To change the subject completely, the Tired Donkey watched the Ridley Scott outing Body of Lies last night. The movie contains many moving scenes which include hard-working donkeys in the background. The non-donkey parts of the movie were good, too. The Tired Donkey invites his readers to submit the names of other movies with donkey extras to be included in a soon-to-be released definitive guide by the Tired Donkey called Donkeys in Cinema: The Definitive Guide.
Watching: This one is self-explanatory.
Off topic: We have spent some time in the past this week, so here are some atomic brands and atomic toys for your enjoyment, all from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum. This place is apparently a lot more fun than it sounds, and the Tired Donkey would be interested in interviewing anyone who has eaten Radium Brand Creamery Butter; unfortunately, he doubts that any of them are still around. The Tired Donkey does not want to interview anyone who has used a Radium brand condom as he is afraid their story would be too sad to bear.
On, then, to the good that can come from our current suffering. You may have read various paranoid commentators who have asserted that Great Donkey Ronald Reagan ran up huge deficits on purpose so that the federal government would be forced to get smaller by virtue of not having enough money to feed its massive bulk. The Tired Donkey—while paranoid at times—is not one of these commentators. Great Donkey Reagan ran up those deficits to destroy the Soviet Union without having to fight a war with them, and the Tired Donkey thanks him for it. But that is neither here nor there; there is a point to all this. A deficit is an increase in the nation’s debt, and that debt must be repaid. With money. And the government is soon going to run out of that unless the tax base gets broader. There is simply not enough donkey money in the United States to pay for everything Myrmidon Donkey Obama wants to do and—at the same time—pay the vig on all this new debt. In short, our economic woes have finally done what the paranoid commentators have always accused Great Donkey Reagan of doing: they are making our national debt so huge that we may crumble under it. And the tax reform discussion has already begun.
Just yesterday, the Tired Donkey heard a piece on NPR in which a very bright woman from the Tax Policy Center made exactly this point: MD Obama’s administration is going to have to start thinking about broadening the tax base because they have no choice but to think about it. Having read this last sentence, you may feel a vague sense of dislocation and unease, as if something is not quite right with the world. The Tired Donkey understands, and he will help you. You feel strange because that quote is from a program on National Public Radio, the propoganda arm of the Freeloaders and home to many Stockholm Donkeys. And you may now be saying to yourself, “My God! If NPR is having a discussion about broadening the tax base—even a short discussion—a crisis must be brewing, a fiscal crisis that is going to force the country to inject some fairness into the tax code.” You would be right to say this to yourself. But not too loudly. There are still many miles to go before we sleep, and we don’t want the Freeloaders to recognize that the tide has turned until it is too late.
—the donkeys who are upset about the way our taxes are being used by the federal government are putting the cart before the donkey.
—without sweeping tax reform that spreads the monetary burden of running the country across a much broader percentage of Americans, the Freeloaders will never care about responsible spending because the money being wasted is not their money.
—without sweeping tax reform that spreads the monetary burden of running the country across a much broader percentage of Americans, the Myrmidon Donkeys on Capitol Hill and in the White House will care about only one thing: spending money in ways that make the Freeloaders happy. And making Freeloaders happy is a very bad idea for any nation that cares about its future. Why? Because human nature is what it is: if you can be happy as a Freeloader, why be a donkey?
These points, the Tired Donkey asserts, cannot be honestly debated. So. What the country needs is happy donkeys and sad Freeloaders, but what the country has is exactly the opposite. There are two quick ways to get from here to there, both of which the Tired Donkey heartily endorses: (1) remove the right to vote in federal elections from anyone who does not pay federal income taxes, or (2) remove the right to vote from anyone who does not own land. Unfortunately, neither of these things has even a remote chance of happening. So we must look elsewhere, and the process is going to be a long one. The steps we will follow are set out below. And don’t worry: the Tired Donkey will discuss each of these in depth in the coming weeks:
—change the national debate so that it focuses on fairness to donkeys;
—release the Stockholm Donkeys from the thrall of the Freeloaders;
—teach the Freeloaders to feel shame;
—harness these changes to strike fear in the venal hearts of the Myrmidon Donkeys; and, finally,
—spread the tax burden.
The Tired Donkey understands that this sounds fantastical. But he assures you it is possible. Stick with him, and he will show you the way. And please start saving for Tired Donkey Week.
The Tired Donkey has pointed out elsewhere that the Democrats and Republicans are Myrmidon Donkeys bent on taking your tax money to court Freeloader votes; the Republicans talk a good game from time to time, but the result is always the same: fewer and fewer donkeys shouldering more and more of the tax burden. And when you combine the ranks of the Freeloaders with the ranks of the pitiful Stockholm Donkeys, you arrive at a number that is more than half of the electorate. In short, loyal donkeys are under siege and in the minority. So. Where does this leave us? The Tired Donkey will tell you.
As we have seen, more than half the people in this country don’t give a damn about how your tax dollars are spent because they either pay no taxes or have been co-opted by those who pay no taxes. The Myrmidon Donkeys know they no longer need donkey votes to maintain the power that feeds them, and so they have no incentive to spend donkey dollars wisely. The only way to change this is to strike fear in the hearts of the Myrmidon Donkeys. To do this, we need only release the Stockholm Donkeys from the thrall of the Freeloaders and give the public-spritied Freeloaders—and there are many of those despite what you may believe—a cause they can believe in. This, of course, is more easily said than done, but if we can harness the anger afoot in the land to create a fair-tax majority, we can all get what we want. More tomorrow.
