What “Earning It” Means in America

30 10 2008

I got to thinking about what “earning it” really means in America, because of criticism like Spunky’s that yes, Barack Obama had paid for his 30 minutes of campaign airtime yet he had not really “earned” the right to have and enjoy it, even after paying for it.

What does earning it mean in America’s power of story, and who should decide, provided the goal is better times for us all in the present and future we share (like it or not)?

I’ve been reflecting on what this resentment of Obama as uncontributing interloper could mean then, in the context of the same faction’s defense of $100 million worth of John and Cindy McCain’s houses and cars — evidently numbering beyond what this rich old man married to a beer heiress can even remember — and the latest socialist/Marxist backlash against tax cuts for the working class instead of the corporate kings and Wall Street wizards. Someone commenting here at Snook defended the second Mrs. McCain’s $300,000 outfit at the RNC by saying hey, she EARNED that or at least her father had done, by working hard!

And Joe the Plumber who reportedly doesn’t earn much of a living plumbing and doesn’t keep up with paying the taxes on what he DOES earn and enjoy, seems to have signed with an entertainment agent to see how much he can “earn” as a [gasp!] celebrity of whatever type the traffic in tough times will bear, so far having earned it only by subtracting from our public discourse rather than adding to it, for knowing little and doing nothing at all.

And say he does strike it rich — stupider celebrities have done — somehow earning our squeezed consumer dollars for whatever unworthy and unregulated sewage he gets a contract to pump through our public pipes. Will he then be righteously justified in hoarding his “earned” prosperity all for himself, continuing to see taxes as socialist and failing to help support the economy with any of his “small business” wealth?

Is profiting from the people’s choice of country music and beer, while begrudging the payment of taxes on those profits, the real American Dream? Is that “earning it” — more than the national leadership of a hardworking constitutional lawyer and community organizer, also benefiting from the people’s choice, now poised to organize the whole nation into a better future for us all (even for the unholy and illogical GOP alliance of surly poor and surlier rich?)

Who is the poster child for the America Dream your children are learning to pursue?

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30 responses

30 10 2008
JJ

For those not following the Spunky Smackdown of Everything Obama, here’s what she blogged about last night’s campaign time:

Ironically, the blessings of America and voluntary contributions have allowed Obama to buy the air time. But isn’t there something oddly unAmerican about having someone other than the President appear during prime-time on all the major networks in an address to the nation? He’s paid for the right to be there, but he hasn’t earned the right to be there.

30 10 2008
JJ

Oh – and I left it out above but I was thinking it — Sarah Palin’s wardrobe and kids’ travel etc have been paid with campaign money (and with taxpayer money in Alaska too) yet the argument has been made that as a governor and now VP candidate, she “needed” it and therefore should have it, was working for it. Is that earning it? Is she “entitled” to it even? And how do we feel about that compared to Obama “earning” the airtime?

What about the mortgage brokers and derivative packagers and short-sellers? Earning it? Good citizens in this with us when they strike it fabulously wealthy, or entitled to whatever they can keep by buying politicians with giant corporate campaign contributions? (And what do politicians do to “earn” those donations?? One shudders to think. Maybe some socialist-smeared spreading of wealth is more moral and constitutional than the recent raping, pillaging and plundering the GOP still quaintly calls the “free market”?)

p.s. best headline lately is on a working nurse’s clever comparisons about the working class power of Palin’s $150,000 unearned sartorial excess: Hockey Mom or Neiman Marxist?

30 10 2008
JJ

According to the industry’s television critics, he EARNED it last night. 🙂

30 10 2008
COD

The McCain’s “earned” their riches via a government enforced monopoly on alcohol distribution. Would they be that rich if alcohol distribution were a free and open market in Arizona?

