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Old 03-02-2009, 07:18 PM   #31
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Irvine,

Agree with everything you say... and I am comfortable with giving more...

But your quote below...

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suppose the bigger thing is the sense that you have, through your own merit, "earned" that $240K. have you? no one helped you earn that? you weren't given advantages through sheer luck of the birth lottery enabled you to make an income like that? it was all elbow grease and gumption? and not to say that you don't have both, but i think that there are people who make only $40K who have every bit the talent and work ethic that you do, but due to a variety of circumstance beyond their control, they have not had the opportunities afforded to you by ... taxes.
really sets off the conservative in me. In fact, what you say above, is I guess, exactly why I am conservative. I come from very humble beginnings. We never had a house, and my parents worked very hard for every penny they had. We grew our own food, hunted, and lived very frugally. They were essentially share croppers during one shift, and laborers another. Even with that lifestyle, we still didn't get any grants or subsidies for my bi-directional state school, only loans.

It's hard for me to describe, but it was the driving force behind me working so hard early in my career. All I really had was some ingenuity and a massive drive to my name. And that is why I feel uncomfortable sometimes, giving it back in the form of taxes.

I remember reading the article recently about U2 being berated for moving their royalties corporation to the Netherlands to avoid higher tax in Ireland. I thought to myself, what a bunch of wankers.

How's the song go? And you become a wanker so the wanker will not break you... yeah that's it.

I'm finding myself in the wanker category here.
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Old 03-02-2009, 07:20 PM   #32
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Anitram -- we obviously run in different circles. I am stubbornly DIY even with investing and taxes. TurboTax is 50 bucks. I'm not looking for loopholes, just fairness. Naivete' rules.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:11 PM   #33
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I come from very humble beginnings. We never had a house, and my parents worked very hard for every penny they had. We grew our own food, hunted, and lived very frugally. They were essentially share croppers during one shift, and laborers another. Even with that lifestyle, we still didn't get any grants or subsidies for my bi-directional state school, only loans.

It's hard for me to describe, but it was the driving force behind me working so hard early in my career. All I really had was some ingenuity and a massive drive to my name.
I can understand those feelings of drivenness. My parents didn't own our house until I was maybe 12 or so, and it was a little place, 7 people in 4 smallish no-frills rooms--though this was still a lot better than what many people in the mostly small-farming town we lived in had, so I never considered my family 'really poor' at the time. And we grew a lot of our own food too; my siblings and I all have lots of memories of helping our mother can, dry, and cellar stuff from the garden (though by and large I enjoyed that part, still do some of it actually--I don't miss washing clothes in the bathtub, though!). By the time I graduated from high school my father had died and my mother had been supporting me, my younger brother and sister for two-and-a half years herself, with me babysitting for free 30 hours a week while she worked afternoons and evenings to pay the rent on the small one-bedroom apartment we'd had to relocate to. My mother would've preferred me to remain at home and attend college part-time for a couple years, both so she wouldn't have to resort to asking friends to help out with my siblings and also because maybe by then she'd be able to help me out with tuition a little, but I wanted nothing more than to get AWAY from that situation and be independent, so I was very driven about both my schoolwork and my job in college (I was managing a flagship store of a major retailer 'on the side' by the time I was working on my doctorate).

