Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome To the One-Percent

Welcome To the One-Percent
©2011 Ross Williams

High school was torture to me. I have few pleasant memories of any of it, to include the vast majority of the people, the general circumstances, and the events outside school. I’m quite sure being a teenager was the primary culprit, and having to deal with other teenagers – all of us being teenagery together – became the problem.

As a result I’ve got almost no friends that I would call friends from that era on my one social media. Just a few guys including one that I never interacted with much after 5th grade, a few girls who were nice to me... That’s about it.

I spent the day at home yesterday with a throbbing foot, and spent an hour or so on the computer getting social with the Facebook media. I’m constantly asked if I know any of the following people – Facebook friends of Facebook friends. The answer is nearly always no. Oh, sometimes the friends of my kids have been over to the house and I know them, and I know others by reputation. But most of the kids I knew from high school [and who liked it] have long ago moved on with their lives and gotten other friends whom I wouldn’t know from Adam’s off ox.

But yesterday Facebook asked if I knew John Clark. Yes, I do! I was in a theater class with him our senior year. I looked at his page. One of his friends was Elaine Lucia. Hey! I knew her too! She was in the same theater class, and she was Brady to my Drummond in our scene from Inherit the Wind. I would have preferred Hornbeck, for he fits my personality much better, but his scenes weren’t in the assignment.

I’ve known Elaine since kindergarten. She, in fact, was the only one to tattle on me and Pam Glover smooching behind the bushes at Union Center Elementary in 1st grade. I can still hear her saying, “Mrs Mahr! Ross and Pam are kissi-i-i-i-ing!!” with her accusing finger pointing straight at us.

Wow; it’s old home week on Facebook. Who knew? I looked at her page for a while. She still goes by her maiden name. I’m just assuming she got married. I have no idea if she did or not. She did mention she had a child – which I recall as a daughter. One does not need a marriage for that.

Anyway, Elaine is now a singer of some repute – mostly local from what I could see – in “the Bay area”. I didn’t look too closely; I’m assuming San Francisco bay ... hopefully she performs on dry land. One of her gigs seems to have been in Petaluma, which I believe is in California.

I was interested to learn that someone I knew was a burgeoning star ... even at the age to be a grandmother. Good for her. I read her “wall” for a time and got annoyed at what was there.

I was in quite a number of classes with Elaine, including more than a few history classes, and so there is no excuse for the editorials she scrawled on her Facebook page. It would seem that California does this to people, makes them blithering idiots. Not that it’s the only part of the country to render its hapless residents blithering. Chicago ... Boston ... Detroit ... most large cities, and both coasts are inundated with liberal boobs. Of course, the middle of the country has more than its share of conservative sticks in the mud which would serve to offset the general boobery of the liberals, but there is no good reason for deliberately turning off your rational skepticism.

Like countless others, she is veritably deifying the Occupy Wall Street nincompoops. Turning them into some form of collectively-enlightened god-as-man.

Yes, they have a right to protest – even if they have no idea what they’re specifically protesting against. And they don’t; they’ve been rather forthcoming about the generalized non-specificity of their political angst. But all good things must come to an end sometime, and telling these grumbling vaguists that enough’s enough isn’t materially interfering with their right to pout in public. Depending on which city you’re talking about, 4, 5, 6 weeks of sitting around in mounds of your own salty snack food wrappers crying about the greedy corporations which made those snack foods is plenty enough of sitting around being hypocrites.

Where these protesters are students, they have classes to go to that their parents are most likely paying for. Where the protesters are the disillusioned unemployed, they have jobs to look for. Where the protesters are union fops, they have jobs to get back to. And since those three demographics pretty much covers 99% of the self-avowed “Ninety-Nine Percent” [with the other 1% of the 99% being the rich liberals who show up in their limousines to offer words of vapid encouragement], the protest would seem, for all practical purposes, to have spent its intellectual capital on the first day, somewhere between two-thirty and three pm.

