Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Which I Berate a Columnist

Award winning author and columnist Mitch Albom can usually be counted on for intelligent and insightful commentary. Not today, though. His column in the Detroit Free Press is nothing more than a badly thought-out, misleading piece of right-wing tripe.

Here is my response, which I sent to him in an email.

Dear Mr. Albom:

Usually I read your column and think, "Mitch nailed it again."

Not so, today, though. In fact, for the first time ever, I must accuse you of sophistry. Your column is filled with all kinds of wrong; and out of respect for your intellect, I have to believe you know better. Have you been influenced by P.J. O'Rourke?

First, suggesting an increased tax on the rich is not resenting them. It is moving our Nation closer to the conditions that prevailed at a time when America enjoyed real prosperity. In the 50's and early 60's, marginal tax rates were in the 90% range, not the 35% range. Since then, while tax rates declined, so has GDP growth. I illustrate this on my blog.

Meanwhile, wealth disparity has increased, reaching a level not seen since 1928.

That is what is meant by, "The richest 1% of this country has had a pretty good run of it for many, many, many years." In fact, during the recent Bush administration, the average wealth of individual tax filing households in the richest 1% increased by $1 billion, or more. So, "Eat the Rich," is hardly what is being suggested.

And, no, the other 99% have not had a good run. Since the Reagan years, those in the lowest 20% have seen their real wealth deteriorate by 1 to 2% per year. Over this time span, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest, and those at the very top have gained the most, by a large margin.

Do you really believe that the rich do not have available, and employ with great vigor and enthusiasm, all manner of tax dodges? To suggest that they do is not insulting. To suggest that they don't is either frankly dishonest or demonstrates naivety that is unacceptable in a professional commentator. To the extent that the use of tax dodges might be reduced, you could perhaps attribute the change to the fact that at a 35% tax rate, such dodges are worth less than they were under higher tax rates. Further, you blithely brush off the low tax rate on capital gains, saying such income is based on income already earned and taxed. In other words, rich people have the wherewithall to indulge themselves in this tax-favored activity, because they're ALREADY RICH!

Sure the richest 1% pay over 40% of the income taxes. That is not because the tax system is unfair to them. It is because they bring in far, far more than 40% of the income. But, surely, you realize this. And you must also realize that you are, in a very misleading way, quoting marginal tax rates while suggesting that they are the effective tax rates.

Worst of all, and this truly is insulting, is your snide suggestion that the real beneficiaries of Obama's health care plan are those people "who never really look for work, who don't bother in school, who look for ways to live off the state," recycling in your own ill-considered words the old Reagan canard of Welfare Queens in Cadillacs. And you build straw men of noble single mothers and greedy pigs. I know you are not naive enough to believe any of that.

Then you actually go on to use the phrase,"milking the rich."

What's up, Mr. Albom? Everything about this article - the gratuitous snark, the wrong-headedness, the straw men, the callous disregard for reality and truth - says "not Mitch Albom" to me. How can a person who has always been so right-minded and reasonable suddenly be regurgitating right-wing talking points a la Fox News and the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal? What, sir, has happened to you?

Yours in grave disappointment,



Anonymous said...

Worked for some radiologists once. 8 or 9 of them in the group. By straightening out the billings and some total wastage and scaring the head tech at the private office from stealing and selling $60 to $70 thousand per year, in less than two years, I had raised their incomes from $220 thousand per year to $380 per year.

Not one of them thanked me or even suggested giving me a bonus, but at least three of them came to my office to ask how much more they were going to get next year.

You can never satisfy a greedy person. Never. Never. Never.

The pilgrims came to america supposedly to "have freedom of religion," but chose to kill anyone else, hell they hung Quakers and burned witches. Before they landed they signed some document called the Mayflower Compact - equal this and equal that, etc. I think that the first year that they had a 50 per cent mortality rate. None of the dead were any of the signers of the compact or any of their family members. So greed doesn't only reside at the most wealthy, it is, also, prevalent in small groups.

Jazzbumpa said...

Anon -

Interesting stories and insights. Thanx. Why not I.D. yourself?

JzB the welcoming trombonist