October 11, 2003

Rant Forthcoming

I have a lot to say about this post, particularly the presumptuous and condescending comments directed at Heather. After I fulfil my spousal promise to clean up the horrid pit I call an office, I will be working on it.

But for now, let us meditate on the following truth: Life is not fair.

No, really. Take a minute and think about it.

Okay. That’s it for tonight. G’night everybody. And go Cubs!

10/19 UPDATE: When I applied Troll-B-Gone to this post, it vaporized all of the troll's droppings. Not a bad thing, but it makes the rest of us look like we're insane, because the things to which we were replying are no longer there.

So I am going to edit the post to include the substance of the troll's comments, without the insulting trollishness. And I'm almost done with the essay I intended to write before I let myself get sucked in to arguing with the troll. It will be up soon.

Posted by Mr Green at October 11, 2003 11:30 PM

I'm looking forward to your response to the tripe there. I had a very hard time being civil to those imbeciles....

Posted by: Susie at October 12, 2003 09:12 AM

Liberals... Can't live with them, can't shoot them. Well, you can in Texas, but otherwise, no.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at October 12, 2003 11:10 PM

Great! Not that Heather needs any defending, but get moving, man. This will be good...

Posted by: Blackfive at October 13, 2003 03:29 PM

Short answer: no.

Long answer: forthcoming.

I've not had the time to finish the essay I started, but I should have it done fairly soon.

Posted by: Mr. Green at October 15, 2003 03:04 PM

But in the meantime, I can't resist.

45 million uninsured children? Unlikely, given that there were fewer than 45 million uninsured Americans *total* in 2002. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Also, my life is not subsidized by the poor. In fact, their life is subsidized by me, to the extent that they benefit from minimum wage laws, or from any of the myriad government subsidies that I carry the tax burden for.

I'm not saying their lives are great or that I would want to trade places. But let's be very clear about who is subsidizing whom. Or whom is subsidizing who. Or whatever...

Posted by: Mr. Green at October 15, 2003 03:36 PM

Not true.

First, for the purpose of evaluating whether one is paying more or less in taxes than they consume in government benefits, percentages don't matter. It's absolute dollars.

In absolute dollars, I pay out the ass. My wife and I paid more in state and federal *income* tax last year than the gross earnings of a family of 2 at the poverty level. To say nothing of sales and other taxes.

Second, there's no way in hell I get more benefits from the government than poor people. I get no money, directly or indirectly from the government. No food stamps, no unemployment, no social security, no Medicare or Medicaid. Notta, zero, zilch.

Of the things I benefit from, such as public education (even though I have no kids), roads, courts, police, etc., none give me more benefit than anybody else.

The only thing I can think of that you could even build any argument around is that people who can't afford cars don't benefit from roads, but even they use (taxpayer subsidized) public transportation and buy groceries from stores that are replenished by trucks. I suppose I'm more likely to visit a national park or a publicly-funded sports stadium, but I almost never do either of those.

Basically, the poor pay nothing, I pay everything. The poor get everything, I get nothing. This is, of course, an oversimplification, but it's closer to the truth than your position.

And finally, I *do* appreciate those things you listed, just as the people who benefit from my services appreciate that what they get doesn't cost even more than it does. But if a hamburger at McD's cost $7.50, I wouldn't buy any. I'd go to Burger King or eat at home. If a head of lettuce cost $6, I wouldn't buy any. I'd buy other veggies instead. If socks cost a lot more than they do, I'd learn to sew. If I walk in to work tomorrow and tell my boss that I'm unwilling to work any more unless he pays me 50% more than I make now, he'd have a good laugh and help me box up my personal items.

The reason a $7/hour worker makes $7/hour is that nobody values their labor any more than that. If there were a maximum wage of $7, and someone would otherwise be willing to pay them $8/hour, then there would be a subsidy. Just as a minimum wage worker is being subsidized by their employer and customers (in the form of a combination of reduced profits and increased prices) to the exact extent the real value of their labor is less than that minimum.

