Dear Readers: A new post from the Shrine’s Prophetess of Finance: Professor Athena. Given the uptick in gas prices, weak Congress, and attacks on constitutionally protected freedoms, it seems most timely. Enjoy!
You don’t have to be part of the financial industry to know that the past few months have been crazy, with a serious debt crisis in the European Union devolving into economic recession and riots in the streets, making for a challenging environment in which to manage money and investments. As I have listened to the windup for the coming 2012 Presidential election season, I have found it nothing short of astounding that the sitting President of the United States is waging his re-election campaign highlighting the distinctions between the “haves” and “have-nots” in our own country. Class warfare is a new low for politics. Are we not all Americans, united in love for our country’s survival in a difficult economy and faced with problems of a mounting federal deficit? Don’t we all, even the most liberal among us, fear in our hearts the type of creditor-driven meltdown seen in the EU? Don’t we wonder what would happen if China and other creditor nations began to dictate policy to us? The President’s answer to these huge challenges is to drive us farther from a solution by asserting that certain Americans are the villains, have “not played by the rules”, and are “not paying their fair share”. Nowhere is it ever mentioned that the policies of various administrations in Washington, D.C. have contributed to a national entitlement mentality, one which must be changed once and for all if we are to survive. From now on, we are in a battle for the hearts of Americans. We must all choose. Either we have a heart of responsibility for our own individual problems or a heart that expects the solution to come from our federal government. We cannot have both. As our demographics shift to reflect the retiring baby-boomers, what is to stop the current distinctions of class warfare from becoming distinctions between the young and healthy vs. the aged and sick in the name of political expediency?
This observation brings me to a further illustration. I commute to work every morning in the dark, on a highway where traffic moves at 70+ MPH in 3-4 lanes. There are no lights until you reach the metro limits, and even then you would think cars would turn on their lights in order to drive safely. Many don’t. My only conclusion for this phenomenon is that they believe they don’t need their headlamps because they can see. Which they probably can, because OTHER drivers have THEIR headlamps turned on! What totally narcissistic culture we must live in when we cannot be bothered to understand that even though we might be able to see other cars in the dark because of their headlights, they cannot in turn see US in order to avoid an accident! What would happen if everyone thought headlights were optional in the dark?!! Yet this “driving in the dark because I can see everybody else” mentality is indicative of the narcissistic bent in our culture, where everyone else must sacrifice and do the responsible thing so that those who refuse to can survive.
Though loathe to use myself as an illustration, this time I think it important to admit that I am one of the 1%. As part of this minority I want to share details of what has by now been already thoroughly debunked but nevertheless continues to be repeated, that convenient lie about “paying our fair share”. I have for the past 27 years paid over 30% of my income in taxes. Statistics show that members of “the 1%” (throwing out the exceptional billionaires and anecdotal stories) pay an average of almost 20% in taxes, even when taking into consideration passive income and other non-ordinary-income-taxed declarations. Not only do we pay MORE as a group than any other bracket in our nation’s progressive income tax, we also are declared by this President of the United States as the “more fortunate”, but never “hard-working Americans”. We are separated from the President’s distorted truth as the group who has had it easy. Since anecdotal evidence (aka Warren Buffet and his secretary) seems fair, let me use my own biography.
I worked not one but two jobs to support my family, often going without food in the early years (one job was waiting tables, the other was working in the banking and finance job I had chosen as my career). I went to work in the morning before it was light most mornings and came home when it was dark, often putting in 9-10 hour days and often not being paid any overtime because I was “on salary”. Even after I worked by way into promotions as an investment portfolio analyst and eventually into fixed income sales my days were far longer and much more stressful than the average job. I never went to lunch (still don’t), often worked through weekends to stay up on my reading and study material, all while passing numerous securities tests and requirements for proficiency. I missed school programs and parents days, and have never had more than a one week’s vacation. You can assume that being referenced as other than “hard-working” and instead “fortunate” makes me resentful, and you would be correct.
But being a member of “the 1%” means much more than the mere fact that I have worked hard to get here. Far more important is what I do with it. One of my father’s sayings was, “It’s not what you have; it’s what you do with it that counts”. This is a philosophy I live by. My income goes to support at least six employees on a monthly basis who are sole proprietorships and for which the check I pay them represents both a dependable and essential part of their income. Charity is the first thing deducted (after the federal government takes their share) from my income each month, supporting my church and also my local community. Ask yourself (as I do) if you think the federal government is going to employ as many small business people at a fair wage, or give as much directly in order to support those in need, after deducting their administrative cut and expanding their overhead to decide who they will anoint for their trickled-down largesse. I don’t wait on the federal government to meet needs I see around me, whether it is the guy holding up a sign at a traffic light or flood victims who need food and shelter or young people in a bad neighborhood who need a safe place to play and go to school. I give, directly from my hand to theirs.
The current White House budget announced today proposes one of the largest single tax increases ever in our history. It will include many special groups for hand-outs, this after a big press release last week trumpeted a hand-out for those not paying their home loans, made possible through a legal settlement (read “shakedown”) of various of the largest U.S. financial institutions (who were “bailed out” during the financial crisis by taxpayers, according to the White House). Cloaked in the phrase of “fair share”, ask yourself where in that is the bonus for you as a taxpayer who helped during the financial crisis with your tax dollars, yet have responsibly paid your bills on time. Ask yourself why you are never mentioned or praised as “hard-working”. Ask yourself, if you are in construction, why the real estate market is having trouble recovering, when no one is certain from one day to the next whether or not title of ownership matters when a homeowner is in non-payment status. Ask yourself if banks want to lend money on real estate in such an unpredictable and highly expensive regulatory environment. Ask yourself why you can’t work on the new Keystone XL pipeline, or in the coal industry, or in off-shore oil drilling. Ask yourself what the current administration’s definition of “green jobs” is (take note that the EPA has targeted both crop farmers for dust and also milk producers for potential hazardous spills). Ask yourself if you saw any of the nearly $1 trillion in stimulus money in your own checking account. Ask yourself if you think it is right for you to work to pay others’ health care insurance. Ask yourself if school teachers should collect their pay (already more than 40% higher than the private sector, when all benefits and salaries are tallied) even when not working and when children are failing to even read or do basic math. Ask yourself if you trust the current administration not to tell your church or religious organization they must supply free contraception for their employees, along with (their real hidden agenda) free abortions. Then ask yourself what requirement they won’t push down in the name of social “justice”. Ask yourself if you believe that we are divided into “haves” and “have-nots” as Americans. Ask yourself, when you drive in the dark, if you turn your headlamps on.