Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Child Of Privilege

Some things have been roiling around in my head since I read a string of comments by a winger on another site, the general thrust of his nonsense was that he was an entirely self-made man and those in unions and other sorts of cooperative endeavors and advocates of progressive taxation were leeches sucking the life blood out of the successful. You can probably guess that I was less than amused but it also got me to think about some things.

You see, I am a child of privilege. No, the silver spoon was missing, wealth wasn't in the picture, solid upper middle class sort of a deal. What I did have was both parents who loved me and offered financial security and something incredibly valuable beyond that. My parents were both professionals with high intelligence and active questing minds who owned an extensive library of not ordinary books who encouraged the same in their children. At thirteen I was reading Crime and Punishment for amusement and decided my book report might as well be on that, astonishing that particular teacher. I was blessed, or cursed, with an IQ that put me well out of the ordinary scale. Unfortunately I never had to work at school work and learned some poor habits as a result, but beside that, I absorbed knowledge like a sponge. I was never going to be a professional football player but outside such things the world stood open to me because my mind was prepared for that. I knew a safe world where minds such as mine were respected and expected to be utilized. My lazy academics and SAT/ACTs meant any university I desired was within my reach, assuming actual wealth wasn't required. My K-12 education happened in Ohio at a time when Ohio meant something other than rust belt - in fact it meant that many schools were going to give you some of the best education available in the nation. About 10% of my cohorts in College Prep courses went to elite universities in their fields of interest (I mean I entrance standard not Ivy).

What I've made of my life is a result of my choices, I was never restricted in any manner other than by myself. The fact that I wound up being a NE OR nail bender is due to what I wanted, no force of circumstance brought me to this place in life. Not many in the US can claim the advantages I've had and I am aware of that. One of the guys who worked for me is a smart guy, a likable and capable person, one of seven children of a broken home with not much more than a pot to piss in who went to work in his early teens. Can anyone honestly state that his choices in life approached mine? Is he to faulted for where he came from? He has more than most from his circumstances because he works like a dog and uses money intelligently but a middle class professional life isn't happening. To stay out of poverty and have some comfort he will continue to work like a dog and be careful. No amount of Republican/Libertarian BS will ever change that, it isn't a matter of choices made, it is a matter of circumstance - being born as he was. He takes little advantage from the system other than being able to sweat and work like a pig and to have taken out a couple smart loans.

The idea that people who live and make their livelihood at the top of the scale take no more from the system we live in is ludicrous. People like my example have every cent of their income subject to SS/FICA and their income potential has something to do with the fact that on every cent of their income their employer will contribute to other pieces of the taxes. SS/FICA totals up to 15.5%, Workman's Comp from 7% to 30%, Unemployment 1-2% which all put together means that the end cost to an employer in something like construction is about 150% of wage. Understand that this person has 1/3 of their potential earnings removed right from the get-go. SS/FICA caps at $93K, from there on the 15.5% doesn't exist, if you move in actual wealth the rest of the costs aren't even applicable, but the Republican/Libertarian would have you believe that a top adjusted gross rate of 34% is somehow robbing the successful. This means that if through some ludicrous oversight they filed the same return as a nail bender their tax load would be essentially the same or less. This little exercise entirely neglects the many pieces of the tax code that allow wealth to make that adjusted gross something totally unrelated to our construction guy's.

There is virtually nothing in our system of economics that is not geared to the accumulation of wealth through wealth. The social safety net of welfare and public education are about the only pieces that do not stand as wealth accumulation tools for the wealthy. There are rags to riches stories, some few, but it is a simple fact that at some point those stories are plugged into the wealth generation machine and most involve being at the right place at the right time. The idea that the poor are piggy backing on the rich is one of those self-serving greed justifications that are employed by those who believe the world is full of fools. The incomprehensible part of it is that the proponents of this kind of nonsense are elected by people who are its victims.

I could have chosen a life path that lead a tax rate that I'm describing, it was my choices that took me in a different direction and I don't complain about that. I had those choices and that is an entirely different thing than assuming that anyone has them, after all - I am a child of privilege.

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