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There were two types of interesting reactions to my last post. A number of readers think that I'm a closet Obama supporter who would never support a Republican candidate. For the record, I think neither Obama nor McCain come anywhere near the minimum requirement I would like to see in a president. For example, I'd like a president who preferred science over superstition, just to name one thing. So if you think my writing suggests that one of the candidates is slightly less unsuitable than the other, that's unintentional.


I've only once donated money to a politician, and it was McCain. But that's because I made the mistake of telling one of his fundraisers, a friend of mine, that I'd donate money if the surge "worked." Admittedly that was more like paying off a bet than supporting a candidate. But time does seem to be vindicating the surge strategy, no matter what you think of how we got into the mess in the first place.


For the record, I would support a Republican candidate in the mold of Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California. As far as I can tell, he supports whatever is common sense and good economics (as experts advise him), doesn't care much about what anyone does in his or her private life, and favors science over superstition. I'm sure he's made his share of policy boners, and you will be happy to point them out, but I use him more as an example than anything else.

In my last post I joked that Obama wants to take my money and give it to people who don't work as hard as I do. As with all gross generalizations, there are plenty of exceptions. But how does it hold up as a generalization?

When I was a kid, I was mowing lawns, working on my uncle's farm, shoveling snow, washing dishes, waiting tables, and anything else I could do to save for college. Meanwhile I worked hard enough in school to graduate as valedictorian, getting a few small scholarships that helped a lot. My mother took a job on an assembly line to help pay for my college, while my dad worked his job in the post office during the day and painted houses on nights and weekends.


In college, I generally had two or three jobs along with my full course load. After college, at my first job, I got in the habit of waking around 4 am so I could put in a good twelve hours before going to night school to learn computer programming. I tried several times to use my meager programming skills to start my own business while continuing to work full time. I almost always worked nights and weekends trying to get ahead.

Eventually I got into graduate school and worked full time while taking classes nights and doing homework most of the weekend. That was the hardest three years of my life, work-wise.


And then there was Dilbert. For the first six years I kept my day job and made Dilbert comics nights, weekends, and holidays. I didn't take a day off for about ten years. At one point I was doing all of that plus writing a book that became The Dilbert Principle. The only time I saw the sun was walking to the mailbox. And I believe that all of that hard work was necessary for the good things that happened.


The average work week is something like 35 hours. For most of my work life I worked about twice that much. I'm writing this blog post on the 4th of July, and have several deadlines to satisfy. So yes, as a generalization, Obama promises to take a large chunk of my hard-earned money and transfer it primarily to people who don't work as hard. That's just a fact.

 
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Sep 25, 2008
It is frequently argued that those making more money should pay progressively more in taxes, since the increased marginal rate still leaves them with more net income. This argument has no real basis. If it were true that those making more money, and thus paying more taxes, received a disproportionately larger benefit via governmental services, then this argument would hold water, but they do not.

If anyone can make an argument that doesn’t smack of entitlement as to why I should pay taxes at a higher rate simply because I earn more money than most, I will listen. No one has been able to make a valid argument on this subject yet.

Those of us that work harder and/or are more talented, more intelligent, or more motivated should not be punished for it. Punishing people for being gifted will surely drive the gifted away.
 
 
Jul 23, 2008
You do realize every politician always provides timetables for some achievement (renewable-energy policy, balanced budget, etc.) that just exceeds their potential time in office. Then when someone new comes into office, they set a new policy that just exceeds their possible office time period.
 
 
Jul 21, 2008
Your logic is terribly flawed.

1) Something tells me you earn more than 100% more than the average worker for working 100% more. I would wager your income exceeds 1000% the average worker.
2) If you weren't talented or educated enough to work in a field you enjoyed you would probably work less hours.
3) If you weren't compensated as you have been I'm certain you would work the same hours. I spend hours of my free time reading and posting blogs. I also am blessed with the talent and education to work at a job I love and as a result I expend many many hours per week further developing it.
4) Most poor people work more and longer shifts than the middle class. Even if they work 100 hours a week at McDonalds they still will have trouble feeding 2 kids.
5) You're assuming free will has given these individuals the opportunity to advance themselves.

I am the product of a supportive and sacrificing family who has raised me with the critical thinking skills and capabilities to succeed. I am blessed by talent and opportunity and I think I need to pay more in taxes. It won't prevent me from working harder. If you took everything away from me I owned I would work just as hard and I think most successful people are the same way. You don't become a CEO to buy more stuff.

