Friday, October 07, 2011

An Ethical Look at Occupy Wall Street

As this "Occupy Wall Street" protest continues, I would like to write about whether, and to what degree, there is legitimate cause for complaint.

There are two issues that I have seen worthy of protest for quite some time.

Issue #1: A number of corporate executives participated in financial transactions that effectively gummed up the financial system, requiring massive government intervention to clean up the mess. We still have not cleaned up all of the dirty debt. But even doing as much as we have done has created massive government debts.

I would like to know how many of those responsible for the mess are unemployed, without health insurance, with their homes in foreclosure and bill collectors around every corner.

A massive amount of government assistance not only went to save these companies (and the investment accounts of the people who caused these problems) but the jobs of those responsible for this mess as well.

The free enterprise system is supposed to function by holding people responsible for their actions. It is supposed to be a system where entrepreneurs make their bets and take their chances. If they win, they pocket the winnings. If they lose, the losses come out of their pockets - not ours.

The possibility of loss is supposed to provide these investors with an incentive to make sure that their investments are worthwhile.

What do you think would happen at the gambling table with Uncle Sam standing over the shoulder of a gambler saying, "If you win, you get the winnings. If you lose, I will cover your losses."

Well, the expected reaction would be for the gambler to take risks he would not otherwise take. And we get to pay for losses that otherwise never would have been lost.

Which is exactly the behavior that killed the economy.

We have set up a system where millionaires are allowed to place massive economic bets, keep the winnings if they win, and take the money out of our pockets if they lose.

That is a system that warrants protest and demands for change.

Issue #2: There is reason to protest the political ideology that says that the whole burden of salvaging the American economy on the shoulders if the poor and middle class.

Everybody has an incentive to pay less and force others to pay more. However, in this case, we have a group claiming that those with money make no contribution while the other 99 percent accepts all the burden, where those who caused the problem are among the group spared any cost.

That is wholly unfair and worthy of protest.

There are some very worthy reasons for complaint, and I am pleased to see objections being raised.

33 comments:

The Heathen Republican said...

"Issue #2: There is reason to protest the political ideology that says that the whole burden of salvaging the American economy on the shoulders of the poor and middle class."

Which ideology is that? If you think conservative ideology or the Republican Party say the "whole burden" should be borne by the poor and middle class, I'd be happy to offer you a match for you straw man.

You're better than this.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

The ideology that says that no budget compromise is acceptable that increases in any way the tax burden of the rich. The "no tax, no compromise, no matter the consequences" ideology.

The Heathen Republican said...

You're confusing things. The Republican position was that the recession/recovery is fragile, and raising taxes on anyone is a bad idea. You're trying to make it sound like they said no because of tax increases on the top group, but the position was opposing taxes for everyone who pays taxes.

No Republican would support a policy that puts the majority of the burden on the poor and middle class. For you to say so is dishonest.

Isn't it ethical to accurately represent your opponent's position?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Heathen Republecan

The fragility of the recovery is exactly why the plans being advanced call for tax cuts now, and tax increases later - with the idea that the tax increases can be put off yet further if necessary.

You are arguing against a "tax now" policy that does not exist. Do not confuse the ten year plan to cut the deficit (that includes taxes) with the immediate plan to deal with th economy (which contains tax cuts - not tax increases).

And the taxes being proposed to deal with the deficits are taxes on the rich. The claim that "we are opposed to all taxes, not just taxes in the rich" is pure propaganda - an irrelevant truth that buries the practical fact that they are protecting the rich from making a contribution to reducing the deficit.

I fouls argue that I am in favor of all people named Alonzo Fyfe getting a $2 million government grant. Thus is not self serving because, if you look at the proposal, it applies to all people with the name Alonzo Fyfe.

The effect of this position is that the wealthy are shielded from contributing to lowering the deficit. Putting it in those terms does not sell very well, so those are not the terms used. (People who can pay for marketing research to determine which words to use can certainly be expected to find more potent and useful rhetoric). But that is still it's effect.

The Heathen Republican said...

"You are arguing against a 'tax now' policy that does not exist."

Actually, I'm arguing your framing of the Republican position as protecting the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. That's not reality, it's a Democrat talking point.

But you're also incorrect to say that there is no "tax now" policy to debate. Read Obama's jobs act, and follow Reid's legislation asking for a 5.6% permanent tax increase. Both include tax increases.

"And the taxes being proposed to deal with the deficits are taxes on the rich. The claim that 'we are opposed to all taxes, not just taxes in the rich' is pure propaganda..."

As I said, Republicans oppose all tax increases in the current economic environment. If Obama proposes an increase for the rich, Republicans will oppose it. If Obama proposes an increase on the middle class, Republicans will oppose it.

Practically speaking, Obama's jobs act is dead in the water because of Democrats in the Senate, not Republicans.

The jobs act includes temporary tax cuts and permanent tax increases. Republicans aren't fooled, some Democrats aren't fooled, and business owners aren't fooled.

"...an irrelevant truth that buries the practical fact that they are protecting the rich from making a contribution to reducing the deficit."

Surely you're aware that the rich are paying both a larger percentage and larger amount to fund the government than the poor or the middle class, despite the outliers like Buffet. He's an exception based on the amount of income that is earned through capital gains. Yet the Buffet Rule will be used to raise income taxes, not capital gains taxes.

If you're simply in favor of asking the rich to pay more, then say so. But don't make it sound like the rich aren't already paying more than their fair share and that the poor and middle class are paying more than their fair share.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Heathen Republican

But you're also incorrect to say that there is no "tax now" policy to debate. Read Obama's jobs act, and follow Reid's legislation asking for a 5.6% permanent tax increase. Both include tax increases.

Please identify the "tax now" component of either of these two plans.

The Reid plan is written for the taxes not to start until 2013 precisely so that the tax will not hamper the recovery - with the clear ability to push the increase into the future if the recovery is not yet on a solid footing.

