‘But we cannot have both’

Ian Ayres and Aaron S. Edlin are pushing for a Brandeis tax based on maintaining a Brandeis ratio of 36-to-1.

I hope they keeping pushing for this, even though I doubt their proposal will go anywhere. I’m just happy they’re calling it a “Brandeis tax” and a “Brandeis ratio,” because every time anyone asks why they’re calling them that, they can quote this, from Supreme Court Justice Louis D Brandeis:

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.

* * * * * * * * *

U.S. CEOs got totally deserved, completely merit-based raises of 36.47% last year

“Wages for everybody else have either been in decline or stagnated in this period, and that’s for those who are in work,” said [Paul] Hodgson [a senior research associate at GMI Ratings]. “I had a feeling that we would see some significant increases this year. But 30-40% was something of a surprise.” Bosses won in every area, with dramatic increases in pensions, payoffs and perks – as well as salary.

(Sarcastic headline rewrite via Counterparties)

* * * * * * * * *

NPR: “Unpaid Bills Land Some Debtors Behind Bars

Walter Riepen, a Michigan resident, was sentenced to 30 days in jail [for unpaid debts]. After his release, he was billed $1,260 — the cost of his incarceration at a rate of $60 a day. Since his only income is a monthly Social Security disability payment, Riepen cannot pay back the amount, and the ACLU reports that he still lives under the threat of being sent back to prison for his unpaid legal financial obligations.

Mike Konczal: “How Credit Collectors Have Reinvented the Debtors’ Prison

Requirements to appear in court are being overused and abused as a way of confusing debtors and forcing a strong hand on payments. This ultimately threatens the integrity of the entire debt collection system and the crucial protection of freedom and liberty.

* * * * * * * * *

Ezra Klein: “Debt isn’t immoral

The basic problem with Washington’s conversation over debt is we’ve taken a fiscal tool and recast it as a moral sin. Head over to Mitt Romney’s website and look at what it says across the top: “We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.” Really? Why? And over what time frame?

If you pressed Romney on this, I think he would say something like, “it’s irresponsible to pass a massive load of debt onto our children.” But as good as that sounds, no one really believes it. World War II left America with one of the highest debt burdens in the country’s history. But it would have been much more irresponsible to pass on a world in which the Nazis controlled Europe to our children.

* * * * * * * * *

The 99% Act: in one infographic.

Vox Nova: “Rick Santorum thinks pope is socialist/Marxist

Scott Keyes: “Predatory Payday Lenders Compare Themselves to MLK and Civil Rights Marchers in Fight Against Regulations

Ron Paul investing against the apocalypse: “This portfolio is a half-step away from a cellar-full of canned goods and 9-millimeter rounds.”

We are not on a Great Vacation.”

Jeff Madrick: “The 10 Worst Economic Ideas of 2011

Steve Roth makes the case for Jubilee: “It’s the Private Debt, Stupid.”

Matt Stoller: “Treat foreclosure as a crime scene

CBO: The U.S. Federal Budget in one graphic

* * * * * * * * *

Time magazine, Nov. 24, 2010, Maia Szalavitz: “The Rich Are Different: More Money, Less Empathy

Looking for empathy and support? You’re more likely to get it from a poor person than you are from a rich one, according to new research published in Psychological Science.

Time magazine, Dec. 21, 2011, Jeffrey Kluger: “Got Money? Then You Might Lack Compassion

A new study has confirmed that the richer you are the less compassionate you are …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    I hate to start the thread with a tangent, but does anyone have a name or link for the Slacktivist post from looong ago, about how God needed to incarnate as a human in order to understand humanity?

    Alternately, does anyone know what the theological term for that notion is?

    Many thanks in advance.

  • Kiba

    Okay, they makes noises about repealing child labor laws and now they are doing some fancy foot work to revive some form of debtor’s prison. And here I thought next year was supposed to be 2012, not 1900.

  • vsm
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    Thanks a lot!

