Friday, November 30, 2012

Taking on the Household Analogy,
some help making a common conservative argument for not increasing taxes on the rich look a bit more stupid

Okay, so, you know that "model" of America's budget woes that Republicans like to use? The one that goes on about how America is like a house that's gone over budget and is now in debt and has to cut spending in order to pay its debts? Yeah, it's not a perfect metaphor. In fact, it's a perfectly awful metaphor. Here's a better one:

An extended family is living in a big house. The adults all work, contributing a share of their income to the maintenance and expenses of the household. For some reason, say, an infestation of rodents requiring a major extermination maybe, combined with some major repairs, the household is way out of its budget. Now, logically, the thing to do would be for everyone to buckle down a bit, maybe eat some store brand foods and such for a while, and pay in a bit larger share of their money into the expenses. But this time, the biggest earner (Dad?) refuses to up his contribution, complaining that everyone needs to pay more because he already pays more than everyone else does, paying more will hurt his business prospects, blah blah blah. Everyone else, well aware of how they already brown bag their lunches while dad goes out to eat every day, find this a bit unfair. After all, they're all members of the same family, arent they?

Let's take this farther: In any large family, there are members who contribute nothing to the whole. We generally think of them as children. If you have kids, you know that they are messy and expensive and getting any kind of contribution out of them is sometimes almost as much effort as doing the work yourself. Do you toss them onto the street to fend for themselves? No, you feed them, cloth them and try to teach them what they need to be productive adults. As evidenced by the twenty-something still sleeping on the couch, some of them are slow learners, but they're family, so you keep doing at least a little something in the hopes that they one day will grow all the way up.

Or how about the grandparent living in this large household? They (probably) worked all their lives, giving you what they could to make sure that you become a productive adult. So now that they no longer contribute much to the household budget, do you boot them out? "Sorry Grandma, if you cant put more into the kitty, we're going to have to put you out on the ice. I mean, we'd love to do what we could to keep you comfortable, but we've got important stuff to do with our money, so you're out of luck". Yeah, thanks for raising us, now fuck off.

What about immigrants, especially the dreaded illegal ones? How about we consider them to be an adopted kid? Do we love them any less than our own flesh and blood? Honestly? Yeah, probably. But as (supposedly) decent human beings, we still take care of them, provide at least the essentials, until, again, they grow up to be adults, productive members of the family. If you think about it, and hard thought isnt required, I'm pretty sure you can come up with some fairly successful adoptees in American history. If you cannot, try thinking harder, or perhaps consider their children*. As for all the ballyhoo about Illegals, they represent about a fourth of America's immigrant population, and I'd be willing to bet that while we've gotten better at tracking and detecting them, that the percentage of those entering the country through legitimate channels and those not hasnt actually changed in the whole 200+ years of our history.

So that's my thought. Feel free to use this when arguing with Republicans who dont think that the wealthy ought to be asked to pay more to maintain the country. The arguments against that are well-honed, but no less dumb for that. If Liberals had as much money to burn as conservatives did, no doubt they'd have some carefully crafted and polished arguments as well, but I'm afraid we'll have to rely on crowd-sourcing instead.

Interesting tidbit regarding the above photo. It is, naturally, from Google Images. After the first page, all the rest of the extended families were, well, browner. How's that for a metaphor?

* odds are pretty good that you are one of them.

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