This kind of talk from George Will, on today’s This Week With George Stephanopolous, is just disgusting:

I think there’s a radical sense of dislocation. They think we have adopted an economic model of Lemon Socialism, transferring wealth from the successful to the unsuccessful. That is not a long-term recipe for national success.

Translated into current reality, Will is saying that because Obama has proposed to restore the top tax rate for the top 5% of income tax payers and cut taxes on the remaining 95%, this is “transferring wealth from the successful to the unsuccessful“.

Unsuccessful“? Seriously!? This is a sentiment that pervades American culture that frankly disgusts me. Far too many people in this country labor under the latent notion that you’re not “successful” until you make a lot of money. To suggest that a dockworker, machinist or plumber making a good living at, say, $75,000 per year is somehow “unsuccessful” is shameful. And we wonder why Americans have grown so disgusted with the conservative elites in Washington…

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  1. Gherald says:

    Sure, success is a relative thing. He could have said "transferring wealth from those more successful to those less successful" to make this clearer, and probably would have in a column.

    But since this was a talk show I think you're expecting too much precision; 'successful/unsuccessful' is reasonable shorthand.

    • Metavirus says:

      i disagree. i have seen this kind of framing employed time and time again. i find even your revised language objectionable. it is absolutely wrong to consider someone making $250k per year as somehow "more successful" than someone who has devoted their life to a craft that doesn't pay that much. would you really sign off on the idea that someone who works their way up from entry-level machinist to a shift supervisor over a 20 year career is "less successful" than an investment banker who is on the job for 3 years and makes over $250k? this kind of framing needs to stop. seeing the dollar figures on someone's paycheck as the measure of "success" is corrosive and wrong.

      • Gherald says:

        It's a measure of monetary success. If you're interested in other forms of success, that's wonderful; I am too.

        But Will's comments were about transferring money, not other things.

        I see nothing corrosive or wrong about him talking about what he wants to talk about rather than whatever it is you wish he were talking about.

        • Metavirus says:

          i am not "wishing" that he meant anything. his comments and yours use "success" as a proxy for the attainment of greater amounts of material wealth. this sentiment i think leads to a corrosive undercurrent in american society wherein people too often view people who make lots of money as inherently better and, yes, more "successful" than people who work in jobs that don't carry the promise of attaining great amounts of material wealth. i fundamentally disagree with the notion that an investment banker who's been on the job for three years (who makes more than $250k per year) is more "successful" than a lifelong machinist who makes much less than that.

          • Gherald says:

            It's not a proxy, but rather one form of success. And the one that happens to be relevant when you're talking about transferring money, as Will was, because in this area those who make more money are more successful than those who do not.

            Again, there are areas of success that have nothing to do with money which you're welcome to be concerned about. It's just unrealistic to expect others to talk about them in the context of transferring money.

            • Metavirus says:

              "It's just unrealistic to expect others to talk about them in the context of transferring money. "

              No, it's not unrealistic at all. George Will and his fellow travelers who traffic in this successful/unsuccessful rhetoric can phrase it in any number of different, less offensive ways. George Will should be especially held to a higher standard of choosing the words that he actually means, considering his pedantic proclivities and his penchant for selectively parsing out specific meanings and subtext presented in the spoken words of Democratic politicians. If you or Will want to target the discussion to the narrow definition of "success" you suggest, the proper and quite easy way to frame it would be to say "transferring wealth from the wealthy to the less wealthy". problem solved.

              the word success carries a much broader context than is warranted in a statement like "transferring wealth from the successful to the unsuccessful." an average middle-class person working their whole life to reach a high level of success making $75,000 per year can reasonably view such a statement as somehow impugning the quality of their "success".

              • Gherald says:

                View it however you like, but when someone's talking about monetary/financial success, they're talking about monetary/financial success.

                Your suggested alternative, "transferring wealth from wealthy to the less wealthy" does not explicitly refer to the monetary/financial success Will is talking about. In effect, it's the same as "transferring money from those who have more money to those who have less money", which does not make Will's point. Will's point is that some people have make more money for a reason — i.e., they're more successful at it.. Since money represents the market value of goods and services, this is important.

