Posted by: minnow | September 17, 2012

Reality Check

These days I am not particularly “well informed” but I’m getting better.  I used to be pretty savvy about political issues, back in the day when I was a Young Republican, being groomed (without really understanding it at the time) to be a politician’s wife, and swallowing hook line and sinker the conservative ideal.  I could debate most any topic and usually won.  I was well versed in the opposition’s sound bites and had developed witty comebacks along with a few well crafted statistics to throw at my challengers when they weren’t expecting it.

Then I got distracted. I actually tried to live out the ideals I’d been handed, believing that if you were educated (and everyone could be if they wanted to be) and worked hard (and of course there was an adequate job for everyone who actually wanted to work) you could have your own little piece of the pie.  What I failed to see then and am starting to understand now is what lies at the root of most of the disparity between the economic classes.   Not every job, even every full time job, provides an adequate living wage.  My husband, who is a sub contractor, recently did some work for a lawyer who tried to get my husband to cut his rate.  Even without adjusting his fee my husband still made four times less than the lawyer per hour.  Later I figured out that without insurance I had to work eleven hours to pay my doctor for one hour of her time. That difference is huge especially when you realize that a gallon of milk doesn’t care who buys it or how much money you make.  It still costs the same.  And, if your state has sales tax that tax doesn’t care how much you make either.

Having brought up taxes, let us understand something about how they work.  Most of the ultra wealthy make most of their money by investing their surplus.  In other words, the rich make their money off other people’s debt.  The rate the profit from those investments is taxed is not as high as it would be if the investor actually worked an hourly job.  For those who already have more than enough to meet their bills (those with a surplus to invest) it actually pays more to not work than to work.  Thus you sometimes hear the phrase “welfare for the rich” attached to investment income.  The reason often given to justify taxing investment profits at a lower rate is that the investors run the “risk” of not making their money back.  In other words, they are taking a “gamble”.  Yet profits from other forms of gambling are taxed at nearly 50%.

According to the US Census Bureau 15.3% or 46.2 million people lived in poverty in 2010.  Nearly 1 million of those had full time jobs.  Do you understand what that means? Working 40 hours a week, week after week, the working poor still can’t make it above the poverty level.  Somehow that statistic doesn’t jell with what I was taught as a Young Republican about how being willing to work hard pays off.  Nor does the fact that in some schools in this country there aren’t enough desks or books for each child to have one, the plumbing doesn’t work and the insulation is falling out of the ceiling, while across town cheerleaders are having difficulty picking out their new school funded uniforms.  How is this kind of inequality possible?  It has to do with the way public schools are funded.  If you don’t happen to live in a wealthy school district (a neighborhood with high property values) and can’t afford private school then you’re simply out of luck.

I am no longer in the Young Republican camp and not just because I’m no longer young.  I can’t stomach the disparity between the top 1% and the bottom 15.3%.  I’m tired of being told I just need to work hard as if I don’t already do that.  I don’t want my children to have to take out a loan (AKA make the rich a little richer) so they can go to college in order to get a job that might pay them above the minimum wage so they can pay back double what it actually cost them to go to school.  I’m tired of wondering if our planet will survive due to global warming and undrinkable water.  I don’t understand a government that spent 768 billion dollars on defense–out spending its nearest competitor (China) by 6 to 1, or a candidate who would spend even more on the military than what the military has asked. ( And, just for the sake of comparison, the US spent 78 billion on primary through secondary education in the same year–2011).

I voted in every presidential election since Ronald Reagan’s first term.  In all that time I never voted for a Democrat.  That fact will change this election!

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