Tonight I watched the documentary Maxed Out. Yeah, I was a little slow to jumping on this bandwagon, but I thought it was really good. The world of credit card companies infuriates me, and unfortunately I am still giving them money, and will be for a while. They wait, they watch, they WANT me to slip up and make a late payment or screw up so they can slap me with late fees and higher interest rates. They're like vultures. And I'm not giving in. But that's not the point here.
What would that documentary be like if it was being filmed now? In the midst of our huge-ass financial meltdown, the bailout, the cost of the war in Iraq, rising health care costs (my health insurance deductible is going up by 150% next year), the presidential candidates sniping back and forth about taxes and how much they're going to raise or not raise them depending on your income bracket- it is just amazing. Oh, and we're pulling the rest of the world's markets down with us, harboring a GLOBAL recession. I don't even know what that means really- what should I expect? All I know is that I'm not buying anything for a while. Remember that tax "incentive" check we got earlier this year, how it was supposed to boost the economy because we were supposed to buy buy buy and it was going to fix everything? I think they're going to want their money back....
I don't have a problem with Barack Obama's plan to tax the hell out of the rich. Now, most people would think, "Duh Heather, of course you don't because YOU'RE NOT RICH- this won't have any impact on your life!" But even if I was rich and getting taxed like that I'd be okay with it because really I'm an idealist (and most who aren't will be yelling "socialist!!!" by the time they're done reading). I would hope that if I had that much money I'd be sinking it into some serious charities and giving a lot away to take care of people who weren't as well off as I was. So if I was being taxed to help the greater good, I'd be okay with that. (And I realize that's a big if, but I'm not going there right now because it's a pointless argument.)
And here we get to the point of this post. I am really sick of hearing from conservative right-wing republicans that they don't want their money to go to people who just need to get off their butts and get a job. My friend's father sent her this email (because he's a republican and likes to push her liberal buttons):
A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs; in other words, redistribution of wealth. She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.
One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school. Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn’t even have time for a boyfriend, and didn’t really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.
Her father listened then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing?” She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She’s always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn’t even show up for classes because she’s too hung over.”
Her father asked her, “Why don’t you go to the Dean’s office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend Audrey, who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.
The daughter, visibly shocked by her father’s suggestion, angrily fired back, “That’s a crazy idea. How would that be fair? I’ve worked really hard for my grades! I’ve invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work. Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”
The father said gently, “Welcome to the Republican Party.”This view of the world is totally out-dated, and does not illustrate redistribution of wealth. If this email had ended in a situation where the financial aid office called the girl and told her that they were going to give half her financial aid package to her friend, THAT would have been redistribution of wealth (or fairness).
In North Carolina, where my friend is from, there has been a steady decline in the job market for over a decade as textile plants are shut down and operations are sent overseas where labor is cheaper. The problem is not a lack of work ethic, and people who just sit around all day and wait for a welfare check. This is about hard workers facing a lack of jobs and opportunities. I want everyone to have the same opportunities I have had. If a kid wants to go to college (and obviously I'd prefer they didn't fuck around and party hard while they're there), they should be able to go to college, and I'm willing to pay for that with my tax dollars. If a child doesn't have health insurance, heck if anyone doesn't have health insurance, it's not because they can't get off their lazy asses and get a job. It's because the three jobs a parent is working won't cover the premiums for family healthcare. And again I'm willing to help pay for that with my tax dollars. You can't equate hard work with being able to provide for your family now. If you don't have the experience or skills that will get a stable job that pays more than minimum wage you're behind before you even start. And we can't blame individual people for that. Hard work and income aren't directly proportional any more.
Apparently people from Denmark are some of the happiest people on the planet. The weather sucks and it's cold and the people are sort of serious looking and the country doesn't seem like a party capital or anything; but they get weeks of paid vacation, months of maternity AND paternity leave, government-assisted childcare, paid healthcare, paid everything (well, lots of things). And sure they are taxed something like 50% but you know what? They're still happy. And you know why? Because they're taken care of. Socialists! It starts to look rather appealing, doesn't it?