More about elitism

By Phil Plait | August 25, 2008 1:06 pm

I like elitism. I like the idea that there are people out there who are very, very good at what they do. I don’t want a doctor who doesn’t understand biology, I don’t want a plumber who can’t use a wrench, and I don’t want politicians who cannot think properly.

That last bit is the sticky one.

In this case, it’s the Bush Administration’s (typically idiotic and Orwellian) recent finagling with the Endangered Species Act: according to the plan, experts in environmentalism would no longer need to be sought out before policy is made. Want to make a dam that will threaten the ecology of a species? Go right ahead! Expert advice need not apply.

Professor Astronomy has some words on this, and the post is very good and well laid out (and needless to say, I agree with it). The Professor claims not to want to write about politics, but and I certainly hope (s)he continues to do so. We could use more elitists like that.

Comments (80)

  1. Daffy

    The amazing thing is, the Bush defenders will prattle on and on about “liberal elitists” while ignoring that their down home country boy comes from a rich oil family.

    On topic, I shudder to think what giveaways Bush and company will try to give the global corporations in the next few months.

  2. Christopher Ferro

    Maybe I’m not correct, but I always interpreted elitism as having a attitude that condescended – that is, a negative thing. I don’t equate having valid expertise with “elitism.” You can be an expert and all that and not condescend or have a attitude that the non-experts or less educated are less worthy. That’s what I think of when I hear “elitist.”

    CJSF

  3. Sir Eccles

    If God had wanted us to protect endangered species, why did he make them so tasty?

  4. Larry

    I agree with Christopher above ans would add the words “snob” and “snobish”.
    Maybe cuz I am not so well educated. (snark)

  5. The word “elitist” has been so abused an thrown around, I call anyone who uses it in a political context an idiot. This I apply to Terror™ as well.

  6. Nomen Publicus

    It may seem surprising, but the general public like “elitists”; at least they do when they appear on fictional TV.

    Take a program like CSI. While it is a populist procedural crime drama, you can also say that it depicts a group of experts doing their job very well. They are the elite.

    This is not a new thing either, there is a history of such stories and TV programs. CSI is just the most recent of many similar crime solving scientists. One might trace the history back to Sherlock Holmes or C. Auguste Dupin.

    Then there is House. A character based on Sherlock Holmes who has few redeeming traits apart from an expertise in diagnosis and sarcastic wit. House is a self-confessed elitist who shows contempt for those less able than himself, yet the viewers love him.

    Perhaps the fault lies with the politicians who don’t like being corrected by the experts after making some crazy stupid public comment :-)

  7. AFakeGuy

    Hey Phil, I agree with you and author on this topic. I would consider it a compliment if someone called me an elite. Unfortuately I’m not that educated. I only spent 3 years in college with only a general degree to show for it. I always loved science and don’t know why I never went into that field. I don’t know why alot of people seem to be dead set against logic and reason as if those are bad qualities or something. I have a friend that always criticizes me for being too logical but when I fix his computer by using logic and reason it’s ok. Of course I find that the people against reason are the ones that are superstitious .

    It must be really hard for you Phil to fight this garbage every single day. I get so tired of religion/superstitious beliefs that I can’t help but scream out loud at times. Just thinking about the stoopid gives me a headache. Take care.

  8. MH

    When conservatives say ‘elite’, it serves a dual role:

    1. Making expertise distrustful serves as a mask and excuse their own incompetence. If I’m convinced that accurate data and convenient, made-up nonsense are basically the same, I’m far more likely to accept their line of “argument” than if I’m thinking critically.

    2. They’re trying to obfuscate the fact that their entire ideology and movement exists for the creation and maintenance of American aristocracy. ‘Elite’ is the word they use to distract from and diffuse that.

  9. MH

    Diffuse that charge against them, I should say. An Elite, for conservatives, is someone who has gained their high position in society through non-aristocratic means such as “being the best at what you do” or “working the hardest.” Being born or marrying into money? Not Elite.

  10. So…How long before someone once again starts complaining about sullying BadAstronomy.com with political commentary?

    (Of course, the fact that the political issue is a scientific one never seems to stop these people…)

  11. JC

    It’s okay to complain about rich liberals, because you’re just pointing out elitism.

    But it’s not okay to complain about rich conservatives, because you’re then engaging in Class Warfare.

    Duh.

  12. The way I see it, I’m gonna get called an “elitist” no matter what I do — all the water in the Tennessee can’t wash out an MIT degree or a year spent in France. I might as well live up to it and host the Carnival of Elitist Bastards.

  13. rob

    when you think about how stupid the average decision made by a politician is, you gotta remember: by definition half are even more stupid.

  14. Tony

    MH..I think you have it backwards. Every conservative I have ever met values hard work and being the best you can be. It is the mantra of the Democratic party that the rich and successful are scum bags and we should take their money and give it to someone else “less fortunate”. I just don’t believe in penalizing someone for being successful and I don’t believe in giving handouts to those that won’t do what is necessary to fix the situation they are in.

    I am a registered Republican but that does not define who I am. I go with what I see in front of me. I voted the Republican scum bags out of the senate and house during the last election. They had done enough damage and I couldn’t in good conscience be a part of allowing that to continue. I didn’t vote for Bush in 2004 but just couldn’t bring myself to vote for Kerry. The guy was a jerk and I didn’t agree with any of his policies.

  15. Dagger

    And we’re surprised at this proposal why? This is Bush we’re talking about. The poster child for making common sense uncommon. Instead of working with the people who administer the ESA, to make it more efficient so the contractors and projects don’t suffer such long delays, let’s just scrap the whole dang thing.

    Bush has been pandering to these guys since before he became President, so what in the world makes you think he’s gonna stop now? The real trick is to try and minimize the damage he’s done in the last 8+ years so that it won’t take as long to recover from it.

  16. Nate

    And so, with humble origins on a modest astronomer’s weblog, the case for 21st century technocratic movement began…

  17. Quiet Desperation

    House is a self-confessed elitist

    Does Dexter count as an elitist? :-) He kills other serial killers because they don’t have the same code he does.

  18. Nate

    @ Christopher Ferro — Webster actually tossed this back at me:

    noun

    1. The belief that a society or system should be run by an elite.
    2. The superior attitude or behaviour associated with an elite.

    If we were to define that elite as Phil does, i.e. a respected and qualified stratum of scientific or technical society, then I’m all for both definitions as they stand. My position is squarely grounded in not wanting idiots in public positions of responsibility or power. I am, in that regard, an unabashed elitist.

  19. Russ

    I think this has to do with the usage of the endangered species act to control carbon emissions. The amount of control is to the point that we may not be able to build a freeway in phoenix, because of the polar bear, who were until recently, in the “least concern” category. Only upgraded, because of a “suspected population reduction within 3 generations”.

  20. David

    elitism is not defined as being an expert on something. it is a more untangible than that.
    in politics, it means being out of touch with the little guy, thinking you are “better” (not smarter but better) than everyone else and a snob.

    bush plan on environment is ridiculous as you point out but it has nothing to do with being an elitist. bush doesn’t listen to experts because he CHOOSES not to.

    in the same way, obama is also an elitist and a snob. he is typical very arrogant and uninformed on the issues. for example, he wants to expand the Bush faith based initiative despite all the volumes of literature that exists from experts stating how wasteful and counter productive it is. ditto for FISA and NAFTA

  21. Dave Hall

    Quiet Desperation Says:
    House is a self-confessed elitist
    Does Dexter count as an elitist? He kills other serial killers because they don’t have the same code he does.

    Heck yeah! He is one of the worst kind: A Psycho Snob! :)

    BTW, does anyone else have trouble watching House? Half of the time I want to punch out the arrogant jerk, and the other half I’m expecting him to say “What-Ho, Jeeves!”

