10) The Technocratic Class
Then there is the class and cultural divide. Opening a bakery at 5AM for forty years or owning a fleet of semis is a constant headache in a way being the regional director of the Department of the Interior is not. By that, I mean it is far harder to net $150,000 in the muscular private sector than in the world of the tenured bureaucratic technocracy. If one reads the resumes of a Steven Chu, Hilda Solis, Eric Holder or Barack Obama there is a long government cursus honorum that almost ensures that none of these grandees has a clue how a business works or how fragile is expected income, how sure are expenses. So the technocratic class that soared to prosperity through government subsidies and employment is somewhat resented by the more conservative small business private sector that both supports it and so frequently finds itself on the receiving end of the latter’s disdain. The biggest myth is the prior Obamas’ boast of something like, “I could have made more in the private sector, but nobly chose to serve the community.” I doubt whether either Obama had the skill to soar in the corporate predatory sky. And why is it that the well-salaried bureaucrat always sighs that he could have made more in the private sector, as if he could have walked into a similarly tenured job at Exxon and would not have had to first hustle as a salesmen to earn what he does?
The 5% who pay nearly 60% of the taxes, while not monolithic, feel that they are pawns in a larger jaded chess game, in which the bishops and rooks have rigged the board: always higher taxes fuel bigger government, which fuels an expanding recipient class which pays homage by reelecting more big-government statists who further fuel government for sympathetic dependent voters. For the conservative, who sees dependencies and overregulation everywhere, each extra dime in taxes means more of what will turn us into a failed redistributive Greece. One group is expanding, the other shrinking in our Darwinian world of tax and spend.
Liberals talk as if we live in the world of coal-dusted Dickensian London and the Cratchits, or perhaps millions are still like the Joads putt-putting in smoky cars from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Yes, there is poverty, but it transcends income, entitlements, and most of the rules of what used to apply in the pre-globalized world. My local Wal-Mart — in the poorest section of one of the poorest counties in a near bankrupt state — does a brisk business in new cell phones, DVDs, big-screen TVs, laptops, and discretionary purchasing. Black Friday was nightmarish when I drove by. When I was ten, few of the middle class had air conditioners; now most of the poor do, whether in their homes or cars. The onset of a billion new global workers, cheap consumer items, technological revolution, and government cash has meant that someone with a “below the poverty line” income can purchase cheap clothing and gadgetry that forty years ago were the mark of an aristocrat. The ability to call a foreign country on a cell phone for 5 cents a minute from the check-out counter never computes in any standard of wealth and poverty. In our world, it is “What THEY have,” not “What I have,” that counts.
The above is not a bold plea not to pay taxes, but a feeble rear-guard action to remind some why 50% of an income paid in assorted taxes is enough — and why more is not just unnecessary, but will more likely make things far worse. Had Obama been, even for a year, an electrical contractor or Starbucks manager rather than spent a lifetime in academia, community organizing, or comfortably employed by some sort of government, he would have had a different view of taxes and expenses. I might suggest from experience that I knew a lot of independent farmers who could have done graduate work at a Stanford or UC, but not too many Stanford Ph.Ds who could have run and survived on a 400-acre operation of cotton, almonds, and citrus.