Democracy – Capitalist Game or a Social Contract, a Puzzle to be solved?
For some life is a game and they plan to play it to win. For others like me it is a puzzle and I play it to learn and work toward the goal of completing the puzzle. To a game player it is about getting all you can, most of time this is at the expense of others. There are always winners and losers in a game player’s world. For me it is about making life better for all. Figuring out how human nature can best be motivated to serve the common good. Every plan has its drawbacks. With every step forward we sometimes take two steps backward. But what keeps me motivated is this vision of the world the way it should be.
I had a conversation today with a friend about Obamacare. Not the first and probably not the last. My friend is upset that he might have to contribute more just so others can even afford to have health insurance. Already in the $250,000 income range and with multiple overlapping coverage he is sheltered from the reality of life in some others shoes. My friend blames the poor for his taxes.
I asked him if he believes in a progressive tax system where those that make more pay more and he said he did but his conversation says otherwise. He sounds like Mitt Romney, the poor are mooches and bums. He doesn't see his good fortune in life as a blessing but rather an entitlement, an entitlement of wealth.
I see things differently. You see my father was placed in the foster care system when his mother died and his father no longer could take care of him and his three brothers. My father was abused by those who were supposed to care for him along with his brothers. They were treated like animals. My father had some hard times, joined the military, and served this country with honor. Eventually he had a family. A family that he was determined to give the life he never had. We didn't even know of the hardship my Dad faced in his youth until we were all much older.
I worked hard, went to college, and eventually gained employment in one of the largest corporations in America only to later lose my career due to disability.
I never saw the rewards of my labors. The system, the safety net, picked me up before I hit bottom. I never felt less of a person than anyone else and unlike the opinions of the rich, I never envied them or held anger toward their success.
But today, listening to my friend, I felt motivated to share this diary, this post.
The whole idea of a progressive tax system is that there are certain things everyone needs to survive; food, clothing, and shelter. Once your income covers these basic needs you have stepped up the ladder. By so doing you can afford to contribute more so that others who don't even have the basics can also live.
The middle class has bought into a lie. A lie that says the poor are bums and no good. It is their entire fault. The middle class anger at their taxes is justified but directed in the wrong direction. The wealthiest in this country avoid taxes like the plague. Most of the wealthiest pay only a 15% tax on capital gains. Others have their income in off shore tax shelters. Because they pay less the middle class is asked to pay more. When was the last time you heard a tax break for the middle class and a tax increase on the top 1%? Well why not?
My daughter in college was talking about the “welfare trap” in her economics class, one where any work to improve your situation actually makes you lose more than you gain. I have heard this before. Yes, there is a trap for some. Not due to a lack of character but due to a lack of opportunity. They are caught in a vicious cycle where they will lose more than they gain. What does it say when raising the minimum wage to a fair and reasonable level is met with such opposition? Why do we subsidize McDonald and Wal-Mart workers with food stamps instead of them raising their wages?
The word entitlement should be used to characterize the wealthy not attack the helpless senior citizens and the poor in this country.
Our economic system is rigged to maintain wealth not create opportunity for the poor. The stock market feeds foundations and endowment funds and pensions. We have become as addicted to corporate growth and profits as we accused the middle class of once being addicted to credit cards in this country. In order to maximize those profits, corporations have to pay their employees less and less and get out of their tax obligation too. This puts an even greater burden on the middle class.
Now that I have described the puzzle a little better now how about we work toward fixing it instead of blaming the poor and attacking the elderly?
At one time this nation prided itself as a nation that kept its word. We were a nation that took care of our own. Now, I see a nation that is gutting pensions, social and education programs and more to continue to feed its addiction.
The deficit isn't the problem. It is the addictions of Congress to the money powers who feed them. It is now more profitable to create problems than to solve them.
If you’re a game player then some of you are winning while the rest of us lose.
Stephen R. Covey once said, "Think Win-Win instead of Win-Lose".
Unless we make a major shift in our thinking we will all lose.
We need more puzzle solvers and less game players.