Sorry that I’ve been away for so long, but I’m back today and I’m confused. I hope that this blather will help me understand or you dear non-existent reader.
So, I’m driving to work this morning and I switch to NPR for a second (I know, why). Anyway, I hear this “economist” talking about what the auto unions are asking for is terrible. He says, why should a waitress earning $12 per hour or 25 G a year pay for the benefits of these overpaid auto workers. well, let’s see. The auto bail out is about 30 billion, right? With 300 million Americans, that’s $100 per person. Do you think that the waitress would invest $100 to ensure that her relatives in the parts factory that supplies GM stay employed? That the workers in the factory will have enough money to afford to go to the diner? I think that’s a no brainer and would be shocked if the waitress would refuse. Gee, she probably gives that much to the local food pantry.
On the other hand, we don’t hear a word from said “economist” about the, so far, $700 billion for Wall Street. $700 billion that, so far, doesn’t appear to have given us anything other than fat bonuses for plutocrats. Oh yes, the Wall St bailout is about $2333 per person.
So, the waitress with a family of four is supposed to be outraged at $400 to save her own job and jobs that are likely in her neighborhood and not blink at over $9000 for no obvious return? OK, our waitress is at the low end of the income spectrum, so her portion is a little lower, say $350 and $7500.
One more thing, the resmugs complain about progressive taxes. The way things are now (and the dems plans adjust this only a tiny bit). Our waitress’s family would pay about $350 for the auto workers and $7500 for the plutocrats, I pay about $400 and $9300, Bill Gates would pay about $400 and $9300, and Goldman would pay about $10 and $233. Seems fair,doesn’t it?
Okay, now for the part that I find most interesting. I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I mean, I’m not stupid, I have an IQ over 100, but still the things that I think of aren’t that deep. Anyone paying any attention has to think about all of this at least this deeply. So, why do we hear what I heard from the “economist”? It can’t be stupidity. Are they that horrible? That mean? Can be bought that cheaply?
Really, this seems so obvious to me. We live in a society, people, we depend on others. Are you willing to give a hundred dollars per person to keep thousands and thousands of citizens employed and paying taxes and buying stuff? Anyone who isn’t doesn’t seem to understand what a society is. Maybe they should forgo hospitals, police, fire, roads, air, and everything else that we need to organize as a group to provide and keep clean and available. I’d love to tell them to get lost, but we can’t, we’re stuck with those unwilling to pay their part. What I don’t get is how come they are the ones celebrated in our society.
This past weekend, I got a little insight into this. I was at a party and got into a discussion with some other party-goers. Their contention was that greed is the prime (perhaps only) motivator. That we need to keep a tax system like to one above so that Bill Gates will make more Vista or someone will write books, or someone will invent anything, or someone will go to work.
Personally, I find the argument above small and a little insulting. First, they assign an extreme position to the other and they attack the straw man. But, that’s just their strategy, let’s take a look at the arguments.
What motivates people? For most people the prime motivator is not greed. Yes, food and shelter are imperatives, and nice stuff is good too, but the further away from the necessities, the weaker the motivation to get more (at least to have the thing, maybe to fill other needs like proving the size of you dick or something). OK, so we work to live. Fine, and for many, maybe that’s all and enough or all that they can get. I expect that many people at McDonalds see their job in that prism. However, is that what motivates Einstein? Coltrane? Orwell? You? Me?
I know it’s ridiculous to put me and you in that sentence, but I hope that you get the idea. The greats were motivated by another need, call it art or whatever, for me it’s fun. I do what I do because I like it. I hope that you do too. That it gives me the means to have good food, a nice house, a car, etc is icing, but I didn’t go into the field for the better house or better food. There are other fields that would have given me nicer food and nicer houses and nicer cars, but I wouldn’t trade fun for a little nicer. What motivates me is to help, learn, and have a good time working. Money is low on the list. I think where greed rates as your work motivation is a sign about how happy you are at work: the high greed, the worse you feel. Now of course it would be nice to have everything, but that is not the motivator. I don’t write the best seller because I don’t want to be rich, I also expect that most writers don’t write solely for the money (though I think you can tell who does it primarily for the green).
I’m just not convinced that money is the prime mover behind innovation. In fact, studies have proved this (sorry don’t have the cites to hand. If you want to find them contact your local reference librarian).
The funny think about the argument this weekend was the talking point of the person on the other side. He insisted that we (progressives, democrats, I don’t know who exactly) were seeking a 90% tax rate. That, of course is ridiculous and merely a straw man. I’m curious about how he defends the estate tax (motivation to be nice to your parents? They must be shitty parents if you only are nice to them for the payout).
Does progressive taxation and health care kill motivation?
OK, if money isn’t the prime motivator does raising the rate a few percentages on the really rich kill their motivation? If you are barely meeting your necessities, losing an additional 5%, say, can mean the street. If you are me an additional 5% might mean that my vacation isn’t so nice or the kids don’t get all the plastic crap from China that they don’t need). If you are Bill Gates, the 5%might mean a cheaper Renoir. Yes the actual dollars are small at the low end and large at the top end, but the impact is less as you go up. The further from necessity the lifestyle is affected the less noticeable. A small percentage increase in tax rate doesn’t kill innovation.
This might actually surprise the people with whom I was discussing this over the weekend, but progressive taxation was understood to be fair by the plutocrats of the gilded age.
Now the idea that health care kills innovation just stuns me. Perhaps the argument is that it is shittier health care. Well, what you hear in the states are some scare stories, but the number actually show that the care that people in nations with universal health care get is far better than what we get. This difference is not that people without health care are now getting it. No, even people at the top re getting better health care.
In addition universal health care is cheaper to the economy as a whole. The current system is very inefficient while the national systems are very efficient (yes, another resmug myth is false). Also, when people don’t have to rely on the emergency room as their health care it is cheaper and the ER can help real emergencies. (Funny, this weekend I made the joke about the poor having health care because ot he ER, the people I was talking to didn’t think that it was a joke – he thought it was a good solution). So making the whole society healthier, using ERs for emergencies, providing better health case more cheaply isn’t enough for them. Why? The last argument hat you hear is that doctors should be paid a lot because. Because why? A lot of schooling. OK, maybe, but PhDs don’t make that much money. Med school is expensive. Yes, that is certainly true. But, standard economics says that Med school is expensive because MDs make a lot and so can afford to pay back big loans. Of course some costs associated with med school couldn’t be lowered much, but it seems to me that MDs do a social good, so I wouldn’t mind paying a bit for their education. What else, oh yes, I hear that no one will go into medicine if the money isn’t big. I have a couple of responses. First, yeah right that status has nothing to do with it? The other non-economic perks. Come on. Get real. Also, do you really want your doctor to be solely or even primarily motivated by greed? Not me, thank you. I want one who actually cares about healing (or at least fixing what’s wrong with me).
Finally, though, please someone explain the “economist” above and others like him.
Also, please enjoy this time in which most Americans celebrate.