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View Diary: Socialism — what it isn’t (117 comments)

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  •  I don't think there's a line in the sand (5+ / 0-)

    where you can say, cross this, and you are a socialist.  

    I think it is more of a continuum.  At one end, is a completely free market, no restrictions, no regulations, no limitations on property rights, no taxation for the common good.  At the other end is complete socialism, where there is no private property, the means of production and all economic output is is owned in common, distributed according to someone's notion of need.

    You noted that capitalism has its problems.  Of course, socialism does as well. The most famous problem with socialism is probably "the Tragedy of the Commons," the notion that people will deplete a common resource acting in accordance with their own self-interest, rather than acting in a way that is best for the group as a whole.  Essentially, the notion is that people are far, far more motivated to work and create wealth when their are doing for their own self interests (i.e. to better the lives of them and their families) than when they are working for the good of the group as a whole, and that people who do not individually benefit from the fruits of their work are far less likely to put in the extra work and effort.  The other major criticism of a move to socialism is the surrender of individual liberty.  Essentially, the more you surrender control of your property and the wealth you generate to others -- either "the commons" or a central management -- the less individual freedom you have.  The ACA is an example.  An expansion of access to health insurance is going to be accompanied by a loss of freedom for some -- you can no longer have the kind of "catastrophic" health insurance that makes economic sense for young healthy people; you are eventually going to be limited in the ability to get certain kinds of treatment; etc.  

    In reality, it seems to me that the solution has to be somewhere in the middle. We need to make sure we provide a safety net for those who are unable to provide for themselves and their families, yet we need to keep capitalism because no other economic model can come close in terms of fostering ingenuity, invention, and motivation.  I think the left and right are constantly struggling to pull the pendulum a little more in their direction. FDR pulled it more toward socialism, Reagan swung it back a bit.  Even today, few on either side are advocating a completely free market or a completely socialist situation.  

    •  Nothing there I particularly disagree with (18+ / 0-)

      I would just add a little context: the right has worked for the last 30 years to pull the perceived center to the right, and have succeeded at this project, in my judgement.

      The current economic morass is a brightly-flashing warning that the pendulum needs to go considerably toward the left (but still well short of anything resembling real, actual Socialism.)

      Break up the big banks. Pass a revival of Glass-Steagall. Put forward a program of massive public works. Make the income tax rates far more steeply progressive than it is today. Impose a Wealth Surtax on financial assets. None of that is socialism, and there is a crying need for all of it.

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

      by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 12:04:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When You See the Gusher of Wealth That Went to (15+ / 0-)

        the top .001% under Clinton as the welfare system was reformed so that it ceases helping the poor climb out of poverty, and the present Democratic admin volunteering Social Security cuts to help cut the "deficit," yes you might say the center has been pulled to the right.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 12:15:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually would be seen as socialist (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        coffeetalk

        Comment said:

        Make the income tax rates far more steeply progressive than it is today. Impose a Wealth Surtax on financial assets. None of that is socialism
        As government claims more of the economy.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 01:01:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Seen as Socialist?" (6+ / 0-)

          "Seen" by whom?

          I addressed that in the diary:

          The rejoinder is usually that the kind of proposals I make are a “step toward” socialism, and I guess one can come up with a lawyerly, Jesuitical sense in which this is “true,” but it is still a strange claim.

          Let me put it this way: Some governmental restraint of the power of corporations, modest wealth redistribution and a moderately progressive income tax are “steps toward” socialism in the sense that having a police department is a “step toward” the creation of a Gestapo.

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

          by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 01:19:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Essentially, socialist policies are those policies (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            coffeetalk, Simplify

            that increase the intervention of government into the economy  - good or bad.  This includes policies targeted to address income and wealth distribution.

            I am using "Socialist" as a technical term.  Not in the sense that some people call policies they don't like as being either socialist or fascist -- even when it does not fit the technical definition.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 01:35:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Your definition of socialism... (13+ / 0-)

              ...is anything that involves "increasing the intervention of government in the economy"?

              That's not much use as a definition, since it could include things like early 19th century tariffs, wartime government orders of materiel (or for that matter, peacetime government expenditures for things like paper, ink,desks, buildings and so forth), and even things like contract enforcement.

              If everything is socialism, then nothing is.

              The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

              by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 01:42:46 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Good comment. I found the diary very superficial, (0+ / 0-)

                in all honesty.

                I got a kick out his comment on establishment of police as one step on the road to the Gestapo. Establishment of police could also be seen as promoting the continuing general welfare by seeing that the compacts that are established among the citizenry are followed.

                How about drunk driving laws being enforced? Socialism? I think not.

                "...stories of past courage can define that ingredient..... But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul." JFK Profiles in Courage " Ontario

                by ontario on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 01:01:16 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Um, (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JosephK74, ozsea1, 84thProblem, rbird, sfbob

      You said "... yet we need capitalism because no other model can come close in terms of fostering ingenuity, invention, and motivation."

      I never understand why people say that socialism fosters the opposite in people. I think that's a little like blaming the workers when the real problem is the skilled and talented but greedy people who leave socialist economies to get rich in capitalist ones. If those more educated and creative people had stayed, socialist nations I think would compete just fine with capitalist nations. I hate to blame the 1% here, but, the so-called "failure" of socialism should not be blamed on the false idea that socialism fosters laziness, but rather that the greedy people with the important skills left the country. I just don't think it's helpful if we say that capitalism fosters invention and motivation, which seems to suggest that socialism does the opposite.  

      •  Do you think government should have power to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Utahrd

        block or hinder people (not in prison) from leaving their country of birth and emigrating to another country?  Are people the property of the government?

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 01:08:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  whoa, (4+ / 0-)

          that's not what I meant. I just meant that the reason why socialist nations have not been as good as they should have been is because the really talented people walked away. It's not the fault of socialism, but the result of greed, that was my attempted point. And the idea that socialism somehow destroys motivation is the same kind of argument that anti-union people use.

          •  The main argument against socialism is that (6+ / 0-)

            it does not fit the nature of people.  

            People most typically act in ways that fit their perceived own best interest (and what they perceive as in the best interests of those they love).  People do this regardless of the economic system they live in.  

            To dismiss this as greed just ignores reality.  Ignoring this in society is similar to an architect ignoring gravity when designing a skyscraper.

            In socialist societies, highly capable people  frequently withhold or don't develop their exceptional abilities, but far more common is ordinary people doing their job with the least effort and dedication that they can get away with - after all what they get in return will not be any different.

            A common joke in the Soviet Union was "they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."

            Societies that are strongly socialist tend to become oppressive, as motivating people with money is replaced by motivating people with the threat of punishment -- physical and otherwise.  

            If you have the chance to visit China or Russia take the time to talk with ordinary people about what life was like in the 1970s and 1980s.  You can also talk to Chinese or Russians who now live in the US - but these would be the people who decided to leave a socialist country.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:04:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What about a progressive tax code? (0+ / 0-)

              A truly steep progressive tax code would essentially resemble socialism. France has a moderately steep one now, do you think highly capable people will go galt there? Do you believe Art Laffer that higher tax rates supposedly reduce GDP? Do you think higher taxes discourage "job creators" from investing? Your argument has a little bit of that slippery slope to it.

              •  The US has on net one of the most progressive tax (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                coffeetalk, Whatithink, Sparhawk

                Codes in the world.

                When comparing how progressive tax policies are between countries, one needs to consider all the taxes.  There is more to this that the top marginal income tax rate, one needs to look at effective rates.

                To look at how progressive tax codes are, one should compare the share of tax burden paid by the different household income groups, in particular the lowest 20% to the top 20% and the mid 20% to the top 20% for simplicity (more complex measures can also be used).  

                France and the other advanced European economies have their income taxes kick in at lower incomes and very importantly have VATs of about 20% (similar to a national sales tax on most everything).  The net result of these calculations is that the US has a more progressive tax code than these other countries.

                Just to get technical as an economist.  Most people think the tax burden that one has is whatever the taxes they pay.  If you think the burden as how much less you are able to buy as a result of the tax policy, you will see the tax burden more clearly.  A classic example of this is raising the real estate tax on apartment owners.  Their typical response is to raise the rent on their tenants.  To the extent the owners increase the rent the tax is paid by the tenant and the tenant has the tax burden not the apartment owner.  

