Monday, April 08, 2013

Geek Speaking of the Wealthy

Geek Speak: I Don't Pity the Rich

Which side of this do you come down on?

From the tone of the thing it should be pretty clear where I come down. I don't pity the "rich." To be fair, the few genuinely wealthy people I know don't want pity, and don't need it. They're doing fine without it. The point here is the wealthy of our country can take care of themselves. Public policy doesn't need to shelter them because they don't need government protection or special political consideration. They can take care of themselves. So, when I see wealthy people crying about the unfairness of "tax hikes," I don't feel anything but contempt for their naked selfishness. They should be asked to contribute to the system which has been manipulated to support their affluence and excess for the last thirty years.

The cartoon is in response to this photo which has been making the rounds on facebook. I've seen it posted by otherwise reasonable, rational, compassionate peole. This sentiment, however, is none of those things. To state that an entire group of people are less fortunate because of a shared characteristic or failing is not advocating a cause, it is trading in misinformation and prejudice and engaging in nothing less than bigotry.

For the idea on this man's poster board to be true demands that you accept the notion that people who aren't doing as well as someone who is wealthy, must not be doing well because they don't work as hard. This would be vastly untrue if the animosity aimed at those in this country who are struggling stopped there.

For the last several years corporations, the very wealthy, and the lobbyists they pay to influence public policy have been changing the conversation about income inequality and how most of us, but particularly those on the right, think and talk about the poor.

It makes me sick to listen to it, because it is no less than the language of hate. This kind of naked contempt didn't exist when I was growing up, and there has certainly been a division between the haves and the have-nots for longer than I've been around.

I was going to write a long vitriolic post on what I think of this, when I stumbled across this article on the Webcomics Overlook. The article itself is good, and I'd encourage anyone to read it, especially if they're interested in webcomics. For the purposes of this post I've taken the most relevant part and included it below:

5. Anyone can do it or Just put in lots of hard work and you’ll be successful.The latter first. If you truly believe that, then how come Tim Buckley makes way more money than David Willis? How come Chris Hazelton needs to run a kickstarter in order to do his comics full time after nearly ten years? As for the former, if that were true than we would have tens of thousands more people making a living off of their work. 
I tend to be optimistic but ‘just work hard’ is some of the most naive bullshit I have ever heard and it just pisses me off when pros out there imply others aren’t working as hard as they are.
As for anyone can do it, no. Not everyone has the ability to connect with an audience like some other creators. Rich Burlew isn’t your average writer. Jim Lee isn’t your average artist. They made better products than many of us could ever hope to and that is why people are willing to give them their money. Most creators are not interchangeable.
With apologies to the author I've included the full text of the excerpt so that no one can accuse me of doctoring his words to make my point. Yes, this is about webcomics, but the reasoning applies to any industry. The CEO of a corporation doesn't work any harder than the Spanish speaking woman on a work visa he pays to clean the office and bathroom. In fact she probably works harder keeping everything clean and scrubbing piss out of bathroom tiles than the CEO works all week. If all that was required to be successful was "to work harder" the CEO would be working for the janitor.

In the discussion of income inequality we need to accept that wealthy people and corporations in our country are doing fine. Corporate profits are at record highs. Income growth over the last three years has broken double digits for the top income "eaerners." We also have to accept that income for the middle and lower income brackets has not grown at the same pace. Income for those in the middle class has grown less than three percent and for those in the lowest income group the news is even worse. Their pay has actually contracted. 

The conversation needs to change again. Instead of allowing Washington to wrap its arms around the wealthy and corporations, we need to acknowledge those groups are doing fine. They don't need anyone's protection, and they can take care of themselves. Where we need to focus our efforts is on those working hard to provide for their families who don't pull down paychecks in the six (or seven, or ten) digits.

Will that mean ending some subsidies, closing tax loopholes, and taking away incentives like those that encourage American companies to outsource jobs overseas? Yes. Will that be painful for these corporations? Yes. But, and to end on a geeky note, in the words of Star Trek II: the Wrath of Kahn, "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few..."

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