The poor started from a disadvantage and they've never gained traction through their entire lives except for the occasional miracle story to perpetuate the myth. We have cultural and societal problems we need to overcome. The leading indicator of poverty is the class of your parents. If they were poor you will be poor. That's an ENORMOUS misuse of human resources our country is letting rot in the ghettos. Our economy is festering not because we're over burdening the productive members of society but because we're over depending on the productive members of society. The solution is to raise the poor's quality of living. Provide opportunities for them and get them out of the cyclical self destructive path that poverty brings to minorities.

- Gavin Greenwalt
 
 
Jul 17, 2008
I would like to locate a strip that deals with the effects, or is that affects, of limiting web access at work: can someone direct me to their favourites regarding this subject?

Thanks
amwylie@hotmail.com
 
 
Jul 11, 2008
Nice one, Scott. After spending years convincing us that there is no such thing as free will, you act as if you worked this hard because you chose to. Just give me your money, you bloody workaholic!
 
 
Jul 10, 2008
well said Scott, I think your post was logical, at least in its reaosning that working for what you get is important. It's vital to one's sense of self worth and esteem. Hearkening to Arthur C Brooks "Who Really Cares" it is quite telling to see that those who value hard work and identify with traditional capitalist themes as well as core Judeo-Christian concepts of fair trade, etc also tend to give the most time and money to actually helping the poor. Sharing and helping is not a negative, and to be honest the news out of the WSJ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121555916730437401.html?mod=opinion_journal_political_diary
that the top 1% of US earners pay 40% of the tax burden does not in itself trouble me. What bothers me is the idea, often fostered not by hard working individuals but by lazy people like myself that the rich must pay more. There must eventually be a cut off point at which time we must say enough is enough. Am I convinced we are there already, not entirely, but when the top 50% of earners pay 97% of all federal income taxes, I think America is pretty damn close. John McCain scares me, Barack Obama scares me. Truth be told pretty much all politicians to some degree scare the hell out of me, because too often power is what they seek at the expense of everything they hold dear personally. The most well intentioned politricksters still lie, and rob us for their own agrandisement. If we can never trust government (a position I hold as true) then even momentarily trusting them to do anything other than mess things up further is an excercise in futility. Small government is the answer because its the only way to guarantee a minimum of corruption, by minimizing the area the corrupt can occupy.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 9, 2008
The main logical problem with your proposal is that your quality of life would only be improved if you had the extra money to spend that you no longer sent to the government. (Although there are probably more efficient means of redistributing income, the infrastructure is already in place via government.)
This is despite ample evidence to the contrary, that high rates of taxation actually increase overall standards of living for the entire population, including those earning large sums of money. Government money spent on education, health care, parks, waste management, infrastructure, and the legal system increases the overall well-being of the entire population. There is no point in everyone keeping 90% of their income if they have no hospitals, roads, trees, or adequate prisons.
Basically, this amounts to you get what you pay for. My country, Canada, is considered by many to be a place they would like to live. We have universal healthcare which actually makes us healthier then our American neighbours (http://www.macleans.ca/science/health/article.jsp?content=20080625_19351_19351) despite paying much less for it, have a much, much better education system, and a humane, reformed justice system where there is at least a potential for rehabilitation. Contrast this with South Africa, a similary industrialized middle-sized country with large amounts of natural resources and a representative democracy. They pay considerably less in taxes, and have a near non-existant health care system for all but the wealthiest people, prisons bursting at the seams with violent and repeat offenders, little to no new infrstructure, a hideous education system, and such extreme crime that few people will enter the streets without large groups or weapons.
Now, two people making similar amounts of money in Canada and South Africa are taxed at very different rates. But, despite facing much higher rates of taxation, the Canadian will still be better off, happier, and healthier. This is true for almost all income levels, not just the poor and middle classes.
 
 
Jul 9, 2008
Hey Scott nice company you're keeping..............

"I think if you don't have any skill or energy to earn enough to eat and shelter yourself, if you have never done anything to win over a friend or relative to keep you alive for a month or two that it takes to get on your feet, and if you've never saved enough to tide you over between jobs, then you are a poor specimen of the species and its better to don't live long enough to breed.