30 10 2008
JJ

Ooh, something fresh to sink my intellectual teeth into, excellent Chris. 🙂

30 10 2008
JJ

Plus Spunky is indicting Obama for family relations to whom she feels he hasn’t spread enough wealth. Did you know that Cindy McCain was the only child of both her parents’ second marriages, but she had two half sisters (one from the mom’s first marriage and one, I think, from a fling of dad’s) that she refused to acknowledge as her real sisters or — need we add — share the fabulous wealth with . . .of course no one is suggesting government should intervene to force that but it is moral? Is it Christian? Was the excess she kept all for herself what we’d defend as “earned”?

That’s not even touching the rest of her history with John McCain and whether HIS first wife earned the treatment he (and his mistress-turned-bride) gave her . . .

30 10 2008
JJ

Plus again – I’m sure the Obama campaign won’t go there but if I hear one more FOX-fed McCain taunt about how Obama should make this LA Times secret videotape of his old meeting with “terrorists” be released, supposedly so he can be totally open with the America people before the election — what about Palin’s investigations she’s been stonewalling, AND what about this investigation into McCain’s own possible Chappaquiddick-like fatal accident, that the Navy is stonewalling to news organizations?

When he gets THAT file released or tells us the whole truth voluntarily THEN he’ll have “earned” some respect for his honor and intentions in criticizing Obama . . .

30 10 2008
Crimson Wife

I don’t care about Sen. Obama’s informercial buy except for the fact that in it, he apparently lowered the threshold of who would pay higher taxes from $250k down to $200k. And apparently Sen. Biden has been going around saying $150k. And after Nov. 4th, I have the sneaking suspicion that we’ll start hearing a LOT lower number being claimed as the definition of “wealthy”…

30 10 2008
JJ

However much it is now or later though, what does it take for you to consider it “earned” and then (it’s a two-part question!) once it’s earned by the individual, what do you consider fairly taxable, as any American citizen’s contribution to well-regulated interstate travel, transport, commerce, domestic and foreign defense, energy independence, health and education etc etc . . .

I think there’s an argument to be made that certain government contracts and benefits are actually earned and others are wasted pay-offs, even actual corruption, for example. What about stock dividends and investment income where your money is working but you aren’t, quite?

Inheritance? (Or does it depend on how THAT money was originally made, and do we really want to go there in our own family history?) Social security or Medicaid benefits? Public education and college scholarships, with or without doing pubic service in return? Only if it was military service? Not even then?

Marrying it? Working really hard to steal and hide it? McCain’s reportedly a big gambler, what about winning it, either that way or fighting for it and beating the other guy out (or up?)

30 10 2008
JJ

And were these “earned” rally supporters? Or more like government-hustled shills?

A local school district official confirmed after the event that of the 6,000 people estimated by the fire marshal to be in attendance this morning, more than 4,000 were bused in from schools in the area. The entire 2,500-student Defiance School District was in attendance, the official said, in addition to at least three other schools from neighboring districts, one of which sent 14 buses.

30 10 2008
JJ

Btw, did y’all see Dr. John and Mr. McCain meet each other inside the same body last night, on CNN? 😉

The man admitted his monster alter ego was wrong to have been calling Barack Obama a “socialist.” Larry King asked him if he really believed Obama was a socialist, and McCain said no.

30 10 2008
Crimson Wife

Well, I’m not super-conservative when it comes to the issue of taxes. I do think those who are *ACTUALLY* wealthy should pay a somewhat higher rate. I just have a problem with politicians wanting to raise taxes on the middle class and claiming those people are “wealthy”.

Where to draw the line exactly is a tricky question, but I’d say something like $150-200k for singles (the higher number for those living in high-cost areas of the country), $200-250k for couples without minor children, and $250-300k for families with minor children.

I’d also like to see an end to the loophole for those in the venture capital, private equity, and hedge fund industries so they pay the same tax rate as everyone else. Reinstate the dividend tax, but exempt the first $25k ($50k for those age 55+). Reinstate the inheritance tax on those estates over $1M after exempting the first $1M in retirement savings, $5M in family farm or small business, and the value of one’s primary residence up to the median price of a single-family residence in the metro area.

