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Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Sharing the wealth not a radical idea

December 5, 2013

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I like capitalism.

Specifically, I like the idea that if I write a better book, have a better idea, build a better mousetrap, I will be rewarded accordingly. A system where everyone gets the same reward regardless of quality or quantity of work is inconsistent with excellence and innovation, as the mediocrity and inefficiency that beset the Soviet Union readily proves.

The woman who is successful under capitalism gets to eat steak and lobster whenever she wants. That’s never bothered me. What does bother me is the notion that the unsuccessful man who lacks that woman’s talent, resources, opportunities or luck should not get to eat at all. There is something obscene in the notion that a person can work full time for a multinational corporation and earn not enough to keep a roof over his head or food on his table. The so-called safety net by which we supposedly protect the poor ought to be a solid floor, a level of basic sustenance through which we, as moral people, allow no one to fall — particularly if their penury is through no fault of their own.

Maybe you regard that opinion as radical and extremist. Maybe it is. But if so, I am in excellent company.

Martin Luther King, for instance, mused that “there must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, that it’s wrong for some to live lives of ease while others struggle. “The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’” In Acts 4:32, Luke writes approvingly of the early church that: “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Which brings us to the pope — and Rush Limbaugh. As you may have heard, the former has issued his first Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, in which, among other things, he attacks the free market and what he calls an “economics of exclusion.” This had the latter up in arms last week on his radio show.

Pope Francis writes that poverty must be “radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality ...”

“This is astounding ... and it’s sad,” says Limbaugh. “It’s actually unbelievable.”

“How can it be that it is not a news item,” writes the pope, “when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

“This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope,” fumes Limbaugh.

Trickle-down economics, writes the pontiff, “expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power …”

Maybe, says Limbaugh, his words were deliberately mistranslated by “the left.” No, seriously, he said that.

But then, some of us are fine with faith so long as it speaks in platitudinous generalities or offers a weapon to clobber gay people with, but scream bloody murder when it imposes specific demands on their personal conscience — or wallet.

It is perfect that all this unfolds in the season of thanksgiving, faith and joy, as people punch, stun gun and shoot one another over HDTVs and iPads and protesters demand what ought to be the bare minimum of any full-time job: wages sufficient to live on.

This is thanksgiving, faith and joy? No. It is fresh, albeit redundant evidence of our greed — and of how wholeheartedly we have bought into the lie that fulfillment is found in the things we own.

Some of us disagree. Some us feel that until the hungry one is fed and the naked one clothed, the best of us is unfulfilled, no matter how many HDTVs and iPads he owns. This is the radical, extremist ideal embraced by the human rights icon, the Gospel writers, the Bishop of Rome — and me.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 1 year ago

This is a denial of reality on the part of everyone mentioned in the column. Let us use as an example why NFL players get paid more than teachers. We need to be aware that a rookie gets paid far less than a star quarterback. The owners of the teams who cut the paychecks get their money from ticket sales, money from those who want to sell food and drink at the stadium. How much does any person or family spend at a sports stadium?

Capitalism is a word for a process that involves billions of people doing billions of things every second of the day and night. I find it tiresome for the Pope to bring out the old same old same old that may make some feel good but does absolutely nothing to change anything for anyone.

Read the New Testament closely and give me a passage where Jesus personally fed or clothed anyone. No, he told others to do that. He and his apostles were housed, clothed and fed by followers. The first churches were in peoples home. Acts is a perfect example of when socialsim doesn't work out.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year ago

Thank you so much for this. I have read it and bookmarked the page i chose to learn about it. It is something that needs to be pondered on to be able to discern the meaning we are supposed to take away from it and use in our lives.

Wayne Kerr 1 year ago

Capitalism is a word for exploitation of the working classes. Ticket prices for NFL games are absolutely ridiculous and only the wealthy among us can afford them. As for Jesus, yes he did feed people, don't you remember the wine or fish miracles?

John Graham 1 year ago

Prices of any sporting or entertainment event will come down when people quit going. No one is forcing those people to buy tickets or overpriced concessions.

John Graham 1 year ago

Those "exploited workers" have the option to improve their position by working harder, getting more training or education. Those exploited workers can also start their own business if they choose to. All it takes is a willingness to work harder for yourself than what one has to work for an employer.

John Graham 1 year ago

Yes that is how the US was built, on the backs of small businesses. The majority of businesses were started by hard working individuals without a bankroll or formal training in business. If you want to make excuses for people not to succeed go ahead. But people that succeed do so regardless of the obstacles.

John Graham 1 year ago

Yes those that are determined to succeed do so. Those looking for excuses do not.

John Graham 1 year ago

Barbara the beauty of your opinion is it is just an opinion. You can no more prove yours than I mine. I will stand by mine that those who succeed do so by determination. Those who fail do so by failing to have enough determination to overcome whatever obstacle lies in front of them. Excuses for not succeeding are easy to come by. The opportunity is there for the taking. Some have more obstacles than others but all able bodied people in the US can succeed in making their lives substantially better if they want to bad enough.

John Graham 1 year ago

Liberals love making excuses for those that don't succeed. It allows the liberals to demand money for entitlement programs which help further the "victim role" in those that don't succeed. It also makes those that don't succeed indebted to the liberals. That is the easy way out for both groups. The now "victims" of society can quit making a true effort to succeed and the liberals have an easy way of getting more voters for their agenda. The liberals can act all puffed up and superior about how they have helped those that are less fortunate but what they have really done is to make sure a good portion of those less fortunate stay that way by telling them they can't succeed because society has been against them from the start and won't allow it. If you tell someone they can't succeed long enough, they will quit trying . That is what the liberals are doing to those that really need to be told they can succeed in improving their lives if they work hard enough. Liberals want to give the poor a fish. Conservatives want the poor to learn how to fish that way they can lead a self sufficient life not needing handouts that the liberals want to keep them on thus keeping them indebted to the handout givers.

