30 October 2010

For the Great Pumpkin, on Halloween

Dear Reader,

I'm going to share with you something that's very important to who I am, and that I haven't shared in many years, nearly 20 actually. When Sable Crow was a boy, Halloween was always his favorite time. It was a time when that little gay kid could be--for just a night--a little closer on the outside to who I was on the inside. Of course I see that now; at the time I thought it perfectly natural to decorate my bedroom and plan my costume, and escape from this shabby, brutal world for a while.

As you might imagine, Dear Reader (and you've seen it too, I bet) others could see this enthusiasm, and bore witness to the birth of this individuality. And something very magical happened one year, which carries me into my adulthood now. It also was the birth of my writer. For you see, I wrote about this in 1992, when I was 14. The result, which you'll read below, was published in the local paper.

It meant the world to the woman for whom it was written. I have lost her, and I have never found out what happened to her. I assume she is dead, and probably has been for many years.

Anyway, it was the first time I was published. Actually, it was the last time I was published, too.

And on this most sacred of holidays, when the darkness is so close and the other world is so near, I invoke the spirits to send this story into those shadow realms. I call on you, spirits, to hear my tale, and to remember.


Another Halloween day was slipping by. It was proving to be a good day, even for the beginning of the week. The October air was crisp with the chill of autumn and the excitement of the coming night. Lunch had just ended, and my class was filing in from the playground. It was the fourth grade, and the classroom I was in was alike to probably hundreds across the country. Thirty-two desks arranged in eight equal rows, all facing the green chalkboard, with the room, although spottily decorated with black and orange (and the occassional pumpkin or skeleton), on the whole unremarkable.

I thought that the day was going to be a regular Monday, enhanced only by the fact that it was my favorite day of the year, All Hallows Eve. Little did I know that this would be a day that I would remember for the rest of my life.

After lunch came math, a subject which made all but the hardiest of fourth graders cringe with terror. My teacher that year I had also had in the first grade, and she and I had become friends. She knew, perhaps, better than anyone else, that this was my day; that I loved Halloween even more than Christmas.

"Okay everybody, get your math books out," instructed Mrs. B, as I called her then and continue to call her now. As she said this, she strode to behind her desk and picked up a brown paper bag. I watched with growing curiosity as she brought the bag over to my desk.

"Someone said to give this to you," she said, with a smile I took to be kind curiosity but now know was barely concealed mirth. She handed me the bag, smiled, and said, "Happy Halloween."

As the rest of the class wearily dragged out their math books, I opened the package. Inside was a green which on a broom, the kind that is hung in kitchens for good luck when baking. There was also a card in a bright orange envelope. I opened it with the joy of a child opening a Christmas present. It was a peanuts card with Snoopy on the front in a Dracula costume. On the inside was the phrase that said it all, "Happy Halloween." The card was signed with an inked-in orange pumpkin with crooked teeth and triangle eyes. It was the seal of the elusive Great Pumpkin, whom I knew even then to be Mrs. B. With a smile, I glanced up at my unforgettable teacher, who smiled back, knowingly. The Great Pumpkin had struck again.

Even as I recall this incident, I can feel a bit of the joy and happiness it brought. It was a simple gift, the monetary value of which has been given to me thousands of times in the gifts of my family and friends. However, it was this simple present, given for simple reasons, that I will remember for all of my life because it made me feel special. Mrs. B., in her own magical way, had recongized me as an individual with individual likes and individual wishes. She had not treated me like part of a class, nor as a student. She had treaded me as a feeling person. Yet, the gift she had given me was no only the little green which with a pinched-looking face. She had given me the far moire important gift of self-worth.

We, as humans, all have our likes and dislikes, our hopes and fears. They are what make us unique, they are what make us who and what we are. Also, as humans, we need these likes and dislikes to be recognized so that we feel that someone cares. Looking back, I see that Mrs. B. had given me the feeling that someone did care, and the gift she gave me continues even today. On this lonely ball of rock spinning through space, such fulfillment is rare. Yet every person needs these boosts in self-confidence to continue in life.

Last Halloween, five years after receiving the little green witch, I got a Halloween Peanuts card signed with Mrs. B.'s seal of the Great Pumpkin. The moment I opened that card, something inside of me smiled, and it continues to smile today. Inside everyone there is a child, a child who needs to be the best, who needs to be cared for, who needs to be seen as an individual. Every person needs to have that child in them recognized, the child that waits for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night.

