I, Billionaire

Welcome our good friend, Freddy “Tavarish” Hernandez, whose YouTube channel all about old, cool cars and how to waste time and money on them is quickly approaching 150k subscribers. He’s also been a stablemate of mine at Jalopnik in the past. He’s here to share his thoughts on other subjects with us.—Bark

 

If an intrepid group of aliens were to visit Earth and evaluate the state of the country in all measurable metrics, then listen to how people actually perceive these metrics through the lens of media, they’d be right in turning their flying saucers right the hell around and hitting that old intergalactic dusty trail in search of more reasonable beings.

Now, unless you’re a soap opera character that just came out of a three-season coma, you have no excuse in knowing that news publications over the past decade have all but ditched the practice of presenting facts with authority and accountability, in favor of presenting a bias-confirming narrative with some half-truths sprinkled throughout long, laughably wrong partisan rants.

Whichever side of the political spectrum you’re on, you’ve likely seen spun stories about nothingburger events shared thousands of times over by the friends and relatives that are mad enough to click, but not mad enough to actually research past a headline with sharp teeth.

This is one such story, and while it’s clearly meant to provoke those with differing viewpoints, it comes across as ill-informed, and just the slightest bit sad. I’m referring to Hamilton Nolan’s “Time To Make Life Hard For The Rich,” posted on Splinter News, also known as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gawker.

Let’s go through this stinky onion layer by layer and try not to cry.

The topshot is of a building on fire, with an image of Karl Marx, the ideological hero of some of the worst mass murderers in modern history, in red, adorned on its side. Well, ain’t that precious.

It is time for polite, respectable, rational people to start saying what has become painfully obvious: It is time to stop respecting the rich, and start stealing from them. In earnest.

Let’s think about that for one quick second. When Nolan says “stop respecting the rich,” does he mean those who simply have more money than he does? Millionaires? Billionaires? Beyoncé?

As an example, Univision, the company that bought Gawker Media properties and currently pay Nolan to write these anti-capitalist tirades, employs some pretty rich people at the top. Randy A. Falco, Univision’s CEO, despite company layoffs, makes ~$2.6 million per year, not counting bonuses. Is the move to throw a Molotov cocktail through his window and set fire to his cat?

Or, is it more likely that Nolan just means his political opponents – the archetypal faceless corporate fatcats that aren’t employing him and make money raping Mother Nature and spitting on poor people like a Captain Planet cliché villain? These sound awfully similar to the same people Bernie Sanders rails against as he tweets angrily from his third house.

Inequality is eating America alive. It has been growing for decades. To say that “the American dream is dead” is no longer a poetic exaggeration—it is an accurate description of 40 years of wage stagnation and declining economic mobility that has produced a generation that cannot expect to live better than their parents did.”

Welp, we’re in the second paragraph and we’ve already hit our first fatal faceplant. There’s an interesting way in which Nolan approaches these findings, and it’s a horrible mistake that those on the far left make all too often when trying to present the facts – inequality equals inequity.

The idea is that because there are winners and losers in the economy, it necessarily means that the winners are winning to the detriment of the losers. While this is not how capitalism works since the economy is not a zero-sum game (as opposed to socialism, in which one must lose for another to prosper), here are a few circumstances that may put Nolan’s claims into perspective.

The productivity chart in Nolan’s links maintains that productivity and wages were in lock step from 1948 to 1973, at which point the timeline splits, and we’re immediately thrust into a dystopia where Biff Tannen isn’t just banging your mom, he’s also the President.

Except that’s not what’s actually going down – here’s an excerpt from the article Nolan posted from EPI, a pretty well known progressive think tank:

Global integration with low-wage countries, accelerated by particular trade policies (e.g., admission of China to the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s) has adversely affected wages of non–college educated workers.

And boom goes the dynamite.

In 1974, after the graph seemingly splits and never recovers, America was in the midst of an oil crisis (which happened again in 1979), halting entire industries and contributed to a global recession. In the same year, President Nixon resigned, leaving in his place Gerald Ford, who was perhaps the best person to lead a country if you’re actively rooting for economic collapse.

When double digit inflation hits year over year, as it did in the 70s and 80s, the ones hurt most are always the ones without wealth to devalue – the production, non-supervisory hourly workers that are finding out that not only do they have to compete on the world stage when that wasn’t the case for the relatively competition-free 50s and 60s, but those workers would now have to fight it out amongst themselves in a recession in which wage prices are a frantic race to the bottom.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of troops returning from their tours in Vietnam, now suddenly in need of jobs and support, also didn’t help the troublesome labor market. Neither did the tripling of illegal immigrants in the country between 1974 and 1980, and quadrupling since then.

Nolan’s second link also covers this when giving reasons for lower relative economic mobility:

Labor demand shifts against middle-skill jobs in manufacturing, management, and clerical work driven by information technology and globalization—have polarized the U.S. labor market and contributed to earnings declines for non–college-educated workers.”

Guess what happens when tons of low-skilled hourly laborers flood the market in search of jobs? The market gets saturated and wages stagnate because of competition, with innovation phasing out manual work in multiple industries.

Having said that, we still live much better, in every conceivable metric than our predecessors. We have more access to information, more availability and choice of food, technology that would have been considered science fiction a decade ago, more affordable, high quality goods than ever before, better life expectancy, and a much higher standard of living. Plus there’s free HD porn, and that’s a game changer, I’m told.

How long are people supposed to tolerate being smacked in the face? By the rich? Who already have more than enough? It is not as though the fact that inequality is a crisis is a fact that snuck up on anyone. Economists have seen the trend for decades, and the general public has been well aware of it since at least the financial crisis. Obama called it “the defining challenge of our time.” 