I’d also like to see the Earned Income Tax Credit threshold factor in the cost of living. It makes no sense to me to have a flat income limit when the cost of living varies so widely in this country (each dollar of our family’s income went a LOT farther when we lived near Louisville, KY than it does here in the S.F. Bay Area).

30 10 2008
JJ

But would you be still paying your “fair” share then, or would that be redistributionist? 😉

State school funding works that way, sort of, and it’s even called “equalization” of funding, levied locally and put into the state budget, then sent back out for different areas’ property values and cost of living. Socialist? Marxist?

30 10 2008
Nance Confer

isn’t there something oddly unAmerican about having someone other than the President appear during prime-time on all the major networks in an address to the nation?

************

LMAO!!!!!

This is exactly what they are upset about. He looked so, so, what’s the word, Presidential!

And he does every darned time!

And their guy? A doddering old fool.

How dare this younger (and blacker) Democrat look Presidential? And do a better job than Bush or McCain? That has to rankle.

Oh, well. Too sad. Too bad.

Nance

Note: I have not yet achieved the level of maturity to reach out to the other side as Obama urges. Maybe I’ll work on that. 🙂

30 10 2008
Nance Confer

CW: Where to draw the line exactly is a tricky question, but I’d say something like $150-200k for singles (the higher number for those living in high-cost areas of the country), $200-250k for couples without minor children, and $250-300k for families with minor children.

********

http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/taxes/Factsheet_Tax_Plan_FINAL.pdf

o Ordinary Income: The top two income tax brackets would return to their 1990’s levels of 36% and 39.6%. All other tax brackets would remain as they are today. Obama would also restore the 1990’s levels for the personal exemption and itemized deduction phaseouts (known as PEP and Pease). Obama would work with the Treasury Department to adjust the thresholds of these rates slightly to
ensure that no married couple making less than $250,000 (or single making less than $200,000) was affected by these changes.

*************

That’s from page 5 of Obama’s 6-page tax policy pdf linked above. All available at his website.

This seems to have enough in common with your comment, CW, to give me hope that Congress might be able to work things out.

Nance

31 10 2008
Daryl Cobranchi

CW,

There have always been two numbers in the plan. From $0 – $200k tax rates are cut. From $250k – infinity tax rates are hiked. Between those two no change in current rates.

Obama said as much during the last debate.

2 11 2008
Betty Malone

Latest news last night as I drifted off to sleep….something about the GOP having unearthed an Obama aunt..living here in America..searching for the American Dream, but as an illegal immigrant..??? Getting ready to search now..I do remember from his first book, that Obama talked about the complexities of African relations..that the male leader of their tribe..and his father was at one time..but supposed to provide for everyone…and that it was not a task he saw himself having been groomed to do. It seemed to be when he went in search of his African roots..they somewhat dismayed him. It dismayed me to read about it! because it somewhat aligned with what I see in my work…the intertwining of familial roots in African American homes..The Aunties and Uncles…who are pervasive and have various roles to African American child..some not so healthy roles!

2 11 2008
JJ

Looks like she’s the half-sister of the father he only met once. Cindy McCain has two half sisters herself, one of whom died a few weeks ago. I don’t recall McCain suspending the campaign again so she and her family could mourn. In fact, the second Mrs.McCain calls herself an only child.

And she’s not even African! 😉

This is just more last-days brinksmanship.

2 11 2008
JJ

And Betty — ask yourself how this information about one individual leaked out, from our supposedly constitution-upholding “American” federal administration. Is it more blatant disregard of what’s right, for what’s Right?

From Politico.com:

The Associated Press wrote that it confirmed the deportation case with two separate sources, one of them a federal law enforcement official. The information they made available is known to officials in the federal government, but the AP said it could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved in its release.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has written to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff requesting an immediate investigation of the leak, which he deemed “deplorable” and said “was not the first leak of law enforcement information apparently designed to influence the coming presidential election,” referring to an ongoing investigation of voter fraud by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would not comment on the leak or whether the agency was looking into it.