-(c) 1992-

Times have changed, Mrs. B, wherever you are. We use microchips to tell the stories that paper and ink once held. And those stories can be seen all across the world--this lonely ball of rock has gotten smaller in these two decades.

She hangs in my kitchen to this day.

But know this, my Great Pumpkin. The lessons you taught me were the beginning of a great journey--a night-time pumpkin patch as wide as a lifetime, and as deep as a dream.

And Mrs. B., wherever you are, please know that you are a light in that darkness, and that when this Sable Crow at last sees that Great Pumpkin rise up against the harvest moon--he will think of you.

15 October 2010

The Lowly Penny

I often mock the lowly penny, and frequently leave them behind on counters, or just drop them in the street. But this new design is really cool! And I think kinda a good excuse to get you thinking about our currency. It'll be a subject of discussion here, once I defend selfishness and capitalism.

Some facts:
The penny is 2.5% copper and 97.5% zinc. In 1857, it was 88% copper and 12% nickel.

The penny has been a part of our circulating currency since 1793.

At that point, based on inflation, it was worth more than a dime is worth today (today you'd need $0.1245 to buy what a penny bought you in 1793)--suggesting we could get rid of both the penny and the nickel.

The 13 vertical stripes on the shield of the new design represent the 13 colonies--so our currency is clearly not triscadecaphobic.

The image of Lincoln on the "obverse" or heads side has been used since 1909.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

07 October 2010

On Capitalism, A Debate

I warn you, Dear Reader, this post is LOOOOOONG.  But it's worth it; Sable Crow promises.  In fact, I take some pretty heavy hits, and it's good reading..  First, some context.  One of my friends (The Instigator) on the Book of Faces posted the video below.

As often happens, a string of comments was born (after the video).  But they quickly became something greater than that tired Democrat v Republican prattle.  What emerged was one of the best conversations I've had about the nature of capitalism, selfishness, entitlement, and obligation.  Naturally, this ragged crow has removed names, and substituted archetypes instead!  My hope is that the conversation can continue here, and that we can create a forum for this discussion... 

So picture it, Dear Reader!!  And be prepared to join the fray.  No one gets a pass in this.

An Academic, an Actor, and a Capitalist (played by your Sable Crow) walk into a Facebook bar...


The Everywoman: 
I'm voting republican because Obama is muslim and trying to kill my grandma (also because If we let let the gays marry than people are gonna want to to marry farm animals. because that's what Larry Craig, Roy Ashburn, George Rekers, Eddie Long, Troy King, Richard Curtis, Ted Haggard, Glenn Murphy Jr., David Dreier, Bruce Barclay, Roy Ashburn, Ed Schrock, Robert Allen and Jim West say. And their not gay, just "heterosexual with issues." And they asked God to forgive them, so it's all good).
Monday at 7:40pm
The Everywoman:  ‎
Monday at 7:51pm
Sable Crow: 
I'm voting Republican because we have an unsustainable set of obligations and entitlements, and because the Republicans are the best of two sorry options to fix the problems we're going to face in the next 5-10 years. I'm voting Republican because the Democrats are happy to take our money (I gave to Obama's campaign fund) but the Dems don't care at all about actually delivering on their promises to the LGBTQ community--they play us for our cash, and that's it. The longer they take, the more we have to give. I'm voting Republican because our "progressive" tax policy is a sham--most people don't even pay taxes, and how can you expect a populace to make reasonable decisions on tax policy when a good chunck of them have no investment in the outcome. I'm voting Republican because very soon the gay issue will be over, will no longer matter to the political parties, and I'm getting ahead of the curve.
Tuesday at 8:48am
The Instigator:
I couldn't agree more about the Democrats being all too happy to take LGBT money but fail to deliver on their empty promises to the community. I can't say I think the Republicans are the best equipped to fix the economic problems of the next 5-10 years as I think they were a huge part (thought not the sole cause) of the reason the economic collapse occurred to begin with. But, Sable, I find very interesting what you said about the "gay issue" being over soon and you being ahead of the curve.

I started my political leanings nearly 20 years ago as a Republican because I was drawn to a platform of smaller government, lower taxes and more localized control. However, it didn't take but a few years for me to realize that the Republican party had mostly lost its way on their original principles of individual liberty and freedom and they had been completely hijacked a generation earlier by the religious right.

