Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Robin Hood Politicians: Should We Tax the Rich? Does it Enable the Poor?

Recently a close friend and reader, Jacob, wrote me the following:
When politicians, especially Republicans, try to justify reducing taxes on the rich, you see them twisting to try to show some benefit to society by adopting the policy. Trickle down economics and loss of jobs are the common defenses for the policy.
I think these arguments do not realize what they are implying. The hidden premise is that if there were no negative consequences to the middle class, then we should tax the rich indiscriminately.
Why not argue that it is immoral to take exorbitant amounts of money from people, rich or poor? Why not argue that we should not allow the government to be tyrannical? This is a hard sell in a debate, but I wish the politicians would have some courage to stand up for fairness and not bow to political expediency. It is within everyone's self interest to secure the liberty of all, yes even the rich. 
But if people are unable to take this higher path of dispassioned policy approval, then let them use an enlightened and long term self interest, where freedom above all must be secured, lest in the power grabs that are given to the government, the government grabs YOU.
I completely agree: The argument that the government should not be tyrannical is of utmost importance. And yet that's a dangerous message for a government prone to tyranny. You don't think our government is prone to tyranny? The Patriot Act stands as one example of many.
The problem is that we have created not just a selfish society but The Entitlement Generation. They are the latest group of misfits: An entire generation raised to believe they deserve everything without having to work for it, with few exceptions. Exhibit A: Bernie Sanders.
There's a quote misattributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler. However, even Ronald Reagan quoted it, and it's pertinent, so I'll share it here:
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy." (1)
Politicians have learned two things, which are deadly to the public. First, we have a short attention span. We quickly forget any wrongs they've done us. And second, we will vote from selfish reasons. The poor are more than happy to vote for more benefits and the people holding the money are more apt to vote for people who let them keep their money.
Even those of us who are charitable have our own motives: We want to help others with your money because it makes us feel better. Yes, it does. We might justify it by saying that it's not fair that you get to keep what you've earned, but the reason we are justifying it is that we feel better when we know people aren't starving in the gutter.
Speaking from a preference for the Republican party, and as a former campaign consultant and manager, I must admit that the Republican party has truly become the party of Big Business. And Big Business is sociopathic. I read a great article arguing this, and I'll quote from it here: 
"The people who are running the corporation are like people riding up in the head of a giant robot stomping across the Earth. They control the robot’s arms and legs, so they can pursue the actions which make the most sense from the point of view of “business,” without ever getting their hands dirty... the folks in the executive suite can use the robot to load themselves up with riches. And then when the consequences of their actions finally catch up and the robot is tottering, they just put on their (golden) parachutes and leap off. The robot lumbers off and eventually crashes to the ground. There are no repercussions to any of the decision-makers." (2)
This is why you can't believe everything you hear from their talking heads, and you certainly can't expect them to act in the interest of the public. It's generally not their policy to be, as George Bush Sr. hoped, "A thousand points of light" because giving money to the poor brings little in return except public goodwill and goodwill is hard to valuate, and usually can be obtained through other avenues.
Another friend told me, in all seriousness, that Jesus would be Republican because He believed in self sufficiency. But we often forget that the Bible preaches wise charity. The Bible doesn't say we are to give money indiscriminately to the poor. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 the reader is instructed "... if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." And yet Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan. We can't simply let people starve because they're not working to our standards. Some people are putting in 40 hour work weeks at minimum wage and if they didn't have government assistance, their families wouldn't survive.
What is the solution then? If we cannot be Constitutionalists, we might look to the Libertarians. However, Rand Paul's stunningly poor showing proves that the country is not ready for Libertarian philosophy yet. Why is that? Because we are not educating the American public to think for themselves. Instead, we are filling their heads with platitudes and soundbites designed to reach into their hearts and pull heartstrings, forcing them to dance to someone else's tune. 
If the schools, which are funded by the government, will not teach our children and our citizens how to think, then it is up to us to find a way to do so. Now: Before it's too late.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dirty Little Family Secrets

What constitutes a dirty little family secret?

How do we get the strength to stand up and say "This is our situation but it's not a stain on us!" And when should we do it?

Should we go public when our white daughter starts dating a man from another race? Even if we don't have a problem with it, what will the Gillespies think? After all, they're our next door neighbors and we know they don't believe in what they call "miscegenation" even if we tell each other that it is an old fashioned view.