                • Metavirus says:

                  well, we can agree to disagree. i disagree that my alternative phrasing wouldn't address specifically what will is driving at. my main point in writing the post was to point out how offensive the phrase "transferring wealth from the successful to the unsuccessful" can be, based on valid and commonly understood meanings of the word "success". you successfully pointed out that there are certain narrow interpretations of the word "success" that make what Will is saying technically accurate and inoffensive.

                  as a side note, in my view you are giving Will generous credit by giving a favorable reading on meaning and subtext that Will all-too-often doesn't himself grant to the politicians he sometimes singles out for subtext-parsing umbrage based on the particular words the politician chose to use.

                  • Gherald says:

                    I could be wrong since I haven't seen the show, but from the part you quoted it seems clear enough to me that Will was never talking about non-monetary success.

                    Will may himself be guilty of this sort of "subtext-parsing umbrage" elsewhere, but two wrongs don't make a right.

                    • Metavirus says:

                      i'm not engaging in "subtext-parsing umbrage". i'm taking the broad, generally understood definition of "success" and calling Will out for explicitly saying that Obama wants to take from the "successful" and give to the "unsuccessful". if he meant something different than that, then i'll give credit to his explanation. my umbrage over what he said requires absolutely no "subtext-parsing". reading his words in the most charitable light requires the parsing of subtext.

                    • Gherald says:

                      > my umbrage over what he said requires absolutely no "subtext-parsing". reading his words in the most charitable light requires the parsing of subtext.

                      Ok maybe "subtext-parsing" isn't the right term for what you're doing. What I'm trying to say is I think Will's specific meaning was clear from the context, and that this "broad, generally understood definition of 'success'" (I'm not convinced there is such a thing) is not at all what Will meant.

                    • Metavirus says:

                      P.S. Thanks for engaging with me on this topic this morning. You're helping me avoid watching Dick Armey masturbate over his Tea Parties on Meet the Press.

                      Edit: Screw it, I tried watching a few more minutes of MTP and I couldn't stand it.

  2. Sue says:

    LG You are so right!!! All I hear from the right lately is liberals don't work, we're just lazy good- for- nothins who live off the government!! Do you know how much a welfare check is, it doesn't even pay the electric bill! So, to you big-mouth no-it-alls, the middle-class hard working Americans are sick of carrying the the back breaking load! We work damn hard for our money and deserve this tax break! Damn these people piss me off!!

    • Gherald says:

      I'm puzzled to see welfare being discussed in the context of working hard.

      I think everyone deserves equitable tax breaks; the problem is getting politicians to stop spending our money.

      • Metavirus says:

        I realize when you say "stop spending our money" you don't mean to stop spending entirely. The real debate is over which areas receive too much government spending. Defense contracting, for one, needs to be cut considerably.

        As for "everyone deserves equitable tax breaks", I don't believe that the top 5% deserve tax breaks right now, just as I didn't believe they (or anyone else for that matter) deserved tax breaks under the Bush administration. Lest we forget, Bush was the first President in American history to push for tax cuts during a time of war.

        • Gherald says:

          I actually meant THE money, i.e. whatever would stop being collected via taxes. Deficits matter; you can't go on cutting taxes without cutting spending as many like to pretend.

          • Metavirus says:

            "you can't go on cutting taxes without cutting spending as many like to pretend"

            that's precariously close to a straw man in my view. i doubt there is any serious politician out there who doesn't think that spending needs to be cut over the next four years. Obama himself said that his goal is to slash the deficit by the end of his first term.

            • Gherald says:

              It's not a straw man. Yglesias, for example, understands that taxes need to go up to pay for planned progressive spending sprees.

              He says: "Obama’s pledge to eschew any tax increases whatsoever on the bottom 95 percent of the population was fundamentally misguided"

              I made the point in the comments that yes his promise is economically misguided, and it's good of Yglesias to be honest about this. But it's politically smart for Obama to promise pie-in-the-sky spending increases with simultaneous tax and deficit decreases.

              Those promises got him elected, but the math doesn't work.