Repeat after me: Just because others have more than you doesn’t mean you’re owed anything. Obama is slamming six and seven figure checks like it’s going out of style, but please do go on about how he thinks inequality is such a defining challenge for the public.

The fact is, no one should give a crap if anyone is getting rich if it means that we all benefit. If it’s to our detriment, then we should stand up and assess the situation. However, Nolan’s armchair economic quarterbacking doesn’t really seem to establish that anyone is actually worse off because of his nameless Republican rich supervillain. At best, the facts he mentions portray an issue that has multiple contributing factors, none of which are as cut and dry as “The Koch Brothers dunnit.”

The response to this dire situation by the Republican Party, which a wholly owned subsidiary of the American capital-holding class, has been to pass a tax bill that will horribly exacerbate economic inequality in this country. It is a considered decision to make a bad situation worse. It is a deliberate choice—during a time when the rich already have too much—to take from the poor in order to give the rich (including members of Congress and the President) more. That is not a metaphor. That is the reality. That is what the Republican party is about to accomplish on behalf of the donor class, calling it “middle class tax relief” in the face of mathematical proof to the contrary.

It’s called middle class tax relief because that’s exactly what it is.

80 percent of taxpayers will see a decrease in the amounts they have to pay in taxes. The rich will see more of a decrease because since we’re dealing with percentages, the top percentiles pay the vast majority of taxes in the country, despite what Bernie Sanders makes his Facebook fans believe.

The poor still have all of their social safety nets, and actually receive more in the form of child tax credits, their standard deductions are doubled, and Obamacare requirements that force people to incur a monetary penalty are gone, all thanks to those greedy, greedy Republicans.

If this is a method to screw the poor, I ain’t seein’ it.

Also, it’s telling that allowing people to keep their own money is considered by Nolan to be stealing from the poor. I’m not sure in what scenario that would be considered anything but a garbage blaze of an argument, but if we take that at face value, why doesn’t Nolan just donate whatever he thinks is unnecessary in his paycheck to the federal government?

He’s written about how income tax is a great thing, that the estate tax should be 100 percent, and we should employ a maximum income. Why not give all of our money to the organization that can dole out public dollars better than the public can?

Who is suffering because of this? Most Americans. Certainly the bottom 50% are acutely suffering—money that would have been in their paychecks has been instead funneled upwards into the pockets of the rich. Every desperate family that has found themselves coming up short for rent or food or medicine, every American who has downgraded her dreams and aspirations because they became financially implausible, has been directly harmed by the political and economic class war perpetuated by the rich, even if they cannot see the perpetrators with their own eyes.

People who work and pay taxes would see an increase of money in their paychecks. Everything else Nolan mentions is cheap emotional grandstanding without substance. The only one getting robbed is the reader who takes this as a coherent argument.

Violence against people is morally wrong and a bad way to solve problems. But capital is different. One thing that would help to create the political environment conducive to solving the inequality problem would be to make the cost of accumulating all that capital too high to be worth it. In other words, to create a downside to being too rich.”

There are many downsides to being rich. The first is that maintaining wealth and capital is goddamn expensive and a logistics nightmare.

I know that the fantasy is that after the tax cuts were passed, monocle-wearing Scrooge McDuck stand-ins were all driven and/or flown back to their personal vaults and swam in gold coins, lubed with the tears of poor undocumented workers, but the reality is that the rich work just as hard as the poor in this country, except their actions, if we’re talking about business, can affect the livelihoods of others, and millions, if not billions of dollars.

Another downside is that the rich are a target for thugs, crooks, and con men. It’s also harder for the wealthy to form genuine relationships with people because money can be such a major factor in interpersonal relations. “More money, more problems” isn’t just a Biggie track – it’s a real phenomenon, and the cartoonish strawman of “rich people” that Nolan keeps trotting out removes any semblance of humanity from economically successful people and turns them into unfeeling, greedy robots that must be destroyed as traitors of the ones that can still feel love. I’m realizing that this is quite sycophantic, now that I’ve had time to dig a bit deeper into these screeds.

I have personally stood in a room full of hedge fund titans and billionaire investors warning one another explicitly that inequality must be addressed lest the U.S. become a place like Latin America, where rich people are forced to live behind walls, surrounded by armed guards, because of the very real risks from the rage of the poor.

And “rage from the poor,” who are better of now than they ever were in the past, is fueled by asinine articles such as this telling them that they need to burn it all down, because the man is stealing the food from their kid’s mouths, even if their kids are overweight and they’re pushing 40 and can’t handle anything above minimum wage work.

The fact is, the more relevant skills one has, the more marketable they are, and the more money they’ll make. There are always exceptions to the rule, but it’s a pretty simple principle that has served the country for quite a long time.

Natural inequalities will always exist, and advocating for an equality of outcome is advocating for abolition of personal property rights, with the state assuming the wealth of private individuals. This would be textbook fascism.

Rich people in this country do not want to live like that. If they see that they must stop being so greedy in order to enjoy their own freedom, they will stop being so greedy.” 

What constitutes greed? Is it just having things and experiences that you deem to be “too much?” is it the pursuit of money when you’re already rich? Also, let’s grant this argument. What’s stopping the rich, the most mobile section of the population, from just leaving?

