I got the package with the Macadamia Man suit yesterday. It’s not as bad as I feared. It’s actually a lovely combination of blues: midnight blue jumpsuit with sky blue stripe down the chest, electric blue hood, cape, and boots. Yes, I tried it on. I even switched on the electric toothbrushes attached to the B-B-Buf-f-f-fer B-B-Boots. Nuff said.
I’ll be Macadamia Man for Halloween, but I can’t wear the suit for reporting. Instead I’ll stick with my khaki class war correspondent’s vest, the one with all the pockets for my Blewberry and macadamias. That’s very practical.
Unlike, say, House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and his thoughts about income inequality.
He said Sunday that he agrees there’s too much income inequality. Maybe he means that sincerely, or maybe he got the Time poll showing 54% of Americans support the Occupy Wall Street movement. That compares to only 27% who support the Tea Party, in the same poll.
Representative Cantor’s solution is to “encourage folks at the top of the income scale to actually put their money to work to create more jobs so we can see a closing of the gap.”
That sounds good, although I’d be more convinced if House Republicans had not voted down the payroll tax holiday proposed by President Obama to encourage hiring. And I’d be more convinced if Rep. Cantor hadn’t complained back in April that too many median- and lower-income families don’t pay taxes.
It’s true that about 47% of Americans pay no federal income tax. Between the standard personal exemption and the Earned Income Tax Credit – which subsidizes low- and moderate-income workers – they get back all of their withholding, and may even get a refund. They still pay the Social Security payroll tax, and other federal, state, and local taxes. They are not, as conservatives angrily shout, “freeloading parasites.” They’re the working poor who can barely make ends meet even with income subsidies and other public assistance programs, and could not possibly make ends meet otherwise.
Representative Cantor will speak today at the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania, and present his plan. According to an aide, Cantor will discuss:
[How to help] a single working mom … a small business owner … and how we make sure the people at the top stay there. He’ll talk about the various socioeconomic classes and how Washington should stop pushing different people down the economic ladder and instead can work together to ensure that all people have the ability move up.
The good news: I believe Rep. Cantor is sincere about the “how we make sure the people at the top stay there” part.
The bad news: Rep. Cantor seems determinedly oblivious to his fallacy of division. That’s a logical fallacy where you presume that a state which is true for a whole must or can also be true for each of its component parts. A Boeing 747 can fly across the Atlantic Ocean, therefore each of its component parts – engines, seats, rivets, packets of peanuts – could fly across the Atlantic Ocean. In a complex system, not every part will have every characteristic of the whole.
Simply, it is not possible for “all people” to “move up” the economic ladder. We can’t be a society of only bankers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, and other highly-paid professionals. We will always need janitors, maids, retail workers, busboys, and other jobs that presently pay too little for the workers to make ends meet. To argue that individuals could move up into higher-paying jobs ignores that someone will still have to do those kinds of jobs. In fact, a lot of Someones – about 45% of our work force – will have to do those kinds of jobs. In a complex system, not every part will have every characteristic of the whole.
The question is how we ensure that even those at the bottom of the ladder still get adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education for their children, and a decent retirement. There are two possible solutions.
The first solution would be for their employers to pay them more. Yes, there are some businesses where the bosses and investors scoop out huge swaths of the revenue. They could take a pay cut and leave more for their employees, without having to raise prices. But not all businesses could do that. Many run on very narrow margins, and if they raised their employees’ pay they’d have to raise prices to match. That leaves everyone where they were, but with different numbers. Those at the bottom see no real benefit at all.
The second solution is to subsidize low- and moderate-income workers. Or we could subsidize all workers, paid for and offset by significantly higher taxes on top incomes. Either way, because the subsidies do not come from business revenue, they don’t drive up prices. So we don’t leave everyone where they were, but with different numbers. Those at the bottom actually benefit.
Subsidies and other assistance for low- and moderate-income workers are exactly the programs that Rep. Cantor and other Republicans voted to cut. So I believe Rep. Cantor means it when he talks about “how we make sure the people at the top stay there.” I just wish he cared about the other 99% as much as he cares about “the people at the top.”
Good day and good nuts.