                Tax businesses that employ people in a country at high levels and the result is the businesses activity and jobs go to other countries.  The investors bear a small burden of this tax, but the resulting unemployed workers in the US have a loss larger than the taxes collected.

                The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 03:56:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The IRS tracks this data (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Whatithink
                  To look at how progressive tax codes are, one should compare the share of tax burden paid by the different household income groups, in particular the lowest 20% to the top 20% and the mid 20% to the top 20% for simplicity (more complex measures can also be used).  
                  The data can be found on a number of websites, such as here.  A very readable version that shows exactly what you are saying is here.
                •  The US is also among the worst.... (0+ / 0-)

                  In reduction of after-tax & transfers  income inequality. Taxes may be more progressive, but there is little in other ways to transfer income from the wealthiest to the poorest.

                •  This. (0+ / 0-)
                  Just to get technical as an economist.  Most people think the tax burden that one has is whatever the taxes they pay.  If you think the burden as how much less you are able to buy as a result of the tax policy, you will see the tax burden more clearly.
                  I would modify this slightly: it's not just how much less you -could- buy, but how much less you -would- buy.

                  10% tax on a $15K income?  MASSIVE TAX BURDEN.  You're literally taking food or medicine out of people's mouths, clothes off their back.

                  100% tax on all income over, say, $100mil?  VIRTUALLY NO TAX BURDEN.  Almost none of the people with incomes that would hit that point spend anywhere near their income.

            •  They never had socialism. (8+ / 0-)

              They were stuck in State Capitalism.

              As for "human nature" . . . we humans lived communally for our first 200,000 years. That is what is "natural" to us. Capitalism is unnatural, as forced competition and artificially rigged rewards are unnatural. It is unnatural to allow a system that benefits a tiny fraction of the top at the cost of the vast majority of people on the planet -- and the planet itself.

              Also, whenever someone tells you that we humans are naturally selfish and competitive, they are actually just trying to excuse the rapaciousness of alphas and sociopaths, who make up a tiny percentage of the population. They want their own pathologies to be seen as "natural" for everyone, and they've managed to convince all too many people that this is the case. They want their own total lack of empathy to be seen as the norm.

              It's not. Most of us want to live in peace and cooperatively with our neighbors, and we have a moral compass and a moral imagination which includes empathy and compassion for others. We do not seek great power and wealth. Only a fool would project the pathologies of the few onto the many.

              •  The standard of living and lifespan was very poor (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                walkshills, Sparhawk

                for all of that 200,000 years except for the past 100 years, that market based economies came about.  Life in China was terrible with no improvements until China started introducing market based economics, similarly for India over the past 20 years.

                The standard and quality of life for the poor and lower income people are highest in the countries with regulated market economies.

                In almost all instances, except for cases of government corruption, the benefits to the wealthy from their wealth creation is a small fraction of the benefits society received from the wealth created.

                The benefits for the world population from Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Roche, Steven Speilburg, George Lucas, etc.. all far exceed the wealth they received.

                The truth is that it is far far easier to become wealthy by benefiting others far more than you receive than it is to become wealthy by making others poorer in a market economy.

                The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:43:52 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Once again: (5+ / 0-)

                  No one here is proposing that we replace the market economy with something else.

                  What I've been proposing is that we move the needle on the continuum modestly (by the standards of history and the rest of the world) more in the direction of western european social democracy, and away from the current situation, which is moving relentlessly in the direction of the world described by Steinbeck:

                  There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates — died of malnutrition — because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

                  The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                  by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:53:22 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Why would we move the needle more in (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Calamity Jean, nextstep, DFWmom, Sparhawk

                    that direction? Have you been paying attention to Europe lately?

                    •  Europe is ahead of the United States... (6+ / 0-)

                      in quite a few measures of quality of life.

                      The problems they are having are as a result of them acting more like the US.

                      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                      by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:53:09 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I do know this... (0+ / 0-)

                        I've been reading how England treats people who have the same or similar condition as my daughter, and it SUCKS!!!!

                        They seized one child with ME from her parents, accusing her of being depressed, and threw her in a mental hospital where she DIED a month later from her illness, that was clearly NOT a mental health condition.

                        Another parent was trying to get homebound education for her child, which my child had to do, and was denied by her school.  

                        Doctors are refusing to give these patients referrals to specialists, and are reporting them to CPS, blaming them for their children's illnesses.

                        Their health system did a study on this condition, and basically said that adaptive pacing is not a good therapy because it's too expensive.   There is no choice with this illness. Adaptive pacing is like eating and breathing.  The translation of this study is, "It's too expensive to admit you are disabled, and therefore, we have decided that you cannot be disabled."   Their preferred treatment -- cognitive behavior therapy (close your eyes, relax and pretend there is no pain), and graded exercise therapy (just exercise harder -- which can cause a vicious flare that can make you sick for days or even weeks), do almost nothing to improve the patient's condition, and yet the medical system says that patient, even though they have no choice than to do just that.  

                        So, in certain ways that really count, Europe is not ahead of the United States.  Their medical system denies the existence of reality.

                        I wish they were ahead of us, because I believe in socialized medicine, but when it comes to M.E., Europe is failing miserably.   It is so bad that it is making the headlines.

                    •  that's a result of financialization (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      84thProblem

                      The banking cartels have pretty much run amok there; but don't worry, it's on its way here soon enough....

                      The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

                      by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:48:14 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  It started here. Not Europe. (4+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        unfangus, wasatch, sfbob, JosephK74

                        Wall Street set the dominoes falling all across the globe, and American started the neoliberal wave in the early 70s as well, pushing for financial deregulation on a massive scale.

                        IOW, America set the cancer in motion and pushed organizations like the World Bank and the WTO to push austerity and anti-labor practices.

                        Yeah, we had help. But the prime movers were on Wall Street.

                        •  The banking cartels are global in scope (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          unfangus

                          Wall St is just one of their many "enterprises"......

                          The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

                          by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 11:13:00 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Starting here. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            sfbob

                            Global in scope. Which is what I said. Wall Street is just a tag to use instead of trying to name all of the banksters, etc.

                            But American capitalists started this disaster and push it on others.

                            We're the first great power in the modern era to be economic imperialists. Conquering countries wasn't enough for us. We felt (and still feel) the need to force our economic theories on them, much to their detriment.

                            We're drug pushers of the worst kind. And the drug is capitalism.

                          •  Capitalism as such isn't the problem (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            mftalbot, sargoth

                            It is UNREGULATED capitalism which really is to blame...and the philosophy according to which ALL regulation will choke economic growth.

                            There's nothing wrong with having a market economy--nothing at all. However it is a game and games need rules as well as ways of enforcing those rules. A completely unregulated market will eventually destroy itself so, in order for it to function as well as it possibly can for the largest number of people, it needs to be regulated by an entity outside of it, namely government.

                            Those economists whose views control the way our market economy currently works are extremely resistant to any form of external regulation at all and will tolerate it only when they believe they have no choice but to accept it.

                            This view is severely deficient in that it results in the extreme concentration of wealth among a small number of the most greedy. Such as situation cannot possibly be healthy for long-term stability or survival.  Also at work here is the assumption that there is no civil society as such and no social contract and that each individual is or should be effectively on his or her own. Should any misfortune take place well, too bad. Once again, this is not a recipe for long-term stability.

                            Both portions of the above create a situation wherein there exist a relatively small number of extremely wealthy individuals, hellbent on protecting their wealth at all costs and an increasingly large number of impoverished and very angry people. We last faced such a situation in the US at the outset of the Great Depression. The reason FDR was so successful in carrying out his program is that he understood that the alternative to redistributing wealth while maintaining a market economy was a revolution, the ultimate results of which would be far beyond anyone's ability to control.

                          •  The problem is capitalism itself. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ozsea1

                            Its very structure creates economic apartheid, unless seriously checked by democracy.

                            Which means it's a stupid and irrational vehicle to have in place. It requires endless checks. Smarter to find a vehicle that doesn't need those checks in the first place, one with social justice baked into the pie.