The Reid plan was originally suggested as starting in 2012, but the argument of interfering with the recovery nearly instantly was accepted as legitimate with the date pushed out at keast one year.

As far as I can tell, everybody is opposed to tax increases in the current economic environment - not just Republicans. If you disagree, please identify where any plan calks for an increase in taxes in 2012. Any new taxes that take place in 2013 can be put off if the current economic environment continues.

Again, I repeat, you seen to be objecting to a policy that nobody is advocating. Remove the reference to "current economic environment" when talking about the tax increases, and we can have a debate applicable to the real world.

If you are simply in favor of asking the rich to pay more, then say so. But don't make it sound like the rich are not paying more than their fair share and that the poor and middle class are paying more than their fair share.

'Fair' is a moral term, and your use of the term in this way is question-begging. You are saying, in effect, "If you think I am wrong, than say so. But don't make it sound like you think I am wrong."

I hold that we have a trillion dollar deficit that we must close, and it is wholly unfair to insist that the 98.5% who hold half the nation's wealth give up $14 trillion, and the 1.5% who hold the other half of the nation's wealth give up nothing.

And this looks only at their total wealth, not to mention that the 98.5% have a substantially smaller portion of their income available to help cover the gap after paying for food, clothing, shelter, and health care.

The Heathen Republican said...

"The Reid plan is written for the taxes not to start until 2013..."

I'll concede the point. My definition of "now" = currently writing legislation to raise taxes. Your definition of "now" = taxes are going up right now.

"'Fair' is a moral term, and your use of the term in this way is question-begging."

A first-grader understands the concept of fairness. On average, the highest income earners pay a larger share of their income in taxes. High income earners pay a larger dollar amount in taxes than the middle class or the poor.

"...it is wholly unfair to insist that the 98.5% who hold half the nation's wealth give up $14 trillion..."

You're changing topics midstream, but it's your blog. So now you're proposing a wealth tax? You must be aware that if you taxed the income of the rich at 100% there is not enough money to cover our debt, so you have to shift the discussion to wealth.

My request hasn't changed since my first comment: You're misrepresenting the Republican position and I'd appreciate it if you didn't. If you believe income taxes should go up and a wealth tax should be instituted, simply say so. But don't argue a straw man that Republicans are saying that the burden of salvaging the economy should be on the shoulders of the poor and the middle class. That is not a Republican position.

The Heathen Republican said...

Since you occasionally create posts based on questions from the peanut gallery, let me ask you to post on the following topic: Is it ethical to misrepresent a person's political position? Alternatively, representing a person's political position in a way that an honest member who holds that position would agree with it as stated.

After the discussion here, I actually doubt your ability to create a post like that, but since you consider yourself an ethicist, perhaps you'd indulge me once.

mojo.rhythm said...

The Heathen Republican said.....If Obama proposes an increase for the rich, Republicans will oppose it. If Obama proposes an increase on the middle class, Republicans will oppose it.

What a load of horse s***!!!! Guess who is in favour of "broadening the tax base" and imposing an income tax on the working poor: Michelle Bachmann. A Republican! With the support of many other GOPers I might add.

Guess who wants to levy a sales tax that will hit the middle classes and working poor the most? Herman Cain. Guess which Republicans support it? Heaps.

Guess who was opposed to Obama's payroll tax cut in 2008, and his proposed extension of the payroll tax cut as part of his current jobs plan? Paul Ryan. He went so far as to describe it as a "sugar high".

Guess who thinks the poor ought to pay all the taxes and the rich ought to pay none of the taxes: Peter Schiff. A Republican. And a Libertarian too!

The GOP doesn't care about balancing the budget, or raising taxes. They just don't want taxes raised on their base of support: the wealthy. Incidentally, neither do any of the so-called "New Democrats".

mojo.rhythm said...

If you think conservative ideology or the Republican Party say the "whole burden" should be borne by the poor and middle class, I'd be happy to offer you a match for you straw man

Actually, it is accurate. Take the debt ceiling debate. Republicans wanted to deal with it by cutting spending and social programs, effectively forcing the middle class and working poor to fork out larger amounts from their income to pay for these programs.

Take some examples:

(1) If Harry the construction worker is forced to pay an extra two bucks for a bus ticket because public transport funding has been slashed, isn't that fiscally identical to a "tax"? It is.

(2) If Edith the disabled widow has to pay an extra $200 a week out of her pension for medicine because Paul Ryan gutted Medicare, isn't that fiscally identical to "raising taxes" on the elderly and disabled? It is.

(3) If Keenan the post-grad medical student has to pay extra dollars out of his own pocket and throw himself into more debt to pay for his education, isn't that fiscally identical to "raising taxes" on students? It is.

(4) If Jim has to pay an extra $1 per hour in parking fees because the local council budget has been decimated, is that not fiscally identical to imposing a regressive tax on the middle class and working poor? It is.

All of the above have no fiscal difference to increasing taxes on the poor and middle classes, that is, the non-connected classes, the classes that are not in bed with the powers-that-be. Republicans know this, that's why they don't call it a tax increase. They call it "decrease of federal subsidies", "spending reform", "entitlement reform", or some other innocuous-sounding thing.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Heathen Republican

You're misrepresenting the Republican position and I would appreciate it if you didn't.

I never spoke about "the Republican position" because I know that the Republican Party is not a monolithic organization.

Now, if you want to call my argument a misrepresentation of that faction, tell me, where will the super rich be contributing to closing the deficit and what will be the dollar value of that contribution?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Heathen Republican

A first-grader understands the concept of fairness. On average, the highest income earners pay a larger share of their income in taxes. High income earners pay a larger dollar amount in taxes than the middle class or the poor.

The concept of fairness has been the subject of a great deal of philosophical discussion over the millines, with most attempts to define it failing in virtue of circularity. The argued merely asserts that his linings and dislikings define fairness for everybody - even those with different likings -without any success in offering a justification.