As is the Tired Donkey’s wont, he will begin with a brief history lesson so as to keep his readers immunized from emotion-laden rants of little consequence. The Tea Party movement takes its name from the justifiably celebrated Boston Tea Party, a grand and important tax protest which happened on the evening of December 16, 1773. On that night, three ships of The East India Company were moored in Boston Harbor loaded with a cargo of tea. Though the tea carried a tax that the colonists refused to pay, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, had ordered the tea to be unloaded rather than returned to England.
Great patriot Sam Adams was having none of this. He quickly organized a group of sixty colonists who—disguised as either Mohawk or Narragansett Indians (there is argument on this point)—boarded the ships, broke open 342 chest of tea and threw all of it overboard. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the tea was worth nearly $1.9 million. This direct action protest by the colonists helped precipitate the Revolutionary War as it both emboldened the American revolutionaries and unified opposition to the colonies in England.
Cut to February 19, 2009, when CNBC talking head Rick Santelli had a little on-air tantrum about paying his neighbor’s mortgage. Overnight—and, according to some, under suspicious circumstances—Squawking Donkey Santelli became a cause celeb, and the current Taxpayer Tea Party movement was birthed. The “movement” has spawned a number of protests across the country which object to “the ridiculous economic polices of President Barack Obama”; they have been sparsely attended by penny-loafered people who bring their children along to carry anti-Obama signs printed on poster-board.
You may notice a tone of scorn in the Tired Donkey’s description of these protests, and you would be right to notice it. It is not that the Tired Donkey is opposed to what appears to be upsetting these people; it is the futility of it all that gets a donkey down. If carrying signs and getting a little television coverage makes these poor donkeys feel better, than the Tired Donkey is happy for them. But he doesn’t want them to believe they are making a difference. At a time when Myrmidon Donkey Obama’s approval rating is well above 60%, these little blips of grassroots anger simply don’t matter. Please allow the Tired Donkey to explain.
It is good that some people are unhappy about the way their tax dollars are being spent; there is much to be unhappy about. The Tired Donkey is also pleased that these people are willing to do something about their anger. But the Tired Donkey is not happy that what they are doing is ridiculous. This “movement” is being co-opted by the all-but-dead Republican party, and—as the Tired Donkey has pointed out elsewhere—the Republicans are every bit as irresponsible with donkey money as this or any other Democratic administration. Except under exceptional circumstances (think 1994 mid-term elections—more on that below), populist rage cannot be effectively channeled by the major parties because they are beholden to too many special interest groups with too much power.
The last time we had this much anger about the way our tax dollars are spent was in the run-up to the 1992 presidential elections when Crazy Donkey Perot and his balanced-budget push threw the election to horny Myrmidon Donkey Clinton. This example proves that it is possible to harness widespread anger given the right circumstances, but a herd of enraged donkeys cannot do it alone. The time is right for the change the Tired Donkey wants, but the anger must be harnessed; it must be turned into a real movement, not a phony puppet movement with the strings being pulled by a neutered major party with no new ideas and no future. So let’s discuss how this can happen.
In order to be effective, any “movement” must have intellectual vigor, a direct action component and pressure applied at a tipping-point. If you want a perfect example of this, the Tired Donkey suggests you reacquaint yourself with what Newt Gingrich accomplished with the Contract with America. The Boston Tea Party had all of these elements; the Taxpayer Tea Party movement has none. “Our tax money is being spent badly” is not an intellectually rigorous position as it offers no alternative, marching around in small groups with signs is not direct action that matters and there is no tipping point on which to apply pressure. In short—to answer the request of his readers directly—the Tired Donkey’s opinion of the Taxpayer Tea Party is, for the moment, quite simple: who cares? But the movement could turn into something that matters given the right circumstances and the right leadership. More tomorrow.
Watching: A loyal Tired Donkey reader provided the Tired Donkey with a link to this short video; it contains some words of great wisdom from Milton Friedman. It is also a reminder of a time when television was still capable of providing a forum for civil discourse. And the Tired Donkey digs Milton’s groovy pink sportcoat. Watch it.
Off Topic: Christopher Neimann’s art essay “My Life With Cables” will resonate with anyone who owns a computer, and—from the archives—zefrank’s immortal “Earth Sandwich” post. More on Monday.
As you, the Tired Donkey and probably MD Obama himself are aware, one of the terrible by-products of the current crisis is a kind of economic depression that grips everyone. Donkeys are depressed because MD Obama is loading them up with additional taxes; Freeloaders are depressed because they fear they may work the donkeys to death and thereby be left with nothing. This is a vexing problem, but the Tired Donkey believes he may have a solution that will make both groups feel better: the government should pay the Freeloaders to do household chores for the donkeys. This would make donkeys feel better because we would finally be getting something of value for our tax dollars; it would make the Freeloaders feel as if they were doing something good for the country. A win-win proposition.
