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October 14, 2012

CUMMINS: Who decides where to distribute the wealth?

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Can money be addictive like nicotine, alcohol and poppy seeds? If you smoke and don’t have a lit one in hand, do you shake? If you have multi-millions, does it bother you that you’re not a member of the Billionaire Club yet? The current presidential race is not about Syria and the Taliban, or the environment and global warming. It’s about the redistribution of wealth. President Barack Obama wants to redistribute it, and presidential-candidate Mitt Romney does, too. The issue is, where will it go — up or down.

When I had some money, I gained more power and it was fun. Some of my relatives wanted to borrow from me, but I turned them down knowing the government provided a safety net for them. If you luck into gobs of money, be careful that the government does not take it away from you to give to former friends and relatives, who may be addicted to welfare.

Money makes you smarter, too. You move to the sunny side of the tracks, but don’t ever drive a new Caddie to where the downtrodden live, it will shock you. You’ll be better off compounding your assets over a long period of time, and then when you amass enough, use some of it for philanthropy, but keep enough to build an ark when the rainy days come.

The government distributes wealth up or down. Liberals say that during the past 30 years or so, the distribution went to those who already had it, accomplished in part by lower tax rates and deregulation of the financial and manufacturing industries. Conservatives say upward distribution allows for the creation of businesses that hire workers, who then presumably thrive.

During the past 30 years, the gap between the “haves” and those who don’t have it has widened significantly. According to the Census Bureau, the median income for a household in 2011 adjusted for inflation was $50,054, down from $53,253 in 1999. Meanwhile, one presidential candidate raked in nearly $57,000 per day on his investments, and paid about 14 percent in income taxes, a rate less than what most Americans pay. Recently, this presidential candidate described “middle” income as, “$200,000 to $250,000 or less,” which is only off by about $200,000.

  The wealthiest 25 percent of taxpayers take home 73.4 percent of household income. Everyone else splits the remaining 26.6 percent with the bottom 20 percent taking home 3.2 percent. There are approximately 46 million Americans below the poverty line. Try raising a family of four on $23,021 per year without food stamps, healthcare and a roof over your head. According to the Census Bureau, nearly a third of the population, 104 million, have incomes less than $38,000 for a family of three. Half the jobs in the U.S. pay less than $34,000.

 Romney should not be chastised for having wealth. Although he was born into wealth, he also worked hard to amass his fortune, presumably legally, and he paid the required taxes according to the law. Foreign bank accounts are legal, and ethical, too, aren’t they?

 Romney explained the situation; “There are 47 percent, who are dependent upon the government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing and you name it. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives…. I don’t worry about them.”

What was that all about? Would Romney accept campaign donations from the large segment, who are irresponsible? And therein lies the problem. Money breeds power and power breeds money.  Let’s hope Romney doesn’t believe what he said, but he felt compelled to appeal to those with the wealth, who wield the power. President Obama does the same thing. He splits his time between fundraising and campaigning while the work of being president remains on hold. How else do you win an election? Winning now boils down to accumulating multi-millions that buy negative campaign ad. It’s a travesty to the honorable American way, if there ever was one.

Whoever wins the presidency will distribute the wealth, with a large chunk going to pay off the $15 trillion debt. What little remains will be doled out to protect those who have, or to those who don’t. Whatever the outcome, the 47 percent simply want an equal opportunity to pursue the American dream. If that fades away, 100 percent of us will, too.  

Contact Terry Cummins at TLCTLC@AOL.com

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