  22. tacitus

    Obama a snob because he’s wrong on some of the issue? Pray tell, what does that make John McCain??

  23. >> and I don’t want politicians who cannot think properly.

    The problem is not that they cannot think properly, but they cannot think in anyone’s best interest but their own. Sadly, it’s the nature of the job. Only the selfish and ambitious need apply. The election process is a natural filter to remove all honesty and integrity. And that applies, sadly, to all sides of the fence.

  24. jtradke

    Phil, I feel like you’re conflating “elitist” with “elite”. The connotation of elitist is snooty or snobby; it’s someone who dare not condescend to communicate with those less elite than themselves. And that’s not the kind of people I want to hang around.

    What we need are genuinely elite people taking the time to explain science, skepticism, etc. to those who have not yet grasped it. In short, we need elite people who want everybody else to get elite, too.

    Being “elite” is not some exclusive authoritative designation, it’s open to anyone and everyone. Being “elite” is not the same as being “elitist”.

    So I think the appropriate reaction to accusations of elitism is not “heck yes, I’m elitist!” but “I’m not elitist, but I am elite, and you can be too!”

  25. Chip

    This pertains to Astronomy since some Astronomers – professionals as well as amateurs, listen to classical music radio while observing.* There has been a great dumbing-down of classical music of American radio starting about 15 years ago. At one time, on any of the many more FM classical radio of old, during the course of a single day and night, you might hear everything from a light-hearted waltz, to a romantic tone poem, to Baroque music and a Bruckner symphony to some very cool 20th Century music by Bartok and then a wild avant-guard work. You could also hear French Impressionists or some Gregorian chant.

    These days there are much fewer stations and many of them have trimmed their repertoire way down to only bright, happy C Major frivolous stuff for 24 hours. The serious music, such as the more intense works of Bach or Mahler are often cut out, even in the evening when the mind was more open to the imagination. One music director once told me she only wanted “pleasant” music that would be “acceptable in a dentist’s office.” And that she avoided “elitist” modern works by Stravinsky and Schoenberg. I had worked in radio for years and also taught college level music courses, so I decided to do what I could. I taught a local community summer course titled: “The Greatest Music You’ve Never Heard!” and introduced a bunch of folks to great classical music avoided on radio. Now I’m a proud elitist.

    * Except maybe Timothy Ferris who digs the blues artists.

  26. Wildride

    The problem with the term “elitist” is it covers both proposed meanings, pertaining to expertise and to snobs. It’s up to the reader or listener to determine the meaning from the context. But here’s the really insidious part: Certain people, most notably politicians, want you to confuse the meanings. So, they’ll show you something that’s elitist in the good sense (like using results of scientific research) and then claim it’s somehow elitist in the bad sense.

    An obvious example was the thing about research showing that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. That can certainly be termed as the result of elitism as people who know what they are doing studied the problem and determined an outcome. But that result didn’t agree with the beliefs of a certain politician, so he wanted to make it seem like this was some proclaimation from on high from a bunch of ivory tower snobs and not it in best interests of parents, and he denounced it as elitist.

    What he was literally saying was “why should we listen to experts?” but what he wanted people to take away with them was “why should we listen to people who are out of touch?”

  27. Tyler Durden

    Just when you thought Bush didn’t have time enough left in office or enough political support to monumentally screw up * something else* .

    I read the whole article expecting to find an Orwellian quote from Bush explaining how his new effort to remove environmental oversight from federal projects was somehow his way of “protecting the environment” – every other time he’s hurt environmental law he has made the same claim, of creating environmentalism instead of tearing it down.

    If anyone can find such a quote from Bush on this issue please post it here, I always get a kick out of reading them. That anyone can compartmentalize that much and speak that level of doublespeak is truly awe inspiring in a perverse sort of way.

    >>>>

    Tony Said:

    >>>I am a registered Republican but that does not define who I am. I go with what I see in front of me. I voted the Republican scum bags out of the senate and house during the last election. They had done enough damage and I couldn’t in good conscience be a part of allowing that to continue. I didn’t vote for Bush in 2004 but just couldn’t bring myself to vote for Kerry. The guy was a jerk and I didn’t agree with any of his policies.”
    ———————

    You’re by far the most reasonable Republican I’ve heard from in about 7 years.

    I can completely understand why you vote Republican. If I were rich I’d probably back the Republicans, because they look after the interests of the rich and ignore the poor except when they need votes for re-election.

    I applaud your ability to vote for the issues (corruption in Congress) instead of just ticking a D or an R beside a candidate’s name.

    To me it is unconscienable that people just vote for a party instead of demanding answers from a candidate on what they believe and what they are going to do, and then voting based on that.

    I initially backed McCain, because I figured at least he would end the torture since he’d experienced it first-hand himself.

    But he lost my vote when the video of him singing “Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys saw the light of day.

    To joke about getting into a war that would kill hundreds of thousands at a minimum suggests a completely unstable personality disorder. He’s a sociopath with absolutely no conscience and the evidence has shown that he either lies constantly (since we see him reverse himself so much) or he’s gone senile and doesn’t remember what he said from one day to the next.

    I agree that Kerry was a douchebag puppet also. Heck, he and Bush were involved in the same secret fraternity in high school (openly admitted). He was hardly the change we needed.

  28. Andrew

    What an interesting comment to make. Jtradke, I’m with you on this one. I hope the “bad astronomer” doesn’t look down his nose at people. Thats the last thing the world needs…another snob.

  29. Andrew, I only look down on those who are willfully ignorant; those who choose to remain in the dark rather then enlighten themselves.

    In this case, I am not the one confusing elite with elitist; it is a willful conflation by those on the right who want to bring down the intellectual level of the country.

  30. Quiet Desperation

    Man, I’ve had another post vanish into the ether. I *know* there was nothing against the rules in it. What is going on? Anyone else having posting failures?

  31. Quiet Desperation

    I call anyone who uses it in a political context an idiot.

    Look up the term “oligarchy” and get back to us.

  32. MarkH

    Please Phil, don’t lump all of us who have a conservative bent in with the far right. I have problems with the social programs run by the government, most of which could be, I would like to believe, lessened significantly with better education. And this is where i vehemenlty disagree with the right in that what is obviously religious studies, by way of creationism or I.D. or what ever, should be taught along side evolution or geology or any other true science. Evolution has if not undeniable proof, has overwhelming support and evidence. I.D. has no such claim.
    Science has gotten to the point that we may be on the verge of answering one of the biggest questions of all time. How did it all start?
    Unfortunatly it was not the U.S. government that had the vision for supporting something like the LHC. I say unfortunate from the standpoint of an American that loves science and is proud to be an American and would love to see us do great things and reward those that have the drive, heart, perseverence and most of all the intellegence to do the things they and you do.
    Although I may dissagree with some of the political views on this blog, that is not why I come here. I come to be amazed at the beauty, savageness, grandure and absolute vastness of our universe. From the microscopic to the macroscopic. But most of all to learn to think.
    Thank you

  33. MarkH

    @Quiet Desperation

    ” Man, I’ve had another post vanish into the ether. I *know* there was nothing against the rules in it. What is going on? Anyone else having posting failures?”

    only on the “input” end :)

  34. a simon

    with the social programs run by the government, most of which could be, I would like to believe, lessened significantly with better education

    So I guess you would cut them to zero, and cut the education as well…. Otherwise you are in error if you call yourself a conservative.

    Sorry for being so blunt but I am simply allergic to people who are either masquerading their ugly social conservative ( read SDO ) face, or in opposite direction, are not right wingers at all , but have been told that liberal = stupid so they think they are conservative themselves

  35. a simon

    s..t it eats quotation marks,
    should be
    MarkH : with the social programs run by the government, most of which could be, I would like to believe, lessened significantly with better education.
    with better education

    So I guess you would cut them to zero, and cut the education as well…. Otherwise you are in error if you call yourself a conservative.

