Boycott Facebook. ‘Share’ on Facebook if you Agree.

The irony of a Facebook page promoting a boycott of Facebook is so obvious I feel silly even pointing it out. But it illustrates a point. Facebook has become too important to boycott. I’d like to boycott Facebook but doing so would mean I couldn’t ‘Share’ a link to Thousand Kites project with my FB friends and I couldn’t ‘Like” the Western Tidewater Free Clinic‘s Facebook page. Facebook has become a powerful tool to help the advancement of important causes, and if progressives up and leave than this powerful tool will be left in the hands of the very people who gave us a reason to boycott it.

One of those reasons is Eduardo Saverin’s despicable decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship, thus avoiding taxes on Facebook’s initial public offering. He does this after earning billions thanks to the hard working people who support the infrastructure that helped him rise to his position of wealth and fame.

As the Pando Daily points out, Saverin owes the U.S. “Nearly Everything”.

Would Eduardo Saverin have been successful anywhere else? Maybe, but not as quickly, and not as spectacularly. It was only thanks to America—thanks to the American government’s direct and indirect investments in science and technology; thanks to the U.S. justice system; the relatively safe and fair investment climate made possible by that justice system; the education system that educated all of Facebook’s workers, and on and on—it was only thanks to all of this that you know anything at all about Eduardo Saverin today.

But Mr. Saverin doesn’t see it that way. He’s going to take his ball and go to Singapore; a ball he built with the help of hard working Americans.
According to The Atlantic, more and more wealthy are leaving America, balls and all. So what are we to do? Right wing tax reformers say we need to become more like the countries to which our ingrate billionaires are fleeing. Like Singapore.

Singapore is a nice place for billionaires. But for average workers, their hours have risen while their take-home pay has been falling, and many parents don’t have money for their children’s lunch.

As income inequality in the U.S. increases, we may soon catch up to Singapore in the CIA’s GINI index of family income distribution. Singapore’s a little worse than El Salvador, and we’re not far behind. This is the direction the right wing wants us to go in order to beg selfish, arrogant billionaires to stay with us. But it’s absurd to think we can compete with countries that disregard the needs of their poor. No matter how far we lower the tax rates for billionaires, there will always be nations with lower taxes. The right wants us to be more like those nations, even as they accuse Obama of wanting to be more like Western Europe.

They tell us that if we stop taking money from our “job creators” and stop coddling the non-working, our labor force will be more productive and we’ll all live better. But looking at Singapore tells us that our poorest laborers would work more hours for less pay and the income gap will be even greater than it is now.

So, our choice is to lose billionaires to tax havens or become more like the nations to which they’re so attracted. It’s a nasty choice, like continuing to use Facebook or relinquish a tool which is no longer optional in promoting important causes. Those are the choices that our fleeing billionaires have left us.

But it’s the silly protesters who are waging class warfare.

How can we Avoid Class Warfare …

… with quotes like this floating around (via Bloomberg, via Delong),

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

Although, as my wife says, It’s not quite as absurd as it sounds. If I’m a middle class man worried about the cost of maintaining my car, how does my worrying sound to somebody trying to scrape up bus fare to get to work? No matter what class we exist in, we worry about loosing what we have.

But if there’s a lack of understanding between the wealthy and “People who don’t have money”, the burden for resolving that problem lies more with the former than the latter.

An Overt Display of Dishonesty

A while ago I expressed my concern about the cross-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to kick in if a budget deal can’t be reached. As Republicans get ready to brazenly renege on a deal that they never really intended to keep, I find myself even more concerned.

But I was off on one point. I thought the most significant factors were that Democrats don’t feel strongly enough about cutting military spending and that Republicans are willing to sacrifice the military in order to cut vital services for the poor and middle class. As it turns out, the most significant factors are that Democrats don’t feel strongly enough about cutting military spending and Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass about keeping their promises.

I felt that Republicans would be more willing to let the cross-the-board cuts kick in than Democrats would because Democrats are more afraid of being branded as the party who weakened our national defenses than Republicans are afraid of being branded as the party who allowed people to die because they couldn’t afford shelter, food, or health care. What I didn’t realize is Republicans felt they could get whatever they want simply by lying.

Apparently the Republicans feel they can earn points by overtly behaving like charlatans, as long as the only people they’re lying to are Democrats. I hope they’re wrong. I hope that the Right wing base won’t actually cheer such a public act of chicanery because if it does, we will be at the brink of having a one-party government ruled by maniacs with the support of middle class citizens convinced that the reason they can’t get ahead is the poor have too much of their money. I don’t see such a future as being good for anyone but the ruling class.

Chess board and pieces

Handouts for Doing Nothing?

I have a friend who posted, on Facebook, an article saying 35 percent of all American wages is “handouts”, and I posted a counter-article calling the first one a “Zombie Lie”. The friend is one of the most intelligent and civil people I know so I expect he’ll take it OK as I argue with him publicly.

The Zombie article, on Columbia Journalism Review, hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the 35% article in CNBC, but I still have to agree with CJR. That 35% includes Social Security, Medicare and other money which simply goes back to the people who pay into it. It also includes stimulus money, which is government spending but not a “handout”. And if Rush Limbaugh is correctly quoted in the article, saying “One-third of us don’t earn anything. One-third of us live totally on handouts”, than that’s an absolutely false and dangerous lie.

If “One Third of us” didn’t do anything, and lived “totally on handouts”, the country wouldn’t even look the same. Such a statement isn’t even realistic but it’s passed around as fact by a significant number of reporters and commenters.

The effects of the “One Third” fallacy is more support for an unrealistic budget proposal. This lie results in a significant portion of the voting population believing that you can cut $61 billion dollars from the budget and the only people who will be hurt by it are welfare bums and do-nothing government workers.

A lot of the “handouts” we’re talking about are programs such as WIC, Head Start, or housing assistance, and many recipients of these benefits do work. Some of them work part time. McDonald’s is one of many employers that hire “part time” workers to work nearly, but not quite, 40 hours a week. Many minimum wage workers have two part time jobs or try to get an education, which is difficult because businesses like the local McDonald’s change their schedule every week and only post the schedules a week in advance. So people work all day at one or more jobs, don’t get paid enough to cover rent, transportation, and medical costs, and don’t have full time benefits because they’re only working part time. The result is you get a “Hot, freshly prepared” meal for only a dollar.

Even those who are getting unemployment insurance have to prove that they were recently working and looking for new work. Unemployment isn’t an open ended government handout to the non-working. That’s why we have debates about extensions in unemployment assistance.

Of course, if we do want to talk about handouts for doing nothing, we can talk about Michele Bachmann’s farm.