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Reality Check II: Why the Grades-to-Taxes Analogy Doesn’t Work.

Updated on August 21, 2012

So somebody with delusions of cleverness has posted a video online in which they ask liberal college students if they think it would be okay if the school were to redistribute their good grades to students who are failing. You can view the video below. Of course, the students answer that this would be a terrible idea, that it’s not the same thing. The folks who published the video point this out as “evidence” of liberal hypocrisy. But the thing is, the students are correct: it is a terrible idea, and it’s not the same thing.

This analogy is built on several false premises.

Apparently Grades are Just Like Money

False premise: Income is an objective assessment of merit and achievement, and only that.

In this analogy, someone who has a lot of money has it only because they got up earlier, worked harder, hustled faster, finished quicker, and provided a good or a service of both greater objective importance and higher objective quality than everybody else. Moreover, anybody who chooses to similarly get up early, etc, will certainly see similar results. Anyone not wealthy is obviously not willing to do that stuff, and anybody not willing to do that stuff obviously doesn’t deserve to be rewarded with wealth.

I wish this were entirely true instead of only partially so.

In the real world, financial rewards often do come to the guy who hustles faster, etc. But the money is a lot more likely to come to the guy who gets up early and knows someone at the company he’s trying to sell to. It’s a lot more likely to come to the guy who works harder and has a recommendation from the hiring manager’s squash partner. It’s a lot more likely to come to the guy who hustles faster and has a bit of a head start.

In the real world, it’s also almost a cliché for the hardworking but unassuming guy who comes early, stays late, and gets the job done to get passed over for promotion in favor of the slightly less hard working but more outgoing and more connected fellow two cubes down.

Wealth can also come not from diligence, hard work, and high quality but rather through corner-cutting, creative accounting, and fraud. Yes, sometimes when the wealthy commit fraud, they get caught and punished, like Bernie Madoff. But sometimes, when a whole lot of wealthy people commit fraud, they get rewarded, like what happened to the management at Goldman Sachs. (This may be changing in the near future; watch this space for updates)

And of course, this ignores the phenomenon of unearned (inherited) income. We’ll take a look at inherited income vs. inherited grades below.

False premise: Tax money is taken from the wealthy and given directly to the poor to do with as they wish.

The grades analogy proposes to take points from good students’ GPAs and give them directly to failing students, presumably so that the failing students will receive passing grades. For this proposal to truly be analogous to a progressive tax structure, the points taken from the top students would have to be put into a general fund, and from this fund would be taken a few points to help students who have missed class because of illness or bereavement, a few points to help struggling students pass their basic studies classes (only basic studies classes, and no grade higher than D+), and a big chunk of points would get reassigned to well-connected top students (which would bring their GPAs up to something like 6.4). Because that’s analogous to what happens to tax dollars: they’re used for all kinds of stuff, including subsidies to the already-wealthy, and only a very small percentage of the total federal budget directly and exclusively benefits our poorest citizens.

False premise: Grades are exactly the same as money.

They aren’t. This is pretty obvious to most of the students in the video, and ought to be pretty obvious to anyone who has ever spent time in high school. A good grade is an assessment of how well you have learned the material covered in the course. Sometimes the grade is objective, as in Math classes: did you reach all the correct answers? Did you show your work? Did you finish in the time allotted? Yes? A. Did you forget to carry the one, skip a few steps, or not finish? B-. Sometimes the grade is more subjective, as in English Lit: Did you effectively and convincingly make your case that Mister Darcy is a symbol of the systemic oppression of regency-era women by the male-dominated social hierarchy? Did you spell all the words correctly? Did you make an original point or two? Did you make your professor laugh with a few clever turns of phrase? Yes? A. Did you confuse Mister Darcy with Mister Ferrars, misspell or misuse several words, make a ham-handed argument using unoriginal ideas, and make your professor cringe at your clichéd and hackneyed writing style? D+.

A grade is an assessment not of how hard your worked to learn the material, but rather an assessment of your command of the knowledge you were meant to have learned in the class. An A grade tell you that you know the material thoroughly. A B tells you that for all intents and purposes, you know most of what you need, but you missed one or two finer points. A C or below tell you that there are gaps in your knowledge and you might want to re-take the class if you really want to learn this stuff.

To give a failing student a passing grade would not do him a favor at all; It would do him a grave disservice. It would give him the false impression that he knows more than he really does, perhaps that he is prepared for a career when he really is not. This might have consequences only for the student in question if the student’s chosen career is philosophy or literary criticism. But if the student is majoring in chemistry with hopes of becoming a pharmacist, well, telling the graduate that he is prepared to be a pharmacist (and at the same time telling all prospective employers that he’s prepared to be a pharmacist) when he isn’t could have disastrous consequences.

If this premise were true, and grades were like money, then an alumnus would be able to bequeath his grade points to his daughter, and when the kid arrived on campus as an incoming freshman, she would already have a bunch of grade points to boost her grades on difficult classes. She could even take a class, not bother showing up for it, spend some of her inheritance, and squeak by with an A-.

False premise: The poor benefit from government spending and the wealthy do not.

The supposedly analogous “grade tax” program proposes to take grade points from top students and redistribute them only to the bottom students. Under this program, all grade points moved would be moved down the academic ladder. For this to be a true analogy of what happens to tax dollars, all tax dollars would have to directly benefit only the nation’s poorest citizens, and the nation’s wealthiest citizens would see no benefit at all. on the surface, you might say, "Well, that's the way it is, isn't it?" No. For this to be true, the nation’s wealthiest citizens would not be able to drive on the interstate road system, make use of technologies developed by NASA or the defense department (you’re benefiting from several of those right now, if you’re reading this online), listen to a weather forecast that makes use of data from the National Weather Service or NOAA, get letters in the mail, visit the National Parks, and would never ever ever be further enriched with tax money.

Unless you haven’t been benefiting from government-developed communications technology, you’re aware that the housing market collapsed a couple years ago. Among the many reasons for the collapse was this simple one: lots of people who were supposed to have been able to pay their mortgages were not able to pay their mortgages. This was a problem for the world at large because banks had taken those mortgages (which they knew were likely to become worthless) bundled them together to make mortgage-backed securities, told people that the new securities were safe long-term investments, and sold them to state, municipal, and corporate pension funds, private investors, etc. When the people couldn’t pay those mortgages, suddenly those securities became worthless, and (among other consequences) pensions became underfunded all over the world. For good or ill, the government decided to use our tax money (well, our future tax money) to address this situation.

Now friends, there were one or two things the government could have done to keep the economy chugging along. The first thing might have been to start paying the mortgages of people who were suddenly unable to pay their mortgages. This would have ensured that the mortgages that the mortgage-backed securities were made of would keep getting paid, that the people and pension funds that had invested in these securities wouldn’t have lost all their money. This response would have ensured that pensions were funded, retirees still had their investments, most people would get to keep their jobs, and people would get to stay in their houses while they tried to refinance their mortgage with better terms. This wasn't very likely and we didn't expect it. And of course the government didn’t do that, because that looks too much like redistributing wealth.

The second thing was that the government could have investigated the the circumstances leading up to the financial collapse, and uncovered the fact that securities were created that were known to be very risky, and that in spite of this knowledge they were fraudulently rated as safe, and a bunch of people would have gone to jail and a bunch of ill-gotten assets would have been seized, which was what we expected.