                            Also, because of its structure, it redistributes power and wealth to the top of the pyramid. And who controls governments? Those at the top of those pyramids. So, in theory, one could at least make a weak case for having a regulated capitalist system, but in practice, this is impossible. Because the people who own government are capitalists and their interests are to keep those democratic checks at a minimum -- if they allow them at all.

                            We had one very brief time when we got some of those checks, and it happened after a major disaster (the Great Depression) and because of that disaster. The further we got away from it, the more traction capitalists got for undoing those checks. In short, we don't get to keep those checks for long, and we only get them after a massive disruption.

                            Rinse and repeat.

                            We can do better. It's the wrong system from the getgo.

                    •  Europe has been moving in the opposite direction. (0+ / 0-)

                      Don't be disingenuous.

                  •  more tears (0+ / 0-)

                    upon reading this quote. what a sick and repulsive people we have not revolted against.

                  •  I am. Capitalism needs to die. (7+ / 0-)

                    It's an immoral, unethical and unsustainable system based upon theft.

                    And "markets" are really just euphemism for the mechanics of economic apartheid.

                    No one should have to live in poverty. No one. We are born once, live once, live a very short life, and it's unethical and immoral to allow a system that slots people into classes and dooms them accordingly, based primarily on the birth lottery.

                    The only way to achieve social justice is to create an economic system that starts with equality as its base, creates on starting line for everyone, as the norm. Ours sacrifices billions of people to make a few million very rich. To let people born on third hit their triples or more.

                    That's obscene.

                •  Pure nonsense. (8+ / 0-)

                  Capitalism creates economic apartheid. That is its natural tendency. It functions as one big hoover, extracting wealth from workers, consumers and the earth and concentrating it at the top.

                  Businesses are top down enterprises, authoritarian, anti-democratic. Capitalism just takes that and multiplies it across the globe, exports it, exports that apartheid.

                  Capitalism destroys ecosystem after ecosystem as well, because it must grow or die, and it can't survive without more and more and more consumption.

                  Already, the richest 20% of the world consume 85% of all resources. So your fantasy about the supposed uplift for the masses is just that. Pure fantasy. Three billion people live on less than $2.00 a day and one billion starve.

                  That's capitalism in a nutshell.

                •  All countries have regulated market economies (0+ / 0-)

                  except perhaps Cuba, so i'm not sure whether you statement holds.
                  Contrary to your statement, Life in China and India had improved before the market reforms. Life expectancy for example in China had grown from something like the 40s to late 60s by 1979. It's a common narrative that these countries had no growth until the wonders of the market come to solve everything, but this is patent false. Just check out this chart of growth in China:
                  Chart

                  I think you're missing the point. No one disputes that some corporations have been beneficial on the whole. It is a question of whether the monetary benefits that accrue are commensurate with the value creation. For example
                  Pfizer: receives subsidised R&D credits and well as extensive support through NHI etc as well as tax breaks, educated scientists, roads etc from society. Then Pfizer demands that for coming up with a drug due to the above, it must receive billions over and above the actual cost to the company to come up with said drug. On top of that and in total disregard to what a "free market" would dictate, insists that the government enforce monopolies aka patents.

                  The problem is that most wealth generated is nothing more than economic "rents" i.e. unearned income

            •  This is just poppycock. (4+ / 0-)

              Look at Universities.  College professors are not motivated by money because bluntly we just don't make enough money.  Nonetheless, we drive ourselves into the ground doing research and publishing for the sake of both academic recognition and the intrinsic joy of figuring things up and inventing.  Universities are a perfect example of incredibly motivated people-- generally far more motivated than the private sector --without money being the cause of that motivation.  People left those countries because of political oppression and terror and because the living conditions following the revolution were absolutely dismal, not because they wanted money to do science.  

              •  I never said all people are motivated solely by (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                84thProblem, Sparhawk

                money.

                I wrote:

                People most typically act in ways that fit their perceived own best interest (and what they perceive as in the best interests of those they love).  People do this regardless of the economic system they live in.  
                Real world economists do not understand the world as people only placing value on money.  People place value on many other things in their economic decisions including: status, recognition, leisure, freedom to work on what is of interest, income security, fear of change, fear of risk, staying close to family, etc.. Of the many great entrepreneurs I have known, money was an important motivator but one of  many motivators.

                Not everyone is motivated by the same thing.  The world is a better place because of that.

                The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:58:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You said socialism (3+ / 0-)

                  squelches innovation and invention because somehow it's against people's self-interest.  That assumed a money motive.  I gave you a widespread counter example.  Moreover, the case can be made that capitalism inhibits innovation and invention.  Look at the repetitive nature of the entertainment industry, for example.

                •  I would also add, that (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  unfangus

                  you have a rather inaccurate view of real world economists.  While there is a strain of holistic economists, they are at the margins of academia in the States, are mostly a European phenomenon, and contemporary economics in the United States is overwhelmingly dominated by Chicago school orientations that reduce these issues to money and a very abstract conception of what constitutes a rational agent.

                  Your conception of self-interest seems to be premised on the idea of self-centered egoism and atomistic individuals.  You seem to assume that socialisms are necessarily of the Stalinist and Maoist variety, where people live in utter squalor, economies are centrally planned, and there is perpetual threat of political persecution.  The Northern European countries do not at all fit this model.  Many people are socialists precisely because socialism is in their self-interest, not out of any pie in the sky altruism.  Readily available social services such as health care and education increase their life potential, give them greater security, and reduce crime.  Tax dollars that would be spent on law enforcement and wars of conquest instead go back to the people in the form of these services.

                  There is no dearth of innovation and motivation within these governments and economic systems, so it's unclear as to why you think that one has to have a capitalist system in order for innovation and creativity to exist, nor why you believe that only capitalism provides a system most in accord with our self-interest.  These socialists would argue, by contrast, that capitalism is against the self-interest of the vast majority of people insofar as it creates class stagnation that renders it nearly impossible for ordinary people to improve their lot in life (if you're born poor you're statistically likely to stay poor, and likewise with the middle class), and these economies are inherently unstable, placing the 90% in perpetual economic danger.  What we have under capitalism is a new feudalism that is the very opposite of average self-interest.

            •  Selfishness as a virtue (0+ / 0-)
              The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
              ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

              At least coffeetalk knows how to frame her arguments in a cogent manner; you have to give her that.

              You, sir or madam, are merely tedious.

              The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

              by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:44:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Nextstep, try liberating the people of Denmark, (6+ / 0-)

              Sweden, Norway, and Finland from their Socialist hell. These countries successful mixed economies have the happiest, people in the world. They work at it, education, healthcare, and an economy designed to work for everyone, not just the elites.

              Isn't it a bit tired to identify socialism with these two brutal dictatorships? One of them is an oligarchic kleptocracy now, thanks to introducing Chicago school economics to police state thugs, and the other, in partnership with American financial elites, has recreated 19th century capitalism with 18th century working conditions. Bravo capitalists!

              If you talked to people from the rust belt in the American midwest who lived thru the 60s and 70s they would be tell you about how much better their lives were before America's economy was moved beyond the reach of democracy.

            •  That main argument is not true (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              sneakers563

              Socialism defined as people owning the means of production actually fits the nature of people. Think about it: if you are a metal worker, working in a steel factory, does it not make more sense that you should own the factory collectively with other workers and share in the surplus that is generated?

              Most people when thinking about socialism compare it to the actually exisiting socialism/communism of China/USSR etc that was very far from what democratic socialism really is. Those systems were nothing more than state capitalism with some features of socialism/communism.

              Along those lines, I think your statement that socialist societies tend toward oppression. Again, were those societies you are describing actually socialist?

      •  That's the failure of socialism (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, Sky Net, Nowhere Man
        If those more educated and creative people had stayed, socialist nations I think would compete just fine with capitalist nations.
        Why do those educated and creative people leave socialist economies?  Because they can use their talents and creativity to make a better life for themselves, and their families, in a capitalist society.  If you are going to invent the some tremendous advancement in science, are you better off doing it in a capitalist economy where you and your family can reap a large portion of the financial reward from your creation, or in a socialist society, where you are told, thank you very much, good job, you stay in your same small house with your same small car and take your one economic vacation a year?  