And the real beauty Barbara is my opinion is just as valid as any you care to have.

John Graham 1 year ago

Nice try. Yes a quadriplegic or an active schizophrenic would have a problem. That makes a small fraction of those considered poor.

John Graham 1 year ago

Yes because those two groups truly can't provide the effort needed to succeed due to their medical issues. Everyone else has a legitimate opportunity in the US to succeed based on hard work. That's the beauty of the free market system. One gets out of it what they make of it. Poor choices and lack of determination leads to poor outcomes. The fact that 1/3 of poor do not die poor shows it can be done and is done every day. Make excuses all you want but excuses don't help anyone.

John Graham 1 year ago

Yes it is binary. You are determined, work hard to improve your situation or you don't. It's the liberals that always come up with reasons (excuses) why the poor can't change their situation. The liberals demand money for entitlements then say the entitlements aren't solving the problem so we need more entitlements. Then the liberals say well you can't blame our entitlement programs because those born poor are destined to stay that way. So quit all the training programs and scholarship programs since poor are destined to stay poor. If you claim the training programs and scholarships help move people up the ladder then the answer comes down to determination and effort. You liberals shouldn't have both but with this administration you are getting both.

John Graham 1 year ago

Well then if the programs work for the successful participants then all that is missing is determination and effort from the unsuccessful. That you for making my point.

John Graham 1 year ago

I also don't agree with your "survivorship bias" claim. That would suggest that those successes are "coincidental". I do not believe success is coincidental. I believe it is directly related to determination and effort. If all had the same determination and effort then successes could be incidental just like failures. I don't believe all have the same determination and effort. It is my opinion that those who succeed have more determination and effort than those who do not succeed. It is my opinion and you can not disprove that without interviewing a representative sampling of both groups. You don't have enough data to claim survivorship bias which requires data from some of those that don't succeed. You can have your opinion just like I do. But you can't prove yourself correct or me incorrect.

John Graham 1 year ago

An excuse is an excuse no matter the circumstance. The opportunities are there if people want to work hard enough to better their existence. Not all will become millionaires but all that are willing to work hard enough will improve their situation. Liberals constantly giving them excuses for their situation does nothing but turn them into "victims". People who truly desire to succeed are not interested in being a victim they are too busy working on succeeding. One will always find those that want an excuse, you can easily find them because they are the ones not working on succeeding. So feel good about giving excuses, but you are not helping anyone by doing so.

John Graham 1 year ago

A "barrier" is nothing more than an excuse to justify why they haven't succeeded. Using the term "barrier" is a good way to subconsciously train people to give up. How can anyone get beyond a "barrier"?

John Graham 1 year ago

The problem is the whole industry built up around looking for and finding (creating) barriers. The more "barriers" academics find the more excuses there are for those that lack determination and effort. Academics can mentally masturbate about barriers all they want but in the day to day world people improve their situation with determination and effort.

John Graham 12 months ago

No the industry comes up with barriers to justify its own existence. That way it can scream for tax dollars to fix something that people should do on their own. The typical academia making a mountain out of a mole hill. It gives the academics something to feel superior about, instead of actually doing something useful with themselves.

John Graham 12 months ago

So to sum up your arguments, the poor have barriers that prevent them from improving their situation. Many of these barriers they have no control over. Sounds good to me. Oh yea but there are those pesky details that 1/3 of born poor do not die poor. But you don't want training programs and scholarships to be discontinued because they help some succeed in improving their lives. You can't have it both ways. If there are barriers that prevent the poor from succeeding then do away with all the training and scholarships because the barriers will prevent success. If the training programs and scholarships help then the barriers don't prevent success, rather it is lack of effort and determination to get around the barriers that prevents the poor from succeeding. Oh how do you explain the 1/3 of the born poor that don't die poor? Random chance? I guess if you interviewed them it would be effort and determination that improved the vast majority of their lives.

One argument or the other but you can't have both.

1 year ago

"only the wealthy among us can afford them"

It's too bad the poor can't see the same thing somewhere else for free. Like on TV.

Wayne Kerr 1 year ago

Free TV? Is that part of Obama's Socialist policies?

Beator 1 year ago

People will say and do anything to get money. Take the president for example. He is desperately hawking his ACA. He needs the money from the youngsters to support his law.

Obama yesterday: “If you’re a student body president, set up a conference on campus. If you work in a nonprofit, open your doors and use your email list to help people learn the facts. If you got a radio show spread the word on the air. If you are a bartender have a happy hour, and also probably get health insurance because a lot of bartenders don’t have it.”

If President Obama's 5 year capitalism plan for the economy was not failing so horribly, wealth would not need to be "shared". It could be earned.

Also, haven't times changed? The current President is hawking while historical President Kennedy said, "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

John Graham 1 year ago

There are all kinds of entitlement programs, tax credits and subsidies that prove your point wrong. Not to mention all the private and religious charities. All combined there is a substantial safety net in place for those that need help. The problem is not with the people who use the safety net temporarily to help get them back on their feet. The problem is with the people who use the safety net as a life long source of benefits without doing anything to improve their situation in order to get off entitlements. There are all kinds of educational and training benefits available free of charge to those that qualify for entitlements. People could improve their abilities in order to become more employable and at a "living wage". Some take advantage of these programs and improve their situation. Unfortunately too many do not. The idea of entitlements is to help get someone back on their feet and be self sufficient, not to take care of them forever. At the least, able-bodied citizens can do for their country is to do everything within their power to be self sufficient. Most do, unfortunately some do not and that is a real problem for all of society.