  • Nomuse

    All I have is my own limited experience, but it has generally been that if you want someone to stop and give your battery a jump, or hold a door open, or give you a couple bucks for bus fare, it is going to be a poor or lower middle class person.  Not an upper middle class or professional person.

    I don’t know if being a professional class means you risk more (a nicer suit to dirty if you stop to help someone push their car), or if your time is more constrained — or you are more aware you are wasting billable hours when you wait with a senior for the taxi you helped them call. 

    I do know the well-to-do can — and often do — give more in absolute terms.  In large donations of money to charities and to local organizations alike.  Somehow that doesn’t make it right.

  • FangsFirst

    I saw those empathy studies posted somewhere once.

    One of the responses posited that it was bollocks because “the lower classes” rob, steal and kill without remorse, you know. Which is clearly a sign of a greater lack of empathy.

    Which is funny, because the (careered) person saying that would run out of money and demand some from her daughter. Her daughter who was already helping, of her own accord and directly from her own pocket, to pay for her younger brothers’ educations and general “family needs.” Because her mother was siphoning it, and she was choosing to help “the family” and her brothers out of the goodness of her heart (and a sense of familial obligation), her daughter would run out of money. She wouldn’t demand it from anyone. She’d just try to figure out what she could tear out of her own life and do without (you know, letting her car fall apart, despite a 20 mile round trip to the college she was paying her way through by herself, for instance). So once in a while, I’d give her money.

    Well, try to. Usually I’d just get a lecture on how I needed that money for myself, to pay for the frivolities I enjoy. And a lot of arguing.

    Usually I gave up and went to the restaurant she worked at 60-70 hours a week (“somehow” she never got overtime, and was still considered “part time” by her employers) and tipped her whatever I could spare. Her coworkers started trying to get me at their tables after the time I tipped her $200. She would sometimes try to get me to do it.

    And she’d get angry, but manners dictated for her that she not return it to me and just accept it at that point. Though she tried a few times. Once or twice she was able to get past me and sneak a couple bucks back to me in other situations.

    That woman–the daughter–tithes regularly, to this day. She makes almost nothing. The small fortune she got from a complicated scenario went to her mother and her family–all of it.

    I’m getting a bit tangential, but the point is to understand who the person this lower class criticizer was taking from is and was. It wasn’t always even offered when it was taken. Sometimes it was taken by deception. Sometimes demanded. Emotional blackmail and what I would privately term emotional abuse, of course, were common.

    She was working at a chain restaurant. The only person financially supporting her–me–was working at a chain bookstore (albeit with financial help of some magnitude from my parents).

    And her mother, who has a career and makes an actual living wage, whose husband did as well (he’s been laid off, though, to be fair, but somewhat recently, and from a high enough paying job that he had decent unemployment), took money from her.

    And then, identifying with the rich, said those in the lower classes were the awful and immoral ones.

    Is it a surprise she’s a fan of Ayn Rand? Refuses to let the Daily Show be seen in their household?

    I guess the really funny part is I don’t think they’ve ever been more than upper middle class here. If even that, considering I’m not sure what the lines on it are. Where they come from, apparently they were big stuff but fell out with the necessary folk.

    I couldn’t even really get upset or angry when she said that obnoxious garbage. It was so sad and pathetic, as she tried to reclaim their past status, valuing it over everything else, and denigrating even plenty of people they ended up associating with once they fell from “grace,” just to prove that where they came from: people are “BETTER.”

    Her poor daughter still struggles with all the classism she was taught so heavily. Doesn’t want it, doesn’t agree with it, but still reflexively thinks it. You know, to remember that they are simply born better.

    So, uh, who lacks empathy again, then?

  • Twig

    I hate to be vulgar (this is a lie) but whoever had the staggering indecency to dare to try and coin a term like “The Great Vacation” needs to be punched INCREDIBLY hard in the cock.