But friends, when the government finally acted there was the third possibility that we hadn't even counted upon, and the government handed a great big bag of money to the institutions that created the crisis in the first place, on the argument that if all these big banks collapse, then so will the rest of the economy. What did the banks do with that great big bag of money? Did they use it as a cushion while they renegotiated high-interest variable-rate loans to a more reasonable fixed rate, then bringing our economy back to a mode of slower, but steadier growth? Nope. They pocketed the cash, wrote big bonus checks to their top employees, and foreclosed on lots of people’s homes.

If the progressive grade tax analogy really mirrored the US’s progressive income tax structure, the government’s response to a financial crisis would not be to hand un-earned money to the already-wealthy and expect prosperity to trickle down, but rather to hand that selfsame money to the poor and expect prosperity to trickle up.

But that’s not how the tax system works, and that’s why the progressive grade tax proposal is a false analogy.

The Video isn’t all Bad

The fellow in the video does raise one valid point. At about 4:05 on the video, one of the conservative advocates says that a student from a low-income family might have to work an extra job to pay for school, which takes away from study time, while a student from a wealthy family doesn’t have to work, so he can spend that time studying and earn a higher grade. This is actually quite a good explanation for why the wealthy stay at or near the top of the economic ladder regardless of merit (or lack thereof) while folks who start out at the bottom have roadblocks to accumulating wealth, and often do not rise in spite of merit.

The guy with the sweet job at the investment bank might have landed his job by working his patootie off in the summer to pay for college, working his tuchis off at college to learn his stuff and get good grades, and getting hired based only on a stellar transcript, a timely application, and an interview with a person he happened to have a lot in common with.

Or, more likely, his family were already wealthy, so they lived in a school district with top performing public schools (or else paid to send the kid to an elite private one). Since he went to a high-quality high school, he was well prepared for acceptance to his chosen college. He didn’t have to hold a job while in school, and was able to devote most of his time to his classes. He studied hard, learned his stuff, and was able to get an interview at the bank on the recommendation of a friend of a friend of his family. His grades and his interview skills were good enough to land him the job.

Note that in the second example, the kid is diligent, hardworking, and has merit. He’s probably even a really nice guy. There is no reason for the firm not to hire him. But he still has several advantages that the other candidate does not: he had access to better schools growing up. He had enough wealth that he did not have to sacrifice study time for earning time. He got his interview because he had an ‘in.’ Note that there is nothing wrong with any of these things. He clearly earned his academic achievements, and is clearly earning his income. But to say that the second kid earned his position and wealth all on his own with no outside help at all is rather shortsighted. To borrow a well-used sports analogy, the second kid was born on third base. He didn’t hit a triple.

And this is why a progressive tax structure is fair.

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    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      You're framing the argument to suit yourself, and tossing in several straw men in the process

      The analogy is simple...what's the difference between a student who works hard and earns good grades and a citizen who works hard and earns a good living, if either of them must then share their hard earned rewards with those who did nothing to earn it?

      The short answer is there is no difference, which is why you chose to muddy the waters.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "The analogy is simple..." Rather, the analogy is simplistic. And flawed.

      What's the difference? There are many, some of which are listed above. I'm not muddying anything, but rather clearing the waters being muddied by this simplistic view.

      If you disagree, I'd love to hear some of your reasons for it. Perhaps there's a point that I hadn't considered. But you've merely contradicted without any supporting arguments. If you think I've used a strawman argument, please point it out.

      But until you understand that a grade (high or low) is not a reward, but rather an assessment of the student's understanding of the course material, you'll never understand, well, much of anything.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      An excellent argument, Jeff. There is yet another. Is there anywhere a wealthy person who's wealth has not been amassed through the earnings of others -- whether through selling a product (where the buyer gives a portion of his wealth to the seller,) a service (same thing,) or through investments (where interest and dividends reduce wealth of the paying institution (which received that wealth through the labor and investment of others) and increase that of the recipient?) The answer is no. All wealth has been amassed through transfer of wealth. (An earlier argument I had with Will Starr, one he couldn't or wouldn't accept.) Unlike wealth, grades given do not reduce grades elsewhere.

      There would be no wealthy people without the transfer of wealth to him from the rest of us. I've often wondered why the redistribution of wealth upwards is good, whereas the redistribution of wealth downwards is .... gasp-- socialism and bad. A valid question, but not relevant to your argument here. Sorry.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "Is there anywhere a wealthy person who's [sic] wealth has not been amassed through the earnings of others..."

      Define 'wealth'.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      All wealth is the product of labor.

      - John Locke

      If that's true, and most of us believe that it obviously is, then that wealth belongs to those who labored to create it, not to those who would redistribute it to others who did nothing to earn it.

      The tortured leftist definition of wealth is necessary to the justification of socialist redistribution. If the left can convince us that the industrious segment of our population didn't actually create wealth so much as they stole it or transferred it to themselves, then they can justify taking that wealth away from the industrious in order to give it to the non-industrious.

      Paper money is not wealth. It is at best, a dubious medium of exchange based on our faith and trust in the face value printed on it and on the country that printed it. If that faith is lost, then that ‘wealth’ is gone overnight, and the former fortune on deposit won’t even buy a loaf of bread. (Gold and silver money is actual wealth because it has its own intrinsic value that is not dependent on the impressions stamped on it at the mint.)

      Thus the absurd claim that wealth cannot be created, despite the overwhelming evidence that new wealth is being created every day, as new cars roll off the assembly line, and new homes are erected on vacant lots. Admitting that people create wealth by their labor negates the claim that their wealth does not belong to them but was stolen from the less fortunate, so the left stands by their obviously false claim.

      When you hear the terms, "economic justice/social justice", think: redistribution of wealth. The irony is, those who claim to be redistributing the wealth 'stolen from the less fortunate' are in fact, the real thieves.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Gold and silver have an intrinsic value? Sorry, not buying it. Gold and silver are merely durable, pretty, portable (in small amounts) and rare. You can't eat them--well, you can, but they do not have much nutritional value. You can't build shelter out of them--well, you can, but a house made of solid silver would be very tacky, and not very cozy. You can't wear them--well, you can, but they won't keep you warm and dry. They are nice and shiny, though.

      Gold and silver are pretty useless, objectively speaking. The only reason people value them is because other people also want them.

      But let's leave aside for a moment the flaws in the idea of gold having "inherent worth."

      Your two main premises contradict each other.

      You claim that gold and silver money are actual wealth (with the implication that /only/ gold and silver money are actual wealth). Then you claim that wealth can be created.

      For both of these claims to be true, I should be able to call gold and silver money into existence by building a house or a car.

      This is clearly an absurd idea. If I build a house, I do have a house that didn't exist before, but the amount of gold and silver that exists on Earth is unchanged.

      So either wealth can take the form of things other than gold and silver money, or wealth cannot be created. Or it could be that you simply haven't thought these things through very well. Probably some combination of the first thing and the last thing.

      Finally, stop with this silly 'redistribution' strawman. Nobody is advocating taking money from the wealthy and simply turning it over to the poor, no strings attached. Tax money gets used for all kinds of stuff that benefits /everyone/. Very little spending directly and exclusively benefits the poor, and government financial assistance doesn't come without strings attached unless you're a Wall Street exec.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "Gold and silver have an intrinsic value? Sorry, not buying it."

      Neither am I at $1500 and $30 an ounce! For something of no value, they're sure high priced!

      "The only reason people value them is because other people also want them."

      Well, duh! You can say the same thing about anything of value! Supply and demand! Freshman economics!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "For something of no value, they're sure high priced!"

