Saturday, January 29, 2011

Scott Adams Finds a "Solution" That is as Old as Civilization

I think this is funny. Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, thinks he is constructively working to solve America's deficit problem by finding a way to cajole the rich into paying enough taxes to cover the deficits. His solution? Curry favour with the rich! He thinks that is a "new solution" but I find it as old as the hills.

Here's an example from Scott Adams' opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. I've bolded the key bit:
It's useful to keep in mind how the rich are different. When you are poor, you are willing to trade your time to earn money. When you are rich, you trade your money to get more time. For example, the rich hire people to clean their homes, and they don't waste time shopping for bargains. In business school I learned that when people have different preferences, you can usually find a way to engineer a deal.

Suppose we change the tax code so that in return for higher taxes on the rich, we figure out a way to give the rich some form of extra time. The bad version is that anyone who pays taxes at a rate above some set amount gets to use the car pool lane without a passenger. Or perhaps the rich are allowed to park in handicapped-only spaces.

Ridiculous, you cry! Remember, this is the bad version. And if the rich are only a tiny percentage of the population, they would have almost no impact on the traffic in car pool lanes or the availability of parking spaces for the handicapped. You wouldn't even notice the difference.

You could imagine a host of ways the government could trade time for money. Suppose all government agencies had a mandate to handle the affairs of the rich before everyone else. You wouldn't even notice that your wait at the Department of Motor Vehicles was 2% longer.

As a bonus, what happens to the economy when the people who are most skilled at making money suddenly have extra time? My bet is that they stimulate the economy by spending more or by earning more.
Funny... these are exactly the "rules" that apply in third world countries. I remember how Saddam Hussein's two rich sons we able to abduct and rape women at will. Is Scott Adams willing to contemplate that? I'm sure that some young sons of multi-billionaires are ready and willing to sign up "get out of jail free" cards for a program of rape and torture.

Maybe we can bring back the "good old days" when the knights of the land used serfs for targets to hone their skills. You know, turn loose the young lads of the peasantry and let them try to scurry for safety while the knights went out with broadsword or lance to practice picking them off to ensure that their skills were up-to-date.

Go read the Scott Adams piece to get a feel for how slimy the future will soon be if this "treat the rich special" idea catches on:
  • Everyone loves power. I'm guessing that the rich like it more than most people, on average. Another bad idea is to give the rich two votes apiece in any election. That's double the power of other citizens. Why stop as 2 votes? Under the current lobby system, if you are sufficiently rich, you can throw your weight around as if you counted for a hundred thousand votes or more. Poor Scott Adams is showing he hasn't rubbed elbows with enough really ultra-rich lately.

  • Suppose the government makes it a condition that anyone applying for social services has to write a personal thank-you note to a nearby rich person who, according to a central database, hasn't lately received one. Yeah, like if you lose your job, a requirement that before you can apply for unemployment you have to write a groveling letter to the local baron or lord so curry favour. If you want an idea of this world, go look at the preface of any book written in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century where writers groveled before the monied class.
All of Scott Adams' suggestions are a wonderful way to bring back the "good old days" when our "betters" lorded over us, literally lorded over us.

What I find astounding is the idea that there is a crisis. America today is more wealthy than it was 20 years ago and vastly more wealthy than it was 60 years ago when it was dealing with the incredible debt from WWII. But you didn't hear people crying that there was no solution other than bribing the rich to be willing to participate in society and pay their fair share of taxes. Back in the 1950s, the rich paid 94% of their income as tax (in the high brackets after you allowed low tax on the first X number of thousands of income). I don't recall the rich in revolt over this "burden". But today, when America is fantastically wealthy compared to the late 1940s/early 1950s, suddenly the wealthy are "burdened" with a 30% tax rate and simply can't be asked for more. Ridiculous!

If you want to eliminate the deficits and the accumulating debt: raise the taxes! The rich has stolen the government and re-written the tax laws to let them frolic while the society around them falls into shambles. This is ridiculous.

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