How would such a plan work? Very simply. The federal government is already accustomed to giving what it calls tax “rebates” to Freeloaders who actually pay no taxes. This system could be easily adapted to the needs of the current proposal: once a Freeloader did work for a donkey, the donkey would give the Freeloader a “rebate” slip that he or she could file with the IRS to get compensation. A suggested Freeloader compensation table follows:
—Freeloader mows donkey lawn: $30
—Freeloader mows donkey lawn and edges: $40
—Freeloader weeds donkey flower beds: $10/hour
—Freeloader cleans donkey pool: $40
—Freeloader washes donkey car: $20
—Freeloader washes donkey car and details interior: $30
—Freeloader washes donkey clothes: $5/load
—Freeloader washes donkey clothes and folds while still warm: $10/load
These are only a few suggestions the Tired Donkey thought of off the top of his head. He is sure there are many others. But the MD Obama administration need not stop with just this plan; they should recognize that keeping donkeys happy is important because angry donkeys don’t work as hard. With this in mind, the Tired Donkey respectfully suggests the following additional measures:
—all HOV lanes should be converted to DO (Donkey Only) lanes. The Tired Donkey is not sure if this would do much good since he suspects the highways are primarily used by donkeys, anyway, but—he submits—it is worth a shot.
—there should be DO security lanes at all airports. This suggestion may suffer from the same problem as the DO highway lanes, but, again, it is worth a shot.
—Finally—and this suggestion is something that would have to be done at the state level, but MD Obama could force the states to comply by coercive use of federal spending—there should be DO lanes at the Department of Motor Vehicles in each state.
Again, the Tired Donkey is sure there are other ideas along these lines that could make donkeys feel better about our lot in life, and he urges his readers to submit them for publication at a later date. In the meantime, the Tired Donkey simply wishes to point out that he believes thanking him for his labor is no longer enough. He wants more for his tax dollars.
A good measure of progressivity takes the tax share of a given income group and divides that by the same group’s income share (see here for a more complete explanation). Using this system, a flat tax would arrive a ratio of 1 for any given income group because that group’s income share would exactly equal its tax share. For instance, a group that earned 15% of all income would pay 15% of all taxes. Ratio’s of less than 1 for an income group indicate that they pay less in taxes than their income share; ratios of greater than 1 indicate the group pays a higher percentage of taxes than their income share. Examining the first five years of the Bush administration using this measure, the ratio got worse for every group earning more than $200,000 and better for every group earning less. And these numbers do not even take into account the redistributionist zeal of the Bush administration as evidenced by the Medicare Part D horror. Donkey friend? Not hardly.
First, the Tired Donkey wants to point out that the statistics he sets out below (from 2004—things have only gotten worse since then) take into account all government taxes and spending, both federal and state. The mind-numbing differences between what people pay and what people get, however, are caused primarily by federal taxes and spending alone. This is so for two reasons: (1) state taxes are much less progressive in general than federal taxes, and (2) donkeys use a lot more state services and therefore get more value out of them (roads are disproportionately used by donkeys because donkey’s need more cars to carry their loads; donkeys educate their children and so use a disproportionate share of public education funds).
Now, before the Tired Donkey reveals the statistics, he wishes to make one other point: these statistics are from the era of the Bush administration which was treated by many donkeys as if it were a friendly administration. Take it from the Tired Donkey, the Bush administration was no friend to the donkeys. In fact, the Bush adminstration was the biggest donkey enemy in the history of American government as the Tired Donkey will reveal tomorrow. They just hid their perfidy behind donkey rhetoric, and the Tired Donkey bets many of you fell for it. Wake up! The government—whether in the hands of irresponsible Republicans or the hand of irresponsible Democrats—has an interest in one thing: getting votes. And this means they must court the Freeloaders. And how do they do this? By increasing the load on the most productive donkeys, of course. All of them—Republican and Democrat alike—are Myrmidon Donkeys. So let’s see how bad it is:
In 2004, the top 20% of households got $0.41 for every dollar they paid in taxes. The bottom 20%? Well, they got a much better deal: they got $8.21 from the government for every dollar they put in. No wonder this donkey is tired.
Imagine that you own a beautiful piece of land in the country. You work hard at your job, and this land is where you go to escape. Because you find your relaxation though gardening, you have spent the last twenty years working on the grounds. As a result of your hard work and creativity, you have built what all agree is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
You have a son. He is twenty-two years old, and just out of college. Unfortunately—because of the poor economy and his horticulture degree—he has no job prospects. He begs you to be allowed to live in the cottage near your gardens; he assures you that he wants to help with the garden, to take some of the load off your shoulders.
You are suspicious; he has friends in the area who are dirt-bikers, and you think he might allow them into the garden. You ask him about it directly: “Son, you are going to be controlling the keys to the grounds. It is very important that you take that responsibility seriously; I can’t have a bunch of dirt bikers ruining the garden.” He assures you he would never do such a thing. “Dad, I promise I will let no dirt bikers into the garden.” You assent; he needs a place to stay, and he ought to be helpful.
Several weeks after he moves in, you go to your garden and find it utterly ruined by dirt bikers. You confront your son. “Dad, it’s not my fault,” he says. “It wasn’t my idea to ride dirt bikes in the garden, and I didn’t even ride one myself. All I did was let them in when they asked.” You stare at him. Then you . . . what? What do you do?
