Monday, April 23, 2007

Virginia Tech and the references to rich kids

The media reported that the shooter's "manifesto" expressed quite a bit of hate for what he termed "rich kids". The entire document has not been released, so I don't have first hand quotes. I have this excerpt from CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/18/vtech.shooting/):

' "You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac weren't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything," MSNBC.com quoted Cho as saying.'

I've also heard, primarily from the right-wing talkers, the term "class warfare", usually when the issue of tax reform is raised by those on the left.

I will say this: recently the rich certainly have made it pretty easy for the "have-not as much" class to feel contempt for them. Have you watched any of the reality TV shows about the rich, idle class? I'm talking about shows like The Real Housewives of Orange County, Sons of Hollywood, or The Simple Life (Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie). The display of greed, shallowness, and self-centeredness is sickening. Flaunting one's wealth used to be thought of as tacky - no more. It is easy for those of us who work, even those who work and do well, to see these people as parasites.

It is said that the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is growing, both in dollar terms and in raw numbers. The middle class is supposedly shrinking. I can't claim to have observed this. It seems to me, as I drive around the area, that most people are doing pretty well. However, if the statistics are indeed true this is not good for either the rich or those of us in the middle who appear rich to the down and out. It will lead to trouble down the road.

A big part of the problem isn't only that some people are rich and others are not. I think that most Americans do not "hate" the rich. In fact, most of us would like to become rich. But, Americans have a sense of fair play. It is part of our upbringing. We grew up expecting to play sports with competent referees. We even have rules of fair play when we fight our wars. There are rules and, thankfully, most of us abide by them.

It certainly appears that the rich have a different set of rules. For example, the CEO class, because they sit on each other's corporate boards, votes each other raises. When the CEO class gets fired they leave with huge payouts, even when they are fired for poor performance. I think Americans feel the playing field for the various classes has changed too much. The rich have always had a different set of rules due to their superior access to those in power. It has gotten out of hand though.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Virginia Tech and Gun Control

Both sides of the gun control issue have spoken up. One side claims that if it had been more difficult for the shooter to obtain the guns, the incident might not have happened. The other side claims that if another student or a teacher had been armed, the death toll could have been lower. The problem is both sides are right.

The cat is already out of the bag on the issue of gun control (I do not own a gun). Fifty years ago we might have had a chance, but now there are 235,000,000 firearms owned in the United States (source: gunsafe.org). Because this number is so huge, I believe the NRA is now correct. If you outlaw guns, the only people that will have them are those who do not care what the laws say. Strictly from a practical point of view we must allow good, law abiding people to own guns. There are already plenty of laws in some states that attempt to restrict gun ownership, but a total ban would only mean that criminals would be armed, and not the rest of us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Book That Motivated Me

I read a book about writing recently. I read How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore (www.arielgore.com). I've read a lot of books about writing over the years. But, this one actually made me do something, namely start this blog. I always thought the only way to write was the traditional way - create something and then send it out to traditional media and wait. That is no longer the case. There are lots of ways to get your work out into the world now. POD, self-publishing, blogs, websites... I can do any or all of these things. Of course, I knew that before, but this book actually got me going. The title certainly caught my eye too, having just turned 50 not too long ago.

As I read her book, I thought about street musicians. They are the ultimate free market capitalists. They stand out on a street corner and put their product out into the world as best they can. Their product quality, personality, and marketing skill will solely determine whether anyone throws money in the pot. No deceptive advertising, no bait and switch - if you like it you might give some money, or not. The web is one of the writer's street corners (though I haven't figured out yet how to receive your money even if you were so inclined). My words are now out there in the public domain. Perhaps no one will ever read them. Perhaps those that do will have scathing comments. Perhaps I will never become a famous writer before I'm dead. But, with the help of this book, I've decided to give it a try.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tax Time Lament

Why do taxes have to be so difficult?

I am not one of those who complains about the concept of paying taxes. I believe that paying taxes is our duty, our dues for living in the United States.

What I do not understand however, is why it has to be so complicated. I'm reasonably intelligent. I am college educated, successful in business, and comfortable with technology. Even though I use a computer to do my taxes, I am still rarely sure that I have done them correctly. I read the instructions and they rarely help much. Most of the time, because I try to err on the side of caution, I am convinced I am paying too much. But, there's always the nagging feeling in the far recesses of my mind that I've not paid enough and I'll get into some trouble. The real point is that I just do not know. And, that seems wrong to me. It should not be so difficult to determine if you are following the law.

I sent this to my elected officials in the House and Senate.