How to Tell the Makers from the Takers

Well, Steven Taylor really stepped in it yesterday at Outside the Beltway. It all began with an op-ed by Glenn Reynolds at Washington Examiner, “It’s takers versus makers and these days the takers are winning”.

Glenn’s op-ed starts with a hat tip to a book by Charles Sykes, A Nation Of Moochers, contrasts “takers”, those who receive government subsidies with “makers”, presumably those who don’t, and continues with specific and generalized complaints about the state of Uncle Sugar. Here’s a pretty representative sample:

With federal borrowing at unsustainable levels, with the bailed-out auto companies and banks not looking particularly healthy, and with the steady drip-drip of financial scandals moving toward the point that even an Obama-friendly media will have to cover them, we appear to be approaching a crisis point.

and Glenn then gave his op-ed a bit of publicity at his popular blog, Instapundit. That’s when the fun began. My colleague at OTB, Steven Taylor, responded with what I thought was a pretty mild and temperate critique of the op-ed:

A fatal flaw in the maker/taker dichotomy (and which renders it useless) is that we do not have a situation in which Group A is made up those who only “take” and Group B is those who only “make.” Even if we start off with the example that Reynolds uses to launch his column (farm subsidies), the bottom line is that this does not fit the maker/taker categories. If we consult a list of the top recipients of farm subsidies we get a list of corporations (see here). So, on the one hand they are “takers” of government subsidies, and yet on the other it is nonsensical to not also call them “makers.” Of course, the fact that Reynolds’ evidence of this particular problem are lyrics from a country song, perhaps I am expecting too much nuance.

Dr. Taylor concludes:

It is ideology, not analysis. It certainly eschews the realities of policymaking. This is a failing I assume from politicians on the stump. It is not one that I expect from law professors.

I didn’t see this as a slur but, rather, hortatory, a call for greater rigor. Glenn saw it differently and said so on his blog:

APPARENTLY, MY “MAKERS AND TAKERS” COLUMN SUCKS, and I should kill myself or something.

at which point Glenn’s fans descended into the comments thread of Steven’s post, dinging other comments with which they disagreed and making comments of their own, some substantive, some not.

To be honest I think there are far too many takers and far too few makers. As Elbert Hubbard (an early 20th century writer, not the guy who invented Scientology) put it “When 51% of the people want to give rather than get, I’ll be a socialist”. At the top of the list of takers I’d put most of the members of Congress, far too many of whom enter the Congress virtually as paupers and emerge after 30 years as millionaires, lobbyists (I would amend the Constitution in ways that would render the modern practice of lobbying impractical), and technocrats and apparatchiks of all stripes. I have a little list.

However, here’s my question: how do you tell the makers from the takers? Like Steven I don’t think there’s a bright line. Let me give a few case studies.

My mom spent her career as a public school teacher, deliberately seeking out the toughest, poorest schools in St. Louis. When she retired she collected a small pension, received no healthcare benefits, and received a small payment from the Social Security payment (a result of my dad’s contributions). The Medicare system probably paid out less on her behalf throughout her life than she had paid in. She avoided doctors, took almost no medications, elected for palliative care only in her final days, and never had any of the expensive, acute care that runs up massive medical bills.

Maker or taker?

I have never attended a public school, never had a child who attended a public school, never worked for the government, and have paid into Social Security and Medicare for most of the last 50 years. I collect no payments of any kind from the federal government. I have had a few government contracts over the years from the city, state, and federal governments, I worked darned hard to fulfill them, and I was paid reasonably for my efforts. I am defended by the American military, the air I breathe is clearer due to federal laws and enforcement, Lake Michigan is a lot cleaner than it was forty years ago due to federal laws and enforcement, and I drive on public roads (since this is Illinois I frequently pay tolls, most of which go to pay the pensions of retired highway system employees).

I plan to follow my mom’s example on healthcare and although it’s mathematically possible for me to recoup what I’ve paid into the Social Security system, it’s unlikely.

Maker or taker?

IMO a little more introspection is called for by all and sundry. Nearly all of us are takers at some point in our lives. Some of us, through the grace of God, are makers.

Update

James Joyner weighs in with a typically reasonable, temperate analysis of the issue and the discussion:

First, Glenn’s summary on Steven’s post–”and I should kill myself or something”–is great for driving traffic (thanks, again!) but an unfair reading, to put it mildly. Rather, Steven found the core argument of the column simplistic and expected more nuance from someone of Glenn’s stature. Yes, Glenn is most famous as a pundit–an insta-pundit, no less–but he’s an enormously accomplished legal thinker, not a talk radio host.

He continues with four more considered, substantive points.

83 comments… add one
  • It’s been a while since there’s been a flame war between blogs in the upper echelons of the political blogosphere. I see this particular outbreak as a continuation of the internecine “weeding out the RINO’s” project. For all of the adulation of Reagan in the Right Blogosphere they seem to have forgotten his 11th Commandment: thou shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republican.

  • michael reynolds

    “When 51% of the people want to give rather than get, I’ll be a socialist”

    I want to give rather than get for this simple reason: it will mean I’m doing well enough not to need to take.

    Like you, I’ve never had a penny of direct US aid — although I had a girlfriend who went on Food Stamps for a couple of months and she fed me occasionally. I’ve worked full-time since age 16, so a bit over 40 years now.

    I’d have no problem, none whatsoever, with being sufficiently well off to never need a government pay-out. But I don’t know that will continue through the rest of my life.

    It’s good to have the net. It’s better not to need the net. It’s like any insurance — I pay for health insurance but if I never had a catastrophic illness that would allow me to recover what I’ve paid in, I kind of think I’d be okay with that. (I’d sure take the same deal with life insurance.) The notion some seem to have that I should resent the guy who does need the net strikes me as bizarre. Jealous of suffering? Waaah, he got cancer and went broke and I didn’t?

  • PD Shaw

    Dave, that would assume Prof. Taylor is a RINO; since joining OTB, I don’t think he is written a single thing that suggests he’s a Republican, supports any of the traditional elements of the Republican platform, or stands any chance of voting for voting for anyone other than Obama. I think OTB is more of a technocratic/libertarian blog, in which its main readers appear to be technocratic liberals hoping to find conservatives to score points against. The Instapundit readers are simply doing the same, invading a non-conservative blog to score points.

  • sam

    I suppose that anyone who uses the Internet is a taker, given its origin.

  • PD Shaw

    But sam, I’ve given so much to the Internet; I think it owes me now.

    To no one in particular, I didn’t read the Reynold’s piece as claiming non-overlapping sets of makers and takers. Perhaps its because I’ve read so many variations of this argument (smaller federal government = less special interest exploitation) that any such suggestion would be immaterial to the argument.

