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.”
“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.