The fundamentalist, zealous Bible-thumpers had/have such a vice-like grip on the GOP nutsack it made voting for them unpalatable and untenable. But, if you're right (and I both hope and think you are) then I can foresee a time in the near future where I could again embrace the GOP. After all, without the use of divisive social issues like gays, they'll have little other choice but to refocus their platform on original founding principles and the issues that REALLY matter to Americans: taxes, limited government and individual liberty.
Tuesday at 10:16am
A Commentor:
As much as you like to bash the Tea Party, that's precicely what they stand for: lower taxes, limited government, and individual liberty. The GOP and the Dems have completely lost their way. They're both bloated on power and our tax money, and it's time for a change.
Tuesday at 12:36pm
The Instigator: 
@Commentor, the Tea Party OSTENSIBLY stands for lower taxes, limited government and individual liberty. But ask just about any one of them what their position is on marriage equality, the use of medical marijuana, or abortion and you'll learn just how limited their view of "individual liberty" is. There may be some educated, reasonable voters among them but they are, for the most part, little more than a thinly veiled radical faction of the aptly named GOP "base."
Tuesday at 12:47pm
The Everywoman: 
@Instigator, don't forget religion- if you're not the "right" kind of Christian, you too are the enemy!
Tuesday at 1:11pm
The Academic: 
‎@ Instigator--you nailed it. Recent survey of TPers makes the case pretty clearly.  In short, there is a lot of overlap with the christian conservative right. Though there is probably a "revolution in the revolution," i.e. elements that actually have some radical propositions (most of which seem like adolescent fantasies of Ayn Rand), for the most part these are just angry middle class white people who are riled up at the fancy black man living in the Masta's House. It would be nice if there was a democratic alternative to this madness--i.e. an actual leftish/liberal alternative. But for now the dems seem to think that they will be able to carry the election based on the fracturing of the right. Time will tell...

As for Sable Crow's claim about the "unsustainable set of obligations:" horseshit. The deficit is a long term problem, but the CBO numbers people cite to promote doomsday scenarios project the debt being catastrophic in something like 2070--and that doomsday # is based on sclerotic growth of 2% or so--or about half of the average growth rate for all of US history. In other words, if they are really a problem, the problem isn't the debt per se, but the fact that the CBO predicts we will have a completely shitty economy for the next half century or more. If that is true it demands a creative solution now rather than the lame brain neoliberalism we've been fed for the past thirty years. The idea that "lower taxes, smaller government" is somehow a novel solution is completely ahistorical: the tax rates have fallen to an all time low--and to say that almost no one pays taxes anymore, therefore we should lower taxes seems completely contradictory. Why not get the people who don't pay taxes (i.e. the people in the top 1% that get 34% of the income in the country) to actually pony up some cash in exchange for their free ride on our country's future?

If only someone in the party in power had the balls to do something about this, to make a passionate argument in favor of countercyclical spending and a progressive tax code (much less the no-brainer of repealing don't ask, don't tell), we might actually get some traction among the truly angry and left out in the country. Instead we get platitudes about the founders and empty promises of "liberty." What good is liberty if you can die of unemployment, starvation, and treatable diseases in the most prosperous country in the history of the world? Is it really freedom if the only thing you are really free to do is pay up or die?
Tuesday at 1:22pm
The Actor: 
The GOP as you knew them ain't comin' back in your life time or mine and I'm not sure ever really existed. At what point in their political history were republicans more ready to embrace LGBT concerns let alone pass LGBT friendly legislation than democrats. and this newest mutation least of all.

My God this kind of take your ball and run across the street every time you don't immediately get your way is exactly why progressive poitics as a whole is shambling hot mess we see today. It also shows a startling lack of clarity on how our democracy is supposed to work and a disheartening lack of patience, foresight and conviction. These are the hallmarks of the liberal progressive poitics as a whole and special interest causes like yours, and my own to be fair, in specific. Fuck! I know you're frustrated, I'm frustrated but what has slinging loyalties back and forth between political parties( or threatening to) done for your cause in the last forty years but postpone it's realization. We'd all be better served picking and sticking. Figuring out out the poitics of the time and the current administration and work the levers that exist. Until they don't you'll get your chance to work through the other guys soon enough and good luck with that. Did you forget 2000-2008. the period I like to call the dark ages. You want more of that only crazier and less competent then by all means vote your fucking heart. The Dems are still the best avenue toward any progressive change in this country LGBT or otherwise and it's about time we all grew up and realized this as incredibly dissatisfying but ultimate truth. As far as the republicans being the road back to responsiblility, truth and individual freedom? Stability, economic or otherwise? and this particular crop? You must still be thinking of the fantasy GOP, the fun one that everybody talks about but has never really seen like a big pally Sasquatch. If it ever existed which I doubt Regan put a bullet thru it in the eighties and buried it with the rest of the fairy tale somwhere near Barstow.
Tuesday at 1:27pm
Sable Crow:
@ The Academic:
There are two things to respond to. 1) obligations, and their unsustainability and 2) income tax.

