A Thomas Sowell quote is making the Internoodle rounds again. “What is your ‘fair share’ of what someone else has worked for?”
Dr. Sowell is an economist, social theorist, and philosopher. He is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Dr. Friedman, a Nobel laureate, founded the Chicago school of economics; Dr. Sowell is perhaps the leading voice of that school.
“I know the intention was to slam ‘distribution of wealth/social service program’ supporters,” my friend Nola Guay said to me, “But my real question is this: ‘What’s [ExxonMobil CEO] Rex Tillerson’s fair share of the $2.72 million salary and $4.59 million bonus he gets this year’? After all, his $600 million in federal handouts padded their gargantuan bottom line.”
Nola, dear? How much of what you’ve worked for do you want to give me?
“That’s a strawman and you know it, Dick,” she said.
Maybe so, but Mr. Tillerson is a piker. !@#$%^ Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts picked up $29.1 million in salary, bonus, and so on (down from $31.1 million in 2011) while delivering a whole lot less customer satisfaction. ExxonMobil at least puts a tiger in your tank. Heck, Walmart CEO Mike Duke’s pay jumped 14.1% to $20.7 million, mostly on a performance-based cash bonus. The average Walmart employee would have to work 785 years to earn that much.
Still, Nola, you didn’t answer the question. I really wonder how much you plan to give me out of what you worked for? I really wonder if you’ll tithe to me?
There is a belief that people who have more of something are required to give it to others who have less. Required.
“I’m looking for balanced, moral behavior on everyone’s part,” Ms. Guay said
Yeah, baby. When Rufus starts collecting Social Security this year at age 62, he’ll pull in $1,923/month or $23,076 per year because he qualifies for the maximum benefit. Ms. Guay’s 1040 showed a total income of $19,742. I guess Rufus owes Nola $1,667 this year just to keep them morally balanced. And Mr. Tillerson gets to give it to all of us. Of course, dividing his 7,310,000 pre-tax cash dollars between the 315,848,000 of us gives us each 2.3 cents.
“You’re missing the point as usual, Dick,” she said. “I’m looking for that good behavior on everyone’s part. You want to keep slashing benefits for the disadvantaged while filling the coffers of the already abusive wealthy. That’s just plain hateful and immoral.”
And that’s the smoke-and-mirrors part of Ms. Guay’s argument.
Dr. Sowell was a Marxist too, “during the decade of my 20s,” but he rejected Ms. Guay’s fair share economics (in favor of laissez faire) after he interned with the Feds in the summer of 1960. That’s when he discovered the link between the rise of mandated minimum wages for workers in the sugar industry of Puerto Rico and the rise of unemployment. Studying the patterns led Dr. Sowell to conclude that the government employees who administered the minimum wage law cared more about their own jobs than the plight of the poor.
“I don’t want to give even more money to Big Sugar, either,” she said.
The USDA will buy 400,000 tons of sugar in a massive bailout of domestic sugar processors. That will cost taxpayers about $80 million in the sweetest deal possible for the companies that grow cane and beets. See, they borrowed millions against this year’s sugar harvest but the harvest was soooooooooo good that prices dropped so they can’t pay back all of the loan.
The National Debt increases at an average of $3.78 billion per day which will add up to some $1,400,000,000,000 (1.4 trillion dollars) this year so that extra $80 million is just .005% of the total increase in debt. We need to find the other 99.995% of immoral government spending, preferably from handouts to Big Sugar and Big Solar and all the other political boondoggles. After all, individual taxpayers paid $1,434,100,000 (coincidentally about 1.4 trillion dollars) in federal income tax last year. If we have to pay the spending we authorized, we’ll have to double our “contribution.”
It’s a simple calculation. Cut spending or double taxes. It’s your “fair share.”
“I don’t understand how these clowns keep getting elected,” Ms. Guay said. “Oh, wait. I do. They make us believe that the ‘other people’ are our enemies. They run hate filled campaigns. Then these damn fool middle class buy that load of bilge and keep voting them in.”
And all I could think of was, Why is she maligning her own Demorats?
For the record, ExxonMobil paid $31.05 billion in federal income tax last year, after the huge handout of $600 million in annual federal tax breaks, on earnings before taxes of $78.73 billion; WalMart paid just $7.98 billion on $25.74 billion in earnings before taxes.
Comcast got about the same $566 million tax reduction in 2009 and avoided paying all the Pennsylvania corporate income taxes again last year.