Remember, for fairness to have any moral weight it has to contain an 'ought' element. A theory of fairness requires a theory if 'ought' (since we ought to be fair, right?).

A first grader has a first grader's understanding of fairness, just as he has a first grader's understanding of physics. Hopefully, as he gets older, he will have the capacity that to realize that his first grade opinions were, at best, childishly simplistic.

Let's say 11 people survive a shipwreck. One has 10 life jackets, one has 1 life jacket, and one 9 people have none. is it fair to demand that both people with life jackets give up the same number or even the same percentage?

The Heathen Republican said...

@Mr Fyfe
"I never spoke about 'the Republican position' because I know that the Republican Party is not a monolithic organization."

Now you're playing coy. I realize you didn't specifically cite conservatives/Republicans, which is why my first question was to ask you to clarify which ideology you were referring to.

Throughout these comments, you've made it clear who you're talking about, but if you'd like to amend that now, kindly tell us which monolithic organization holds the position that "the whole burden of salvaging the American economy on the shoulders of the poor and middle class."

"...where will the super rich be contributing to closing the deficit and what will be the dollar value of that contribution?"

I see, so you're just ignoring my other points? I accept your concession. The super rich will continue to "contribute" their annual tax bill, just like the rest of us.

"A first grader has a first grader's understanding of fairness..." and "Let's say 11 people survive a shipwreck. One has 10 life jackets, one has 1 life jacket, and one 9 people have none. is it fair to demand that both people with life jackets give up the same number or even the same percentage?"

I'm embarrassed for you with that question. Sounds like you continue with a first grade understanding of fairness. Let me assist.

Scenario A: Eight first graders attend a birthday party. The birthday cake is cut into eight equal pieces. It is fair to distribute one piece to each first grader.

Scenario B: HR is invited to Mr Fyfe's house. Mr Fyfe purchases ingredients, mixes them, bakes them into eight cupcakes, and ices each one with frosting. HR sits and plays video games while Mr Fyfe bakes. As we sit down to dine on cupcakes, Mr Fyfe asks for five cupcakes, which I find to be fair since he put more time and effort into making the cupcakes than I did. Even a first grader would understand that kind of fairness.

Hopefully the parallels between my two scenarios, life jackets, and income tax rates doesn't need to be explained.

The Heathen Republican said...

@Mr Rhythm
Agreeing that "the Republican Party say the 'whole burden' should be borne by the poor and middle class" you said "Take the debt ceiling debate. Republicans wanted to deal with it by cutting spending and social programs, effectively forcing the middle class and working poor to fork out larger amounts from their income to pay for these programs."

First, the debt ceiling example does not support the statement that Republicans support putting the whole burden on the poor and middle class.

Second, Republicans were using the debt ceiling as leverage to get Democrats to slow their spending. We all know Democrats won't stop spending unless they are forced. If it's important to cut spending (it's probably not for you, so just play along), then social programs will be on the table -- they take up a significant portion of the budget.

I find it important to note that none of the cuts proposed by Republicans were actual cuts. They were all reductions in the growth of spending on those programs, not cuts.

Thanks for providing the four additional examples; it helps me understand where you're coming from. You believe the government has a role in providing public transportation, health care, school loans, and (apparently) parking. I do not.

"What a load of horse s***!!!! Guess who is in favour of 'broadening the tax base' and imposing an income tax on the working poor: Michelle Bachmann. A Republican! With the support of many other GOPers I might add."

Nice to know we can keep this civil. Why don't we start with some reality. Democrats are currently proposing tax increases on high income earners. Show me a single piece of legislation where Republicans are proposing tax increases on the poor or middle class.

Your profanity aside, my statement is 100% true because Republicans are not proposing any tax increases. Additionally, neither of you has provided an example of a Republican claiming s/he wants the poor or middle class to bear the full burden of salvaging the economy, which is still my original, unrefuted point.

As for your examples of Bachmann, Cain, and Ryan, let me offer a short rebuttal. All of those proposals are in the context of much broader tax reform. It includes removing loopholes and deductions and flattening all tax rates. And really, bringing up Herman Cain as a tax raiser when he's proposing a 9% flat tax? That's comical.

"Guess who thinks the poor ought to pay all the taxes and the rich ought to pay none of the taxes: Peter Schiff."

Kindly provide a source. You'll forgive me if I don't take your word for it.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

 Heathen Republican

Your most recent post suggests a form of tribalism whereby you apply a lens of "us" (Republicans) versus "them" to what you read. Unfortunately, when you apply this lens to something that doesn't have these elements, the LANs has to apply distortions to make it fit those assumptions.

 Notice as well you did not answer the question about the life jackets.

But as for your cake example - unfortunately we do not live in a system where the cake of natural wealth is being distributed equally. We live in a system where - assuming a 100-piece cake, 1 person gets 42 pieces of cake and the other 99 share the remaining 58 pieces.

I am not a favor of demanding equal distribution because the system for doing so would result in a much smaller cake. Well, in standard economics they more commonly talk about pies rather than cakes, and tradeoffs between the interests in increasing the size of the pie weighed against the value of an equal distribution of the pieces.

Like I said, there is a huge body of literature on the issue of weighing these two values. This discussion is in the realm of PhD economists and philosophers - much beyond the grasp of six graders.

As for your second case, do you really see the situation as one in which 1.5% of the people have done half of the work and the rest of us do nothing but play video games? How about a case where the second person is too ill to work, or who was given no education as a child and did not know how to make a cake.

What you are doing in providing your examples is simply proving the complexity of the issue by introducing all sorts of complexities about how we weigh different concerns and which description accurately describes the real situation.

The longer we continue this discussion the more evidence we will provide that questions of fairness in the real world are far more complex than the simplistic situations children often face.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

I also should add that I put no weight in using intuitions to resolve moral disputes. These intuitions merely tell you the prejudices you were raised with. To a slave owner, slavery seemed fair. To a Nazi, the Jews got what they deserved. Creationists trulyfeelthattheyate treated unfairly when they are not permitted to teach "creation science" in a biology class, and we are not being fair to Islam when we do not execute apostates.