Should we go public when our son cheats repeatedly on his wife and she finally leaves him? What should we say to everyone? Should we help him cover it up for the sake of the family name? What if our silence allows him to brand his wife as frigid or unstable or mentally ill when we've known him from the time he was born, and we've known there was always something intrinsically evil about him? What if, despite our warnings to her, his wife chose to believe in him and suffered the consequences? Should we continue to contribute to her degradation at his hands?

What if our sister has been beaten by her boyfriend? Is it tacky to talk about it in public? What about the people who say that a) she deserved it because she was living with him out of wedlock or b) she should have seen the signs before she got involved with him or c) it's simply not something that should be talked about in public because it makes people uncomfortable.

Should we go public when an elderly family member has Alzheimer's? Will it make us look crazy, too? Will people view us differently than before?

What if our spouse or parent has a drug addiction? Should we tell everyone so that they stop giving him money or enabling him in other ways? But how will that make us look? Will it look like we all have an addiction or some other raging, hidden problem that would land us with a family member who's an addict?

These are all situations that have hit my family and friends. And they are all situations we struggle with.

I've seen these issues divide entire families. I've seen them make enemies of friends.

I am an extremely pragmatic person, and to a fault, many will tell you. I am rarely ruled by emotion and can sometimes be too dismissive of someone else's emotional reactions. I view myself as a crusader of the truth. Should it be delivered tactfully? Yes. But it should be delivered: Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

However, this can land me in hot water sometimes because not all secrets are mine alone. They are secrets that are shared by a family or group and sometimes the members of that family or group are not in agreement as to whether something should be disclosed or not.

I was recently taken by surprise by one incident, where an entire branch of my family went up in arms over a public disclosure I'd made that, to my mind, was completely innocent and nothing to be covered up. The vast majority of the public would agree with me. So...if I had asked my family for their permission first should I have been ruled by their wishes or dismissed them as ridiculous?

Tact would come into play, here. Unless the public needs to be warned, bending to the wishes of a majority of a group would often be wise.

But what if it's the case of your white daughter dating a Jamaican, and the majority of your family are ignorant rednecks this side of the railroad tracks in the middle of remote Atmore, Alabama? Is it your duty to be the one lone voice in your family saying "My daughter is in love with a black man and I'm proud that they've been able to find love in a cold world"? Again, the majority of public opinion would be on your side (I believe the tide has turned in America) but your family sees it as a sign that you're a terrible parent. Is the issue greater than family pride? Or should you treat it as a shameful secret and thus tacitly agree with them?

And how about the case of the drug addict? Your goal is to save his life by telling everyone so that they stop giving him money or paying his bills. Perhaps even truth alone is of importance, here. Isn't everyone entitled to it? Are you a co-conspirator if you say nothing?

At what point are we unashamedly standing up and educating the public, and at what point are we airing dirty linen that instead should be washed and tucked away in a dark closet?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Last Minute Christmas Shopping

My friend, Ruth, tipped me off that foxy Christmas wrap was to be found at the Dollar Tree. So I braved the crowds today to hunt through bins of wrapping paper (I found some!). As I was sifting through everything, an old woman toddled up next to me and started humming an off-key Christmas tune. All was well until she began talking to her imaginary friend, Roger, and squealed in excitement when she found what she was looking for. "Look Roger, look," she cried out happily to absolutely no one. Absolutely no one replied. This is what last minute shopping will do to you.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Going Back to College?

So as I consider going back to college and getting another Masters, this time in Psychology, I had nightmares all night last night. They are the typical nightmares: Finding out I have another class I've forgotten all about, discovering the final exam is only days away (or in the next hour) or that the teacher is vicious.

The only light at the end of the tunnel: One of the professors said in irritation "Each generation of you students gets dumber and dumber" (I've heard this in real life from several professors). I did some calculations and thought "Well THIS makes me the smartest student in the room, then."

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Leeks vs. Onions

I've been cooking with leeks a lot lately, and I've come to the conclusion that I don't like them. They're as weak as a wavering politician. Leeks lack the guts to be onions.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Thanksgivings I Love to Forget

Some years ago, when I was a young bride of 18, I was introduced to The Peyton Family Thanksgiving Tradition. This was an annual event, thrown by my ex-husband's very sweet cousin, Sherry. 

Sherry was a stunningly beautiful blond: The product of two mutant parents, she was the gem that stood out in the scrub brush studded wasteland of central Florida. 

It was no wonder that her wealthy husband, Tom, discovered her one day when she was tending her parents' shop and proceeded to sweep her off her feet and marry her. This true Cinderella story resulted in a lavish lifestyle, a lovely mansion, and three children who grew up with the Bellamy brothers' kids. Sherry, ever kind, always opened her home to the poor relations each holiday. And so every Thanksgiving and/or Christmas we would all make the trek to Tom and Sherry's.