              Obama's slashing of the deficit is a red hering. The slash comes from winding down overseas wars, which is wonderful, but he's dramatically increasing the money spent on domestic programs (the most progressive budget in 40 years), and we simply don't have the money for this in the long run without tax increases.

              In sum, Tea Partiers had a valid point when they gave their kids signs about how Obama is spending their future before they can even vote on it. That's taxation without representation, as Jonah Goldberg argues in an unusually sane Corner post.

              (Republicans are guilty of the same make-believe kind of math when they cut taxes without cutting spending, as you've already pointed out. So I think I'm right to say "many like to pretend". It happens on both sides.)

              • Metavirus says:

                if the potential for future tax increases is what you meant then, yes, I agree with you. leaving aside the political machinations about whether to be more up front about this, i believe future tax increases would be warranted. we all-too-often become myopically focused on what happened since Jan 20th, but we need to view the first decade of the 21st century in its totality in order to be intellectually honest in our assessment. you can read a much longer disquisition on the subject in my post here: http://www.librarygrape.com/2009/04/testament-fro… . in sum, Bush and his enablers in Congress (both Democrat and Republican) recklessly and irresponsibly cut taxes for the first time during a time of war. add to that the highly irresponsible deregulation of the financial sector which led to the largest systemic collapse of the financial sector since the great depression and you are left with an enormous, gaping crater (made up of wildly increased government spending coupled with irresponsibly low levels of revenue) that the Bush administration left for Obama.

                because Bush and his cronies went on a wild spending binge while at the same time cutting taxes at a time when such tax cuts were unwarranted, what else is obama supposed to do? TARP was approved under Bush — Obama needs to see it through. Bush and his cronies set the stage for an enormous bubble to burst — Obama now needs to do the things necessary to claw our way back from the edge of financial ruin.

                could the administration be more honest about what's coming down the pike? sure. i don't think that's as important a question as whether Obama's actions are necessary and prudent.

              • Metavirus says:

                P.S.

                "That's taxation without representation"

                No, it's not. Taxation without representation means taxes imposed on a people who have no say over whether such taxes are imposed (i.e., taxes on a vassal state by a foreign power). It's clever to frame it in terms of taxes being imposed on our kids, who ostensibly have no "representation" — but that's not true. They, like their parents, were represented by Bush and his cronies who created a huge fiscal crater, and they are currently represented by Obama and the Congress who are tasked with making decisions for filling in that crater.

                • Gherald says:

                  I think you're missing the point, representation happens when you can vote for a representative.

                  Everyone under 18 and everyone not yet born and everyone in D.C. who can't vote for congressmen and everyone in the original 13 colonies who couldn't vote for an English MP are all being taxed without representation.

                  Ostensibly our representatives should care about our kids and future kids as much as we do, but that's not always the case, particularly when they deficit spend.

                  • Metavirus says:

                    with all due respect, i think the analogy is too cute by half. i know you to be a very intelligent guy and i know you can't seriously equate a foreign power levying taxes on the people of a vassal state with our current government making decisions on behalf of our people, some of which who may not yet (or no longer) have the right to vote. are you saying its invalid for state governments to make decisions about state penitentiary policy because the felons imprisoned there may not have the right to vote? are you saying that state governments making property tax decisions that impact school funding are invalid because the kids those schools serve don't yet have the right to vote? the whole point of "taxation without representation" is that the people upon whom taxes are levied be "represented" in the government that is making the decision. kids, and felons, and parents, and everyone else, are "represented" by the leaders elected by the current slate of people eligible to vote. when our kids grow up and attain the age of majority, then they will be able to vote for people that ascribe to their views about the right level of taxation.

                    • Gherald says:

                      > are you saying its invalid for state governments to make decisions about state penitentiary policy because the felons imprisoned there may not have the right to vote?

                      I think felons should vote; we don't gain anything but a persistent resentment by disenfranchising them. But if someone breaks the law and that lawbreaking then forfeits their right to vote, it's their own fault. They weren't born into this condition.