  • Anonymous

    I have a weird relationship with class.  Most of my mother’s extended family is or was poor at some point during my lifetime.  I came to see the lower end of the working class as “really nice people” and those wealthy popular kids who mocked me as “snobby rich folks who think they’re better than everyone else.”  I get along best, and identify most closely, with working-class and slightly-higher-than-working-class folks.

    At the same time, my father (who worked his way up from NOTHING, back when that was still possible) tried to shelter me, and simultaneously started earning more and more money (he’s earned 6 figures for at least the last 12 years, probably more).  So I’ve internalized a lot of the more disgusting stereotypes about poor people, too, and I’ve had the damnedest time trying to get rid of them.

    But the rich have always given me an unpleasant crawly feeling.  I feel a wave of dread when I visit my parents’ home in a gated community in an upper-middle-class-to-wealthy township.  Stores that remind me of the nouveau-riche attitude–artificial, wasteful, encouraging you to flaunt your money as if it were somehow a sign of superiority–make me gag.  And I am every bit as dead-set against marrying a wealthy man as my father is determined to find me a wealthy husband.

    It’s weird, growing up with both sides at once.

  • Lori

    Requirements to appear in court are being overused and abused as a way of confusing debtors and forcing a strong hand on payments.

    This is one of the side effects of all our moralizing about debt. We talk about people who can’t pay their bills as if they’re dirt and that makes it hard to care about the abusive practices of debt collectors. Everything about the debt collection industry is designed to make the collectors seem righteous and good and the debtors seem bad, no matter what the actual situation is.

    The language used demonstrates this perfectly. In the words of collectors, a debtor is either paying or refusing to pay. Note that it isn’t “not paying”, it’s “refusing to pay”. There is no such thing as unable to pay, there is only payment or refusal. A person unable to pay bills might inspire compassion. A person refusing to pay bills is obviously bad and worthy of contempt and anything done to them is clearly no less than they deserve.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Re: CEO Pay. Working in the private sector*, I have yet to receive a pay increase that covers the cost of inflation, meaning that in real dollars, I’m taking a pay cut year-to-year. Furthermore, I now work for one of those companies that prides itself on “rewarding success” because they have policies in place and guarantee a substantial raise if you score a 1 or 2 (1 is best) on your performance review, but the criteria for a 1 or 2 are so vague that our managers and supervisors can’t articulate** what, exactly, one would have to do to get a 1 or 2. In fact, they get downright pissy if you press the issue. The result is that in my time here, and in the time of everyone I work with (some of whom have been here for over a decade), no one has ever, ever scored higher than a 3, which means you get to keep your job and get a “Cost Of Living” raise that is always below that actual rate of inflation.
    *When I taught public school, I received increases that kept pace and sometimes exceeded the inflation rate. Unfortunately, the area I lived was so expensive I still couldn’t make of go of it, i.e., I lived on egg-drop ramen and vitamin pills for months at a time just to make rent.

    **To get a 1 or 2 in other sections of the company, you bring in revenue, but because we work in  admin./clerical support division*** of the company and therefore do not directlycreate revenue, we can’t meet the most obvious criteria, yet the company insists that there are other unnamed, nebulous criteria that can earn you a 1 or 2.

    ***To the people who say, “Well just go to the revenue side of the company… get a new job, whiner!” — if everyone in the world were a salesman or consultant, how would anything get made? How would anything get done?

  • Hawker40

    While I agree with the spirit of this statement, not all jerks and assholes are male.

    Instead, I will request that the person who came up with the term be struck in the head with a brick shaped object.
    Preferably one made of brick.