Sticking up a billionaire on the street for $100 is not going to do it. But one can imagine other ways that angry Americans might express their dissatisfaction with our current division of wealth: A large-scale online attack against the holdings of the very rich; yachts sunk in harbors; unoccupied vacation homes in the Hamptons mysteriously burned to the ground. Sotheby’s auctions swarmed by vandals, Art Basel attacked by spraypaint-wielding mobs, protests on the doorsteps of right-wing think tanks, venomous words directed at millionaires as they dine in fancy restaurants. People have a right to life and safety, but property does not.

There we are. Here’s what we’ve come to see, and what has been read at this point, more than 300,000 times over.

A writer on a far left political blog, instead of proposing classical liberal ideals like human rights, personal accountability and merit, is openly calling for you to steal identities, destroy property, vandalize buildings, and treat people like shit because their bank account is bigger than the average blogger’s.

Here’s a tip for Nolan and everyone else on the outrage train to Communismland – people have a right to their personal property. You don’t have a right to torch someone’s Ferrari because you’re taking the A train to work and it just broke down for the fifth time this week.

They didn’t steal from you. They didn’t screw you over. If they did, take it up in court, complain to their boss, write a tweet or leave a nasty Yelp review with the promise of no repeat business. Those are all perfectly fine things to do if you have been wronged, but sinking a yacht that doesn’t belong to you is a crime and anyone considering this, much less advocating for it as a matter of personal pride isn’t a person I’d trust doling out any sort of rational moral guidance.

Well, at least he’s not openly targeting specific people.

It is not hard to put together a list of those who should be targeted—Forbes publishes it every year. Likewise, public campaign finance records give us a pretty good idea of exactly who is funding the politicians who are perpetuating this economic war on behalf of the rich.”

FUCK.

It is nice to imagine a grand, well-targeted computer hack that would neatly transfer billions of dollars out of the accounts of, say, the Walton family and into a charity account that would disburse the money to the poor in untraceable ways.”

Here’s what this read like: “Gee, it sure would be nice if instead of us digging into our own pockets and donating to charity, we could just steal the money from some unknowing rich guy’s account so we feel better about ourselves but not actually have to burn any of our own calories.” Also, it’s describing and advocating for felony crime.

Why not rob a guy on Wall Street to pay for your lunch? I’m sure the Koch brothers could afford it. Hell, what about rent? I’m sure the Waltons wouldn’t even notice paying that. See that business owner driving his nice sports car? Put a knife to his throat and take it, I bet that asshole is fully insured anyway. I wonder how many poor people he screwed to get those sweet wheels, am I right?

Alright – new plan. Everyone that makes less than $100,000 a year will immediately stop working and will spend every waking hour putting guns to rich peoples’ heads, demanding they fork over their cash until they’re as broke and oppressed as everyone else. I can see nothing going wrong with this.

Realistically, what people can do now is to start thinking about ways to make it uncomfortable to be too rich. Socially uncomfortable and otherwise. When the accumulation of great wealth ceases to be a praiseworthy endeavor and instead becomes viewed as a sick, greedy pastime whose only reward is the hatred of your fellow citizens and the inability to live comfortably without fear of your excessive property being destroyed, rich people will rethink their goals.” 

And that’s it. No solutions, except, make every interaction with rich people spoon-clangingly cringe-worthy.

Now, here’s the rub – everything Nolan wrote in this wordy turd applies directly to himself.

According to Glassdoor, a Senior Writer on Gizmodo Media Group (formerly Gawker Media) earns between $62,000 and $83,000 per year. That’s a bit higher than the nation’s average salary of $44,148, but let’s go with it.

On the low end, this means that Nolan is in the top .8 percent of the world’s population by income. At the high end, anti-capitalist Hamilton would consider himself in the top .2 percent, making 54 times the average of the global average income.

Let’s be real. Nolan, and bloggers like him, are paid to sit in front of a computer in air-conditioned luxury, and have the unmitigated gall to write about how they’re being oppressed, and if things aren’t picture perfect for some people, it’s necessarily the fault of the ones above him – the top .1 percent of the world – the ones who really run the show, unlike him, who has to make do with making a salary 5400 percent higher than the world’s average.

It doesn’t seem as though he has any qualms about that inequality, but he sure will take a paycheck from a billion-dollar corporation that sells ads from other billion-dollar corporations, a fair amount of which goes to seven figure compensation packages and incentives for high-ranking executives. There are never calls for Fusion, Gawker, or Univision higher-ups to get the blade, merely the ones outside the political circle of friendlies.

It’s abundantly clear that this sort of alarmist, far-left nonsense is rife with the arguments repeated by champagne socialists the world over – that if only we charged the rich more in taxes and eliminated incentive to succeed, the government would become more effective, compassionate, and accountable. It sets up a bogeyman that not only doesn’t exist, but flies in the face of the success-chasing nature of the human condition.

This thinking puts forward the notion that the Western world isn’t a beacon atop the mountain of human civilization, rather an oppressive force to be dismantled, all while the ones deriding it take advantage of every life-affirming perk they can before ever acknowledging that the majority of the world has no idea how to Netflix and chill.

After all, it is indeed a hard thing to realize that the mustache-twirling billionaire they’ve been hunting is but a mirror’s glance away.

37 Replies to “I, Billionaire”

  1. Mopar4wd

    While I agree the young left have gone off the deep end in the burn the rich communism stuff. There are some very fundamental problems with the middle class in this country losing income that Tavarish decided to paper over. Unfortunately many people ignore the fact there is a grey area between 100% free market capitalism and communism. Oh well.

    Reply
    • Freddy Hernandez

      Of course there is a gray area. That was the entire point of the article. Perspectives must change for any sort of rational solutions to be proposed and implemented. Anarcho-capitalism is a recipe for disaster, as is Communism. I’ve never advocated for either.

