Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spreading the Wealth Around

WAY before Joe the Plumber arrived on the scene, I got this e-mail (it was back in February, to be exact. I thought that now, with the words "socialist" and "redistribution" floating around the inter-tubes ,I would give it a public rebuttal.

This is the text of the email, stripped of its excessive and distracting use of very large bold font!!.

Father/Daughter Talk

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, 'How is your friend Audrey doing?' She replied, 'Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'
Her wise father asked his daughter,

'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'
The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, 'Welcome to the Republican party.'

If anyone has a better explanation of the difference between Republican and Democrat I'm all ears.

This was my carefully crafted response. I am rather proud of it, and would love it very much, if you ever get sent this same email forward, if you would drop this response in your outbox, and hit "reply to all".

Ok, since you asked....

First off, the more fitting analogy would be taking 8 points from someone with an 18.0 GPA, and "re-distributing" it by giving a .02 increase to 400 students who all had a 1.98 GPA.

400 students at risk of being kicked out of school would be given a second chance, and the one student with the insanely high GPA (which might have been the result of hard work, but might also have been the result of an inherited high IQ, and a natural aptitude toward test-taking) would still have a GPA well in excess of what is necessary to Graduate with Highest Honors at the top of her class.

That Valedictorian Student might then go on to run a sporting goods company, which will need educated employees to work for it. Some of those 400 students who would otherwise have been kicked out of school will now be working for her, and she benefits from the fact that they were given that second chance.

Some of the students, of course, were deadbeats like "Audrey", who squandered that chance and were expelled from school and now live under bridges and make money by panhandling and robbing sporting goods stores. So our Valedictorian also benefits from there being fewer of these deadbeats around, thanks to those GPA points that she gave up back in college.

Is it fair that we give people who need it a helping hand up with money that is "taken" from people with more substantial means? Of course not. Is it merciful and humane? Yes, I believe it is. Is it smart for society in general? I think so. Should we look at the injustices, inefficiencies, and flaws in the system, and make corrections? Of Course! Should we vote out deadbeat politicians who use the tax code as a way to reward their political contributors and cronies? Absolutely. But what we should not do is look at taxes as inherently evil, and oversimplify complex issues with pithy email anecdotes.

After all, there is a perfectly simple way to stop paying federal taxes. Stop living in America! If our system is so terrible for the rich, why haven't they moved away? They certainly have the means to! I think it is because they know what I know. That our government, though certainly flawed, is the greatest in the world for anyone of any income level.

The election is in a week, people. If you live in a large city, the best thing you can do for Democracy is vote early. This shortens the lines at the polling places on election day, and encourages greater participation in our government by people who actually work for a living, and can't miss work on a Tuesday just to vote.

P.S. My uncle's response was very nice, and he even promised to pass my reply back "Up the Chain" to the people who had gotten his original mail. I thought it was very classy of him.

1 comment:

Art said...

(in which Art delivers a multipart comment)

1 - FRANK! Dude, what are you doing, posting only once a month?

2 - I think you emailed this to me way back when...

3 - In my case you are preaching to the choir... but I bet you knew that...

4 - I really miss the daily Frank! I know, real life, bitch that it is, gets in the way sometimes. Come to think of it I miss being the daily Art...

5 - Yes, more folks should vote early. As the old saying goes, "Vote early, vote often."

6 - Finally, Good to "talk" to you again. The next time you're going to be in the valley, let me know, I'll buy you lunch.