“ICE is prohibited from commenting on any individual’s status or the status of any case,” she said. “I would also add that as a matter of practice, we don’t discuss law enforcement operational details.”

Given the timing, the case led to an unusual nationwide directive within ICE requiring that any deportations before Tuesday’s election be approved at least at the level of the agency’s regional directors, a U.S. law enforcement official told the AP.

John McCain seems to be staying far away from the issue, making no mention of Obama’s family in his two Virginia appearances this morning. His press aides have also remained quiet, issuing no statement about her immigration status. . .

4 11 2008
Crimson Wife

I don’t see a progressive income tax as socialist, no. Socialism is where the government controls the means of production (i.e. state-owned factories like in the old Soviet Union or a government-run healthcare system like in Canada or Europe).

A progressive income tax is very much in the spirit of Luke 12:48: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.”

The major problem I have with Sen. Obama’s tax proposal is that I don’t trust him not to change it dramatically if he wins the election. There’s simply no way that the country will be able to afford all the spending he wants to do if he confines his tax raises to only those making >$250k. Already Sen. Biden’s been talking about a $150k threshold. How long before that’s $100k or even lower?

4 11 2008
JJ

Well, I’d readily agree that beneath every issue and candidate we argue about, is the question of what and whom we believe in, what we feel sure we can trust.

Without that, none of it matters. That’s why this election will be historic. Trust has finally been broken past the tipping point. Trust of almost everything, not just a party or its champions, not just of the economy on every mind right now, but of our American stories, our community institutions from neighborhood associations to churches and schools and local government competence, our national institutions like Congress, the courts and the Presidency itself, our voting system, our military and infrastructure, and maybe worst of all, even our own goodness and rightness and destiny as a nation.

We (a majority of the people) can’t trust that we are who we thought we were! (I sure do feel that way about “homeschoolers” for example!) So maybe this election is really about who we trust to lead us as we try to earn our way back into our own good graces.

4 11 2008
JJ

The actor John Cusack is apparently quite an activist. I just read his view of why we can’t trust the neocon “free market” worshippers and never should have done:

As Bush leaves office, the real truth is this: the new economies of the world disprove everything he ever said. Apparently that doesn’t matter.

Neoconservatives will lie in the weeds and gather forces, the same players in a revolving door. They want back in and if history has proved anything, worshiping the markets is not enough. We must actually kill to feed them. A horrible cross-pollination of fundamentalism, dementia and market fever has turned America into a willing enabler of corporate cannibalism.

Nothing else to call it when murder is seen as a legitimate extension of economic policy. Preemptive war is not only justified but openly referred to as a market opportunity. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. As we look out at the wreckage — world economies collapsing, nationalized banks and a complete loss of trust — we can see the hypocrisy as all are revealed as true socialists on the way down, crying in their scotch and Ambien as they run to the state for cover.

. . .let’s remember when the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal talked glowingly and starry-eyed about the “Baghdad Boom” . . . It was not the site of a gold rush, it was the sight of massacre and armed robbery. Now these men jump like rats off a death ship but don’t be fooled. Francis Fukuyama and company will just lay low, regroup and rebrand. They speak openly about such things, beaten but unbowed, with no moral connection to the fiasco they have fostered. They speak as passing spectators watching the Weather Channel, (see Frum, Kristol, Brooks and all the rest), rather than intellectual architects, defenders, and foot soldiers in an illegal war and the thirty-five year assault on the New Deal.

. . .The real challenge is to erase the delusion that greed equals freedom and prosperity, let alone the hideous lie that it somehow spreads justice. Amazingly, we are asked to listen to this gibberish in political life no matter how high the bile rises.

Many believe economies must serve humanity and not the other way around. Economies must make a moral connection to the republic. Brace yourselves, free marketers: the quality of economic and human transactions will have to take priority over money. Faith and hope have to manifest in the social transactions we make.