      Reply
  2. E. Bryant

    I find it possible to simultaneously hold the opinions that

    A) Hamilton Nolan is a socialist thrower of metaphorical firebombs (certainly he wouldn’t dirty his hands with the literal sort) who exists solely to grind an ideological ax

    … and…

    B) The poor and lower middle classes have been on the receiving end of a half-hour century-long buttfucking that will eventually make life very hard for the upper middle class.

    I do a few presentations to corporate types each year on topic of PEST analysis and megatrends. One of the single most-effective slides in the whole deck simply shows median income as a ratio of GDP plotted over the past 20 years. The simple fact of the matter is that the overall pie continues to grow, but most people aren’t benefiting.

    As a member of the upper middle class by virtue of not just some intelligence and hard work but also because a whole lot of people have bought the products that I’ve helped to create, I want to see a healthy and vibrant economy for the largest possible number of participants. If ever-larger gains are going to a ever-smaller number of people, that’s bad for many of us professionals because those few people will only buy so many cars and phones and make only so many trips to the local doctor and dentist and generate only so many click-throughs on ads for fancy clothes (note that there seems to be no such upper bound on the amount of legal services that can be consumed).

    Note that this desire for a particular outcome is not a prescription for the means by which to achieve it. Socialist policies fail to achieve anything resembling fairness and prosperity, and I don’t trust the political process required to put those policies into place. So what does that leave us? Can societal norms be an effective means by which to enforce some semblance of fairness, and if so, how does one enforce those norms? I’m not one to advocate violence as a first resort, but if it’s taken off the table completely, then it ceases to be a useful tool (also note that the elites certainly haven’t been shy about using violence to reinforce their positions).

    Reply
  3. Bigtruckseriesreview

    As a Black male, 36 years old, earning close to $200,000 after taxes, I completely endorse REAL CAPITALISM while DESPISING the welfare state and outsourcing US factories to COMMUNIST CHINA.

    On top of my business, I earn money as a Youtubber making ridiculous, crazy and entertaining videos. $2000 a month with a toppout of $500 a day when I’ve gone viral.

    The bottom line is ATTENTION.

    If you can get people to pay attention to you, it doesn’t matter what you do or say, the advertisers will follow and you will get RICH whether you are talented or not.

    The poor are more likely to stay poor and the wealthiest are more likely to stay wealthy. Capital Gains on their money ensures that if they live within their means, they can simply live on “allowances”.

    —–“Realistically, what people can do now is to start thinking about ways to make it uncomfortable to be too rich. Socially uncomfortable and otherwise. When the accumulation of great wealth ceases to be a praiseworthy endeavor and instead becomes viewed as a sick, greedy pastime whose only reward is the hatred of your fellow citizens and the inability to live comfortably without fear of your excessive property being destroyed, rich people will rethink their goals.” —-

    THAT’S RIDICULOUS

    You know why?

    It’s because the only people “spending frivolously” on big toys (Lamborghinis and Bugattis, yachts, etc) are “NEW MONEY”.

    The POOR spend more money trying to look RICH than the RICH spend trying to appear to be poor.
    -Bigtruckseriesreview quote

    Take a look at the rich people there are. They dress like BUMS. Like NERDS.

    Take a look at the working class and new-money. They dress in brand names and ridiculous clown garments.

    The rich (like Warren Buffet) drive around in REGULAR CARS. Warren Buffet has a Cadillac DTS… If I were him, I’d have a Bugatti Galiber or some Rolls Royce. But that’s the difference between us. I was in Manhasset America yesterday. You can FEEL the wealth. The average rich person is buying a Tesla, BMW or Mercedes which completely blends in with what the middle class is buying. The really rich – according to Forbes – are driving regular cars.

    Cars, specifically aren’t just “cars”. they are ways to project our wealth while on the go.

    Houses can’t be driven so even if you have several houses or properties they pretty much are outta sight. Some people want to show off.

    But as for “having their stuff destroyed”… The super rich create jobs by employing people to slave for them and upkeep their property.

    INCOME isn’t the perfect measurement of wealth. DEBT IS. You can earn a lot but be so deep in debt that you’re “working poor”. I earn well over $100,000 – $200,000 but my loans are all paid off. My mortgage is paid off (Thanks Cryptocurrency). At this point the money I make is a NET POSITIVE. My credit cards are all paid off.

    DEBT is the real problem.

    These “Tax cuts” are LIES. they increase the national debt and end up being eventually paid by the middle class.

    The wealthy hide their money off-shore.

    They refuse to pay for it.

    The gains get capitalized and the losses get socialized at this point.

    Reply
    • Jeff Zekas

      Good points by Bigtruckseriesreview. My dad grew up poor, served in World War Two, came home, went to Harvard Med School, and became one of the “new rich” of the 60’s and 70’s. Dad lived well, always had a nice house (Belair and Santa Monica), and drove everything from Cadillac to Jaguar to Pontiac. Most of his money, though, was spent on travel. After a few expensive toys (he bought an Aero Commander Twin and a thirty-foot sailboat) he retired, living rather modestly in B.C. (he moved to Canada because of the cheap health care– ironic for an L.A. doctor). I suppose what I am saying is that one line in Freddie’s essay rang true: “The fact is, no one should give a crap if anyone is getting rich if it means that we all benefit.” During the 60’s, EVERYONE was living well– anyone, even my buddy whose dad was a bartender— could buy a house, buy a nice car, and eat well. Nowadays… well, no one who is a bartender could buy a house in Los Angeles or San Francisco. There are homeless folks lining the streets of Portland and Eugene. The so-called “minimum wage” is a starvation wage. The problem isn’t WEALTH but rather, survival-level wages and the general indifference of the One Percent. Certainly, the theme of our time isn’t “Burning Down the House” but rather, “Allentown” by Billy Joel.