Bob Smith 1 year ago

Bronco's not willing to share his wealth with his two relatives that are living illegally in America.

1 year ago

"What does bother me is the notion that the unsuccessful man who lacks that woman’s talent, resources, opportunities or luck should not get to eat at all."

Old Leonard must not be particularly bothered then, because he'd have to look a long, long way to find someone who holds that particular notion. In a nation that spends a trillion dollars a year* on anti-poverty programs, it's pretty obvious that Americans generally believe that everyone should get to eat.

He also misquotes Limbaugh in his implication that Limbaugh is calling the pope a marxist for saying it's news when the stock market moves but not when someone dies. I read Rush's transcript - he never mentioned the particular line Leonard has him responding to. Leonard is cheating in an attempt to make his opponents look heartless.

What Rush objected to was the Pope's broadside against "unfettered capitalism." Rush said, "This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. Unfettered capitalism? That doesn't exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States."

Agree with Rush or not, but let's at least have the decency to quote him accurately.

  • references available on request

Wayne Kerr 1 year ago

Come on Leonard, the Soviet Union failed because they're largely an agricultural rather than industrial based economy. That mediocrity and inefficiency you speak of could also best describe our government here in the USA. The unchecked accumulation of wealth and power by the top 5 percent of Americans in the last twenty years is unprecedented in modern history and has come at the expense of the working class. The great disparity between the very wealthy and the poor in this country will be our undoing.

John Graham 1 year ago

Mr Pitts talks the talk. I wonder if he walks the walk. As a syndicated columnist Mr Pitts benefits greatly from capitalism, so how much does he personally do to help those less fortunate. While he admits he personally likes capitalism, he seems to be against it if the entity is a multinational company. You know what one can do if they don't like the pay and benefits of one of those companies he complains about, they can choose to work somewhere else. If those multinational companies struggle to find employees the companies will increase the pay and benefits in order to fill vacancies. Those same companies he complains about also reward hard workers with opportunities to move into management despite the employees often lacking formal management schooling. But it is easier to criticize those companies that often hire people with little to no marketable skills and teach the untrained employees what it is to be a good employee. Many of those employees will use those jobs at the multinational companies he complains of to build their resume for a better job elsewhere.

Those people that work for those companies he complains about can get more training or education that allows them to get a better job. They can work two jobs if need be like many of our parents and grandparents did. That is the beauty of capitalism you get out of it what you put in to it. If you make poor choices such as failing to take school seriously, failing to graduate, failing to get job training in a marketable skill or get a usable college degree then that person may struggle but that is caused by their poor choices. They can still succeed in a capitalistic society by working harder than their neighbor. Most people are where they are in society because of choices they have made as far back as junior high or high school. When they struggle in the adult world it is too common for someone to say it isn't their fault, capitalism is to blame and the wealthy are taking advantage of them. Most of the time people are where they are because they made the choices that got them there. Don't blame capitalism when the blame lies much closer to home.

John Graham 1 year ago

If Mr Pitts wants to raise the minimum wage that is fine. As companies are forced to pay anywhere from 40% to 100% more in base wages, the public can expect to see a significant increase in cost of products those companies sell. Also if companies are forced to increase their base wages, then the middle class can expect to see a freeze on any wage increase at their level. So an increase of the minimum wage to $10.10 or $15 per hour will hurt the middle class as their income is frozen and cost of living goes up significantly. But hey the lower class will make more money but then again as costs will be up significantly they will not be that much better off anyway. So the net effect will be to raise the lower class a little and to drag the middle class down a little until the two classes meet. Mr. Pitts as a syndicated columnist most likely is at a level that will be above most of these effects.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

I'm glad that you have such certainty in knowing what would happen if the minimum wage were increased, since even the Washington Post fact checker points to very mixed results from the substantial amount of research that has been done to try to resolve this issue: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2013/12/05/obamas-claim-that-there-is-no-solid-evidence-that-boosting-the-minimum-wage-harms-jobs/

It seems to me that the closest one can come to a consensus on this issue is to say that the current minimum wage is historically low, and if raised to historical averages, would most likely not create much of a ripple in the economy. Other than that, there is pretty good evidence for the benefits of tying the minimum wage to some kind of a cost of living index that would prevent folks from not being able to make a living whenever inflation kicks in.

John Graham 1 year ago

McDonalds and Walmart are the two companies at the center of this storm. Franchisees spend approx 30% of gross earnings on salary. If wages approx double to $15 per hour the prices will have to go up to offset the cost. Fewer people may be employed as well. Small businesses will have to raise prices as they simply don't have the margins to absorb wage increases of $7 per hour per employee. If people think you can raise minimum wage to $10 or $15 per hour and not see significant increases in prices or layoffs of employees they are fooling themselves. The money has to come from somewhere. The companies are not going to give up a significant portion or all of their profit without doing something to keep their profit margins. Why would anyone believe Obama on the effects of a wage increase after all of his lies on Obamacare?

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

Hmm...seems that you are more concerned about the impact of minimum wage hikes on Walmart than the CEO of Walmart is--he says he's not concerned at all about hiking the wages in New Jersey, which recently hiked their wages: http://www.njbiz.com/article/20131029/NJBIZ01/131029785/Walmart-CEO-not-concerned-about-minimum-wage-hike-says-company-pays-a-higher-rate-now

Furthermore, they are already paying 13.28 an hour for its average full time New Jersey employee, which is right in the middle of where you are predicting disaster. Perhaps Walmart realizes what Henry Ford understood a long time ago: if you pay your employees more, they'll SPEND more and you'll end up ahead in the long run. My guess is that the average McDonalds and Walmart worker will turn right around and beef up (pardon the pun) sales at their own place of employment.

