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Monday, June 06, 2005

The Rich Just Get Richer So Give Up

The Sunday NYT Business section carried a column by Ben Stein entitled "Lessons In Gratitude". Stein told of his father's experience at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., in September 1931. Stein's father had to wash dishes in the basement of a fraternity while other boys ate their meals upstairs in order to pay for the Depression-era costs of attending the prestigious private college. This very fraternity had denied membership to Jewish students.

Stein asked his father if he felt angry about having to wash dishes to pay his way through school in a fraternity that didn't admit Jews. His father, who became a successful economist, answered:

"Not at all. I didn't have the luxury of feeling aggrieved. I was just grateful to have a job so I could go to one of the best schools in the country."

Over in the NYT Book Review section was a review by Kevin Baker of "The Luckiest Man: Iron Horse Power", a bio about the great Yankee, Lou Gherig. Writes Baker:

Gehrig's was a rags-to-riches story; the same, almost uncannily repeated tale of so many Yankee greats: Joe DiMaggio, son of a humble Italian fisherman; Mickey Mantle, from a family of Oklahoma miners; Babe Ruth, Gehrig's Rabelaisian teammate, brought up in a Baltimore orphanage. Unlike the others, Henry Louis Gehrig didn't have to come to the big city to make good. He was born here, the son of struggling German immigrants.

Gherig's father was a sometimes employed ironworker while his mother spent much of her life cooking and cleaning for other people to support her family in some of the shabbier tenements of Upper Manhattan. Gherig went to Columbia to study engineering until the Yankees signed him. A throw-in sentence by Baker was:

Following class, Lou would help her [his mother] wash dishes at her job in a rival fraternity's kitchen.

These two stories are not meant to disparage fraternities at elite colleges. They are meant to show that people used to accept the hardships in exchange for the opportunity to improve one's lot.

Yet again, in the same NYT issue, we have Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind by David Cay Johnson continuing their class warfare pseudo-economic analysis to show "it ain't worth tryin' anymore". Bashing Reagan and Bush, and ignoring Carter's hand in the scourge of the middle class, the AMT, he attempts to show how their tax changes inordinately benefited the rich. While bringing up statistics that show the rich are getting richer and focusing on the upper .01 % of earners (and who cannot hate those fat cats?), he provides us this:

Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes - a minimum of $87 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data - now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000.

"Excuse me if I'm wrong, Sandy but" is that not an indication of the flattening of the tax rates? I say that is not bad.

And then Johnson tells us how astronomically well the upper .01 % did in increased wealth:

The average income for the top 0.1 percent was $3 million in 2002, the latest year for which averages are available. That number is two and a half times the $1.2 million, adjusted for inflation, that group reported in 1980. No other income group rose nearly as fast.

But, as economists advise, that will always be the case because the upper-most tier of income has no ceiling as do all of the other income groups. The lowest always have $0 as a base but the upper-most tier can always climb upwards. So the incredibly successful will always drive up any analysis of the upper-tier's growth in income.

The NYT should reconsider the real story of America. Both Stein and Gherig have proved, as so many in the various income tiers, that hard work and not accepting victim-hood pay off.

2 Comments:

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Porkopolis said...

Neal:

I've also commented on the series; in specific on the In Fiction, a Long History of Fixation on the Social Gap article in this post: New York Times reporter calls colleagues un-American?.

 
At 3:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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