Let's address #2 first.  That ought to do.

If you'd like to raise taxes, be my guest. But raise taxes on the half of the population that isn't paying anything, and it's not the "top 1%". What's good for the goose, is good for the gander. People need to have a stake in their taxation, or of course they'll always vote to tax the other guy.

Now on to #1. First, I'm not talking about future deficits. I'm willing to leave it aside, imagining we reelect Obama and we have a balanced budget (two unlikely scenarios). Last year, the US collected about $2T in tax revenue. We owe nearly $13T last time I looked. At a reasonable interest rate, let's say 3%, on short treasuries a year from now, that $13T will cost $390B a year in interest only, or roughly 20% of our annual tax income. That's a fact. The only thing preventing that from happening now is the Fed's insane quantitative easing. Not that I'm surprised. If you could lower your rates on your pile of unsustainable debt, you would too. Come to think of it, that's exactly what we're trying to do with the underwater homeowners--just make the debt cheaper. It won't work. If you were paying 20% of your income to your interest only, without touching the principal of your debt, I'd say you were unsustainable, too.

Next, I recently sat in a presentation by non-partisan Vanguard, who did a study on non-discretionary spending growth. Their annuity and financial planning businesses depend on accurately assessing the risks of ageing costs. Social security is not likely to grow as a percentage of GDP (5% or so), so changing the retirement age makes little difference (a surprise to me). But health spending is another matter, doubling as a percentage of GDP by 2050. So SSI and Healtcare spending reach 20% of GDP by 2050. Only half of that is the effect of ageing (an older population). The other half is very expensive treatments for very sick, or dying, people.

So we are absolutely on an unsustainable arc with our entitlements, and that's before you or I ever retire, or need those entitlements. I've left out unfunded pension liabilities, which are another $1T problem. And our lack of infrastructure spending, yet another $1T problem. Calling something horseshit doesn't make it go away, sadly.
Tuesday at 2:21pm
The Everywoman:
I am a white, straight, single woman with a Master's degree. Last year my income was about $14,000. I live with my mother and spend just over a 3rd of my income on medical expenses (no insurance), and most of the rest goes to student loan payments. AND YET...I would be willing to pay MORE in taxes if it meant helping someone less fortunate than me, because despite the above qualifications, I consider myself LUCKY! At least I have a mother willing to help out. I know I'm not the only who thinks like this. Tiny case in point: my mother is a CPA, and of her clients, the vast majority of those in the middle to lower class (yes, lower class...we have sheep for a reason) give a far greater percent of their incomes to charitable organizations (yes, churches count) than her upper-middle to upper class clients. Why is it with those with less are willing to give more? Not that I'm naive, I know I am not in the majority, and the bottom line, is Jason is right. We're fucked, unless we stop with the fear mongering bullshit and start acting like the country our forefathers envisioned...a country where ALL HUMAN BEINGS are treated equally, regardless of RACE, RELIGION, SEX, SEXUALITY, ET AL. TRUE FREEDOM IS FREEDOM FOR ALL. If we'd quite bickering about bullshit and acting like 5 year-old's, maybe this (and future) administrations would have a chance. Is the question of gay marriage really more important than health-care (and by that I mean it is ridiculous for our representative waste time fighting AGAINST something that should clearly NOT be a government issue. We should have the right to marry who we want. Period. If you have a problem with that, fine. But keep it out of the political arena)??? IT'S CALLED SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE FOR A REASON!! It makes me SICK how we, Americans, are viewed by the rest of the world. We have gone from the land of opportunity, to the land of the oppressed. We are ruled, not by logic, but by ignorance. And that ignorance breeds fear. I don't even know what my point is anymore, other than to say open your eyes, look deeper...yes, I'm disappointed in the administration, but I am more ashamed by the opposition. They have gone so far beyond appropriate it's not even funny.

Rant over. Sorry Instigator :/
Tuesday at 6:04pm
The Actor:
Sable Crow, it's not your numbers that are full of shit if you get my drift. Everywoman don't be sorry I'm of a mind to thank him for giving me a chance to rant AND I think he enjoys it. Oddly, plugged back into this conversation while sitting here watching Rachel Maddow (who runs one of the absolutel smartest not to mention funnest political shows I've ever seen.) Don't know what relevence that has to the previous notes but I know it has some. I read Sable Crow's second post and understood it like this, thoroughly rational, analytically relevent and wholly despicable.