      A given thing is worth the price someone is willing and able to pay. Heck, a Superman #1 in mint condition is more valuable than gold. Except it's no good for anything other than pumping the ego of the person who owns it. I didn't say silver and gold have no value. I said they have no _intrinsic_ value. They're only valuable because people like them. Water, on the other hand, is intrinsically valuable because if we go without it for more than a couple days, we die. See the difference?

      ""The only reason people value them is because other people also want them."

      Well, duh!"

      Of course, duh.

      "You can say the same thing about anything of value!"

      Uh, nope. Water has inherent value; we need it to survive. Ditto food and shelter, and in most climates, clothing. Add fuel to generate heat, and that's the sum total of things with _intrinsic_ value.

      Anything else only has value because people assign that value. And as soon as something else becomes more stylish (people stop wanting it), or as soon as someone finds a whole lot of it (it's no longer scarce), its value will evaporate, because its worth is subjective, not inherent.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      ""You can say the same thing about anything of value!"

      "Uh, nope. Water has inherent value; we need it to survive."

      I guess you must have missed that caveat about supply and demand.

      In the end, all this is another leftist attempt to justify government confiscation of the wealth earned by one person in order to give it to another person who did not earn it.

      Just admit you want redistribution of wealth and move on.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "I guess you must have missed that caveat about supply and demand."

      You're deliberately choosing to ignore certain parts of my posts, presumably in an attempt to make your arguments seem more clever. I'm ignoring nothing, but you seem to be ignoring elastic vs nonelastic demand. There is a nonelastic demand for water; it will be in demand regardless of scarcity or fashionability for the simple fact that if we don't have some on a regular basis, we die.

      I don't want "redistribution of wealth," I want people to pay their taxes and support the society that they live in and that has made their prosperity possible.

      Just admit that you suffer from the delusion that you have everything you own solely as a direct result of your own merit and that you have never benefitted from the efforts of others.

      When you hear someone railing against "redistribution of wealth," realize that this is code for, "I either am ignorant of or choose to ignore the fact that I benefit from living in society, and wish to take advantage of those benefits without giving back. I hope I can trick you into agreeing with me not by sound arguments that I realize are morally bankrupt, but by labelling those who disagree with me as socialists."

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 6 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Well, I'll be. You completely missed the point of the video you posted.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      No he didn't. He realizes that the analogy is perfectly valid and damaging, so he's trying to minimimize it.

      Look at his first 'false premise'. He attributes that gobbledygook to a phantom debator, but it actually came directly from him, making it a classic straw man argument.

      His second 'false premise' is another straw man, because no one made that argument.

      Look, the present administration openly admits that it wants 'income redistribution', calling it either 'social justice' or 'economic justice', both of whom are code words for income redistribution.

      The hard working students wanted nothing to do with giving part of their hard earned grades to students who didn't earn them, but can't make the obvious connection to people giving up part of their hard earned income to those who did nothing to earn it.

      Of course it's a valid analogy.

    • profile image

      Ghost32 6 years ago

      One assumption with a few cracks in the plaster is that GRADES are an objective assessment of merit and achievement, and only that. Or, for that matter, that "sharing" one grade hurts other grades--where you've got a teacher grading on a strict curve, it DEFINITELY hurts the others when one is artificially boosted.

      There are attractive young ladies who've slept their way to A's, grades achieved via Cliff Notes and even outright plagiary, stolen tests, and even plain old outright favoritism.

      But yeah, I did prefer getting an A when I earned it in my school days. And no, I never have appreciated my income being snatched by the tax robbers.

      The analogy still sounds good to me. I've had struggling students come to me for tutoring, and I've gone to wealthy folks for tutoring in how to make money. No diff that I can see.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Give it up, Jeff. At some point you have to realize you're banging your head against a brick wall. Lynda

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 6 years ago

      I'm not at all clear how it can be considered fair when some always expect to receive something with no effort or contribution on their part. This would apply to both money and grades. I just never felt I was entitled to something I did not earn.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "At some point you have to realize you're banging your head against a brick wall."

      The left always makes the same mistake of assuming the opposition is stupid.

    • Quilligrapher profile image

      Quilligrapher 6 years ago from New York

      I believe every argument must begin with an agreement on definitions. The dictionary defines wealth as 1. “much money or property” and as 3. “everything having a value in money.” Economists, on the other hand, define it as a global constant as it appears you do too. Using your definition, your points may be valid, Jeff, and I think they are. Using Webster’s vernacular definition, constructing a house, or anything, valued at more than the sum of the costs is “creating” wealth where there was less wealth before. I believe it would be very difficult to convince someone using Webster’s definition otherwise. Q.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      “He realizes that the analogy is perfectly valid and damaging, so he's trying to minimimize it.”

      No, rather, I’m not silly enough to think that money and grades are the same thing, and I am clever enough to realize that the analogy ignores many other inconvenient facts which invalidate it.

      “Look at his first 'false premise'. He attributes that gobbledygook to a phantom debator, but it actually came directly from him, making it a classic straw man argument.”

      No, mate, that false premise is implied in the analogy: it’s meant to be accepted by the viewer without question, as if it were a ‘self-evident’ truth.

      “His second 'false premise' is another straw man, because no one made that argument.”

      Well, yeah, they did. They argue that taking a few grade points from top students and giving them directly to failing students is exactly like the federal government taxing wealthier people at a higher rate. That implies that the federal government takes money from the wealthy and gives it directly to the poor, no strings attached. So yes, the guys in the video totally made that argument, and it was pretty transparent. And it’s only one of many reasons why the grade tax proposal is a false analogy.

      “The hard working students wanted nothing to do with giving part of their hard earned grades to students who didn't earn them, but can't make the obvious connection to people giving up part of their hard earned income to those who did nothing to earn it.”

      No, again, the connection is not obvious, because it’s a stupid connection. Grades aren’t money. They aren’t even a reward. The very idea that a grade is some kind of reward is simplistic. It sure does feel good to get an A, much as it feels good to get a bonus at the end of the quarter, but the good feelings are where the similarities end.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Ghost, you raise a valid point that it's possible to get a good grade by less than honest means, and it's true that some students cheat. But while those students get a fake grade, they still don't get the knowledge that they were (or ought to have been) trying to learn. Also, as someone who has actually taught at the university level, I can also tell you that students who get caught plagiarizing also get consequences, ranging from a zero on the assignment up to expulsion.

      Also, most professors no longer grade their students on the bell curve, as they realized long ago that one genius in the class can easily make the merely good students look (at least on paper) like they haven't learned the material, which isn't fair.

      Re your tutoring analogy, that would actually be a better analogy for the tax system than the fake one in the video. Rather than saying that a top performing student didn't learn the material when she did, and saying a low performing student learned it when she didn't, let the top student spend time in the library tutoring students who need help. Because that's a lot closer to what tax money actually does: makes it easier for everyone to achieve success regardless of where they started from.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Lynda, thanks for the sentiment, but it's not the ideologues that I'm trying to convince. It's the folks who might otherwise be fooled by this (and other) simplistic false analogies. I don't suffer under the illusion that folks who've already made up their minds are going to change them.