  • WingedBeast

    “***To the people who say, “Well just go to the revenue side of the company… get a new job, whiner!” — if everyone in the world were a salesman or consultant, how would anything get made? How would anything get done?”
    THANK YOU!
    We live in an economic world divided into finders, minders, and grinders.  Finders find the new consumers.  Minders tend to those consumers and make sure they stay loyal to whatever company.  Grinders actually do what the company provides.  And, for some reason, we as a nation have come to appreciate the finders and the minders as the end-all and be-all of the economy with no appreciation that, in order to sell something, we have to make something.
    Then again, we all know who Paris Hilton is, whether we like it or not, but I couldn’t manage to find the name of the gentleman who discovered the individual gene, who’s protien production could explain autism.  Human society, as far as I can tell throughout history, has some seriously screwed up priorities.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    You see the same self-righteous insistence on treating debt as a spiritual evil, existing on a higher plane from rational concerns, in the German response to the Euro crises.  There seems to be something within Northern European culture (Whose descendents, including myself, still make up the majority of the majority in the US) that associates ‘making man live for the sabbath’ with courage and strength. 

  • Quuu

    Re: the CBOs budget.  Notice that Veteran’s Affairs are not considered part of ‘Defense’ spending (and I presume neither is Department of Energy, which is where the costs of nuclear warheads are put).  I mean, it’s not like those Veterans got hurt in a war or anything….

  • Lori

    **To get a 1 or 2 in other sections of the company, you bring in revenue, but because we work in  admin./clerical support division*** of
    the company and therefore do not directly create revenue, we can’t meet the most obvious criteria, yet the company insists that there are other unnamed, nebulous criteria that can earn you a 1 or 2. 

    This is one of the many, many kinds of bullshit that makes me want to scream when people yammer on about how great it would be if the supposed free market ran everything because the free market rewards hard work and success.

    I’ve lived with this same sort of “pay for evaluations” scheme and it’s a lie. Even with no specific knowledge of where you work I would be willing to bet money I can’t afford to lose that if you surveyed the entire company you wouldn’t find more than a handful of people who have ever gotten a 1 or a 2. I would further bet that those few who did get 1s or 2s got them for having some sort of “in” with upper management*, not for producing work that was so much superior to that of their peers.

    This kind of system isn’t designed to reward hard work. It’s designed to allow the company to stiff people on their wages and blame it on them rather than owning what the company is doing. This is part and parcel of the fact that wages for most Americans have been flat of decades.

    *Example from the companies I worked for: golfing with the boss, attending the same church as the boss, sleeping with the boss’ boss and being friends with the boss’ spouse.

  • vsm

    Examples
    from the companies I worked for: golfing with the boss, attending the
    same church as the boss, sleeping with the boss’ boss and being friends
    with the boss’ spouse

    Why, that just shows how the empoyees in question possessed those excellent networking skills that are all-important in our global economy.

  • Magic_Cracker

     Even with no specific knowledge of where you work I would be willing to bet money I can’t afford to lose that if you surveyed the entire company you wouldn’t find more than a handful of people who have ever gotten a 1 or a 2. I would further bet that those few who did get 1s or 2s got them for having some sort of “in” with upper management*, not for producing work that was so much superior to that of their peers.

    And to tie it back to my former career*, this is why teachers and their unions generally oppose “merit pay.” It’s not that they don’t believe that people who do good work shouldn’t be rewarded, it’s a question of what (and more to the point, who) defines “merit,” how it is measured, and who measures it. Since most merit pay scheme hinge on standardized test performance, which captures how student did on one day of the year*, it’s hardly a comprehensive view of what students have and haven’t learned.

    Add to the mix that different students have different abilities and like is clustered with like (Honors/AP kids in one class, college prep in another, and “Basic”/”Standard” in a third , separate section), and that the principals in most American schools have absolute dictatorial power over who teachers what sections of what class, you have a “merit” system rife for cronyism and nepotism — as evidenced by the “merit” systems in every private sector company I’ve worked for.

    * My comments reflect the realities of my experience as a public school teacher in the United States.
    **Imagine the shit-storm that would ensure if teachers, as protest, started giving students only one assessment per year to determine their grades for the entire course.

  • Daughter

    In that article, one of the debt collectors argued that they try to work with people, they really do.  Well, as someone who is currently going through bankruptcy, here is an example of how they try to work with you:

    Me: Hi, I’ve got this $2000 medical bill in collections that I’d like to try to work out a payment arragement for.