  • PD:

    I’ve read Steven’s blog (in my blogroll at right) since I started reading blogs, before he started posting at OTB and long before I started posting there. He’s pretty circumspect about it but I’m confident he is or at least was a Republican. I couldn’t find documentary evidence of it quickly but he did acknowledge being a Bush supporter in 2004.

    Additionally, he posts pretty regularly about Republican party politics in Alabama and little if at all about Democratic party politics there. I think that’s supporting evidence if not a prima facie case.

  • Drew

    I didn’t read Taylor’s essay or any of the comments. I just glanced at the title and said to myself “oh, boy..that one will be good for 60+ comments.” I didn’t read it it because I immediately thought exactly what Dave transcribed in the “fatal flaw” paragraph. It’s just too simplistic.

    It’s possible for people to be pure makers or takers, but the vast majority are both, at least at some point in their lives. Despite what are at some times hysterical comments about my world views I obviously believe in a safety net. In fact, I’ll see the “caring” people and raise them. Because if you really look at it the mechanisms and amount of resources directed to people in need is pathetic. So much money is siphoned off by govt workers (to create reliable voting constituencies) to subsidize politically connected entities (again to create funding for pols and voting constituencies) and draining resources that otherwise would have found their way to recipients through private charity. We could provide better for those in need if we did not reflexively turn to government. And my point is a prime reason I think Friedman had it right: a pure negative income tax.

    What the “caring” class never seem to want to acknowledge is a) at some point we have only so many resources and simply putting people on the dole at the expense of the productive has negative consequences, b) many people – despite being described as good, just down on their luck folks – are lazy conniving schmucks,(as are the rent seekers by the way) c) government is inherently a horrible way to go about assisting those who really merit assistance.

    It seems to me that government, at all levels, is extracting more than enough resources from the private sector to achieve their legitimate goals, including providing a safety net. And anyone who doubts that the pendulum has swung too far need only look to Europe, or do the math on the impending train wreck that is the projected US fiscal budget.

  • PD Shaw

    Dave, I have no reason to doubt Taylor’s statements that he was once a Republican (or Instapundit was once a Democrat). At least since becoming an OTB regular, where he says he wanted a broader audience than his individual blog, I have detected nothing Republican or RINO-like in Taylor’s postings. But from Joyner’s post today, I take it that perhaps Joyner is the one being accused of RINO-ism through Taylor’s post, which I suppose is arguable, thought personally not an interesting argument, so I’ll shut up for now.

  • sam

    many people – despite being described as good, just down on their luck folks –are lazy conniving schmucks,(as are the rent seekers by the way)

    What’s your stand on the carried interest tax rate?

  • Maxwell James

    The only thing I’ll say after scoping the post in question: OTB’s comment system is insane. A huge number of posts are blanked out due the voting system, including a number that make very reasonable observations. I understand why a blogger may want to outsource moderation to the commenters, but the result is anarchy.

  • Yeah, if I were king, I’d put together a comment system that just color-coded the comments based on approval votes rather than suppressing the ones that got lots of “Dislikes”. Then give the moderator the option of screening out massively disliked comments.

    But that would require active moderation and I guess avoiding active moderation is the point of the system that’s in place now.

  • Andy

    I don’t comment at OTB anymore – I don’t see much point to it.

    Whether or not Dr. Taylor is a Republican or not – who cares? What difference does it make? Either his arguments have merit or they don’t. Glenn’s overreaction to Tayler’s mild criticism is just emblematic of what trash most of the political internet has become – little more than faux outrage after faux outrage.

  • steve

    Having been forced to read much of Rand’s writings as a young teen, then finding out it did not describe the reality I found in my day to day life, I am not sympathetic to the maker/taker dichotomy. I think you can find a fair number of people who are almost pure takers. Sometimes poor people really are poor people. However, I have yet to meet or read about a pure maker.

    I will admit to smiling when I saw so many defend Reynolds for his role as an educator. I am pretty sure most of his fans pretty regularly castigate teachers.

    ” So much money is siphoned off by govt workers (to create reliable voting constituencies)”

    There are not enough federal workers to make a difference (2 million?). It might make a difference at the state and local level, but I would expect you to support more local control. If you really want to use govt. money to garner votes, use it for old people. They are the demographic that reliably votes and cares about its issues.

    Steve

  • Drew

    Sam –

    I’ve posted on the carried interest tax rate a number of times at OTB and here. It can all be boiled down to one thing: if you want to tax carried interest at OI rates you also, to be logically consistent, have to make the argument to tax capital gains at OI rates. If that is your position, fine, but decades of history and empirical evidence suggest this is a self destructive policy stance.

  • Icepick

    never had a child who attended a public school

    In other words, you haven’t contributed a new member of society to pay INTO the system in the future. Taker!

  • Icepick

    I pay for health insurance but if I never had a catastrophic illness that would allow me to recover what I’ve paid in, I kind of think I’d be okay with that. (I’d sure take the same deal with life insurance.)

    There’s an interesting point between life insurance and pensions. When a company (or other entity) gives you a pension, they are betting that you will die soon! In contrast, when you buy life insurance, the insurer is betting that you will live a long time. In both cases, you are betting the other way.

  • Drew

    Steve –

    That’s really my point. And why i included “at all levels” state and local workers are padded like crazy. And they go out and work the polls get out the vote etc. and they pay union dues that get funneled to pols who “ahem, do the right thing .” who do you think those guys who get their pensions bumped up through last two-three year salary increases are? Party reliables.

    As for old people and the vote. Steve, that’s exactly what happens. We say the programs are for the poor, disadvantaged etc. but it’s been a wealth transfer to largely middle class people who consumed and didnt save and are retired or elderly……..and vote their pocketbook.

    As for pure makers.. I don’t want to put words in your mouth but I think I have your point. Almost by definition in an organized society we are at some point all takers, or at least beneficiaries of all that has gone before us. But I think you are conveniently skating around a serious point. At what point do taxpayers become “makers” or at least “extraordinary and sufficient” contributors? $1mm in lifetime taxes? 5mm? 20mm? 10x the average guy? 100x?

    When do we acknowledge that it is bad public and economic policy to just milk those who have demonstrated the greatest capability to produce just so politicians can pander to those least capable in an effort to get votes? Once again, I have to cite Europe, and the fact that we are a bug about 1000 yards away from being smashed on the windshield of a car.

    There are not enough federal workers to make a difference (2 million?). It might make a difference at the state and local level, but I would expect you to support more local control. If you really want to use govt. money to garner votes, use it for old people. They are the demographic that reliably votes and cares about its issues.