The Tired Donkey is curious because he would like to know what we are supposed to do with our Myrmidon Donkey president. During the campaign, Myrmidon Donkey Obama criticized Myrmidon Donkey McCain mercilessly about his plan to tax healthcare benefits. MD Obama said he would never allow such a thing because it would amount to the highest tax increase in history on the middle class. Now we learn that MD Obama is, in fact, open to taxing health benefits. But he won’t be the one to propose it; he’ll just be willing to sign the law if Congress does the dirty work.
Like the son in the Tired Donkey’s sad story, MD Obama is either too weak to shoulder his responsibilities or is already showing himself to be an unapologetic liar. Character matters. The Tired Donkey understands that politicians must change their mind in the face of facts from time to time. In fact, he encourages it. But he expects to be treated like an adult. How hard would it be to say to us, “People of America, I said one thing on the campaign trail, but financial realities have forced me to change my mind”? The Tired Donkey has an answer: it would be easy. But—like all the other Myrmidon Donkeys—MD Obama is unlikely to say this because he believes most of the population is too dumb to remember what he said a mere six months ago. He may be right.
There is nothing MD Obama could say to convince the Tired Donkey that any taxes on medical coverage would be a good thing. But he could say things that would allow the Tired Donkey to respect him; the Tired Donkey is not holding his breath.
The Tired Donkey also enjoys the various posting at the Liberty Papers blog, and particularly recommends taking a look at this post which collects commentary on the “Going Galt” debate. Now, the Tired Donkey will be the first to admit that he is no John Galt; he is not nearly as handsome or creative or rich. And, though wading through Ayn Rand’s prose stylings in Atlas Shrugged is a tough slog, the Tired Donkey recommends you make the effort as it contains many ideas of continuing importance. More on Monday.
In an article earlier this week in the New York Times, Jackie Calmes and Carl Hulse discuss Democratic opposition to various provisions of the Obama budget proposal. They highlight the opposition of creepy-looking Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to the president’s proposal to limit tax deductions for the wealthiest 1.2% of donkeys; Myrmidon Donkeys Baucus and Rangel cite a potential drop in charitable giving as their reason. The Tired Donkey is skeptical about this “reason” and finds it more likely that these Myrmidon Donkeys enjoy the patronage of some rich Steadfast Donkeys who don’t want to pay more taxes, but he will have to explore this suspicion in more detail on a later date since his purpose today is to discuss the language of taxation.
Reading on, the Tired Donkey came across this curious sentence regarding the strange Myrmidon Donkey opposition to more taxes on rich donkeys:
The next day, however, Mr. Geithner* staunchly defended the proposed limit, telling the House Budget Committee it would affect few taxpayers and still let them take deductions at the same level as in the Reagan years: a 28 percent rate, nearly twice what most taxpayers can claim.
What, you may ask, is wrong with this sentence? The Tired Donkey will tell you. It implies that under the proposal, rich donkeys will be getting a real bargain. “Good heavens! Deductions at twice the rate most taxpayers can claim. What a deal!” Wrong. The Tired Donkey is tempted to use a prison sex metaphor here, but he will refrain because he is aware that he has some younger readers. Instead, he will give it to you straight, just like the tax code does: in 2006—the latest data the Tired Donkey can find (here)—the rich donkeys Myrmidon Donkey Geithner is referring to paid 39.89% of all income taxes collected by the federal government. Yes, you read that right: 39.89%. The highest marginal tax rate is what applies to the vast majority of these payments, and that rate was 35% in 2006. Myrmidon Donkey Geithner may consider it a deal to pay taxes at a 35% rate and only get deductions at a 28% rate, but the Tired Donkey has a different term for it. He calls it getting the shaft.
*Tired Donkey Note: Mr. Geithner is Secretary of the Treasury and a tax cheat of some renown; he may very well be the Queen of the Myrmidon Donkeys.
As most of you should be aware, the Employee Free Choice Act was re-introduced in both the House and the Senate a few days ago. The Tired Donkey will not spend time attacking the ridiculous name of the Act, but will not use that name as it is very misleading; the Tired Donkey prefers to call this piece of legislation the Worker Intimidation at The Hands of Organized Union Thugs Act (“WITHOUT”) and will do so from here on. The WITHOUT Act would revise key provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, the 1935 law that established a federal right for workers to organize into labor unions and set out the procedures to be followed to establish such organizations.
One of the things the NLRA does is describe how a non-union workplace becomes a union workplace: (1) >50% of the workers sign a membership card with a union, (2) if the employer refuses to recognize the union (as is usually the case), a secret-ballot election is held, and (3) if >50% of the workers vote for the union, there is a union. The WITHOUT Act changes this to nothing but (1). Why is this a bad thing? Because it opens the door to massive intimidation of people who don’t really want a union. Today, employees often use their secret ballot to vote against a union. This means—in case you weren’t following along—that >50% of the workers signed a union card, but when they had the election, they voted against the union. This happens for reasons the Tired Donkey thinks are obvious, but he will share them with you just to be sure you get it: the workers feel compelled by union thugs to sign union membership cards, but when they get the protection of the secret ballot, they are able to vote their conscience. Hence the name of the WITHOUT Act: it gives you a union without the protection of a secret ballot vote.
