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Are you rich?

09/11/08 | by [mail] | Categories: culture/news

Are you rich? Maybe it depends on how we define the word. Both presidential candidates were asked to define rich. Barack Obama said, "If you are making more than $250,000, then you're in the top three or 4% of this country. You are doing well." John McCain refused to give a direct answer to the question, but jokingly suggested the number $5 million. By either of these definitions, I'm not rich, and I'm guessing you aren't either. If you are, congratulations. You've worked hard and achieved the American dream (or you inherited money from your rich family.) I can understand that a rich person would want to vote according to their financial interests. If you are rich and you want to be richer, then John McCain may be the candidate for you. But for the rest of us, I believe the Barack Obama is the best candidate.

When I watched the speeches of both political conventions, it was clear to me that the Republicans were trying to appeal to the richest Americans, the top 2-3%, and the Democrats were trying to appeal to the other 97%. You can see the difference in the stories they tell about American people:

A story from Obama speech

We're a better country than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment that he's worked on for 20 years and watch as it's shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

A story from McCain's speech

I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market.

For some Americans bad times mean losing real estate investments. For other Americans bad times mean getting laid off and being unable to feed your family. Which of those stories do you relate to?

You can also see the difference in the candidates' tax policies:

If you're rich, John McCain will work to make you richer. If you are not rich, Obama is the candidate that will improve your financial situation.

You can see the same pattern in the health care proposals of the candidates. Obama's plan attempts to secure health care coverage for the 47 million Americans who currently have none. McCain's plan makes no attempt to cover everyone. Rich people can afford good health care. For the rest of us, it can be a struggle.

McCain's campaign is run by a cadre of rich Washington lobbyists. Obama's campaign has been funded by a record-breaking number of small donors. McCain cheated on and then left his first wife and married a young, rich beer empire heiress. He now owns more homes than he can keep track of. In spite of his father's high rank in the Navy, McCain graduated from a military academy near the bottom of his class. Obama came from a middle-class family and worked hard to earn scholarships to good schools. He could've taken a high-paying job as a Wall Street lawyer, but he went to Chicago to help those less fortunate and to teach constitutional law. If you are rich, you can probably relate to McCain's story. If you're not, then Obama's may seem more inspiring to you.

McCain wants to continue the war in Iraq, which has benefited the rich owners of private contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater. Obama wants to bring our (mostly non-rich) combat forces home.

In the struggle between organized labor and company owners, McCain serves the interests of the rich yet again. Obama has received several endorsements from unions. If you are an executive or company owner, then McCain is looking out for you. If you or someone in your family has health care and good wages because of a union, then Obama is your candidate.

When it comes to energy, McCain wants to give more of our land over to oil companies even though it will have little to no effect on the price you pay at the pump. McCain didn't always support offshore drilling, but once he began supporting the oil companies with this position, they began supporting him with increased donations to his campaign. Obama is willing to upset the rich oil companies by reducing their tax loopholes and putting that money to work creating new jobs and moving toward the long-term goal of homegrown and sustainable energy sources.

So, if McCain's policies do the most good for the top 3% of the population, then why does the race seems so close? I think there are a few reasons. First, the rich can give more money to the campaign and to third-party attack groups. Second, many voters who are not rich are convinced that they will be rich soon. Call it optimism or naivete, but they are willing to vote against their own interests now in order to benefit themselves in some imagined future.

There's another important reason that McCain and other Republicans can get 50% of the vote while serving the needs of 3% of the population. It's called the Culture War. There are many questions for which there is no clear answer that we can all agree on. Various religious organizations come to different conclusions and for most of these questions, our holy books and our Constitution provide no specific answer. Here is a sample of some of these questions.

Do homosexuals deserve the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals?
Can we enforce some restrictions on gun ownership or does the Second Amendment guarantee unrestricted gun rights?
Is the death penalty an ethical punishment?
How do we balance the short-term needs of humans with the long-term safety of our environment?
Does a fertilized embryo deserve the full complement of human rights?
Should women have access to birth control?
Should underage women have access to birth control?
Should we teach sex education for the safety of our children or does it only encourage teens to become sexually active?
What is the line between free speech and pornography?
How do we balance our needs for privacy and security?
Where is the line between institutionalized Christianity and institutionalized atheism?
When is a war a just war?
Which drugs should be legal in which should be illegal? What criteria do we use to decide?
How do we balance the promise of "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" with the downsides of immigration?

These are difficult questions with no simple answers. The best approach to these questions is for us all to understand the complexity of the issues, to respect the convictions and opinions of other people and to work toward compromises that we can all be happy with. The cynical, opportunist approach to these questions is to use them to turn Americans against each other. Both parties may share the guilt for this, but I believe that the Republican Party has been the worst offender. For many of these difficult issues, they choose a side, claim that God agrees with them and they accuse those who disagree of hating freedom, scorning God and loving evil.