  • PD Shaw

    @Maxwell, to be fair to OTB, the voting system really only acts poorly when there is a large influx of new eyes. I’ve taken to following michael reynold’s approach, and maybe others have as well, by clicking thumbs up on posts that appear to be about to be blanked-out, even if I disagree with the substance, so long as its substantive.

  • Drew

    I don’t comment at OTB anymore – I don’t see much point to it.

    Sadly, I’ve come to pretty much the same conclusion. It seems to be a food fight for thumbs up and down. And infested with ticks and weasels.

  • PD Shaw

    @Andy, I really don’t care whether Taylor is a Republican or not; I was responding to Dave’s suggestion that the dispute could be seen as a larger part of a part of a weeding out of RINO’s project.

  • sam

    @Drew

    “When do we acknowledge that it is bad public and economic policy to just milk those who have demonstrated the greatest capability to produce just so politicians can pander to those least capable in an effort to get votes?”

    Stop it before you break our hearts. The folks at the top of the money pyramid in this country got that way by effective rent-seeking, and by that I do mean jiggering the tax code. In what sense, in what universe, can anyone say those folks are being “milked”? Mittens, milked? Are you kidding?

  • Drew

    But Sam, don’t you see what you are saying? Before you break our hearts? This is a response, and a policy position based upon emotion. Greed, envy, jealousy etc.

    What I make or someone else makes should be irrelevant to the extent the gains are not ill gotten. You give yourself away with the jiggering of the tax code argument. No one got rich on the tax code. They got rich on making money or investing money. I’m in the business of liquefying the gains made by entrepreneurs who have taken almost unimaginable risks of time and money, and the sweat of their brow. Sacrifices few are willing to make, apparently including you. To demean this effort shows a lack of character and informs us all why you are not rich, and must resort to emotional arguments similar to “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.”

  • steve

    Drew-

    1) I wish people were writing more about local government. (Dave?) The polls I am familiar with suggest that people tend to be pretty happy with their local governments, yet it is that level (and state) where we have seen the real growth in the number of workers. (Yes, I know, the contractors! Those change from govt. to govt. I seriously doubt they fit your description and are just groups who want work, with a hefty segment of rent seekers which I believe transcends political affiliation. YMMV.)

    2) Old people. When Reynolds refers to takers, I bet very few people think that is the group to which he refers. Most people seem to have never looked at a US budget.

    3) Makers. Interesting point. If money is your only metric, how do we measure an Einstein, Feynman, Milton Friedman, Eisenhower or a stay at home mother? But, to try to more directly address your question, I think that you have to individually evaluate those with lots of money. I think there is a ton of difference between some guy who put some money in a hedge fund that struck it big, and a Jobs or Ellison who created their own company and built it up from scratch. I would also lump in the equity guys who come in and turn around a company. I am nearly persuaded that you are correct that we ought to somehow redo our capital gains rate taxes so that those who actually do this kind of stuff, have lower rates. I suspect this is not practical for some reason, maybe the lawyers can tell me why, but that would be my preference.

    However, let me turn this around a bit. Isnt the money that you earn a significant return for being a maker? If you make 100-10,000 times more than the average earner, is it necessary to also pay a much lower rate on that income? Do people really need to take home 115-11,500 times as much to make it worthwhile?

    Steve

  • However, let me turn this around a bit. Isnt the money that you earn a significant return for being a maker? If you make 100-10,000 times more than the average earner, is it necessary to also pay a much lower rate on that income? Do people really need to take home 115-11,500 times as much to make it worthwhile?

    That’s an interesting question , steve. The jargonized version of it is how does consumer surplus fit into the calculation of whether and when one is a maker or taker?

  • sam

    “But Sam, don’t you see what you are saying? Before you break our hearts? This is a response, and a policy position based upon emotion. Greed, envy, jealousy etc.”

    Ah, for Christ’s sake, that tired old bullshit, again. You know, your habitual recourse to that worn-out meme is pathetic. You whine about the Noble Race of Heroes –which you always, always, include yourself in — being milked, someone points out that there ain’t a lot of milkage going on, and out comes the envy argument.

    What makes you think I envy someone like you? You seem to live in constant fear that somebody’s going to come along and take it all away from you. How is such a life, infused with that pervasive fear, enviable? I suspect that way down deep, you don’t really believe you deserve your success, that somehow you’re a fraud. Now one way to defend yourself from the effects of that self-loathing is to delegitimize any criticism by imputing base motives to the critics. “They’re only saying that because they’re jealous of me.” Comforting, I’m sure. Delusional, without doubt.

  • Icepick

    The Walt Disney Corporation has made huge amounts of money from its Florida theme parks. (In fact, if you study their history it is what kept them afloat for about 15 to 20 years after Walt’s death. They have absurd profit margins.) What does Disney have that Universal doesn’t? The Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney has its own government body, and is excluded from paying most state or local taxes for 99 years. (I believe that runs out in 2067.) Now, how would your businesses be improved versus your competitors if you didn’t have to pay tax but they did? If you were your own government, instead of having to petition governments like everyone else?

    That is all effectively manipulation of the tax code, and the result has been tens of billions of dollars in profit for Disney. Note that Universal Studios, here in Orlando, has almost never been able to turn a profit. Guess what they don’t have? Sweetheart tax deals.

    GE can make billions in profits each year and pay no taxes. How brilliant does Immelt look for that piece of business, er, tax evasion via manipulation of the tax code? How big are his bonuses because of that?

    A big business wants to relocate, the first thing they do is start looking to see which locales will offer them the biggest tax breaks – tax breaks the established local businesses don’t get. Instead, those established businesses got to subsidize the new business.

  • Icepick

    Ah, for Christ’s sake, that tired old bullshit, again.

    Drew’s all about the pity party for how tough life is on all those millionaires like him. I can’t even imagine the suffering of a guy like Warren Buffet, put upon by the masses as he is.

  • Drew

    Steve

    Money isn’t my only metric, it simply seems to be the metric people focus on. How would we tax Einstein. It makes my point. Why would we want to tax Einstein? Why would we want less of that? But when it comes to money people get funky and it somehow seem s logical to strip it away from producers. As for hedge fund managers, I don’t really know what they do. (I mean I know in a general sense) But I always balk at the notion of these emotional or personal vs market judgments. What next? Basketball players, movie stars and rock stars should have their earnings stripped away because we, personally, may not deem their efforts worthy?

    Well, Sam, if it’s not greed or envy or jealousy then what does don’t break our hearts mean other than “shut up, you’ve got enough?”.

    And I didn’t say you wanted to be like me. But its simply a fact that you can’t be like me. You don’t have the requisite skill set or risk profile to do what I do. That doesn’t mean you are in any way shape or form inferior, simply that you chose a different career path. But don’t come to me, having made those choices of your own free will, and complain about the tax code and how people who chose different paths gained economically.

