There's a very annoying guest piece in the Lincoln Journal Star from December 26th written by William Orr. For those of you who are not Nebraskans, William Orr is husband of former governor Kay Orr, who gave us our corporate kickback scheme still the most sacred cow in our budget. Mr. Orr has served as a lobbyist and activist for conservative causes.
Here's the guts of the piece, a conservative chestnut: "Suppose that every day, 10 men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this.
The first four men -- the poorest -- would pay nothing, the fifth would pay $1, the sixth would pay $3, the seventh $7, the eighth $12 and the ninth $18. The 10th man -- the richest -- would pay $59." When the cost of dinner is decreased by the restaurateur, the argument over how to deal with the reduction results in beating up the 10th guy and no one being able to pay for dinner. Therefore, we should not revolt against the rich, for they are the engine powering our society, I guess.
There's been one response to the editorial, which points out how each of these guys earn their livings.
What bothers me about this whole article is that the assumption in it is that the tenth guy is the one who has all the money and no one else has money but for the tenth guy's magnanimity. Nor is there any discussion of why it is that the tenth guy has all the money in the first place. I've been wrestling with a clever response. There are several possibilities:
Under the tax policy put forth by the American Enterprise Institute, those four guys who pay nothing and the fifth who pays a buck should pay more, so the ninth and tenth can pay less.
The $59 that the tenth guy pays comes from the work that the first five guys do -- but they can't afford to pay close to full price, even though they would if they could. The tenth guy gets paid 30 million plus stock options. The first four guys get paid less than eight bucks an hour. If the company makes money as a result of the work the first five guys are doing, the tenth guy gets major bonuses, and the first five guys get a nickel an hour raise. If the first five guys talk about forming a union because they want better wages, the tenth guy hires goons to threaten the first five guys and their families. When the corporation that the tenth guy is running tanks it in, the first five guys are on the street and the tenth guy cashes in stock options for several hundred million.
The rest of the story is this: after they beat up the tenth guy, the other nine realize that the money the tenth guy's been making off of them is now theirs to keep, and they have not only enough to pay for dinner, but to take their families, too!