The only thing we will get from a test of intuitions is a clash of subjective likes and dislikes - with each person adding the false assumption that they are sensing something other than a personal preference that gives them the authority youse violence in pushing those personal preferences on others.

The Heathen Republican said...

"As for your second case, do you really see the situation as one in which 1.5% of the people have done half of the work and the rest of us do nothing but play video games? How about a case where the second person is too ill to work..."

Yes, it's all very complex, so why did you start with a single example of life jackets as though that encapsulated unfairness in the U.S.? You make a wonderful point that we could list as Scenario C: Little Johnny is sick in bed, but is still entitled to a piece of cake, so his brother who attended the party takes one home to him. I don't deny the complexity, but you did initially by suggesting the natural wealth of life jackets was unequally distributed.

"But as for your cake example - unfortunately we do not live in a system where the cake of natural wealth is being distributed equally."

Well there we are, the point where we differ. You believe in the concept of natural wealth, and you believe it should be distributed equally. I, on the other hand, recognize that wealth is earned and some people will work harder than others to earn it, so it will never be equally distributed. The best government can do is remove obstacles so that everyone is free to earn as much wealth as they can.

Unfortunately, you never did demonstrate that there exists an ideology that wants the poor and middle class to bear the economic burden. Perhaps another day.

mojo.rhythm said...

Me: "Guess who thinks the poor ought to pay all the taxes and the rich ought to pay none of the taxes: Peter Schiff."

TRH: "Kindly provide a source. You'll forgive me if I don't take your word for it."

No shame in asking an interlocutor to substantiate claims. Here you go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w39T_kuUJkk

mojo.rhythm said...

the debt ceiling example does not support the statement that Republicans support putting the whole burden on the poor and middle class.

The GOP wishes to weaken programs that the middle class and working poor rely on, whilst leaving welfare and tax breaks for the upper classes untouched. If the Republican party was actually concerned with balancing the budget, they would have been more than willing to include new revenues from the upper bracket of income earners, and a modest decrease in military spending. They would have even been willing to consider implementing single-payer health care.

The very fact that they side-stepped all of these viable options shows that they are engaging in class warfare of a most vulgar and disgusting kind. Balancing the budget cannot be on their top list of priorities.

Second, Republicans were using the debt ceiling as leverage to get Democrats to slow their spending. We all know Democrats won't stop spending unless they are forced.

In other words, they would have been willing to let the United States government default on its debts, meaning that millions of senior citizens would not have recieved Social Security checks for that month, in order to satisfy some ideological anti-government bloodlust. Such actions transcend boundaries of wickedness and moral depravity.

If it's important to cut spending (it's probably not for you, so just play along), then social programs will be on the table -- they take up a significant portion of the budget.

They were the ONLY THING ON THE TABLE! Was there any revenue increases included in the debt ceiling resolution. None. As Boehner said, he "got 98% of what he wanted."

Moreover, Republicans don't give a toss about reigning in spending; they just want carte blanche to spend money on the things that matter: corporate welfare, military expansion, prisons, security, and bail-outs for Big Business. This attitude is shared, for the most part, by many of the so-called "New Democrats," like Obama, Lieberman, Clinton, et al.

I find it important to note that none of the cuts proposed by Republicans were actual cuts. They were all reductions in the growth of spending on those programs, not cuts.

Semantics buddy. If you take into account population growth and inflation, spending decreases are fiscally equivalent to cuts. And like I said in my last post, if you slash funding for some essential public service that the public needs, the costs are not magicked out of existence; they are shifted entirely onto the have-nots. This is fiscally identical to a regressive tax on the middle classes and working poor.

You believe the government has a role in providing public transportation, health care, school loans, and (apparently) parking. I do not.

It is not up to you or me to determine what role the government has in society. The Constitution, and all its amendments, define what functions the government is legally entitled to perform. Then it is up to the voters as to what they want the government to do within those clearly defined boundaries.

mojo.rhythm said...

Show me a single piece of legislation where Republicans are proposing tax increases on the poor or middle class.

Two points:

(1) For the umpteenth time, there is no fiscal difference between slashing funding for essential public services, and imposing a regressive tax. Either way, more of the costs of life will have to come directly out of the wallets of the working class rather than a public pool of money that is funded by everyone at rates which rise in proportion to income.

For example, there would be no difference between the NYC council withdrawing funding for public transport, hence forcing commuters to pay an extra $1 on a subway ticket to make up costs, or imposing a $1 "commuter's tax," by council fiat, on everyone who uses the subway.

(2)

JOHN BOEHNER (7/11/2011): ... let's grow the economy and create jobs, broaden the tax base ...

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WI (4/3/2011): We need to lower tax rates for corporations and individuals, and broaden the tax base.

JON HUNTSMAN (9/8/2011): ... we've got to broaden the base ...

MICHELE BACHMANN (7/19/2011): We need to broaden the base so that everybody pays something, even if it's a dollar.

....my statement is 100% true because Republicans are not proposing any tax increases.

rrrreaallllyyyy????


Additionally, neither of you has provided an example of a Republican claiming s/he wants the poor or middle class to bear the full burden of salvaging the economy, which is still my original, unrefuted point.

Far from being the "unrefuted point," it is the easiest objection to answer. For one, the GOP is unconcerned with the economy. All they care about is cutting taxes for the wealthy, and expecting the poor and middle classes to pay for it by the gutting of social programs. You don't jump start an economy by cutting the taxes of people who are already swimming in money. To boost the economy, the government has to either give money to people who really need it, and hence will be guaranteed to spend it; or the government has to directly spend money itself, on programs that will have a multiplier effect (public infrastructure, education, training, etc). That is economics 101.

......And really, bringing up Herman Cain as a tax raiser when he's proposing a 9% flat tax? That's comical.

http://macombpolitics.blogspot.com/2011/10/herman-cains-999-tax-plan-is-insane.html

Cain has no problem raising taxes on the poor and middle classes. That is incontestable.

