Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rich Man, Poor Man...

I don't often do this, but I ran across a blog post the other day that has sparked my thinking, and I want to respond to it.  I may link to the post when I'm finished.

None other than The Lord, Jesus Christ told us that "we're always gonna have po' folks."  Poverty will not be done away with.  I hate that there are po' folks, but the truth is that personal mindsets, circumstances, situations, geopolitical forces, wars, etc. will always converge to create a substantial group of impoverished people.  I am going to preface this by stating the obvious.  I am a simple man, with a simple mind, and express my thoughts in a simple way.  So, don't look for anything profound if you choose to read the rest of this.

I think somehow there is a misconception among some that great wealth is a contributor to great poverty.  In other words, because one fellow has 40 billion dollars, another fellow is poor (or millions of folks are).  Now, that may be true in the case of Dictators that gather the wealth of their nation to themselves, and deny the populace the freedom to acquire.  But, that's simply not true in a free society such as we enjoy here in the US.  Oh, sure, by force of law the $40 Billionaire could have his fortune reduced to 1 billion, and his assets given to the poor.  But there is something inherently counterproductive, and unrighteous about that.

I have been reading this particular blog for a good while, but  have never commented.  I started to, but my comment got so long that I figured I'd just do a post.  The writer seems to be a very decent person, with a very good heart.  And, some decent points are made about the manipulation of Government by the ultra-wealthy.

There seems to be an underlying resentment against the ultra-wealthy in the piece.  But I'll tell y'all,  I can't force my spirit to resent the ultra-wealthy.  The writer drops two names.  1)  Bill Gates, 2)  Warren Buffett.  Now, these are certainly two of the wealthiest humans on the planet.  But, how did they get that way?

In the "comments," someone poses a question.  "Wow! Any ideas about how to earn a billion?" 

To which the author of the piece answers, "The first and most important step in becoming a billionaire is to choose your ancestors carefully. The condition is often inherited. If your parents and grandparents were obscenely wealthy, there is a statistically significant chance that you will be obscenely wealthy too.

Failure at this crucial point has been fatal to many aspiring billionaires.

At a bare minimum, one should choose to be born into the upper 5% income bracket.

Further instructions can be purchased for the bargain price of $1,000,000 + S & H. Supplies are limited. Act now!

Now, that's pretty funny.  I almost tried to scare up a million to get the full instructions...

The writer states the reality that if your Daddy was a Billionaire, you'd likely be one, too.  Kinda' reminds me of the great Olympic Marathoner, John Campbell, who said, "If one will be an Olympic Champion, he must choose his parents very carefully."  Fact...inherited physical traits, and green rectangles do normally make quite a difference in outcomes.    But, was Bill Gates a child of "privilege?"  Well, I'm sure that his family was quite "comfortable," considering their professions, etc.  But he was no Billionaire by birth.

Was Warren Buffett a child of "privilege?"  Not so much.  His father was a US Congressman, but from what I can tell, he had no more advantage than the average upper-middle-class/locally important father's son.

And how about ol' "All Ears Ross?"  Certainly he had the benefit of not being "born into poverty," but a Public High School diploma in Texarkana, TX is not necessarily a ticket to Billionaire-hood.

And, he certainly didn't make it on his good looks.  Just sayin'...

I think the thing that concerned me most about this post is that the author writes, "Remind me again why these folks shouldn't pay some serious taxes. What if we taxed these people right down to their last couple billion. What would happen? Why, poor, poor Bill Gates would have to live like Paul McCartney. How tragic. Boo hoo."

Well, here's a news flash...These folks DO PAY SOME SERIOUS TAXES!  They pay the lion's share of the bill for every hare-brained scheme of Congress, and every legitimate function of government.  And even though I don't have the figures at hand, my rememberer tells me that if the US government seized all the wealth of every US Billionaire, it would not pay the entitlements, hand-outs, and legitimate functions of government for more than just a few months.  In fact, here is a breakdown from that evil "right-wing" news organization, CNN of how the tax burden breaks down.

So, the reality is that if you make a Billionaire poor, it will not make a poor man rich.  It will only set back in time the day that the well completely runs dry.  (In truth, it already has...we're drinkin' Chink water right now, if you didn't know it).

Jesus, our Savior, certainly instructed us to feed the poor, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, etc.  But, I can not find in His teachings anything about "take what the rich guy has from him by force (or threat of force), and use the fruit of his labor/good fortune/etc. to take care of po' folks."  No, Jesus told YOU to do those things. Jesus never called us to petition government to take money from the wealthy (or ultra-wealthy) to accomplish "charity" toward the poor.  He told us to dip into our own pockets, and just do it.