    I often tell people who are sure that all of us in this type of business are smug, getting easy money, have manipulated the system etc etc that the solution is easy. Stop whining like an old woman and jump in the game. Or else just acknowledge reality. I can’t play pro golf like tiger woods, I can’t dunk a basketball like michael jordan and I’m not mick jagger. But I don’t sit around and whine about the tax code because I can’t generate their incomes. you don’t have a chance in hell at doing what I do for a living. Right now you greatest talent seems to be bitching about tax rates. Talk about delusional.

  • sam

    “Right now you greatest talent seems to be bitching about tax rates. Talk about delusional.”

    Ah, good to the last drop of misapprehension.

  • Drew

    Actually, Sam, either you are being intentionally obtuse and difficult, or I’m doing a piss poor job of expressing the point.

    I’m making no value judgement whatsoever on what people make, or the value of their output. I have views, but I’m just not that arrogant to assume I know what people should reap from their efforts.

    So if you make “x” from whatever you do or did, fine. The market surely put a price on that. The market did not make a judgment on your character or the value of you as a person. Just your output. And that’s just the way it is.

    So decrying the entertainment industry vs private equity vs science vs journalism – oh, I already mentioned entertainment – etc is just masturbation. And you don’t fix your personal biases through punishment in the tax code. Not in a free society that values liberty anyway.

    I see ice pick has weighed in. It’s just the same crap. This isn’t pity for me or millionaires. You guys need to stop this intellectually light stuff. That’s the emotional, envious bs I refer too. As a society we have to have a worldview that balances economic efficiency and equity vs the deadweight, but unavoidable costs of providing for the the general needs of a society plus those who simply cannot make their way. But we do not need to coddle the lazy and those who would find it very acceptable to live a substinance living at the expense of the state. We do not need to subsidize the greens, the ags, the financiers and other crazies and rent seekers. We just don’t.

    But all I get from you and the ice picks of the world is “don’t bother me with your perceived troubles and obligations, pay up.”. That’s not considered policy making with general economic efficiency and general welfare in mind. It’s just pure crap. As much as you deny it, it’s envy and jealousy.

  • michael reynolds

    Drew is never emotional: his self-love, need for applause, and greed ar purely rational.

    That snark aside I’d love to see a more efficient government, one that used fewer people and fewer dollars to accomplish its necessary work.

    But Drew, you don’t get emotion very well, your own or anyone else’s. It’s not greed or envy, it’s fear. People don’t sit around asking why they don’t have all you have, they’re afraid of their kids getting sick, or that the transmission on their 20 year-old car will break and they won’t be able to keep their job. They don’t want to bring you down, they just don’t want their aged parents or their kids or their spouse to suffer.

    People are desperate and they are afraid and to denigrate that as greed or envy is self-serving callousness. It’s past time to outgrow your Ayn Rand phase, because you can’t spout oblivious, self-serving bullshit like this and then talk about people being lightweights.

  • That snark aside I’d love to see a more efficient government, one that used fewer people and fewer dollars to accomplish its necessary work.

    To be honest what concerns me is not simple inefficiency but the prospect of government at all levels becoming self-licking ice cream cones. Education ceases to be about educating anybody or, at least, that’s a secondary objective that somehow never makes it to the top of the “to-do list” and is mostly about more education, more educators, and better-paid educators. Healthcare is less about treating the sick than about increasing the size of the healthcare sector and the wages of those who work in it. Greater security isn’t really that high a priority in military spending but increasing the spending is. And so on. You get the idea.

    There’s competition for resources among the sectors but it doesn’t really matter because they’re all equally just about simple existence, growth, and reproduction.

  • steve

    ” How would we tax Einstein. It makes my point. Why would we want to tax Einstein?”

    We dont, but I think we would both agree that he was a maker. Money is not always a good metric. As to the rest, I dont suggest we go strip earnings, I am just addressing this emotional issue of makers vs takers which I largely find to be an false construct. I specifically did not use a hedge fund manager, but rather someone who invested in a hedge fund. If a hedge fund has a good run and provide a record ROI to one of its investors, does it mean that investor is suddenly a maker? IMO, the person who starts a successful small business, but does not make as much money as that investor would better qualify as a maker.

    Steve

  • Icepick

    Drew, youi are claiming the tax code only punishes the rich, who are the producers that make everything else possible. You are completely ignoring cases of the tax code being manipulated to make certain the rich get richer, and snuff out competition. That isn’t intellectually weak on my part, that is just outright dishonesty on your part.

    (Not to mention I’ve made my views on taxes clear in the past, and those views cannot be honestly interpretted as “punishing” the rich. Nice to know that your nuance includes making it up as you go.)

    And do us both a favor, dipshit. You said you were going to ignore all my comments. Please feel free to do so.

  • michael reynolds

    First of all, love “self-licking ice cream cone.”

    This is going to sound terribly naive, but I have been (more than once) caught off-guard by the persistence and narrowness of self-interest. I manage to actually believe that everyone involved in doing a job is primarily interested in getting the job done. That particularly naive notion has probably cost me close to a million dollars over my lifetime.

    Live and learn.

    Money, jobs, power, me me me, and almost always in the narrowest possible sense. It’s disheartening. People twist reality to fit their agendas.

    I’ll offer an example against interest: the National Organization for Women (NOW) won. Achieved its goals. Job done. And yet they didn’t go away. Instead they went into self-parody, determined to continue to exist even after their goals were accomplished. It’s as if we still had a Supreme Allied Command Europe 67 years after the end of WW2.

    Oh, wait. . .

  • Icepick

    Here’s a bit of what I have said about taxes [I’ve cleaned up the spelling, and otherwise lightly edited it]:

    Should taxes be raised? Should they be lowered? Pointless debates, as usually stated. Our tax system isn’t a mess, it is a disaster heading towards catastrophe. The whole damned system needs to be ditched and redone. The purpose of a tax system should be to be fair, easily understood (because if it isn’t, you can almost be 100% certain someone is getting away with something – I’m looking at you, Immelt), and of course to raise sufficient revenues to fund the government. Personally, I favor as little complication as possible. Currently I probably like the so-called Fair Tax best. (That has problems – but so does every other system.) Or maybe we go with a flat tax with no deductions. Or just a flatter tax with no deductions. A big thing for me is “no deductions” – deductions are signs of favoritism and gamesmanship in the tax code. … There are many complex issues that can’t be avoided, but goddammit, our current code is criminally complicated. We need a simpler system so people and businesses SPEND LESS TIME AND MONEY ON TAX ACCOUNTING. All of that is a big drag on the system.