    Sorry for being so blunt but I am simply allergic to people who are either masquerading their ugly social conservative ( read SDO ) face, or in opposite direction, are not right wingers at all , but have been told that liberal = stupid so they think they are conservative themselves

  36. Quiet Desperation

    So I guess you would cut them to zero, and cut the education as well

    The guy posts a pro-education, pro-science message, and *that’s* what you got out of it?

    Seriously, the difference between what MarkH said and what you thought he said is a textbook case of how ideology blinds people.

  37. Tony

    Tyler –>
    “You’re by far the most reasonable Republican I’ve heard from in about 7 years.

    I can completely understand why you vote Republican. If I were rich I’d probably back the Republicans, because they look after the interests of the rich and ignore the poor except when they need votes for re-election.”

    LOL. I’m not rich unless you consider $80 k a year rich. I hasn’t always been like that either. Less than a decade ago I was living in a roach infested single wide trailer with a new wife and baby while working a dead end job and going to school. I racked up quite a bit of student loan debt. Here is the thing though, through sheer determination and hard work I was able to get my degree and get myself out of that situation. I expect others to do the same instead of just asking the government to fix their problems. To me being successful and wealthy is not a crime, its nothing to be ashamed of and most certainly nothing to be demonized for.

    Don’t kid yourself Phil. Stupidity is not confined to a single political affiliation. That kind of thinking is EXACTLY what is wrong with our society. You can have the most enlightened conversation or debate and soon as politics is introduced, all reasoning goes out the window. Neither party has it 100% right and people need to realize that.

    To get back on topic, for me, the terms elite, elitist, elitism are just divisive. You can be very good at what you do but you always need to remember that you don’t know everything. Its called being humble and it’s a trait that seems to have gone MIA and we desperately need it back in my opinion.

  38. Doc

    @Tony

    I don’t think $80k exactly qualifies as rich (though it’s got to be somewhere between $80k and $4m), but you’re doing substantially better than most of your fellow countrymen. In 2006, the US median annual household income was just over $48k, with the median income for an individual just over $26k.

  39. MH

    Tony says:
    MH..I think you have it backwards. Every conservative I have ever met values hard work and being the best you can be. It is the mantra of the Democratic party that the rich and successful are scum bags and we should take their money and give it to someone else “less fortunate”.

    Sure, every conservative YOU meet – and I’ll wager dollars to donuts that you aren’t exactly going on weekend golf trips with people like Bush, Cheney, Scaife, McCain, and other mega-millionaires. You need to learn the difference between someone SAYING they value hard work and PROVING they value it through their actions – say by requiring a (higher) minimum wage, supporting teachers’ organizations, passing safety laws, Social Security, and all sorts of other (gasp!) liberal programs that actually give help to the hardest-working Americans.

    YOU may value hard work, but here’s the thing: ‘you’ and ‘conservative ideology’ are not the same thing. Unless you somehow think that your CEO works harder than the cleaning staff, I don’t know how you can possibly avoid the obvious, compelling conclusion: that capital-C Conservatives don’t value hard work; they value MONEY, and the ruthless acquisition thereof.

    I add that last part because simply having millions of dollars isn’t enough to gain respect in the eyes of The Conservative; there’s plenty of rich liberals, and rich Democrats (and no, the two are not even close to being the same thing), but generally they try to use their wealth, power, and status to improve the lives of those who could really use some improvement, and for that they’re branded traitors to their class (most notably FDR). It takes a very warped mind to see “helping the less fortunate” as some terrible evil to be avoided, but that avaricious, I’ve-got-mine-now-f***-you mindset is the beating heart of conservatism.

    Every single conservative position is in service of one goal: those who have money and power should maintain it. No idea is allowed to become conservative doctrine without first passing this test, and any action taken in service of this goal is applauded, no matter how morally reprehensible. It’s the defining attribute, the common thread in all things Conservative, which gives rise automatically to what I said before: the creation and maintenance of aristocracy.

  40. MH

    Don’t kid yourself Phil. Stupidity is not confined to a single political affiliation. … Neither party has it 100% right and people need to realize that.
    When did Phil (or anyone else) ever say that only Republicans were stupid? Of course neither party has it 100% right but that doesn’t say anything.

    My apartment is dirty – haven’t vacuumed in over a month – but I still know the difference between a home that is dirty and the town dump, and to say “well uh uh they BOTH have dirt in them! neither one is 100% clean! see!” is just a blatant attempt at obfuscation and denial of reality.

    To quote Issac Asimov, “When people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

  41. Christopher Ferro

    I think a fundamental issue for me comes to light when someone makes a comment that everyone can work hard and being the best they can be and they’ll turn out materially, socially and economically successful. This can’t be true, or there would be no workers and everyone would be managers or CEOs. From my point of view, making $80k per year may not be “rich” but is a fair sight better than I’m likely to see, advanced degree in hand and 10 years of experience. I’m working as hard and dilligently as my skills and time allow, and I’m just making ends meet. I guess I fall into the OTHER so far unspoken in this thread category of “sometimes people just fall through the cracks”. Also, I take great offense when it’s implied that a loved one of mine, with an illness that keeps that person from being able to work, is unfortunate and unable to earn a living because they don’t work hard enough for it. Surely there needs to be a system for helping such people. Those of us who are blessed enough to earn a a living can surely afford to share some of what we have. And sometimes folks need a helping hand while they do things to get on their own feet. Without an aid program “hand-out”, I would never have gone to college.

    The whole thing makes me sick when I think about it. We’re part of a society and we do have obligations to the people in it.

    CJSF

  42. DGKnipfer

    @ Doc
    “I don’t think $80k exactly qualifies as rich (though it’s got to be somewhere between $80k and $4m), but you’re doing substantially better than most of your fellow countrymen. In 2006, the US median annual household income was just over $48k, with the median income for an individual just over $26k.”

    What’s your point Doc? That Tony is doing better than many Americans? Not really something to condemn a guy over. And why does it matter what the median income is compared to Tony’s income? The “median American” income earner probably didn’t spend himself into a hole getting the education needed to earn $80k.

  43. IMForeman

    “I like the idea that there are people out there who are very, very good at what they do. I don’t want a doctor who doesn’t understand biology, I don’t want a plumber who can’t use a wrench, and I don’t want politicians who cannot think properly.”

    Hehe. You said Doctor Who. You elitist blogger with your science fiction word games. ;)

  44. dave

    If you want to see where this country is headed without an intellectual elite, watch the movie “Idiocracy”. Very funny, but too close to home.

  45. Tony

    Doc
    Yes, my income is probably higher than the national average.

    MH
    Wow man, you really need some anger management.
    First of all, you don’t like generalizations. That’s fair. How about you quit being so ambiguous and making blanket statements towards all conservatives as if we are all from the same mold. I have stated before that I have no problems bucking my party. I doubt you can say the same.

    I have no problem with helping people out IF they have no means of helping themselves. Instead of just redistributing the wealth, how about we give them the incentive and the tools to be successful themselves. I think one of the best things that Bill Clinton did was address Welfare reform because it forced people to go out and at least try to better themselves. Its called personal responsibility. You should look into it. It’s a fascinating experience and quite liberating. I can’t wait to see how you are going to make that a bad thing. Please continue to use lots of caps to emphasize your anger and disdain for conservative thinkers like myself.

    “Every single conservative position is in service of one goal: those who have money and power should maintain it.”
    Show me one person, liberal or conservative, that isn’t intent on keeping what they have. To do otherwise would be, well, just dumb.