And here, in case you were concerned that the Tired Donkey had forgotten, is where we get to the lies of Magical Bearded Gnome Reich. In his little Marketplace piece, he asserts that “the most important feature of” WITHOUT is that it strengthens penalties against employers who intimidate union organizers. This is tripe. While WITHOUT certainly does this, if that is all it did—or even the most important thing it did—it would not be very controversial. It is controversial because it seeks to eliminate the secret ballot from the organizational process. But the Tired Donkey understands why Magical Bearded Gnome Reich says what he says: MBG Reich is a shill for organized labor, and they want to pitch WITHOUT as a worker protection act when it is, in fact, exactly the opposite. The Tired Donkey urges you: don’t be fooled by the lies. Back to taxes tomorrow.
Imagine my surprise to hear Chris Matthews, on his February 26 broadcast, enthusiastically announce that President Obama is “promising to tax the rich people in order to pay for health care for the working people.”
Dear Mr. Matthews: maybe you are a rich person who doesn’t earn your money and doesn’t work. Since I see you working on TV all the time, perhaps you secretly feel that cheerleading for Barack Obama isn’t really “work.” I’m willing to accept your critical self-assessment.
But I and all the other people I know earning over $250,000.00 a year – and into seven figures – well, we are definitely working people. Most of us work longer hours than our employees do, take more work home to do in evenings, and work more weekend hours than our employees do. Many of us travel and spend a great deal of time away from our families. Many of us bear enormous executive responsibility and the stress that comes with it.
We also do more valuable work – not by accident, but because we have worked very hard to make ourselves more valuable. We have chosen to learn more and keep learning more; read more, play less; develop expertise. And almost all of us worked much, much, much harder than the ‘average working person’ for years, even decades, to create our businesses, master our crafts and skills, build our reputations, and finally put ourselves in positions to harvest our current high incomes.
As a matter of fact, our willingness to work more and work harder than most of those you designate as “working people” might just be the reason we now, finally earn much higher incomes. I know this is a troubling concept for liberals, but there it is: cause and effect.
So when you speak class warfare, it enrages us. Your dividing of Americans into separate groups, “working people” and “rich” – thus characterizing the rich as “not working people” – is obscene.
Oh, and just for the record, we already pay extraordinarily high taxes. More importantly, we pay an exorbitant share of the total U.S. tax burden – far, far in excess of the difference between our incomes and those paying less, little or none, and far in excess of our ratio to the population and our consumption of services.
We are Atlas already carrying the entire nation on our shoulders, and we are now tempted to shrug. You see, we could choose not to work if sufficiently antagonized, assaulted and abused. And for every one of us who takes the next four years off, thousands can kiss their jobs bye-bye. If that’s a surprise to you, I’d be delighted to explain it with specific examples.
We not only work harder than all those we provide jobs for, we also provide nearly all the capital and take all the risks to create businesses and build communities and retail centers and everything else that provide the majority of jobs. Those you see as working people create no jobs for themselves; we non-working rich provide them all. If we put our capital on strike for the next four years – a strike already in progress – there’ll be 16 to 20 percent or worse unemployment, a 3,000 or lower Dow wiping out all working peoples’ pensions and retirements entirely, boarded up businesses as far as the eye can see, and no health care for anybody.
Yes, that’s a threat.
Finally, a quick math lesson. There are no more than six million of us (give or take) that Obama has targeted for his grand panoply of stated income tax increases, backdoor tax increases via the taking away of real estate interest, charitable giving and other deductions, capital gains tax increases, etc. If you confiscated 100 percent of our combined incomes, you still couldn’t pay for everybody’s health care.
This is the most vile lie ever told to those working people. Why? Because every dollar of income stolen from me with taxes I retrieve plus three from those working people, to cover the taxes and overhead. I do so by: downsizing companies and cutting jobs, outsourcing jobs, not investing in expansion and creating jobs, and by raising prices. The last, raising prices, causes inflation, the biggest tax on working people and the only tax on poor people. Every tax-the-rich scheme costs far more than it gets. Nothing else could come close to the destruction guaranteed by abusively taxing the rich.
Some honest reporting about all this would consider the so-obvious folly of trying to force six million people to buy health care for 200-million; acknowledge that Obama is not merely returning top tax rates to Clinton or pre-Reagan points but that he is laying on myriad tax increases by removing deductions; and would stop smearing the rich as not-working-people. We ought to be thanked, daily. Better, we should be encouraged to work at creating and building things, but right now we’ve set that aside to work at out-maneuvering Obama’s tax assault, and watch how hard we work at that.
The Tired Donkey is especially impressed by Steadfast Donkey Kennedy’s threat to put his capital on strike for four years. Unfortunately, the Tired Donkey remains a working donkey, and he can’t afford such a grand demonstration of his might. But he urges Steadfast Donkey Kennedy go for it and thereby help prove the ultimate point: donkeys are the economy; the Freeloaders are just along for the ride. Be careful, Myrmidon Donkeys, lest you find yourselves exercising your dominion over a Third World country.