Our heavy tax burdens are the result of 200 years of allowing the stupid, lazy and thieving criminals to overpopulate the world, while the disciplined, hardworking ones are too busy working overtime to have kids. Let evolution do its work. Or if you prefer, let God feed the deserving poor with loaves and fishes."

Seems to be the natural consequence of your views. Oh and you seem to share a taste for Eugenics as well...... nice.
 
 
Jul 9, 2008
One of your best posts Scott - I too have been working non-stop since I was around 12, started with paperroutes, even had my own flea market business at 14 - started working on the real world at 15 and have only been out of work for a period of 2 months since then, am now 45, own my own business and work about 12 hrs a day...and would like to see a flat tax enacted. There's an old proverb, that says 'the man who doesn't work, doesn't eat"...sadly govt wastes soooo much of our tax dollars on nonsense programs. I just heard yesterday, that under Bush - govt has grown 60% over the last 6 years - we balance our budgets - why can't the govt? Do you know there were no paid govt staff until like Lincoln. George Washington paid his 1 secretary out of his own pocket!
 
 
Jul 9, 2008
Hi Scott,

Your post reads "I got in the habit of waking around 4 am".

However, I misread it at the first try "I got in the habit of WANKING around 4 am"

Note how it totally does not change the meaning or direction of your post.

Do you also have funny mis-readings from time to time? I usually enjoy mine.

Cheers,

Organization Man
 
 
Jul 8, 2008
Yes, in general I've found most people who work for themselves work harder than those who are paid regularly/hourly by an employer. Can't argue with your feelings on that one.
 
 
Jul 8, 2008
Scott - the problem isn't so much that Obama is going to take money from those who work and give it to those who don't. It's that people now expect it's their right to have that money. They have been told, and now believe, that it is fair and just that money should be taken from others and be given to them. If you were to ask the average person why they thought that was in any way fair, the most likely answer you'd get would fall along the lines of "Those greedy bastards don't deserve it; they have too much of it. It's not fair that they have all that money."

If you try to say something like, "Even if that were true, why does giving their money to YOU make any sense? What have YOU done to deserve it?" They will usually then turn on you with some ad-hominem attack, like, "You're one of those mean-spirited, greedy Republicans, aren't you?" Thereby ignoring the whole point.

When a politician like Obama comes out and says that he's going to take the greedy bastards' money and give it to other people, people react positively, believing it's their right to have it. If you take a look at the percentages, there are a lot more people who don't pay taxes as those who do. But there's one vote per person, rich or poor. If you have convinced yourself that you deserve other people's money, then you will vote for the person who promises it to you. As George Bernard Shaw said, "Those who would rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul."

McCain isn't a whole lot better. He, too, realizes (perhaps cynically) that to get elected today, you have to promise you'll give more of other people's money to the voters than the other guy. Unfortunately, Republicans can never promise as much as Democrats can. The last Republican-controlled Congress got booted because they tried to beat Democrats at their own game, spending money like it was going out of style.

This led Republicans to say, "Hey, there's no difference, so why should we vote for a Republican?" They stayed at home on election day. The Democrats said, "Hey, the Democrat candidate will give us even more of other people's money than the Republican will!" They went out and voted for Democrats in droves.

So look where this leaves us. Obama is THE most liberal member of the Senate. He is, quite simply, a committed socialist. McCain is what we call a RINO, or "Republican In Name Only." He's nearly the most liberal Republican in the Senate. Except for a couple of exceptions - Lincoln Chaffee of RI, for example, who says he's a Republican only because when he started running the Republicans controlled the state, so he registered that way, but I digress.

One way or the other, we're going to get a liberal in the White House who wants to give away trillions of dollars on cap-and-trade legislation, destroying the economy in the process. One of them thinks we have 57 states, but so what? We're screwed either way. Neither one of them wants to drill for oil in the US, so gas prices are going to stay high forever. We're hosed.

So say goodbye to your hard-earned money, Scott. But remember, when you were supporting all your liberal causes (all of which require taking away other people's money and spending it on those causes), where we've come didn't happen all at once, or overnight. You urged it along, piece by piece, bit by bit, until, like the proverbial frog, we were boiled out of our money one degree at a time.

It's said that we get the government we deserve. I think that is never been more evident than in this election. We are so screwed.