It seems to me a microcosm of the argument as a whole. We can all see the problems but we come to very different conclusions about what it takes to fix it and indeed what this country this democracy and this government is really about, not to mention what it means to be a active citizen thereof. A teacher of mine recenly put it as succinctly as I've ever heard it. There are those of us who believe in love thy neighbor, it takes a village and we're all in this together, then there are those bastards who think it's every man for himself. "Those bastards" were pushing that theory for a long time before Reagan gave them their wings. 40 years later, now that it's cool to be callous it's actually promoted as a socio/political/economic way of life. One that has to go.

So the post seemed to me the same Uncle Milty (Friedman) Masters of the Universe school of thought thinly frosted with an I'm really a nice guy ultrarational beancount. The poor, the sick and the dying!? Jesus. Oh yeah, those freeloaders. Aside from all the numbers it seems to me we in this country have to answer some simple questions about who we are and want to be moving forward. Chiefly do I give a shit about anybody besides myself, my family and my immediate socio/economic/ peer group (in any order, beginning with myself). Or do I understand that no matter who I am I have a fundamental responsibility to my fellows in particular and especially those less fortunate than I. If you do not you are a probably a republican by nature and had no business voting for Obama in the first place and as such I have zero sympathy for any disappointment you may feel and less for any positions you hold dear like continued tax relief for the wealthiest amongst you ( I say you because they obviously aren't amongst the rest of us.)
Tuesday at 7:27pm
The Academic:
@ Sable Crow: Yes, horseshit. You read that 50% of the households in the country make less than $50K a year and what you notice is that they don't pay income tax? I think it's a bit more astounding that the median *household* wage is $50K. Half the country's households--moms, dads, kids altogether--make less than $50K. The tax breaks Obama is talking about is for the people making over $250K a year--or the top 3%. The top income tax bracket has been cut to a third of what it was at midcentury (used to be close to 90%, now closer to 36%; if you are a hedge fund bozo, closer to 15%). That the top 10% pays something like 73% of the taxes should come as little surprise since they get something like that proportion of the income pie as it is--not counting wealth, capital gains, etc. And since the census data stops counting at something like $250K per household (and we have no idea how much money people have socked away in offshore accounts), this is really just the tip of their iceberg.
Their share of the income pie has grown exponentially over the past thirty years, while wages for the middle to bottom quintiles have stagnated--and the real value of those wages has begun to go down. In other words, the top 1% pays no where near the taxes they should--they are, after all, the ones who have benefited the most from this insane resurgence of class power known as neoliberalism. Free trade, free movement of capital, death to the unions, Volker's "the american standard of living must decline," privatization, deregulation, blah blah blah (Will seems to have this one wrapped up): all this was supposed to make our economy stronger, more dynamic, you name it. Yet all it's done is make us more unequal, decimate our economy, and thrust our poverty rate into territory it hasn't been in several generations. I'm sure many of the people in that bottom 47% would gladly pay income tax--if only they had some income on which to pay it.

Since the article explicitly says these people pay payroll taxes (and all of them likely pay regressive sales taxes among others) all this is basically a smoke screen since you say the big problem is healthcare (i.e. they pay medicare taxes, for what that's worth). That in itself seems to be a lame excuse since it could have been fixed if anyone wanted to end the ridiculous, overly expensive system of private/public health care in this country and institute single payer like every other rational industrialized country has done. SSI is paygo and I'll bracket the current account deficit since, large as it is this year, that is also the fault of the system that was supposed to let the freewheeling market deliver us from evil. I'd argue that the deficit is nowhere near as large as it should be this year. Most estimates say that the kind of jobs stimulus we needed to get us anywhere close to out of this ditch needed to be four times the stim-pak. All the numbers you cite are basically a smoke screen (calculating pensions as unfunded liabilities to the point of infinity is shifty math since they are also pay-go): the basic problem of our economy needing to grow and people needing to have money to buy things to make the economy grow looms much larger in the short term.