        That's the whole point.  Most people -- me included, frankly -- are working to make their own lives, and the lives of their families, better.  That's a big part of why I studied so much in school, why I spent four years of my life in college, three years of my life in law school, and why I've been working on average 50 - 60 hours a week since I graduated from law school.  Sure, I'm happy with making things better for others.  But if it didn't individually benefit my family and my children -- if I didn't see a real impact on our individual standard of living -- there's no way I would have spent my life working as hard as I have.  

        Capitalism takes advantage of the fact that people will work more, will be more creative and inventive, and will take more risks (such as opening their own business with a creative idea) when they are working for their individual self interests.  The problem with socialism is that people are far less likely to do those things the less it benefits them individually.

        Of course, pure and unregulated capitalism has its faults, most notably in a failure to deal with those who cannot support themselves.  That's why pure and unregulated capitalism is not the answer, either.  The answer, in my view, is regulated capitalism -- keeping markets free enough so that you provide that incentive to work in one's own self-interest, but regulated enough so that most people have an opportunity to make their own lives better (not all become zillionaires -- that can't ever happen -- but so that most people, with enough hard work, determination, and good decisions can improve life for themselves and their families) and so that we take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.  

        •  What about the tendency... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          84thProblem, sfbob

          ...of capitalism to concentrate wealth, and thus power, in fewer and fewer hands at the top of the heap?

          This is a structural feature of capitalism (after all, it's called Capitalism, and not Laborism.) The options are: 1. Do nothing (result: a Dickensian nightmare for workers); 2. Completely overthrow capitalism (result: long, boring Brezhnev speeches from the 1970s); or, between these two extremes, regulations whose purpose is to correct the imbalances inherent to market economies.

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

          by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 01:25:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree with coffee talk (0+ / 0-)

            about the continuum of socialism and capitalism. And I guess my point, respectfully, is that if we accept the right's argument that capitalism is the single best system for ingenuity and motivation, doesn't that mean that the converse (or inverse) about socialism is true? How do we argue for more steps to the left in that continuum if we are "agreeing" with the right wing that it is destructive to motivation, ingenuity, and inventiveness?

            •  Because the "single best system" is not (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              84thProblem, DFWmom

              PURE, UNREGULATED capitalism.  We've never had that.  We have a modified capitalism.  Some aspects are socialistic -- our infrastructure (roads, bridges) are socialistic; our police and fire services, etc.  We have community ownership of certain aspects of our lives, in those areas where the private market cannot efficiently provide services.  

              The "single best system" is some sort of modified capitalism -- community ownership of those areas where the free market cannot function.  The argument is over what those areas should be -- the left would include more areas (more socialism), the right, or libertarians especially, would include fewer areas (less socialism).  And, we should have a regulated capitalism that provides most people with the opportunity necessary to gain skills that they can use to make their own lives better, as well as provide a safety net for those who cannot take care of themselves.  Again, the argument between the left and the right is how to do that.  

          •  I don't think that's a failure of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk

            capitalism as much as it is the ebb and flow of changes to our economy.

            Right now, I think that the increasing difference in income is a result of the fact that we are becoming more of an information/education economy and less of a labor economy.  For the most part, if you have specialized knowledge or skill, you do well; unskilled labor is becoming far less valued and far less rewarded.  The good jobs that one could do, and earn a good living, without specialized training or advanced education (like manufacturing jobs) are being replaced by cheaper labor overseas (a result of the globalization, better transportation, etc.) or are being replaced by automation (a result of better technology). I think the gap between the earning capacity of those who are highly skilled and/or highly educated, and those who are not, is growing and will continue to grow, because that is where globalization and technology are leading us.

            The solution is not to replace capitalism.  That simply brings down the top end of the economic scale, stifles innovation, invention, and hard work, and "shrinks the pie." Rather than focus on bringing down the top end of the economic scale, the solution, it seems to me, is to focus on bringing up the bottom end of the economic scale:  do  more to provide everyone with the opportunity to get the skills necessary to improve their own lives.

            •  again with the "all or nothing" (5+ / 0-)

              Firstly, no one is calling for the "replacement" of capitalism, just for the restraint of its worst tendencies.

              Right now, I think that the increasing difference in income is a result of the fact that we are becoming more of an information/education economy and less of a labor economy.

              It has more to do with the gutting of labor's power beginning with Reagan, the free trade selling out of American labor, the cutting of the top marginal tax rate by two thirds, the steady weakening of the web of programs that support the poor (the goal being a workforce that is frightened and servile) and much else.

              For the most part, if you have specialized knowledge or skill, you do well; unskilled labor is becoming far less valued and far less rewarded.  The good jobs that one could do, and earn a good living, without specialized training or advanced education (like manufacturing jobs) are being replaced by cheaper labor overseas (a result of the globalization, better transportation, etc.) or are being replaced by automation (a result of better technology). I think the gap between the earning capacity of those who are highly skilled and/or highly educated, and those who are not, is growing and will continue to grow, because that is where globalization and technology are leading us.

              See above - and if you think those high-skill jobs can't be outsourced, think again - increasing, the better-paid jobs are being offshored too - computer programming and engineering, product design, the more grunt-work-for-lowly-associates kind of lawyer work, and so on.

              It is also worth mentioning that European countries have greater social mobility, higher tax rates, stronger labor, and far less poverty than the US.

              The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

              by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:35:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You are wrong about (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk

                several things, but I'll start with the easiest to refute.  The "reducing of top marginal rates by 2/3" DIDN'T substantially reduce the taxes paid by the top 1%.  That's because those high marginal rates were coupled with so many exemptions and loopholes that nobody paid them on very much income.  

                The CBO, which began keeping track of such data in 1979, backs that up.  It tracks EFFECTIVE tax rates (which is much closer to what people actually pay in taxes).  Look at the SECOND chart here, which tracks effective individual federal income tax rates.  What the top 1% pay in federal income taxes does not track "top marginal rates" because what they pay is based on far more than just "top marginal rates."  The top 1% paid MORE under Clinton's top marginal rate of 39.6% than they did under the 70% pre-Reagan, largely because of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which eliminated many of the deductions/exemptions/shelters available under those 70% rates.  

                After the fiscal cliff deal, the top 1% likely will be paying the highest EFFECTIVE tax rate since the CBO began keeping score in 1979. They are going back to the Clinton rates, but some deductions that were available back then are now being phased out at higher income levels. Federal income taxes are very progressive now -- compare the amount of income for the top households with the amount of income taxes that they pay.  The IRS keeps those statistics, and you can see that IRS data summarized here .  The top 1%, for example, has 17% of the income and pays 36% of the income taxes.  

                The top 1% did pay less under Bush than they had under Clinton.  But the fiscal cliff deal, along with the other tax measures passed since Obama took office, means that, beginning this year, the top 1% will be back to paying the highest EFFECTIVE rate they've paid since the CBO began keeping score.  

                •  You're right about effective rates... (4+ / 0-)

                  ...but you need to consider the nature of the deductions with which top earners lower their effective tax rate.

                  Deductions for things like mortgage interest on the 10,000 square foot Aspen vacation house, or for various kinds of rent-seeking behavior, ought to be limited; deductions for things like building a factory that employs American workers ought to be encouraged.

                  Structure the economy so that gains are widely shared, and everyone is better off; structure the economy (as now) so that gains go to the top, and you get unsustainable booms financed by credit, followed (when everyone's credit cards are maxed) by periodic crashes where the brunt of the suffering is done by the those at the bottom.

                  The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                  by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 03:28:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You are looking at it incorrectly, in my view. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Sparhawk

                    The question is this:  let's say you have a 55 year old CPA in a CPA firm making $200,000 married to a 55 year old architect making $200,000, living in Los Angeles, where the cost of living is pretty high.

                    How many dollars should they pay to the federal government in federal income taxes?  

                    Marginal rates, deductions, etc. are only a means to an end.  And deductions are a way to reduce the dollars you pay in a way that encourages some behavior that the federal government wants to encourage.  Deductions are what make the tax code such a mess and distort decision-making -- people make decisions based on tax consequences.  

                    Right now, people at the upper end of earned income -- working professional couples --  often pay an EFFECTIVE federal income tax rate of 26% due to the Alternative Minimum Tax.  The couple above might pay, under the AMT, maybe $100,000 or more, in federal income taxes.  (You can see estimators at places like this.) That means from the first day they go to work in January, to the last day they work in December, 2 hours of every eight hour work day goes to pay federal income taxes -- not medicare, not social security, not state taxes.  Looking at that historical chart, do you think their effective federal income tax rates should be higher? Do you think someone should have to work more than 1/4 of their day to pay federal income taxes?  How many hours a day are you willing to work to pay federal income taxes?  

                    In my view, you need to decide how much - how many dollars -- a household at various income levels should be paying in federal income taxes.  Then you write the tax code to reach that goal.

                    •  Those "distortions" you mention... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      84thProblem, DarthMeow504

                      ...are a necessity, to encourage behavior that has as its object to lessen the (currently yawningly wide) chasm between rich and poor.

                      You seem to think, like a lot of economic libertarians, that efficiency is the highest good. What I'm saying is that other factors (economic fairness, the destabilizing effects of wealth concentration at the top) ought to be considered too.

                      If effective rates are your big thing, why not give the rich higher nominal rates, in order to direct the deductions toward making life better for their fellow citizens?

                      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                      by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 04:40:04 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Actually, what I'd do (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        ozsea1

                        perhaps is simplify the tax code dramatically so that marginal rates are much closer to effective rates.  You'd lower marginal rates, and eliminate deductions, so that the top 1% all pay around an effective rate of 25%, instead of on household making $500,000 paying an effective rate of 15%, and one household making $500,000 paying an effective rate of 30%.  

                        You can have progressive stair-step rates -- exempt the first $50,000, then 5% up to $x, 10% on income from $x - $y, 20% on income from $y to $z, etc..  

                        There are ways of figuring out what the effective rate would be at each income level -- and it would be far more accurate with fewer (or no) deductions/exemptions/shelters. You could structure it so you'd know how much, as a percentage of GDP, it would bring in, and keep that at around 18-19% of GDP.  You'd want to structure it so that each level of income is paying about the same percent of the overall tax burden as they are paying now, i.e., where the top 1% pays maybe 35-36% of the income taxes.  The difference is that it would be spread out more evenly among the 1%.  And their decision making -- especially those small businesses that file as individuals -- would not be distorted by tax policy.  I'd do something similar for the corporate tax rates.  The goal is for  businesses to make decisions based on what's best for business as opposed to what gets the best tax break.  

                        I'd say perhaps because that's the direction I'd go.  I'd want to see the numbers before making a final decision.  

                        •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          84thProblem, DarthMeow504, unfangus

                          My premise is that it is a good thing for the government to do things that restrain capitalism's tendency to concentrate wealth at the top.

                          And their decision making -- especially those small businesses that file as individuals -- would not be distorted by tax policy.

                          That's one of those things that sounds great, but the net effect of making efficiency the highest good is that you eventually end up sacrificing justice on efficiency's altar.

                          I reject your apparent premise that introducing "distortions" into the economic system is always and everywhere bad.

                          Bringing things back to Ike's era: if high marginal tax rates are bad, why were the 1950s and 1960s remembered as a sort of golden age for American workers?

                          The unvarnished truth is this: your average American worker has been running in place for 30 years. During that time, productivity per worker has increased by over 40%, and those workers' pay has barely budged.

                          Almost 25 percent of American children are on food stamps. The combined number of un- and underemployment, even after four plus years of “recovery,” is still almost 16 percent. Half of all Americans struggle to feed themselves. People whose collars are blue and whose hands are callused are staring every day into a continuing economic abyss that is killing their friends and making their neighbors homeless.

                          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                          by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:23:00 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  I agree that that is the best way to write a (0+ / 0-)

                      progressive tax code, to use effective tax rates. But my point is, are you not conceding to the right their most basic premise - specifically that a progressive tax rate discourages motivation and innovation? We exist on a left/right continuum, we all agree on that, but if we moved left with a progressive effective tax rate that would bring all of our income levels to near parity, aren't you saying that our gross output would fall? That motivation would be lost? Isn't that their argument?

                      •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        unfangus

                        if we moved left with a progressive effective tax rate that would bring all of our income levels to near parity...

                        No one's proposing that. In the 1950s, the top of the income scale still made way more than the bottom.

                        The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                        by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:09:15 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  This is not a "yes or no" issue (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Sparhawk
                        specifically that a progressive tax rate discourages motivation and innovation
                        Obviously, "a progressive tax code" does not discourage motivation and innovation if it's reasonable.  We have a very progressive federal income tax system, as demonstrated by the IRS data.  I've linked it in other comments, but as I said elsewhere, it's summarized here.  We can have a progressive tax code without dampening productivity.  

                        It depends on what you mean by "a progressive tax code."  I do believe that if you get to a point where the tax burden is TOO high, people will stop producing.  Laffer is right on the extremes -- a 100% tax on incomes over $1 million will garner nothing, or very little, because then almost nobody will earn over $1 million.  No CEO would have his pay set over $1 million, no athlete would sign a contract for more than $1 million, no movie star would make more movies than it takes to garner $1 million a year.  

                        That principle applies even more at lower levels, I think.  Say you have a doctor who works 2000 hours seeing patients, has 2 nurses, and makes $1 million a year.  Say you tell him, everything over $500,000 is taxed at 75%.  That means for the second 1000 hours, he takes home maybe 10% (after state taxes, Medicare taxes, etc.) of what he works for every day. At that point, that additional income is not going to make a difference in his life or in the life of his family.  So, he'd rather work 1000 hours, fire one nurse, make his $500,000, and take the 1000 hours off to spend with his family.

                        I know that if someone capped -- or almost capped --  my income, I'd work as much I needed to to get to the cap, and then take the time to spend with my children and family rather than work a large number of hours for the small marginal increase in my take-home pay.  My life is a trade off of my time for money (I work by the hour).  At some point, based on a number of things including what I take home in pay for an hour's work, the time becomes more valuable to me than the money.

                        So the simple fact that an income tax code is progressive does not discourage motivation, innovation, and hard work.  If it gets TOO onerous at some income level, it can do that.  The question is where to find the "sweet spot" -- high enough to raise the most revenue, without decreasing productivity, which decreases your tax revenue overall.  

                        •  Here are some specific proposals (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          84thProblem, DarthMeow504, unfangus

                          Here are some proven, sensible liberal ideas.

                          1. Give workers a bigger voice in how profits are distributed. A great way to do that is by encouraging union membership. Let me put this bluntly: The government ought to do everything it can to encourage unionization across all economic sectors. A good start would be repealing the Taft-Hartley act, and passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

                          2. Use the tax system to discourage out-sized payouts for corporate executives and banksters. This will, all by itself, discourage the obscene paychecks the One Percenters currently award themselves, and would encourage them (through deductions) to do economically beneficial things with the money.

                          3. Re-regulate the financial sector. Restore and strengthen the Glass-Steagall Act. Break up the big banks to the point that the insolvency of one won’t threaten the economy. (While I’m at it: impose a retroactive tax of 100 percent on all non-salary compensation of every executive of every financial institution that received federal bailout money. It might not prevail in the ensuing litigation, but it would be amusing to watch them squirm.)

                          4. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage, and tie future increases to the rate of productivity growth. This will put subtle upward pressure from below on the wages of other workers.

                          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                          by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:59:35 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  How is this a bad thing? (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          DarthMeow504
                          That principle applies even more at lower levels, I think.  Say you have a doctor who works 2000 hours seeing patients, has 2 nurses, and makes $1 million a year.  Say you tell him, everything over $500,000 is taxed at 75%.  That means for the second 1000 hours, he takes home maybe 10% (after state taxes, Medicare taxes, etc.) of what he works for every day. At that point, that additional income is not going to make a difference in his life or in the life of his family.  So, he'd rather work 1000 hours, fire one nurse, make his $500,000, and take the 1000 hours off to spend with his family.
                          Presumably there is a demand for someone to do that second 1000 hours of work.  So a second doctor comes along, hires the newly unemployed nurse, does their 1000 hours of work and takes home half a million bucks.  At least one more person is employed and richly rewarded, there is more choice in the market and less concentration of wealth at the top.  Two wealthy families get to spend more time with their talented bread winner.