      Reply
  4. Dirty Dingus McGee

    The problem I see is who gets to define what “rich” is? For the guy working as a janitor for $10 an hour, the guy in the office he cleans is rich because his salary is $45K per year. To that guy in the office, his boss is rich because he makes $80K per year, and so on. Its not “fair”. If someone puts forth more effort, gets more education, and on some occasions is in the right place at the right time, why shouldn’t they make more?

    I’m in a comfortable position in life now, but it wasn’t handed to me. My first real job was a flunky in a machine shop. After high school, I tried the military but was discharged after 4 weeks due to an undiagnosed heart problem. So I went to a shipyard and started in an apprenticeship as a welder. The company offered to pay tuition at night college if you had a C or above average, so I took advantage of that. Took 6 years but I managed to get a BS degree in mechanical engineering. I parleyed that into a corporate job (that job was a case of being in the right place at the right time) and things have been pretty good since, In 95 I left the corporate world and went off on my own. There have been rough stretch’s, as there always is when starting a business from scratch.

    These day’s my taxable income is right at 6 figures, I have tangible assets in the mid 6 figures. To some people that makes me rich. To me, the rich guy lives about 5 miles away on about 300 acres, with a couple of new Mercedes S class cars in the yard plus a 1/2 ownership in a Cessna Citation. And I would suspect he doesn’t consider himself rich.

    Reply
    • Zykotec

      According to Freddy Hernandez, you are ‘rich’ if you make 6 figures, as he did link to an article where the ‘rich’ complain that they pay more taxes, and in that article ‘rich’ is apparently the top 20%… No mention as to how much the lower part of those pay in comparison to the actual 1%.
      Also, those top 20% earn half of all the income that is earned in the US, so in effect someone is complaning that people who make money pay more income tax than people who don’t make money…

      Reply
  5. Pat

    This piece started off with “news publications” as a proposed subject and then promptly made “Splinter News” the specific subject. Those aren’t the same things at all…

    Reply
  6. arbuckle

    Hamilton Nolan is just a professional troll that’s also written screeds against lawns and ice cream, he isn’t worth wasting time on.

    He may in fact be a super-leftist in his free time but I guarantee you he won’t torch anyone’s vacation home and would claim ‘satire’ if someone did take his words to heart and committed arson or a cyber crime while explicitly naming him as influence.

    Reply
  7. Zykotec

    not quite 2 of my cents, but
    Nolan is wrong about a few things at least, even if I can sometimes think the same things when I’m angry and before I think things through a little. (I kinda want to burn Maggie Thatcher every time I read a certain quote)

    Technically, if the really really awful rich people owned supercars and sportscars and Yachts, burning and sinking their stuff would certainly create jobs for less fortunate people, if those jobs were’t already outsourced by other rich people to make sure they had a greater part of the profits.
    But, those boats and cars probably insured, and if one insurance company insures 1million Ford trucks and 1million Honda cars, and 14 Lambos, guess who is paying for that bonfire? Not to mention who is paying for the police and firefighters?
    Bet you thought it was those poor people who torched them ? Noo, it’s actually the middle class.
    The same middle class who makes the advertising for those cars and boats. The same middle class who owns quite a few of those expensive things. The same middle class that feel that they contribute more because they pay more taxes.
    The middel class is an effective buffer zone between the poor and the rich. And it’s a brilliant idea tbh. (I belive if the french had invented the middel class a few centuries ago there would have been no revolution.) Keep the middle class happy, and they will help opress the real poor people, or even better they will help the poor using their own hard earned money, and the rich don’t need to spent their money doing it, and there will be no class war.
    And keep the middle class down just enough to not make the poor hate them. I guess it’s important they feel close than they are, but not so close as to ruin the slight smugness that comes with not being working class or to ruin the motivation of those wanting to be middle class.

    And lets not forget, like BTSR said, it’s not really the really awful rich people who drive the Lambos and have the Yachts. It’s mostly new money, and higher middle class. And the fact that they have these things mean they are actually spending money, and that means contributing to the economy.
    They are technically the ‘good’ part of the rich people. Even if a few of those play with the stock market like it’s not about real people in real jobs, their money can actually trickle down somewhat (well, whatever they spent will offcourse not be shared evenly between the people who make parts for Aston Martins in China and their CEO’s but you know what I mean)

    So there is no way we can attack the rich in any efficient meaningful way without doing collateral damage, and even if it were, opportunists (good and bad) are everywhere.
    Using any ‘communist’ state as an example, the wealth was eventually not distributed evenly in any of those either. And with few (if any?) of them being democratic things can keep going the wrong way indefinitely, unlike in the US where it can swing between two almost identical ways of ‘not quite as wrong’.

    Long story short, the US is probably not as bad as it could have been , despite the elephant and the donkeys and actual rich peoples best efforts, as the free market understand that more people having more money means more sales, and most people are actual decent people who will help out people in need with their own money.

