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8/14/12 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Sunday, August 19, 2012 5:04 PM
8/14/12  questions and discussion

1-why are we moral?3
2-what is honor?6
3-what is death?3
4-are we getting dumber?6
5-how might Paul Ryan's political philosophy affect this election?5
6-why do the red states have higher crime rates than the blue states, particularly homicide/social problems in general?7
7-is no government better than bad government?7
8-ought we be as concerned with big business as we are with big government?


ought we be as concerned with big business as we are with big government?

Jon: if one big reason for the Tea Party has been the imperfections of our government, it seems just as clear that the Occupy Wall St. movement has been inspired by the imperfections of American business, or even capitalism itself. I ask this question because it seems American business has not be vilified to the same extent as has our government. What with Wall St. behavior before 2008 and especially their actions since 2008 (bonuses, really?). Today I heard a radio report describing a case in West Virginia wherein a man was challenging the effort of a collections agency to recoup money they claimed he owed some credit card company. Turns out no actual records exist for this man's supposed debt. Not only did the judge find for this man but in his remarks stated that by his study of this particular credit company's actions approximately 90% of their collections efforts were fraudulent. 90%!! Sure it got onto the radio, but this kind of malpractice seems to be more or less accepted by us, broadly speaking. Last idea: income inequality in America. According to reliable sources it has gotten bigger than it has been since the 20s. Middle class incomes have been stagnant for 3 decades while our top earners have doubled and tripled their worths. For me this displays an imbalance; we seem to believe that our wealthiest citizens are more important than all the rest.

Jim: imagine a fully equal society, it would be a catastrophe. It would make me less productive. The idea of income equality is belied by human nature. What if in such an equal society I was forced to work? Am I going to be productive? No. So how is a society going to align productivity with goals? Human nature says I won't work if I don't have to. So we need to make work in our self interest. Inequality serves a common good. Helping people who don't/won't work may mean the productive members of society  must produce more. 

Shannon; what does productive mean?

Jim: producing more than is used, as efficiently as possible.

Jon: redistribution?

Jim: who determines this distribution? That some government products are good doesn't justify all the bad government does.

David: who sets the limits? What's a fair tax rate?

Jim: fair has to be related to what we think the scope of government is. To me our nation was founded by people who limited the scope of government. Those limits don't seem to apply anymore -- to our harm.

Andrea: if we had a government you prefer, how much tax ought it take?

Jim: 10%

David: is there a difference between state government and big business?

John: most of what Jim says is right. Capitalism is the most productive system on earth. Somehow, for example, Steve Jobs got the money he needed to create Apple. The system is good. All the welfare states are capitalist. In Sweden the government doesn't do central planning. There is a confusion about the differences between socialism and a welfare state. There's a legitimate need for government regulation on business. 

David: Eisenhower warned us -- quite correctly -- of the military industrial complex; he was a Republican. Teddy Roosevelt was a trust buster and a Republican. Lincoln was a Republican who freed slaves. Reagan was a Republican who raised taxes 7 times. Jim, were they wrong?

Jim: no I don't think so. 

David: [to John] taxes on businesses worth 1 million or less,  if their taxes were lowered would it improve our economy?

John: most of them are paying an individual, not a business tax. They aren't hiring because people aren't buying.

Jon: Eisenhower, a good Republican as David points out, actually raised the top tax rate to 91% (it had been somewhere in the 80s previously), George Bush II lowered it to somewhere in the 20s. As John just pointed out, Henry Ford correctly understood the importance of the non-rich to our economy. He paid his employees twice the going rate ($5 day) because he wisely knew that paying them that much would enable them to buy his cars. As John just said, when the middle class starts buying our economy will heal. Yet, as I've already pointed out, middle class incomes are flat and have been for some time. Until 2008 the middle class tried to keep feeding the economy via credit. The economic disaster of 08 proved the lie of that approach. If our wealthiest citizens have profited, if our middle class workforce has been increasingly productive and efficient for decades, why isn't more -- a lot more -- of that profit ending up in the pockets of our economy's true supporters the middle class? 

Larry: without a union I would not have gotten a pay raise. Not making a living wage is totally wrong.  My friend Bev's son makes half a million a year because he's a good salesman. So he's valuable but should he make that much more than a carpet layer? We need government. Big government like big business errs when let themselves  get out ofj touch with what's happening to regular people. We are fed so much baloney that we ourselves lose track.

David: on big government; they mandate a lot of garbage without funding it. we're stuck with it.

Jon: I agree but is that significantly more destructive than the sins of our businesses?

David: what role should government play with people who won't give anything back? [To JIm] are most conservatives afraid the Democrats want to take all our money? 

Jim: the problem is with the labels. Kennedy in his turn lowered taxes. Lets assume we're gong to fix it (inequality of income/lack of consumption). How? The conventional way is 1. take the money from the rich or 2. borrow money from future generations. Neither seems to work. Part of the solution is not worrying about income inequality.

Julene: my conservative economist friend says huge inequalities make economies unstable. Why does our economy give so much more money to its CEOs? Our reward systems are top heavy.

Andrea: we need a strong middle class.

Jim: how?

Andrea: not sure. There can be barriers to getting work. I know a woman who hated the working world so much she stuck with a bad husband. Alcoholism, bad luck contribute to inability/unwillingn­ess to work. Children ought not be punished for having bad parents. 

John: Obama wants to generally raise the tax rates.

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