                          It's a win-win!

                          -7.38, -5.38 (that's a surprise)

                          Why must we struggle to protect the accomplishments of Democrats of the past from Democrats of the present? -- cal2010

                          by 84thProblem on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 09:09:44 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  In the real world the prices rise (0+ / 0-)

                            In the short term if the demand is the same and the supply is reduced the prices rise and that would surely be the case in this example because there are no unemployed physicians who would step in to fill the supply side. Your point could certainly be the case in professions where there is an oversupply, like lawyers.

                            "let's talk about that"

                            by VClib on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 06:38:51 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Not if it can still get them on top. (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        84thProblem, DarthMeow504

                        What the laissez-faire crowd doesn't understand is that the prospect of being on top will be enough to motivate most people, at least if "on top" is high enough.  "On top" could be a tenth as high as it is now and it'd still be a big motivator.  Would you really be less motivated to make half a billion bucks than you'd be to make five billion?  Either one is more than you could ever spend.

                        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

                        by Panurge on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:19:08 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  I have read a number of your comments here and (0+ / 0-)

                      you seem to be a well informed and conscientious commenter....I'll give you an answer for how much someone should pay in taxes.
                      It depends
                      What is the unemployment rate?
                      If we have a high unemployment rate...this is evidence that we are taxed way too much given our current sized Govt (as a % of GDP).
                      If we have full employment and start to see some higher and rising levels of general inflation.....this is evidence that our taxes are too low given our current sized Govt (as a % of GDP)
                      Taxes don't pay for anything anymore....this is the nature of fiat, non-convertible currencies.  I know, I know, we were on a gold standard that ended the first time in 1934 and then again in 1971 (after the beginning of Bretton Woods in 1946).
                      Taxes are a way of imbuing a currency with value and stimulating economic activity as the State imposes a tax liability that can only be extinguished with its own Fiat currency.
                      Taxes serve to limit aggregate demand in order to make room for Govt spending so as to not out compete the private sector for goods and services driving up prices.
                      Taxes serve to further social causes...for example, don't like carbon emissions = tax it
                      want to offer incentives to encourage homeownership = give a tax credit.
                      With that said....
                      1.  No taxes on anyone's first $50,000
                      2.  Maybe 20% tax rate on all other income (no special treatment of capital gains etc)...but it all depends on the unemployment rate + Govt spending contribution to GDP
                      3.  75% tax on all yearly income over $20 millionyear
                      4.  75% tax on all inheritance over $50 million
                      Neither 3 or 4 are for the purposes of raising revenue....aristocracy is bad
                      MMT = Reality
                      neweconomicperspectives.org

                      "The Earth is my country and Science my religion" Christiaan Huygens

                      by Auburn Parks on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:15:17 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  Wrong. They paid roughly 55% effectively. (4+ / 0-)

                  When the top rate was 91%, the richest Americans paid effective rates in the 55% realm.

                  Today, you have your Romney's who make tens of millions and pay less than 14%.

                  That never happened in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. There were actually fewer loopholes and the capital gains tax was double or triple what it is now.

                  More money was spent on production than pure speculation, too, as the financial markets were far more regulated. They were opened waaay up in the early 70s with neoliberalism and the Empire Strikes Back.

                  It's a right-wing myth that the rich paid the same effectively then as now. They pay far, far less today. It's not even close.

                  •  Please provide your source for this (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Sparhawk
                    When the top rate was 91%, the richest Americans paid effective rates in the 55% realm.
                    The CBO data, which is based on IRS information, dates back only to 1979, when the top marginal rate was 70%.  (See, for example, PDF here).

                    As far as I know, there is no similar analysis based on IRS data (which would be the only accurate way to do it) prior to 1979.  

                    If you have that kind of data, please direct me to it.  

                    Otherwise, I have to completely discount what you are saying.  

        •  I was talking to someone about (0+ / 0-)

          France, and how rich people are leaving France because of the tax rate, and I think the problem lies with the rich people who are acting greedy. I mean, it's your country, how do you just leave when they need you the most?

          You're obviously right that they can make more money in a capitalist country, but I guess I'm saying that we should point out that it is their greed that hurts socialist countries, rather than the socialist system itself somehow causes less output.

          That same argument is used against unions; that the union causes less motivation, ingenuity, etc. and I just don't think its true or helpful.

          •  What you are saying is that people (0+ / 0-)

            should act in the best interest of the community as a whole even when it is contrary to the best interests of themselves and their family.  You are saying that people should forgo a better life for themselves and their family if it is in the best interests of their neighbors. People don't behave that way.  Even good people, for the most part, don't behave that way.  Most people will put the best interests of their own families, of their own children, first. And I don't think it's realistic to expect an entire society to say, "I'll work extra hard, more than my next door neighbor, because even though it doesn't do much for me or my family, it helps the community as a whole, including my next door neighbor who is working less, or who didn't spend an extra seven years of his life in school, or who isn't risking his family's livelihood on some new idea.  

            •  You're missing the point (3+ / 0-)

              People want to live in a society where basic fairness is valued and, if necessary, enforced by law.

              The New Dealers (from whence much of “liberal” economics comes) had a central insight: unregulated capitalism tends to concentrate wealth, and thus power, in a smaller and smaller slice of people at the top of the economic pile. This eventually leads to crisis, because so much wealth is concentrated at the top that the rest of society does not have enough money to buy the products the elites are producing. Of course, elites can respond by loosening credit so that their workers can go into debt to buy their stuff, but eventually the credit cards are maxed, and then everything grinds to a halt. And by “grinds to a halt,” I mean, “people stop buying things, and then everyone – including the elites – stares terrified into the economic abyss.” See 1929 and 2008 for some sense of what that experience is like.

              Liberalism is designed to prevent capitalism from self-destructing by supporting the bargaining power of workers, restraining the myopic and ultimately self-destructive greed of the rich through progressive income taxes, and so on. It came to save capitalism, not to destroy it.

              The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

              by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:00:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I am not arguing against regulated capitalism (0+ / 0-)

                I am not arguing for a completely free market.  

                What I am saying is that socialism is a bad as unregulated capitalism.  The solution is somewhere in the middle: capitalism that allows people to get rich through talent, innovation, invention, and hard work, but is regulated enough so that everybody has an opportunity to better their own lives, and that happens by providing more people with the opportunity to gain the education and skills necessary, in our information-based economy, to make a better life for themselves and their families.

                I'm no Bill Gates myself -- I'm a lawyer in a mid-size city (New Orleans).  I've managed to build a pretty good life for my family and my children, largely because I worked really hard in school, sacrificed seven years of my life post-high school, and have been working 50-60 hours a week on average ever since.  I have no desire to take away the wealth of zillionaires like Al Copeland, who started with a little chicken stand in Arabi, Louisiana and built Popeye's Fried Chicken.  What I do think we ought to do is more to see to it that everybody has the opportunity to get marketable skills (a marketable vocation, or college, if they want to and have the scholastic skills) to make a better life for themselves.  And we should provide a social saftety net for people who cannot take care of themselves.  That's the regulation of capitalism I would favor.  

                •  And Al Copeland's reward... (0+ / 0-)

                  is that he gets to be on top, from which lofty perch he cannot complain.  

                  The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

                  by Panurge on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:24:19 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  I like to think that most people would. (0+ / 0-)

              You're like my first friend here and I hate to be so contrarian like this, but socialism is based on these ideas. I think you're always going to have some greedy, selfish people, but I feel like your position gives credit to the right wing argument against a whole bunch of our ideas. I mean, even a steeply progressive tax code, which I think was mentioned above, would get battered by your argument. If people really are that selfish, I mean all of them, then you're basically saying that CEO's, doctors, etc. should really be paid more than teachers and police officers, or they won't get the extra education that those jobs take.