    Worse still, all those deductions come with political costs as well. What is it I’ve been hearing lately – GM had something like $5 BILLION dollars in profit last year and thanks to slick accounting and manipulation of the tax code they paid zero dollars in corporate income taxes. Meanwhile, Immelt is telling the leaders of other businesses, [which] actually DO have to pay taxes, to shut up and hire people. Fucking criminal. This demonstrates a fundamental corruption of our current business and political environments as well. And THIS is why I keep bitching about system being rigged for the big guys at the expense of the little guys – because it is.

    Here’s the link to the original. Tell me again how advocating for flat taxes and the Fair Tax equates to saying millionaires need to pay higher rates than everyone else?

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    There are many complex issues that can’t be avoided, but goddammit, our current code is criminally complicated. We need a simpler system so people and businesses SPEND LESS TIME AND MONEY ON TAX ACCOUNTING. All of that is a big drag on the system.

    Hell yes. My first request from a tax revision is this: for God’s sake, just tell me what I owe.

    It’s not the percentage so much as the hassle. 25% 30% 35% Just tell me the magic number and don’t make me waste valuable time trying to guess what it is. I don’t want to play the game. It’s not fun or interesting.

    Imagine you go into a restaurant, you have no idea what the bill’s going to be, and you have to hire some guy to figure it out for you. And then he’s always wrong.

    Everywhere else I know the price. Just tell me what the price is. Is that asking too much?

  • Icepick

    My first request from a tax revision is this: for God’s sake, just tell me what I owe.

    That would be kind of ideal. It’s amazing no elected official seems to have ever had it.

    Everywhere else I know the price. Just tell me what the price is. Is that asking too much?

    Not everywhere. Try finding out what the bill for medical services will be ahead of time. I’ve been told so many times in the last five years “We can’t know what the price is until after we submit the bill” that I have lost count. I quit asking eventually.

  • Icepick

    I can’t even imagine what your tax situation must be. It makes me a little queasy just thinking about it. On this you have my sympathy.

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    Imagine an 8 year-old. Now imagine that 8 year-old has a corporation. But manages money like an 8 year-old. And moves and changes accountants every two years. And has no impulse control.

    Now put that 8 year-old and the tax code into the same room together.

    It’s like that.

  • sam

    “We do not need to subsidize the greens, the ags, the financiers and other crazies and rent seekers”

    And he wonders why we think he doesn’t get it. The guy is impervious to irony.

  • First of all, love “self-licking ice cream cone.”

    I wish I could take credit for it. The phrase was originally coined to describe NASA. Sometime between 1969 and 1989 the agency lost sight of its mission and turned into an appropriations-gathering machine.

  • There are many problems with the tax code. Not the least is that it has two, frequently conflicting objectives. The first objective is to raise revenue. That’s a legitimate function of government.

    The second is to influence behavior. That’s a lot less legitimate. Couple that with the power via lobbying to ensure that somebody else’s behavior gets changed rather than yours and you have our tax system.

  • …in which its main readers appear to be technocratic liberals hoping to find conservatives to score points against. who think the writers are conservative Republicans.

    There fixed it for ya. 🙂

  • I haven’t weighed in on this one, but Taylor is right in that the premise is too simple, at the same time I think there is way too much rent seeking going on. Keep in mind that a corporation that is the beneficiary of a state sanctioned monopoly and charges monopoly profits is both a taker and a maker…and it is an unmitigated bad thing.

    See, not that hard to point out the problem with Reynolds article, done in 65 words and 2 sentences.

    Next problem?

  • Drew

    Michael

    Please, really? I get emotion very well. I am currently supporting my mother, my mother in law, my bipolar brother and, to a degree, my cancer stricken sister. You, and a number of others, make these wild assed assumptions based upon things you don’t even know about

    My world view is simply different from many on this blog site. I am doing this privately. Therefore I reject notions that the people I just cited should be thrown upon the state for support or that I should have income taxed away just because – what was it Sam said? Some emotional nonsense about Noble Beings – cant come to grips with the fact that resorting to the state, or just because you hate rich guys the st ate should tax away your efforts is good public policy. I’ve got better uses for my money than the state has.

    If “the rich” we’re paying 10%-20% of the tax burden, and if the state were taxing some small amount of overall income then I could understand calls for more taxation. But this simply is not the fact. The state is taking some 30% – 40% (min) of income. Thats absurd on its face. And. The “rich” pay an overwhelming share.

    There has to be a debate and an understanding that the rubber band of economic progress snaps when the state takes too much. Look
    at Europe. Look at Detroit. Look at Illinois. Look at ohio. Etc And then look at an opposite philosophy: Indiana. Prosperous and not broke.

    The problem I have with the sams and ice picks of the world is that as hard as they try to mask their envy of wealth they inevitably give themselves away. Comments that are basically “cry me a river rich guy; you have enough so give it away”. It’s a philosophy based not on economics, or even a notion of a reasonable safety net for those in need……just, “give me yours you bastard.”. Unfortunately, it’s a self defeating philosophy. How’s the little guy doing these days?

    And how is wall street, ags, greens etc under Obama? Just fine, as long as the campaign contributions keep coming in. And the poor be damned. Just pawns in a political squabble. Spare me the hollow concers about the poor.

  • Drew

    “We do not need to subsidize the greens, the ags, the financiers and other crazies and rent seekers”

    And he wonders why we think he doesn’t get it. The guy is impervious to irony.

    If you can make a coherent argument, Sam, please do. Up until this thread I had never placed you in the crazy/worthless category. Just someone who did not share my views. But you seem to have been reduced to petty, high school level argumentation. My assertion stands as is. It’s my view. If you have an alternative please share. But if that’s all you’ve got, well….

  • michael reynolds

    I am doing this privately.

    Because you are able to do so. How do you not grasp this? You’re not taking a philosophical stand, you’re just lucky and well enough off to be able to do it. So am I, goodie for us.

    But if one of my kids were dying for lack of medical care I would damned well go to the government. And so would you. So stop confusing luck with principle.

  • Icepick

    What a dishonest piece of shit you are Drew. How do you get any of the policy positions you attribute to me from what I have written? How do you think I am an Obama supporter? Michael, have you ever seen me at the meet-ups?

    I do have a problem with you, because you are constantly telling me how tough you have it. That is patent nonsense on your part. You try and try to tell me how you have had it just as tough or worse than I do, because you once had a job you didn’t like. Boo-hoo. You have no concept of what the “little guy” is going through. Stop telling me you know what it is like.

  • Icepick

    How do you not grasp this?

    Because he thinks that everyone that isn’t rich is a worthless human being. (Well, except for Einstein.)