But you don't have to be taken in by this trick. You are smarter than that. Even if you have strong opinions about the questions above, you can balance that with an understanding of differing opinions. You can also realize that the culture war issues are not the only issues that should be considered when you vote. Your financial interests are another part. You should also consider how well a candidate's ideas have worked in the past. (To evaluate McCain's ideas, just look at the last eight years.) You should consider the education, experience, wisdom and temperament of the candidates. When I look at this whole picture, it's clear to me that Barack Obama will get my vote. I don't agree with him on everything, but I'm not a one-issue voter.



You rock! I mean, for a godless probably communist leftist pinko dirty hippie, you rock! ;)

Seriously, well done. When I post political stuff I get all in-your-face about it figuring no one is going to be convinced by me anyway. Those who want McSame don’t research anything, and those who want Obama don’t need convincing is my theory. But if each Obama supporter can get one undecided or one brain-dead republican onboard then the effort is well worth it.

Hey and the list of questions is great food for thought.

EdB [Visitor]http://wonderwinds.com09/12/08 @ 00:16

Danny, good topics. First I have a few things that I want you to read. First is an article that was in Fortune magazine. It is interesting, basically because it talks about tax cuts and what the poor have paid and how much the top 10% pays.


The next is from a website that posts the raw tax data on what the tax burden on people is for all income groups. Keep in mind its a lot of numbers but, I figured it out. Basically it shows, since 1980, anytime there has been a tax cut, especially for the rich, the bottom 50% have in general paid less of the tax burden and less of their AGI. However when these tax cuts have been rolled back, while the burden decreases slightly, the bottom 50% percent pays a higher percent of their AGI.


Lastly, I don’t really understand the difference between calling McCain McSame, and Obama Osama. I really don’t like either and this behavior is not appreciated on a schoolyard but apparently acceptable in a political debate(reference to the comment, not to anything you said.)

Andy [Visitor]http://smiles.brendoman.com09/12/08 @ 17:59
[Member]  http://www.brendoman.com/09/12/08 @ 18:46

Well, as the first article said, the aggregate of the bottom 40% made money off of taxes because of the EITC. So when Obama talks of cutting their taxes, how can he? They already don’t pay anything. Wouldn’t it make more sense to give tax money back to the people who actually pay it?

Also, when there has been a significant tax cut for the rich, the tax burden tends to increase on them and the bottom 50% pay less. Don’t you want a more progressive system? Hasn’t the W/H.W./Reagan tax cuts worked the system to be more progressive? Haven’t the poor benefited by paying less taxes?

On the name game, both do the same thing. They try to simplify people to something that they may or may not be but the choice is taken away from the hearer and solely given to the person who says it. Also, both are scare tactics. I don’t like hearing people call Obama “Osama".

Andy [Visitor]09/12/08 @ 19:19

um… I don’t think Danny used “McSame". I did. And yeah there is a big difference between highlighting the similarities between a republican senator who has voted with the republican president 90% of the time and the republican president, and attempting to create an association between a US senator and an international terrorist.


Your first link fails to recognize that the rich are getting (relatively) filthy richer than those of us at the bottom. We’re fairly stagnant at best. So yeah the “rich” pay a disproportionate share even though they have experienced tax cuts compliments of GWB.

By the way “aggregate” has nothing to do with reality. Crunching numbers to come up with something impressive isn’t valid. The article fails utterly to state how many specific individuals got more back than they paid. My gut tells me “none” is the answer.

As to the second link, dig this: “The IRS data also shows increases in individual incomes across all income groups (see Table 3). Just as the highest earners lost the biggest percentage of their incomes during the recession of 2001, so they have prospered the most as the economy continued to rebound through 2006.” In other words, the people who actually suffered the least during the 01 recession have enjoyed the greatest prosperity through 06. Great plan for those who happen to be at the top of the stack when it’s crunch time. Like now for example. Totally sucks if you happen to be in the bottom half or quarter of the income levels though.

Whatever. Those who fall for the Republican Party mantra tend to parrot rather than think.

EdB [Visitor]http://wonderwinds.com09/13/08 @ 01:38


um… I don’t think Andy was referring to Danny using McSame - he was referring to you. (Last line of his first comment)

“The article fails utterly to state how many specific individuals got more back than they paid. My gut tells me “none” is the answer.”

That’s simply wrong. Those who receive the earned income tax credit (EITC) frequently receive back more than they pay in. Most of my friends, who have children, receive back more than they pay in. I know that’s anecdotal so I’ve provided the IRS links so you can work through it yourself.

