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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Republicans Love George Jefferson

After spending some time in Jefferson City at Missouri's State Capitol building with a large group of Democrats and Union leaders, it became very clear to me that they have no idea what I'm talking about.  Now I am definitely used to this.  As I ramble on and on around the house, my family often has no idea what I'm talking about.  But that's mostly because they are simply disinterested in whatever I'm talking about.  What took place in Jeff City was different because we were discussing subjects that mattered to them.  Yet they were utterly clueless on what I was saying even as we moved from topic to topic.

As those who know me can attest, I am not one to back away from arguing my position, even when clearly outnumbered.  I went out of my way to argue against Right to Work with my fellow Republicans and against Obamacare and government spending with my fellow Union leaders.  I don't think I had a single non-confrontational conversation all week.  Our waitress even found my lunch order suspect whereby she pushed a Coke in front of me despite my request for a Diet Coke.  It was that kind of trip.  But I enjoyed every minute of it.

I'm not sure where the blame lies, whether it's the lobbyist (sorry, Travis and Adam), the news media or the blinders we put upon ourselves, but every time I spoke, it seemed that it was the first time anyone had ever heard my side of the issue.  Despite what I may wish, my views are just not that original, so there seems to be a glitch in the system.

When we discussed the Health Care Reform law passed last year, I was told that something had to be done and the Republicans didn't have a plan.  When we discussed that both parties were to blame for the high deficits, I was told that I was the first Republican to ever say such a thing.  When we discussed de-regulation, I was told that deregulating meant having no laws.  When we discussed entitlements, I was told that Republicans want to do away with Social Security and the whole safety net.  When we discussed the problems of Big Business, I was told that Wall Street funds the Republican Party.  When we discussed workers, I was told that Republicans don't care about workers.
Somewhere these ideas about Republican came into existence.  I can't tell how or why, but I can do my best to illuminate others.

MYTH #1Republicans only care about the Rich and not the Poor

Sometimes in life we find certain things that are counter-intuitive.  

·         Turning into the slide when skidding on ice
·         Don’t attempt to escape in quicksand
·         Play dead when you’re attacked by a bear
·         Buying a 32 roll pack of toilet paper at Sam’s Club saves money
·         Stand perfectly still when you encounter a T-Rex
·         More guns mean less crime

Kevin Williamson of National Review, offers us another when he writes,
This may sound like a liberal parody of conservative economic thinking, but let me put it out there: America’s problem is that the rich don’t have enough money.
Too often our intuition tells us that the rich hold all the cards and if we just tax them more, we can solve our problems.  But the facts don’t support this.  The Bush tax cuts for the rich decreased revenue by $800 billion over 10 years.   The Bush tax cuts for the middle class decreased revenue by $2.2 trillion over the same 10 years.

While President Obama had defined the rich as $250,000, Williamson explains that this group doesn’t have the money to save us.  He then looks at just the $1 million group, which he calls Club 1.
You want to tax Club 1 to get rid of the deficit, you have to hit each of those 200,000 households with an average tax hike — not an average tax bill, but tax increase — of $6 million. And a lot of those Club 1 households don’t have $6 million in income to start with, much less $6 million left after the taxes they’re already paying.
Every time you raise the threshold for eating the rich, you get a much, much smaller serving of meat on the plate — but the deficit stays the same. The long division gets pretty ugly. You end up chasing a revenue will-o’-the-wisp.
Not enough money there, so what about just the mega-rich?
 So, what about Lloyd Blankfein and Charlie Sheen and Tiger Woods? What about these people? You can tax the striped pants off of them, but you won’t get enough money to balance the budget. If you’re doing it, you’re probably mostly doing it because it feels good. (And, yes, that does make you a bad person.)
Correction: You can try to tax the striped pants off of them. Lloyd Blankfein and Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen have a lot of discretion about when, where, and how they get paid. Lloyd Blankfein does not look at a pay stub every two weeks and shake his head sadly, and make sad little sighing sounds; guys like that do something about it. They move to low-tax jurisdictions. They defer. They incorporate. They set up enormous trusts to keep their ne’er-do-well nephews in boat shoes and gin and political office while avoiding taxes. They lawyer up. They will play the game, and they are better at it than you are.
Really, we are no closer to fixing our deficit than when we began.  So there is really only one place to go to tax our way out of budget deficits.
So, how about taxing people who make less than $250,000? That’s probably whom you want to tax, since they are the ones who have the money (Counterintuitive, I know.)
We all understand that increasing taxes on the middle class is not our answer either.  In truth, the only way we can increase our revenue in any real substantial way is to create more taxpayers and increase the income of the current taxpayers.