John Graham 1 year ago

They may spend more. But the items they purchase will cost more. If the minimum wage doubles will the cost of everything at Walmart or McDonalds double? No I doubt that. But those that state it will only have a small ripple are talking at the macro economic level not the individual store level. Franchisees are small business people. If their payroll (which is approx 30% of their overhead) doubles, they have to make up at least a portion of that loss. That loss is a portion of their take home profit. So they will do something to decrease that loss such as raise prices or lower staffing.

Walmart pays more in some areas because the local govt forces it or they have to in order to fill positions. That is an average wage. If the minimum is $15 that will obviously result in loss of profits which they will address somehow as above. Also Walmart and other large wholly owned businesses with a large lower paid (less than $15 starting wage) workforce (others might include lowes, Home Depot etc) might be able to absorb some loss of profit because of the corporate size. That might allow smaller price increases to keep the company viable. What about the mom and pop store that is getting by now with wages below $15 per hour? If they have to double their payroll they don't have the scale to be able to absorb such an increase in overhead. They will have to increase prices, layoff employees or go out of business. Oh just make the big companies pay $15 per hour not the mom and pops. That would not be fair to have different wage scales and the mom and pops would not be able to get any qualified help at $8 hour if Walmart has to pay $15 per hour, so mom and pop will effectively have to pay that much in order to get good help. There is only so much money to go around in a business. Raising the bottom wages is fine but that money will decrease money available for middle income pay raises, will force the company to take steps to decrease the impact of the wage increase by laying off employees and or raising prices. If that is what the majority wants that is fine. But if society believes the minimum wage can be increased to $10 or $15 per hour with no effect on the middle class they are fooling themselves. Overall the changes may not be noticeable on a balance sheet of the US economy, but to significantly raise the minimum wage has to impact other groups of workers somehow either in layoffs, lack of pay raises for middle incomes, and or rising prices at the store. The middle class will feel the cost of this more than any other group. If that is what they want fine.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

Why are you talking about franchises and Walmart as if they were the same? You may have a legitimate point regarding the McDonald's franchises (and 15% are NOT franchises in the US, and a much higher percentage in other countries) and your points are also well taken regarding the impact on locally owned mom and pop stores. But for mom and pop stores, Walmart is a much, much bigger threat (and increasingly Amazon and other online retailers) to their existence than a higher minimum wage. Just ask one of them, but don't wait too long--many are already long gone.

John Graham 1 year ago

The difference is Walmart is succeeding in a free marketplace and at times with extra costs placed on them by local govt that favor mom and pop. Examples being some communities like Wash DC want Walmart to pay a higher wage than what is required of a next door mom and pop store. That is not fair to make them pay more just because they are a large company. In this case the govt is going to hurt everyone from Walmart to and including mom and pop.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

"A free marketplace" is a myth as all kinds of factors are in play in any retail market that I'm aware of that give an advantage to some at the expense of others. For instance, economies of scale create an unequal playing field so that often a Walmart can sell something cheaper retail than the mom and pop can buy wholesale. This depends on the ability to build large "Big Box" centers that require people to come from all around and therefore is subsidized by extensive road networks and cheap gas. So if you want a more distributed commercial model that delivers product to smaller neighborhoods, you have to protect the local distribution network that simply doesn't have access to making mega-deals with Chinese manufacturers like Walmart does. Otherwise the mom and pops disappear, local retailers become Walmart employees and you end up with large parts of metropolitan areas who become "food deserts" and the like and are forced to purchase limited and overpriced gas station retail or commute to the Big Boxes because all of the local mom and pops have been forced out.

Of course this is nothing new; it started in the 1950s with the IGA stores driving out neighborhood grocers in the midwest and has spread to department stores, gas stations and the rest. Franchises are a major model of product delivery for many, many towns, and places like New York, Washington DC and a handful of other urban centers where there are still vital local business networks are there because of overt protection. I see nothing wrong with that as in those settings I think it is probably the best model available and is worth protecting.

The great unknown is how internet sales, distribution and delivery is interfacing both with the Big Box model and the small retailer. There are indications that the Amazons of the world are cleaning the clocks of the Walmarts of the world, and perhaps there will be new fertile ground for local retailers in the mix as well.

All this to say that the minimum wage issue is just one piece of a much larger puzzle, and there are certainly reasons to press for living wages in pretty much all scenarios if we want to not live in a polarized, highly stratified society and keep those doors of opportunity open to as large a number of citizens as possible.

John Graham 1 year ago

There are winners and losers in a free market system. That is what makes it work. If someone can make a better deal than someone else that allows for better prices. Sears once dominated retail then someone come along with a better idea. Amazon leads online sales for now but even Bezos states someone will come up with something better than amazon. The main point is the market makes those decisions not the govt.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

Agreed, there are winners and losers, but the evolution of "free market" dynamics is based on subsidies that are far from a truly free market. For instance, would the Walmarts and big boxes have succeeded to displace the smaller retailers without the proliferation of the interstate highway system, subsidies to make gas cheap and access to low cost overseas markets who do not have the same labor and environmental protections as our own labor and manufacturing forces have? To say that these facets of "free trade" are not relevant, or to say that the government had no role in them, or even should have a role in these and other critical things makes no sense.

John Graham 1 year ago

Those issues were there for everyone to deal with either in a positive or negative way. Walmart started as a single dime store in nowhere Arkansas. Sears, JC Penney, Montgomery Wards were the dominant national stores. Walmart made decisions that allowed them to become the dominant company. The same forces were there but some other mom and pop store didn't take advantage of it. That is not Walmart's fault. Same story for practically all major companies. There will come a company that pushes Walmart aside just like Walmart did to Sears and the others.