Now I certainly do accept that no one forced me to choose a less-than-lucrative career (academia); I went into it fully aware that I'd almost certainly never get wealthy this way--though obviously I'm not an 'underachiever,' or else I wouldn't have a PhD and tenure. But I don't feel I'm 'entitled' to a high standard of living on account of having a demanding job and holding advanced professional credentials, either; I do what I do primarily because I find it fulfilling, and I expect others to aim for the same, even if that's a question of choosing work you 'like OK and it pays the bills' while seeking fulfillment in non-work-related things, an outlook that many people I know from welders to doctors happen to have. I have no problem with the incentive the bigger paychecks and prestige associated with certain careers provide, with fundamental meritocracy; you wouldn't get enough people staying the course of the preparation and sacrifice many of those jobs require otherwise. But there's a limit to how far that dynamic can go while still maintaining a just society that allows everyone a fair shot at advancing up the socioeconomic ladder (not to mention a fair shot at ensuring everyone's children have those opportunities, too)...and without having too many less-than-lucrative careers wind up meaning chronic hand-to-mouth desperation despite a solid work ethic and sound personal budgeting, or 'deserved' disdain from 'entitled' better-off folks for having been too 'lazy' to choose the sort of highly profitable career that could never comprise more than a minority niche of the total economy anyway. I can't think of a better way than a progressive tax system to balance these values off against each other.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:36 PM   #34
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Well said Yolland.

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have no problem with the incentive the bigger paychecks and prestige associated with certain careers provide, with fundamental meritocracy; you wouldn't get enough people staying the course of the preparation and sacrifice many of those jobs require otherwise
In addition to this, there is the magic of innovation that we must reward as well. Be it in art or science, that special thing that inventors get for moving our society forward.

I'm ok now, as long as that progressive tax structure doesn't kill that spark.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:45 PM   #35
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I don't have any problems with uneven distributions of wealth, some people making 10 times as much as others, etc. I don't believe in salary caps either. I believe I am paid fairly for the work that I do and the amount of education I needed to do the job I do. Where I live there were two guys who started a company in their garage and now are worth more than 3x Donald Trump and I respect them for building their company and also their philanthropy (we have arenas, schools, children's hospitals, convention centers because of them). I'm not one to knock someone else down just because they have something I don't.

Taxes aside, I just still can't see how people making even half of what Phil and I make have no problem breaking even when people making a quarter mil' complain about breaking even. To me that implies irresponsible spending, or unnecessary spending which would have nothing to do with how much someone is being taxed. Maybe I'm too hung up on that part of this thread...
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:10 PM   #36
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Liesje -- well if you dig deeper there is more to the story obviously...

I take out 15% for my 401k. I also take out another 10% for charity. I also save another 15% for college for 2 children (remember, I'll be fully responsible). I also help several family members on a steady basis (going through a divorce, etc...)

And the car payment... I usually pay cash for used cars, but I splurged a bit and got a loan for a badly needed car after my deployment, still used though, only paid for half of it up front.

I just refinanced our house, and cut 15 years off the loan, but at 4.2% interest, so the payments hardly went up.

So, at the end of the day, I don't have a lot of discretionary funds left, but I make the most of trying to pay our way in society (retirement, college, housing).

Does that satisfy the urge to call it irresponsible?
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:12 PM   #37
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In fact, what you say above, is I guess, exactly why I am conservative. I come from very humble beginnings. We never had a house, and my parents worked very hard for every penny they had. We grew our own food, hunted, and lived very frugally. They were essentially share croppers during one shift, and laborers another. Even with that lifestyle, we still didn't get any grants or subsidies for my bi-directional state school, only loans.

It's hard for me to describe, but it was the driving force behind me working so hard early in my career. All I really had was some ingenuity and a massive drive to my name. And that is why I feel uncomfortable sometimes, giving it back in the form of taxes.
It is funny how two people can come to different conclusions.

My family was a refugee family. We were homeless and had nothing but the clothes on our backs and each other. My father at one point had 3 jobs to support us in a country whose language he didn't speak so that he would never be able to get past manual labour. My Mom was far luckier and today she teaches at one of the best universities in the world. But it took time to get there. My brother and I are both very highly educated, as my parents insisted and we wanted anyway, but it came at a cost. I certainly built up sizeable student loans, but at the same time I went to great schools and got multiple degrees so I viewed it as an investment.