  • Icepick

    AS for your situation with your relatives, Drew, what makes you think you are unique in having these kinds of problems? I’ve gone through a lot of this in the last five years in my family, and without anything to fall back on. Hell, I know four people that have died in the last five months, three of them relatives. Two other good friends have come close to dying in that time, one of whom ultimately lost a leg. YOU DO NOT HAVE A MONOPOLY ON SUFFERING.

    Furthermore, in supporting family, you are only doing what is expected of family – nothing more.

  • Drew

    Michael

    First, I’m not lucky. I worked to get in this position. If I were to follow your philosophy I’d say Michael Jordan couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, he’s just lucky. Tiger Woods is lucky he’s not shanking every shot……..he’s lucky. It’s absurd. They worked damned hard.

    I finance the buyouts of guys and gals that have built businesses through great effort, risk taking, innovation and hard work. In your world they are “lucky.”. No they aren’t. They made it happen. And if you strip people of the incentive to make it happen it won’t happen. You are t he one who needs to get a clue. Look at that bastion (snicker) of innovation and economic success: the former Soviet Union. I guess no one was “lucky” there. Right?

    People are what they are. Many things drive them. But economic success is one of those things. And for certain participants in that class there is the possibility for job creation and general economic growth. Destroy that, and you have doomed those who depend on the creators to the unemployment or govt dole line.

    That, in my view, is a miserable really philosophy.

    Finally, are you really telling me that, say, you contracted a rare disease, that you would want to place your life in the hands of government decision makers, govt hospitals vs say, UCLA or Northwestern or Sloan?

    You think I hate you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from Dave I admire your brains and thought provoking views more than anyone here. But really, dude. The philosophy you cite is just docile and just this side of a roulette wheel. We can provide, as a society, for the downtrodden without destroying the economic engine that is the USA……and coming to the conclusion that the drunk on the street is the same as the hard working entrepreneur/professional etc and that Forrest Gump is really going to provide a meaningful contribution to employment, the cure for diabetes or educating the populace.

  • Drew

    Ice pick

    Get back to me when you are rational.

  • I think my view on luck is that of Ecclesiastes 9:11:

    I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

    I don’t interpret that as saying that speed, strength, wisdom, understanding, and skill aren’t important but that, ultimately, time and chance can overwhelm all of those things.

    I’ve worked hard in my life and I’m getting by. But I was also blessed with a brain more agile than many, relatively good health, parents who gave me, besides food and shelter, freedom to explore and encouraged me to question. I didn’t earn any of those things. I was just lucky. Or blessed.

  • Icepick

    Drew, how are you being rational when you claim I am an Obama supporter? How are you being rational when you claim I am for soaking the rich? How are you being rational when you claim that tthere is no manipulation of the tax code by the rich and powerful for their own benefit?

  • Icepick

    And Drew, UCLA _IS_ the government.

  • Icepick

    Ah, my favorite passage from the Bible (the practical joker’s Bible). That incapsulates it nicely, and I know from prior go-arounds that it pretty much captures Reynold’s views on the matter. Funny that Drew admires Einstein so much, since he is stuck with a Newtonian’s deterministic view of the Universe….

  • michael reynolds

    I hate it when I realize something I thought was original brilliance on my part was figured out 2300 years ago by some random Hebrew. They didn’t even have internet.

    Fortunately I still have my orignal notion that the central question in life is whether we should be, or not be.

  • Icepick

    An example of tax codes being manipulated for the benefit of the wealthy can be found here. If you’ve got a subscription to the WSJ you can see the original stories. Note to that the company is managing to halve the amount it is paying its workers in the process. Although in this case the jobs are being taken from Canadians and made available to Americans, so I guess that’s a WIN!

  • Drew

    I’m not a religious man, but I have a friend who is..very so. Back to that.

    I find the references interesting, but not persuasive. This is the Forrest Gump will-o- the wisp philosophy. Perhaps it’s a lifetime of sports activity that makes me say phooey on these notions. I know that the more I practiced, the luckier I got. The more I was able to deek my opponent and get off a shot. The killer fadeaway jumper. The flop shot recovery from the rough. The ability to hit driver on the tight hole and have wedge in, vs having to hit 3 wood seven iron. The statistics on that will kill your opponent. Ask tiger woods.

    I know so many people in my career path who took less risky options. Didn’t want to work as hard. Almost to a man or woman, their economic success is lesser. I think this notion that it’s all just chance and luck is bizarre.

    Is there chance and luck? Of course. Tiger blew his drive way left the other day and hit a rock…….back into the fairway. Good luck basing a career pursuit or a productive society on that.

    Back to religion, and then ive got to go. Obama recently invoked the biblical ” from those with much is expected much etc”

    Of course, the guy didn’t bother to note that the biblical reference was not to taxes or wealth, but to his disciples understanding of his teaching, and that those who had understanding would be required to impart that in a disproportionate amount to those who didn’t.

    Maybe you guys are right. Obama is lucky that people are so fucking stupid that he can get away with a completely bogus reference for cheap personal political gain. That would be consistent with his history.

  • sam

    Drew: “We do not need to subsidize the greens, the ags, the financiers and other crazies and rent seekers”

    And he wonders why we think he doesn’t get it. The guy is impervious to irony.

    He replies:
    If you can make a coherent argument, Sam, please do.

    He is impervious to irony, so I guess this needs to be spelled out. You enjoy the tax rate, the thoroughly bogus carried interest tax rate, you do because some well-heeled rent-seeker bent the Congress to give it to you. As for its bogosity, consider Greg Mankiew:

    Deferred compensation, even risky compensation, is still compensation, and it should be taxed as such. Paul Krugman hit the nail on the head with this question:

    why does Henry Kravis pay a lower tax rate on his management fees than I pay on my book royalties?

    The analogy is a good one. In both cases, a person (investment manager, author) is putting in effort today for a risky return at some point in the future. The tax treatment should be the same in the two cases.

    Now, you can argue that Mankiew is wrong, but you can’t argue that some rent-seeking jiggery of the tax system yielded that result.
    So when you say, “We do not need to subsidize the greens, the ags, the financiers and other crazies and rent seekers” — I say you’re impervious to irony.

  • steve

    Forbes richest people list. Lot of them inherited their money. Bunch of them made a lot in banking and real estate, which needs to be suspect given the recent bubble.

    http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/#p_5_s_arank_All%20industries_All%20states_All%20categories_

    My best guess is that most of the really wealthy did work awfully hard. I think an awful lot of them also had family and friend connections that made it more likely that work would pay off. I think the blessing part lies in the combination of native intelligence, empathy, stamina and other gifts we are born with. Take charisma for example. It seems pretty clear to me that some people have that natural combination of looks and presence that draws people to them.