Mark Rainey 1 year ago

More like 20% for workers-30% would include all management.

John Graham 1 year ago

If you increase the bottom wage to $15 per hour there may have to be some increase of management pay scale as well but to a lesser extreme. The managers or assistant managers may not be making $15 per hour or much more than that now. If entry workers are getting $8 hour I doubt all management positions are making over $15 hour.

John Graham 1 year ago

Another thing to consider, will the minimum wage worker be much better off at $10 or $15 per hour? Sure their wages go up, but with higher wages they will qualify for less govt assistance in the form of food stamps, subsidies for healthcare, tax credits etc. So the actual benefit may not be all that much. What Obama is doing is cost shifting. He can lower cost of entitlement programs like food stamps by forcing employers to pay more. The govt won't lower taxes, they will just use the savings in food stamp costs for some other program. Employers have to make up the extra cost somewhere by raising cost of services or items sold or layoff employees. If cost of services or items sold go up then everyone even the working poor will pay for it in the end. The middle class will get hit the worst since cost of living will go up and their salaries won't be going up like the minimum wagers.

John Graham 1 year ago

I never said I was against an increase in the minimum wage. Raising it to $15 per hour simply is not reasonable. Those that think the minimum wage can be raised to such an extent and not see any ripple effects throughout the cost of living are not thinking things through. I was simply pointing out you can raise minimum wage, some workers that may be on food stamps will get less food stamps so overall it may be a wash. Businesses will increase cost of items so everyone will pay a little more. The govt will spend the money they are saving on food stamps on some other wasteful project instead of decreasing the deficit or decreasing taxes.

John Graham 1 year ago

No one is exploiting anyone. No one has to work for a company if they don't like the pay or benefits. Slaves were exploited, employees are free to quit.

John Graham 1 year ago

You just spew more liberal propaganda. They have choices. If you have choices you aren't being exploited.

1 year ago

"...there is pretty good evidence for the benefits of tying the minimum wage to some kind of a cost of living index..."

What raising the MinWage means is that any person whose labor is worth less than the MinWage becomes unemployable. Consensus - especially one as politicized as that of economists - should be ignored when reality speaks.

MinWage is not unlike a price control that raises milk to $10 a gallon. A rational consumer will buy less milk at that price than if it cost $3 at Aldi. A rational employer will buy less labor at a politicized price as well.

If you want to know why the youth and black unemployment rate is higher than any other group, this is why: those with no skills or experience can seldom provide enough value to be hired at the current, politically-established rate. Raise the rate higher and you further reduce the number of youth who will be hired. This is not rocket science.

Liberals love the idea of a "Living Wage," some subjective, ever-rising number that they think those without real skills deserve. What they ignore is that numbers have meaning: those without skills and experience - also known as the poor and needy - are necessarily denied employment by liberals' labor price controls.

So who treats the poor with real respect, the one who offers him a job at a low wage with the opportunity to advance via accumulated skills and experience, or the one who says, "Unless your labor is worth $X, you shall have no job"?

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

There is a big difference between a wage worker and a gallon of milk. The gallon of milk is often sold as a loss leader in order to get folks into the store so they will buy other items that make the store a profit. Are you implying that Walmart needs to do that with their employees? Can a wage worker be treated as a loss leader?

Addie Line 1 year ago

It's simple to say that if someone just "works harder" they will be in better circumstances. Works that way for some but not all. It's small minded to assume that someone is poor because they aren't working hard enough.

Please read this article: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/11/28/opinion/kristof-where-is-the-love.html

"...one of the strongest determinants of ending up poor is being born poor. As Warren Buffett puts it, our life outcomes often depend on the “ovarian lottery.” Sure, some people transcend their circumstances, but it’s callous for those born on second or third base to denounce the poor for failing to hit home runs.<b>"

John Graham 1 year ago

I have seen Buffett make that reference multiple times in interviews on TV. On each of those occasions he was referring to the lottery of being born in the US versus a third world country. He was referring to simply being in the US as starting on second or third base. Buffett likes to brag about starting with nothing and making his money by working and starting his own businesses while still a child and using that money as the seed for his fortune. The US is the best country in the world for starting with nothing and making something of yourself. Most immigrants started with nothing but the clothes on their backs. There have been plenty of people that started with nothing and through hard work made something of themselves. Is it easy? No. But if one is determined and willing to work hard enough then they can make significant improvements in their situation. Will they all be millionaires, of course not but they can make their lives significantly better. The suggestion that the poor can't do so is to discount the countless numbers that have done so in the past and are doing so today. Excuses for one's situation are easy to come by, but one's situation is not determined by words but by actions.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

The ability to start with nothing and having access to the ability to accumulate wealth is definitely something that is more common in our country than in many others (although definitely not unique). This does not preclude the need to have a basic safety net that prevents those without access to that ability from falling into homelessness, poor health, lack of education, and a host of other ailments that affect the rest of our society as well. I see you implying that these two things are incompatible, and I see no such incompatibility. Am I reading you wrong?

John Graham 1 year ago

There is nothing wrong with a safety net. The problem is some, but by no means all, look at the safety net not as a temporary thing but as a way of life. Clinton's idea of limiting the lifetime use of welfare I think was a good idea. It is there as a safety net but one can't stay on it forever. There are programs to help those using the safety net in order to help make them more employable and at a higher pay rate. The problem is too many do not take advantage of the help offered. Too many just continue to take the entitlements with no plan to ever better themselves so they don't need the entitlements. The argument that if one is poor they have no chance of changing that is simply an excuse. There are plenty of people that started poor or wound up poor by circumstances that went on to work hard and significantly improve their situation. No it is not easy. But it can be done and is done every day by those determined to do so.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

I'm glad we agree to the value of a safety net. It seems to me that just as with our laws against criminal behavior attempts to prevent folks from abusing the rules of the economic system, the safety net can be constructed to prevent abuse as well. Of course just as with our legal system, there is a price for having such protections in place, and so often our commitment to providing a workable safety net is one of the first places those in charge of local and state government go to to slash expenses.