Which brings me back to the horseshit. Your entire position is one big self fulfilling prophecy. It says that we've basically evicerated the economy with this neoliberal bullshit (I know--so much shit!) but now we don't have any money to pay for the stuff that the advocates of the neoliberal bullshit hated and wanted to kill from the very beginning. Eliminate the state, drown it in the bathtub, etc. Every man for himself and make the poor work off their debt to society in the debtor prison--or send them to the colonies (Iraq, Af-Pak). That line of horseshit must be called exactly what it is. And no cloud of numbers spun to infinity will convince me that there isn't another way to organize society in the long term than to leave it in the hands of the people (and the ideology) who've just fucked us over (yet again). We have enough stuff, we have the knowledge, if not the means (thanks to your ideology's contribution to deindustrializing our economy) to make more stuff when we need it. We have good doctors, teachers, civil servants, technicians, and if we'd give up the fight to keep a large portion of our workforce in proto slavery (i.e. "illegal immigrants") we might be able to replace the aging workers as they retire.

The big loose end is fossil fuels, which we have to import, but if replacing that system were part of the goal, well, we might just be in business. We are nowhere near Greece or any of the PIIGS in terms of deficits or debts and have much bigger problems to deal with before either of those become priority 1. Since our treasury notes are still doing swift business on international markets, it seems even your favored oracle would agree.

Aren't we supposed to be creative and highly developed as a country? Why do we keep beating our head against this wall? And why do you want to help us to continue to beat our head against this same, damn wall?
Tuesday at 8:37pm
Sable Crow
Academic, Actor, and Everywoman:

Actually, when the top marginal rate was last 91% (in 1963) it applied to income over $400,000. A quick glance at an inflation calculator makes the modern equivalent $2,772,870.43. You want to raise the income tax on THAT bracket, be my guest. Not on individuals making $200,000. It's no cooincidence tax rates spiked after the Depression (afterall, SOMEBODY had to pay for all that government largess), but they were on income levels in excess of $1,000,000 (and those were 1930's dollars). Today, it would take income of $15,468,912.73 to be equivalent.

It's disingenuous to bemoan that "the top income tax bracket has been cut to a third of what it was at midcentury"'; without inflation adjustment it's just not relevant.

Besides, "tax break" or "tax relief" are absurdisms. They rely on the underlying belief that what we earn as individuals by rights belongs to the government. It is not a "tax break" to steal less. It is not "relief" when it was not the government's (or, by extension, yours) to begin with.

I would be deeply wary at a group dinner with adherents to your ideology. In such an ideology, when the bill came they'd smugly pay what they could "afford", regardless of what they ordered, and pass the bill on to somebody else, shrouded in self-righteousness. Talk about an entitled and selfish ideology. Talk about "despicable."

I'm unlikely to compell an articulate critic of intellectual property (and, it seems to me, the concept of ownership, per se), but ultimately I think our division comes down to something along these lines: I believe each of us acts in accordance with our own self interest, and earns the right to control the capital produced by our labors. I think what Will and SJA are saying is that you feel justified in taking from others to pay for your beliefs about what is right. Hey man, if that's not self-interest, I don't know what is. In mine, people are given the individual responsibilty to make rational decisions on their own. I'm no fool--many will not, and the consequences are dire.

Of course "I understand that no matter who I am I have a fundamental responsibility to my fellows in particular and especially those less fortunate than I." I also act accordingly in my community. Do you? It is humbling, heartbreaking work, and I would do anything--including engage in conversations like this, to ensure that I have the resources to do it, and that they are not stolen from me by well-meaning "altruists". To Lori's point, I also imagine that if you looked at what the lower brackets gave as a percentage of income, and what the upper brackets give in charity AND taxes, you'd find the numbers are not that far off. Taxes reallly do affect how much money people have to do with as they see fit, including philanthropy.

But ultimately, as Everywoman implies, compassion is an individual, self-interested choice. If you believe strongly in ending hunger, then apply your own resources to solve the problem. Compel others through rational arguments to use their own capital (human, social, economic) to do the same. Beware the person who would take it through the tax man, at the point of a gun (and make no mistake, that's where you'll find yourself if you don't pay taxes). As for me, I would rather we supported the Trevor Project, and prevent LGBTQ kids from killing themselves. But it's your money--I have no right to tell you to do otherwise with it. The corrollary is likewise true.

Where we do align is on immigration (we need the labor to right-side the lopsided pay-go pyramid), and fossil fuel use (there's a good place to raise taxes, as behaviors dramatically change at $4/gallon). We obviously don't align on more stimulus (it has dubious returns, and doing more of it would be unlikely to produce a different result), and on the cause and cure of healthcare cost-increases (if consumers of healthcare are protected from actual prices, then free-market forces won't drive prices lower, and of course costs will rise).