    Reply
  8. Michael B

    Freddy, I was never a fan of your Jalopnik articles. But to my surprise, this was much more thoughtful than any writing or video I’ve seen tagged with your name on it. I, Pencil, which I’m assuming is your title reference here, is one of my favorite works of all time. The supply chain and construction of a simple pencil is so much more of an economic complexity than anyone realizes, and in it’s final form could even be appreciated as a masterpiece of human ingenuity were it not so easily dwarfed by buildings, cars, and technology that is 1000 times bigger, sexier, and more glamorous. Likewise, a wealthy guy’s constitution (or girl’s, don’t want to offend the snowflakes) is made of up skills or accomplishments that are invisible to most, and therefore their entire character is reduced to one simple word: Rich. When society boils down good or evil to wealth, money becomes the root of all evil rather than the measure of a man’s choices. This explains why socialists think the way they do. Overall, this was a pretty solid take down of a morally bankrupt individual.

    One thing about your post irks me however. I have to ask, how can you reconcile your productive line of thinking with the type of work that you do? Your Jalopnik work was simple clickbait, and I find your YouTube channel hard to watch for reasons I won’t mention here. I give you props for building a huge audience in no time, and I imagine it it pays well to get all that attention online, however the evidence here shows your talent for writing and level of thought to be far more engaging than what you typically earn your living from. So all I can determine is that you are pandering to a simpler crowd with your other work to bring home a paycheck, which makes me sad to see. I hope that’s not the case.

    Anyway, good piece. Enjoyed it. You might be winning me back as a fan.

    Reply
    • Freddy Hernandez

      Thanks for the kind words, but please don’t feel obligated to watch or read my material. It’s not for everyone and I would never expect everyone to like it.

      However, I’m not pandering to anyone, I genuinely enjoy creating engaging content. Horses for courses.

      Reply
  9. Binksman

    Throughout history there has been conflict between labor and business, but most things get particularly nasty when the established structure of business evolves. For centuries guilds controlled the number of people who could enter and work in a trade, but they also enforced quality and labor standards. Enter the industrial revolution- business owners started using machines for much of the base labor. Due to many factors at the time, including a recovering population size and environmental factors leading to many boon years for crops, business owners had plenty of cheap labor to run those machines. The guilds lost much of their power as their business structure, which educated the laborers and maintained higher quality products than the new factories could, also couldn’t compete with lower cost.

    A few generations later, guilds were nonexistent, factories were the norm, and labor across the board complained of poor conditions, unfair pay, mistreatment, etc. Enter the rise of labor unions that united the collective value of labor within a company to balance out the largely unchecked power balance held by business/industry. Coal companies, steel mills, etc, are examples where the unions helped the labor.

    A few generations later and we start to get the general consensus that labor unions have too much power, interfering with business and industry so much that they negatively affect the health of the company and even the entire industry. This takes us to where we are today. The only strong unions left are public employee unions that are the few remnants of “bad” labor unions of the 70’s and 80’s that did things like kill off the British home automobile industry.

    Would more unions help us today? Some industries, I think they could, especially those where labor to the large extent controls the outcome of product or service quality. But business also needs to step up and offer more for labor. Most large corporations in this country not only take major advantage of publicly-funded infrastructure like roads, but they have come to rely the safety nets of the welfare programs. What used to be a benefit paid by the company is now paid by society as a whole, except for the handful of HR employees whose entire job is helping employees fill out their welfare forms.

    Likewise, other societal changes need to be addressed. Social Security for retirement was originally designed to supplement income for a growing part of a population that was just starting to live beyond a working age. Previous generations were largely taken care of by families, but with an industrialized, urbanized society, that just wasn’t happening anymore. Over time, retirement and social security began to be seen more as a human right rather than a structural change in the economy and society.

    If both labor AND business were to take a labor lesson from John Wayne’s McClintock character, more people would be in better financial shape and industry would have the respect its needed to have a healthy labor relationship. What we certainly don’t need is an apparent anarchist calling for violence against others just satisfy his own sense of self-importance and intellect.

    Reply
  10. John C.

    The vilest thing about the current crop of billionaires is their attempted corruption of politics, on both sides. Hence former Newt conservatives in Congress not being for contract with America stuff anymore and Obama having 2 terms and not raising the minimum wage.

    So the Saudi Crown Prince MBS makes a list, hopefully checks it twice and rounds up a bunch of corrupt billionaires and turns them upside down and shakes them until the ill gotten gain comes out. The deals to get them out of that Hyatt will surely include the requirement to stay out of politics. Not a bad place to start if the game is reform.

    So for the most part I respectfully disagree. What was great was this website letting you write something so long, well thought out, and with linked sources.

    Reply
  11. stingray65

    Being poor in 99% of the cases is about lack of marketable skills and ability (i.e. not smart, not educated/trained, not physically fit or attractive) and/or high personal costs due to bad habits or physical/mental handicaps (i.e. not showing up on time, taking 27 bathroom/smoke breaks per day, drinking on the job/showing up drunk, inability to learn new tasks, low IQ, creaky joints and bad backs, etc.). Someone that expects to earn a “living wage” needs to be able to provide their employers productivity and benefits that are worth more than the living wage, otherwise they are money losers to the employer. If you look at the bottom 40% of the income distribution in the US, most people are not working at all or only sporadically because they just aren’t worth much to employers and/or they prefer to live on welfare checks and charity. Virtually nobody in the US is lacking food (obesity is highest among the poor) or housing (the poor have more sq. feet per person than the middle class in Europe) which are the traditional measures of “poor”, and the vast majority of US “poor” still find money for cars, smart phones, fancy sneakers, flat screen TVs, smokes, etc. that would be considered luxuries for much of the world, and if they don’t have these things it is because they snorted the money up their noses or other wasteful/destructive behaviors. Which brings up the question of what a “living wage” is if nobody is starving?