Brett McCabe 1 year ago

What is most laughable about most of the comments on this page is the fact that many of you have become mouthpieces for millionaires. How easily you are manipulated into unwittingly defending the most fortunate, so that they don't have to bother.

Addie's point is dead on: most poor people are born poor. And the vast, vast majority of rich people are born rich. It's not hard work, or the lack thereof, that determines many people's economic fate, especially at the extremes of the spectrum. Instead, for the majority of people, the environment that they are raised in largely determines their opportunities.

Interestingly, those people who do lift themselves up by their bootstraps, overcome the obstacles and make positive economic progress are normally the people who give the most back. They don't generally come onto discussion boards and lecture everyone on "the way" to succeed.

John Graham 1 year ago

The majority of millionaires in the US are the self made neighbor next door type. They were not born millionaires they got there by hard work. Sure some were born rich and never worked a day in their lives but those are quite uncommon compared to the total number of millionaires in the US. The idea that born poor means die poor is a disservice to all those that are self made. Anyone willing to work hard can improve their situation. Not all will be a millionaire but they can make their life much more comfortable. Desire is seen by actions not words.

Lucas Hachmeister 1 year ago

As Americans we often times focus on the exception as opposed to the trend. I have worked with a number of people who have improved their lot in life through hard work and shrewd planning. However it must be noted that I have met many more people in the work place who will never be able to crawl out of poverty because of a plethora of reasons many of which they have little or no control over. To boil such complexities down to, "they simply aren't working hard enough or they blow their money on junk", is to ignore the reality of the situation. A majority of those born poor will die poor even if they take reasonable steps to pull themselves out of poverty. We as Americans love to focus on the 1 success story but we rarely focus on the 999 stories of heartbreak and failure. As always it's the blame the victim game.

John Graham 1 year ago

To say the majority of poor can not crawl our of poverty due to reasons they have no control over is not fair. That statement might be fair if the safety nets in the US didn't exist. There are free training programs offered to the poor to make them more employable. There are free GED programs. There are free daycare programs. There are govt grants for technical schools and universities. There are free tutoring programs to help them get through school. The programs are there if people truly are determined to make a better life for themselves. The problem is many do not take advantage of what is offered. The victim role is easier than to be determined to make a better life for oneself. Your statement (which I doubt) that 1 out of a thousand can be a success is too exaggerated to be believed. Are there heartbreaking stories, sure. There are also daily stories of people bettering their situation by hard work, getting training to have a better life and succeeding. To say only 1 succeeds for every 999 that fails is to discount all the success stories. The success may not be to become a millionaire but the success can be to have a better life for yourself and your family and be self sufficient. True determination to succeed can overcome any obstacle short of death.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

I think you should ask someone who has grown up in poverty without access to good schools how easy it is to access all of those programs that you listed that you claim provides a step ladder out of chronic, lifetime poverty. Instead of dismissing one generalizaion about how few folks succeed in rising above poverty with your own generalization about how anyone can rise above poverty if they'd just use those tools we've provided them, why not make this an opportunity to educate yourself about the nature of poverty in the US?

There are many, many different faces of poverty: urban and rural poverty are quite dissimilar, for instance, and poverty among the aging has a very different set of challenges when compared to women as head of households. I could go on and on, but instead of spoon feeding, I suggest you check out the issue yourself. One of many fine starting points: http://www.spotlightonpoverty.org/OutOfTheSpotlight.aspx?id=060468d9-e85e-4889-97a4-8c55ca91042f

John Graham 1 year ago

Fine if the programs don't work them get rid of them and quit wasting taxpayer money. Can't have it both ways, we need money for programs but then say the programs don't help aren't accessible as you allude to in your first sentence.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

By this same "get rid of them" algorithm you are espousing, people still get electrocuted so lets get rid of Underwriter's Laboratory. Folks still have car accidents, so let's get rid of stop lights. People still get food poisoning in restaurants, so let's get rid of health inspectors. People still get sick from preventable diseases, so let's throw out preventive health programs. And on and on.

If a program needs to be improved or even replaced completely with a very different approach in order to have better outcomes, by all means, let's do it. But extant programs which have problems reaching ideal outcomes does not mean that we should just eliminate that program, as the paragraph above hopefully makes clear.

John Graham 1 year ago

I was talking how the programs are in place to help. You were the one complaining about the programs not being effective or available for people. I simply said if your theory is true then just get rid of them instead of spending millions and millions of dollars every year on them.

Ken Lassman 1 year ago

I was not complaining about the fact that the programs were ineffective and unavailable so much as to point out that chronic poverty is a very complex problem that is not easy to turn around. And just because programs targeted at alleviating chronic poverty have mixed success just means that we have to keep trying out new avenues in order to build on those success stories we have.

Finally, you haven't bothered to check out the web link I provided above or otherwise educated yourself about poverty yet, have you? If you had, you would know that much poverty is transitory and these kinds of poverty ARE effectively addressed by many of the programs out there. Please take the time to educate yourself about some of the real issues of poverty by checking out the link I provided you.