      I also do not think that (all) conservatives are stupid, in spite of Will's comment. But apparently the folks who made this video think people are either stupid or ignorant if they expect us to buy into the idea that grades are just like money and that their grade tax proposal faithfully mirrors the federal income tax structure.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

      Sorry Jeff, but after reading your article and the rationale that employ as reasoning to attempt explain it, I think you drove around the in circles and attempted to bury the reader in useless information that had little or nothing to do with the original concept. It is this simple, when anything that is “earned” is taken away and “redistributed” indiscriminately to the effort originally required, an injustice has been done…no matter whether it is taxes, grades, eggs, sand, or whatever. The premise is valid. Secondly, Immartin wants to reason that those who earn wealth do not deserve it. She overlooks the fact that those people brought a concept or idea to the table, they took a risk, they borrowed money to produce, they bought land and equipment and finally they hired people. In the end, using here rationale, we would take the output of the production and divide it evenly between everyone working there regardless of their effort or importance in the process. In the end, the man or woman with the original idea gets nothing more than the people they hired. Sorry…flawed rationale. Businesses and companies which create products and services get their start because someone had and idea and took a risk that others would buy it. From those earnings, they deserve a return on their investment and money to reinvest into the growth of the business so that those who do work there can continue to have some security that the business will continue to exist and provide jobs. All things perceived as wealth are not evil nor are they bad for this country.

      You might want to reconsider the grade example using the concept of “cheating”. If there are 50 people in a class and only 10 of them apply themselves and study for the grades. When test time comes, the other 40 expect the 10 who studied to provide them with the answers so they can get an “A” on the test as well. Again here, Immartin’s points out that grades have no value and there is not a limited supply but there is value when they are earned and when the supply of that value is unlimited due to source all grades lose their face value. In this example, eventually the 10 people at the top quit studying because everyone is getting the same grades. The source of intelligence dries up and eventually the entire class fails. This is the most reason that “socialism or communalism” does not work. It fails to recognize the productive effort of the individual and eventually takes away all rewards for the work. As much as it might bother you that explanation could be that simple, it’s a fact. The problems we have in this country as present is that explanations to the public are being buried in the type of rationale you attempt to apply in this very article. Unfortunately, they, like you, find people who actually will buy it and go along with the lame direction in which they are headed. That is the true reality check here. WB

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
      Author

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Wayne, everything I pointed out was buried in the original concept. For the grade tax proposed in the video to be a valid analogy to the federal tax structure, we have to accept that grades are exactly like money, that the government takes money only from the wealthy and gives it directly only to poor people to do with as they wish. Interestingly, this is also the simplistic argument of the folks who accuse the left of wanting to "redistribute" wealth. Reality is more complicated than this simplistic analogy, and this is a standard tactic of the extreme right lately: take a complex situation, draw a simplistic and superficial analogy, and use the superficial analogy to convince people that the complex situation is a simple cut-and-dried one, and that the right is right and the left are a bunch of communists who hate America. (See, I can oversimplify things, too!)

      Oh, and now you're bringing out the tired old saw that pretends that if you over-tax, Atlas will shrug and the world as we know it will end. Well, back in the 1950s, America's top income tax rate was close to 90%. Don't take my word for it: http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/151... You'll have to scroll down a bit, but in 1954, for example, someone earning $300K/year or more paid a 91% tax rate. Given that, if your theory about taxing the wealthy is correct, we ought to have seen a mass exodus of producers and the economy ought to have stagnated. In fact, the 1950s saw quite the opposite: economic expansion and rising prosperity for everyone.

      Further, the recent tax cuts have not led to prosperity for all as the right argued, but instead, we ended up in a recession. Is this the fault of the tax cuts? Nope, but the argument was that tax cuts = prosperity for all. Turns out they don't.

      It doesn't bother me that the right's "explanations" are simple. It bothers me that they're incorrect. If the right's explanations actually explained anything, I'd be right on board with you. But the real world shows that high tax rates do not cause economic stagnation nor do they make top earners flee the country or stop working. The real world also shows that low tax rates do not automatically usher in an era of prosperity.

      The problem we have in this country at present is not that our economy is complicated, but that ideologues (both left and right!) are pretending that the solution to our economic woes is simple, and that so many people believe their cliff's notes version of reality precisely because it's simple and easy to understand. But "easy-to-understand" and "faithful-representation-of-reality" are not the same thing at all.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 6 years ago

      Most analogies are written to make a difficult subject easy to understand, and there are no "one size fits all" when it comes to analogies.

      For example, I fill the gas tank on my car with 20 gallons of gas, costing me $80 in todays market. That night, 19 of my neighbors each siphon one gallon of gas from my tank, and I end up with one gallon of gas that cost me $80. They each end up with one gallon of gas that cost them nothing. Is this fair? I worked hard to earn the $80 I spent for that gas, and they contributed nothing.

      Same scenario as above, but one of my neighbors is having a hard time because he can't find work. He is actively seeking employment, but doesn't have the money for gas to get to the job interview. I say to him to siphon some gas out of my tank to put in his car so he can possibly get employment.

      The first one is out and out stealing. The second one is helping your neighbor who is trying to help himself. There is a big difference between the two.

      I have no problem at all with helping my neighbors, but I can't stand thieves.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "No, mate, that false premise is implied in the analogy"

      Ah yes, the supposed false premise was never actually articulated by those putting forth the analogy, but you were not only able to see the implication that no one else saw, you 'explained' it in words that they would never have used!

      How convenient!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Poolman, you're right. The first example you gave is an example of theft. The second example you gave is an example of you helping a neighbor out. Are you trying to say that the first example is analogous somehow to income tax?

      Will, the analogy is this:

      "We propose to take grade points from top students and give them to failing students to help them out."

      People who hear the proposal say, "But that isn't fair."

      Then the guy who proposed the grade tax says, "But how is just different from the income tax?" He's implying that the income tax takes money from the wealthy and gives it directly to the poor.

      Do you believe that the government takes income from the wealthy and gives it directly to the poor? 'Cos if you think the analogy is a valid one, then it follows that you believe this.

      It's true that the false premise was never explicitly articulated by those putting forth the analogy. Of course it wasn't, because if they'd articulated it, they'd have made it rather obvious that their analogy was full of carp. I was able to see the implication because I'm capable of thinking critically. I recommend you try it sometime.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      The analogy is not dependent on money for validity.

      The comparison is the confiscation of hard earned rewards (and students do view good grades as rewards for their hard work, which is why they are not willing to share them with the slugs who did not work hard) for redistribution to others who did nothing to earn them.

      Obama and the left are openly touting the worldwide redistribution of wealth, which is in fact taking the hard earned money from the hard working, risk takers for redistribution to those who did nothing to earn it.

      The leftist code word for that is 'economic justice'.

      This is common knowledge, so I don't know why you are trying so hard to deny it.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 6 years ago

      Jeff, I guess I am trying to say my first example is analogous somehow to income tax. I work hard for my income, and I pay my fair share of taxes and then some. Yet a portion of the taxes I pay goes to individuals who did no work and paid no taxes (redistribution of wealth). If this was to help a neighbor, I am OK with that. If this was to help a thief, I am very opposed to this happening. This thief may be some god forsaken country on our foreign aid list who hates us and everything we stand for, not necessarily an individual.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Will, "The comparison is the confiscation of hard earned rewards (and students do view good grades as rewards for their hard work, which is why they are not willing to share them with the slugs who did not work hard) for redistribution to others who did nothing to earn them."

      Sort-of correct (except for the part about a grade being a reward, but we'll leave that be for now). Do you also believe that the income tax system takes money from the rich, and gives it directly to the poor to do with as they wish?

      Poolman, "Yet a portion of the taxes I pay goes to individuals who did no work and paid no taxes (redistribution of wealth). If this was to help a neighbor, I am OK with that. If this was to help a thief, I am very opposed to this happening."

      Okay, so you're assuming that a person who gets financial assistance from the government is a person who does no work. I disagree with that assessment. The government paying for poor people to be able to buy a small amount of groceries (food stamps/WIC) so their kids can eat is hardly a massive redistribution program. Same for the government helping poor families take their kids to a doctor (medicaid). Or for helping poor student go to college (Pell Grant) and eventually become wealthy by his own merits.

