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Friday, February 18, 2011

Let's Call It A Good Start...

I recently "shared" a link on my Facebook page (I'm "Robert Chipper Thompson"... look me up, y'all!) to an article about the great disparity of wealth in our beloved United States of America, and I promised a few more of my thoughts on this. Well, here they are.

I want to be clear about one thing right up front: I want to live well and in comfort, and I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that most other people do, too. Obviously, the exact definition of "well and in comfort" is going to vary depending on how many and what kind of folks one talks to, but for the present purposes can we agree that virtually no one wants to suffer? Great. Let's move on.

The article mentions that few people have a realistic concept of what constitutes a billion dollars. It goes on to say that if you earn the median household income in the USA - that's 29,000 bucks a year - that it will take you 34,482 years to earn a billion dollars, and that's if you never spend a penny of it.

The article continues with the horrifying statistic that the top 1% of the US population owns more than 90% of the rest of us combined... or, if you want to look at it another way, 400 people own as much as one-half of the entire US population owns.

Now folks, I've recently said in conversation that I'm not a "class warrior" and I'm delighted if somebody goes out and figures out a way to make a bunch of money. It's fashionable to dislike Bill Gates, and since he's variously the first-or-second richest man on the planet, he certainly fits into our top 1% of wealth-owners. I'm also sure that there's a reasonable debate in here somewhere about how Mr. Gates made his money, whether or not its acquisition was legal and/or moral, and how he's now giving away shitloads of it for inarguably good causes like the global fight to eliminate polio... but that's not where I'm going with this blog.

Where I am going with this blog is this: we've got to make it totally illegal for those with extreme wealth to use that very money as "political speech" and for the greater good of humanity we've got to tax the hell out of those bastards.

We are never going to have even the veneer of real equality in the USA unless poor people have just as much influence on our government as rich people, and the way to do that is to make it illegal to give any amount of money to any candidate for public office. All elections should be publicly funded and all this bribery - come on, that's what it really is - should be sent down the river as quickly as possible. Corporations are NOT people and as such should NOT have any "rights," particularly that of monetary influence on our governing bodies.

And where does this money come from to publicly fund our elections? Well, from taxing the crap out of rich people, of course.

Let me clarify before we go on: "rich" is a fluid concept, and I know it. If you're on the street with a "will work for food" sign and a puppy on a rope, then the guy in a crappy rented mobile home with a '79 Trans-Am on blocks in the yard might seem rich. If you're the guy with the crappy mobile home, Chipper Thompson, that "famous" musician and artist and writer might seem rich. If you're Chipper Thompson, the guy you know who owns his own company and four houses and two Porches might seem rich. And if you're that guy, looking down from his 23rd floor balcony at the beach below, the CEOs of Boeing, General Electric, Facebook, and Halliburton might seem rich. (I can't drag this out any further or I might have to pause and spew my lunch... sorry.) So... we need a working definition of "rich" that removes passion and hurt feelings and envy from the equation.

I propose any personal income above $365,000.00 a year.

I've written before (a blog post titled "How Much Coin Does A Man Need?" and if you're reading this, just scroll down to 2008 and check it out) about that figure and how I came up with it and what it means to me, so go read that previous post and the shitstorm of comments it illicited if you want to get into the thick of it.

My point here is - again - that if the inequality of wealth in this country remains (or, Goddess forbid, gets worse) then nothing else we do has a chance in hell of getting us out of this mess. The solution is not some big, dark mystery. Let's change our "free speech" laws immediately so that the ultra-rich and their corporations can't continue to buy our politicians while we sit down here below and eat our shoes for dinner. Let's also tax the living piss out of EVERYTHING that ANYBODY makes over that $365,000.00 a year, and use the money to do stuff like providing free, safe, and technologially cutting-edge medical care for every single man, woman, and child in the country. (Yes... the list could go on and on and on, but again... that's not the argument today...)

Despite my guarded optimism and the swelling pride I feel for folks like those on the streets of Cairo, I'm not a total idiot. I know that even if my taxation ideas were implemented tomorrow, there'd still be plenty of problems. People would still suffer. But it would be a start.

And by the way, if you made $365,000.00 bucks a year, it'd still take you 2,739 years to make a billion dollars. Think about it.

Your thoughts, anyone?


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