The Tired Donkey has long been aware that the etymology of “myrmidon” is connected to Greek mythology. But he has never researched the matter. Knowing that he was preparing this post and knowing also the discerning nature of his readers, the Tired Donkey decided that it would be interesting to dig into Greek mythology to provide his readers with a deeper understanding of the term. This was an error. The internet is a bad place to research Greek myths because there are more versions of each myth than there are internet pages describing the myth. But this has led the Tired Donkey to a startling conclusion: since the myths are all just invented stories, anyway, the Tired Donkey is free to choose the version he likes best and present that to his readers. And here it is:
The Tired Donkey is no prude, but the story of the conception of Aeacus is a strange one. Zeus turned himself into an eagle and made off with Aegina, eventually taking her to an island which now bears her name. According to the Wikipedia entry, she became pregnant after Zeus took the form of an ant and seduced her. Please don’t ask the Tired Donkey how this happened because he does not know and is unwilling to speculate; he will state for the record, however, that this seems farfetched even by the standards of Greek myths. Anyway, Aegina soon gave birth to Aeacus; no source the Tired Donkey could find—not even Wikipedia—alleges that Aeacus looked like some kind of human-ant mash-up, but the Tired Donkey believes it may be possible. Hera, Zeus’s sister and wife, became jealous as sisters will, and used a plague to kill all the inhabitants of the island; she spared only Aeacus and his mother. Aeacus was lonely and prayed to his father for company. Zeus, apparently still in the grip of his ant phase, responded by transforming the island’s ants into men and women who came to be called Myrmidons after the Greek word for ant. The Myrmidons were fierce fighters who followed orders without question; they eventually went to Troy with Achilles. Some sources claim the Myrmidons had six arms; most do not. The Tired Donkey chooses to believe that they did indeed have six arms.
So now we come to the heart of the matter. While writing recent posts, the Tired Donkey spent time considering the special nature of members of Congress and other politicians—including President Obama—who support policies that will increase the ranks of the Freeloaders. These creatures are not Stockholm Donkeys because Stockholm Donkeys are victims of their own weak minds. No, the Freeloader-voting members of Congress are different. They are calculating and actively court Freeloaders; in fact, they solicit money from Freeloaders with promises to swell their ranks and deliver more goodies to them after confiscating more donkey money. They are something worse than Stockholm Donkeys. They are Myrmidon Donkeys: politicians who are in the thrall of the Freeloaders and do their every bidding.
In a blog post several years ago, the president of the Tax Foundation, Scott A. Hodge, provided us with a wealth of information regarding “non-payers.” In case this term confuses any of the Tired Donkey’s readers, “non-payers” is a word that non-partisan, non-profit organizations use to refer to Freeloaders. Among the many facts in the article are the following (which do not take into account the 15 million households and individuals who file no tax returns at all):
--65.7% of all head-of-household filers are Freeloaders;
--33.1% of all single filers are Freeloaders (and they make up 42.2% of all filers);
--21.5% and 21.6% respectively of married-filing-jointly and married-filing-separately filers are Freeloaders.
--43% of all filers from Mississippi are Freeloaders.
These facts, the Tired Donkey submits, speak for themselves. Please: get married and move away from Mississippi.
To begin, a working definition: A Freeloader is any potential federal income tax payer over the age of seventeen who—because of his or her low income possibly combined with various deductions—pays no such taxes. Please note from this definition that the Tired Donkey is not implying that a Freeloader lacks a strong work ethic. Some, of course, are lazy bums, but the Tired Donkey can say the same of some donkeys. In other words, the term “Freeloader” is a quantitative term, not a value judgement. The Tired Donkey is acquainted with many Freeloaders, and some among them are the hardest working people he knows. But they are still Freeloaders.
This may seem hard-hearted, but the Tired Donkey’s hands are tied. It is nothing more or less than the truth, and if it is a little too much for you, the Tired Donkey suggests that you search out your intellectual stimulation elsewhere. But the working definition is over-inclusive by nearly 2.2 million people, and the Tired Donkey turns to them now.
First the Tired Donkey will consider those who—though they do not contribute monetarily to the daily operations of the republic—are certainly not Freeloaders: the men and women of the United States military. A Freeloader is one who takes without giving, and—at the risk of sounding maudlin—the Tired Donkey is forced to point out that those who provide military service to our country give us something much more valuable than money. The Tired Donkey salutes them and declares them as a group to be Donkeys Plus.
—Low-level employees of the federal government? Are you joking?
—Those mired in generational poverty in the Appalachian Mountains, the inner cities, the blasted plains and other such locations? Sorry. Freeloaders. Unfortunate Freeloaders, but Freeloaders nevertheless.
—Retired members of the military? Before answering this, the Tired Donkey must point out that a person only “retires” from the military if he or she amasses 20 years or more of service. The Tired Donkey himself is a former Marine with twelve years of service, but he is not “retired.” The Tired Donkey personally feels that retired military members do not get a Freeloader pass, but he will still respect you if you think otherwise.
—Retired persons? You do not get a Freeloader pass just because you are retired. There are Freeloaders and Donkeys among the retired.
—Donkeys who recently lost their jobs in this terrible economy? Freeloaders.