A new social contract could be coming based on a real currency my friend Kevin McCabe calls the currency of grace. It is a currency of economic fairness and institutionalizing concepts of shared responsibility; a currency based on the gold standard that every human has value and should be awarded respect and opportunity, the dignity that comes from human beings protecting each other from the values and ideals of a Darwinist world.

Its spirit is in Keynesian economics, a mixed economy with regulated markets and social spending. In the new era, we must remove fundamentalist right wing economists as the high priests and kings.

Their ideology will stay dead only if we remain vigilant and call things what they are. It’s a battle for the idea of America and it’s just beginning if Senator Obama becomes president.

We should worship God if we want to, not the markets.

4 11 2008
Crimson Wife

I don’t trust either candidate to live up to what he’s been saying on the campaign trail. The difference is that I think the real John McCain isn’t nearly as right-wing as he’s been making himself out to be while I think the real Barack Obama is far more left-wing than he’s been portraying himself.

I fully expect whoever’s elected to present a tax plan that’s significantly different from the one touted during the campaign. For all that McCain has been talking about cutting taxes for everyone, it’s not going to happen. Even if he truly wanted to (which I doubt given his record of twice voting against Bush), there’s no way the Democratically-controlled Congress would go along with further tax cuts for the wealthy.

What concerns me is that a Democratically-controlled Congress would have little problem going along with a revised Obama tax plan that raises rates on families making quite a bit less than $250k- including mine.

5 11 2008
boremetotears

We (a majority of the people) can’t trust that we are who we thought we were! (I sure do feel that way about “homeschoolers” for example!) So maybe this election is really about who we trust to lead us as we try to earn our way back into our own good graces.

Oooh. The reference to homeschooling sounds so intriguing, but I don’t understand what you mean. Is there a Dummies Guide to JJ that I could consult? 🙂

5 11 2008
NanceConfer

The $150K remark was another Biden misstatement. Easy enough to check. No need to repeat it as if it were fact.

But now that Obama is going to be President, we’ll see what he is actually able to work out with the Congress.

Nance

5 11 2008
JJ

Hi Lynn, wow, I just woke up in Obama Nation after eight disorienting, humiliating years in the Red State of Hanging Chad! Looks like a truly beautiful day. (Did you see Stewart and Colbert last night, when they announced Obama was the new president and went outside into the sunlight after two years of covering this campaign? But Joe Scarborough is ranting right now, about how such sentiments offend him, sigh.)

I have my handy-dandy Guide to JJ by the computer and there’s a decoding chart in the homeschooling chapter to her impenetrable allusions. 😉

Hmm, let’s look this one up, ah, here it is: See chapters and footnotes on “who is a real homeschooler.”
More thoughts here.

And here. Oh, all over Snook, which is pretty much why Snook is here! 🙂

Just this fall in trying to elevate homeschool mom discussion to Thinking Parent-worthy identity issues, I was told I should leave because I clearly didn’t belong, wasn’t interested in what’s of concern to “all homeschooling parents.”
See the deserved backlash against us as homeschoolers, from Greg Laden and Tiny Cat Pants. See the blithely bigoted Homeschool Blog Awards, which btw open anew Monday, to put their unpleasant and divisive public stamp of “homeschool” identity upon us all.

Florida as my identity, my home, part of who I am, hasn’t fit me as an individual for a long time, just as “homeschooler” has been an increasingly uncomfortable “home” for me during the years of HSLDA-incited Christianist activism aimed at fighting against education to conquer and enslave it, from its ideological homebase in “home” education.

I’m a real Floridian (been here since 1961, the year our new president-elect was BORN!) but I’ve long felt estranged from my home here, not just because “we” voted so red but have acted with incompetent disregard for the public trust of government, creating a seismic series of shocks to my own concept of who I am and who we are, starting with Terri Schiavo. “We” went blue last night, what a relief, but to our fresh collective shame, I’m sorry to tell you that 62% of “Florida” simultaneously voted to amend our state constitution and ban gay marriage. Anti-individualism, anti-civil rights and true freedom to be unmolested by government in our private lives, anti-strict constructionist, even. — our current state constitution only dates from 1968 and has a stronger, more explicit privacy right than the US Constitution, but I digress.