Yes, you don’t like rich people being rich and poor people being poor. Who does? Certainly not the rich people you’re whining about, since they get rich only by selling stuff to everyone else. If everyone else can’t buy their stuff because they don’t have money ... the rich won’t be staying rich for long. Point taken. Now what?

And it is that “now what” that the deified “occupiers” have had so much trouble articulating. Now ... nuthin’. They’re stumped. Stymied.

Among the most consistent responses to “now what” is one or more versions of the socialist response to every discussion of political economics: eat the rich. Force everyone into the same economic strata regardless of what they do or how well they do it, and confiscate their wealth – because this is “fair”. And this is done by law [in civilized countries; it is done by murder in Venezuela], with taxes that effectively criminalize wealth. If you make more money than others, you have two choices: pay the difference in taxes, or go to jail for tax evasion.

Ahhhh, but! Those who support the idiot concept of eating the rich will point out that those whom the “occupiers” are grousing about – corporations, mostly – often do not in fact pay the difference in taxes.

This is very very correct. But as I often have to remind people: you don’t get points for being correct. You get points for being pertinent.

Why do some of these corporations not pay taxes ... is the proper and pertinent question to discuss. Are they breaking the law?

No. They aren’t. The law allows them to not pay taxes. This is not the corporations’ doing; corporations don’t make laws. They just follow them.

The government makes the laws. If you want to be angry with someone for allowing corporations to skip out on taxes, get angry with the government. Start with Congress. Continue on to your state legislatures. Toss in a president or governor as you see fit.

In the interest of full disclosure, I discovered this year that my employer paid zero federal corporate income taxes [on quite a bit of corporate income, by the way] for the fiscal 2010 tax year. As someone with a decent chunk of his 401k wrapped up in company stock, I – and the other tens of thousands who work for the same place – am part of the evil 1%.

Even though federal corporate income taxes are statutorily the highest on the planet, the effective corporate income tax rate is not. This is because Congress continually tinkers with tax code exemptions, offering rebates and tax deals to various industries that are politically preferred at any given time. Because my company doesn’t manufacture anything – we have no smokestacks; we write software and integrate computer systems for, mostly, the government – we are considered “green”. When Obama came into office he wanted to reward “green” corporations; his Democrat Congress played along. Government reward for good corporate citizenship is typically done through tax laws. Hence, my company had a zero net corporate tax bill for 2010.

This happens at the state level, as well, in similar ways. The headquarters of Sears is in my state – Chicago. [Actually, I believe they moved out of Chicago-proper to a suburb some years ago and sold the Sears Tower to someone who named it the “Willis Tower” – it’s still the Sears Tower; tough luck Willis. Wuchoo tawkin’ ‘bout?]

The state of Illinois recently raised corporate income tax rates by 50%. [Personal income tax rates by 66%]. Neighboring states immediately started ad campaigns in Illinois to lure large corporations to relocate. Many included tax incentives for doing so. Ohio’s legislature ponied up a law specifically for Sears to give them $400 million in tax breaks if they were to move their headquarters into Ohio. Sears employs thousands, and generates billions in revenue, all of which is taxed by other means – Ohio would reap a few billion dollars a year if Sears moved. Of those billions, what’s a measly $400 million kickback in the form of tax breaks?

It’s pocket change.

The Illinois general assembly has countered Ohio’s tax law bribe to Sears with a $100 million tax break of their own hoping to convince Sears to stay in Illinois. The Illinois general assembly is dominated by Democrats, as is the Chicago city council which just coughed up a few million dollars themselves to get Sara Lee to move from the suburbs back into the city. Chicago has apparently discovered that property tax revenues are significantly greater when office space is full than when office space is sitting empty. Something about “assessed valuation” perhaps...