    “YOU may value hard work, but here’s the thing: ‘you’ and ‘conservative ideology’ are not the same thing. Unless you somehow think that your CEO works harder than the cleaning staff, I don’t know how you can possibly avoid the obvious, compelling conclusion: that capital-C Conservatives don’t value hard work; they value MONEY, and the ruthless acquisition thereof.”

    You can’t be seriously comparing a CEO with a maintenance worker. Let me ask you a this. If a CEO has gone to college and risen through the ranks and is in charge of and entire company, they shouldn’t make more money than say a janitor? That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard and trying to argue the point with you is an exercise in futility. You just refuse to accept personal accomplishments and responsibility. Where I see success and hard work, you see the big bad rich guy beating down the little guy.

    I have seen Phil and a few others make broad generalizations about conservatives.
    “it is a willful conflation by those on the right who want to bring down the intellectual level of the country.”

    If Phil doesn’t want that statement and others like it to be seen as anything other than an attack then perhaps some clarity would be in order.

    Phil, overall, I love your blog. A little less conjecture and name calling would be nice though.

  46. Tyler Durden

    I have to say I’m surprised at how hard everyone is trying to be on Tony.

    The guy admitted he was someone who typically votes Republican (in an environment where most of us would bite the head off anyone who just * looked * to the right).

    But at least he’s not a conservative of the follow the herd, mindless sheep variety. He had the balls to cross party lines and kick the bastards out in 2004, and for that he deserves a little respect.

    His attitude about not funding social programs is hardly surprising given his political affiliation. It seems a reasonable one from someone in his position – upper-middle class. He’s wealthy enough that he’s doing better than about 75% of us, but not wealthy enough that he could lose a million dollars in betting on a golf game and just shrug it off.

    I have no objection to leaving the upper-middle class alone when it comes to higher taxes. But I believe that the 1% of the population that controls 90% of our wealth should be expected to burden a * much * bigger share than they are paying. There are too many tax loopholes, too many games that can be played with offshore dummy corporations and Swiss Bank accounts.

    Wealthy people – not rich, wealthy: a rich person owns a Jaguar. A wealthy person owns a Jaguar manufacturing plant – they do not pay taxes.

    They wiggle out of any responsibility to their country and to those less fortunate. It is the poor that pay for the wars that are ongoing, not only in money but also with their lives. Rich people do not enlist in the military, unless they have some sort of death wish. The poor often do not have a choice, it’s the Army or living on the streets.

  47. Tony

    Doc
    I watched Idiocracy. I think I lost IQ points just from watching it. I couldn’t stop laughing though.

  48. DGKnipfer

    @MH

    “Unless you somehow think that your CEO works harder than the cleaning staff…”

    This is an absurd statement. While some CEOs have become very corrupt many of them do work much harder than the cleaning staff. That’s how they got to be the CEO. Not all of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Too many people get mad when they see how much money some CEOs make. Too bad. The company hiring them is obviously willing to pay for the talent, skill, and work ethic that person brings to the company. They’re only going to be willing to pay out the big bucks to a CEO who can help the company get ahead. If the company starts to falter from bad business practices the CEO will get the boot and a new CEO will be brought in.

  49. Gary Ansorge

    From Wikipedia:

    Personal attributes commonly purported by elitist theorists to be characteristic of the elite include:

    Rigorous study of, or great accomplishment within, a particular field.
    A long track record of competence in a demanding field
    An extensive history of dedication and effort in service to a specific discipline (e.g., medicine or law)
    A high degree of accomplishment, training or wisdom within a given field.

    It is a given that as a society matures, it trends toward stratification of the social body, ie, them what has the gold, rules and they try very hard to keep anyone else from getting the gold. I prefer to call this the Royalist attitude, as in, “born with a silver spoon in every orifice and intent upon retaining that special privilege.”

    Egalitarianism proposes to allow anyone of talent, thru hard work and dedication, access to the halls of power.

    I have known some really wealthy people who earned their position. I have also known those born into great wealth. Most of the former were very interesting people in their own right. Few of the latter were worth the powder it would take to blow them to the Nether World.

    EVERY society that becomes Royalist has eventually fallen, as the people who supported it but were excluded by dint of birth from the highest positions of that culture, moved away. The Royalist culture of Europe collapsed when the most talented of the lower classes migrated to the Americas. Revolution attended social/economic decay.

    My Bro(The Rocket Scientist) pointed out that people in power got there off times by exploiting loopholes in the social system, such as the $400 million Joe Kennedy had at the end of the depression, derived mainly from his ownership of Seagrams distilleries and sales of booze to the MAfia during Prohibition. Today, we have drug cartels doing exactly the same thing but the Powers That Be have new tools to restrict how those exploiters can rise within society. Ah, for the good old days of illegal booze(high street prices and a big return on investment).

    We have not yet become a stratified, Royalist society but the handwriting IS on the wall. New talent is accused of Elitism, while the old guard hangs on to their Royalist position, writing laws that inhibit mere Talent from dispossessing them.

    GAry 7

  50. Tyler Durden

    @DGKnipfer

    Never forget:

    “In a hierarchy, an employee tends to rise to the level of his incompetence.”

    This is why there are so many * bad * managers and CEOs. People get promoted past their skill level, but because they’ve been good company men for so long, they never get demoted after that.

    It is * always * the grunt, entry-level people in an office who shoulder the largest burden of the work. And if you think being on the cleaning staff is * easy * – you’ve obviously never done it. Try 10 hours of physical labor for 6 days a week and see if it isn’t harder than 8 hours a day of sitting at a desk doing paperwork M-F.

    I’ve done both, and believe me, it is much easier being an office worker or manager than it is to wash dishes, be a janitor, or work in fast food. The only reason those jobs pay less is that we value intellectual labor more than we do actual labor, because the labor pool for physical tasks is much, much bigger than the pool for intellectual labor.

  51. DGKnipfer

    “I believe that the 1% of the population that controls 90% of our wealth should be expected to burden a * much * bigger share than they are paying.”

    According to tax records and our own tax code, they do. It’s a myth that rich people do not pay taxes because they can hide all of their money. The following is from a CBO (Congressional Budget Office) Analysis;
    o The Top 1% of taxpayers pay 29% of all taxes.
    o The Top 5% of taxpayers pay 50% of all taxes.
    Looking further into the web site I’m getting these numbers from I found that the top 20% pay over 79% of taxes and the top 40% pay right about 95% of taxes in the U.S. I’m quite happy knowing that Tony is paying his fair share (and probably a little more) as he’s (just barely) in the top 40%.

  52. Tony

    @Tyler
    “The guy admitted he was someone who typically votes Republican (in an environment where most of us would bite the head off anyone who just * looked * to the right).”
    That’s an understatement. LOL

    Sadly, my views and many like mine have been hijacked by the very people that are supposed to represent me. Even sadder is that neither party resembles anything I remember from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

    Here are my views in a nutshell. I am fully aware there are citizens who, for one reason or another, are not able to take care of themselves. Physically or mentally disabled ,old or young, if they are unable to take care of themselves through no fault of their own then yes, the government has a responsibility to do all it can to help them.

    “His attitude about not funding social programs is hardly surprising given his political affiliation. It seems a reasonable one from someone in his position – upper-middle class.”

    This really has nothing to do with political affiliation. I’m not against social programs as long as they provide a means for a person to better themselves and progress can be measured. No blank checks. I think Welfare is a good program, at least in principle, but it has been abused far too often. No child left behind and school vouchers are in my opinion great programs but they just haven’t been funded well enough.