We weren't the only ones invited. Naturally she also invited other relatives and her parents, whom we'll call Dixie and Bubba. Let me describe them for you. 

Dixie was an average sized woman, who always wore dresses that were at least 10 years out of date. Her frizzy, mousy brown hair was usually worn in a type of bouffant. She was gap toothed, with a lovely wart on one withered cheek that was perched just below her horn rimmed glasses. 

Bubba was a gangly man who perpetually looked malnourished. He was slightly stooped, so his greasy comb-over was always apparent. He also wore clothes that were at least 10 years out of date, and a rather self-deprecating manner with an ingratiating smile that he flashed nervously about.

Many, many years before, Dixie had met a trucker who was passing through their wilderness. Somehow an unlikely romance had been struck up, and she'd had a torrid affair with him. Bubba had never forgotten or forgiven her for this infraction, and so every family holiday they took out this memory, polished it, and cherishingly re-enacted it for everyone.

Usually the meal would be in full swing when suddenly Bubba would snap something accusatorily at Dixie. Dixie would then go into full blown hysterical dramatics. This would result in her flying down a hallway in the mansion and locking herself into the guest bath. Sherry would then feel obligated to play her part, and she'd sometimes be joined by other women who felt it was their duty to cajole Dixie out of the bathroom. I would never take part in this: Instead, I would sit back and enjoy the show.

In the meantime, Bubba would go outside where he'd angrily pace back and forth, muttering imprecations. Some of the men would then go into their expected roles and join him outside to entreat him to calm down and forgive Dixie once more. I would watch the performance through the floor-to-ceiling windows as he'd gesticulate wildly, the wind whipping chunks of his comb-over erect into a rooster comb, his yellow teeth flashing in the sunlight as he ranted about her past infidelity.

Eventually, Dixie would be coaxed back into the group again, where she'd continue to sniff and look mortally wounded. Finally she'd evolve into forced gaiety, attempting coquettish exchanges with all the guests. Bubba would also be brought back inside, and perch in the front room in an easy chair from which he would silently glower the rest of the day.

When I was finally divorced from my husband, I counted this loss as something to be thankful for. I continue to do so to this day. And so this November I remember Dixie and Bubba thankfully. I will never have another Thanksgiving like that again, God willing.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Morning in the Ghetto

7:30 in the morning the chainsaw starts up. The renters next door are at it again.
They're notorious for throwing huge, loud obnoxious parties with people parked up and down the street. They always have at least 4 cars in the driveway and parked on the lawn. What was once a nice neighborhood is going G.H.E.T.T.O.
So I get dressed, walk over there and say "I think I'm a nice neighbor. I'm a nice neighbor, right? I am quiet? Polite?" They nod their assent from the open garage. "Well then can you please just not saw wood on THANKSGIVING MORNING," I say as sweetly as possible through gritted teeth.
Ma Kettle looks at Pa Kettle in astonishment. "We haven't been using a chainsaw," she says, as if anyone could not know a chainsaw was just revved up in their backyard. Pa Kettle nods grimly. "I'm sawing wood for the smoked turkey," he says and looks at me as if this answer solves everything and now that I know WHY they're doing it, all should be OK.
"OK, the noise ordinance is til 9. I'm trying to sleep in. Can it wait til 9?" I ask. Pa Kettle looks astonished. "Well we HAVE to have it for the turkey," he explains. "I guess we can saw the wood IN the garage, instead." This will not cut down the noise in the least, as it's only feet away from where they're currently sawing. I point this out. They look baffled and tell me that they don't know what to do. "How about NOT sawing wood early in the morning?" I suggest.
"Well what time IS it," asks Ma Kettle of Pa Kettle. He looks at a clock. "8 o'clock," says Pa. Ma looks at me triumphantly, as if this somehow proves me to be highly irrational. "Yes," I say, "but you started at 7:30."
"Well while we're at it," says Ma Kettle, "You have a tree limb hanging over our fence. It could fall on one of our guests and brain them." I quietly wish it would fall on ALL of them, but simply say "Have you talked to the owners about this?"
"No but it's YOUR tree," says Ma Kettle.
"Have you talked to the owners about this?" I repeat patiently.
"No," admits Ma.
"OK, call the owners and ask them to call me," I say simply and turn away. Game over. I would sincerely doubt they'll call the owners, as this would expose what they're doing to their property.