Wednesday, October 1, 2014

et ceteras (or should I call them complaints?)

A media complaint
Over the last several days, starting before Barack Obama appeared on 60 Minutes, I have heard multiple reporters and commentators say that Obama's original judgment of ISIS was wrong because the intelligence reports he received were inaccurate. And that's all they have said: inadequate intel, nothing more, nothing less.

Which leads me to ask: Did those same reporters and commentators have a little, um, more to say when George W. Bush was president and the Iraq invasion did not find any of the weapons of mass destruction that the intelligence reports said were there?

Obviously, my question is rhetorical.

A GOP complaint
Last week, 30-year-old Muslim convert Alton Nolen beheaded his 54-year-old co-worker Colleen Hufford at their place of employment, then attacked 43-year-old co-worker Traci Johnson in an attempt to do the same to her. His killing spree was stopped not because the police or some other government authority arrived from wherever they were stationed, but because the emplyer's COO, Mark Vaughan, shot him.

This was a perfect example of murder being committed/attempted with something other than a gun, and a gun being used to stop the murdering and protect the innocent. Maybe I should gripe that no one in the media has bothered to say that Nolen would have succeeded in killing Johnson (and probably gone on to kill others) if not for the fact that Vaughan was armed. Maybe I should gripe that no one in the media has acknowledged that this case shows how guns save lives and that it provides a vivid example of why the Second Amendment is so important.

But instead I am going to aim my complaint directly at the GOP, because Republican politicians everywhere -- especially those up for election or re-election next month -- should be citing this horrifying event to make the anti-gun-control case; and they should be making that case loudly and clearly. Instead, all I can hear is a faint chirping of crickets.

Republican silence on this is disheartening, to put it mildly, and is a perfect illustration of why so many of the Republicans' most loyal constituents think they can't be trusted to stand up for what they supposedly believe. It is also a perfect illustration of why I do not expect a "Republican wave" in November and am not optimistic that the Republicans will take the Senate. The Democrats have done way more than enough to lose the votes of everyday Americans, but the Republicans, as a whole, have not done anything to indicate that they deserve those votes either. How sad.

A Krugman complaint
Actually, let me start by doing the unthinkable: Saying that Paul Krugman, the often wrong and always deceiving economist who writes for the New York Times, recently offered an opinion with which I agree.

He did so with the following observation: "For many of the rich, flaunting is what it's all about. Living in a 30,000 square foot house isn't much nicer than living in a 5,000 square foot house; there are, I believe, people who can really appreciate a $350 bottle of wine, but most of the people buying such things wouldn't notice if you substituted a $20 bottle, or maybe even a Trader Joe's special." In my opinion that passage is one hundred percent accurate -- as far as it goes.

The problem is that Krugman intends it to go much farther, and as is his wont, he used it as a springboard to argue that the rich somehow drag down the economy for everyone else and need to be forced to pay even more in taxes than they already do. Implicit in his diatribe is an assumption that because a hypothetical CEO pays more for his preferred goods and services than a hypothetical electrician pays for his, the CEO is not contributing enough to the common welfare.

Krugman's implication and his desired "fix" are so wrongheaded that to critique them from every legitimate angle would require multiple blog posts. Therefore I will stick to the following.

Every time one of "the rich" resides in a 30,000 square foot house, he directly contributes to the well-being of the grounds people, pest control people, pool service people, and maids whose services he employs...and the amount he pays for water and electricity boosts the bottom lines of utility companies, thus contributing to the well-being and job security of those who are employed by the utilities...and the massive amount he pays in property taxes fills the coffers of a municipal government so that it may better provide police protection, firefighting, non-potholed roads, etc., to the community as a whole...and if he has his home built rather than buying it "pre-owned," he contributes mightily to the well-being of the carpenters, pavers, roofers, electricians, etc., that he employs in the endeavor...and in each instance listed above, he contributes far more to other people by investing in a 30,000 square foot home than if he had invested in a 5,000 square foot home.

When it comes to their choices of fermented grape juice, every time one of "the rich" purchases a $350 bottle of wine, he contributes to the economic well-being of whichever winery produced it -- which means he contributes to the economic well-being not only of the winery's owner but of everyone who works there, including the winemaker, viticulturalists, farmhands, fruit pickers, bottlers, tour guides, etc...and if he buys the bottle from a store, he contributes to the well-being of the store's owner and employees...and if he buys it at a restaurant, he helps the restaurant turn a profit and thereby contributes to the well-being of its owner and workers; and he contributes even more to his waiter or waitress by virtue of the tip he is sure to leave...and if the wine is imported, he contributes to the well-being of the transportation company that brings it here and of the import/export merchant who procures it.

In other words, shut yer yap Mr. Krugman. What motivates "the rich" is irrelevant and insignificant. The economic activities in which they engage do far more to assist the people of this country and keep them employed than you seem to realize. Which makes it disturbing that you are known as "an economist." If you were to stop "the rich" from doing what they want, the people who would suffer would not be them -- the sufferers would be countless citizens lower on the ladder who make a living by providing them with what they want.

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