    Debt collector: Well, great!  We have this deal going this month: we can cut your bill in half! If you pay us $1000 in the next 30 days.

    Me: I don’t have a thousand dollars.  I can pay you $50 a month.

    DC: You have 30 days to do it.

    Me: I can’t come up with $1000 in 30 days.  But I can pay you $50 right now, and $50 every month after this.

    DC: Isn’t there someone you can borrow it from?

    Me: No.

    DC: But you can’t pass up this deal!  You won’t get a better one!

    Me: There’s nothing I can do about that; I don’t have $1000. I can pay you $50.

    DC: Well… you see, that payment is too small.  Hold on, I’ll check with my boss.

    (a few minutes later).

    DC: My boss says we can’t accept $50.  But you can pay us $167 a month for 12 months, and then it will all be paid off.

    Me: I can’t pay that much.  I can pay you $50 a month.

    DC: Well, then we can’t work with you.

    So then I’m stuck with being unable to pay the debt at all because they won’t accept the amount I’m willing to pay.

    I’ll also note that on a few occasions, I have been able to pull together the money for the 50% deals.  But that doesn’t make the remaining debt go away.  Instead, a year after you think it’s gone, you get a bill from a different collection company for the balance, sometimes with interest tacked on.  When you call and say that you worked out a deal the year before with another company, they say they know nothing about it, and the process starts all over.

  • Daughter

    Let me amend that: they won’t accept the amount I’m able to pay.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    This kind of system isn’t designed to reward hard work. It’s designed to allow the company to stiff people on their wages and blame it on them rather than owning what the company is doing. This is part and parcel of the fact that wages for most Americans have been flat of decades.

    When I worked retail at a Game Crazy store after college, I started at minimum wage, and there was an expectation that we would meet certain quotas every shift on a consistent basis or face termination.  After the first week or two of living in fear of my job for the fact that I was not meeting quota regularly, I realized that no one else was meeting quota regularly either, and no one was getting fired for it.  Those quotas were intentionally higher than anyone could expect to reach.  

    When I left that job fifteen months later, the only raise I ever received to meet the new, very slightly higher, minimum wage that had been passed since I joined.  I realized that the reason that they kept the quotas even though there were unrealistic was because it allowed them to deny paying people more.  If someone is not making quota, they can just shoot down any request for a raise by pointing that out and saying “You are lucky we don’t fire you!”  

    It was a really crappy way to structure a company.  

  • Anonymous

    I’m in a similar situation.  A few years back, I was unemployed, and, unfortunately required a trip to the ER and an overnight stay in the hospital.  Which cost $5,000.  I couldn’t pay it.  (And, to the best of my knowledge, they actually never billed me for it.  But I wasn’t terribly mentally well at the time, so I don’t know.)

    Cut to the present and their debt collector wanting to collect on the now nearly $9,000 bill (interest, it’s lovely).  That’s nearly half what I make in a year.  Their solution?  Get a loan.  Ahahahhahaha.  Yeah, right.  So now they’re taking me to court.

    Fortunately, I have parents who can afford to pay their…for lack of a better term, pay off offer.  Which is still more than I could give them if I sold everything I own.  If I didn’t have non-poor relatives, I would be screwed.  Because they can garnish up to a quarter of your “disposable income” and that term (which is a bloody lie) refers to everything that’s left after federal tax and social security are taken out.  I guess things like food and a roof over one’s head are optional.

    The whole thing makes me so incredibly angry.  We need universal healthcare (that’s where a lot of the debt of the poor comes from), we need some sort of forgiveness for people with student loans who, thanks to the economy are currently working at Burger King, and we need the government to help with the lack of jobs and people being stuck with mortgages that are for far more than their house is now worth.

    Or we need to eat the rich.

    I’d prefer the first idea.

