Sacrifice and Service

In The Phony Equivalence of Shared Sacrifice, Michael Maiello, the blogger formerly known as Destor, goes off on Press the Meat:

Decided to torture myself with Meet The Press this morning. Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina was a guest.  She admitted that taxes would have to rise on millionaires and billionaires.  Then she made the familiar argument that families of four who live in high cost areas don’t feel like millionaires when they make a quarter million dollars a year.  Nobody challenged her on that.  But, they never do. …

I also watched MTP, and also cringed. Fiorina happens to resemble a former coworker/friend of mine, which makes it even harder to watch her saying stupid stuff. And no one mentioned that she just about ran HP into the ground:

Carly Fiorina was widely perceived as a failure in her previous position at Lucent, and was rumored to be on her way out. … During her tenure at HP, the company’s stock price fell from $52 per share to $21 per share – a loss of 60%, costing shareholds billions of dollars. … As part of HP’s merger with Compaq, she laid off an estimated 15,000 employees… on top of the thousands of HP employees eliminated prior to the merger. … During her tenure at HP, she actively lobbied against legislation that would have limited the ability of American companies to move jobs overseas.

To her point, I earned half as much in PA as I made in CT or MD, but paid less in rents or mortgage costs. Other costs, like fuel, food, utilities — and federal taxes — were more or less the same. It wasn’t fair, it just was what it was.

The tax code is organized around several earning thresholds, and no matter where they set those thresholds, there are going to be folk in expensive areas who have higher expenses but pay the same taxes as people who earn the same money in poorer areas. Unless we thoroughly revise the tax codes, that will remain true.

Al Sharpton had made a very direct and, I thought, fair point in response to frequent calls for “shared sacrifice” to solve U.S. budget issues. He wanted to know why there should be shared sacrifice when there wasn’t shared prosperity.  Nobody answered him, and I didn’t expect them to.

They don’t have to answer him because they know he’ll be dismissed as only speaking for the blacks anyway. I found myself annoyed by everyone calling him Reverend Al. To me, Reverend Al is Al Green, but even beyond that, it plays more like a stage name than a term of respect, which would be Reverend Sharpton, of course. Maybe they should call Fiorina, The Undertaker, and David Brooks, Macho Man.

What I thought of while watching the discussion was Katharine Graham’s father, Eugene Meyer, who I read about in a long book about US newspapers. It would be interesting to see a successful business leader like Meyer on today’s news shows instead of shams like Fiorina or Jim Cramer.

Before World War I, Meyer made millions investing and speculating, but during the war and the Great Depression he took dollar-a-year positions in several government finance organizations, including Chairman of the Federal Reserve and President of the World Bank. He also bought and resuscitated the Washington Post.

Meyer was a sharp businessman, but like many wealthy men of that era believed that at a certain point one’s career should turn from business to public service, and eventually to philanthropy. Today’s wealthy do indulge in charitable giving, but they don’t seem to ever stop trying to make more and more money.


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: