27 November 2008

Thoughts on Media Madness

Some quick thoughts on the short book Media Madness: The Corruption of Our Political Culture by James Bowman.

1) Mr. Bowman's general concept of modern mass media rings true to me: the media consider themselves objective beyond reproach; that they are objective makes them right (and more intelligent). Because they are more intelligent, they can be objective. The circle repeats.

2) The media are self-aggrandizing in that they push deeper truths or accurate "realities" in order to show that they are, in fact, better than those they report about (assuming that the reporting is about an ideological foe). Through mass production of consumable stories (which Mr. Bowman argues tend to push some "reality" that hides beneath generally observable facts or situations), the media pushes their world view - a world view which sees themselves as above others due to their objectivity and intelligence.

3) Celebrity plays into this media free-for-all in that today's celebrity creates itself and, with media help, is self-sustaining.

4) Mutating political issues into moral issues causes a false dichotomy of many issues. The media pushes issues as "us versus them" or as "right versus wrong" so as to create drama and conflict (both big sellers), and also so that the more intelligent and morally correct media can render judgment as they see fit. Objectivity, mentioned before, coupled with intelligence demands that the possessors of both be morally correct - even if the possessors are self-proclaimed.

5) After reading, it seems to me that the closed-world thinking that appears to happen in the media/celebrity circle masks reality, or perhaps better put, distracts from what might be really important. Why should anyone care what celebrity "z" says about some supposedly critical "issue"? Is this celebrity any better informed than I am on the matter? Who is to say that the "issue" is critical at all; is it simply because the celebrity says so? And anyway, what one celebrity or another thinks about anything is probably less important than, say, what a well-informed friend of mine thinks about the same thing.

25 November 2008

Obama's Version of Giving Back, Asking, and Responsibility

On Monday, president elect Obama introduced his economic stimulus / crisis tackling / stability granting team. He also indicated that the tax increase on the "rich" - folks who earn over $125,000 a year (or something thereabouts…the number is malleable) would be somewhat delayed.

But this morning I read something interesting on Neal Boortz's website. It's a clip, verbatim, from Barack Obama's campaign website, which is apparently still up and running. With regard to taxes, it says:

"Obama will ask the wealthiest 2% of families to give back a portion of the tax cuts they have received over the past eight years to ensure we are restoring fairness and returning to fiscal responsibility."

Much like Mr. Boortz, I find the wording chosen for this statement telling. Mr. Boortz rightly notes that "give back" and "fairness" are telltale signs of government desire to redistribute money it feels it should have. (I hope that I've characterized Mr. Boortz's thought properly.)

One thing to notice about the words from Mr. Obama's website is where they begin. There is no mention of the work required to earn enough money to put one's self in the top 2%. It is as if we are to believe that they are there either through heredity (old money) or luck (not skill).

By skipping over the work required to get there portion, Mr. Obama can make the easy baby-step to taking something from the wealthiest 2%. But again, notice the verb - "ask". Mr. Obama will "ask" the wealthiest 2% to "give back" to the government. "Ask" is a kind verb; it necessarily indicates that one may answer "no" to the question. But any sane American knows that the IRS doesn't ask, and it does not take no for an answer.

But back to the kindly side of Mr. Obama's "give back" plan. He is only "asking" for a "portion of the tax cuts" that the rich have received. Therefore, the wealthiest 2% will get to keep some of what they have been given by the federal government. Notice how the tax cut is now something granted by a connotatively benevolent federal government. But there's something in between the words here - and I hope that I'm reading too much into it. If the wealthiest 2% of Americans will have to forfeit some of the "tax cuts they have received over the past eight years", does that mean that the IRS will be looking retrospectively into our tax records to "recover" some of that tax cut revenue? I hope not, but Mr. Obama's choice of words does not reassure me.

Finally, all of this is done to restore "fairness" and to regain "fiscal responsibility". I'll skip the fairness part - Mr. Boortz did a fine job with that one. But just whose "fiscal responsibility" are we talking about here? The bulk of people I know are fiscally responsible. They take care of their families, their mortgages, their car payments, their credit card bills. Indeed, even the town where I live is fiscally responsible, and not without painful limiting of expenditure (just ask any teacher in the district). What Mr. Obama really means here is that he wants to take more from the wealthiest 2% of Americans so that he can make the federal government more fiscally responsible.

I wonder about the logic of giving someone in debt more money. I wonder even more when the one who is in debt, and who is asking for more money is simultaneously ramping up spending. Just yesterday, there was talk about another "stimulus" package. Mr. Obama wants one ready to go so that he can sign it into law on 20 January. Numbers are unclear at this point, but half a trillion dollars is certainly in the ballpark. That's another $500 billion on top of the $700 billion in "bailout" TARP money.

This passes for fiscal responsibility for Mr. Obama. It doesn't pass for "fairness" in my book, because I am sure that even though I am not a member of the wealthiest 2% of Americans, I will be paying for Mr. Obama's spending spree - one that is supposedly for America. And I won't be asked about it. I'll just be told to give back what I've earned. And that may well damage my family's carefully crafted fiscal responsibility.

23 November 2008

Victor Davis Hanson on Education

Writing on Real Clear Politics, Victor Davis Hanson makes a wonderful point on teaching classical studies in high schools. His point, in full:

"Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more for minority youths than all the 'role model' diversity sermons on Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together. Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except perhaps Sophocles's Antigone in Greek or Thucydides' dialogue at Melos). After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek, Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women studies--indeed, anything "studies"-- were perhaps the fruits of some evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor minority students in the public schools and universities were offered only a third-rate education."
Having taught both Latin and Classical texts (in translation), I am in full agreement with Mr. Hanson. The students I have known and taught who study Latin tend to have an easier time with new English vocabulary. They have a good idea what seemingly strange words, like puerile or bellicose, mean without context clues. They know these things from Latin vocabulary. They do, indeed, have a greater understanding of English grammar rules because of their study of Latin grammar (which, in its elementary form, is fairly straight-forward and formulaic). And if they can get to the point where they can read and translate simple Latin sentences and paragraphs on sight, they tend to be able to digest other texts with more ease.

In my classes, I tend to focus on Greek tragedy as much as I can - albeit in translation. The texts are foundational. They are accessible for all students (given the number of excellent modern translations available). But what is most important are the themes expressed in them. When a student really digs into a play like Antigone or Medea, he has to wrestle with big ideas which are meaningful to life today, right now, to him. When Antigone defies her king to bury her brother - and thus not offend the gods - students can put themselves in the scene. They can debate what is right. And what's more, when they dig a little deeper into the text, they find that Sophocles gives an answer. When Medea's self-centered madness drives her to unspeakable acts of violence, students can question the revenge ethic. These themes are timeless; they will always have a place in the classroom. If I could, I would spend a semester on Greek tragedy (though some students may well get a bit tired of it). After which, I would perhaps cover The Iliad and non-fiction Classical readings. That would make for a fine freshman year of high school English.

22 November 2008

Orwellian Terms in Modern Times: Newspeak and Duckspeak

After enduring the longest presidential election campaign in history – and if it was not, I pity anyone who endured anything longer – it is instructive to look back at a few words and how they were used. It may also be useful to look at what those words have turned into now that the election is over and one point of view has gained office.

One of the most overused terms in this election cycle was change. Even though the Democrat side used it as its slogan (along with hope), both sides sought to use the word to its advantage. That’s not to say that change was ever really defined; indeed, the vague nature of change was precisely what made the electorate comfortable with it, I believe. Though a lack of specificity, the “change mantra” became all things to all people – Democrat and Republican alike. In the end, no one really defined what change meant. It was a slogan, a mantra, and the Democrat version of change – to use a newspeak adjective of sorts – was “double-plus good” change. Nailing down what change really meant turned out to be a negative priority. A good thing for the winning side, too. Change can be a scary thing if it is defined.

The idea of change was somewhat coupled with the idea of experience. Too much experience, it seems, would be “double-plus bad”. Change requires fresh thought, fresh insights into an old, decrepit, sickly apparatus (like the federal government). The new face, the outsider, would be all the better because of a lack of experience.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the presidential election which upset the whole newspeak apple cart. The Republicans chose an experienced candidate who was also seen as a changer – sometimes to the great dismay of his party (including this writer). For its vice presidential candidate, the Democrats chose an old party whose long run in the Senate defied the fresh, new, inexperience of its candidate. And then, the unexpected rouge wave of the Republican vice presidential choice – a new, fresh face, an outsider who arguably had more governmental experience than the Democrat presidential candidate. With so much confusion about what change and experience meant in this election (note: not what they really meant), another of Orwell’s ideas would come into play, and heavily. Duckspeak.

“There is a word in Newspeak,” said Syme. “I don’t know whether you know it: duckspeak, to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse; applied to someone you agree with, it is praise.” - George Orwell, 1984
Duckspeak would cure the problematic issues of change and experience. Any definition of change espoused by an opponent would be labeled as bad (or “double-plus bad”). Only the experience of a political compatriot would be good (or “double-plus good”). Any and all experience of an opponent, regardless of the particulars of that experience, was belittled and labeled as a liability. Experience of those friendly to a cause would be a boon to the cause.

One particular thing to note is that none of the specifics are mentioned here; what change means and what experience matters are beside the point. The goal of newspeak and duckspeak in this election cycle was simply to paint “us” as good and “them” as bad. And I think that many people thought these labels were the core argument of electing the next president.

As anecdotal evidence, here’s a video of Democrat supporters taken after the polls. One wonders, seriously, if Republican supporters would have shown the same predispositions, just in an opposite direction. My guess, sadly, is that they may well have. Duckspeak may well have overcome any desire for information and informed decision making. “Me good. You bad.” It’s much easier that way. And that, after all, is what Orwell says newspeak is for. It is used to create a society where “there will be no thought”. Where there is no thought, there are lots of people who are easily controlled.

18 November 2008

How’s Your Gas? (Part II)

Last time I wrote about this particular subject, the local north Texas price for a gallon of regular unleaded was at $2.75. And there was much rejoicing. Now, the price stands at $1.79. That’s down almost a dollar in a little more than a month. OPEC will certainly reduce production as a result of sliding oil prices. At some point, petroleum prices will stabilize, but I don't expect to hear too much about it in the media. Crisis averted; move along. Nothing to see here.

I admit that during the summer months, I thought that gas prices would stay high – over $3 a gallon. My wife and I adjusted our driving habits; we assumed that things would stay bad. I suppose that’s a good low-risk assumption to make. It is much safer than betting on low gas prices, and then having to sacrifice one important thing to feed another, namely the car.

This past year’s worth of oil-worry has left me with a question, though: what will the fallout be of the “petroleum bubble”? Obviously lower transport costs are afoot, people will spend less to get around town. But will there be a longer term attitude change in American consumers? I wonder if, when buying their next new car, folks will remember the price of gas in the summer of 2008 and make a choice influenced by that fact and not just the price of gas right now – do a little preventive maintenance shopping, perhaps.

17 November 2008

The Auto Bailout and Moves Toward Centralization

There may be action today in Washington D.C. to bail out the Big Three automakers. Numbers vary - and when numbers get this big, what's a 40 or 50 per cent variance - but the low end would give $35 billion to automakers to "retool". The retooling would theoretically give the automakers the capability to build more fuel efficient cars, therefore make more money, therefore stay afloat financially.

It won't work. And I don't say that because I know anything about auto-making. I don't even know that much about finance, especially when it gets to the silly heights of what seems to pass for sound economic decision making today.

But it seems fairly straight-forward that if a company has commitments to previous and current employees, in the form of retirement packages and medical coverage, that it simply cannot cover, then no amount of retooling in other areas can fix that gap. Barring the unlikely event that the car makers can create cars without labor, if the labor agreements don't change, then the companies will just bleed money. It doesn't matter where the money comes from.

That the money will come from the federal government (and by extension, you and I) is worrisome. The federal government will essentially buy an interest in the auto companies, just as was supposed to happen with financial institutions (though who really knows what has happened or will happen to that $700 billion). In my opinion, the federal government's holding of auto maker's stock does not portend future success for GM, Ford, or Chrysler. The federal government isn't - or shouldn't be - in the business of creating wealth. It cannot even protect wealth; see Social Security. The interest bought will be about power, about having control.

And there is sure to be a "car czar" put in charge of all of this. Detroit will be his or her fiefdom. Dispensing government largesse will be his or her "duty".

We may well have an "urban czar" do to the same for our large metropolitan areas. A "super-mayor" of sorts. Billions are waiting to be printed and pushed toward cities.

We may well have many, many more "czars" dividing up the interests - might they be called special interests - of our nation in order to better minister to them from the bucket of the federal government.

These moves are but symptoms of government expansion to come. What's more, it is not just a Democrat-led charge. Domestically, G.W. Bush pushed big government under the guise of "compassionate conservatism". Both parties eventually bought into the $700 billion to stabilize the financial sectors (which may have been a necessary measure, though its ever-changing target makes one wonder). Both sides, Democrat and "compassionate" Republican, seek to fix problems they have no business fixing. Whether recognized or not, these are power grabs disguised as help, and at some point, we will ask who can help us get away from the "czars" and the federal government.