  53. DGKnipfer

    @ Tyler Durden

    BULL!!! I grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa working 12+ hour days for my parents unless I was in school. When in school I was still working 4 to 6 hours in addition to school. My first job off the farm was working in the restaurant business bussing tables for minimum wage. I spent several summers working for seed corn companies walking the fields for 8 to 10 hours a day for minimum wage so could pay for school and I still had to help out on the farm while at college. I got stuck working in housekeeping for my college work-studies job cleaning up college dorms after the weekends of wild drunken idiocy by 18-22 year olds who didn’t have a clue how to find the dumpster on their own so they just tossed their three tons of crap and beer cans on top of the garbage can in the hall (if I was lucky). Try cleaning a toilet that’s been puked all over (not in). I spent two summers working 10 hour days 6 days a week picking up garbage for a living as a “Sanitation Engineer”. After college got to be too expensive I spent a year working in a fur processing plant (about as disgusting and politically incorrect job as you can find). I spent the last 20 years busting my butt in the Air Force as an enlisted member. I retired from that position on 1 July 2008 and went out and found another job. I started at the bottom as a teen and worked my way up. I’ve literally done things for a living that would make you puke (the show Dirty Jobs makes me laugh).

    Hard work at the bottom gets you noticed so you can move up. You may not like that the CEO gets the perks but guess what, the good ones probably started in the mail room or on the cleaning staff working their way through college unwilling to settle for just having a job. They wanted a good job and a chance to earn a little more. They didn’t work 9-5 while working their way up and they don’t work just M-F 8 hour days or they won’t last as a CEO. Who ever gave you that idea? You want to get to the top, work for it. Your want to stay there you’d better work to keep it.

  54. John B

    Nomen Publicus: Perhaps it’s because the fictional protagonists and antiheroes you mentioned are at least competent if not brilliant in their specialities, and Congress does not appear to be particularly competent in the mass – except, of course, for ‘our’ congresscritters who’re doing a great job, that’s why we keep reelecting them!

    Mr Plait – I do not agree that elitism is a good thing, as others here have addressed due to the terminology misuse/abuse over the years. Perhaps ‘highly competent’ might be a reasonable alternative to ‘elite’? Yes, I know that the ‘highly competent’ is actually a step below ‘elite’ in dictionary definition – that may be why it’s still a useful term that hasn’t been too badly abused yet.

    Sincerely,
    John B

  55. Tyler Durden

    “You want to get to the top, work for it. Your want to stay there you’d better work to keep it.”

    Getting to the top in a corporate environment has nothing to do with working for it.

    It has to do with sucking up and making friends with the right people, in my experience. Managers don’t want to create future managers to compete with them. They want workhorses. The only way to advance yourself in an office hierarchy is to be a shameless brownnoser and impress the right people.

    If you keep your head down and do your work well, your only reward is more work. That’s just how it goes.

    That’s part of the reason there are so many incompetent supervisors, managers, and corporate officers. They got there because of favoritism, not because of merit. An office is not a meritocracy and you’re fooling yourself if you believe it is.

  56. Tyler Durden

    “No child left behind and school vouchers are in my opinion great programs but they just haven’t been funded well enough.”

    If you believe this you really need to do more research.

    These programs have led to a mass shortage of teachers, mass firings of good teachers who happened to live in urban areas where the students had a disadvantage in standardized tests, and children who are essentially illiterate and/or speak absolutely no English after graduating from high school.

    Shutting down schools because their students are disadvantaged poor is not making sure “no child” is “left behind” – it’s ensuring that only the rich kids get an education.

  57. Tyler Durden

    It has also led to the discontinuing of art, music, and advanced programs because teachers can not afford to teach those things any more. If they wish to teach their jobs they must stick only to the script provided on the standardized tests. Core subjects, nothing else. In other words – we are no longer producing any graduates with talent, either. They’ll just have the basics.

  58. Tyler Durden

    *keep their jobs

  59. DGKnipfer

    @ Tyler Duren “That’s part of the reason there are so many incompetent supervisors, managers, and corporate officers. They got there because of favoritism, not because of merit. An office is not a meritocracy and you’re fooling yourself if you believe it is.”

    What horrid company did you work at? I see some of the brownnosing, but everybody always turns on the brownnosers. They don’t last long if you don’t let them. I will admit though that I spent 2 years in the Air Force where you get tested on your job skills and knowledge. However, the level of incompetence you describe is extreme to say the least and would have most large companies grinding to a halt in no time. I have a feeling you are bitter about some perceived favoritism in your own wok history.

    I do agree with you on No Child Left Behind (NCLB). NCLB is an impossible pipe dream that has forced U.S. schools to teach to the lowest common denominator. I do not want my kids educated as if they have an 80 IQ. It is just as bad (if not worse) that the idea of not hurting anybody’s self esteem. If I could afford to get my kids out of the public school system on my own I would. Vouchers are no cure ether. They’re just another way to gut the public school system. Vouchers are only supported by the Religious Right of the Republican Party because it is a back door way to allow religious education with public school money. NCLB should be scrapped now before it causes more harm.

  60. Tyler Durden

    “However, the level of incompetence you describe is extreme to say the least and would have most large companies grinding to a halt in no time. I have a feeling you are bitter about some perceived favoritism in your own wok history.”

    I call them like I see them. Yes, part of it is personal experience – I worked for years at a company, working my butt off day in and day out and taking on extra tasks and going the extra mile with overtime and pitching in on extra projects. The result? a .50c pay raise and a trinket with the company logo on it.

    I don’t have what they refer to as “networking skills” (sucking up to the boss) so I do not advance in a hierarchy.

    But my company is far from a limited example. When an Arabian horse trainer with no experience in law enforcement, military, or disaster management is appointed as the Head of FEMA, it seems obvious that such nepotism is both widespread and institutional.

  61. jasonB

    Wow there’s some agreement on both sides that not many people like No Child Left Behind. Imagine that, edicts coming from Washington that can’t possibly account for all of the variables in every single school. Now picture national healthcare run with the same efficiency.

    Tyler, you sound like a very bitter man. You had a sucky job? Get another. That one sucks too? Move on. If you really want to have YOUR perfect working conditions, start your own business. Don’t even start with the “I need ton’s of money, and nobody’s going to give it to me.” You’d be right no one will give it to you, but, they will lend it to you.

    You may wish to work on your “networking” skills first.

    Don’t bother asking. I own my own business.

    My wife and I were at or below the poverty level. I first put the house up as collateral for the small loan as the down payment on the mortgage on the property I was getting (sometime you might have to bend a few rules). Then I had to work for years bringing home less than my employees. Sometimes months at time bringing home NOTHING. My wife was working part time. My days were usually 14-16 hours.

    Now I have a pretty successful business, still doing about 60 hrs a week. I work for mostly VERY successful people and I am lazy by most of their standards of work.

    This is why when I hear people decry the wealthy got lucky and shouldn’t object to paying an ever increasing percentage of their income to many redundant, inefficient government programs I lash out.

  62. Tony

    @Tyler and DGKnipfer
    I will concede that NCLB and vouchers have their flaws. I do however agree with the basic premise of it; competition can lead to good things. Not always but most of the time. Notice I did mention funding as a big reason for its failures.

    Just because the religious zealots are pushing hard for it does not make it a bad choice. They have managed to find a loophole that gives them the opening they have been waiting for. That loophole can be closed. There are many wonderful private schools that give a quality education and have no religious connections. I just couldn’t afford to send my kids there. I’m lucky enough that my kids go to a good public school; a community oriented school where parents have a voice. Unfortunately, not everyone has that. Education is the single most important gift you can give someone and its a shame so many are not able to receive it. Can vouchers alone fix it? No, but maybe in conjunction with other measures it can make a positive impact. Its a debate worth having.