We also agree that we are a creative and developed country. But we disagree on where that creativity comes from, and on the conditions that will be needed to foster it going forward.
23 hours ago
The Academic:
Glad there are some points of agreement, but obviously we'll have to agree to disagree about the whole tax as theft meme (you've done your homework so you probably know the longer argument here). You'd like to have a government that protects private property but you don't want to pay for it. And if you have to pay for it, then you'd like for everyone to have to pay equally for the protection of that private property, even if the majority of people don't really benefit from that protection. To retain political legitimacy in the long term, your 'negative' rights will inevitably bleed into 'positive' rights. If the government is "for the people" but really only protects a small minority, it is likely teetering on being a failed state. It's messy business (far less elegant than your oversimplified pablum about paying through charity to keep people from going hungry, but a reality nonetheless); in case you haven't noticed we actually live in a different century than John Locke and it is much harder to send people to debtors prison (otherwise known as the government's gunpoint used to enforce the debt other people owe you--a handy apparatus the attorneys at your finance firm have likely employed a number of times.)

I wasn't being disingenuous about the tax brackets: I'm perfectly aware of the reality of inflation and would be more than happy to have incomes over $2million taxed at something approaching rate--and it seems pretty reasonable to do so for people making $15 million. That's pretty much what I'm talking about. The $250K cite was just to point out how high in the income brackets that number falls (top 3%). I don't think people who make $250K think of themselves as being in the top 3% and they really should.

I also think you're being disingenuous. You seem like a pretty wealthy guy (VP of a capital management firm) and I imagine that, if you and Everywoman or Actor were pals, you'd be perfectly happy to have them pay what they could afford if you all went to dinner (especially if it was at a restaurant you chose). But in any case, that's not what any of us are asking you to do. In fact, no one here said they wanted any of this for themselves. What's despicable is the fact that you imagine everyone scrambling for a handout from you as opposed to simply working hard and finding themselves in a bind. I know right now it's hard to imagine, but the way social insurance works is that if you one day found yourself in a bind, it would be there for you as well. You pay for car insurance, but are probably a pretty safe driver: do you resent the fact that other people who buy the same insurance have wrecks and this indirectly effects the rates you pay?

The people who do the bulk of the work in this country--or hell, just the bulk of people in this country--get paid far less than they need to be, particularly when you factor in things like health care and the enormous pension funds that have been such amazing playgrounds for capital groups like your own. Their wages and rights as workers have been decimated by decades of propaganda by class warriors like yourself. The largess these top income earners have received since the 1970s is a vast redistribution of wealth from the middle to the upper class. This is not about "robbing" them, but about retribution for the pilfering that's been done. You can talk all day about your find ideals of liberty and freedom, restate your von Mises and your Hayak in as folksy terms as possible, but when you do so looking down your nose at the highest poverty rates in half a century, as if that is none of your concern, it is pretty clear what those terms mean for you. The sooner the Tea Party people realize they are being led to support an ideology that is ultimately responsible for the hardship they face now--an ideology that is ultimately not in their best interest, the better off that movement will be.

As for the rest of us, it would be good if we finally recognized that the other two parties are basically different versions of that same ideology, and the entrenched interests of finance like it that way. Why you'd support the GOP when they are so completely repulsive on gay rights, and when they basically only pay slightly better lip service to your libertarian convictions, is beyond me.
22 hours ago
The Actor: 
Whew! Glad you guys are still here and the great debate of our age continues...on Facebook...oy.

Sable Crow, let me first say this has been a great discussion and I really appreciate you taking the time to post your thoughts also your candor and willingness to engage. I think, as I 've said, we're debating what I believe is the great question of our generation.

That being said... Sable Crow! You facist bastard!

kidding! I kid! Well, maybe only a little.

If you can peer over your reread of Ayn Rand the Classics long enough to look around. Dude, you are not alone. See those large bipeds out there? Those are your fellow human beings. Yes even the ones without the identifying Armani suits. You should get to know a few. Noooo, a few who make less than 50 grand a year. I'd say start with 30,000 (I know, preposterous) maybe a father of three or a single mom or something. They don't talk like your talking, for a reason. They can't afford to. It's funny I didn't google you or anything but even before The Academic let the cat out of it's proverbial bag I kept thinking finance guy. Gotta be, Serious education, well spoken writes well, possible ivy league creds, loves slinging those numbers and the only other people that detached are rocket jocks and brain surgeons. Not to mention finance people are probably the only people with any liquid cash lying about to brag about. Or worry about being stolen. I won't even get into the absurdity of the notion of any one engaged in finance accusing any one else of stealing after what just went down.