    That aside, taxing the rich more seems as much a math issue as a moral one. Maybe more so.

    Steve

  • Andy

    Wow, go away for a day and the thread explodes.

    Drew,

    The problem I have with the sams and ice picks of the world is that as hard as they try to mask their envy of wealth they inevitably give themselves away. Comments that are basically “cry me a river rich guy; you have enough so give it away”.

    And

    You guys need to stop this intellectually light stuff.

    I’d just like to point out that your perception that your critics are motivated by envy or whatever is about as intellectually light an argument as one can make. One might also suggest that it’s a bit arrogant to lecture others about what motivates their views, as if you are a scryer who can read minds, not to mention that doing so is the classic ad hominem fallacy.

    First, I’m not lucky. I worked to get in this position. If I were to follow your philosophy I’d say Michael Jordan couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, he’s just lucky. Tiger Woods is lucky he’s not shanking every shot……..he’s lucky. It’s absurd. They worked damned hard.

    Secondly, you seem unable to comprehend that your experience isn’t everyone elses, especially with regard to the value of hard work. You do realize that hard work, even combined with intelligence and ability, is not a guarantee of success? Maybe in your case it really is all about you and your ability and hard work that got you where you are, but if that is the case then you are atypical.

    You aren’t fully appreciating what people mean by “luck.” You’ve brought up the Tiger Woods example many times. Have you actually read about his background? The example of Tiger Woods paints a different picture than what you’re suggesting. Sure he worked very hard and yes, he has innate talent (the product of a bit of “luck” itself – not everyone is a prodigy), but I think the fact that his Dad loved golf and was pretty good at it was a big factor as well. Tiger was introduced to golf while still in diapers and his Dad pushed him throughout his childhood to practice and excel. Do you think Tiger would be where he is today if his Dad loved Scrabble instead of golf? Was it preordained that he would be introduced to golf at such a young age, recognized as a prodigy, and carefully mentored by a father to exploit that talent?

    Tiger is an example where a happy confluence of events came together to produce an exceptional player. There’s no doubt that Tiger’s hard work and talent were critically important to his success, but he would not have succeeded without a lot of other factors, many of which were beyond his control, not least of which was the opportunity to try golf in the first place. It’s therefore a tad simplistic to overstate the effects of “great effort, risk taking, innovation and hard work” and assume that everyone rises or falls on those factors alone.

    Oh, and a society that views itself as a community with obligations to others in that community is a society that also promotes “risk taking.” After all, one of the great things about this country is that the price for failure is comparatively low. People aren’t apt to take risks if failure will result in living in a dumpster eating scraps.

  • michael reynolds

    I know that the more I practiced, the luckier I got.

    The other day my sister unearthed the earliest example of my writing. I was 7 1/2. A smart, observent reader familiar with my published work would recognize that 90% of what I do now, I did then. The rhythm, the tics, the short choppy sentences that may or may not have a verb. I already had what we call a “voice.”

    Seven and a half, by which point I had worked hard all the way through what, the first semester of second grade?

    DNA, Drew. Without the gift of DNA I’d be tending bar. DNA, environment, free will and random chance, all interlocking and interacting to a degree that makes it impossible to clearly differentiate.

    The “I worked hard” theory of life is horse shit, unless you suppose that people working a double shift at In-N-Out for 10 bucks an hour are being lazy. You simply cannot demonstrate that “hard work” equals financial success.

    Arrange the following individuals by wealth and degree of hard work: Kim Kardashian, Drew, random burger flipper, random soldier humping a 60 pound pack in Afghanistan, Seth Rogan. Using those examples, explain the way hard work yields big money.

  • Arrange the following individuals by wealth and degree of hard work: Kim Kardashian, Drew, random burger flipper, random soldier humping a 60 pound pack in Afghanistan, Seth Rogan. Using those examples, explain the way hard work yields big money.

    I think you also need to consider risk as well. For example working as a burger flipper probably does not entail all that much risk. At the same time the soldier both works hard and faces considerably risk. What are all the benefits he gets? I don’t know. I Know the pay is pretty cruddy, but many of his needs are provided for…total compensation? Again, I don’t know as we’d also have to factor in other things like various college benefits.

    As for Kim Kardashian I’m pretty sure that figuring out how to turn her car on every morning is an enormous amount of work for her.

  • sam

    I watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians, once. Being Kim Kardashian seems pretty risky to me.

  • I’m certain I couldn’t walk a mile in her shoes.

  • Icepick

    It’s therefore a tad simplistic to overstate the effects of “great effort, risk taking, innovation and hard work” and assume that everyone rises or falls on those factors alone.

    Drew would have been just as successful no matter what – even if he had been born in the old Soviet Union. We all know how well entrepenuerial spirits did under that regime.

  • I imagine he would have, Icepick. He strikes me as a natural competitor with a taste for finer things. He would have had a dacha in the woods, and espoused a different line of philosophy, because that’s what it would have taken to meet his definition of success in a different culture.

    Likely all of us would.

  • As for Kim Kardashian I’m pretty sure that figuring out how to turn her car on every morning is an enormous amount of work for her.

    Kim Kardashian is not my cup of tea (not to mention not meeting the minimum age requirement). That having been said beauty is some weird combination of genes, brains, and hard work. Don’t underestimate the amount of upkeep.

    It’s either that or it takes a syndicate. That’s how the studios could turn out screen beauties the way Ford does automobiles. They started with girls who had basic good looks, sent them to starlet school, and then had their makeup done by Wally Westmore and their clothes designed by Edith Head. And I mean their everyday street makeup and their ordinary clothes.

    BTW, Michael, while we’re on the subject of the melancholy Dane, here’s another nice quote: “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends rough-hew them how we will”.

    And, Janis, I don’t think anybody could walk a mile in her shoes. Have you looked at them?

  • Did your mother ever try, Dave? She had the look.

  • She spent age zero to six on stage, Janis. Literally born in a trunk. After that she’d had enough. Although IIRC she did audition for TV once when I was about ten or twelve (she didn’t get the part).

    I’ve got her first clippings, her first contract, and the first dollar she ever earned. I’ve posted some pictures of her during that period but I just realized I’ve never posted one of her in costume. 80 years later she could still do her routines and the last time I saw her before her final decline she taught me some of her dad’s routines (I already knew most of them). She was a bit disappointed that none of her grandkids had the stage savvy to pick them up.

  • Oh, yes, I’ve looked at Kardashian’s shoes . It was a joke. I’m not sure I could even get up on them without a barre.

  • Drew

    Back in Chicago.

    So I see the 67 comments. Who else can I piss off and generate 15 more?