  63. Quiet Desperation

    I don’t think $80k exactly qualifies as rich (though it’s got to be somewhere between $80k and $4m)

    The problem with discussions like this is the huge variance in the costs of living, taxes and other factors in this country (or world, for that matter). $80K might seem very rich in some areas, but here in Southern California, you can make $200K and most definitely *not* feel rich. Trust me on that one. You *have* to factor things like that in, but the politicians never do. They think they can pick a number and it works everywhere. But that’s the typical ideological “one size fits all” zerolevel unthink.

  64. Grady

    I had to read all the way to the end before someone finally pointed out to some of these “thinkers” here about the cost of living compared to earnings. Zerolevel unthink indeed!

    It appears that many posters here are quite blinded by ideology, which is ironic given the general disdain for religion I’m sure they hold. So many patently absurd generalizations, ad hominems, and demonizing of conservatives here help me fully understand the difference between elite and elitist. Your science may be worthy, but your political ideology is no better than the next.

    You’re part of the problem.

  65. Tyler Durden

    “Tyler, you sound like a very bitter man. You had a sucky job? Get another. That one sucks too? Move on. If you really want to have YOUR perfect working conditions, start your own business. Don’t even start with the “I need ton’s of money, and nobody’s going to give it to me.” You’d be right no one will give it to you, but, they will lend it to you.”

    “This is why when I hear people decry the wealthy got lucky and shouldn’t object to paying an ever increasing percentage of their income to many redundant, inefficient government programs I lash out.”

    You assume a hell of a lot.

    a) I have never and will never settle for a single job. I can not conceive of the type of person who works the same dead-end job for 20 years happily. But I actually * liked * the job I was doing there, but the fact that there was ingrained nepotism and a lack of advancement opportunities forced me to leave the position.

    b) I’m * already * in the process of creating my own business, which is actually my life calling and a way of helping the less fortunate, and not just a way of making money.

    c) I would never expect someone to “lend it to me” or “give it to me” as you are suggesting. I may be poor but I’m not stupid and I’m not greedy.

    d) Wishing for a better way and “being a bitter man” are not the same things. We cannot work to improve the problems that confront us if we bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problems do not exist.

    e) I’ve never suggested handouts to people who just want to live on welfare for the rest of their lives. But there are people who through no fault of their own are suffering immensely in the richest country in the nation, and no one wants to help them because it might mean a few extra dollars off their tax check.

    If you’re so concerned about tax dollars, how about we stop spending trillions of dollars on military and intelligence programs and instead fund social programs that can be intelligently managed and appropriately distributed to help the people that need it? Then your taxes won’t raise at all, but will go to promoting life instead of finding better ways to kill.

    “You may wish to work on your “networking” skills first.”

    Having people skills is one thing. Being willing to shamelessly degrade yourself and sacrifice your integrity in order to make an extra buck and go another rung up the corporate ladder is quite another. There’s a word for that kind of networking – SELLING OUT.

  66. DGKnipfer

    @Tyler
    “If you’re so concerned about tax dollars, how about we stop spending trillions of dollars on military and intelligence programs and instead fund social programs that can be intelligently managed and appropriately distributed to help the people that need it? Then your taxes won’t raise at all, but will go to promoting life instead of finding better ways to kill.”

    Do you think every other nation will stop funding military research? Do you think they do research in non-lethal weapons to the extent that we do? Do you believe that they will suddenly respect us and leave us in peace if we stop designing new weapon systems? Not everybody respects the right of others. You assume that if the US does not fund a large military that every other country will suddenly give up their own aggressive nature. Self delusional insanity. No US military equals no US social programs because very quickly somebody will push their way in and take what you and I have for their own. Or do you buy that whole bullies are just cowards line of crap? Like it or not somebody has to stand on the wall and defend your rights or you will lose them. It has to be a balancing act between social spending, defense spending, infrastructure, and a dozen other things the government needs to do.

    And then you assume that social programs that have historically been rife with corruption will be intelligently managed and appropriately distributed? By whom? They never have been before so what mechanism will you implement to make sure that they are now?

    And you forget about the social support function that our military provides both in jobs and in emergency relief. The government response to Katrina was screwed up 6 ways from Sunday because of incompetence on the part of both the Bush Admin and the Louisiana State Admin but how much worse would it have been without the National Guard and their expensive military hardware that went in after Katrina and set up search and rescue, medical support, and supply capability that nobody else has? The same with almost any disaster inside or outside the US? Government and politics may screw up the response but don’t forget that they only have a capability to respond because of that military you want to stop funding.

  67. kuhnigget

    it is much easier being an office worker or manager than it is to wash dishes, be a janitor, or work in fast food. The only reason those jobs pay less is that we value intellectual labor more than we do actual labor, because the labor pool for physical tasks is much, much bigger than the pool for intellectual labor.

    Tyler, while I seem to be on your side when it comes to the military and other resource-grabbing institutions, this quote really bums me out. You seem to be implying that there is no real difference between “intellectual labor” and “physical labor.” This is patently absurd. A brain surgeon can wash dishes quite effectively, but a dishwasher probably cannot perform brain surgery. Likewise, a really effective project manager (they are out there) can organize a team, devise a work schedule, assign tasks, manage resources, supervise production, and do myriad other things that keep a business running. Someone digging holes for a living probably cannot do the same at the drop of a hat.

    Please note that I am not denigrating people who dig holes, or wash dishes, or perform any other vaulable labor. But their skills are wayyyyy down on the talent scale and way more common. That is why the labor pool is “much bigger.”

    One shouldn’t confuse “work” with “sweat.” Working with your head can be just as grueling as performing manual labor.

  68. Grady

    The Katrina disaster is an excellent example to use of why you shouldn’t trust the government to intelligently manage anything, ESPECIALLY social programs. The fault first and foremost rests on the the Mayor and his administration. The civic government (democrat in that case) was to blame for the majority of that disaster, yet some would rely on that they would rely on them to competently manage even more, but far less complex social programs than a major urban evacuation. Next, the fault goes to the state government (democrat in this case as well) – ditto everything above. So the city and state government, who knew about a huge problem for DECADES, failed miserably in their duties to their people, and people feel shock and awe that the federal government screwed it up when it was botched at the first two tiers?

    Our government at all levels has proven its incompetence time and time again and some people want to make it bigger?? This is irrational in the extreme.

    I don’t necessarily think that if you stop funding the military that someone else will come in and push us out (chances are definitely increased significantly though), but what will happen is that world stability will suffer, and as a result, our economy will suffer. And suffer hard. The military, contrary to your poor understanding of it Tyler, does not concern itself solely with better ways to kill. Our military and merely its presence is such a stabilizing factor in this world, that you can enjoy the high standard of living you enjoy today. Tyler claims that he is poor while he’s posting to a blog on the internet. If, in fact, he is poor, your standard of living is still leagues higher than the poor in other countries.

    Thank the military you clearly don’t understand.

    “No one wants to help.” Calling bull on that one Tyler. It’s “how” that is the issue. Your solution is simply to throw money at the problem. My money. Not yours. If you’re poor, you don’t pay taxes in this country. At least on the federal level that you’re talking about. I want to help those who need help too, but I don’t want to also pay for those who are there because of their poor life decisions either. And guess what – the government isn’t going to be able to tell the difference. Why are Americans getting foreclosed upon? Stupid financial decisions. Like most Americans – living beyond their means then blaming someone else for their financial woes and expecting the government (which ultimately means you and me) to bail their sorry butts out.

  69. Louis S. Berman

    I couldn’t agree more!

    An excellent article on this topic, titled “Greetings From Idiot America”, was published in Esquire Magazine in 2005 (http://www.aboyandhiscomputer.com/Greetings_from_Idiot_America.html).