...and now you know the basis of “corporate welfare”. Show me a taxing jurisdiction giving “corporate welfare” away and I’ll show you a region that is trying to create jobs and push, pull and drag people into the middle class ... where they can pay more taxes and give the government more money. And that includes the whole US, by the way, with its tax laws written by Congress.

The US has the highest statutory tax rate in the world; the effective tax rate is significantly lower due to corporate welfare being handed out to individual companies or certain job sectors. ...which is to say: “job-creation measures”. If we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil ... we give tax incentives to US oil companies so they can increase their domestic production. If we want to reward companies which don’t have stinky smokestacks in order to promote a “low carbon footprint” cosmology, then you hand out tax breaks to software integrators. Trivially simple to understand, which is what makes it all the more puzzling to me that trivially simple liberals don’t understand it.

Among the brainless statements in Elaine’s nonsensical scolding that bothered me was the declaration that the evil, evil Bush the Younger “cut corporate taxes to the bone”. Neither he, nor any Congress during his administration, did anything of the sort; they simply changed the “corporate welfare” priorities from what Clinton had wanted them to be. And it’s beyond me where this liberal hallucination comes from ... actually, no it’s not. It’s a standard rallying cry for these nitwits in much the same way that “death panels” and “no birth certificate” is for certain others; it’s completely false, but boy! does it motivate the brainless.

If you don’t like the notion that some companies get 100% tax breaks from the otherwise indefensibly high corporate tax rates in this country and others don’t ... then put your money where your big fat mouth is and demand that Congress lower all corporate income taxes and removes the tax breaks for “favored” industries. ...like mine.

And like Solyndra. ...not to pick at any open sores on the collective liberal delusion, or anything.

All of this is beyond the feeble grasp of the “occupiers”. It seems also to be beyond the grasp of those who believe that the “occupiers” are anything but a group of [mostly] ignorant kids coming to terms with what three generations of liberalism has wrought. You hand out money to people who don’t know how to do anything, you train people to not do anything. You do it for long enough, you create a huge section of the population who views free money as their birthright.

You create exorbitant corporate tax rates while legally allowing certain favored industries to avoid taxes altogether, you push the non-favored industries – and their jobs – out of the country. Anyone know of a US manufacturer of televisions? ...anyone? ...hello? Thought not.

This sets the stage for the remaining corporations to spend billions begging Congress and the administration for their own tax exemptions and handouts. ...and I just casually bring up Solyndra again, for grins...

Let’s pass laws requiring banks to completely ignore wise lending practices [thank you Barney Frank] and then blame the banks when they lose money hand over fist and are left do what they can to stay afloat. Then you wake up one day and notice that not only are some groups of people getting free money, but so are some businesses, which you don’t understand at all – having slept through that boring old history class which would have taught you the perils of Too Much Government. Oh, if only real life worked the way it did in your dreams during 3rd period history!

Now awake, you can’t possibly bring yourself to blaming the government for any of this. After all, who would you turn to for help? The government is the solve-all, right? No, it’s all those big bad businesses screwing the little guy. ...by doing exactly what the government, typically, required them to do. It’s not the government’s fault for requiring it; it’s the businesses’ fault for doing what was required.

Enter, now, the idiot “occupiers” and their legions of enablers, neither of whom understand that the fictitious “one-percent” is each and everyone who:
1] participates in a 401k or IRA invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds – which is roughly 65% of us;
2] uses, even unwittingly, the credit services which make loans and revolving credit possible – which is roughly 95% of us;
3] uses other banking services – which is roughly 99.95% of us; or
4] uses anything manufactured by anyone – which is 100% of us.

We have met the one-percent, and he is each and every one of us. You eat the one-percent by any means, you eat yourself. No amount of anti-intellectual deification of these blockheads is going to change it, either. But that’s what far too many are attempting to do.

About the stupidest justification of idiot “occupiers” didn’t come from Elaine’s Facebook page; Elaine was too busy creating music sets for her upcoming gigs. It came instead from the Chicago Tribune. It seems that many of Chicago’s liberals feel no embarrassment in advertising that they also learned nothing from their own history classes, for they are declaring that the “occupiers” are the same kind of people as those who created and led the American Revolution.