I know very well what a difficult life is and what it is like to start life out in a hole compared to everyone else around you. Nothing but determination and hard work and a strong spirit brought me where I am today. But I don't want other people to go through as much struggle and I want to be able to carry the weight now that I can. If that means paying more taxes, please tax me, so that the people who are below me on the ladder climbing up don't have to live the same hardships as I did as a little girl. I have a very good life right now, it's my honour and I believe my duty to carry more weight than those who don't. Period.
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:21 PM   #38
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I just refinanced our house, and cut 15 years off the loan, but at 4.2% interest, so the payments hardly went up.
I don't think anyone is having a go at you, but again, no-one on an average income could possibly afford to do this. People are talking about $40k a year as though it is an extremely low income but in many states in the US and in almost all countries it is probably above average!
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:23 PM   #39
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YouTube - Monty Python - Rich men Talk
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:25 PM   #40
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Anitram,

The struggle defines me, and is what I think is very important in life. It's similar to my faith -- it's the struggle that refines...

Your thoughts are very interesting and I'd like to explore them more. Do your parents feel the same way as you? About taxes and such?
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:31 PM   #41
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LOL financeguy. My payments went up $70 per month. That's what people pay for satellite or cable TV.

The Monty Python skit is classic.
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:33 PM   #42
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Your thoughts are very interesting and I'd like to explore them more. Do your parents feel the same way as you? About taxes and such?
My Mom is now in the highest bracket here (so she's paying the dreaded 46% tax). She does offset her salary somewhat because she runs a consulting business on the side since she lectures quite a bit nationally and internationally for which she gets compensated, etc. She has also written two books from which she collects royalties on a quarterly basis. So for the interest of full disclosure, she does have an avenue for loss flowthroughs there, although this only minimally reduces her taxes. She votes for the NDP which is the Canadian leftist party, something like 170 degrees of your Democrats, and probably what you'd think of as socialist Communists. She does not object to her high taxes mostly because she's happy about her corresponding high income. And this income has made my parents' lives very comfortable in their late 50s, and that is a huge relief to me.

My father earns substantially less money, less than half of what my Mom makes and so he's in a much lower tax bracket. He complains about taxes more than she does, although I think the major source of his chagrin are the high sales taxes we have here. They were at 15% and are now at 13%, and that seems to particularly irk him. I can't remember the last time that he has voted, although he's a Liberal supporter, which is like a center-left party here, and still left of your Dems.

Not sure if that answers your questions.
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:50 PM   #43
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Liesje -- well if you dig deeper there is more to the story obviously...

I take out 15% for my 401k. I also take out another 10% for charity. I also save another 15% for college for 2 children (remember, I'll be fully responsible). I also help several family members on a steady basis (going through a divorce, etc...)

And the car payment... I usually pay cash for used cars, but I splurged a bit and got a loan for a badly needed car after my deployment, still used though, only paid for half of it up front.

I just refinanced our house, and cut 15 years off the loan, but at 4.2% interest, so the payments hardly went up.

So, at the end of the day, I don't have a lot of discretionary funds left, but I make the most of trying to pay our way in society (retirement, college, housing).

Does that satisfy the urge to call it irresponsible?
It sounds like you are living within your means and responsible about your spending. You have built your career and your life so you deserve what you are making.

What it illustrates for me is that you're spending and life style really don't apply to the "breaking even" argument. So you're breaking even and you own a home, a car, you can afford to pay for your kids' educations, you are wisely putting money into the 401K, and you have enough leftover for charity. Then what is there to complain about "breaking even"? Your "break even" point already contains a lot of luxuries that other people don't have. It sounds like you have enough to cover your necessary costs AND some other things on the side.

To me, someone complaining about barely "breaking even" is someone who is working double shifts to pay their mortgage, their student loans (if any), their utilities, their food, keep clothes on their babies' backs....we're talking about about basic utility bills, a roof over the head...things needed for survival. Not money for college or for charities. I'm thinking of someone like my friend, who at 24 has two kids (and one is developmentally disabled so needs special education and care), lives alone, does not receive child support, works third shifts to support her kids, and is a full time student getting a 4.0 at a private university (which FYI she is NOT attending for free) and yet she is optimistic and is applying to med schools because she always wanted to be a doctor. THAT is someone who struggles to "break even."