I would do anything to ensure I have the resources and make sure they weren't stolen...by freakin altruists. Do you have any earthly idea what you sound like? Capitalist is not strong enough by a long shot. When people talk about ultimate power corrupting..they're talking about you my fine Field Marshall of Finance my Sultan of the Subprime.

Check me if I'm wrong here Sandy but when you're talking about your self interest and your money aren't you talking about your self interest and somebody elses money? I've been reading about you guys. Class of 80, 90 something? The brilliant ones. Sun gods one article called you boys n girls. Bar none the best ever produced. Oh, also the ones completely unhooked from the kinds of ethical and moral hinges that kept their predecessors from doing naughty things like creating subprime mortgages or selling stocks and finance products made of purest shit then betting against them. To other countries no less. Very naughty indeed. How bout it? Am I talking to a Sun God Sable Crow? You're sounding an awful lot like one. Certainly nothing you said in the last post lead me to believe that you were any saner than you were yesterday. And Yes absolutely I do believe this obsession with self interest is a kind of insanity. A sociopathy. Ascribing self interest as the guiding principle for all human behavior simply ends up being a self fullfilling ever constant excuse for doing exactly what ever it is you want to do when ever you want to do it and to whomever. Sans moral hazard and now thanks largely to the finance industry sans legal jeapardy. What of the unimpeachable self multiplied and completely uncoupled from it's connection and commitment to the realities of the community at large ie country/planet/species even in the form of say a tax responsibility or the ten commandments or laws that make it a crime to steal or kill or a simple code that says as a boy it's bad to hit girls or make a product that doesn't work then bet on it's failure. ( that used to be a law but a bunch of finance guys got together and changed it) I for one believe we have already witnessed it in the calmities of the period between 2000 and 2008 ending with the Near Death Experience of our economy. Now Sable Crow you probably can't personally be held responsible for that collossal fucking disaster nor, probably, can the company you're with. you're probably a decent guy who towed the line and stayed the fuck out of subprimes and all the garbage specifically designed to suck all the money out of my country and give nothing back ( and I'm praying against all hope here that that is the case) but if rank self interest gone the way it always ALWAYS goes, which is completely insane, wasn't at work there I will be damned.

It's an old argument, age old used primarily by those with power in order to keep power. Fear is at the heart of it. It says You are utterly alone. If you believe that and should you manage to obtain and maintain a modicum of wealth, privelege, power then you can stand with the gods and proclaim. Why, look there was only me. I CREATED this with my bare hands. Look ye and adore. You will stand apart ( read above) your fellows and woe to those should try to filch from or otherwise fuck with your mighty stash. This of course is coupled with a kind of original sin concept atached the character of those who have not managed to achieve this status. It's automatic. Fuckin freeloaders.

You will look and feel and sound...well a lot like Sable Crow.

While Atlas was teaching you how to shrug I was reading a different piece of science fiction. In it a kid gets this awful test. With a poison tipped needle at his throat enduring excruciating pain he has to learn to do something very hard. It's his first lesson on his hero/warriors path if you read Joe Campbell if (you don't SC you might) and without it's knowlege he can't become what he is destined to be. He must learn to subsume his self interest, his animal instinct, for it's higher alternate the interest of the community. The whole. In the book he could not even be considered a true human without that knowlege. Look, as we struggle out of the Picean into the Aquarian we need only look back on what the Me people have wrought to chart our course for the future. this is a failed and ultimately self destructive philosophy. When I say self I mean the whole self. If you like Star Trek the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or few. This is not a choice Your species depend on it.

One of the reasons I'm loving this conversation is that you're being about as candid with these ideas as anybody I've talked to literally since Reagan was president and this sort of rank hostility, toward the poor especially, was being proudly and loudly reignited as more than just a wedge issue for a fall election.The argument back then against the poor( not to mention the sick, the mentally ill, the handicapped, the black, the brown, the red ect.) was simple.

They are stealing your money. It hasn't changed.

I gotta say though Sable you gave me my first big laugh of the day with your description of the dinner party. You, obviously, are not an actor. It's not despicable, it's saturday night in LA. But since you brought it up I'd say it was a fairly apt highlighting of our differing philosophies and a great illustration of the great argument. I am an actor (sneer if you can't help it) and having lived in such a system ( giggle) for many years let me tell you, and I'm being perfectly frank here, it works fine nearly every single time. Sooner or later what comes around goes around. It may take time but I've never been let down on either end and I've been in both positions several times.

And again i thank you I was actually afraid I'd be home too late and the posts would be gone. But thanks for staying engaged believe it or not it helps.