                      Kids are supposed to be represented through their parents, but many haven't been born yet, which means their parents may not have made the decision yet and thus not be in a position to be cognizant of their future kids' interests. And even when the kid is alive for them to be concerned, we can't rely on everyone in the electorate having a sophisticated moral understanding of their responsibility for the future. (Isn't this e.g. why Dems want to cap emissions?)

                      > when our kids grow up and attain the age of majority, then they will be able to vote for people that ascribe to their views about the right level of taxation.

                      That's no comfort when the money has already been spent and must be payed back.

                    • Metavirus says:

                      its fine to enter into a conversation on the appropriate level of taxes to levy in order to provide for a bright future for our children. i think it's inaccurate and needlessly inflammatory to analogize this debate to the rallying cry of "taxation without representation" that led to the american revolution. making an argument that boils down to "a decision of our current elected representatives to engage in spending that may someday lead to higher taxes is somehow invalid because our kids and the unborn didn't have a chance to vote for the people currently in power" is, frankly, sophistry and not terribly serious. sorry if that's a bit harsh but the argument just doesn't hold any water.

                    • Gherald says:

                      It may be inflammatory, just like calling abortionists "baby killers" is inflammatory, but it's not misleading or fallacious sophistry. The issue is real, and the conversation will continue as long as projected deficits and spending levels remain so high.

                    • Metavirus says:

                      yelling "baby killers" is not sophistry. anti-choice advocates consider fetuses "babies" and consider abortion to be killing babies. it's an accurate argument from their perspective.

                      saying that any tax policy we enact now is somehow invalid under the notion of "taxation without representation" because babies and the unborn haven't had the opportunity to vote yet is, however, sophistry. it's employing an inaccurate (as I've noted above) definition of what "taxation without representation" means in order to advance one's argument using an emotional phrase that is employed in the service of such inaccurate definition.

                      i already granted that the ISSUE of what level of spending is appropriate is a good argument to have. you don't need to employ a misleading argument involving "taxation without representation" that was birthed in the mind of leading GOP sophist Doughy Pantload in order to enter into a discussion of the proper level of government spending and taxation.

                    • Gherald says:

                      Funny, you don't seem to get that the situations you talk about in paragraph #1 and #2 are the same. Fact is, Tea Partiers (and others, like me) regard taxes on future progeny as "taxation without representation" and "spending our children's future", while you do not. You call it an "inaccurate definition". Similarly, an abortionist might consider someone calling their trade baby killing an "inaccurate definition".

                      Emotionally-loaded phrases are chosen for persuading other people to give your case a hearing, but ultimately what should matter is the substance, not perpetual arguments over definitions.

                      Now that you know what some of us mean by "taxation without representation", you should engage this substance rather than insisting everyone agree to what you'd rather the phrase be restricted to.

                      In closing, I think you're making the same general mistake here that you made in regard to George Will's comments. You are focusing on the words people use and what you think they should mean, rather than on the substance that person means to convey.

                      Doing so can be amusing (I enjoy sarcasm and The Daily Show as much as the next guy) but when we're not trying to be funny, the substance of intended meanings are what move a discussion forward.

                      Even more generally, language only matters insofar as we define it.

                    • Metavirus says:

                      well, we'll agree to disagree on what the proper meaning of "taxation without representation" is then. fair enough. for a more substantive discussion on the merits and demerits of spending and taxes, i started with my post at http://www.librarygrape.com/2009/04/testament-fro… and others and will put up more posts when situations present themselves.

                    • Jane says:

                      Good grief. I've keep reading you and your argument is more sophist than Gherald's! Further, you're using rhetoric yourself "Bush and his cronies". The problem with these online arguments is that they're seldom dialectic, which drives me nuts. Logic as the foundation built with plain facts and solid reasoning instead of circling semantics! Hey, maybe every one of the thousands who showed up for the Tea Party demonstrations had a different idea of exactly precisely technically what "taxation without representation" means, but it had meaning for them, nonetheless. They're pissed. Also I'm curious why you entirely miss the point about the top 5% getting slammed and the "95%" getting a "break. " Top 5% pays the majority of taxes already, you know this. Also, about half of the 95% don't pay income taxes and worse, when the Bush tax cuts expire the 'tax breaks' go bye bye for the middle class, i.e, me.