Kristopher said...

@HR

You are arguing semantics with Mojo, he is right. making someone pay 1$ more is making someone pay 1$ more. whether you name it price increase or tax increase is irrelevant. just because nobody gives the name tax increase doesn't mean it magically not a burden on the shoulders of the poor.

your issue was that "the republicans" don't want to put the entire "burden" on the shoulders of the poor when mojo showed you the "burden" you claimed that because no one called it a tax increase that it didn't count... there are burdens other than taxes that exist that your ignoring them and that is the reason you dont understand Alonzo's comments.

cutting programs without raising taxes shifts the burden from the wealthy to the poor. Raising taxes on the wealthy and increasing programs shifts the burden from the poor to the wealthy
cutting programs and raising taxes on the rich gives everyone a share of the burden. Thus anyone who says "no new taxes for any reason, we must solve this burden only with cuts" is shifting 100% of the burden onto the poor. to say this was a republican position is not a stretch of the imagination.

next the cake scenario is not an emergency. when the situation is not a crisis you could very well divy things up differently

the life jacket scenario was a crisis. during a crisis you use different criteria to divy up needed resources.

if what we have now is a budget crisis then it should be handled like the life jacket scenario not like the cake scenario.

to merge the two. imagine that there are 100 people and 100 slices of cake. 1 person bought all the ingredients. 89 people worked to bake the giant cake and 5people didnt help at all becuase they were playing games. and 5 people didnt help becuase of medical difficiculties.

(the 1 rich guy was not the only person working hard, the other 89 people worked hard too)

now if everyone was well fed perhpaps the guy who bought everything demands half the cake, becuase there would be no cake without him and the act of making the cake could have been done without any one of the other 89 people who made it. Maybe that is fair. certainly the market would allow for that. Maybe the 89 each get half a piece instead. The 5 who played video games don't get any unless someone else is willing to share.

but if everyone there is starving because the 1 person who bought the ingredients made some really poor decisions earlier in the week and this is the first bit of food that anyone has had in 8 days. then you give one piece to each person. you don’t deprive the rich man and you don’t deprive the sick and you don’t deprive the video gamers. Because living is more important and who deserves more cake goes on the back burner.

if you’re in between the two scenarios above... let’s say the 100 of you owe someone else a lot of cake. its not the case that everyone is starving but everyone is not well fed either. Saying that we will not take any cake from the rich man because he is "the cake maker" to repay our debts is ridiculous. if we are going to shoulder this burden we will need the poor to give some cake (enough that they don't become malnourished) but we will need the rich to give a larger portion of their cake merely because the problem needs to be solved and we can’t solve it without their cake, as a practical solution.

in summary with a small problem the rich need not shoulder much of anything. The larger the problems the more we depend on the rich, if for no other reason than that there is no one else to depend on when the problem becomes imporant enough that it needs solving.

there comes a point where we have to allocate our resources based on practical considerations more than on fairness. it would be best to make sure we never got into a position where we needed to do this but that time has passed.

Kristopher said...

next i would be interested in Alonzo's thoughts on fairness.

is it something we use in moderation like honesty. usualy good but sometimes best ignored in a dire situation?

lets take sports rules. they are completely arbitrary (no hands or no talking, or which card combo's are winners) but if we apply them evenly (fairly?) then we can enjoy a good game. but does steroids make it unfair? what about people who naturally have more testosterone do they make the game unfair? or diferences in equipment. what if your playing against kindergarners should you not bend the rules in their favor? does that make it fair or unfair. does a professional player playing in your sunday pick up game make it unfair? what about a professional player that is better then most other professionals playing in a professional league?
what if picking up the ball in soccer saves 50,000 lives (prevents a soccer riot)

in poker everyone has to start with the same buy in to make the game fair... is that a good economic plan?

i think before we can use the word fair and decide whether or not we ought to be fair in regards to complicated economic matters i am interested in learning what fair is and how it works. quite frankly i have no idea.

i would first guess fair means starting from the same place and having the same distance to the finish line... but if i am raicing a 5yr old, wouldnt it be fair to give them a head start? my body being more developed would actually mean i was starting ahead...

so then i concluded that fairness is making the finish line the distance that ensures we both make it to the end at a point where no one could easily guess the outcome. in other words makes the game interesting. (if that's all fairness does that's not what we would want in a system of law...)

and wouldnt that just mean that the cometition started not at the starting line but when they decided to train or lack there of. this would imply that the true starting line is birth. but people arn't born physcially or economically at the same position in relation to the finish line. does this mean that utopian socialism is the only way to be "fair" i dont think THR would like that definition... or is the real starting line in the primordial ooze and everything is fair?

is game fairness, social fairness, economic fairness, legal fairness etc; completely different things with different rules applied in different ways so that it becomes muddled only when enterchanging them in a sentence?

frankly i don't understand the fair vs. unfair distinction. (<-- better educated then a 4th grader)

The Heathen Republican said...

@Rhythm (and @Kristopher)
"(1) For the umpteenth time, there is no fiscal difference between slashing funding for essential public services, and imposing a regressive tax."

I understand your point, but I reject it as absurd. If we call any cut to government a tax increase, then the words "tax increase" have no meaning. If you want to argue unintended consequences, then do so. But don't call unintended consequences a tax increase on the working poor, and then claim Republicans are for raising taxes on the working poor.

Secondly, your argument leads us to the inevitable conclusion that government can only grow and never be reduced. Any cut to government is a de facto tax increase because of the unintended consequences. I cannot support inevitable and continual growth of government, even if you call it a tax increase on the poor.

@Rhythm, regarding your second point...

I stipulated that Republicans are speaking in the context of broader tax reform which, yes, includes broadening the tax base. All you provided were quotes, but I asked for actual legislation. That must be because, as I said, there is none.