      I agree with your sentiment about not giving foreign aid to countries that are not our allies. Even so, the fact that we send money overseas does not make our tax structure bad or wrong; rather, it means we need to re-think our foreign policy.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "Do you also believe that the income tax system takes money from the rich, and gives it directly to the poor to do with as they wish?"

      Creating endless straw men and trying to put words in your opponent's mouth that they never uttered seems to be your main debating techniques.

      Why not just deal with what your opponents actually did say?

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Dude, look at the analogy: Take grades from the rich and give them to the poor. It's the same as federal taxes!

      For the analogy to be valid, federal taxes must be taken from the rich and given (only) to the poor.

      But that's not how taxes work, and you bloody well know it. Taxes pay for tons of stuff that everyone (even the rich) uses, so it's not as simple as this simplistic false analogy makes it out to be. The whole thing depends on people being ignorant of how taxes and government spending actually work and too lazy to think about it for very long.

      But you keep pretending otherwise. I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I'm just hoping to keep innocent people from being bamboozled by this tripe.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "Dude, look at the analogy: Take grades from the rich and give them to the poor. It's the same as federal taxes!

      For the analogy to be valid, federal taxes must be taken from the rich and given (only) to the poor."

      Sorry 'Dude', but that's not the analogy. Once again, you insist on framing the argument YOUR way, so you can attack what YOU said!

      THIS is the argument:

      The comparison is the confiscation of hard earned rewards (and students do view good grades as rewards for their hard work, which is why they are not willing to share them with the slugs who did not work hard) for redistribution to others who did nothing to earn them.

      It's all about taking from those who earn in order to give to those who do not earn.

      Do try not to twist our words.

    • Sterling Sage profile image

      Sterling Sage 6 years ago from California

      Hello everyone,

      I've been following this discussion. WillStar, you say over and over that Jeff is only making straw-man arguments. In fact, he has used sound logic and given ample evidence to support his statements. Therefor, your claim about his supposed straw-man arguments is, itself, a straw man argument!

      I honestly don't know why this is so hard for some people to figure out. Anyone with doubts about who's right, just read what everyone said and think about it! If you don't know if the supporting evidence is valid, it's not too hard to look the points up yourselves.

      I agree, Jeff; critical thinking is all that's needed for questions like this. I wish I saw more of it on all sides.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Will, you're only half (well, 30 %) right.

      /Part/ of the argument is "Hey, let's take part of your grade away and give it to a failing student."

      The other, important part, is this: "Taking your grade away and giving it to a failing student is exactly like a progressive income tax structure!"

      But it isn't.

      You keep trying to ignore the part of the argument that says the tax structure is just like taking As away from A students so that F students can have D-minuses. It's a lot more complicated than that.

      The only way the guys in the video can make their arguments sound valid is to ignore a /lot/ of facts.

      At this point, I have to say that I'm pretty much done arguing with Will. Perhaps if he brings a new argument to the table instead of making the same (flawed) one over and over?

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Ah yes, let's now declare that this simple analogy is actually far too complicated and nuanced for the great unwashed masses it targets! Yes, only superior leftist minds can navigate such muddy waters, so let's simply take their word for it that they are right and we are wrong, and can't we all just get along?

      In the meantime, students who are asked to give up part of their hard earned grades to the slackers, will obviously resent the hell out of it, just like those who work their butts off and take great risks will resent the hell out of leftist vultures who claim part of their hard earned income for redistribution to those who did nothing to earn it.

      The real absurdity here is the left's refusal to admit to supporting income redistribution while the present left wing administration is openly touting it!

      Since none of that has been refuted here by the left, yes, we can conclude the debate, and thank you for conceding the point by avoiding it.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      "The left always makes the same mistake of assuming the opposition is stupid." -- I never said stupid. Intransigent, yes. Not stupid. Predictable, yes. Not stupid. Nor am I particularly a member of the left. I don't believe in such labels. Left/Right -- what bullshit! And income distribution goes on all the time, just not in the manner you suppose. Yes, I think that question deserves a hub of its own.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      The right, as a whole, are not stupid. Nor are the left, as a whole. But some of the extreme right or left, well, talking to them is like trying to play chess with someone who keeps jumping his pawns over all the pieces and saying, "King me!" I won't name any names....

    • DTR0005 profile image

      DTR0005 6 years ago from Midwest

      Jeff, God.. you have the patience of Job. I did enjoy your article; your logic is quite impressive.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Jeff...You are very intelligent, a logical thinker, excellent writer, superb at putting forth your argument and answering each point logically. And--yes, as DTR0005 stated, you're incredibly patient. I would have gotten mad as hell by now, but then I can't watch Fox "news" without throwing up! Logical explanation goes right over the heads of closed-mind extremists, and you don't have to name any names....

    • profile image

      Chris 5 years ago

      "I never said stupid." Then allow me. Anyone who thinks all poor people are "slugs" is completely bloody stupid.

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 5 years ago from New York City

      Very good treatment, Jeff. There are many flaws with the analogy as you pointed out. Just because we colloquially use the terms "get" or "earned" for both money and grades does not mean they are equivalent. We also say "I believe in God" and "I believe in George W Bush" but those two "believings" are very different in nature.

      One additional flaw that struck me as I was watching the video is that the GPA system has a fixed ceiling at 4.0. You can't go any higher than that, no matter how good you are or how hard you work. By contrast, your potential for income growth is theoretically unlimited.

      At most colleges there is a minimum GPA to stay enrolled, let's say 1.0. So the highest-achieving student will only ever have 4 times as much as the lowest achieving one, no matter how hard he works or how smart he is.

      Thus, society would have to see everyone earn between $10,000 and $40,000 for this to make sense. No one, no matter how hard they worked, could get above $40k. And similarly, no one could go below $10k and still be a member of this society. Obviously this is not reality (at least not without a massive amount of state intervention on the level of Cuba or the USSR). This state of affairs does not arise naturally in a free economy. In reality, there are many people who make far less than $10,000 (including children, who have no income at all), and many that make thousands of times that number.

      The college would have to offer GPAs between 1.0 and 1000.0 or 10,000.0 for this to even begin to resemble the economy we live in.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      That's an excellent point, Secularist. I ought to have thought of that myself!

    • profile image

      Daride 5 years ago

      I know this whole page is dedicated to the analogy but your missing the point of the project Jeff. I am going to make this short simple and sweet because you have tried to muddy the point, so here it is.

      I know what Effort went into getting my grade so it has value. I have no problem with giving your money away becauseI I’am unaware of your effort so it has no value to me.

      Sorry Jeff but it really is that simple

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Hi, Daride,

      Sorry, but you're wrong. It's not that simple; it's a simplistic look at a complicated system.

      Grades aren't money (they aren't even /like/ money), nor are they a reward. Maybe you feel proud to get an A, but you really ought to feel proud to have learned the skills or the math or the history or whatever the class was.

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 5 years ago from America

      You libs seem to hate stereotyping but your doing it here! Only a small MINORITY at the top in this country got there by less than decent means! Millions throughout history in this country got it the old fashioned way! Hundreds had ideas and creative vision so broad that millions upon millions have benefited and so we have the wealthiest middle class in the world! Yes we have a few Bernies, we also got a crap load of poor drug dealers! I would guess there are more poor crooks than wealthy ones!

      I owned several automotive businesses for 18 years. I now work in the oil field and have been for 8 years now! I work for a company with 5000 employees. The president, CEO, my boss and 3 others in my rank have the same secretary assistant.

