Monday, October 1, 2012

The Real Takers

Amazing how the richer you are, the less actual work you do, but the bigger your sense of entitlement.
Political scientists Suzanne Mettler and John Sides blow the lid off the conceit of the hard working, individualistic 53%:
What the data reveal is striking: nearly all Americans — 96 percent — have relied on the federal government to assist them. Young adults, who are not yet eligible for many policies, account for most of the remaining 4 percent.

On average, people reported that they had used five social policies at some point in their lives. An individual typically had received two direct social benefits in the form of checks, goods or services paid for by government, like Social Security or unemployment insurance. Most had also benefited from three policies in which government’s role was “submerged,” meaning that it was channeled through the tax code or private organizations, like the home mortgage-interest deduction and the tax-free status of the employer contribution to employees’ health insurance. The design of these policies camouflages the fact that they are social benefits, too, just like the direct benefits that help Americans pay for housing, health care, retirement and college.

The use of government social policies cuts across partisan divides. Some policies were used more often by members of one party or the other. Republicans were more likely to have used the G.I. Bill and Social Security retirement and survivors’ benefits, while more Democrats had taken advantage of Medicaid and unemployment insurance. Overall, 82 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans acknowledged receipt of at least one direct social benefit. More Republicans (92 percent) than Democrats (86 percent) had taken advantage of submerged policies. Once we take both types of policies into account, the seeming distinction between makers and takers vanishes: 97 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats report that they have used at least one government social policy.

The majority of individuals from households at every income level have used at least one direct social policy. Low-income people have used more of the direct policies than have the affluent: the average household with income under $10,000 per year used four of them, compared to only one by the households at $150,000 and above. But the proportions were reversed in the case of the submerged policies: wealthy families had typically used three of them, and the poor just one.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans are far more likely to insist that they have never taken one thin dime from the government and all they do is give and give and give. But that doesn't make it true. As David points out in his earlier post, we have a culture that has always been divided along pretty strong fault lines. It has far more to do with social status than money and it's infected with white privilege and the myth of American individualism. That's what animates this huge disagreement, not any reality based assessment of who gets what. We all make and we all take.
I disagree - we don't "all make and all take."

The harder the work you do, and the more essential to the smooth running of society - you janitors, and garbage collectors, and kindergarten teachers, and nursing home patient aids - the less money you get paid, and the higher proportion of your income you pay in taxes of all kinds. You make - contribute - far more than you take.

The richer you are, the easier and less essential, if not downright detrimental, to society is your work - you hedge fund managers, and Wall Street gamblers, and tax-shelter billionaires - the more unearned money piles up with no effort on your part, and the tinier the proportion of your you pay in taxes of all kinds.. You take - steal from the real workers - far more than you contribute.

Doubling the minimum wage and increasing the top tax rate - the one for income above $1 billion - to 90 percent will just begin to address the current grotesque imbalance. Until then, the rich can shut the fuck up.

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