This is an important distinction. Republicans want tax reform, but will not support tax increases on anyone until the economy dramatically improves.

"Far from being the "unrefuted point," it is the easiest objection to answer. For one, the GOP is unconcerned with the economy."

My point remains unrefuted, sorry. Mr Fyfe expressed an opinion (that a mysterious monolithic ideology wants all of the economic burden to fall on the poor and middle class) with no factual basis. Your response (that Republicans are unconcerned with the economy) is another opinion, and doesn't provide any factual basis to support the original claim.

Mr Fyfe and Mr Ryhthm, it would be much simpler to stop arguing the point, admit it was hyperbolic, and move on. I understand you don't like Republicans and you believe the caricature that we all love the rich and hate the poor and the middle class, but that's all it is: a caricature.

"To boost the economy, the government has to either give money to people who really need it, and hence will be guaranteed to spend it; or the government has to directly spend money itself, on programs that will have a multiplier effect (public infrastructure, education, training, etc). That is economics 101."

No, that's Progressive Economics 101, which has now been disproven for a third time. I understand the theory, so you don't need to try and explain it to me, but you left out one small factor: where does the money come from that you believe government has to spend? It is either printed or it is taxed out of the private economy.

This might be news to you, but printing money creates inflation. And when you tax money out of the private sector, there is a cost associated. You may not realize this, but government bureaucracy isn't free, and there's a lot of inefficiency in all that paper pushing. That multiplier effect you refer to also works when consumers and businesses spend money -- not just when government spends it -- and we get greater value when the dollars aren't taxed out of the economy to start with.

The Heathen Republican said...

"If the Republican party was actually concerned with balancing the budget, they would have been more than willing to include new revenues from the upper bracket of income earners, and a modest decrease in military spending."

We're getting very far afield from where this post began... I don't want to re-fight the debt ceiling debate. It was an entirely political issue, not an ideological one -- on both sides. Both sides tried to maximize their gains and minimize their losses, and get the public on their sides.

I'm the first to agree that Republicans have a poor history of spending since they took back congress in 1994. Guess what? Conservatives like me have beaten them into submission, they've been cowed by the Tea Party, and change is coming. Tehy've learned a lesson and we're holding them to it.

I understand you may not like it, but going forward it's the right thing to do. And no, they won't raise taxes, so get comfortable with that fact. On anyone.

"they are engaging in class warfare of a most vulgar and disgusting kind."

Hello pot? This is kettle. You're black.

"Republicans don't give a toss about reigning in spending; they just want carte blanche to spend money on the things that matter: corporate welfare, military expansion, prisons, security, and bail-outs for Big Business."

Yes, historically both parties spend money on their favored constituencies. I would disagree with your characterization of corporate welfare (Solyndra anyone?), but every item on your list is either opposed by Republicans or can be justified (probably not to your satisfaction). The GOP has different priorities than Democrats. Elections let us decide who gets to spend on their priorities.

"It is not up to you or me to determine what role the government has in society. The Constitution, and all its amendments, define what functions the government is legally entitled to perform."

Actually, we do get to determine the proper role of government in our society. Ours is a government by and for the people. If I think politicians are exceeding that role, I get to say so and cast my vote accordingly.

The Heathen Republican said...

@Kristopher
"but we will need the rich to give a larger portion of their cake merely because the problem needs to be solved and we can’t solve it without their cake, as a practical solution."

My issue isn't having the rich give a larger portion (while I'd love to have a flat tax, I don't think it's realistic), it's that the left never defines what ultimate fairness looks like. It's always more, more, more.

It's a fact to say that the rich currently do pay a larger proportion of the income tax bill. So how much more do you want? Where would you cap it?

In fact, we can solve this problem without more money from the rich. The solution is to spend less. If I can't afford my own debt problem, more income is certainly one solution, but if I can't get a raise or a second job, I can always fix the problem if I stop spending money.

"there comes a point where we have to allocate our resources based on practical considerations more than on fairness"

Yes, it's very nice of you to consider how to allocate other people's resources. Another conservative principle: private property.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

(1) Gasp! Take money from the rich? Yes, definitely. It is far better to have a poor, starving, sickly population forced to serve on the estates (factories and businesses) of the corporate lords and masters for a few scraps. The top 20% has pocketed almost all if the additional wealth of the past 30 years. We hear almost constantly that the GDP has gone up, but the top 20% have been the only beneficiaries of all of the additional wealth production in those 30 years.

(2) Or we can solve the debt problem entirely by taking money from the rich and not cut spending at all. Or,  third option, we meet somewhere in the middle - cut some spending, raise some taxes. The proposal that Obama has put forward is 75% spending cuts and 25% tax increase. Which strikes me as a willingness to go far beyond half way to make a deal.

mojo.rhythm said...

Heathen Republican,

I have read your response. Expect a reply within a few days.

Kristopher said...

HR

i dont think you understand my point at all. i wasnt saying cuts are tax increases i was saying that tax increases and cuts are both types of burdens. your talking about taxes (one type of burden) we are talking about burdens in general. that is where your confusions is. cuts dont increase taxes they increase burdens... often burdens that are = to the burden created by an increase in taxes. your arguing that we should blame repulicans for something that no one is blaming republicans for. they are not being blamed for raising taxes on the poor. they are being blamed for raising burdens on the poor.

you ask me where i would put the cap? i would say that depends on the severity of the emergency. i would say take only as much as we need but never as much as we want.

in alonzo's life jacket case i would say take all but one life jacket from the man with many jackets

in a situation where everyone has a life jacket but one man happened to have 20... making himslef a more comfortable floater; if he somehow earned them when the others did not i dont see any reason to take 1 of his life jackets, assuming it is only an issue of comfort.

you have to fit your policy to the situation. saying i would never take anything from anyone for any reason creates problems when powerful reasons exist and the harms of taking are minimal.

if everyone agrees to give an amount decided upon by a representative comitee is it still considered taking money or would it now be considered accepting freely given money?