The mindset that resents the "ultra-wealth" of some really stumps me.

One of the comments in this post was this,  (emphasis mine)

"i have this argument with my husband all the time. he carries on about how higher taxes on the wealthy discourages them from creating businesses which create jobs, yada yada. and yes, i understand the argument. but those kind of numbers you throw around compared to the poverty in the world. sorry, to whom much is given much is required. though this is in no way a grand endorsement of the government's ability to manage whatever taxes it collects in a responsible manner."

Certainly, "to whom much is given much is required."  This is obviously a paraphrase from Christ's Parable of the Faithful Servant, found in Luke 12:48. It has always puzzled me why this teaching of Christ is projected upon the financial wealth of others.  Most ALL of us have been "given" much, in contrast to the poor of this world.  It is not our responsibility to make sure that some Gozillionaire lives up to his/her requirement.  It is our responsibility to make certain that OUR responsibility is lived up to.

As a side note, the three men mentioned in my little piece here have proven time and time again to be "quite generous" with what they've been "given."  Look it up.  I mean, The Gooble is wrong...but you can fish out the details about what Gates, Buffett, and Perot do/have done with what they have earned been "given."

The idea that the world would be a better place if the rich were "not so rich" falls deaf on me.  Of course, there are exceptions in world history.  Think Saddam Hussein hoarding the oil wealth of Iraq, building 40 palaces, and subjecting his people to squalor.  But, that is the evil that fulfills the prophetic words of Jesus..."we're always gonna have po' folks."

Okay, I decided to link to the post. Maybe I'm reading it wrong. Y'all can correct me if I did. (I'm a married man, and am used to it).


  1. Good post. I think politicians play upon society's resentment of the haves in order to impose the government will. I don't hate rich folks. If it weren't for wealthy people and entrepreneurs, I wouldn't have a paycheck ;-)

  2. Remember Po' Folks on Benton Road, had all the home cooked food? I miss that place.
    Now that that's out of the way, great post with some very good points. If I ever get out of here and make a fortune, I'll remember you!

  3. It is somewhat ironic that a person would trash out the wealth of Gates (computer guru) and Buffett (who probably came up with the business plan that Gates follows) on a blog post, which is (obviously) written on a computer. And to add in Perot, I believe he financed Steve Jobs (that other computer guy) back in the 80's.

    And that line "to whom much is given, much is required".... first of all, Gates nor Buffett weren't "given" billions of dollars. They were "given" talents that allowed them to EARN billions. They earned it, they can do what they want with it. After all, I would bet that Porcupine wants to do whatever they want with THEIR own money, ya know?

    To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required. I have surely not been blessed with a lot of money, but I still have been "given much". It doesn't take Bill Gates' money to make your corner of the world a better place.

  4. I really like this post. You've given the debate a lot of thought and come up with some simple, yet compelling, reasons for staying away from whole "re-distribution of wealth" way of doing government.

    My husband is a self-made man (of course, not of the stratospheric level as your "featured rich folk!") and would (and does, regularly), to this day, give the shirt off his back to those in need. Yet, he subscribes to the notion, as do I, that one's first obligation is to self and family, not to the collective.

    I especially like your comparison to those who have and those who take while preventing others from acquiring. That's really a difference with distinction.

    Nicely done.

  5. I have reached the same basic conclusion as you.

    This has all lead me to give much thought to where this type of thinking about undue wealth comes from. I think the source is similar to that of prejudice.

    Who are the most threatened people? In the case of prejudice, they seem to be the people with the least education, the least skills and the least motivation. In other words, the people who just might lose their position on the ladder if the group being blamed were not "held down."

    There is another key to the argument, methinks. Those who do not posses the preparation, or the the wits to succeed oppressed group(or any downtrodden minority) often find it the most useful argument to point to someone else as the source of their problem. The result, prejudice.

    By pointing at another group as the responsible party they are attempting to shift blame from themselves and place it on the other party. Whether that other group be black people, Jewish people, capitalists, Americans, etc. doesn't matter. If your state of being is the fault of others you are absolved from fault. Introspection is not needed.

    So, if I am not wealthy, or at least do not posses the wealth that I "naturally" deserve, and I blame it on another group, I absolve myself. No introspection is needed.

