Tuesday, December 06, 2011

False Labeling ??!!?

I must admit to being on the sidelines with regards to OWS. Although I empathise with their visceral outrage, and admire their willingness to get out on the streets for a cause, I suspect there is lots culpability all around. But my apathy was broken recently when FT Alphaville ran excerpts from a Dennis Gartman speech entitled "God Bless Income Disparity" in which he characterized the non-one-percenters as "failures" for taking the one-percenters to task for their apparent "success(es) and the singularly Randian-Blood-Sweat-&-Tears it apparently took to achieve it. Despite human beings being hard-wired for jealousy, I think this wrongly parses the issue into one of accused envy by the 99%, instead of one that highlights the responsibilities incumbent upon the 1%ers derived from their dumb luck and debts to....ummmm....errrrrr......well, more or less everything not self-attributed. 

Self-attribution bias  and similar psychological flaws have long been contemplated by thoughtful observers with even the most meager amounts of introspection. I also have long wondered what the ingredient formula for my own comparatively fortunate state of affairs might look like. I suspect, being of profoundly self-effacing stock, that it mostly has had to do with luck (some marginally engineered, but mostly of  the "dumb" variety).  Moreover, it was in the main, mightily fostered by all manner of communitarianism, from my fortunate local and state university education, cooperative non-profit healthcare, to the State and NGO-funded munificence of my mentors.  Moreover, I have been legally allowed to keep the lion's share due to the rule of law - unlike the Sea-lion beachmaster or South American Drug Baron, whose property rights and political-economic position within the realm is far more precarious.    

As it happens, my own attribution would also be reasonably benign, with little to be embarrassed about, or lurking in the grey areas or moral compromises that might be required to bag the proverbially bigger game. With that preamble, it might be worth contrasting the hypothetical labeling of Gartman's All-Natural ingredient list for success, to that which resonates more closely with the archetypical one we might publicly (or for these embarrassed, privately) know first-hand, read-about in the less-edited versions of 1%er exploits.

DENNIS GARTMAN RECIPE FOR 1% MEMBERSHIP:

INGREDIENTS: SHEER DINT OF WILL, TENACITY, STREET-SMARTS & THE LIKE, PLUS (following added by The Editor) TRACE AMOUNTS OF HARD WORK, SKILL, FORTITUDE, FAITH & ANNOINTMENT BY DEITY OF CHOICE; COPIOUS BOOTSTRAP PULLS.  (This product  is safe for those allergic to the concept of social responsibility or obligation and was produced in a safe facility containing no traces Luck or Free-Riding. It has been produced or miraculously conceived without  benefits received from public goods, or positive externalities derived therefrom or contributed by any collective or social programs, rent-seeking, rule-breaking, gaming or other transgressions against established laws, morals or regulations).  

A MORE REALISTIC RECIPE FOR 1% MEMBERSHIP, HOWEVER MIGHT LOOK MORE LIKE THIS:

INGREDIENTS:  LUCK, TRAINING , SKILL, WORK, HAPPENSTANCE, NEPOTISM, SOCIOECONOMICALLY-ADVANTAGED EDUCATION; PRIVATELY-FINANCED TUTORING, PUBLICLY-SUBSIDIZED STUDENT LOANS AND/OR GRANTS; PUBLICLY FINANCED UNIVERSITY OR RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS TO PRIVATE UNIVERSITY; TAX-DEDUCTIBLE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES AND ENDOWMENTS; GOV'T DEFINED EXCLUSIONARY OR PROTECTIONIST TRADE-ASSOCIATION OR QUALIFICATIONS; GOV'T DEFINED AND ENFORCED PATENT PROTECTION; HISTORICALLY-EASIER ELITE UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS; HISTORICALLY EASIER COMPETITION FOR ENTRY-LEVEL JOBS;  PAY-PACKAGE APPROVAL BY BACK-SCRATCHING BOARD MEMBERS; LOW HURDLE MGMT BONUS-SCHEMES APPROVED BY MGMT-APPOINTED BOARD-MEMBERS; INSIDER TRADING TIPS FROM GOLFING BUDS; CHANGE-OF-CONTROL CLAUSES;  ENTRY TO HOUSING MARKET DURING ASSET PRICE TROUGH; LEGACY DEFINED-BENEFIT PENSION PLAN;  GOLDEN HANDSHAKES; ADVANTAGEOUS WASHINGTON REGULATORY CONNECTIONS;  LOBBYING BENEFITS FROM QUID-PRO QUO CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS; RENT-SEEKING; TAX GROSS-UPS AND REIMBURSED LEGAL & TAX-ADVICE; GOLDEN PARACHUTES; GRATIS D&O COVERAGE THAT LIMITS PERSONAL LIABILITY;  NON-PROFIT PROVIDED CHILDHOOD HEALTHCARE; FREE COMMUNITY VACCINATIONS & IMMUNIZATIONS, ADVANTAGEOUS TAX DEFERRALS & DEDUCTIONS; UNDER-SCRUTINZED CURR VITAE INFLATION; GLORY-STEALING OF COLLEAGUES' CONTRIBUTIONS; SECOND-DERIVATIVE PARENTAL ASSISTANCE THEMSELVES BENEFICIARIES OF SOCIAL EXTERNALITIES OF THE STATE'S MUNIFICENCE; SHORT-TERM ASSET-STRIPPING, PENSION HOLIDAYS AND CHANGES IN ACTUARIAL ASSUMPTIONS TO ARTIFICIALLY RAISE EPS AND TRIGGER BONUSES; OUT-SIZED OPTION GRANTS WITH ABSURDLY LOW HURDLES; COLLUSIVE OLIGOPOLISTIC PRICE-FIXING ARRANGEMENTS WITH KEY COMPETITORS; BENEFITS FROM PUBLIC ORDER & RULE OF LAW; WINDFALL BENEFICIARIES OF: GLOBALIZATION, GEOGRAPHICAL FORTUNE, SERENDIPPITY, HISTORICAL ASSET OWNERSHIP,  PRE-EXISTING RENTIER-CLASS INTERESTS; ETC ETC ETC

4 comments:

John said...

That about covers it.

Two ideas keep bothering me.

1) Don't know where I saw it but "equality of opportunity does not insure equality of outcomes." That alone doesn't bother me, but the first part, equality of opportunity, is a presumption without foundation. Just being in America does not insure equality of opportunity except for those who make it to the starting line together, knowing that between there and the finish line there will still be many who fall behind and not a few tragedies.

2) The terms wealth and income are being conflated to the point that most discussions carelessly use them interchangeably. In fiscal terms, wealth = net worth.
But income = revenue, usually that received during the preceding calendar year. Income taxes are not ad valorem. Net worth remains unmolested by income tax except that it may not increase by additional contributions (or, in the case of negative net worth, a reduction of liabilities).

To the degree that income taxes are levied on those with negative net worth, their arrival at the starting line is being delayed.
Without some mechanism to promote the growth of net worth for as many as possible, a growing amount of all additional wealth will accumulate at the top of the scale.

Said another way, economic activity is driven by demand, not intentions. And net worth (or efforts to build net worth) is the foundation of all demand.

vbounded said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank Gawd you're back - I was afraid the Randoids had captured you or something.

Anonymous said...

Gartman is a fuckstick