    In contrast, 90% of the upper-class have made substantial personal investments in education and training (including not only formal education but also internships, apprenticeships, etc.) to make themselves more valuable to society and worth the “big bucks”. Many were born “lucky” in the sense of getting good genes for intelligence (genius) or physical characteristics (i.e. supermodels and athletes), and having nurturing environments growing up, but the rich have almost always added substantially to their “good luck” through personal sacrifice and huge efforts. For example, the rich work way more hours on average than the standard 40 hour week – ever wonder why most 10 year old supercars have 5,000 miles or less – the owners don’t have time to drive them.

    So would society be better off it the rich would “check their privilege” by skipping their education, or not putting in any extra effort at work? Would society be better off if rich parents didn’t send their kids to science camp, or private schools, or SAT tutorials? Does anyone actually think that if the rich slowed down that the poor would jump in and take their place in curing cancer, or inventing the next iPhone or Facebook, or writing the next best selling novel or song? Anyone that believes that must also believe that the New England Patriots could win the next Superbowl by firing all their current players and replacing them with individuals born “unlucky” with too little muscle, speed, and work ethic.

    Reply
  12. Shrug

    Saying this as a pretty strong lefty, what Hamilton Nolan is advocating is absolutely stupid and dangerous. Violence begets more violence, and the rich and powerful can deal out A LOT more violence than the poor can.

    His own moronic ideas aside, you do seem to gloss over the fact that there is a truly insidious level of income inequality in this country that grows seemingly by the day.

    I was reading something about the early days of the French Revolution recently. Basically, extreme taxes and obligations were placed on the working classes in order to satiate the needs of an increasingly over-indulgent upper class.

    That upper class was made up of roughly ~0.75% of the population and owned about 20% of the land (the church owned something like another 15%). They also paid literally nothing in taxes.

    Today, our 1% owns FORTY PERCENT (40%) of the land. We’re shielded somewhat by the fact that our wealthy actually pay taxes (which amount to something like 1/3 of all taxes collected) but still the wealth disparity in this country is absolutely insane.

    A lot of good middle class jobs, for one reason or another, are drying up. The ones that exist see the purchasing power they have with that money decrease frequently.

    The issue with the tax breaks is that the top, the ones who can afford it the most, are getting the largest breaks while the poorest among us are, well, not. Over the long run we in the lesser classes will be actually paying more per year.

    The ACA mandate is also critically important. The fundamental nature of insurance is that a large group will drive the price down. With many not having to be a part of that group, insurance premiums will continue to rise even faster than they already are, fucking the poor over as they have been since time immemorial.

    If, to paraphrase Smith, this resulted in a rising tides raising all of our boats, it’d be fine, but I have yet to see the trickle down effect actually being effective.

    Throughout modern history (and, frankly, a lot of antiquity as well), it has been very rare to see this level of wealth inequality exist without there being some sort of serious reform or rebellion.

    Nolan is very wrong, but I think you may be as well. More likely than not, it’s just my perception and if so I apologize for any misunderstanding, but you seem to be painting the wealthy as entities of pure benevolence whose surging profits off of wage-stagnated workers is Actually Good and that such actions should not inspire mistrust and anger.

    Reply
    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      ” the fact that there is a truly insidious level of income inequality in this country that grows seemingly by the day.”

      I would submit that many times the wealth is willingly transferred by the lower and middle classes. Do you NEED a new iPhone 10 when your old iPhone 5 still works fine? Do you NEED a new SUV with a $700 a month note, and $150 for insurance, when a 2-3 year old mini van will do the same job? Same with any other “status” symbol object, be it shoes, clothes, newest TV or the restaurant you go to 2-3 times a month.If those are keeping you one paycheck from being on the street, then you should look in the mirror for the cause of your problem. Last time I checked( a couple hours ago, shopping for a new “toy” for myself) purchase of anything is voluntary, not forced.

      Reply
  13. Opaddington

    Leftists obsess over money as if it’s the only source of inequity in life. There’s a virtually endless source of disparities among humans. Height, IQ, athletic prowess, etc. It’s not fair that my neighbor is 6’4″ and has a better looking wife than I do. Where’s the justice for me?

    If we really want to usher in the fairness, we need to go full Harrison Bergeron. Let’s begin the experiment with Hamilton Nolan and his political compadres. They cry themselves to sleep every night as they reflect upon the poor, suffering souls on the planet. Surely they wouldn’t resist the opportunity to be among the vanguards who begin the transition to true fairness for humanity.

    Reply
  14. kvndoom

    I muse often and talk occasionally on these subjects. My point of view on a couple things:

    1) Income inequality has to exist. Everyone can’t be “rich.” I had a coworker some years ago say that all of America’s problems would be solved if the government sent every citizen a check for one million dollars. Mind you, he was dead serious when he said that! My response was “Griff! If everyone has a million dollars, then a million dollars becomes poverty level!” He somehow didn’t get it. So I tried to explain further: “what’s the first thing most of those recipients are going to do when they get their check? Quit their job! So how are you going to get a millionaire to work a cash register or milk cows or any other remedial job? The inflation will hit so hard and so swiftly that you’ll be paying $500 for a loaf of bread because Walmart has to pay a millionaires wages to get someone to stock the shelves.” Somebody HAS to have a need for money, in order to go to work, in order to have goods produced and services rendered. And someone else will always benefit from that need and be wealthier than those who labor at the bottom. We all want it good, but it’s a fact of life that we cannot all have it good.

