I have a few friends who are Republicans mainly because they perceive the Republican Party as pro-business. I should add that on social issues most of my Republican friends are still pretty liberal and many of them are even atheists. I mention that in defense of Dave Silverman who was absolutely correct in trying to reach out to atheist Republicans at CPAC.
That aside, one of my friends was a pretty strong Democrat until very recently. He commented on why he is now more right leaning on Facebook and I want to discuss some of what he had to say. I also want to make it clear that this isn’t really about him. I have heard similar arguments from other Republican friends and I really just want to focus on why these arguments are wrong.
1. Many Republicans fancy themselves as future rich people. The thing is that right now they are not actually rich… but they want to be and they think that it would be horrible if they found a way to become rich and then had to pay more in taxes.
2. They believe self-empowerment alone will make them rich. Therefore they believe that most of the rich were self-empowered and that they deserve to be rich. Conversely, they believe that if you aren’t rich, that is your fault. This is basically the old pulling yourself up by your bootstraps argument. The reality is that very few people in America actually pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Most started with privilege and then capitalized on what they started with. Those that did make their wealth often had huge advantages to start with and were also incredibly lucky.
Let’s take Mark Zuckerberg for example. Here is one of the richest people in the world. He is a genius and definitely deserved his success. However, he didn’t pull himself up by his bootstraps. According to Wikipedia, his father taught him computer programing when he was young and even hired a private computer expert to tutor him. Then Zuckerberg went on to Harvard where he was able to network with other smart, wealthy people to create Facebook.
Zuckerberg is a genius and definitely deserved his success. But he had lots of advantages that many working poor don’t have. Poor families can’t afford to hire private computer tutors or send their kids to Harvard. It doesn’t matter how smart someone is, he or she will never be able to create something like Facebook without help and probably money.
This is why it makes sense for the government to find ways to help the working poor. Maybe a smart kid from a low income family will be able to catch a break and become the next Mark Zuckerberg.
3. Republicans believe that Democrats just give poor people rich people’s money. No, that is not how it works. Everyone pays their dues to the system that we all use. In addition, the system can also provide opportunities to those smart and industrious enough to take advantage of those opportunities. What if Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have rich parents? What if he was a poor kid living in a poor neighborhood? The public schools in that neighborhood might be horrible and Zuckerberg wouldn’t have a fancy computer tutor. Hell, he might not have even owned a computer and the only time he could use one is in ten minute intervals at the public library. Of course, the computers there might be out of date and he might need to use that time to look for a job.
However, the government could step-in in multiple ways. First, the government could make his public education better. This means that public schools in poor neighborhoods need money from richer neighborhoods so that those children could get a similar education and similar opportunities. The government could provide computers to low income households. They don’t have to be top of the line, but in today’s society everyone needs a computer. It is an essential part of our culture. The government can fund free or low cost computer training. It may not be a private tutor, but it might be a step in the right direction. Scholarship programs can also be provided and then maybe poor Mark could go to Harvard and meet up with all the right people to fund and create Facebook.
But all that takes money and you can only tax the poor so much. They don’t have much money to tax. The rich on the other hand do and they won’t even miss it except on paper.
4. Many Republican friends have ironically whined, “Boo hoo, life isn’t fair!” Yeah, I have heard Republicans say this. What are they thinking? “Life isn’t fair, so we shouldn’t bother trying to treat people fairly and instead just treat them like shit.” Life isn’t fair, but that is what good government can do. It can help to make it more fair by giving the less fortunate a leg up instead of knocking them down and stepping on them. This is also why I think Republicans are wrong about government. Government isn’t some evil authority that needs to be drowned or limited. Sure it can be this (i.e. North Korea), but it can also be a large group of people organizing together to help each other make a better society for everyone. Good government helps the people to prosper and keeps them safe. The trick is to find that balance between good government and Kim Jong Un.
5. Many Republicans believe that the rich are job creators and that Democrats are “punishing” these job creators. Yes the rich are job creators, but that isn’t going to change if you tax them more. They aren’t creating jobs because they want to employ people. They create jobs because they want to make money. As long as there is money to be made, they will continue to create jobs. If they don’t have the money to start another business, then as rich people they can do one of two things. Either A. get a loan (which shouldn’t be too hard when you take into account that they are RICH), or B. take Mitt Romney’s advice and ask mommy and daddy for the money. That’s what Mitt, Trump, and Paris Hilton did.
The fact is that if you have a great idea for a business in America, you will be able to find someone who will loan you money to start that business no matter what you credit is. Sure, it is easier if you have good credit or if you have a history or skill that supports your business idea, but then again who needs easy? Shouldn’t you be pulling yourself up by your bootstraps or something? Life isn’t fair remember.
I want to go back to point number 3 for a minute. Republicans have this idea of a “fair tax,” which is funny because they claim life isn’t fair and because the tax isn’t actually fair anyway. The “fair tax” is that everyone gets taxed the same percentage no matter how much or how little they have. That sounds fair, but it really isn’t. If you taxed Mitt Romney 40%, he won’t even notice. It wouldn’t affect his lifestyle at all. But if you taxed someone making $30,000 40%, they would definitely notice. They might have to get an additional job which would mean less time with their families and more stress in their homes. This would affect them physical health resulting in more time at the doctors, more time arguing with insurance companies, and less productive work. The fair thing to do is to tax the poor with a smaller percentage and tax the rich with a larger percentage… and that is exactly what we do. We also have taxes like sales tax which affect the poor much more than it affects the rich for the same reason. Rich people don’t buy that much more food and gasoline than poor people (except Mitt Romney who needs enough gas for all the cars in his car elevator).
Oh, and currently, poor and middle income Americans pay roughly about 33% income tax while the rich pay anywhere from nothing to 10% after all the loopholes, tax havens, write-offs, and bought congressmen.
I also want to point out that there is more to life than money. That isn’t to say that people should be poor, but that people don’t need to be rich. Being rich isn’t everyone’s goal. Being happy is everyone’s goal. Having enough money to live comfortably gives people a better rate of happiness success. So maybe the goal should be to make sure that at least everyone can live comfortably. Sure it is great to have a ton of money, but the important question to ask is, what are you doing with it? It seems that the lowest income Americans spend every dollar they make and put that money back into the economy. The middle class save a little bit, but for the most part also put most of their money back into the economy. The rich on the other hand don’t put their money back into the economy; instead they ship it off the some foreign tax haven. It’s just wealth on paper.
Everyone wants to be rich and many people think they will be rich someday. Rich or poor, we live in this world together and it makes sense to help those who have fewer opportunities to get a leg up and to succeed. This is something that our founding fathers really believed in. Thomas Paine was horrible at making money, but great at making the case for freer nations. Ben Franklin had to use his wealth to help poor Tom become a success. Alexander Hamilton was a poor orphan who would have died without much notice, but George Washington came along and made Hamilton a success.