  • Anonymous

    Daughter, your story gave me flashbacks to when I temped at the credit company. (My job was to go through the paper work for recently purchased sub-prime balloon loans, keep the originals, and chuck the copies*) I was seated near the collections people and not only generally badger people for money they didn’t have (
    (“Don’t you have anything you can sell?” “Can you get money from friends or family?”) , they were frequently abusive, screaming and people calling them losers, liars, scumbags**, and the like because they couldn’t make the payments on the schedule the collectors demanded. On the collections side, it was an entire office organized according to the principles of the Milgram Experiment. From the “customer” side, I wonder why they didn’t just hang up***.

    * Wherein I learned to never get an adjustable-rate loan and to always have health insurance.
    ** This term originally referred to used condoms.
    *** A friend of mine always had collection agents bothering her. She handled it very simply. “I don’t have the money, and if I did, I wouldn’t give it to you because I need it for other things.” Click. Then again, they were after her for credit card debt, not a home mortgage, so it was easier for her to evade them.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve been lucky then, since such “deals” have come with written acknowledgement that the debt is satisfied.

  • P J Evans

     The one bookstore left in my area is in a shopping center in an upscale area. I feel like I shouldn’t even be there when I go in looking for real books: I’m not anywhere close to the people they normally aim for.

  • Lori

    I was seated near the collections people and not only generally badger
    people for money they didn’t have (“Don’t you have anything you can
    sell?” “Can you get money from friends or family?”) , they were
    frequently abusive, screaming and people calling them losers, liars,
    scumbags**, and the like because they couldn’t make the payments on the
    schedule the collectors demanded. 

    A direct quote: “I don’t care what your “situation” is. You need to get the money from somewhere and you need to do it now. You have family. Get out there and get the money from them and stop trying to cheat me.”

    On the collections side, it was an
    entire office organized according to the principles of the Milgram
    Experiment. From the “customer” side, I wonder why they didn’t just hang
    up***.

    If you hang up they call back, either immediately or the next day. If you absorb their abuse you can usually get a few day respite before they call again.

    The easiest thing to do once you’ve answered their questions and they’ve moved from information gathering to abuse is just put the phone on mute, set it away from your ear and what for them to finish.

    *** A friend of mine always had collection agents bothering her. She
    handled it very simply. “I don’t have the money, and if I did, I
    wouldn’t give it to you because I need it for other things.” Click. Then
    again, they were after her for credit card debt, not a home mortgage,
    so it was easier for her to evade them.

    Per the articles about the return of debtor’s prison, this method no longer works so well.

  • Lori

    I’ve been lucky then, since such “deals” have come with written acknowledgement that the debt is satisfied.

    No one should ever enter a debt reduction deal of any sort without written confirmation. You need a written agreement before you give them any money that states exactly how much they’re settling with you for. (Total debt is $X, settlement is $Y to be paid in the following manner.) After you’ve paid you need a receipt/written acknowledgement that the debt is considered closed.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—collection agencies are not always your enemy but they are never, ever your friend.

  • FangsFirst

    But the rich have always given me an unpleasant crawly feeling.  I feel a
    wave of dread when I visit my parents’ home in a gated community in an
    upper-middle-class-to-wealthy township.  Stores that remind me of the
    nouveau-riche attitude–artificial, wasteful, encouraging you to flaunt
    your money as if it were somehow a sign of superiority–make me gag. 
    And I am every bit as dead-set against marrying a wealthy man as my
    father is determined to find me a wealthy husband.

    I’ve only been able to figure it’s one of the blessings of AS that I was never able to get that feeling. I tend to feel uncomfortable in the homes of the rich (we bounced around the varieties of middle class as I understand them) but never unpleasant exactly. Or maybe they were all upper middle class, actually…hmm.

    Somehow my sister developed a more open loathing of the wealthy. I don’t really get that. (Unpleasant and crawly, I can understand. Seems similar to my discomfort, but more emotionally motivated, or something.) I think my sister got a lot more of the “snobby make fun of me” mentality, but I’m not sure.