Again, I'm not saying that I would want to be in that position. I'm glad I'm not. But I'm not feeling all conflicted and guilty because I'm only willing to pay $4 for a burger, fries, and drink and therefore McD's is constrained in their ability to pay their labor force.

Posted by: Mr. Green at October 15, 2003 10:08 PM

Great comment, Mr. G! I think you should copy it and make it a post of its own....

Posted by: Susie at October 16, 2003 02:02 AM

1) I am quite familiar with marginal utility, and can therefore state with complete certainty that it has nothing to do with the point I am making. (Marginal utility refers to the incremental benefit one obtains from the acquisition/consumption of one more unit of a particular good. Declining marginal utility refers to the tendency to value each incremental unit less than the one before it.) The only application of marginal utility to Buffett's statement is that a rich person (such as Buffett) receives less marginal utility from an additional dollar on hand than a less-rich person (such as his receptionist). This is an unprovable assertion, but it makes a degree of sense, in that I would sell my mother for $20 and Buffett probably wouldn't risk throwing his back out to pick up a $20 bill off the sidewalk. And so justice is not served if Buffett pays the same as or less than the receptionist (or me) in taxes *as a percentage* of his income. This is the argument for progressive taxation, which one may or may not agree with.

However, Buffett’s statement is not related to my point, which has nothing to do with "the way things ought to be". My point for now is that each of us pays a certain number of dollars in taxes, and receives a certain allocation of government expenditures. You can receive your allocation directly, in the form of a check or services rendered directly to you, or indirectly, as in the case of national defense. If you receive more benefit than you pay for, then you are being subsidized. If you pay for more than you get, then you are subsidizing others. (This assumes a balanced budget; it is possible to get more than you pay for in the present by borrowing, but that's another issue.) My point is that I personally subsidize others, based on what I pay and I receive.

2) Everybody benefits from the existence of the SEC in that everybody benefits from the existence of well-regulated capital markets. People who do not invest benefit in the same way that people without cars benefit from the existence of roads or people without children benefit from the existence of public education.

But even if I did grant the point - and I don't - that only investors benefit from the SEC, the amount of money spent on the SEC ($842 million, if Bush got his way on increasing their budget in January 2003) represents no more than 0.04% of the total federal budget ($1.9 trillion in fiscal 2001). We’re not the ones breaking the bank.

There are 95 million mutual fund investors in the US. (Source: Investment Company Institute) Even if nobody invests in stocks except through mutual funds, this means the SEC spends less than $9 for each of us per year. It seems likely to me that a poor person may receive more than that in direct government benefits in the first week of January each year. Again, I subsidize them, not the other way around.

3) You’re saying that if all low-wage workers suddenly had higher wages, then I'd have to do without or pay more. And if gravity were reversed, things would fall up instead of down. True, but so what? If *I* had higher wages, *other* people would have to do without or pay more. It’s the same for all of us who work. The situation you’re describing could not happen unless markets worked differently than they do. As I said before, the reason a $7/hour worker makes $7/hour is that nobody values their labor any more than that.

Posted by: Mr. Green at October 17, 2003 12:00 AM

I would like to jump in here and point out that the alleged $7.50 hamburger would not only cost Mr. Green and JadeGold that much, but ALSO the folks JadeGold thinks would be helped by raising the minimum wage. The increased cost-of-living would therefore require another minimum wage increase, requiring another price increase, requiring another wage increase....this is called inflation, and it is a "bad thing"...

Posted by: Susie at October 17, 2003 12:19 AM

Poor JadeGold. He thinks he is an expert in economics because his house is worth $850,000 dollars. We have low inflation precisely because there is an excess of labor. A shortage of labor (low unemployment) is what drives up wages and therefore costs, creating inflation.

Posted by: Susie at October 17, 2003 12:19 PM

Historicly low? Seems to me that the 2.9 % unemployment rate in 1953 is the historic low of the last 50 years. I take it you therefore contend that Dwight Eisenhower was the last democraticly elected president? Or maybe you were referring to the 3.6% unemployment rate in 1968, making Richard Nixon our last democraticly elected President?

As usual, you seem to believe that your opinion is a fact...

Posted by: Susie at October 17, 2003 01:51 PM