Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Moving Targets

Jerid over at BSB had a mini-lament about chasing dead ends in the course of original reporting. I can one-up him. I've been chasing dead-ends in the course of doing Halletry (the act of blogging about stuff other people have written, which is called commentary or punditry or analysis or synthesis elsewhere, but which needs a special derogatory term in the blogosphere, because it has less value when we do it).

Tom Noe is Dead*. Or not.
There's a Honda Plant in the 12th District, which is why Pat is so concerned about the Farm Bill. Or not?

And over it all hovers a Plain Dealer editorial. It's what has me sarcastically invoking Senior Editor Joe up there in the last paragraph, and it is the second most infuriating thing that JMZ linked to in her Remains yesterday, though even she and her sympathetic commenters don't quite get it. The editorial ends:

We'll see. Net-roots activists like their politics undiluted by moderation or pragmatism; they think that's the way to mobilize Democratic voters.

Some have said that this is offensive because it unfairly generalizes from Kos to the larger Lefty Blogs universe. The problem is that it isn't even remotely true of Kos, champion of guys like Tester and Webb.

As for the most offensive thing, well, apparently Toledo is hostile to wealthy people. I don't know Maggie Thurber, and it's probably not appropriate for me to do anything that looks like picking a fight here on my turf, but statements like these are all too common, and reflect the casual sense of entitlement and smug superiority among many "conservatives:"

Can you imagine the outcry if local leaders said they were going to subsidize the creation of luxury housing - perhaps in the planned Marina District - in order to attract those with enough disposable income to generously contribute to the economic revitalization of the downtown area?

Tell you what Ms. Thurber, here in Columbus the highest price luxury housing you might hope to find is at Miranova, which lured wealthy buyers with subsidies in the form of a property tax abatement. Imagine the outcry**.

*YDS is much better informed than I am. Perhaps Bernadette is a widow and I'm simply out of the loop. It's happened before.

** Well, to be fair, there was an outcry by Pat Tiberi's campaign, those great demonizers of the wealthy, at least in regards to one person getting one of those tax abatements.


Jill said...

Halletry. Love it. My I'm not spam letters? RTYWB - as in rooty web.

Maggie Thurber said...

Sadly, I didn't see your post right away.

Unfortunately, I think you may have misunderstood ...

My post was based upon this quote from a friend:
Without this layer of people we are reduced to asking poor people to go into debt to support art. We have to get excited about the numbers of people in poverty because there is money to hand out rather than jobs. We put the burden of keeping non-profits operational on the backs of low wage earners through levies rather than the fundraising efforts of people who do not have to worry about the price of gas.

Unfortunately, the idea of catering to those with 'wealth' doesn't go over well in Toledo. Aside from my basic conservative philosophy which says that government shouldn't 'subsidize' most things it does, locally many on the other side of the aisle would revolt if leaders said they were going to subsidize luxury housing. Afterall, they're the ones least likely to need it - especially when Toledo has those in greater need.

Perhaps Toledo could learn from Columbus ... nah...I doubt it...

bonobo said...

Maggie, although your post may have been inspired by that quote, the overall theme was summed up a bit better by your initial response:

And I think that she's raised a very valid point - that we discourage or penalize those who attain wealth. We tax them, we take from them to give to others, we call their companies 'evil corporations,' we criticize them when they spend their own money on themselves, we blame them for excessiveness - especially when it appears that they contribute to 'global warming' ... But you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who'd say they don't want more money than they have right now.

Maggie, I'm not from Toledo. It is quite possible that Toledo is a special case, where all of the self-serving vacuous accusations of self-satisfied conservatives are not merely self-serving vacuous accusations, but simple facts. So please, help me out, and point to some articles in the Blade -

1) One that names a local person whose wealth is "normally" described as coming at the expense of others.

2) One that names a politician who has confused the central pillar of Capitalism, "Scarcity of Resources," with the notion that Toledo is a closed loop "limited pie."