    I see the thread commenters have decided to gang up and castigate me about ability and hard work vs luck. Simply DNA as Sir Reynolds puts it. OK. I think that’s complete and total bullshit. But in the spirit of debate, really, people, how many of you can come up with concrete examples of people who have made it basically on a roulette wheel? (please, spare me the one in a million Paris Hilton crappola).

    I traffic in the world of successful people. Are there members of the lucky sperm club? Of course. Are there people at the right place and the right time? Of course. But the vast, and I mean vast, majority of the successfull people I run into are talented, but more importantly, risk takers who have experienced near (entreprenuerial) death experiences. They forged on.

    I’m a bit flummoxed by the general retort to my position on this blog. It’s as if the commenters, as a general proposition, only believe in luck and chance. My experience, with empirical verification, says bullshit.

    Do you all buy lottery tickets as your pathway to success? That’s where you sit philosophically.

  • Drew

    Andy

    I don’t think you know it, but you made my point.

  • michael reynolds

    I’m a bit flummoxed by the general retort to my position on this blog. It’s as if the commenters, as a general proposition, only believe in luck and chance. My experience, with empirical verification, says bullshit.

    You aren’t exactly addressing the issues, Drew. But I know you just got off a flight and as a person who has often flown in and out of ORD, I can’t find it in my heart to castigate you.

  • Andy

    Drew,

    Talent comes at least partly if not mostly from DNA. Yes, you work with talented people – that’s the nature of your job, right? It not like you fund the hard-working but talentless?

    Secondly, no one is saying that “only” luck and chance matter. I am simply disputing your assertion that talent and hard work are everything that success flows from. They account for a lot, but luck and opportunity matter a lot more than you seem to think. Maybe in the VC bubble you live in that is the case, though I doubt it. In the rest of the world, luck matters a lot.

  • Andy

    Drew,

    If I’m making your point, then I missed something along the way.

  • Drew

    Michael

    I’m sufficiently plane tolerant to take castigation. Seriously, what issue have I not addressed?

    Andy

    At some point one simply has to drop the argumentation and look at results. If you insist that it’s primarily (note I said primarily) luck then you live and die by that philosophy. I know a lot of people with that world view. None successfull, all bitter. You pays your money and takes yer chances.

    I’ll take the worker/optimist vs the fatalist any day.

  • Icepick

    Drew, you ignorant slut.

    I traffic in the world of successful people.

    You are dealing with a self-selected sample of people that ONLY meet your criteria. So OF COURSE THEY ALL MEET YOUR SELF-SELECTED CRITERIA! Goddamn, have you forgotten ALL of your mathematical training, or just the stuff that would inconveniently crush your world-view?

    How many entrepeneurial types have been hard-working risk-takers with talent that have failed? A goddamned lot of them have. How many times did Ford go broke before he figured it out? What if that last time had failed, or if he hadn’t been able to get any more backing after a string of failures? Or decided that it was too much stress on his family and went back to work for Edison? You have selected ALL of those people out of your life BY THE NATURE OF YOUR JOB. And yet you cannot see how skewed that makes the sample upon which you base your judgement.

    Reynold’s says he knows writers more talented than he is that can’t sell in voulme like he does. You tell him he’s full of shit, even though you acknowledge that he knows HIS BUSINESS better than you do. What you are doing is choosing your sample to reinforce your own prejudices.

    How many golfers are there that have had talent and worked their asses off but they just can’t get their Tour card, or keep it for more than a season? Someone that is the 200th best golfer in the USA is essentially a nobody scrambling for work. That does NOT mean that he isn’t working his ass off, or lacks talent. It does mean that for whatever variety of factors he just ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH. That is tough luck for him.

    Since you love talking about the people at the top, let’s look at some of them. What was the biggest failing of John Stockton? He didn’t win a title. His tough luck was being born into a generation of basketball talent whose careers over-lapped those of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Guys like him and Charles Barkley, what were their great failings? Didn’t they work hard enough? Have enough talent? Perhaps the competition was just a little better. Doesn’t luck play some factor there?

    And this process is iterative in such an environment. For all the guys like Stockton and Barkley, there are even more guys that couldn’t meet their levels. And so on and so forth, to the guys that are career twelfth men (Incidentally, Greg Kite has more NBA Championship rings Barkley, Stockton, Malone and Patrick Ewing combined. I guess that makes him more talented and hard-working than all those other guys combined. And Trent Dilfer is a better quarterback than Dan Marino and Dan Fouts combined.), all the way down to those that just can’t make it in the league. It isn’t all just about luck, but don’t tell me it doesn’t make a difference.

    And while we’re talking about basketball, explain how Allen Iverson (“Practice? We’re talking about practice“) fits into your hard-work theory for successful people?

    And tell Greg Cook that luck has nothing to do with it. Greatest QB who never was, all because of one bad hit in his rookie season and being unlucky enough to be in the business about 20 years before MRIs were in common use.

    Let’s look at the world of business. How did Microsoft get so big? How did they go from a struggling software company going nowhere to GOLIATH? Because they got the contract to provide IBM with operating software. Software that they didn’t develop, but bought it from someone else who hadn’t been fortunate enough to be contacted by IBM. And even at that, Microsoft wasn’t even the first choice of IBM, but the guys who WERE the first choice pissed on their chance because they apparently didn’t like IBM. Yeah, Gates ONLY made it because of his hard work and talent.

    Yeah, luck has nothing to do with anything….

  • Icepick

    Drew, in your world view, anyone that isn’t at least as rich and successful as you are is an abject failure with poor character, low intelligence and contemptible work habits. This is what you are implying. How is it you are so stupid you don’t (a) see that is what you are doing, (b) realize that is going to piss off everyone whose ego doesn’t get a fluff job from it, and (c) that the “poor little me” crap you throw on top it is just repugnant?

  • steve

    Drew- As I said, I believe that most wealthy, successful people really have worked very hard. Many took risks. However, I just dont see the wealthy as a monolithic group. many did inherit their money. Many had family connections. Many (think financial sector) made their money taking risks with other people’s money, knowing their downsides were covered. Some are just pure rent seekers. I suspect that you hang out with those who are less likely to engage in these behaviors, so your direct observations will have a skew.

    That aside, we enacted measures that let the upper income group retain more of what it earned (lower cap gains and dividend taxes) under the assumption that it would be a net benefit to the US as a whole. I see no evidence that has happened. If anything, what I see is that very upper income group engaged in very high risk, high return strategies that cost the rest of the country an awful lot. Also, if we extrapolate out from trends of the last 30 years, with all wealth and income increases going to the top, how do we avoid their having to bear more of the tax burden? I know you are a numbers guy, so make this work for me.

    Steve

  • …with all wealth and income increases going to the top…

    I’ll take you seriously when you stop writing stupid pablum.

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