August 31, 2012

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

A few months ago, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. By some accounts it’s the largest annual event of its kind in the nation, overtaking the entire campus of the University of Southern California for two days each spring.

Ostensibly this event is all about books, but in practice anyone can rent a booth to promote just about any product or any cause under the sun. Nearly every religion or political movement that you can name, is represented here. Target puts on a stage show for the kiddies; Ben & Jerry’s gives out free ice cream.

And then there are the rogue exhibitors, the ones who were too cheap *ahem* excuse me, couldn’t afford to rent a booth. They walk around with a suitcase, looking suspicious, dodging the many security guards. Pssst! Hey buddy, wanna read my book?

The Times people must be in cahoots with the Tournament of Roses people across town, because it never rains on this parade and I must have walked ten miles that day in the hot sun. Taking a break for lunch, I hid out in a shady corner of a courtyard with my computer to check email. Yet another rogue exhibitor approached me, this time a man gathering signatures for a petition. His name is Phil, he told me. Apparently, the millionaires and billionaires of California don’t pay enough taxes; here’s my perfect opportunity to slap them down and extract more money from them. I thought about signing my name. Really, I did.

For about a nanosecond.

I asked him to look around the campus: They’ve got the Leventhal School of Accounting, the Marshall School of Business, the Annenberg School of Communication, and more. I don’t know much about Mr. Leventhal, but apparently he gave a few million dollars to train a bevy of bean-counters. I don’t know much about Mr. Marshall, but apparently he ponied up a pile of pesos to make more MBAs. (Walter Annenberg, I know. He invented TV Guide.)

Blank stare. Phil didn't understand.

At some point in time, I suppose these men figured out that they had more money than they needed to live on. They could put it into soybeans, or pork bellies, or venture capital, or another yacht or Gulfstream jet. Even long vacations in Paris and Monte Carlo might get old after a while; now what? Or, certainly, they could send their hard-earned loot into the infinite abyss of the U.S. Treasury, never to be seen again.

Somehow that last one, I surmise, was the least attractive of all the choices.

Instead they chose to do a good deed, to build something greater than themselves that will benefit tens (hundreds?) of thousands of young people who aspire to do great things, for many years to come. Our economy, our very civilization and way of life, are counting on them.

Phil and I talked for about half an hour, but he still didn’t get it. The upshot of his argument seems to be that if someone like Mitt Romney had less money, then he (Phil) would have more. If Mitt hadn’t shut down that steel mill years ago, he would have a job today. If Mitt paid more taxes, the national debt would plummet.

Of course, the laws of economics – and those of physics – don't work that way.

Our president says that rich folk should “pay their fair share.” Well, since about half of all working Americans don’t pay federal income tax at all, I’d like to know his definition of “fair.”  He told Joe the Plumber that the government should take their money and “spread it around.” Trouble is, it’s not his money to “spread,” and he has no constitutional authority to do so.

Mr. President?
Some would say that Romney’s effective tax rate of 14% is unbelievably low, and he must be cheating. If that’s the case, I say let the IRS investigate and let the chips fall where they may. “They” say that he obviously gained his riches by dishonest means. If this is true, then let’s gather the evidence and haul it over to the FBI. If sunshine is the best disinfectant, bring it on. But people like Harry Reid aren’t interested in facts; they just want to bring the accusation and let it hang in the air.

“They” say that Romney’s millions in charitable contributions don’t count, because he gave it to that evil church. But do you know what the LDS folks do with that money? They operate a huge enterprise that feeds the poor and hungry all around the world, and you don’t have to be a Mormon to get it.

Frankly, I don’t care if Romney ever pays a nickel in taxes, ever again. Why, you ask? Because he (with his colleagues at Bain) has built a tax-generating machine that (allowing a multiplier effect) provides gainful employment for millions of people. That means billions in taxable wages! Because Bain Capital took a risk on these unknown entrepreneurs, more people can now afford to buy a house and a car and the occasional night on the town. Which is what we all say we want, right?

Some would like to punish success, to slander the successful, to tear down what others have built. That’s unfortunate, because Bain’s next customer just might provide a job for you.



  1. Great post. People like Phil make me so angry. They're just a bunch of mind numbed robots; product of public education! It's people like Romney who employ the rest of us.