...the same American Revolution which protested against the specific cause of Too Much Government, by the way, and not the ambiguous resentment of the fabulously wealthy businessmen, in the Colonies or not, who profited from close ties to that Too Much Government. Some of those fabulously wealthy businessmen were revolutionaries. Read the Declaration of Independence some time. The issues the colonists were pouting about was not wealth-gap; they were bitching about taxes, regulation, and personal liberties; essentially, the IRS, the EPA, and TSA.

Of course, when I say “IRS” I mean the Internal Revenue Service and the tax laws they enforce, and the Congress which writes those tax laws to favor some people and businesses and punish other people and businesses.

Also, when I say “EPA” I mean the Environmental Protection Agency as well as every other regulatory agency and department which has the authority to write their own rules outside of the legislative process outlined by the Constitution, and enforce those rules in the “guilty until proven innocent” manner that marks the difference between regulatory enforcement and law enforcement, and where their authority is not defined by the Constitution to begin with. Among these regulatory agencies is the FDA, dozens of groups within the USDA, the FCC, the FAA, the DEA and many more spoonfuls of alpha-bits than can be counted.

Lastly, when I say TSA I mean the Transportation Security Agency, but also its DHS parent, the DEA [it’s a double-dipper], and every black-robed ninny who ever looked at the Constitution through Joseph Smith’s magic glasses and hallucinated passages that were never written and which justify the government grasping huge blocks of power they were never given.

You want to find modern Americans who are ideologically indistinguishable from our Founding Fathers? Then you’re looking at the Tea Party, the Chamber of Commerce, and ... well, me. You are specifically not looking at the “occupiers”.

When you look at the “occupiers” you’re instead looking at the rabble that started the French Revolution. Yes, they were hungry; yes, they had legitimate gripes. But rather than having the brains to know what they were getting themselves into, and why, and how, they aimlessly went casting about for easy targets to vent their outrage upon – which is exactly what the “occupiers” are doing. The French peasants ended up venting their outrage, ultimately, at the easiest target of them all: themselves.

They stormed the Bastille – long the iconic representation of monarchical repression. They did not know that the Bastille was being discontinued, nor that it held no political prisoners; just a few old, insane gentlemen – the insane were commonly imprisoned in that day. The net result was a practical bupkus. Because these were indignant rabble without a clear plan – apart from tearing down everything that symbolized power and entitlement [which was pretty much everything that had any value] – they were a ripe suck for the same type of opportunists which seize power in all such aimless rebellions ... such as the Russian, the Chinese, and the inaptly named Arab Spring.

After the monarchs were shortened by a head it was the nobles’ turn. While the nobles were being dispatched, some people got sickened by all the blood; these people were called “counter-revolutionaries” because “sensitive” hadn’t been invented yet. When the nobles were all gone, the National Assembly eyed the counter-revolutionaries. ...and then it eyed those who weren’t as revolutionary as they ought to be. ...and then those who were too revolutionary. Jacobins were beheaded for being Jacobin; atheists, for being atheist. The ultimate opportunist, the last opportunist standing [though it was difficult to tell] was Napoleon. He got the idiot French to stop killing each other – “Let’s kill foreigners for a while”, he suggested. And they did.

And we all [“all” being those who didn’t sleep through history class] know how that turned out. ...twice.

It didn’t get better for several generations, either.

On the other hand, the American revolution was started by plantation owners – the Cargill, Hormel, and Archer-Daniels-Midland of the time; by ideological loyyers – in other words, the ACLU; by silversmiths, goldsmiths, brewers, distillers, importers and merchants of every variety – the very monied ‘corporations’ that are currently being demonized for doing what the government requires them to do. There were also career military officers in the mix – the military-industrial complex that our neophytes have been taught to wet their panties over. The day’s media was included, too: publishers – Foxnews, as it were.