When Republicans push for tax cuts, it is not to reward a select group of people.  It is used as a mechanism for broadening the tax base.  Supply side economics do have real world effects.  Follow the movement of economic growth following the tax cuts of Harding, Kennedy and Reagan.  While government revenues were decreased in the short term, the economic expansion of the nation led to increased revenues in the long term as jobs were created leading to more taxpayers and wealthier taxpayers.

In the world as the Republicans see it, there is constant movement taking place as its citizens move up and down the wealth scale – its dynamic, not static.  The policies in place should encourage and enable citizens the opportunity to move up the ladder.

We want to see more George Jefferson’s.  Nothing against Archie Bunker, but George took a chance, quit his job and invested his money in opening his own business, took out the loans to open another store, probably worked 80 hours or more to make it work with little to show for it at home for several years.

Eventually, he had seven stores and had made enough to move up “to a deluxe apartment in the sky”.  He was now on the upper end of the middle class or lower end of the rich scale by President Obama’s numbers.  His seven stores had created probably around 50-100 jobs.

Given what George Jefferson has done for himself and the economy, why would we want to punish this man by drastically increasing his taxes?  Even if we did, he might just fire Florence or cut a few jobs in his stores.  In seeking to gain revenue, we’ve instead lost jobs.

Having a system in place that allows and rewards the George Jefferson’s of America to succeed is vital.  On the other end, we need to use incentives to move those at the bottom, up to the middle class.

President Kennedy once made the comment that a rising tide lifts all boats in promoting his tax cuts.  Sadly, though, some people have been tossed overboard and are no longer in the boat.  A rising tide threatens to swamp them.

Our initial response has been to toss them a lifesaver – something to help them stay afloat.  Both Republicans and Democrats agree on this.  The difference comes in how we approach the next step.

Too often the Democrat approach amounts to no more than trying to drain the ocean.  After 40 years of the War on Poverty, we are no closer to fixing the problem and we have effectively doomed entire groups of people to a life of poverty with no hope for change.  We keep tossing more lifesavers while we try to bring the system down to their level by redistributing the wealth.  This has no chance of success.

The Republicans believe it is better to provide them boats via jobs.  We have to get them into the system that provides a path to a better tomorrow.  The jobless sit on the outside looking in at a system that can provide wealth to their family.

In our country’s past, the poor moved where the jobs were.  Today, this still takes place with our immigrant population.  But the poverty programs that have been put in place discourage this type of movement.  Picking up and moving one’s family is a risk – it’s similar to the risks that George Jefferson took.  But our poor our disincentivized against taking that risk.  Sometimes, even taking any job is a risk, due to the nature of the federal and state aid programs.

We need a system that says that any boat is better than no boat.  This may seem cruel and is often used as an example of such in complaining about Republican policies toward the poor.  But what is crueler, providing even a simple raft or condemning them to a lifetime adrift doing all they can to keep their head above water?

We can keep tossing out lifesavers, but at some point providing a ladder to improve their situation is the more humane response.  A thousand George Jefferson's will do more for them than any government program we can devise.

Jefferson's Dry Cleaning is the epitome of the American Dream.  But if the risk takers are forced to sacrifice their rewards, the real harm is done to those looking to grab the lowest rung on the ladder.  When the small business employer disappears, that ladder is pulled beyond the reach of those who most need it.

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