      Point? The point is I am where I am at without a college education. I didn't know anyone at the company. I chased a notable figure down the hall and asked him if I could ride the elevator with him! Long story short I worked these people for 4 months before being hired on! This is my "grade" I am not willing to share it with someone sitting on a couch all day whining!

      My best friend came from extreme poverty! He lives in Odessa Texas and is a lawyer! He went to Baylor! He walked up to the overpass next to Baylor on Friday nights with a paper sack full of clothes and hitchhiked back to Odessa to see his parents! During the week he worked in the cafeteria! I get sick of the rich have it all attitude! That wealth was created by someone who did the same things my friend and I did! The word my friends is called SACRIFICE! Stop coveting what your neighbor has and get it yourself..........if you really want it!!!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Hi, AmRo,

      Congratulations on your success, good for you.

      You're absolutely right that many prosperous people worked their way up from less prosperous roots. It's also true that many less prosperous people aren't poor because they're "sitting on the couch all day whining" but because their hard work hasn't yet paid off. Who's stereotyping? :)

      Nobody begrudges your success. (No, really!) What people are complaining about is the way the deck is stacked in favor of the already prosperous.

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 5 years ago from America

      The deck is always going to be stacked by those with wealth. Ever notice in communist countries the rich seldom suffer at the hands of govt. as do the commoners? Here is the only viable solution...........get rich yourself! Is it possible? yes! Is it probable? no! BUT! Enough wealth can be achieved fairly easy to allow one to live in a nice neighborhood, send their kids to school and purchase a new car every 6 years, Most would say this is the American dream. History says if you come from poverty and achieve this level your children will do even better! Maybe this is true, my daughter called me the other day and told me she had paid off her home in 7 years! I almost fell out of my chair! She is 25 and makes 17 dollars per hour! She told me every Thursday night before Friday payday she moved whatever was in her checking account to the principle on her home and that ever cent of ever income tax refund was put on her home. She is still driving the same car I bought her in high school etc...............I told her I was in almost the same shape.....only 29 years and 2 months and my house will be paid for too!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "Maybe this is true, my daughter called me the other day and told me she had paid off her home in 7 years!...She is still driving the same car I bought her in high school etc"

      So, your daughter started off in life with a free car, did she? (Among other things, yes?) Good for her, but stop pretending she's an example of success based only on hard work. She had a leg up.

      This is nothing to be ashamed of. I had a leg up from my parents as well. It's pretty nice to have a family that can help you get a good start in life. But let's not pretend that because we've achieved some moderate success that it's equally easy for everyone to achieve the same level of success. Many young Americans do not start out in life with a free car (or a free college education). Heck, many young Americans do not start out in life knowing what it's like to go to bed on a full stomach.

      Your daughter and I were both born on second base, and that's cool. But pretending that we hit a double /is/ shameful.

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 5 years ago from America

      Your wrong Jeff! Here is why! Because I CAME FROM EXTREME POVERTY! She didn't get a leg up! She got what I didn't get because of my sacrifice and stuggles! She didn't accept it as some spoiled brats did, she appreciated her opportunities and proved herself worthy by paying off her home!

      You libs want to play by human emotions but true conservatives play by rules that guarantee success! My mother came from extreme poverty and graduated college after I graduated high school! She is 64 and making 100K a year now! Due to her late start in life she will probably have to work until she dies!

      My best friend has a law degree from Baylor! ZERO money from anyone! He hitchhiked 7 hours to see his parents and go home for holidays! He worked two jobs and part time in the cafeteria at the university!

      My point is you libs whine when you need to get some grit and ambition and get out there and get it!! If you want it bad enough then it is achievable! and not from ME! You nor anyone else deserves to take from me because I have something NOW! I got it on my own chasing the American dream! You do the same or to hell with you! You libs never harp on the stories of those who get out of the hood and become great, do you? Its always you stingy rich people need to give more to these poor folks who are starving in the streets! Bull Hocky! Is life easier for my child verses a child with a crack head momma and no daddy? Damn right she is and she deserves ever bit of it! That crack baby may never make it to college, but he or she will mature into adults who can look at their own surroundings and say HEY! I'm not living like this anymore! I want more for my children! I want more for myself! He may struggle as a janitor for 50 years but during that time will teach his children to work hard, study and be someone! hence that person broke the cycle as my family has! We can throw all the money and govt. programs you want at this situation and it wont change a thing! (usually gets worse) People have to want it! Liberals do not believe this but its true! Your surroundings do not dictate who you are or what your value is! Anyone, anyone, anyone can pull themselves from the pits if they truly want it!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "Your wrong Jeff!"

      No, I'm really not.

      "Here is why! Because I CAME FROM EXTREME POVERTY!"

      Okay. I believe you.

      Now, did you or did you not buy your daughter a car when she was in high school?

      In you previous comment, you said that you did: "She is still driving the same car I bought her in high school"

      So, either you gave her a car, or you didn't give her a car. You said you gave her a car, and I believe you. Maybe you feel that she deserved a free car, and maybe she did. You say she was appropriately appreciative, and maybe she was. Whether she deserved and appreciated her free car or not is immaterial to the discussion. The salient point is this: you gave your daughter a free car.

      That means she didn't have to earn the money for the car on her own, and in fact, the possession of the car made it easier for her to earn money, being reliable transportation to and from a job. Entry level job interviews often include this question: "Do you have reliable transportation?" Someone who has a car has an advantage over someone who does not.

      So you gave your daughter a leg up. There's nothing wrong with it, but to pretend she started out at zero when she didn't is intellectually dishonest, and even worse, it ignores the many real obstacles that people who are really starting out at zero have to overcome.

      "Anyone, anyone, anyone can pull themselves from the pits if they truly want it!"

      You keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better, but that's not the whole story.

      Yes, you have to work hard and study hard and so on if you're starting out from the bottom. No question. But. There is also an element of good luck and good timing to success. You can pretend there isn't, but there totally is. In a pool of candidates up for a job, the candidates who have a connection with the hiring manager will have an advantage. The connection could be membership in the same church, a degree from the same college, a shared passion for golf, football, or science fiction, who knows? It could also be that the hiring manager knows the candidate's uncle or something. It doesn't matter. That candidate has an advantage over the candidates who have no connection with the manager. There's nothing wrong with this, but it remains true.

      It is also neither good nor bad, but also true, that people who are at least moderately wealthy to start with are more likely to have a connection (shared business contacts, a degree from the same college--heck, a degree, period-- etc) with the hiring managers of the world.

      /Can/ someone start from abject poverty and achieve success? Sure they can. Is it likely? Not really. But it's likelier in the US than in most other countries. It's not that big of a leap to expect someone who has achieved success in the US to kick something back into the system that made their success possible so that it can continue to make possible the success of young people starting at or near the bottom.

      "Is life easier for my child verses a child with a crack head momma and no daddy? Damn right she is and she deserves ever bit of it!"

      So your daughter /did/ have a leg up. Glad you realize this.

    • Sterling Sage profile image

      Sterling Sage 5 years ago from California

      Thank you, Jeff, for patiently and politely explaining why American Romance's objections don't make sense. It helps give a voice to the many people who agree with your logic but don't have the time to explain why.

    • profile image

      Kevin 4 years ago

      Couple of things. You suggests that taxation benefits the rich as well as the poor. Take a look at the federal budget. Social security is the biggest part, in which a rich man puts much more into it than he ever gets back. #2 is defense, and yes that benefits everyone. #3 is unemployment and welfare; the rich are not unemployed. #4 is medicare; the rich don´t qualify. #5 is Medicaid; same thing. So aside from national defense, the rich are not benefiting equally in any way from taxation.

