Five things you CANNOT disagree with:
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anyone what the government doesn’t first take from someone else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
5. When half the people get the idea they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them; and the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because someone else gets what they work for, that is the beginning of the end for any nation.
These statements were posted on Facebook by a friend with whom I went to high school, and I managed to disprove the title of the post by disagreeing. Let me explain why.
You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. No, but you can legislate against the ways wealthy people take advantage of the poor, and legislate to create more equal opportunities. For example, predatory lending. Companies lend against people’s next paychecks or their car titles. They also charge really high interest on the loans, which land poor people in deep debt. One of my coworkers had to have surgery, didn’t heal well, had to have several subsequent procedures, and wasn’t able to work again as soon as expected. Because of that, her paycheck (not high in the first place) got garnished. She was just about to pay off one of those debts when the person she was paying said they had no record of her payments. She had to start all over again, and lost her house and car. Most of us have other options when we need money. She didn’t.
What one person receives without working for, another works for without receiving. That sounds axiomatic, but who does it refer to? Absentee landlords might receive without doing the work of maintaining their properties. Corporations receive subsidies. Do they deserve them? The implication is of the stereotypical poor person receiving welfare, the “welfare queen”. One of my friends, a social worker for 25 years, told me he never met one.
Government cannot give to anybody anything it doesn’t first take from someone else. When I mentioned this one to a friend, he replied, “True, but irrelevant.” Why do we have government in the first place? If government is evil, why would anyone want to have one? Anarchism is a nice fantasy, but history tells it doesn’t work. Governments (according to the Founding Fathers) are supposed to protect ALL their citizens. If they’re too weak, they can’t. Consider Russia, China, and Germany in the last century. They were too weak to keep from being taken over by fanatics. One of the ways government is supposed to represent all its citizens is by providing equal justice. That’s always been a problem in this country, as in the rest of the world. Governments aren’t supposed to arrest, imprison, or kill without good reasons. They ARE supposed to prevent theft and extortion. When elites run a government strictly for the benefit of elites, that’s not good for most. We then get ideas about how certain groups are “unnecessary” or “immoral”. That’s an excuse to exclude them, or worse. I think we all are supposed to contribute something to make the country and government work. It makes sense to me that those who have prospered more because they live in this country ought to contribute more. Many think they should have to contribute less.
You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. Why not? Is one person supposed to have ALL the wealth? Money will never be divided absolutely evenly in a society, but if more people have it as a resource, more people can contribute to the health and wealth of the society. The question this proposition raises is, should any society be exclusive or inclusive? If it excludes, does it get the best possible contribution from all its members? I think American inclusiveness has generally benefited the whole society. I don’t think it has included ENOUGH.
When half the population gets the idea they don’t have to work because the other half is going to take care of them; and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
This is the proposition I identify with least. What kind of society doesn’t take care of ALL its members? According to Rick Ungar, in an article in Forbes Magazine, most people who don’t pay income tax are people with disabilities or illnesses, students, soldiers in active duty in a war zone, the elderly, and those who don’t make enough money to pay income tax and raise their children too. Forcing any of these groups to pay taxes would force them to go on welfare. And not paying income taxes doesn’t mean they pay NO taxes. Those able to work can’t choose not to pay payroll taxes. Those buying things pay sales taxes. And there are excise taxes on commodities like gasoline, on which most people rely.
Recent stories have said that Wal Mart employees frequently have to get food stamps to get by, which means that Wal Mart is making its profits from YOUR tax dollar. Do you approve of that?
Do you approve of the government bailing out Wall Street, but not the people who unwisely bought mortgages they couldn’t pay? If the companies selling those mortgages represented them accurately, would people have bought them?
When I express my liberal opinions someone will occasionally accuse me of jealousy. I don’t think that’s true. I live a pretty comfortable life, though I support my stepdaughter and her two children, and sometimes help out friends. If I sometimes don’t feel like working, it’s not because I don’t want other people to live comfortably too. People have helped me when I needed help. Not everyone has people in their lives willing to help, but I suspect many successful people do. For those who don’t, people from broken homes, unable to go to good schools, does it make sense to deny them help? Do that on a large enough scale, and you can foment revolution.
Does it make sense to help people who are already doing well? Corporations can afford to lobby effectively for that help. Those with less money usually lobby less effectively.
Lobbying by various groups has borne some interesting fruit. Industries left a number of large cities for places where they could pay employees less and not have to obey environmental regulations. Their departure destroyed some cities, whose residents now can’t get decent jobs. The companies mistreated employees in other parts of the world, and increased industrial pollution. Are these good outcomes? They’re exercises of power, and many powerful people exercise power for their own benefit, and no other reason.
Other interesting fruits of lobbying include deregulation. In the 1980s that led to leveraged buyouts, where one company would buy another, sell all its assets, and loot its pension fund. They left the employees behind without comparable jobs. I would call that theft. I don’t know what you’d call it. Deregulation also increased industrial pollution. Climate change deniers call the changes advocated to reverse or manage climate change (which, most scientists say, is largely due to human activity) dictatorial. I call polluting and degrading the environment we depend on for life without legal consequence dictatorial. Many will disagree, but I believe this is a place government has let us down.
In the 1990s downsizing became fashionable. I expect companies to downsize when they’re not doing well. They have to reorganize to produce and sell their products more efficiently. In the 90s companies with good, even record profit-margins, would downsize. No doubt they had other rationales, but I see that as depriving employees of the profits they helped to earn. In other words, theft.
Lobbying also presented us with NAFTA, which Ross Perot said would create a vast sucking sound as jobs left our country. Is there any question that he was right? It also, according to news I heard this morning, has created an imbalance of trade between us, Mexico, and Canada. We’re buying much more from them than they from us. Was NAFTA a good idea? If so, for whom?
One comment on my post replying to the above propositions was that the military is what keeps us safe in a violent world, but that the military is the only department of government facing cuts. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that. Republicans are constantly talking about cutting Medicare, Medicaid (if not ending them and Social Security), and have already ended unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed. The latter would make sense if those unemployed were simply lazy. Considering all the jobs sent abroad, does that seem plausible?
On the state level, teachers, police, and firefighters have been laid off to manage budgets. Any responsible person wants the government to cut spending. Does it make sense to cut it there?
A government that serves only the elites (who can pay politicians for services rendered) is not a good government. It’s the kind of government most countries in the world have, but this country started out with a better idea. That idea is familiar enough that I shouldn’t have to quote it for anyone.
The post I’ve been talking about had this for a heading: 5 truths you CANNOT disagree with. Who has the right to tell me, or anyone else, what I can or can’t disagree with?