you say the solution is to spend less. once again that depends on the situation. if a man is in debt but spending all his money on wine and hookers yes he should spend less. if a man is in debt and spending all his money on not dying horribly from something curable but he needs more to succeed then the answer is that he needs to spend more money. money is a tool you use for other goals not a goal in and of itself.

you have to look at the situation and decide where should we spend less but you also have to ask where should we spend more.

both parties believe we should spend less on trivial things and more on important things. there is no spend less party and there is no "lets spend more and more" party. they disagree on what is trivial.

everyone loves private property. and if you agree to give somone money for a service that is not theft. we all live in a society and have tacitly agreed to give a certain amount of our wealth to an orginization inorder to benefit from certain services provided by that orginization. that does not break the rules of private property.

if i was the sole decider of how to spend everyone's money that would indeed be a problem but seeing as how we live in a democracy we are all indirectly deciding how to spend our money. (using "we" and "our" in a sentence does not make a socialist)

taxing at 100% = no income (pure socialim, ideal utopian fantasy)

taxing at 0% = no income
(pure libertarianism, ideal utopian fantasy)

you cant say the answer is always less taxes... you have to find the balance that creates the best solution and as the parameters change so does the point of balance.

the republican presidential candidates said they would not accept a proposal that is 99% cuts and 1% taxes, without even asking what the proposal was or saying they would need to read it first. that doesnt look like someone interested in balancing a budget. that looks like someone interested in an ideal utopian fantasy world.

Kristopher said...

i have been thinking about fairness and decided that it depends upon the goal.

in a race between adults the goal is to see who is the fastest

me raicing a 5yr old the goal is to make the 5yr old have fun

in law the goal is to allow innocent person to go free and to impose penalties on the guilty person

different goals require different rules. "fairness" seems to be the rules that most efficiently allow any given person to achieve a set of goals.

in economics (if the only goal is accumulating stuff in competiton with others)this definition would lead to makeing everyone start at the same position (good schools, free education, 100% inheritance tax etc) in order to be fair.

if the goal is to make sure your loved ones profit from your hard work than the what is fair would be different

if the goal is to make sure nobody dies from preventable diseases then fair might mean medicare, or public health care laws.

i think when we argue about what is and is not fair maybe we are mistakenly arguing about which goals we should attempt to achieve. for instance. if (A) claims people without insurance took a risk and it is only fair they pay the consequences. and (B)claims that letting a child die becuase they don't have insurance is not fair. they arn't disagreeing on the most effiecent way to meet a goal. they are disagreeing on which goal is more important ecouraging personal responsibility or keeping children alive and where to find the balance betweent these two worthy goals.

goal chosing is an ought statement

fairness is a statement of practical application.

for example it is not fair in football if you don't wear a helmet.

your vision is imparied by the helmet. if the only goal was to see which team could move a ball down the field with passing and running constraints; the helmet thing would be up to the free market. each player could decide and take their risks accordingly. but we also have a goal that players dont die. this goal is stronger than our goal to see who is the best. this makes it fair to wear a helmet and unfair not to wear a helmet. fairness being the practical rules used to achieve our goals.

do you think this is an accurate account of fairness or am i missing something? i admit i have only read the socrates dialogues on fairness as it pertains to justice and i am largely ignorant of modern discussion of the issue.

mojo.rhythm said...

[The debt ceiling debate] was an entirely political issue, not an ideological one -- on both sides. Both sides tried to maximize their gains and minimize their losses, and get the public on their sides.

And the Republicans won—by being the ones willing to let the US government default on its debts. What utterly despicable and disgusting behaviour; to be prepared to withhold 70 million Social Security checks for an entire month, from old ladies, disabled widows, veterans, single mothers, etc. If you don't understand what is wrong with that, then it is sociopathic, to say the least.

I'm the first to agree that Republicans have a poor history of spending since they took back congress in 1994....

Congratulations. You are not partisan, just ideologically extreme.

I understand you may not like it, but going forward it's [cutting spending] the right thing to do.

And raising taxes is the wrong thing? Notice your bullshit black and white hyperbole? The outrageous false dichotomy (i.e. either it's all taxes or all cuts!)? Let me tell you, there is much grey area between those two extremes. And that is where reality happens to be.

And no, they won't raise taxes, so get comfortable with that fact. On anyone.

Which just proves that they are operating by ideology and not evidence. I hope that concerns you.

They [The Democrats--not the GOP] are engaging in class warfare of a most vulgar and disgusting kind."

Real unemployment is at ~20%. One in six Americans is on food stamps. One in three Americans is without $1000 in emergency savings. The nation's corporations are sitting on two trillion dollars in cash and refusing to spend it because there is no demand. But taxing the rich to get the poor out of this horrible situation is not just intolerable to you. It is class warfare “of a most vulgar and disgusting kind.” Are you serious?!?!

[Corporate welfare, military expansion, prison spending, security spending, and bail-outs] are either opposed by Republicans or can be justified.

Justify the following:

(1) Having 50,000 troops stationed in Germany

(2) Giving hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid per year to Columbia, one of the most brutal and violent terrorist states in Latin America (and the world at one point).

(3) Oil subsidies

That is just three of a billion things I could have postulated. Go.

....we do get to determine the proper role of government in our society.

Yeah, within boundaries defined and set by the Constitution and its amendments, like I said! Do you read?

mojo.rhythm said...

….the left never defines what ultimate fairness looks like. It's always more, more, more.

That's because “The Left” is not a monolith. It is a spectrum of opinion; from social democrats and progressives near the center, all the way to Marxists, libertarian socialists, etc. on the far end.

It's a fact to say that the rich currently do pay a larger proportion of the income tax bill. So how much more do you want? Where would you cap it?

In fact, we can solve this problem without more money from the rich. The solution is to spend less.

Thank-you for showing the studio audience another classic example of the false dichotomy fallacy. By your twisted logic, either we must ask entirely for more money off the rich, or it has to be entirely spending cuts which hurt the poor. There is no grey area whatsoever.