    It is funny, as far as avoiding marrying the wealthy: the daughter I mentioned fell for a guy who makes nothing, and has no ambition, actually. That’s the guy she wants to marry, though she was once betrothed (as a teenager) to some guy twice her age or more. She also once dated a guy–who still wants to marry her–who jetsets around the world making vaguely shady business deals who can still just pour money on her. Tried to pay off the guy with no money to get him to leave her alone, actually (didn’t work).

  • Anonymous

    And something about those shopping centers seems so much more fake than other shopping centers too, no?  It’s eerie, like they’re part of an elaborate movie set or selling to giant Barbies or something.

  • Hawker40

    I have to admit, I feel it to.  At the upscale mall near me, I feel like I’m unwanted, that the place isn’t meant to serve “my kind”.
    (I go there for the bookstore.  It’s the only one left in my sector of San Diego.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    The other thing to keep in mind with those deals is that the amound of debt you’re “forgiven” is considered income, and has to be claimed when you file your taxes.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It’s hard to draw generalizations (Isn’t it always?). Some of the biggest “Bootstraps, people!” douchemillners I’ve met are people who grew up poor, had a stroke of luck that elevated them, and are now trying to pull up the rope behind them. But others with basically the same circumstances turned out compassionate and fully cognisant of how the system does wrong by people. 

    On balance, the lower end of the working class that *I personally* have known weren’t “really nice people” but “People who have had any semblance of niceness burned away by frustration and exhaustion,” while the few *very* rich people I’ve known personally had a profound sense of indebtedness.  The people I’ve known who were “snobby” and “thought they were better than everyone else” were most often people not at the top, but people who’d *moved up*. 

    And at the same time, I’ve met plenty of nice, kind, compassionate folks among the working poor, and I’ve known a few wealthy people who were entitled assholes. 

    It’s almost as if there isn’t a causal relationship between wealth and character.

  • FangsFirst

    On balance, the lower end of the working class that *I personally* have
    known weren’t “really nice people” but “People who have had any
    semblance of niceness burned away by frustration and exhaustion,”

    The people I’m around daily are all pretty decent on the friendly front. But, man, do they ever make me feel like I’m a naïve dupe.
    “Yeah, they probably just got all those toys they just returned from the mission this morning, who were handing out toys. And there are kids who could really use those toys and now won’t get anything.”
    Stuff like that. All way more suspicious and unforgiving than me.

  • Anonymous

    …What?  Having a slightly-less-negative amount of money is the same as having a larger positive amount of money in the government’s eyes?

    There is so much wrong with that.

  • JohnD

    Two infographics about money, and no one’s mentioned the ultimate: Randall “xkcd” Munroe’s giant chart with ALL the “money” in the world. Divided into blocks of single dollars, thousands, millions, and billions, all sorted by size:

    http://xkcd.com/980/

    See how big companies/countries are compared to each other! (And how tiny you are.)
    Of course, there’s a “Worker/CEO Comparison”: size that 1965 production worker gets compared to now: the same. Size of CEO’s block now compared to then: over 10 times.

    (If you have trouble navigating the graphic’s viewer in your browser, the whole picture can be downloaded at http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/money_huge.png  You can also buy a poster)

  • Daughter

    I’m not sure that’s the case, Jon.  I spoke with a tax specialist who said that it’s only if the amount of debt forgiven is over a certain amount.  I’ll see if I can find out more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    The amount can’t be terribly high – I had it happen for, I think, $1,500.
    I was offered a deal to have $3,000 debt got cut in half and my account closed out if I could pay $1,500 within 60 days.  As it happened, thanks to my bonus and income tax refund, I was able to take the deal.
    At some point I got a form telling me I had to claim the $1,500.
    (I think that was the amount – it may have been less.  Certainly, it wasn’t much more than that.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    If someone is not making quota, they can just shoot down any request
    for a raise by pointing that out and saying “You are lucky we don’t fire
    you!”  

    It was a really crappy way to structure a company.

    It’s a GREAT way to structure a company, if all you care about is higher stock prices next quarter.


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