                    • Metavirus says:

                      i don't understand what your point is about using rhetoric. there is a big difference between sophistry and rhetoric. i suggest you re-read your classics. hint: sophistry involves employing inaccurate/misleading yet emotionally appealing arguments; rhetoric doesn't necessitate the use of inaccurate or misleading arguments — it's just a manner of presenting an argument. thus, "bush and his cronies" is a fine enough way to express oneself rhetorically.

                      As to this "Also, about half of the 95% don't pay income taxes and worse, when the Bush tax cuts expire the 'tax breaks' go bye bye for the middle class, i.e, me."

                      That's just completely and unjustifiably false. If you are "middle class" or anyone else making under $250,000 per year, your taxes will decrease under Obama's plan. Other people, making over $250,000 per year, will see their taxes go up because that sliver of the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire. You are simply peddling false nonsense when you claim that "middle class" taxes would be raised under Obama's plan to let the sliver of the Bush tax cuts on people making over $250,000 per year to expire. You are entitled to your own opinions; you are not entitled to your own facts.

                    • Jane says:

                      As to your first point: I have a Masters in English—specializing in Rhetoric and Technical Communication, but I only mention that because you told me I need to 're-read the classics.' I'll just let Aristotle rest and not invoke him further in this debate…

                      As to your second point:: respectfully, at this point in time, a tax cut for for those making less than $250,000 is still only a campaign promise. If it happens I'll be glad to get it but I believe it will be short-lived as the budget deficit is at an all time high and we know where government money comes from —unless Congress borrows from a foreign country or prints more more of it, which will de-value what's already in circulation.

                      Last point: the 'sliver' of tax payers you speak of is the segment of the population that pays the majority of the taxes going into government. This information is not Jane's facts, but if you have solid research to the contrary, then I'll stand corrected.

                  • Metavirus says:

                    P.S. Citing the Doughy Pantload should give you some indication that the argument you find appealing is likely without serious merit. I've read his stuff on an off over the years (and, yes, read the article you linked to) and he's proven himself to be an intellectually dishonest rightwing hack who is ready and willing to subvert logic and rational thinking in the service of whatever his ideology happens to be at the time.

  3. LeeAnn says:

    oh my! I wonder what would be thought of a divorced librarian with a pile of student loan debt making less than 45K. How very sad…actually there's another word for it. And it's a little scarey.

  4. Kevin says:

    republicans have gone from ignoring the working class, to downright dissing them….they really dont want to get back in power…

    • Metavirus says:

      no one could have predicted that enslaving the minds of the american conservative proletariat with promises of cultural warfare against the blacks, gays, furriners, etc. would somehow backfire when relative moderates came to realize that the GOP had been acting against their economic self-interest for nearly half a century. quelle surprise!

  5. Jay Diamond says:

    Is it "re-distribution" when elected representatives tax private assets in order to build a public school or a library ?

    Is that really "re-distribution".

    Of course it isn't.

    But the Feudal Neo-Confederate Party in the United States has always tricked the uninformed white folks into thinking that the Gubm't., is all about picking their pink pockets in order to give money to "you know who".

    Republicanism=Hate for blacks

    Conservatism=Race Hatred.

    • Gherald L says:

      If the effective tax rate (a complicated concept) differs across levels of income (i.e. wealthier people pay more), then it's unquestionably a redistribution from one level of income to another.

      More generally, your examples are also a distribution from taxpayers to public school/library employees and users.

      Basically all taxes are distributions of wealth. The pertinent question is whether they're fair.

      • Metavirus says:

        personally, i don't much care for the phrase "redistribution of wealth" due to its unnecessary emotional content and for the reason you cite — all tax policy involves some redistribution of wealth (either upward or downward) so the phrase becomes functionally useless. i agree that the substantive question is whether a given tax policy is fair.