    Certainly, some on the bottom rungs of the ladder are there through no fault of their own, and will likely always be there. They do not have the wits to climb further. Yet, many have placed themselves in peril. They have dropped out of school, fathered or given birth to children at points in life which make it difficult to climb the ladder. They have not taken advantage of opportunities for betterment, rather seeking instant gratification through crime, drug sales, gang membership, etc. They reject the slower but more sure gains which come through delay, self sacrifice and hard work. They do not understand the lesson that instant gratification is rarely obtainable and even less likely to be sustainable.

    Why are our parents important in this? Well, they teach us these valuable lessons that work, education, taking the long view, delaying gratification, being responsible both to others and oneself, etc. are the road to relative riches and climbing the ladder. So, yes, having parents that nurture all of this are key. Without such nurturing the world is a very rough place for most people.

    The lessons are to be introspective as people and as a society, and to accept responsibility and to cultivate responsibility.

    The main problem in the Middle East is not Islam, it is a widespread attitude. We are in danger of this same attitude spreading wide in our own culture. When problems become externalized, when societies faults and the faults of individuals become the fault of someone else, of some other group, then there is trouble.

    When the troubles can be laid at the feet of a minority group, or a group of wealthy people, or hard working people or a society that promotes getting ahead, then we need not look at ourselves as a source of problems. All we need to do is point at the great satin. All blame is external.

    The problem is that little is likely to change for the better until we begin to examine what is wrong with us, and what we need to do. Why are we poor? Why do we not have political power in the world? Why don't we have our "fair share?" Only by turning toward introspection and solving our internal problems can we really get ahead.

    Wherever you see people, or groups of people, blaming others, you can be pretty sure that they aren't moving ahead. This applies on the local, national and world stage. It also applies to all classes of human condition and problems. Solution through blame only causes more harm in the long run.

  6. "Cricket" is a good man... devout, family-oriented, introspective, and one hella good writer. But that said, even good men can be wrong about one thing or another. If anyone other than him had written the post that provoked your response I would chalk it up to simple envy or jealousy... which seems to be the underlying motive in 90% of these sorts of things. But I don't think Cricket works like that.

    I was gonna cite the Gates', Buffet's and Perot's charitable work (Perot especially has a warm place in my heart for the things he did for the POWs during Viet Nam, aside from being my former boss) but I got down to the end and see you've already done that. Good on ya, Andy.

    There are too many in America who begrudge successful people what they've earned in life and I see this as a fundamental shift away from what made us a great nation... and I mourn that shift. Too many people feel "entitled" these days and waaay too many people think "redistribution of wealth" is a good ideer. That's killing us.

    Well done. Thanks.

    wv: reekpea. "That idea stinks, Reekpea. Just sayin'."

  7. Red, Jim, Staci, Moogie, Walt, and Buck...

    Thank you for reading, and commenting. I may excerpt some comments for a future post. I am always further "sparked" by what others have to say about my little ramblings.

    As Buck said, I think Cricket is a good man. I've read his stuff for a while, and do get good vibes, even though I sometimes disagree.

  8. I'm with you on this Andy-
    we have a culture of dependence that is dragging us down financially, morally, and spiritually and I see little hope for the country staying together.......... this debt and IOU and healthcare is going to be a perfect storm of destruction.
    Personally I have seen it coming a long time, with the lax discipline and the feminine bs and the homosexual acceptance......... and I know to even list those will bring down a bunch of anger............. I don't care-- sodomy is matter how you want to see is not love, it's lust.

  9. Well said, Andy! The "poor me" crowd who doesn't want to earn their own way resents those who have achieved success through their own sweat and determintaion. Gates, Buffett, Ross, et al. earned their fortunes through their own determination. And, as pointed out, each is a philanthropist, willingly sharing. Not to mention that a great number of folks are gainfully employed as a result of the corporations they have created.

    If we overtax these people, then the motivation to achieve will cease. Where would that leave us?

  10. You're so right,Andy.
    You know the "bell" curve is a like a law in the earth, such as gravity.
    There will always be poor.
    Not to sound glib, but America has the most well off poor people than anywhere in the world.

  11. Great post and comments. I would go further and say that forced or mandated 'charity' is pure evil. It robs people of their agency and ability to give freely of themselves to those less fortunate. When politicians and lefties begin using scripture to advocate higher taxes it should raise red flags and set off alarm bells in every thinking person...

  12. Anon, Buckskins, Nancy, Dadman...thanks for chiming in. Good insights from you all. Greatly appreciated.


Don't cuss nobody out, okay?