      You keep suggesting in your articles that the rich are born with such tangible advantages. Have you ever taken the time to read even one of these rich people´s books on how to make money? You place such an emphasis on formal education and how the rich either get a better education or how it´s just easier for them because they don´t have to worry about working while studying or other things. Guess what? The great majority of these rich people say that their college experience was a waste of time, claiming that financial intelligence is not even taught in schools. Financial intelligence, knowing how to make money, is taught in their homes. So yes, they are born with a leg-up, but only the poor and middle class believe that that leg-up comes from their financial situation itself. The rich know that it comes from what they are taught about money in their homes. That´s why tons of the rich are actually drop-outs... didn´t see the point in wasting their time when they already knew how to make money. Bill Gates (a drop-out himself) wasn´t so heartless that he only left his kids a million dollars a piece, which your average person would probably lose or buy something "smart" like a house with. His kids have been taught how to make money out of nothing, just like he did. I´d suggest that instead of trying to take from these rich and give to the poor, because yes, that´s what the great bulk of taxes do, we study what these rich guys have to say and try to apply it. They´re very generous with their knowledge, if we´re not too prideful and resentful to ask for it.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "You suggests that taxation benefits the rich as well as the poor."

      I say that because taxation does benefit the rich as well as the poor.

      "Social security is the biggest part [for the federal budget], in which a rich man puts much more into it than he ever gets back. "

      Well, that depends on the source of the person's income. Social Security is a payroll tax, which means you only pay it on money you earn from going to a job. If your money comes from investments, a trust fund, rental properties, or even a business that you own, you do not pay into Social Security at all. You only pay into social security with money that comes via a paycheck. It's entirely possible for a rich man to live his entire life without contributing a dime to social security.

      As for unemployment and welfare, when a worker loses his job, his debts (mortgage, car payments, etc) don't go away. If we let the unemployed worker dangle without any relief, he will not be able to keep paying those debts, which are owed to people with more money than he has. Do unemployment checks benefit the wealthy directly? No, but they do benefit the wealthy indirectly, in that the loan payments can keep coming in.

      You've also omitted the fact that tax money also pays for infrastructure and the national weather service, and created the internet along with tons of tech developed by the space program and now in use by industry. All of the above benefit the wealthy at least as much as the poor.

      Plus, you haven't mentioned subsidies to already-wealthy, which the government does pay out, and which goes directly to the wealthy without passing through anyone else's hands first.

      Finally, nobody is arguing that we should take from the rich and give to the poor (very little tax money actually gets paid to the poor and you know it). Rather, that the rich pay to support the system and the infrastructure that makes their wealth possible, so that it continues to be possible for people to build wealth.

    • profile image

      Kevin 4 years ago

      You´re categorizing, Jeff. Whereas the nation´s very richest men are entreprenuers and business owners, many of the wealthy also work and bring in income, and yes, pay a social security tax. That´s not a valid point anyhow because the poor can also be business owners, invest in stocks, etc. Without complicating things by saying that most rich people don´t pay social security, let´s simply accept that the guy who pays 13.1% of his $300,000 anual income in social security tax will never get all of that 13.1% back. The poor guy will pay 13.1% of his $30,000 anual income and will get all of that back and more. He who has a higher income loses money, and he who has a lower income gets money. Those who don´t pay social security tax, poor or rich, also don´t benefict from it. The same rule applies, just not all participate.

      You mentioned that unemployment checks help a person pay off their debts (to the rich), and in that way it benefits them as well. Let´s take the fact the rich people pay the majority of the nations taxes and then analyze your logic.

      So you´re a rich banker, I´m a poor factory worker, and Joe is the government. I owe you a $1,000 mortgage every month, but because I´m unemployed I can´t pay it. Joe passes a law that taxes you heavily, and part of that tax gives me the money that I need to pay you the money I owe you. Who is paying who in this example??? Jeff, you´re paying yourself! You´re losing money! Unemployment does not benefit the rich, since they´re the ones paying for it.

      I didn´t "omit" those other govt. expenses that you mentioned. They were simply so far down the list and so little compared to the others I mentioned that using them to show that taxes benefit everyone equally is just ridiculous. Small breakdown of govt. annual spending:

      667 Billion=Social Security

      663 Billion=Defense

      571 Billion=Unemployment

      453 Billion=Medicare

      290 Billion=Medicaid

      164 Billion=Interest on national debt

      78 Billion=Department of Health and Human Services

      72.5 Billion=Department of Transportation

      52 Billion=Department of Veterans affairs

      52 Billion=Everything else

      I agreed that the defense category benefits everyone equally, but let´s be honest about the numbers after that.

      The government spends $1,520,000,000,000 on social security, unemployment, medicare and medicaid, and you´re telling me the $150,000,000,000 they spend on everything else (including infrastructure, weather service, internet..) balances it out? Just for the sake of arguing, let´s drop Social Security and Unemployment out of the picture. That´s still:

      743 Billion in Medicare and Medicaid

      150 Billion in everything else.

      Are you going to tell me that Medicare and Medicaid benefit the rich also?

      "Very little tax money actually gets paid to the poor and you know it".

      On the contrary, my job helps me know exactly the opposite. Since it´s an online teaching job, at least 50% of the company´s 300 teachers are single mothers. That´s the case because it´s very convenient to work at home when you´ve got kids to watch. Come tax season, these women get huge tax returns, and at the very worst break even on what they´ve paid throughout the year. My friend Anastasia has two children and is actually not single, just not married, and she received a $7,000 return this year. We both make about the same, so I know for a fact that she got back much more than she had ever paid throughout the year. It may not seem like much, but that´s because of the large amounts of lower-class individuals that there are. If you sum them all up, then yes, a great deal of money gets to the poor. By the way, Anastasia had her two kids while on medicare, which the rich paid for.

      These are the numbers, Jeff. You´re talking about the 150 billion and we´re talking about the 1.5 trillion. That´s the reason the government is huge. That´s the reason the lower class needs the government. If we want the government to take care of everyone instead of them taking care of themselves OR others VOLUNTARILY taking care of them, let´s keep going the way we are.

    • profile image

      Kevin 4 years ago

      Quick correction on my math; we´re all human.

      Dept. of Health + Transportation + Veteran affairs + Others =250 Billion, not the 150 Billion I mentioned, if that makes a difference to anybody or the argument.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "That´s not a valid point anyhow because the poor can also be business owners, invest in stocks, etc."

      Oh, the poor /can/ be business owners and invest in stocks, but the game is stacked against them doing so successfully. To start a business, you need some capital, and the poor don't have the same access to capital as a middle-class person does. As for buying stock, I've got another article that fully explains why it's not only difficult for the poor to buy stock but also a bad idea. In a nutshell, broker fees will eat up unsustainable amounts of your principle investment unless you're investing more than about $200 at a time. If you're poor and you have $200 at once, you're probably going to pay a debt or fix something that's broken rather than put it where a) you can't get to it if you have an emergency and b) it will cost you about $25 off the top just to buy the thing in the first place.

      As for social security, the rate is 4.2%, not 13.1%, and the rate only applies to the first $106,800 you earn. Every dollar over and above 106,800 is not subject to SocSec taxes. So if you earn $213,600/yr from a job, your effective SocSec tax rate is actually 2.1% of your earned income. You pay no SocSec tax on capital gains. So even if you get 500K/yr in a paycheck, you aren't paying any more into the SocSec system than the guy who earns $106,800/yr.

