Personal Correspondence Pt. 4

My friend to me: Tekstone, you’re giving me nothing but hollow cliches that sound like they’re from an after school special. I’m asking for specifics.Then maybe you can drop your guard, open your mind and see if I have anything interesting to say.

My response: me drop my guard?  ironic you would say that.  i have been waiting for you to say something interesting… although some of your allegations about the lack of poverty and struggle in America could be construed as ‘interesting.’

you want me to engineer a national social program and explain exactly how it would be funded before you say something interesting?  okay.  give me a couple years.  i’ll have the whole thing worked out by, say, 2015.  it’ll probably be 10,000 pages long and i guarantee you’re not going to like it.

and if compassion is cliche, i’ll take cliche over ‘pragmatic stoicism’ any day.

when did you become so hardened?  is that just something i never noticed?  or is it a recent development?  what gives?

besides, you don’t have to agree with my premise to engage.  this whole conversation started by my disagreeing with your premises that 1.) “everyone in America is affluent” and 2.) “no one in this country struggles for food and shelter”.

if you agreed with my premise, then what would be the point to having a conversation?

sounds like a cop-out to me… rather guarded of you.
 
My friend to me: 1.) You say that you want the rich to pay so that the poor can get what they need. You’re right, it’s called progressive taxation. It has existed in this country for many, many years.

In 2003, the wealthiest 1% of the population in the United States paid over 34% of the nation’s federal income tax; the wealthiest 10% bore 66% of the total tax load; the top 25% of income earners paid 84% of the income taxes; and the upper half accounted for virtually the entire U.S. income tax revenue (nearly 97%).

I asked for specifics because I’m curious what exactly you would change about those numbers. But you don’t talk in specifics. Instead you say stuff like ‘this society teaches zero-compassion’ even though the wealthy in America already take care of the poor. That’s why your words on taxing the wealthy ring especially hollow.

2.) The poorest Americans still fall into the top 3 or 4% of wealth in the world. Here our poor are lamented because they are overweight from eating too much fast food. We feel compassion because we think they should be better educated and know hot to eat properly. In the majority of the rest of the world the poor would kill to be overweight. In parts of Asia and Africa poor means not getting enough to eat. That’s truly poor. That’s truly suffering. Don’t compare that to what we have here.

3.) It’s easy for you to suggest that here, in America, that the wealthy should redistribute their wealth to the poor because you aren’t losing anything. But if we were to take your idea of community and enlarge it to the world as a whole, you would suddenly fall into the top 2% of wealth in the world. Then, in order to help those less fortunate, you, Tekstone, would be asked to sacrifice.

If we were truly going to redistribute the money of the wealthy, so that the billions of people suffering in the world could have more, your privileged lifestyle would take a dramatic hit. If you were asked to lower your income to $5000 a year so that those who make $500 a year in Africa and Asia could have enough to eat would you be willing to do it?

No, of course not. Because you aren’t. You could easily spread your money around through charitable organizations but you choose not to. So again, forgive me if your words about helping the needy sound hollow.

There, those are the problems I have with your ideas. If you want to hear my ideas, that’s another email.

My response: i await your email with your ideas.  in the meantime, where to begin…?  i’ll try to follow your numeric system here.  keep in mind that there are three kinds of lies in this world: lies, damn lies and statistics.  statistics are like cherries just waiting to be picked by the right people for their intended purpose at the appropriate time.

1.) progressive taxation in the US has been continually diminishing from its peak in the ’50s especially ever since Reagan took office.  we are heading toward a far less progressive taxation system than you make it out to be.  naturally, this is shifting the burden onto the poorer folks.  i know you make me out to be a simpleton here who can only regurgitate hollow cliches that sound like after-school specials… but believe it or not i have read a book.  yes, it was called Perfectly Legal – The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich – and Cheat Everybody Else by Pulitzer prize winner David Cay Johnston.  and yes, i read the whole thing from cover to cover (if you can suspend your disbelief for a moment.)  bottom line is that the tax laws are being changed over time by the super-wealthy in this country to their benefit at the expense of everyone else.  you want specifics, read the book.

you take your statistics from one point in time.  how about looking at the trend?  the future don’t look too good for those below the richest brackets.

2.) i realize you are obsessed with nutrition and diet, but saying that America’s poor are over-fed and malnourished is a rather naive and overly-simplistic generalization.  it is true that calories can be obtained rather cheaply in this country, but believe it or not, there are plenty of people that cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joes.  whether they know about organic fruits and whole grains versus Micky D’s and Popeye’s chicken is rather pointless.  don’t get me started on the fucking fast-food industry (you see, i have read a few more books cover to cover as well such as  Fast Food Nation and The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter).  the poorest people in this country cannot afford good food.  shit, i can’t even afford Whole Foods, and i’m one of the richest guys in the universe.  how do you explain that?  oh, that leads me to…

3.) relative wealth.  yeah, if you compare me to most people around the world, i seem pretty extravagantly wealthy.  those darn statistics at it again.  you take the cost of living in my neighborhood and compare that to the cost of living in, where was it you were comparing my income to? oh yeah, Africa and Asia (i assume your generalization was specifically referring to the poorer parts of those very large continents as opposed to Tokyo or Johannesburg).  Hmmm.  i could probably get along pretty well with $5000 per year if the cost of living here were the same as those places you referenced.  ask me to do that here in the Bay Area, and i would not like that at all.  you are right.

and, no, i am not a martyr, and i am not going to give away most of what i earn to charitable organizations.  that would not actually make the kind of impact i have been writing about.  instead, i would like to see a concerted effort made on the part of my representative democratic government to do that kind of thing for me on a national level.  and i shall continue to write my Congress critters to that end and vote accordingly.

you still haven’t addressed your lack of compassion.  perhaps that is too ‘after-school-special’ for you or maybe you will address your solutions to human suffering in the separate email with your ideas…?  or maybe… no, couldn’t be.  maybe you think people should suffer?  the poor deserve their lot in life?  it is their own fault for not being born into the right family or community perhaps?  it is their destiny, the lower caste slave-stock that they are?  sure we can dangle a carrot of ‘higher education’ in their face… oops, you can’t reach it?  too bad… you should have been born with longer arms.

but you are cheeky, darling!  i’m going to go watch an after-school special now…  cheerio, lord fauntleroy!

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