Please, the Tired Donkey begs you: stop. He has now fully considered the issue and believes he was right the first time: there are donkeys and Donkeys Plus. Everyone else is a Freeloader. But the Tired Donkey can hear you asking (note for those just learning to be critical readers: this is a common, hackneyed way to prop up another straw man), what about the Freeloaders who hate being Freeloaders? What about the Freeloaders actively working to support the Fair Tax or some other laudable tax plan that would spread fairness throughout the land? The Tired Donkey admires these Freeloaders for Fairness and finds common cause with them, but must point out once again that Freeloading is not a state of mind. They are Freeloaders. Every last one of them.
Now that the Tired Donkey has assured his wife that he is not making a value judgement about the Freeloaders, he hopes that she will grow more comfortable with the term. But on the Robert Riesch-as-Magical-Bearded-Gnome issue, Mrs. Donkey is just going to have to get over it. Because that is what he is.
The question of who is waging war against whom is an interesting one, but it is not the Tired Donkey’s purpose to engage with this question. Rather, the Tired Donkey is attempting to make a simple point: the current tax policy of the United States allows nearly half of the potential taxpayers who live in this great land to pay no income tax at all, and this is improper, unjust and—the Tired Donkey submits—immoral. This issue is not being addressed at all in the debate about how much more of the overall tax burden the wealthiest donkeys ought to shoulder; that is an important debate, but the Tired Donkey believe that an even more important debate is whether or not it is appropriate for Freeloaders to be allowed a voice in these questions. If you do not contribute funds to running the country, what right do you have to interfere in the affairs of the donkeys who do contribute these funds? The Tired Donkey has an answer to this question: none. Another, more inflammatory way to put this—a way the Tired Donkey favors—is this: no representation without taxation. You may call that class warfare if you wish; the Tired Donkey calls it common sense.
A good example of the absence of this important question from the current debate was provided yesterday by Stockholm Donkey Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. In his piece on class warfare, he blathers on at length about top tax brackets and income redistribution (which he heartily endorses) and hedge-fund managers and other things that Stockholm Donkeys like to talk about. He even trots out an Addled Donkey from Manhattan Beach, a retired computed executive, who says that “all the tax rebates to the rich never made sense” to him and goes on to “fully endorse the idea that it’s about time the middle class got a crack at” tax rebates for themselves.
In case you were so stunned by the ignorance displayed by the poor Addled Donkey that you missed the point, the Tired Donkey will make it clear for you: Stockholm Donkey Hiltzik used this run-down creature to hide the real question from his no-doubt equally muttonheaded readers: how can someone who pays no taxes get a tax "rebate?" Once again, the Tired Donkey has an answer to this question: he can't.
ONLY A TIRED DONKEY
YET IT TOOK ABOUT TWENTY MEN TO PUT HIM IN A WAGON.
New York Times
August 11, 1892, Wednesday
Page 2, 968 words
A diminutive descendant or Balaam's belabored steed blocked business at Nassau and Cedar Streets for a time yesterday afternoon. The little donkey, grown weary of packing his youthful master through the sultry streets -- to use a phrase of famous Wall Street, through which he had just passed -- simply "laid down" on him. This was at 2 o'clock P.M.
It was at first thought that the donkey had been sunstruck, and numerous buckets of water were poured over him and he was repeatedly urged to take a drink. The bootblack in front of whose place of business the donkey had lain down appealed to a policeman to remove the “donk,” and the policeman tried his best by pulls and kicks to get the little beast to move on, but all in vain.
In a few minutes all the small boys for blocks around, passing messenger boys, and scores of bankers and brokers stopped to watch the efforts of the policeman, or rather of the two policemen, for the officer on the Broadway corner had been attracted by the gathering crowd. The policemen, seeing that the “donk” would not move on of his own accord, pressed a light transfer wagon into service, and proceeded with the help of a half-dozen burly colored porters, to lift him into the wagon.
Wagons and drays were blocked clear down to Wall Street, and the crowd grew in numbers until men and boys jumped up into the wagons to look over the heads of the hundreds who shut out of sight the struggle that was going on to load the donkey.
When the donkey found out what was going on, he livened up somewhat, but still refused to “move on.” Nor was he willing to be put into the wagon. Half a dozen times the men had him nearly lifted into the wagon, but just as he was being shoved on out would spring both hind legs and knock his handlers right and left.
Finally he was blindfolded with a blanked, and, after four or five more strong efforts by fully a score of men, they got him sideways on the wagon, and, with one of the policemen holding to his tail, two porters glued to his ears, four men fast to his hind legs, and half a dozen more pushing him, he was put aboard. He didn’t like it and tried to jump out, but they tied him fast. And they gave him and his little master a ride home.
Ah, the tired little donkey had had enough. So he sat down in the middle of the street and refused to work. And what happened next? The Freeloaders who had taken him for granted for so long picked him up, put him on a truck and drove him home. In short, this donkey hero got the Freeloaders working for him. Now that is a story the Tired Donkey can get behind.
This will likely come as no surprise to you, but the New York Times often publishes articles that obscure the truth. Take, for instance, an otherwise interesting piece published today and written by David Leonhardt. The article contains the following paragraph:
The second reason is government policy. The Obama administration plans to raise taxes on the affluent, cut them for everyone else (so long as the government can afford it, that is) and take other steps to reduce inequality. Franklin D. Roosevelt did something similar and it had a huge effect.