16 November 2008

The Joys of Zero-Tolerance and No Child Left Behind

One thing certain about zero-tolerance policies: their inflexibility may well render them useless, or at the very least diminish their effectiveness in addressing their intended target. No Child Left Behind is a fine example of this.

A group or researchers at the University of California at Riverdale looked at when NCLB's rising proficiency standards for reading and math would cause crisis in public schools. Under NCLB, 100% of students must meet proficiency standards by 2014; in that year, NCLB becomes a zero-tolerance policy.

According to the UCR researchers: "Even using the most optimistic model, the analysis found that nearly 100 percent of California elementary schools failed to meet [adequate yearly progress] by 2014. In fact, average proficiency in English Language Arts fell short of AYP by the year 2011, and math proficiency fell short by 2012."

No surprise there. The only way to reach 100% proficiency would be to lower the bar to the lowest common denominator. What makes that logic truly baffling is that because students are actual human beings - and therefore vary in ability, motivation, and background knowledge - the lowest common denominator proficiency standard for each locality would vary from year to year, from school to school, and from district to district. The students would be "driving the bus" so to speak. In a way, they already do.

But NCLB - or at least the prognostication of every school failing to meet its lofty goals - is a way to reach a sort of equality. Equality of failure for the schools, equality of less-than-mediocrity for the students, and an equal dimming of the future for the nation. And really, that's what NCLB is about. Equality over opportunity. Is that the American way?

13 November 2008

Obama's Czars

Originally posted at American Thinker.

Suddenly a rash of czars is in prospect for the Obama Administration.

The title "czar" in the executive branch has some history. The "drug czar" title appeared during the Reagan administration. The term has always seemed a little strange to me, but that's probably because the word has a negative connotation in my opinion; an all-powerful, micro-managing type of connotation. What's more, after spending a little time participating in the "war on drugs", it seemed that the czar's effort was futile and cost a lot of money.

Enter the Obama administration. As of 12 November, there are many desks with "czar" titles on them to come. We already have an "intelligence czar", and it appears that seat is safe. Does the executive branch need a "tech-czar"? Apparently. Who knows what technology might do without direct executive oversight. With Detroit ready to take some many billions of dollars from the federal government, there's talk about a "car-czar". Some sense in that, because the dollars given will supposedly (under the touted plan) buy stakes in the Big Three for the US Government. What was that talk about statist expansion, again?

And surely we need an "energy czar" to oversee (micro-manage) the miraculous transition from our current fossil fuel addiction to whatever comes next. But that czar had better be fond friends with the "climate czar" - and in all honesty, if Mr. Gore takes that spot, there won't be any spotlight for the "energy czar", and perhaps little energy, as well. For that matter, why have two positions? If one believes Global Warming / Climate Change orthodox teachings, one feeds the other. On the other hand, two "czars" have two staff, and that's job creation.

It may be that all these czars and many, many more will have seats around the Obama table. Surely there will be an "economy czar". An "education czar" could rule over No Child Left Behind with an iron fist. Perhaps a "czar" installed at the Pentagon? That's probably a bit of a stretch. But somehow I fear this cast of czars and their footmen. With Congress seemingly willing to purchase stakes in just any company that asks, these "czars" may eventually gain more power than would be healthy -- for their spheres of interest and the country.

12 November 2008

World Government and World Spending

Recently, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for the US and the UK to lead a “global effort to build a stronger and more just international order” which he sees as a real possibility under an Obama administration. Much of what I’ve read – despite the five or six “points” on which Mr. Brown’s plan is set – revolves around financials. The International Monetary Fund appears to be a centerpiece in the plan. Through global buy-in and coordination, the hope is to “build a truly global society,” in Mr. Brown’s words, according to the Telegraph.

But I have to question how transparently and equitably large, international establishments can function. It appears that transparency is not an advocated position when large amounts of money are involved. A few days ago, Fox News covered a report from the United Nations itself on the amount of money the UN has coming in and going out. As Fox News puts it, “Rich countries, led by the United States” pony up “about $17.2 billion in 2006 [which was] spent on various programs.” And the cost of operations is rising at a pretty rapid pace, “at an average annual increase of 13 percent since 2002.” That can be expected to continue, as the UN lifted a self-imposed (or US imposed) spending cap this past June.