    In some of the best prose ever it describes the unremitting and nonsensical attacks on expertise within post-millenial America:

    “…The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It’s not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents—for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they’re talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.”

  70. Christopher Ferro

    @Grady:
    I agree in prinicple with much of what you say; however, you say,
    “Like most Americans – living beyond their means then blaming someone else for their financial woes and expecting the government (which ultimately means you and me) to bail their sorry butts out.”

    What happens if one lives withing one’s means, but then the economy turns sucky and suddenly things are beyond those same means? The issue as clear as you make is seem, I’m sorry to say. And the poor don’t pay taxes? Sorry, but in most states, if you own property or buy anything, you pay taxes. Last I checked, there wasn’t a magical exemption from sales taxes for people below a certain income level.

    CJSF

  71. kuhnigget

    Might want to consider what happened after the U.S. invaded Iraq.

    The trouble with an obscenely large military, is that politicians and others in power (note the difference) find all that physical might so tempting to use to further interests that have nothing to do with “world stability.”

    There is no question that this nation needs a strong military. The world is not all happy bunnies and sweetness. But when so much of a nation’s economy is tied to the military and the vast corporate/industrial base it feeds, then you start running into problems.

    Like we have. Like the old Soviet Union did.

  72. Tyler Durden

    “Do you think every other nation will stop funding military research? Do you think they do research in non-lethal weapons to the extent that we do? Do you believe that they will suddenly respect us and leave us in peace if we stop designing new weapon systems? Not everybody respects the right of others. You assume that if the US does not fund a large military that every other country will suddenly give up their own aggressive nature. Self delusional insanity.”

    ‘Self-delusional insanity’ is spending fully 10 times more than the second largest military in the world on national defense (and offense), and trying to police the entire world.

    Spending to defend this country is one thing.

    PAYING FOR WORLD DOMINATION is quite another.

    And yes, the military steals all of the money that could go to education, and saving the economy, and museums, libraries, infrastructure (collapsing bridges anyone?), etc.

    The fact that you think the barbarians are at the gate ready to knock down the city walls clearly means you are still rooted in Cold-War era thinking.

    News flash: the U.S. won. We’re the only superpower now.

    The ONLY credible threat to the U.S. is not invasion or subjugation, but terrorist attacks. And being that we’re one of the largest countries in the world (with a correspondingly vast border on all sides) it is utterly and completely impossible to prevent anyone from getting in.

    The goal of the terrorist is not to terrify, but to create exactly the attitude you are espousing. To turn a free and prosperous nation against itself so that it no longer takes care of the less fortunate, no longer maintains its buildings or builds new things, becomes paranoid and begins spying on its own citizens, and gains the hatred of the entire world by torturing prisoners.

    By supporting this farce called the War on Terror you are letting the terrorists win in their objectives. They might lose a few fresh bodies but there are always more where they came from (you know – the people who lost family when we bombed their cities?)

  73. Tyler Durden

    “But when so much of a nation’s economy is tied to the military and the vast corporate/industrial base it feeds, then you start running into problems.

    Like we have. Like the old Soviet Union did.”

    Extremely good point. If we continue on the path we are on, we will collapse from military overspending the same way the Soviet Union did.

  74. kuhnigget

    @ Tyler:

    “The ONLY credible threat to the U.S. is not invasion or subjugation, but terrorist attacks”

    Actually, while Terrorism™ is indeed a constant threat, unless it is a nuclear attack, an individual terrorist act is probably less of a long-term threat than many of the economic “weapons” we face. Witness the power Russia has over Europe because of its huge oil and natural gas reserves. Ditto the Middle East’s hold on the U.S.

    Now think of how far along we could be on the path toward a radical retooling of our own infrastructure to accommodate non-petroleum based fuels if we hadn’t gone and spent a trillion or so bucks blowing up Iraq. I’d much rather employ all those soldiers and the people who support them in a project that actually strengthens the core of this country, rather than wasting the resources in a massive folly that has only harmed our standing in the world and seriously exposed the fragility of our economy.

    But that’s the elitist in me talking (to get back on topic).

  75. Grady

    @Christopher Ferro

    **”What happens if one lives withing one’s means, but then the economy turns sucky and suddenly things are beyond those same means? The issue as clear as you make is seem, I’m sorry to say. And the poor don’t pay taxes? Sorry, but in most states, if you own property or buy anything, you pay taxes. Last I checked, there wasn’t a magical exemption from sales taxes for people below a certain income level.”**

    The economy turns sucky from the majority living beyond their means and financial institutions allowing it. But it begins with the individual’s greed.

    You mention state tax and sales tax. They are both levied by the state and if you’ll reread what I wrote, I mentioned the federal level taxes which is what the discussion was about.

  76. Tyler Durden

    I agree that the credit in America is out of control – trillions of dollars. We have absolutely no self-control.

    However I would point out that suggesting that the whole recession is just giving the whiny babies who overextended their credit their just desserts, is a little narrowsighted. This recession will hurt the poor most of all. Those people who lived beyond their reach all those years will mostly just lose their homes and have to move to apartments or less luxurious homes, and start surviving on the money they actually make instead of the money they can con a financial institution out of.

    The poor do not have that luxury – they’ve never had credit and they never will. When the cost of living skyrockets and wages and employment availability plummets, it hurts – as in, causes starvation, homelessness, and heath problems.

    In order to be exempt from federal taxes, you have to be almost starving to death to begin with.

    The only time it is legal to pay no federal taxes is if you earn less than $8,000 per year.

    That’s (fun coincidence here on the division) call it $667.66 just to satisfy the superstitious, per month.

    In most areas of the country that’s not enough to pay rent, let alone pay utility bills and buy food on top of rent.

    Another way to think about it – $20 per day.

    I know quite a few people who spend that much on a daily basis just on luxury items and eating out. For anyone making less than $8,000 a year, the only possible way to survive is to use all of the money you make to pay rent and utilities, live in the most run down and crime ridden neighborhood in a small, crumbling apartment, and get your food from a charity’s food bank. There is no additional money for anything else. You survive. You live to work and hope to survive another day.

    To charge those people income tax would be utterly and completely ridiculous. You’re talking about creating new homeless here.

  77. Grady

    **”PAYING FOR WORLD DOMINATION is quite another.”**

    Hyperbole doesn’t suffice for informed or intelligent discussion. Unless of course you can back that nonsensical statement up with something substantive.

    **”And yes, the military steals all of the money that could go to education, and saving the economy, and museums, libraries, infrastructure (collapsing bridges anyone?), etc.”**

    Hogwash. Utter hogwash. The military doesn’t “steal” anything and is vastly smaller than it was in the 1990s. It’s not even where most of your tax dollars are spent…by far. Bridges collapsing is NOT a federal issue, it’s a state issue and your implication that federal money is being diverted from such resources shows a gross misunderstanding of government spending. So much so that you are probably ill-equipped to have this discussion. I don’t mean that insultingly, I’m just pointing out a glaring display of ignorance on your part.

    ***”The goal of the terrorist is not to terrify, but to create exactly the attitude you are espousing. To turn a free and prosperous nation against itself so that it no longer takes care of the less fortunate, no longer maintains its buildings or builds new things, becomes paranoid and begins spying on its own citizens, and gains the hatred of the entire world by torturing prisoners.”***

    This is not the goal of a terrorist, this is you hijacking (if you’ll pardon the pun) the terminology to suit your own agenda. I challenge you to support with factual evidence any international terrorist organization whose aims are the ones you outline above.

  78. Grady

    ***”The poor do not have that luxury – they’ve never had credit and they never will. When the cost of living skyrockets and wages and employment availability plummets, it hurts – as in, causes starvation, homelessness, and heath problems.”***

    Again, more nonsense. Almost EVERYONE has had credit for the past 10-15 years. Poor included. Your facts are a bit fuzzy. When I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE has lived beyond their means. Did I say that whiny babies getting their just rewards was the sole reason for the economic troubles in this country? Good basic strawman argument. But that was you who said that, not me.