The Tired Donkey respectfully suggests that there is something wrong with the information in this paragraph, and he believes you know what it is. Right! It is impossible to cut taxes for “everyone else” since—depending on whether or not you and the NYTimes define “affluent” the same way (the Tired Donkey suspects there would be a difference)—less than half of the people remaining after the affluent are removed pay any taxes that could be cut.
Since this paragraph is short, the Tired Donkey suggests that you have your children and/or idiot coworkers read it. Then ask them if they know what is wrong with it. If they do, congratulate them, remind them that if they choose to read the New York Times they should approach the experience as they would approach a combat patrol in the Waziristan Hills, and, finally, invite them to visit the Tired Donkey. If they do not pick up on the glaring error, mock them without pity and warn them against the danger of believing all they read.
President Reagan’s policies which both flattened the tax code and championed deregulation were proper and ushered in a long era of prosperity. Unfortunately, the people who championed Reagan’s ideas after he was gone were idiots, and—as idiots often do—they carried things too far. There was too much regulation in the 1970s. The Tired Donkey can’t even locate a Stockholm Donkey who argues otherwise. The problem came later when dim-witted Republicans began arguing that constant deregulation is a good thing, an idea so dumb that only people running for elective office could champion it. Allow the Tired Donkey to state the obvious for a moment: too much regulation is bad and so is too little. That is a piece of why we are in the mess we are in right now. But there is another piece to this puzzle, and the Tired Donkey will now return to the tax question.
You may find yourself asking, “Tired Donkey, if Magical Bearded Gnome Reich is wrong, what did cause the wealth transfer and the terrible economic state we are in right now?” Here is the answer: changes in the treatment of capital gains. As you can see at the link, in 1997—during the Clinton administration—the capital gains tax rate changed dramatically. Prior to 1997, capital gains were taxed as about the same rate as other income; after 1997—particularly for donkeys who made enough that most of their income was taxed at the highest marginal rate—the gap between long term capital gains taxes and the highest marginal tax rate was as high at 19.6%.
Now donkeys are not idiots, at least not most of them. So what did they do? They began shifting all the income-making activity they could into the stock market. And they were willing to take big risks to do it because a 19.6% tax gap can cover a lot of risk. This activity led to (1) the wealthiest of donkeys being taxed at rates much lower than the less well-healed donkeys; (2) the incredible stock runs of the past ten years; and (3) the long-term trend of the rich donkeys getting richer (which—were it not caused by stupid tax polices that messed up the country—would be fine with the Tired Donkey). And so—at the risk of alienating his readers—the Tired Donkey will once again state the obvious: a tax incentive to take obscene risks in the stock market combined with deregulatory zeal beyond all reason will lead to disaster. So here we are. And here is what is going to make you mad: the Tired Donkey declares that capital gains taxes need to be raised at the same time as the Freeloaders begin contributing to this country again. Don’t like it? Send the Tired Donkey an email; there’s a link at the bottom of the page.
Your Name: [removed by the Tired Donkey]
Your Email: [removed by the Tired Donkey]
Subj: THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR HARD WORK ON MY BEHALF
Message: you are mean and ugly. you pay tax because you keep all the money from the less fortunate who cant get a good job because they wasnt born with money already and couldnt go to good schools who did not have food to eat. when we bring you down of youre pedestool you will know how hard it is to live in the real world.
In this post, Stockholm Donkey Bookman argues that the Tired Donkey’s entire premise is a fraud since our Congress—in its infinite wisdom—spends some portion of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes—which even Freeloaders have to pay—on things they are not supposed to spend it on like paying park rangers. Now Stockholm Donkey Bookman is no idiot, he is just dishonest, and the Tired Donkey will expose his little tricks on a future date. For now, it must be sufficient to point out that the overwhelming majority of Social Security and payroll taxes are paid by the Donkeys, not the Freeloaders; the fact that the Freeloaders may carry their own water bottle while us Donkeys carry all their household possessions does not make what is happening in this country fair. But the Tired Donkey digresses, and he must now return to his primary subject: the Stockholm Donkey.
NOTE: The Tired Donkey has no access to Stockholm Donkey Bookman’s tax returns and recognizes that Stockholm Donkey Bookman may actually be a Freeloader, particularly since he works for such a minor paper. If this is the case, the Tired Donkey apologizes and urges Mr. Bookman to thank a donkey.
Though you may think he is crazy, the Tired Donkey is serious. But he will admit that me may be living in a dream world. He hopes not. The Tired Donkey firmly believes that some small percentage of the freeloaders are honorable people who have never been asked to confront the fact that it is entirely improper for them live in this country without helping pay for it. And we don’t have to move many people to change the dynamic in Washington. Everything the Tired Donkey is planning is premised on (1) his faith in the American people, and (2) his belief that when they are exposed to the truth they will vote for fairness. If he is wrong about that then at least he will have made a gallant effort in a quest for justice. And who doesn’t want to do that?
If you are a fellow taxpayer—a donkey—and you think you can’t make a difference, take a look at the numbers. In 2007, American donkeys ponied up $1.17 trillion to Uncle Sam. That’s $22.5 billion a week. A week. If just 1% of our fellow donkeys give up their salaries for a week, it will deny the government $225 million. That is what Tired Donkey Week is all about. Join the movement.
Questions? Check out the FAQ. More content soon.