Grégoire Guillaume 1 year ago

First of all what we have in the U.S. is the "golden rule" , "He who has the gold, rules". It's amazing to hear the voices that champion 'corporate welfare'. This a business model perfected by Wal Mart and other corporate entities where the govt has to step in and provide basic services such as food and shelter because the corporation has learned how to game the system. The idea that a full time employee cannot make enough income to provide for themselves or their family is something that no thoughtful individual should accept. We have been so bombarded with "double speak" that now we now make the laborer into an object of our scorn and applaud those whose actions benefit a few rather than the public as a whole. In our so-called recovery the 1% have captured 93% of all income gains during this time. Those who don't want workers to receive a living wage either just want to feel the rush of 'ego satisfaction that they are better and smarter because they have theirs, or are just mean and haven't really considered what the outcome of extreme income inequality is. Maybe a few history lessons are in order!

John Graham 1 year ago

The answer is very simple. If you don't like the pay and benefits offered at Walmart or McDonalds or anywhere else go work somewhere else. If they can't get enough help or the right kind of help they will pay more to do so. The idea that the workers should be able to dictate to the employer the terms of employment is ridiculous. If you don't like the terms offered go somewhere else is the answer not get the govt to force the employer to do what you want. Walmart and McDonalds can't be all that bad to work for as evidenced by the fact they are two of the largest employers in the US. If they were so horrible to work for they wouldn't get anyone to work.

Grégoire Guillaume 1 year ago

Yes, what a ridiculous idea to have democracy in the workplace! That employees should have any say in their wages and working conditions might have been a radical idea at the beginning of the industrial revolution but today?? When CEO salary is at a ratio of 600 to 1 more than employees things are going to change one way or another. Let's have it occur peacefully.

John Graham 1 year ago

If the employees are part of an employee owned business then let them have a democracy. But to say that the employees should have a democracy when they work for a company owned by someone or shareholders is not reasonable. The owners take the risks of starting and running a business so they should have the say on how things are done. It costs over a million and a half dollars to start a new McDonalds. The franchisee is personally responsible for that money either from their own savings or from a loan that they must guarantee. So you want the employees who have no money invested in the business to have a democracy about things like pay and benefits. That in no way is fair to the owners that have significant financial risks involved. Is CEO pay too high in my opinion, for some companies sure. But one must remember the majority of businesses in the US do not have CEOs making millions of dollars per year. In publicly held companies shareholders have a voice in the company about such issues. Sports stars are paid too much in my opinion. So are the top TV and movie stars as well as top musical acts. Am I jealous I am sure I am of the money they make. The wonderful thing of a free market is everyone has the right to do something that makes them rich. Several musical acts and athletes come from nothing in the toughest of neighborhoods. They have a talent that allows them to now make millions per year. Good for them. I don't think it would be right to say they can't make what they can anymore than it is not right to say a businessman can't make all that they can either. Everyone in a free market system has the right to make the most of their abilities. What would you rather have? The govt deciding what one should make as a basketball star? Or actor? Or musician? Once you start letting the govt decide what one should make, the govt will start to decide what everyone should make. Then you have some form of govt contrary to what this country was founded on. I know I don't trust the govt to decide what people should make. Are there pay inequities? Absolutely. But getting the govt to "fix" that would set off a chain of events that just can't be justified. You want socialism you are free to move to some foreign country.

John Graham 1 year ago

Notice I did not say the govt doesn't have a right to make sure working conditions are reasonably safe for employees. Notice I also didn't say the govt doesn't have a right to make rules regarding number of hours worked as well as overtime issues.

1 year ago

John Graham: "Can't have it both ways, we need money for programs but then say the programs don't help [or] aren't accessible as you allude to in your first sentence."

But they MUST have it both ways. It is the same reasons they do not count non-cash income as income for purposes of poverty measurement. By their own numbers, anti-poverty programs do nothing to alleviate poverty. This is why there needs to be more anti-poverty programs. That by their own numbers accomplish nothing.

But the big issue you have hit on here is absolutely the most important one when it comes to dealing with long-term, chronic poverty: either the poor have choices or they do not. Either the poor can do something to allay their poverty, or they cannot. The excuse-makers will argue that there is nothing the poor can do to help themselves, then complain that the poor feel helpless. Of course they feel helpless: the poverty industry has been telling them for 50 years that they ARE helpless. In excusing the poor from responsibility, any responsibility, they have hamstrung the poor. Is it any wonder the poor are frustrated, alienated, and angry?

As Charles Hugh Smith recently wrote: "Yes, there are injustices and imbalances of power and wealth that we collectively need to remedy. But the way to do that is to embrace fact, responsibility, choice, consequence and thrift rather than deny those realities in favor of a false dichotomy of victim and non-victim."

So long as we tell the poor there is nothing they can do, they will do nothing. Except die at 50 of congestive heart failure with a bag of chips in one hand and Days of Our Lives blaring on the TV.

John Graham 1 year ago

The studies show that a third of the poor make it out of the poor designation. So it can be done and is done everyday. There are programs in place to help, but there has to be determination on part of the individuals. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

Lane Signal 1 year ago

We need to change the discussion here. It's not a matter of the wealthy refusing to share, It's the wealthy rigging the system so they can have all of the wealth. The talking points of the far right include the idea of "wealth redistribution" as a villainous and disastrous plan. At the same time, wealth redistribution has been going on at an alarming pace. Since the Eighties, the top few percent (and especially the top one percent) of our nation's wealthy have accumulated a higher and higher percentage of the wealth. The trend continues and is perpetuated by laws that cut taxes for the methods the wealthy use to accumulate wealth. It's time to stop the rich from stealing all the money. It's time to stop the wealth redistribution and turn the wheel back. Tax policy would be a good place to start.

John Graham 1 year ago

Revising the tax code would be a great place to start. Based on income of rich compared to total US income, the rich pay more than their fair share of federal income tax compared to total tax collected. So reducing the upper rates and having the approx 50% that currently don't pay any federal income tax start paying some federal income tax will be a great place to start. Everyone should have the privilege of paying federal income tax not just half the population.