EITC - When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit.


Here’s the caps for the EITC

And the IRS Income Tax Withholding Calculator will give you a general idea what taxes at the cap salaries with child deductions look like


Just out of curiosity, why so much animosity toward those at the wealthier end of the spectrum?

Brandon [Visitor]09/13/08 @ 14:51

communist leftist pinko dirty hippie

I thought that was my title?

I don’t really understand the difference between calling McCain McSame, and Obama Osama.

Huh? How about because one is funny, and plays up on the idea that McCain will continue to pursue the same failed policies as Bush, while the other one is racist and uses fear about an allegation that Barack Obama is somehow Muslim and sympathetic to Osama bin Laden. But yea, other than that they are completely the same.

dave [Visitor]http://www.mindfulmission.com09/13/08 @ 16:32

I think it’s interesting that somebody would think comparing a McCain to the sitting Republican president is just as insulting as comparing Obama to a terrorist leader who has killed thousands of innocent people.

Bush’s public image has deteriorated more than I thought.

Kyle [Visitor]http://www.brendoman.com/kyle09/13/08 @ 18:43

To reiterate what Brandon said, the EITC credit DOES pay people who have paid no taxes. I worked for the IRS, specifically with the EITC because of the widespread fraud (intentional and unintentional) regarding the EITC. When I worked there (2004ish), families received a maximum of around $4400 dollars, even if they paid NO taxes into the system. This leads to a lot of “I have more kids than I can claim, you can borrow little Jane on your tax form.” But really what we saw more of was predatory tax preparers, claiming to get people refunds and offering the “Rapid Refund Loans” with exhorbitant interest rates. Then, the IRS holds up the return and the filer (who signed the 1040 claiming responsibility) is on the hook for the refund AND the interest from the Rapid Refund.

Aside from the EITC, we paid no taxes until this last year, since we had been in grad school and got copious deductions from learning credits.

lucas [Visitor]http://brendoman.com/wardwords09/13/08 @ 21:47

So doing some research into this some more here is an article from the Wall Street Journal titled “If You Like Michigan’s Economy, You’ll Love Obama’s". It talks about each one’s plan on the economy and how more government spending has made an effect on states.


Now it is partially written by a former Republican senator, but it seems like a fair comparison.

Lastly, on the name game. Calling McCain McSame is trying to scare people into not looking at the 10% difference, which could mean a lot. And calling Obama Osama is trying to scare people making him sound like he is something he is not. Both are trying to scare.

Andy [Visitor]09/13/08 @ 21:50
[Member]  http://www.brendoman.com/09/15/08 @ 06:51

Andy… as Danny said, Phil Gramm has directly advised McCain’s campaign, and as you yourself said, he was a Republican Senator. That is nowhere close to an unbiased source.

As for the name calling, I have no idea how you don’t see a difference between calling McCain McSame and Obama Osama.

dave [Visitor]http://www.mindfulmission.com09/15/08 @ 19:13

As interesting as this topic is, we must understand that it is mostly irrelevant.

McCain’s tax plan is based on the continuation of Bush’s tax cuts.

Obama’s tax plan is based on the destruction of Bush’s tax cuts.

The tax cuts expire in two years, and if Obama is elected, they will cease to exist. But we’re forgetting one key thing…if McCain is elected, they will cease to exist.

Here’s the deal. These tax cuts are going down…period. Why? Because even if McCain gets elected, the Democrats in Congress won’t renew the cuts. Period.

Pelosi in the House won’t allow it. New Senate Majority Leader Clinton won’t allow it either. So, they will disappear, and the Dems in Congress will create their own tax plan.

Or, at the very least, the tax plan will revert back to BEFORE the Bush Tax Cuts, which if I understand correctly, is similar to the tax structure under Clinton, which is similar to what Obama wants.

Therefore, the conversation is mainly irrelevant, because no matter how much McCain wants his tax cuts/tax policy, it will NEVER happen!

Sure, it’s fun to talk about it, and McCain is doing the “Republican” thing by saying he wants to give more tax cuts to everyone, but a bigger percentage to the rich. He’s simply talking the talk. He knows it’s not the President making tax policy…it’s Congress, and they aren’t going to be helping McCain one bit if he wins.

greg [Visitor]09/15/08 @ 20:54

EdB-"Just as the highest earners lost the biggest percentage of their incomes during the recession of 2001, so they have prospered the most as the economy continued to rebound through 2006.” In other words, the people who actually suffered the least during the 01 recession have enjoyed the greatest prosperity through 06.”

How did the people who lost the most, suffer the least?

