker and think that I am a fool for thinking this way, but consider what the average American had just 100 years ago... or ever 50 years ago, and compare that with what is a bare necessity today. Now, project that entitlement forward 50 more years. What does it look like? Who will pay for it all? Better yet, who will we get to actually go to work to create all of the wonderful things we take for granted in the United States?

These are the fundamental questions and they are really the crux of the difference between the conservatives and the liberals in this nation. 

This November, we aren't voting for specific plans and answers... We aren't voting for the Ryan plan, or the Obama deal. We are voting for a direction and we are at the proverbial fork in the road where we must make that decision.

As I have stated in a previous blog post, we could confiscate every cent of income of the rich and it wouldn't even balance our current budget, let alone future budgets when we fulfill the dreams of the people in that video.

So what will it be? Which way do you want to go? One way leads to financial ruin and the other may just lead to financial salvation. I think that I know which way is which. 

Do you?


Max P said…
Don't forget my free birth control, abortions and sex changes. It's a human right, I know, I saw it in the Constitution somewhere.
Craig Hollins said…
One of the reasons I have trouble coming to terms with American politics, especially from the right, is their failure to use resources adequately. Sure, they want to encourage people to make money and become rich, and they don't really want to hurt anyone in the process - except the lazy people. Fair enough.
Where I think this vision is lacking is it doesn't look at the whole country as a resource. You have to make a plan that will ensure the TOTAL wealth of the country is maximised. How that wealth is distributed is integral in that.
You're right that very few people will bust a nut working minimum wage jobs if they're only a few dollars a week better off than on benefits. The solution is to make the minimum wage higher, not the benefits lower. Show them that work provides opportunities, a purpose and security for their families. Don't expect them to work long hours and barely survive.
The US is the wealthiest country on earth in terms of total wealth. It also has the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line in any industrialised country. These people are not contributing because minimum wage makes it not their while.
That is your missed opportunity.
Max P said…
Make the minimum wage hire? The minimum wage has caused more damage and destroyed more jobs for the poor than any other program in history. The minimum wage distorts the labor market and kills low skilled jobs putting the poor out of work, precisely the people you're trying to help. Do some research and see how much damage the Minimum wage did in Samoa. Congress finally froze it after it destroyed nearly the entire Samoan economy.

Samoan Governor Togiola stated that:

"We are watching our economy burn down. We know what to do to stop it. We need to bring the aggressive wage costs decreed by the Federal Government under control. But we are ordered not to interfere".

"Our job market is being torched. Our businesses are being depressed. Our hope for growth has been driven away"

"After three increments of $.50 to the minimum wages in American Samoa, a cannery that once employed over 2,000 people closed; thousands of jobs had been lost at all levels of employment in American Samoa". (Two tuna canning accounted for the bulk of American Samoa's economy. One shut down after the increase in minimum wages).

Governor Togiola stressed that a recent report from the GAO, which found that increases in the minimum wage had badly damaged the local economy, was in fact understated:

"I remain concerned that this GAO report does not adequately, succinctly or clearly convey the magnitude of the worsening economic disaster in American Samoa that has resulted primarily from the imposition of the 2007 US minimum wage mandate"

"its [the GAO's] own data demonstrates that workers and major employers fault the minimum wage for adverse economic effects to date and expect economic conditions to worsen primarily as a result of continuing increases in the minimum wage."

He concluded by saying:

Craig Hollins said…
Your arguments would be compelling if it wasn't selecting probably the ONLY economy that stuffed up the minimum wage equation. And do you know how big Samoa is? Drawing conclusions from Samoa and trying to extrapolate them to the US is like saying it's chilly therefore global warming is crap. How about looking at the dozens of other economies where the minimum wage equation works quite nicely.
Most mainstream economists discount the supply and demand concept when applied to minimum wage because it fails to take into account the myriad of other factors that weigh on the equation. In other words, increasing the cost of labour doesn't decrease the demand for it, rather the opposite. It also increases the supply which gets people off benefits - another positive outcome.
Exactly what does the US export these days? Entertainment, weapons, intellectual property? None of these industries employ many minimum wage people. Manufacturing, agriculture, mining etc are all industries suffering major trade imbalance.
Now look at your minimum wage jobs - the majority are in the service industries. Restaurant staff, hotel staff, gardeners, cleaners etc. How are they going to impact exports?
If you wish to make your exports more affordable, devise a policy to lower the value of the dollar. That will make your goods cheaper and more competitive.
By not setting a decent minimum wage you are losing the economic input of a significant proportion of people who simply can't be bothered working for a paltry wage. Even worse, you are forcing people that do want to work to barely subsist all in the name of capitalism.
And that is the same capitalism which heavily subsidises the failing industries using the taxes raised on mainly on low wage workers. Is that smart?
Max P said…
Good idea Craig, in fact let's really kick poverty's a** and increase the minimum wage to $1000/hr. Just don't complain when the unemployment rate spikes to 90% and your McDonald's hamburger costs $400.

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