1 year ago

Eh, no they don't... it's not more than their "fair" share when you admit they use more of the resources paid for with tax dollars. Maybe you won't admit that. The bottom 47% or so that don't pay any federal income tax don't make enough money to be able to, and pay a much larger percentage of their income on an array of other taxes at the state and local levels. You're trying to distort the truth here.

John Graham 1 year ago

The poor use protection by the military just like the rich. The poor use the infrastructure of the country just like the rich. The poor use Medicare and social security just like the rich. Your statement that the poor don't use resources paid by taxes like the rich do is just silly.

The fair share of federal income tax is simple facts. From the IRS in 2009 for example the top 10% of wage earners earned 43.2% of all income. That same top 10% paid 70.5% of all federal income tax collected. The top 25% earned 65.8% of all income yet paid 87.3% of all federal income taxes. The top 50% earned 86.5% of income yet paid 97.7% of all federal income taxes collected. To be in the top 25% you had to earn $66,200. To be in the top 50% you had to earn $32,400. The numbers are quite clear. While the top 50% of wage earners all paid more than their share of federal income taxes, the top 10% paid even greater than their fair share.

The progressive tax code currently in place makes those that earn more pay even a greater portion of the overall income tax collected. To say the wealthy do not pay their fair share is nothing but disingenuous.

Yes all wage earners pay payroll taxes. I am speaking of federal income taxes which makes up the single largest contribution (over 40%) to the total federal tax revenue.

Lane Signal 1 year ago

I'm not arguing that the poor should not pay some taxes. Almost everyone contributes payroll taxes. If you argue the "fair use" side, it gets pretty messy. A CEO of a big company makes his money on the backs of the labor of the employees of the company. The use of roads to get people to work costs money. The government services the employees use cost money. The CEO could not make his money without the support of the employees and the employees rely on government services. That, among other things is why income is taxed at a percentage rate and not a flat, per person rate. But the wealthy have some many tax dodges and shelters that they generally pay a much lower rate of tax on their total earnings than middle class and often even lower middle class earners. Capital gains rates and the carried interest deduction are a couple examples of ways the wealthy earn money and pay lower rates. There are many other opportunities for the rich to avoid taxes that just don't exist for lower income earners. The system is rigged.

John Graham 1 year ago

The IRS data from 2009 shows the following: top1% wage earners actually paid tax rate of 24%, top 5% paid at 20.5% rate, the top 10% paid 18%, top 25% paid 14.7%, top 50% paid 12.5% and the bottom 50% paid at 1.9% rate. So your argument that the rich pay at a lower rate than middle class is shown to be false by the IRS data.

Could some deductions that are primarily used by the wealthy be eliminated? Sure. But the numbers clearly show the idea that the wealthy don't pay taxes or don't pay their fair share is simply false. Those lies are put forth by those that want to tax the wealthy even more than they do now. There are legitimate arguments for a progressive tax code like the one the US has, but don't believe the lies that the wealthy aren't paying their share. They pay their share and then some. Are capital gains and dividends paid at a lower rate? Yes but that rate has been increased. Also plenty of middle class make use of that capital gains and dividend rate as well. So it can be raised but that will hurt the middle class also. You also have to remember that the money invested that earns capital gains and dividends that are taxed was money that already was taxed by income taxes before it was invested. Capital gains and dividends inside retirement plans are taxed at income rates when the retirement account is withdrawn from.

Lane Signal 1 year ago

I said the wealthy "generally pay a much lower rate of tax on their total earnings...". You are quoting statistics on income rates. You are saying the top 1% of income earners paid a rate of 24%. I'm not talking about the top x% or incomes nor their % rate on income. I'm talking about the top x% richest people and the rate they pay on total earnings. The wealthiest generally can exclude most of their earnings from income. Your points do not indicate anything I said was false. I'm really ok with the middle class paying more taxes, at least until we get control of the debt. But we need to reverse the wealth redistribution. Tax policy should discourage the concentration of wealth at the top.

John Graham 1 year ago

Many of those deductions the wealthy make use of are the same deductions the middle class also makes use of. So get rid of them for the rich but it will also impact the middle class as well. The fairest would be to get rid of all deductions including mortgage interest, children etc. But that won't happen because the middle class won't allow it. What some would like is get rid of deductions for the wealthy but keep the deductions for everyone else.

Lane Signal 1 year ago

I really don't think the middle class has much say in what goes on. The wealthy are making all the rules. I'm okay with getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction and even the child deduction even though I profit from both, but lets not start there. Let's start with taxing capital gains at a higher rate. Let's start with getting rid of the carried interest deduction. Let's start by taxing all earnings (not just "income") at a progressive rate. As long as the initial focus is on deductions and loopholes that disproportionately favor the wealthy, I'm okay with getting rid of almost all deductions, dodges and shelters. I would like to keep retirement savings shelters (with caps) and I'd also like to keep college savings plans sheltered. But I'd give it all away if it meant the rich would actually pay their share and that the debt started to shrink rather than grow.

John Graham 12 months ago

So you want to keep those deductions (or cap them) so that they benefit the middle class above the others. My how fair of you.

Beator 1 year ago

If I have to share my wealth, what's in it for me? What are you sharing?

John Graham 1 year ago

Mike you are not allowed to ask that. Those of us that did like we should by studying hard, getting a job, working hard, paying our bills on time, and saving some money are told we should happily give more to provide for those that made poor choices in their lives. If we ask any questions about the money we are supposed to donate then we are called greedy and uncaring. So just open your wallet and don't ask any questions.

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