              •  I am saying exactly this (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk
                then you're basically saying that CEO's, doctors, etc. should really be paid more than teachers and police officers, or they won't get the extra education that those jobs take.
                Yes, if a heart surgeon -- who had to go through a college, medical school, residency, and then the 12 hour days with 2 or three weeks of vacation a year --  didn't make substantially more than a teacher -- who goes to four years of college, and then gets 3 months off a year -- a lot of people wouldn't become doctors.  I am not downplaying teachers -- I have family members who are teachers.  But it is MUCH easier to become a teacher than to become a heart surgeon, and teachers work far fewer hours each year than my dad's heart surgeon does.  Not only that, but the heart surgeon has the extra stress of literally having someone's life in his hands every day.  If heart surgeons weren't paid much more than teachers, a lot of people wouldn't go through all of that.

                Do you think that if I could have made the same income without going to three years of law school, and without working 50-60 hours a week, I would have gone to law school and would have spent over 20 years working 50-60 hours a week?  Even within my profession, you can choose to teach -- it's a much easier life, far fewer hours, more secure, and less stress over running a business and over not having enough clients to pay the bills next month.  It's also less money.  That's a trade-off people consciously make, depending on their personal circumstances.

                If you could make the same thing if you (1) graduated from high school, and got a job where you worked 9-5, guaranteed income, secure job (with due process before you lose your income) or (2) went to 8 years of post-high school education, incurred the debt for that, had a residency, worked 50-60 hours a week, plus had to constantly worry that you wouldn't be able to bring in enough new business to make any income next month, and could lose your business if you weren't able to attract more business -- which would you choose?  

                It's the reason that, in colleges, engineers right now make more than, say, film studies or art majors.  Lots of people who major in things like engineering would love to spend their lives talking about films or art.  But they know it doesn't give them nearly the opportunity for making a good life for themselves that a degree in engineering does.  So, they choose a major that is more marketable -- i.e., presents them with a better opportunity for a future.  It's a trade off.  Engineering is less fun, but it pays better.  

                Life is a trade off.  For some people, it is worth doing the harder, more strenuous, more demanding -- and sometimes more unpleasant things -- for a better financial reward.  For others, it is not.

                What we need to do is provide everyone the opportunity to  be able to make those choices.  We need to make sure every child who is capable has the opportunity -- if he or she is capable AND is willing to make the tremendous sacrifices -- to become a heart surgeon.  We need to make sure that every child grows into an adult who has the opportunity to make those choices.

                •  What if... (2+ / 0-)

                  ...medical education was supported by tax dollars - such that, if you've got the smarts and drive to go to medical school, then we as a society will pay for your education and training, since we will benefit from your skills when you're done?

                  One very savvy thing the oligarchy has done is to raise the price of education to the point that people with the education to notice the rigged nature of the game are afraid of stepping out of line and speaking up, since they graduate owing so much money that doing anything other than selling their souls to The Machine will result in them being economically crippled for the rest of their lives.

                  The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                  by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 03:38:36 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The cost of education is only a part (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Sparhawk

                    I agree that we need to make higher education more accessible.  Here in Louisiana, thanks to the generosity of oilman Pat Taylor, we have the TOPS plan, where if you have a certain GPA and ACT score, you can go to LSU or other state schools tuition free.  

                    I completely agree -- as I've said elsewhere -- that we need to give opportunity to every one -- opportunity means the chance to make choices to make your life better.  TOPS is a great start.  But that can be done through vocational training for students who do not choose college, for example. I have a friend who graduated from high school and became a plumber.  He has made a very good life (he now owns a business and employs other plumbers).  He got that skill, and then went "over and above" to do what was necessary to own his own business.  Not every one will choose to do that, because getting to the point where you own your own plumbing business is much harder, and much more work,  than simply working for someone else.  But everyone should have the opportunity, if they are able and so choose, to get the skills necessary to do that, if that's what they want.  

                    But the cost of the education is only a part.  Another part is the years of your life that you devote to education -- years where others are out earning a living.  In addition, things like medical school are hard and not fun.  Not. At. All.  And the life of a doctor (if you are a good one, the kind who makes a lot of money) is not an easy one.  Not. At. All.  I think of my dad's heart doctor, who sees patients all day and then can be found making the rounds to see the patients in the hospital at 8 or 9 at night.  And who literally tries every day to save lives, and has to live with himself, and the families, when he is not able to save a life.  It's not an easy life.  That's why my dad's heart doctor makes A LOT of money.  

                    •  I know I'm the new guy, (0+ / 0-)

                      but still, your plumber friend is not any more hardworking than the plumbers who provide the labor for "his" business. Does his bumper say "Government didn't build my business - I DID!" or any other clever tea party slogans?

                      •  Yes, as a general matter, he is. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Sparhawk

                        They are plumbers.  

                        He is a plumber, PLUS he spends the extra hours doing payroll, doing bookkeeping, deciding who to hire and fire, dealing with complaints, keeping inventory, deciding how to make sure he gets enough business to keep all those other plumbers busy (and that's a very important part of the life of any small business owner) --  all sorts of things that come with running a business.  

                        The people who work for him, when they are finished fixing sinks, go home.  

                        When he's finished fixing sinks, he goes home to that other stuff.  

                        That's today.  To GET to the point where he could open his business, he worked as much overtime as he could (when he was working for others) and he and his family "did without" a lot of other things -- meals out, vacations, etc.) so he could use that money to save up to open his own business.  Nobody just throws that into your lap.  He made more sacrifices to get to the point where he could open his own business than somebody with the same skills who just was happy to go to work and go home and let somebody else do all that worry.   That's a choice he made, knowing that his sacrifices earlier would pay off for him later in life if he could manage to have a successful business of his own.  

                •  I think I just see the world a little differently (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  84thProblem

                  than you do. By your logic, motivation is purely a function of the financial reward. Would people go to law school or medical school and do that extra work for the same amount of money as a teacher? I think most would. I know I would. But then again I'm an optimist.

                  But I still wouldn't think its fair that I would make so much more as a doctor than a teacher does, when their job is just as important to society. I mean, what was the teacher doing while the doctor did the residency? eating bonbons? No, they just started working sooner.

                  And what about somebody who "only" works 40 hours, then goes home and takes care of their family? That's a bunch more work. And don't parents bring just as much benefit to society as doctors and lawyers? Why do doctors and lawyers get to say that they "work more," and therefore, should get more money?

                  •  Because that's completely unworkable (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Sparhawk

                    and unrealistic.  And I would never, never, want to live in that society.

                    Here's the big problem:  Who gets to say what "value to society" somebody brings in?  The government?  Do you realize the HUGE control over your life you would be ceding over to the government?

                    Right now, the people paying the money, and working for the money, get a lot of control (not total control -- there are limits) over setting the "value" of someone's efforts.  If I want a plumber, I can call, and he tells me what he will charge, and I decide if it's worth it to pay that, or if I want to look elsewhere, or even try to do it myself.  

                    The same happens when I hire a legal secretary.  I look at his skills, and what he can do to make my practice easier, decide what I'm willing to pay for that.  He gets to decide if he's willing to work for that.  

                    What you are talking about is some all-knowing, all-powerful dictator (or group of dictators) who get to decide what you, and I, and everyone else is "worth."  That kind of system -- where the government tells everybody what they are "worth" -- did not work out well at all for China or the Soviet Union.  

                    "Value" is a subjective thing.  Take 10 people off the street and they will disagree as to the "value" of something.  The only way to truly measure value is by a person actually being willing to pay so many of his own dollars for something else. If I'm talking in abstractions -- and talking about somebody else's dollars, not my own -- it's easy to say, "The guy who cuts my grass is as valuable as the local banker, because I see what he does every day, and I bank over the internet so I never see that banker guy.  Therefore, if YOU want your grass cut, YOU have to pay grass cutting guy $250 an hour."

                    Who do you trust to do that with your money?  

                    We are a society built on private property ownership.  that is incompatible with someone else coming in and dictating to me what my "value" is -- that even if I'm the best lawyer in the world, they think a stay at home mom is more valuable so I can only earn $x a year.   I'm fine with them having the opinion that a stay at home mom is more valuable than I am -- as long as their opinion affects THEIR actions, the choices THEY make, and what they do with THEIR money.  I should have the same right to MY opinion of "value" with MY choices, MY actions, and MY money and property.