      It's also true that your SocSec payment is tied to the amount you put in during your working career. (Your argument above tells me that you were unaware of this--many people are.) The more you paid in, the higher your benefit (and your payment stops increasing at $106,800/yr, remember).

      Now consider that you stop getting your SocSec payments when you die, and consider that the more money you have, the longer you're likely to live. The chances of you getting more out of SocSec than you put in are higher if you're wealthy than if you're not.

      The unemployment argument you make is valid if you oversimplify the system like that. But the thing is, it's better for the bank if you keep making payments on your house, even if it's with assistance money. Foreclosure sales almost always lose money for the original lender, more than would be "lost" in taxes (which pay for many many things besides public assistance for the unemployed). Further, if assistance were cut off, the unemployed worker would lose his home, the empty building would blight the area, all nearby property values would drop (even for the neighbors who haven't lost their jobs), the worker's family will become unstable with no residence, etc etc etc. Now, that single worker and his family aren't your problem, but several thousand people with no income and no prospects will quickly become everybody's problem, one way or another.

      Your argument that poor individuals get tax return checks that are greater than the total amount withheld from their pay is surprising to me, and, if true, is an excellent point--not for cutting taxes or public spending, but for tax reform. Nobody should get a tax refund greater than the amount that they paid. On that, at least, I think we agree.

    • profile image

      Kevin 4 years ago

      The social security numbers were affected by both of us depending on which year we´re looking at and which situation as well. You mentioned 4.2% which is only true during this small stretch of Obama´s short-term changes to help the individual, and I mentioned 13.1%, but I´m technically "self-employed" and have to pay both halves of my social security tax (normally your job pays the other half), which outside of this Obama-implemented stretch is 6.2%. Either way, 6.2 x 2 is 12.4, so the 13.1 % I mentioned was still a tad bit off, but you can see where why my numbers were much higher than the 4.2% mentioned, because the total amount put in the worker and employer (or just worker in the self-employed´s case) in a normal tax year is much higher. It was a nice discussion, Jeff.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      "The social security numbers were affected by both of us depending on which year we´re looking at and which situation as well"

      Yes, that's true. But what hasn't changed from year to year is the SocSec ceiling: earned income over $106,800 is not subject to the SocSec tax. Once your salary (or wage) goes above $106,800, your effective SocSec tax rate decreases, whether the base rate is 4.2% or 13.1%.

      It has been a good discussion, hasn't it? It's refreshing to discuss politics without name-calling and motive-questioning. :)

    • dfager profile image

      dfager 4 years ago from Federal Way, Washington

      Good hub. The only way I could agree with conservative economic policy is if we could compare the wages of one blue collar worker versus another hourly waged blue collar worker. Here is where their analogy would work. If one worker works more hours and produces more finished work, then it would be unfair to redistribute the greater earnings of the better worker to the lesser earner. But we know that this example does not resemble the difference between the super wealthy and the poor.

      The wealthy have companies overseas, they may bank overseas, they may not work at all but invest and collect capital gains. In real estate seminars they talk about getting rich with other peoples money. With investment properties you can rent them out and make money collecting rents and maintaining a contract with your renters. With the banking industry, they gambled with other peoples money. gambling is a lot more like playing then working. But their gambling didn't pay off. They lost other people's money. By no fault of their own, middle class people lost money in their retirement and college accounts for their kids.

      Conservatives even have the nerve to say, "well you should have invested better". It's not our fault. But most people know it's not right to steal candy from a baby. The banks should have had regulations in place to prevent it. The rules of the economy game favor the rich. Who are you going to sell to if all the poor die off?

    • profile image

      deb_blouin@yahoo.com 4 years ago

      An important point to raise is that an analogy is a construct for exploring a concept by comparison, not a one-for-one agreement on each and every point between the object and the analogue. Analogies should seek to invite conversation in order to explore the dynamics of something abstract in light of something perhaps more accessible or concrete to the participant. The mistake (the lie) the original author is making, for obvious reasons of convenience, is that if the analogy doesn't perfectly line up with the object, the entire argument must be rejected. But, the point isn't to prove the argument, it is to open and perpetuate discussion and draw out nuances and expose dichotomies so as to better see distinctions and perhaps reach conclusions.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image
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      Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      No. There is no lie, because the point that the original author is making is not that "the analogy must perfectly line up with the object."

      The point is that this particular analogy is so far removed from the object as to be useless for truly intelligent discourse.

      Further, this analogy picks a truly absurd idea that will improve nothing (lowering the grades of high-performing students while inflating the grades of low-performing students) and tries to equate it with a functional system in an attempt to make the functional system seem silly by association.

      The point of this (woefully flawed) analogy is exactly the opposite of encouraging intelligent discourse: it's to blur distinctions, obscure nuances, and shut down (intelligent) discussion of real issues while implying that anyone who supports a progressive tax structure (which has both its good and bad points) must also support lowering the grades of top students and raising the grades of bottom students, which is a bloody stupid idea.

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      Jake 4 years ago

      Brilliant, Jeff. I just saw a post on my friends wall on facebook highlighting this argument. Being a college freshman, this grade analogy was interesting at face value. After reading your review (and all the comments) it is quite clear that the oversimplification of this issue, and many others in politics today sets the stage for a very misinformed, and manipulated public. I get the impression that most of the opposition to liberal policy is driven by greed (or a lack of understanding the complexity that makes up these issues). Is this an oversimplified viewpoint? I have tried many times to look at the points made by the opposing side, and can not see any other reasons for support. Maybe you could point some out to me? Also, what are your views on the healthcare bill that was recently passed? I work in a hospital when i'm not in school, and when i have discussions with most doctors as to why the healthcare bill is bad, the overarching complaint that seams to be brought up is that their compensation will be drastically reduced. I understand that doctors (at least specialists) are payed far more in the US than in any other country. I also understand that they pay more for schooling and malpractice insurance, and that the cap of the amount for which you can sue a doctor (at least in my state, IL) is non-existent, but does this balance out the justification for such a high fiscal compensation? Assuming that the lack of reimbursement is coming from the insurance companies (please correct me if i am misinformed), what is being introduced into the healthcare bill that prevents insurance companies from keeping their profits high by just cutting the amount of money they pay doctors? I know this is way off topic from your original post, but as a (hopefully!) future MD, it is something i think about often. Thanks for imparting some wisdom!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I did in fact receive a forwarded email exactly as you describe above. I surprised the person who sent it, I think, when I wrote back and pointed out that often people who deserve failing grades do not receive them. When enough of the class does badly, grades are often inflated (rounded up) and points added to make most of them passable. I believe it's called curving the grades.

      While that would seem to benefit everyone, it really creates inflated grades lowering the value of the best grades that were actually earned. Neither an entire class nor a large portion of a class can be allowed to fail. It makes the professor, the department sponsoring the class, and the school look bad.

      So it boils down to giving people far better grades in many cases that they have not earned and do not deserve. If word gets out that grades are extremely inflated at a particular university or college, graduate programs and employers will take that into consideration when deciding on graduates/applicants from that school.

      My earned A is worth less because someone who didn't have the ability or who did not put in the time to study and go to class received a B or a C that should have been a D or an F.

      If wages and benefits were reasonable and capable of supporting one person, let alone a family, the need for public assistance programs would be less. I happen to know that wage earners are often cheated out of their pay, and not only by wealthy employers, but by government too.

      Going to have to come back when I have more time and read the comments here. I'm sure many of them are gems. Voted up and interesting!

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