If the United Nations is the model for large-scope, international institutions, one may wonder what Mr. Brown’s global monetary cooperation to create “a truly global society” would cost, and how transparent it would be, if at all. As the UN continues to refuse to reform itself, continues to spend more and more (like so many governmental institutions in the US), it is a continual reminder of what self-interested, bureaucratic organizations can become.

07 November 2008

Proposition 8 and Tyranny of the Tiny Minority

One might think that voters would have solid ground on which to amend their own state’s constitution. Granted, all state constitutions must fall within the bounds of the US Constitution, there still is a lot of wiggle room for variation between the states. Over the course of time, constitutions are bound to be amended.

This past Tuesday, Californians voted to amend the state constitution so “that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California (according to the Sec. of State of California website). It would not negate any legal rights in civil unions, which can be same-sex. It would, in its most basic sense, take a title away from same-sex couples. They could not, in the eyes of the state, marry.

5,376,454 Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8. 4,870,010 voted against it. That’s over 10 million people who made their voices heard. It marks the second time that a clear majority has voted to ban marriage between same-sex couples in California in less than a decade. One might think that would be the end of the story for a while, at least until the next election cycle.

But instead, hundreds turned out in protests in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I say hundreds, because 2,500 (from estimates here and here) don’t equate to “thousands” in my eyes. They’ve demanded “the Freedom to Marry”. (Capitalization in the original.) That would be an estimated 0.0244% of the total voters who have protested (as of the morning of 6 November). Will that miniscule, vocal minority rule the day?

If the ACLU and lawyers from both Los Angeles and San Francisco have their way, it will. They’ve asked the California Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8. If the Court attempts to rescind Proposition 8, they have effectively placed the power to amend the state’s constitution in the hands of less than 3 hundredths of one percent of the population who were able to and chose to vote on the matter.

For those who may question the civility of taking away a title – marriage – from a certain group of people – namely those same-sex couples who want to assume it for themselves, I ask you to look at the issue from the other side of the fence. What does it say that 99.9756% of voters who made their voices heard and accepted the decision may have their votes essentially negated by 2,500 protestors and a few (or more than a few) lawyers? I call that tyranny of the minority – the ludicrously small, intolerant, self-centered minority. A lamentable state, indeed.

05 November 2008

Positives About Tuesday

My wife sometimes gets angry with me because I tend, at the end of the day, to try to find the bright spots in otherwise unhappy situations. While I’m in the minority here, I find yesterday’s presidential election results a very unhappy situation. I think that the lurch to the left will ultimately do great harm domestically and internationally.

That being said, here’s a short list of bright spots:

- First and foremost, now that the US has elected a man of African descent, we – all of us – should move beyond race. We should, as King suggested, judge all based on the content of their character, and we should do so without unnecessary gentleness or being “PC”, both of which cloud judgment and are the source of endless excuses.

- Democrats should have no one to blame for their own actions. President Bush (the younger) has been the all-purpose excuse. If Democrats invoke his name much after January 2009, they will look just silly. (This, of course, assumes that the public will think that Pres. Bush can’t possibly the scapegoat long after leaving office. Then again, when one considers the plot of Animal Farm…)

- Republicans have the opportunity to become conservative again. The “compassionate conservatism” that Pres. Bush sold the electorate twice ended up smelling much more like Liberal social policies than anything “compassionate”. Republicans, if they want to regain their social conservatism, need to get back to basics and shed nuance. The electorate may meet them half-way after 4 years of really Liberal government expansion.

- The potential that a soon-to-be President Obama will take more from everyone in taxes is high in my opinion, all of his claims of not increasing taxes for 95% of the public notwithstanding. Most people don’t like having more taken from them. Four years of that may change minds within the electorate greatly.

- No human can be the “messiah”. Sen. Obama will soon feel the awesome weight of the office he is about to assume. His slick pronunciations and sloganeering won’t wash outside of electoral politics. He will have to govern. He will not be able to vote “present”. Presidential decisions will not be “above his pay grade”. If he governs well, all the better for the nation. If he fails (as I feel he will), then we will hopefully only have to endure four years of his tenure.

Hope springs eternal – and I’m not talking about the glib kind sold on the campaign trail.

03 November 2008

Tuesday Thoughtcrimes and More

In anticipation of Election Day events – and at the risk of sounding quite cynical – I offer a short list of Orwellian thoughtcrimes which may well be “committed”.