    2) Socialism and welfare have to exist for a nation to maintain order. There will always be the sick, poor, uneducated, and/or unemployed. You want to see a revolt? You want to see blood in the streets? You want to watch the world burn? Go ahead and enact the social Darwinism that some seem to believe so strongly in. Cut off all the safety nets! If they can’t afford housing, let them live in the streets! If they can’t afford to eat, let them starve! If they can’t afford medicine, let their illness kill them! Keep on believing that there is a job out there for every citizen, if only they’d get off their lazy asses! THAT is when it will get ugly. Unlike citizens of a lot of other countries, Americans (poor or otherwise) have easy access to weapons and transportation. You placate the “undesirables” by giving them sustenance and juuuuust enough extra to keep their minds from being idle, and you leave them to their own doings. Take it all away, condemn their children and their sick to death, and see how quickly they will rise en masse to take what they believe is theirs. The suits in DC know this, regardless of their “party affiliation” and when it comes to entitlements they may talk with a sledgehammer but they always show up to the fight with a feather duster.

    Reply
    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      ” Cut off all the safety nets!”

      I don’t think you will find more than a handful of people who want to eliminate a safety net. The problem is that many turn that net into a cocoon and never leave it. THAT is where the anger comes from.

      Reply
      • Shrug

        Of the many terrible, wretched things Ronald Regan left us with, the idea that many people try to game the welfare system is one of them. Most people on welfare work, and a damn large amount work two jobs. Of course some take advantage, as does everyone, but it’s worth considering that most genuinely need it to get by.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth

          I would agree with you that a lot of welfare recipients are both making the effort to get out of poverty and not abusing the system.

          With that said, after working in check-cashing for a year I have met more welfare queens/frauds/coasters than I care to consider.

          Reply
        • Dirty Dingus McGee

          Of course there are folks who desperately need it. There is a woman I’ve known for 35 years, who has never received a nickel in child support for 2 kids, who isn’t well educated so works in retail as a cashier and has now had take on the responsibility of her son’s 2 toddlers due to their parents incarceration.Those are not the folks I’m referring to. The ones I’m talking about are the well dressed person at the grocery store buying expensive cuts of meat, name brand items, etc. and using an EBT card. If you truly were needy, and trust me I’ve had to stretch grocery money in the past, you buy store brands and cheaper cuts of meat to stretch that dollar.
          For those who might want to throw a racial comment out, don’t bother. I live in a predominately white mostly rural area. There are plenty here who play the system. For some it’s a way of life that they were taught, some it’s sheer laziness.

          Reply
        • CJinSD

          Do you ever grocery shop Shrug? Next time you see someone wearing ghetto fabulous gear and pushing a shopping cart piled high with frivolities, watch how they pay the bill. There’s a reason that stores broadcast their acceptance of food stamps in all their guises. It’s because their carriers are the best customers grocery stores can have. The middle class use coupons. The people spending their taxes don’t.

          Reply
          • Shrug

            I do! I’ve even worked in a grocery market in a poor, rural community that was 5 miles outside of a poor, urban community. I’ve seen all types. On that you can trust me.

            I think there’s a lot of confirmation bias at play with this. You look for people dressed to the nines with the newest shit to be paying for their food with EBT, and then when you see it, it sticks with you.

            I’d rather the people that genuinely need it, which again is the majority, get it then strip it away just to get back at those that take advantage in some lame, sad, and misplaced attempt at vengeance.

            There’s also the idea that poor people have a tendency to dress/act in such a way that grabs your attention because of some truly terrible education in poor communities and advertising targeted towards the impoverished that makes them feel as though they *need* certain things.

            It’s a tough situation with many established and theorized causes, little of it having to do with people trying to “steal” “your” money

          • CJinSD

            I’m not sure how a phenomenon I had no knowledge of until observing it is an instance of confirmation bias. If I thought there were women with Gucci bags and Mercedes-Benz station wagons buying the highest unit cost groceries with food stamps and then checked out every woman with more money that taste until I observed it, that would be confirmation bias. Instead I noticed the trend without looking for it.

    • Shrug

      I agree.

      To your 1st point, few argue that income should be split evenly among everyone for the same reasons you posted. The issue is that at least *some* of that money needs to make its way to those farther down the ladder or else it gets pretty ugly.

      Income inequality is an accepted and necessary part of existence. Extreme income inequality, as our country is heading towards, is not.

      I’m not holding my breath to say the least, but the 14% reduction in corporate taxes carries with it notably increased wages then I’d be quite a bit happier. Minimum wage should not equal wealth, but it should let someone who is working 40 hours per week live like a human being.

      Reply
  15. Bruno Balestra

    That extreme left, “let’s fuck anyone we don’t like”, let’s destroy everyone who’s not a friend” philosophy is exactly the same narrative PT, the party that ruled Brazil for 13 years, has been yelling to anyone who’ll listen ever since they lost power when Dilma was impeached. To be fair, they always promoted such lies since the party’s inception, but only the most alienated, wilfully blind followers believed was a sound idea. Conveniently they all benefited from large bribes and particularly Lula, family and friend became exponentially rich in the period they ruled thanks to insider trading, corruption and flat out robbery.
    Sad part is that this kind of insuflation has furthered division in Brazil, turning seemingly everyone into an extremist – either you agree with me or everything you think is wrong kind of person.
    Discussions are rarer and rarer and we are all worse for this competition to see who screams loudest.

    Reply
  16. SIV

    Anarcho-capitalism is a recipe for disaster, as is Communism.

    We have a century of experience with the disaster of communism. The few small scattered examples of a modern voluntary society look pretty good. The fatal flaw of an anarchist society is that some people are going to try to violently re-impose a state and, given human nature, their chances of success are pretty good.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.