These groups frequently didn’t like each other beyond their common goal of ending Too Much Government – and they virtually all despised Patrick Henry, who was a loudmouthed screedist. Let Jefferson write the flowery and elitist tracts, and Franklin the populist aphorisms; Henry knew how to work words to get the masses legitimately frothy.

These were the folks behind the American Revolution. They were largely educated – in today’s equivalent they wouldn’t be the PhDs of the late 18th century and they certainly weren’t the college professors; instead they’d be the college educated sons [and, today, daughters] of the wealthy and privileged. In other words: mainly conservative, but with a sizable sprinkling of limousine liberal tossed in. These people studied history and knew what happens in a power vacuum, for history class taught them. It’s all fun and games to toss off the trappings of the old government you despise, but ... then what? Then what, “occupiers”? You must have a new government ready to turnkey in place or everything will descend into chaos and you’ll end up being ruled by the last opportunist standing. He’ll typically be standing ankle-deep in blood – knee-deep if he’s Corsican – and quite likely your blood will be among it.

You cannot obliterate wealth through redistribution, for then you won’t have anything with which to pay for your new government; you cannot obliterate the wealthy for they are the ones who know how to make the wealth you need. You cannot tear down the infrastructure just because it had been used by the government you are rebelling against, because then you’ll have to rebuild it from scratch – which costs money that you probably don’t have, especially if you obliterate wealth and those who are good at making it. Ask Chavez, while he’s still alive, how it worked for him. An OPEC nation, running on fumes, because all the wealthy industrialists are either dead or in Colombia.

The difference between the American and French revolutions is that the American Revolution was created and led by the smart and wealthy; the French Revolution was created and led by disaffected complainers. By Occupy Wall Street.

Pay attention, ladies and gentlemen: the American Revolution was created and led by the one-percent. It was fought by the same one-percent plus those among the remaining 99% who understood which side of the bread was actually buttered, and who further aspired to be a part of that evil one-percent when it was all over.

Because the deal with “the one-percent” is that it’s an artificial grouping. There’s always “one-percent” of anything. Obliterate the top one-percent for being on the top … and there’s another one-percent right behind it. Obliterate that next one-percent … yep, there’s another. Reign of Terror, anyone?

The true issue is what the one-percent represents. All that some people, like the “occupiers” and their blockheaded enablers can see is money, and not how the rich got it, and why they’re keeping it, and what caused the government to give them more.

They got it by being good at what they do, and doing lots of it for people willing to pay them. They did not get it by “stealing”, which is typically what profit is called by those who don’t know how to do anything that others want to pay them for.

They are keeping it because the government is planning on unprecedented regulatory intrusions that would have made King George and his Parliament blanch at the sheer audacity, and they don’t know for certain what these regulations will end up costing them; they’re stockpiling. Rainy-day fund.

And the government gave a few of them lots more money because the government’s prior regulatory intrusions required that they do phenomenally stupid things that nearly ruined them, and our nation would have crumbled into a post-Soviet eastern bloc morass if the government hadn’t. Just like Europe would crumble if Germany and France weren’t propping up Greece and Italy ... and requiring that every nation in their system keep a virtually balanced budget.

The first lesson here, for those who don’t want to sleep through yet another history class, is that in order to make lots of money, be good at what you do. And the next lesson is that if you want to join the ranks of the artificial one-percent then leave your 99% caterwauling behind you, and demand that the government gets off everyone’s back while they do what they’re good at.

The situation is the same now as it was 240 years ago: Too Much Government.

Taxes, regulation, personal rights.


Stick to singing, Elaine. I’m sure you’re good at it; you were a born performer. And if you do what you’re good at for people willing to pay, you’ll become what you already are but don’t understand yourself to be: the one-percent. Best of luck in getting there. I don’t think you asked me to sign your yearbook, so let this suffice.


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