Who are we, when a popular “homeschool” blog that once garnered top votes for a national education blog award, rails relentlessly against a gentle father like Barack Obama, calling him every name in the book right up to baby-killer. And claims it is only objective political analysis, seeking truth and justice?

That is impossible to reconcile as part of MY collective identity — homeschooling as ignorant, illogical, close-minded, ideological, homeschooler as unable to think clearly! And it’s intolerable as my identity when that homeschooler blog and too many others are knowingly sponsored by the conservative Christian business empire that publicly defends and privately profits from “homeschool” leaders and parent trainers complicit in REAL baby-killing, see Gena Suarez, Sean Paddock and the Pearls.

Bob Herbert’s column yesterday said it for me and imo, for homeschooling as part of real America and real education, not ideology and ignorance serving a cynical authoritarian meme:

“What Americans really have to decide is what kind of country they want.

. . .The U.S. is also a country in which blissful ignorance is celebrated, and intellectual excellence (the key to 21st century advancement) is not just given short shrift, but is ridiculed. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are cultural icons. The average American watches television a mind-numbing 4 1/2 hours a day.

At the same time, our public school system is plagued with some of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world. Math and science? Forget about it.

. . .The point here is that as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the United States is in deep, deep trouble. Yet instead of looking for creative, 21st-century solutions to these enormous problems, too many of our so-called leaders are behaving like clowns, or worse — spouting garbage in the public sphere that hearkens back to the 1940s and ’50s.

Thoughtful, well-educated men and women are denounced as elites, and thus the enemies of ordinary Americans. Attempts to restore a semblance of fiscal sanity to a government that has been looted with an efficiency that would have been envied by the mob, are derided as subversive — the work of socialists, Marxists, Communists.

In 2008!

5 11 2008
NanceConfer

Hi Lynn —

Shorter version: There are some homeschoolers, some with a direct pipeline to their god, others who just know everything, who felt free to define JJ and some of the rest of us out of homeschooling because we disagreed about some things. Things including whether virtual school homeschoolers were actually “real” hsers.

But do take the time to read though the long version above. JJ may take a couple of passes but reading her stuff is always worthwhile! 🙂

Nance

5 11 2008
JJ

LOL Nance, didn’t you get the Homeschool ID card that defines complex as condescending?

5 11 2008
JJ

For the thinking parents among us: remember this from months ago?
Time to get to work!

” Together these four interwoven adventures paint a portrait of a nation dangerously out of touch with reality and desperately searching for answers in all the wrong places.”

Yep. For example I read this from Spunky as out-of-touch: “Has there ever been a more dismal choice for president?”

And this, as searching for answers in all the wrong places:
“I often learn the most from those that think the least like me; so, if there are any Barak Obama or McCain supporters out there who believe their choice is the best one for homeschoolers, I’d love to hear why.”

I guess I fit the bill as someone who thinks the least like Spunky, but can I give her an answer that will make any sense to either one of us? Not to that question, I expect.

I am both an education policy professional and a long-time unschooler who cherishes my family’s independence and academic freedom, someone who is all about education’s power of story, all the time — but I don’t think I can learn anything important to me and my family and community from poring over candidates’ public “education policy” statements. Not this year.

Now is the time, I think, for independently studying each candidate’s true-life story and coming to understand it within the context of our own, not for collecting and comparing poll-driven, staff-written, dueling-demographic soundbites.

If this election does as I believe, present a last-chance opportunity to pull out of our democratic death-spiral, then we’ll need better educated and more thoroughly understood answers to who WE are, and who we aspire to be as America.

And who we choose as our next president might well make a difference to that kind of education politics. (Either way, unfortunately.)

5 11 2008
boremetotears

Thanks JJ and Nance,

The Girl and I are working right now, but I’m really looking forward to reading and thinking about these posts more tonight. Thanks for taking the time to put it together for me 🙂

Have a great day.

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