Non-Verbalized Racism: Some may think that any vote for Sen. McCain or any third party candidate is a verification of latent racism.

Verbalized Racism: This may be accomplished by uttering any of the following with reference to Sen. Obama and/or his campaign – socialist, communist, elitist, articulate, etc. Verbalized racism may be compounded with non-verbalized racism and indicate irrefutable racist tendencies.

Selfish Anti-Patriotism: This may be brought about through critical examination, either through thought or word, of redistributive properties of candidate’s financial and economic plans. Those critical of redistributive policies are against the Nation (or the Party) and are thus unpatriotic and are coupled with non-verbalized racism. Wincing at redistributive policies is tantamount to verbalized selfish anti-patriotism and also constitutes non-verbalized racism.

Fear-Mongering: Thoughts or verbalized statements concerning “what if” certain candidates are elected constitute unwarranted, radical fear-mongering. Thoughts of this nature indicate non-verbalized racism. Statements of this kind indicate verbalized racism.

More thoughtcrimes and their active extensions may well come into being as time goes on. The first test of what our future will look like will depend on who wins on Election Day. The next will be how the losing side reacts.

One Day Before the Vote

Many folks, it seems, are worried about what will happen on Tuesday night or in the early hours of Wednesday morning. There are some who say that either an Obama win or loss will incite riots. There are some who say that McCain supporters will cling even more adamantly to their guns and their God if he loses. There are many, many who see this election as one which has strained the fabric of our nation. They would be right.

The cause of this, I think, is our hyper-media, fueled with hundreds of millions of political dollars (far more than necessary or prudent), looking for divisive (and thus decisive?) information with which to contrast candidates. Not that much of these things have to do with the character or content of the candidates, but it sure does make for “breaking news” – in boldface, flashing fonts.

Hyper-media has raised hyper-partisanship to new levels. It doesn’t help that hyper-race-sensitivity has come into play. Just to demonstrate how much one candidate’s race matters in this contest, it has managed to nearly eclipse any positive spin with regard to the gender of not one, but two candidates.

(A telling point, then, is the absence of warnings – both past and present – when Sen. Clinton was and if Gov. Palin should be defeated. No riots were or are predicted; no sexism accused, or virtually none.)

And so, the hyper-this and hyper-that seem to have accelerated some sort of cultural-political continental drift where conservative and liberal plates move further away from each other, leaving a void in the middle.
But I can’t help but think that perhaps this is somewhat of an illusion created by media and political magicians. Someone once said that if a lie is told often enough and with enough force, it can become the truth. If Americans are told often enough, with enough conviction and supposed authority, that there are serious divisions in the country, then it can become the truth. Razor close presidential elections seem to have reinforced the supposed truth of division. But I wonder if our hyper-media were toned down 80% if we wouldn’t have a more civil society and more civil – and less dollar-driven – political body.

01 November 2008

My Get Rich (Relatively) Quick Scheme

Like many Americans, I occasionally have Homer Simpson-like thoughts of getting rich very quickly. All of them die as mere thoughts; I’m a bit too risk averse to dive into the deep end alone. That’s why I’m glad that the deep end is coming to me.

During this presidential campaign, Sen. Obama has said repeatedly that those of us making less than $250,000 would get a tax break, or wouldn’t see our taxes increased, or something akin to those. It would be “fair” for those making more than that to pay more; it would, as Sen. Biden said, “patriotic” for folks making more than $250,000 a year to pay more.

Regardless of who I’m voting for on Tuesday and who might win, I was fairly secure that I personally would not be considered “rich”, as our combined income is well below what Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden consider rich. We are middle class. Or at least that’s what I think.

There’s a decent chance that my wife and I will be considered “rich” under an Obama administration. In recent days, the bar which theoretically separates the rich from the middle class has been lowered considerably by Democrats – more than 50%. So whereas one might consider two beginning teachers’ salaries distinctly “un-rich”, it may not be long at all for us to be “rich”. Indeed, politicians may well make it happen much more quickly than I could ever do so by myself.

Perhaps I owe them thanks, then. The government may achieve for me what I have not achieved for myself. The funny thing is that I don’t really want to be rich; I have no great ambition to become wealthy at the expense of other things in life. That, too, is a good thing if Sen. Obama gains the White House. I can be fairly certain that I won’t get wealthy, but my wife and I may well be considered “rich”. Now that’s one rich paradox, isn’t it?