Moreover, you are being quite confusing: are you talking about fixing the economy, or balancing the budget? Because you don't fix an economy by imposing austerity measures. You would know that if you understood the role that aggregate demand plays in economics (or if you understood even basic economics for that matter). If, during an economic downturn, you gut the purchasing power of the population by spending cuts, then you decrease aggregate demand in the economy. This leads to FURTHER JOB LOSS! And it leads to further wealth hoarding by the rich, or “job creators” as Republicans like to call them. More unemployment and business closures inevitably ensue, which means less tax revenues for the government, and.........WORSE DEFICITS! Which would elicit more hysterical fury from the Tea Party Flat Earther nutjobs, meaning further cuts etc etc etc....

It's very nice of you to consider how to allocate other people's resources. Another conservative principle: private property.

It's the sad and sorry state of the Tea Party/GOP: property before people. There is 20% real unemployment, one in six Americans on food stamps, etc. But even under circumstances of duress like these, in which real people are suffering, and the livelihood of the country is being destroyed, we must never never tax the rich any extra than what they are taxed right now to help people who are in dire need of a job and economic assistance.

To ask those who are swimming in hoarded wealth to give up a little more to help the country that they live in is just outrageous. Truly and utterly despicable. Those Machiavellian snake-in-the-grass filthy, dirty, parasitic liberals. How DARE THEY EVEN SUGGEST IT!

mojo.rhythm said...

I understand your point, but I reject it as absurd. If we call any cut to government a tax increase, then the words "tax increase" have no meaning. If you want to argue unintended consequences, then do so. But don't call unintended consequences a tax increase on the working poor, and then claim Republicans are for raising taxes on the working poor.

I didn't say that a spending decrease is a tax increase, I said that it is fiscally identical to a tax increase. If, as a result of slashing federal subsidies, you force the middle classes and working poor to fork money directly out of their pockets for essential services, you are doing the fiscal equivalent (read:fiscal equivalent) of directly taxing them, rather than having them contribute to a collective pool of money that is funded at rates which rise in proportion to income (i.e. progressive taxation). I'm not going to hold your hand and walk you through it. The grounding logic is very basic and simple.

Secondly, your argument leads us to the inevitable conclusion that government can only grow and never be reduced. Any cut to government is a de facto tax increase because of the unintended consequences. I cannot support inevitable and continual growth of government, even if you call it a tax increase on the poor.

I have two points to make:

First: that is because you seem to think I was suggesting that spending cuts are tax increases on the middle class and working poor, when I said it was the fiscal equivalent of a tax on the middle and lower classes.

Second: “Big Government” is a very nebulous, abstract concept that means different things to different people. I consider the Patriot Act and Gitmo to be far more extreme examples of “Big Government” than taxing the rich to help the poor. You probably feel otherwise. Moreover, government has to grow by its very nature. After all: populations grow don't they? Doesn't government have to get bigger to deal with expanding population density? Or are you suggesting that government has to shrink in proportion to population growth? That is too pathetic to even bother laughing at...

mojo.rhythm said...

Republicans want tax reform, but will not support tax increases on anyone until the economy dramatically improves.

Neither do the Democrats, incidentally. Like Alonzo said, the stipulated tax increases wouldn't have come into effect untill 2013.

Your response (that Republicans are unconcerned with the economy) is another opinion, and doesn't provide any factual basis to support the original claim.

It is literally the only conclusion with a footing in reality. The GOP rejected Obama's jobs bill, even though the vast majority of it was tax cuts for small businesses and employees, and 40% of it public investment in badly needed infrastructure. Economists from all across the spectrum predicted that it would create a ton of jobs. Obama pleaded with the GOP to put politics aside and pass it right away, but they didn't seem the slightest bit interested, which means that they don't give a flying toss about the economy. They just care about making sure Obama is a one-term president.


That's Progressive [not actual] Economics 101 [i.e. Keynesian stimulus and counter-cyclical fiscal policy], which has now been disproven for a third time.

Give me evidence and empirical data which proves your assertion.

...printing money creates inflation.

Actually, there is evidence that throws a very questionable light on that idea. Ben Bernanke literally doubled the base money supply from 2008-2009, which is completely unheard of in terms of magnitude and scale. But despite this, he only raised the inflation rate from -2 to +2%, then it started heading down again. The money supply is not created by the state (and by extension: inflation), it is created endogenously by the banks that extend credit to businesses. After all, the Fed can keep printing money until the cows come home. But if the banks just sit on that money and do nothing with it, how will there be any inflation? After all, doesn't money have to be circulating in the real economy and driving up the price of goods to cause inflation? If it is stuffed in bank vaults, how can it have any effect on prices? It seems to me that you have been reading too much Hayek and Friedman.

Government bureaucracy isn't free, and there's a lot of inefficiency in all that paper pushing.
You have just demonstrated a classic example of the non-sequitur fallacy. The solution to bad government is not no government. It is better government. If government is wasting money and being inefficient, you make it efficient.

That multiplier effect you refer to also works when consumers and businesses spend money -- not just when government spends it -- and we get greater value when the dollars aren't taxed out of the economy to start with.

You don't seem to get it: America is IN A RECESSION! Individuals and private firms are not doing diddly squat! Tax rates are at their lowest level in 50 years, yet the “job creators” continue to ship work overseas and enact mass layoffs. This is where government comes in. It deficit spends: on bridges, schools, public housing, infrastructure, etc. This will create a ton of jobs, give people money, raise demand, creating more jobs in the private sector, raising demand again, and so on. That is how you get an economy out of the dumpster. You don't get out of an economic downturn by giving more money to people who are already rolling in mountains of it, and pay for it by dismantling the New Deal. That is rotten economics, and disgustingly immoral. People are finally getting fed up with the Tea Party Wild West fantasies of capitalist anarchy. Even George Bush I called these Reagan-inspired fantasies “voodoo economics”.