Dan-First of all, Phil Gramm is not just some former Republican Senator. He was an adviser to McCain and had to quit the campaign in shame. He is responsible for some of the deregulation that helped to create our current financial problems, so don’t put much stock in his solutions.

The link provided above is to a NYT topic on Jim Johnson. You may know who that is. He was in charge of running Barack Obama’s VP search..Until he stepped down because of his role in the demise of Fannie Mae. Fannie is probably the largest cause of the current financial crisis. Mr Johnson was the Chairman of Fannie and a board member for Goldman Sachs, as well as the head of the Compensation Committee for UnitedHealth Group which granted $1.4B in stock options.
So, obviously, John McCain and his associates caused all of the mess on Wall Street while Democrats such as BHO deserve no credit.

Income redistribution is one of the basic principles of Marxism and socialism. If you look up Marxism, the next step after socialism is communism…Obviously that has worked very well in the past. As much as I would like to have a portion of the money of the richest people in America, I would much rather have the freedom to do what I like with what I have.

Osama hates America, Rev Wright hates America, Obama attended his church for 20 years, therefore he must hate America!!That is if you follow this logic: George Bush is a bad president, John McCain was in Congress for the eight years of the Bush Adm, therefore he would be a bad President.

Seriously! It is hate-mongering to say anything what-so-ever about any of Obama’s associations/bad decisions, but it is truth-telling to say that John McCain and George Bush share the same brain.

From CNN Fact Check
The Facts
Congressional Quarterly examined Obama’s votes in the Senate. According to the analysis, Obama has voted with the Democratic Party 96 percent of the time during his tenure in the Senate.

CQ — a non-partisan and highly respected journal of congressional affairs — says McCain has voted in line with the Republican Party 86 percent of the time. McCain’s total number of votes is much larger, since he has been in the Senate since 1986, while Obama is in his first term.

CQ also looked at what it deemed to be “key” votes. That analysis found Obama voted with his party on 29 out of 30 votes, which came out to 97 percent of the time. For McCain, CQ said there have been 335 “key” votes over the years, and that he voted with his party on 266 of them — 79 percent of the time.

Obama votes with his party on 97% of ‘key’ votes while McCain votes with his party on 79% of these votes. This clearly shows that McCain is a Republican Bush clone and Obama is a centristic thinker that wants to do the best possible work for the country..

Let me quote the great Rev Wright in closing,"God damn America!”
If anyone has a Bush/McCain quote that compares to that, please do share.

OMG where to start? How about this: neither republicans or democrats are to blame for the current financial situation. The blame falls squarely with the financial companies that let pure unadulterated greed drive their business decisions. There is no regulation that requires a company to buy ‘packaged debt’ that they barely understand and can’t properly value. They chose to do that, and are now on the verge of paying a price for that/those decisions.

What do I personally have against rich folk? NOTHING! OMG I WISH I WAS RICH FOLK!!! But dig this: every politician at the national level is way better off than the average American. I work on the clock. I’m a factory worker. And in a couple of the past years I’ve reached a place most Americans never see: a paycheck with ZERO removed for social security. So yeah I’ve nothing against the wealthy. OMG I wish I was up there with them even though I am NOT suffering at the bottom of the financial ladder.

How did the people who lost the most, suffer the least?

Are you seriously asking this? So let’s see… when someone very wealthy loses income for whatever reason it might mean the loss of a property or two. Or three. It might mean the collapse of their stock portfolio. It might mean something very damned different than if someone at not wealthy loses income for whatever reason. For them - most of America being “them” - it might mean not having a vacation. It might also mean not having new clothes at the start of the school year. I have no children and don’t give a personal shit, just pointing out reality as I understand it to be. It might also mean losing the only home you have. It might also mean deciding that your children will have to suffer a bit in some way as you work through the next few years trying to get back on your feet.

Jeezus Farging Criminy Christ can people really honestly truly be so blind to the plight of the neighbors and fellow citizens as to not understand that those who are truly wealthy simply don’t suffer the same problems as those who are simply not wealthy suffer when the same relative percentage is removed from their income stream or added to their cost of living sheet?

I *LOVE* the rich. I would totally put out for a rich honey even if she was fugly just so I could taste the good life for a few minutes. But Oh My God we all share this planet now and together. Can we not respect each other’s basic needs even if our personal needs have gone beyond food and shelter? Are we so simple as to not realize that someone making more than a quarter million dollars a year can afford to spare a bit more than the guy trying to raise a brand new baby while making less than a tenth of that?

Whatever. No worries.

The republican party and all it’s bullshit policies are deep in the weeds and won’t crawl out for another 12 and possibly / probably 20 years.

EdB [Visitor]http://wonderwinds.com10/11/08 @ 21:31

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