Friday, July 1, 2011

Class War

As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening, as I usually do, to CNBC radio. I have taken to doing this habitually mainly because I have been focusing so much on understanding the economic underpinnings of the financial tragedy. I actually find the geeky patter soothing because it puts my mind on the fairly meaningless ups and downs of different market numbers and companies that I mostly know very little about. It is like doing a difficult crossword puzzle. You guess a word here and there, get a little better, and maybe in years to come you may be able to entirely complete one of the puzzles.

This morning I was listening to someone (I never know who is talking. Actually, that's part of the puzzle since CNBC Radio is just the soundtrack of the television broadcast.) Her statement was so extraordinarily enlightening that I wrote it down word for word. I have only one tool on my Sirius radio to help me and that is the ability to rewind. The discussion in which this quote occurred was about how strange it was that President Obama should have criticized the rich and those people with the corporate jets, or something like that. What President Obama actually said is not really in question. From experience I assume it was something somewhat enlightening and I guess I also make the assumption that if it was critical of the financial community in any way, it would be discussed in a fairly biased way in this forum. No problem. It is a crossword puzzle. Here is the quote I wrote down:
"Part of the problem is that if you want to start taking a look at raising taxes you can go after the millionaires and the billionaires as he [President Obama] said and the odds are you are going to see higher taxes on that rate [higher tax bracket] but if you want to raise the tax base you really have to go where the people are and that's a lower number [lower bracket]."  [bracketed words: mine]
Reading this in black and white I can see that the odd thing is that I must have gotten very good at the crossword puzzle game, because I understood this very clearly on the first go round. :) That's why, startled, I pushed rewind. :)  Let's call this lady "Maria" because in my mind's eye it is always Maria Bartiroma who is talking when I hear women on CNBC Radio. These folks at CNBC have to compete with the short skirted leggy women on Fox News and probably Fox Business News (I haven't seen that one yet). *

So here is this financial type (giving her full credit for her credentials despite her probable nice looks) telling me that when it comes to taxes you "have to go where the people are." That is, aggregate numbers of people are more important than aggregate amounts of money. Let's just assume that Maria knows that the top 1 percent of the population gets 24% of the income. Let's assume she also knows that the top 20% earn about half of all the income. Of all the financial assets in the USA, the top 20% of the people own 80% of the assets with the bottom 80% of us dividing the other 20% of the pie, and it's Maria's job to know these kinds of things. While we're at it, let's assume that the 9 or 10 percent or so unemployment rate doesn't include too many of these precious few pie gluttons and that Maria knows this as well. Let's assume she knows there are 6 unemployed Americans for every job that is available. Let's assume she understands the extreme levels of underemployment, house foreclosures and personal debt. Let's give her proper credit for being knowledgeable.

What I want to know is how does Maria choose her investments?  "Let's see, to make the most money, I want to invest heavily in the companies that make the least money. That will be a winning strategy. The more poor burdened companies I have in my portfolio, including the unproductive and bankrupt ones, the more I will maximize my income!" I'm not sure Maria actually does this with her investments. But when it comes to collecting taxes...whoa, now, that is a different story.

"Maria" goes on:

"You've got to broaden the entire base and that's what we've heard from a lot of people who don't come down as a Democrat or a Republican."

Really, now... you're saying, Maria, that many people think we should not tax the rich more but tax everyone more. I haven't heard that much but I'll take your word for it. After all, you do work for a financial network and the many people you know are probably all fairly well-to-do and stuff and... Maria!!! That's it. We've solved the problem. What it is that you and the "lot of people" who are in your circle probably all have in common is... you haven't lost your houses or jobs. The many people you know probably didn't have their pensions whacked. The many people you know, while losing some money on the stock market, probably still have wonderful cars and houses and dinners.You are so right Maria, it has nothing to do with politics.....but everything to do with class.

And, when I hear the words "broaden the entire base" I don't really think first of tax revenues which usually come from a wide variety of sources including corporations. I think I hear that term  more commonly used in elections. "Maria," have you heard the term "class war" from any of your buds? That phrase, as in "Let's not turn this into a... class war," will be all the rage soon. I'll bet it will be a phrase you hear over and over this election season, from your kind of people...I'd put money on it.

*Yes I know I was being sexist. But, Maria, you deserve it. Your absolute disrespect of the common man stereotypes him/her as being much the same as your kind of people. The common man might be fooled come election time into being as unknowledeable as you pretend, but he/she could never be quite as ironically unknowledgeable as you maintain the appearance of being.

"Common man" statistics from  and and