 
 
Jul 8, 2008
Scott, when you finally succeeded, why did you sit in your office and sob?
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2008
Good post, Scott, but what a lot of people seem to forget is that there is more involved in determining what we get paid than simply how hard we work. If hard work was the only determing factor, janitors, nurses, teachers, and coal miners would be the highest paid people in the country. They work harder than talk-show hosts, cartoonists, and Paris Hilton.

In addition to hard work, your pay is determined by the value you provide to your employer and/or society. It also matters how easily you could be replaced by someone else who could do the job as well as you. (That's why janitors are not paid well. They provide a valuable service, but it's a job anyone can do, and there are a lot of people who are not qualified to do much else who would take the job.)

Pro athletes make absurd amounts of money because we are willing to pay absurd amounts of money to watch them hit a ball. Almost anyone can play baseball or football, but would anyone pay to watch you do it? No, but they pay to watch A-Rod. Ultimately, the guys who pick up my trash every week are more important to my life than any athlete or movie star, but they don't get $25 million per year.

The role of government in all this is at the heart of our political process. Should government strive to make everything equal for everyone? That makes no sense. If doctors had to endure all that training and were going to make the same money as a kid flipping burgers, we'd run out of doctors pretty quick. How much should the government help? Enough to give people the opportunity to make it on their own, but not enough to create a dependency on the government for life. Easier said than done. What form should this help take? Simply handing out money or food stamps creates that dependency. Providing job training and education loans/grants is good, but you need to have jobs available when the training is completed, preferably in the private sector. Which means government policies should be aimed at keeping jobs here, and creating new ones here, rather than standing idly by as jobs are sent overseas. (Disclosure: I'm biased about this issue, my job is ending soon, support for the applications I work on will be sent to India...I am now looking for a job, along with thousands of others who have seen their jobs sent to the other side of the world.) Yet the companies that send the jobs overseas stil expect Americans to buy their products and services. Go figure.

McCain and Obama are just the latest incarnations of the same old thing. The Democratic and Republican parties have ruled this country as a duopoly for as long as anyone can remember. We need another option. The Libertarian party seems the best of the lot of minor parties but they have not gained much traction, and their candidate for president, (Bob Barr), is not truly a libertarian, just a Republican with too much time on his hands.
 
 
Jul 8, 2008
I would be interested to know if those jobs you worked while in college could pay for the same college today. I know mine couldn't.

Also, I find it ironic that as the writer of Dilbert you believe there is a correlation between working hard and having enough income to support a family. I think it is pretty obvious that the people who work hardest, soldiers (who, if they have kids, are often on foodstamps), healthcare workers, police officers, etc get paid in a way that they or their kids often need help with food, housing, education and healthcare. While I, who write VBA and attend meetings all day in a clean comfortable office, have plenty of disposable income.
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2008
The expression "the surge is working" is vague and misleading. Could we all perhaps agree on the new terminology "the surge is meeting our expectations"? I actually think that sounds nicer, but is more accurate. For me, for something to be "working", it has to be given the context of two things: is progress being made, and is it meeting our expectations? We wouldn't say a drug is working if all it did was give you an hour more to live when you expected it to save your life. Yes, the surge is demonstrating progress, but to say it is "working" implies that everyone was on the same page regarding what they wanted to happen in Iraq. By saying "meeting or expectations", it makes what should be a subjective statement exactly that. Another good candidate we could all agree on is "the surge has shown a reduction of U.S. casualities".
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2008
Scott, this is nothing new.

There's always somebody who is paid too much, and taxed too little - and it's always somebody else.
- Cullen Hightower
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 8, 2008
Hey Mokkery. It is great when people help other people. But in your story the helper did it my choice not because the government FORCED him too.
 
 
Jul 8, 2008
grgrr is closer home in the story of Donald Trumps Daughter. Thanks grgrr if that wasn't a random one.

Working hard does good for the self-esteem. If Scott's pride shows off his hard work, he has nothing to show for the politics of appeasement that his generation has inhertied.

Hope the voter's do not risk their beliefs that support them for the flimsy hopes of political peace.
 
 
Jul 8, 2008
I do not think it is sensible to strive for what many see, possibly erroneously, as the socialist ideal - everyone earning the same. What is more sensible, and more in keeping with the American way, is a certain equality of opportunity. That means that by working hard it is possible to reach, or approach, your desired standard of living. This seems to be less possible than ever in America right now, as the gulf between rich and poor seems to be becoming almost unassailably wide.
 
 
 
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