    • Jane says:

      "Re-distribution of taxes' isn't about building libraries, schools and other public government services we ALL use, it's about taking MORE and MORE income from those who either worked their way up to monetary success or had successful parents, grandparents, or other relatives who did and using it to fund MORE entitlement/welfare programs for those who DON'T pay income taxes, which happens to be about HALF THE USA POPULATION. Fact is, the middle class and wealthy pay ALL the income taxes and the wealthy pays the vast majority of what the government so freely spends!! (The budget is growing by trillions!)
      Any Democrat or Republican in this country paying income tax absolutely has the RIGHT to look at where our money is going and to protest the government's use of it if we don't like it—no matter who the heck is in the white house or congress!! All those people advocating spending our tax dollars however they want can do exactly that— as soon as they start paying for everything in this country all by themselves!!!

      • Gherald L says:

        Here's some financial advice: invest in Xanax

      • Metavirus says:

        please do report back when you send the government a demand that you be removed as a future recipient of social security, medicare, unemployment benefits, etc. etc. i will fully support your taxes being decreased as a result of your selfless action.

        • Gherald says:

          You mean we can opt-out of Social Security, Medicare, and unemployments, etc. now? Sign me the fuck up!

          • Metavirus says:

            sounds right to me, we can maintain a list of people who opt out of all social services, katrina reconstruction funds and emergency disaster rebuilding. then, when the people on this list someday find themselves in need of government aid, they can be shipped off to a third world country for the remainder of their days to ponder the decision they made back when they were healthy, in their 30s, with a good job and not victimized by a natural disaster. problem solved!

        • Gherald says:

          You didn't mention we'd have to opt out of emergency aid, too. That would involve paying less federal income taxes, then. I suppose we could create a market to provide emergency aid, but I'd rather just opt out of non-income taxes like the FICA for Social Security and Medicare. It's relatively trivial to implement.

          The problem with your idea, of course, is that many other young people like me would opt out and these entitlements would become unsustainable even more quickly.

          That's an unfortunate consequence of these entitlements having been originally extended to people who didn't grow up paying for them. Such are the fruits of generational <s>theft</s> redistribution. The last group out ends up paying for what the original group of beneficiaries got for free.

          • Metavirus says:

            well, i'm sure we can all agree that people shouldn't need to forego the actual emergency responders and national guard rescue operations in the wake of a national disaster. however, when it comes to reconstruction funds, federal housing assistance, etc. — peeps will be SOL.

            as to medicare and social security, I'm serious, I say we give every hearty tax-fearing american the choice to permanently opt out of social security and medicare (and unemployment insurance, and the new obama health plan, etc. etc.). i recommend that for those who opt out and then discover that life happened and their retirement savings dried up unexpectedly and are later faced with becoming a public charge, we pay some third world country, say, $100k each (they'd welcome the money!) to take them off our hands and then ship them overseas. problem solved! only people who consent pay into the system and those pesky people who fall on hard times (who didn't pay into the system) get taken off our hands.

  6. Gordon says:

    Christ, too, was unsuccessful.

    • Jane says:

      Christ was 'unsuccessful' how? Anyway, Christ didn't go to Rome for government assistance for himself or his corporation. He wasn't into politics, so what's your point?

      • Gherald L says:

        Apparently he didn't care at all about financial success, except to rant on about how it's easier for camels to go through eyes of needles. Being able to feed thousands of people with a few fish and pieces of bread will do this to a guy, apparently.

  7. Metavirus says:

    A poll on the topic:

    [polldaddy 1554396 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/1554396/ polldaddy]

  8. Justin says:

    And how does George Will define, "success"? Sitting in front of a TV camera and writing columns that praise the ruling elite in typical sycophantic style?

    • jarjarbush says:

      Success to George Will? Spending the bulk of his time in the summer taking mentally challenged individuals to Nationals baseball games, thoroughly compted of course.

  9. Jason says:

    George Will is merely a 'Renfield', writing columns to enhance the position of the Dracula Class, pathetically hoping one of the Masters of the Universe will bestow upon HIM the secret of immortality (i.e., a net worth that will outlast the life of its human host), and let him into the truly power elite circles. Take heart that the Dracula Class laughs behind his back, knowing he will never join in their reindeer games. He, like Renfield, is just a bug-eater.

  10. jarjarbush says:

    Burn down the mission

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