So, yes, I maintain that if someone is actually struggling to break even on $250K then they are spending irresponsibly or unnecessarily, OR they are not really struggling to break even.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:56 AM   #44
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My Mom was far luckier and today she teaches at one of the best universities in the world. But it took time to get there.
What does your mother teach? You've probably mentioned it before, but I can't remember right now.

That was one thing I'd count as a huge advantage I enjoyed compared to most of my peers growing up; that my parents were highly educated and passed their love of learning on to us. It never brought them much money, because my mother was a homemaker and my father chose to teach at a very poor college (it was an all-black college under Jim Crow when he started teaching there, and still today is attended almost exclusively by students from the surrounding counties, one of the poorest regions in the country). So growing up I didn't necessarily associate having an advanced education with material 'success;' still, compared to many of my friends, whose parents had maybe 6th-grade educations (Jim Crow again), and little concept of or interest in the work-world beyond manual labor because they'd had so little social contact with it, I was much better prepared to grasp and use the potential of education to take me wherever I might want to go in life. The window afforded by publically funded elementary and secondary education is only open so long, and most kids, even ones who do well in school, don't really grasp that until it's almost over--they're just swimming along with the current--so poor support at home puts you at a huge disadvantage, and impoverished schools lacking the resources to offer innovative special programs and extracurriculars to help engage the maximum number of kids in educationally enriching (and motivating) activities only makes matters worse.
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In addition to this, there is the magic of innovation that we must reward as well. Be it in art or science, that special thing that inventors get for moving our society forward.
In principle I agree with this, though 'innovation' is a rather vague concept. For instance, much of my work is predetermined to a considerable degree by the nature of the job, but on the other hand academics do have to publish regularly and it's up to the individual to develop, research and place their output for publication. I've just been awarded a Fulbright for which I'll be overseas all of next academic year, helping a Chinese university system develop and implement a combined Asian/Western humanities core curriculum, something they've never done there before. The grant will cover housing and travel costs, but other than that I'll be making no more than my usual salary, which is about a third of your post-tax income. Nor will there be anything for me to patent or make royalties off of; at most it'll leave me better qualified for an administrative position in the future (though I'm not interested in anything that would keep me out of teaching longterm...again, because that's the work I care about most). Does that qualify as 'innovation that moves society forward'? Who gets to decide? What's innovative in socially beneficial ways isn't always 'marketable' in a manner that dramatically increases the fortunes of the innovator--just ask any number of school principals and superintendents who've effected significant turnarounds in their schools' performance (sometimes directly inspired by the innovations of one particular teacher, who usually gets even less credit). For that matter, most politicians don't make that much either, and presumably we can agree that some of them have brought great benefits to their communities through innovative thinking and a knack for actualizing it. And in the case of artists, with many mediums at least, there's a considerable amount of chance involved in material success, along with all the elbow grease; generally you can't strategically tailor artistic output to 'the market' quite as accurately as you could most technological products. I can understand that being self-employed (and of course many artists are 'entrepreneurs' in this sense too) adds its own particular pressures along with certain freedoms, but if anything it seems to me that especially for people making a living primarily off creative work, caring deeply about what you do must be your prime motivator. Because the path to 'success,' however you quantify that, is seldom as clearly marked in such endeavors as in other (by no means necessarily 'easier') tasks, and why take those risks if the journey doesn't excite you in its own right.
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Old 03-03-2009, 08:53 AM   #45
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What does your mother teach? You've probably mentioned it before, but I can't remember right now.

That was one thing I'd count as a huge advantage I enjoyed compared to most of my peers growing up; that my parents were highly educated and passed their love of learning on to us.
She teaches in the Faculty of Education.

And I would agree with you there. I often think that more important than sheer intellectual ability is your parents' understanding of the intangible value of education. That alone gives you a huge leg up, IMO.
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