                    •  I do see where you're coming from. (0+ / 0-)

                      If the system switched overnight, you would probably be right to feel jilted. Under the current system, you did work harder than a lot of people and I can empathize with the feelings of the high performers like you in our system. Kind of like lowering the age for a driver's license. The older people who had to wait - they feel ripped off, but the people who got it earlier don't see the problem. I guess, how do you make the jump to a socialist system? Somebody will always feel cheesed in the beginning. But after a few generations, doctors and teachers would see themselves as equals, even if one had to spend more time in school, because they would always be paid the same amount. I know the switchover from a capitalistic economy to a socialized one would be tricky, but I guess I refuse to believe that it would remove everyone's motivation to try hard. I hope you don't think I am diminishing your hard work with my banter, that's not at all my goal.  

                      •  The real problem... (5+ / 0-)

                        ...is that you two are arguing about teachers vs. doctors when the real problem is Wall Street banksters who make literally A THOUSAND TIMES MORE than they do.

                        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

                        by Panurge on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:28:28 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  And they deserve it (0+ / 0-)

                          Under the same metrics that determine the teacher and doctor salaries.

                          If they didn't perform a service of value, no one would pay them those salaries.

                          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                          by Sparhawk on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 03:23:15 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  You are confusing real value... (0+ / 0-)

                            such as that which teachers and doctors provide and fictitious value a.k.a rent extraction which is where most of the profits on Wall Street comes from. Before the 1980s, Wall Street salaries were not very different from professional careers. Ask yourself why this is no longer the case.

          •  Union employees and Union shops are more (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DarthMeow504

            productive then non union shops and the workers, who have higher pay and better benefits, are more invested in the success of the business they work for.

            •  I know! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Grabber by the Heel

              My family is union (are union?)
              anyway, unions don't hamper motivation and innovation. And I just objected a little to the description of capitalism being the superior way to motivate people. It gives legs to their lies about unions.

              I'm afraid that my signature won't match the mood of my comment.

              by heybuddy on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 02:27:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  tipped (0+ / 0-)
          The answer, in my view, is regulated capitalism -- keeping markets free enough so that you provide that incentive to work in one's own self-interest, but regulated enough so that most people have an opportunity to make their own lives better (not all become zillionaires -- that can't ever happen -- but so that most people, with enough hard work, determination, and good decisions can improve life for themselves and their families) and so that we take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.  
          Perhaps we differ only on the means, not the ends.

          The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

          by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:50:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You seem real busy. Have you traveled outside the (4+ / 0-)

          U S.? The people in Nordic countries and other European mixed economies along with Australia and New Zealand do suffer the indignity of not living in Mc Mansions, but they have month long paid vacations, or longer, and don't start out life with $30,000 to $100,000 in debt even before they purchase their little hovels. And they go to the doctor when they get sick, because some Wall St investor running an insurance company can't gate keep them from care.

          I find it galling that a greedy elite can deny the rest of us the freedom to take care of each other. To deny us a dignified commons or pride in our people and place.

          I don't want your hard earned lawyer dollars. And I don't want anybody else's hard earned ready. But I would like to live in a country that wanted to eradicate poverty more than it wants to not tax billionaires. Tko live among people shamed by a countrymen's  poverty instead feeling superior to them.

          Do you and the people you work with and work like think you are the only people busting ass? And some people who work hard and have determination never get near a situation where a good decision will improve their lives.

           

      •  Believe it or not, (0+ / 0-)

        there was quite a bit of innovation and technological development in the Soviet Union.  Setting that aside, we should question why innovation is necessarily good.  I can see why innovation is good in things like medicine and the sciences, but there innovation is driven by the pursuit of academic accomplishments, not riches (in the sciences, anyway).  If innovation means endless variation of smart phones, video game systems, furniture, clothing, etc., are these things really individual and social goods?

        The better argument for capitalism is that it solves the problem of distribution better than socialism.  The problem with the Soviet planned economy was that it couldn't adequately coordinate production and distribution to meet the needs of consumption.  They weren't able to predict what region of the empire would need what.  However, this problem only arises if your socialism is a centralized planned economy.

      •  That wouldn't have helped. Soviet Union did a (0+ / 0-)

        pretty good job preventing people from physically leaving. Soviet-style socialism indeed fostered lack of initiative since there was no incentive to change status quo and lots of incentives not to. Of course, people call a variety of things 'socialism' and some of them (e.g. high tax capitalist countries) don't have this problem.

    •  Socialism enhances individual liberty. (4+ / 0-)

      Capitalism crushes it.

      The goal of socialism is to give everyone a chance to pursue their life's dreams, rather than limiting that to those lucky enough to have the means. Capitalism concentrates wealth, opportunity, means and power at the top, so the vast majority of people are never free to be who they can be.

      In socialism, everyone builds the palace and everyone can use it. In capitalism, workers build the palace for the ruling elite, but are barred from using it.

      Also, another major goal of socialism is to radically cut the working day. Right now, we spend the vast majority of our hours making profits for ownership. If we just produced what we needed, we could all go home well before noon. And we are never less free than when we are at work. Capitalism guarantees unfreedom for at least eight hours a day -- and it used to be much longer. You're a cog in the machine when you go to work.

      Socialism, OTOH, means you work fewer hours and you do so for yourself and society, rather than for a tiny fraction of that society, ownership.

      Socialism engenders far more "individual liberty" than capitalism, and it's not even close.

    •  There's more to socialism (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, DarthMeow504, winnerforlife

      than just government ownership or control.  It is extremely important, even essential, to think in class terms.  In order for socialism to really exist it must be established by a class-conscious working class in charge of the government.  Mere "government ownership" isn't enough.  The government itself must be "owned" by the working class.

    •  heh - nice bit of framing (3+ / 0-)
      FDR pulled it more toward socialism, Reagan swung it back a bit.
      FDR,  thru Glass-Steagle, for example, helped to seriously moderate the boom-panic banking and economic cycles that had plagued this country's economy since its founding. Arguably, he helped to save the capitalists from their own excesses and greed.

      Reagan did more than "swing it back a bit"; he did everything he could to begin the process of dismantling the New Deal social programs and set loose the dogs of unregulated banking and finalization.

      Please, blow your smoke elsewhere.

      The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

      by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:38:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Lot of right wing talking points here... (4+ / 0-)

      'Essentially, the more you surrender control of your property and the wealth you generate to others -- either "the commons" or a central management -- the less individual freedom you have. "

      And that is different than what we have now? We have surrendered control of our wealth generation to the plutocratic ownership class and we surrender nothing by taking it back from them.

      True socialism is nothing more than businesses and the economy owned and ran by the employees instead of a parasitic ownership class that contributes nothing and sucks all the wealth for themselves. Some of the things you've listed here are actually aspects of communism, not socialism. In communism, no one owns anything and the economy is centrally mandated by an unelected body accountable to no one. In socialism, the workers own everything either directly or through their power in a democratic government. Communism does not reward the workers for their production, and neither does capitalism. Socialism, by contrast, does because all the money that would be sucked out by the capitalist ownership class instead is distributed equally among those who actually do the labor and generate the wealth.

      "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

      by DarthMeow504 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 03:44:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I disagree with you about Hardin (0+ / 0-)

      As Oostrom and others have shown, the "tragedy of the commons" is a description of free-market capitalism's difficulty in managing common property, not socialism's.  Hardin is describing a situation in which individuals acting in their own interest end up producing a situation that none individually desire.  It's an argument against elevating your own self-interest above all else.  Hardin's herders exist in an world with no social restraints on behavior besides the desire to maximize short-term economic gain, a situation that is far more symptomatic of capitalism than socialism.

      Further, if you look at historical examples of common property regimes, they generally did a pretty good job (although not perfect) of managing their resources.  

      As far as environmental degradation in the Soviet Union, I think it's worthwhile to point out that that after 1921, land was owned by the State, not collectively by the people.  The degradation there was a symptom of a state intent on winning an industrial race at all costs, rather than a problem inherent to common property.  

      To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

      by sneakers563 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 05:37:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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