    However the writing has been on the wall for a long time about not enough Americans saving money. They’ve been doing the opposite – borrowing more and more. Why? Because the vast majority aren’t starving or homeless. Our “poor” enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. This is a fact. You’re trying to bolster your position by confusing “poor” with ‘destitute’.

    ***”To charge those people income tax would be utterly and completely ridiculous. You’re talking about creating new homeless here.”***

    Another strawman argument. I never said, suggested, or implied this. Again, that is all you and makes discussion with you difficult. I’m also not referring to the under $8k bracket either.

    When I say the poor do not pay federal income taxes, I mean two things. They either A) do not file, or B) can take advantage of the EITC for one, among many other breaks and incentives. I don’t have the time or inclination to educate you further, but allow me to speak with a little more precision and say the poor *effectively* do not pay federal income tax.

  79. Tyler Durden

    “This is not the goal of a terrorist, this is you hijacking (if you’ll pardon the pun) the terminology to suit your own agenda. I challenge you to support with factual evidence any international terrorist organization whose aims are the ones you outline above.”

    Pick one. I guarantee you that the Palestinians would love if the Israelis began chasing their own tails by creating a police state. And torturing prisoners, thus losing international support. And becoming aggressors in the battle arena (yes, a “pre-emptive war” IS a war of aggression.) And an economic collapse – are you kidding me? I can’t think of a single terrorist who wouldn’t orgasm on the spot at the idea of his enemy losing his economic power, and thus losing his power to update his military, and their government losing the popular support of the citizenry because their standard of living is suffering.

    All of these things serve to isolate a nation, create new enemies that are against them, weaken their power base, and encourage civil unrest. Trying to think of any * more effective * ways for a terrorist to destabilize a country is an exercise I leave to you.

    “Bridges collapsing is NOT a federal issue, it’s a state issue and your implication that federal money is being diverted from such resources shows a gross misunderstanding of government spending.”

    Hmm, so the levies collapsing during Katrina was just those damn Louisianans fault, for living in a state with a budget deficit?

    Have you ever heard of the Army Core of Engineers, whose responsbiility it was to examine the levees? They found them to be faulty, and the possibility for a catastrophe to be frighteningly high. But both the state and federal governments refused to spend the money to repair it because it didn’t seem like an immediate concern. We had better things to buy, like more helicopters for raiding desert tent camps in the Middle East.

    And since you’re putting it all on the states, who are helped by the Army, I assume you’re suggesting that states are allowed to have their own self-sufficient standing armies now. That’s very interesting.

    “Hyperbole doesn’t suffice for informed or intelligent discussion. Unless of course you can back that nonsensical statement up with something substantive.”

    You want substantive? How about the fact that we spend 10 times more than the world’s second largest military spender? I notice you didn’t bother responding to that fact from my previous post. Spending that much is nothing short of an attempt to be able to dominate every other army on the planet, simultaneously.

    “When I say the poor do not pay federal income taxes, I mean two things. They either A) do not file, or B) can take advantage of the EITC for one, among many other breaks and incentives.”

    I am fully aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    I happen to be poor, but not destitute – and I do not benefit from such incentives. The fact that * some * people get a break is that much of a problem for you?

    In that case let’s eliminate ALL tax breaks – including W. Bush’s which have saved the rich millions of dollars.

    “I don’t have the time or inclination to educate you further, but allow me to speak with a little more precision and say the poor *effectively* do not pay federal income tax.”

    And the rich *effectively* do not pay any income tax either, because they have access to accountants, lawyers, offshore tax havens, loopholes, political favors, and corporate sponsorship. Can the poor claim the same? I think not.

    See how *effectively* is a completely worthless adjective?

    The rich and the poor pay about the same amount – proportionately. The $200 a month that a working class person pays in taxes is effectively equal to the $20,000 someone in the top 1% might (if they are honest and actually file what they earn).

    It’s a matter of relative economics. The damage to the lifestyle of a working class person at taking $200 from them every month is approximately the same as the damage to the lifestyle of a wealthy person by taking $20,000.

    I don’t know why I’m debating this though. I’m a libertarian. If I had my way there would be effectively little or no tax for * anyone *. But since I live in the real world and know that will never happen, I at least think we should spend taxes helping the less fortunate.

    When people bitch and moan about the poor taking their money, it hits a nerve with me because I have devoted my career to being an advocate for getting the homeless back on their feet.

    “Our “poor” enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. This is a fact. You’re trying to bolster your position by confusing “poor” with ‘destitute’.”

    The poor are one step away from being destitute. Selfish people wanting to preserve an ultrarich, exceptionally extravagant lifestyle instead of paying a few dollars to keep their countrymen from becoming homeless are what turn poor into destitute into homeless.

    You’re right, our country has the highest standard of living in the world. It is unacceptable that there are millions of people who are unable to participate in that standard of living because the others do not wish to help them.

  80. MH

    “You’re right, our country has the highest standard of living in the world.”
    No it doesn’t. Japan and several European countries routinely better us on virtually any metric you care to judge “standard of living” by (life expectancy, infant mortality, homelessness rate, etc.). We don’t even make the most money per capita.

    Furthermore, the “but our lucky poor have TVs!!” crowd – I’m thinking of DGKnipfer specifically, who said “nd why does it matter what the median income is compared to Tony’s income?” – ought to read up on Adam Smith’s views on poverty to see why that argument is so hollow: http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2008/06/adam-smith-on-p.html

    “Wow man, you really need some anger management.”
    No, I don’t. I am not angry, just upset, and even if I was, radical injustices OUGHT to make a moral person angry.

    How about you quit being so ambiguous and making blanket statements towards all conservatives as if we are all from the same mold. I have stated before that I have no problems bucking my party. I doubt you can say the same.
    First off, your doubts are misplaced. I have no party that represents my views and I officially belong to no party. I have serious problems with every party.

    When I speak of conservatives generally, I am using the word to describe those with positions that are actually conservative, and not those many people who call themselves conservative but hold positions anathema to The Conservative Movement.

    Its called personal responsibility. You should look into it. It’s a fascinating experience and quite liberating. I can’t wait to see how you are going to make that a bad thing.
    Are you getting paid to be this snide and obnoxious? You should go pro, you’ve got real talent.

    For that matter, please inform us all as to what must a plethora of examples of conservatives rewarding personal responsibility. I’m sure it’s conservatives who were relentless in investigating Enron execs. I’m sure it’s conservatives who call for letting Bear Stearns’ investors reap what they sowed. I’m sure it’s conservatives who wanted to try Scooter Libby for treason for releasing the name of our covert operative.

    Oh, wait.

    Show me one person, liberal or conservative, that isn’t intent on keeping what they have.
    That is completely beside the point, and you know it. The difference is that the conservative, authoritarian view is that those in power BELONG in power, and that those without OUGHT to submit.

    You can’t be seriously comparing a CEO with a maintenance worker. Let me ask you a this. If a CEO has gone to college and risen through the ranks and is in charge of and entire company, they shouldn’t make more money than say a janitor?
    I’ll take “intentional misreading” for $1000, Alex!
    Of course the CEO should make more money, but not because he works harder. The CEO makes more money because his/her work is more valuable.
    YOU were the one who claimed that conservatives valued hard work. Which I’m sure you like to tell yourself, but I’m also sure that you don’t really believe it, because I’m sure you don’t pay for goods and services based on the effort put into them, but rather their utility to you. Which is fine – like virtually everyone else, I do that too – but you ought to be more intellectually honest about it.

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