3) One that names Anyone who has claimed that anyone shouldn't have wealth.

These accusations, almost anywhere else in America would be, pardon my freedom, absolute bullshit. It's the same "some say" crap that right-wing media has relied on for years. Perhaps the Bolsheviks have all holed up in Toledo. It could've happened. I'm not from Toledo.

Of course, even if Toledo did Demonize executives, the premise of the rest would be utter crap. Executives don't create "labor jobs," the presence of labor creates the need for a management structure. Create labor jobs, management will follow. You will never create labor jobs by encouraging additional management.

Of course, as you are aware, it is entrepeneurs and investors who create jobs and amass wealth through mechanisms other than wage income. Assuming that you could attract/retain these types and their resources in Toledo, your reader seems to prefer, and you seem to concur, that they not be taxed, so that they will be free to voluntarily support cultural institutions with donations rather than taxes. That's a great plan if you want to modernize the sewer system through a gala opening and foundation funding when budget priorities change.

Then, as per your aside, you should look long and hard at which communities actually are thriving in the knowledge economy. Places like San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Austin, etc. Big Bright Blue dots with progressive taxes and tons of wealthy folks.

My guess as to why you would make sweeping and likely distorted/false statements (I'm not from Toledo, it may be a special case) about attitudes toward wealth in order to support an argument that wasn't salvageable anyway, is that you are aware of a certain hostility toward the positions some wealthy people hold, or the policies that would benefit the wealthiest among us. Of course that sentiment is there.

Most commonly, as you point out, it occurs in the context of taxes. In general, some people are of the belief that government is more attuned to the interests of the wealthy than they are to the rest of the population. I, for one, would be willing to make that claim. I do think that higher incomes should be taxed at higher rates than lower incomes. I believe that the marginal benefit to society of an increase in the net income of a family earning $45,000 a year is greater than that of a similar increase in a family earning $450,000. I believe that part of the responsibility that comes with reaping the rewards of an efficient market-based economy, part of the social contract, if you will, is to cushion the long term effects of existing in a community or family that has not whethered the competition as successfully.

So yes, I'm likely to say that 'we need "_______" more than we need a tax cut for the rich.' And when I hear people whine that they are entitled to everything they have ever gotten, it infuriates me as much as "welfare Queen" bedtime stories infuriate conservatives.

So Maggie,I'm sure you are both an intelligent and good person, and for all I know I could be the exact type of short-sighted class-envious demonizer that is holding Toledo back. Honestly, as I don't really know you as either a person or a public figure, I'm a little uncomfortable directing this at you as an individual. But in that post...I think you're wrong. Very wrong. Lots of separate instances of varying intensity wrong.

At least you would be if you weren't in Toledo.

Maggie Thurber said...

Well, I understand the points you are making and I can agree with some, but not others.

I cannot point to a specific instance of the Blade or a politician making the generalized statements I quote. I relied upon my 13 years in public service and the many conversations I've had with other Toledo politicians as the basis for the generalizations - and they are generalizations specific to the Toledo area.

I don't believe that individuals and corporations shouldn't be taxed...but I do believe that local tax structures can be either an incentive or disincentive to do business within a city. When you see taxes constantly going up, while population is on the decline - and the public perceives little or no increase in services or quality of service - that's a disincentive...and that's what's happening in Toledo.

When you see emphasis placed on 'amenities' while core services and infrastructure deteriorate, that's a disincentive.

Toledo needs those with assets as well as those without to make it a successful community - and one that is attractive to growth. Sadly, it seems that our local city government doesn't recognize that fact. And so, those with the money to support such community enhancements (like theater, arts, social service orgs) have fled the area, and government leaders have tried to 'take up the slack' by supporting levies and tax the detriment of other things like roads and police.

My post was other cities within our county don't think this way. So if you'd like a personal tour and orientation, just let me know...I'm sure we'd have an informative and fun discussion along the way!