ATLAS SHRUGGED? LIKE HELL HE DID

In her novel Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand limns an analogy between America’s most productive citizens and the mythical Atlas. The former face an ever-increasing burden from taxation and regulation while the latter Titan must endure the weight of the entire world upon his shoulders.

The book’s title derives from a questions posed by, and ultimately answered by the character Francisco d’Antonia. What advice would he give to Atlas, given that the greater Atlas’s efforts the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders. And that advice was “to shrug.”

So the put-upon citizens, believing that civilization cannot exist where every person is a slave to society and government, and that the destruction of the profit motive leads to the collapse of society, decide to emulate Atlas were he to refuse to bear his burden any longer. They begin to disappear and vital industries shut down.

As a result, the government exercises more and more control over these industries even as society collapses.

Certain busness people today as well as noted politicians such as Paul Ryan, are devotees of Rand and her work of…get this…FICTION. Yet they promulgate similar views as to the the virtues of greed and the “free market”, unencumbered by those nasty old government regulations.

“Yes, Yes, Free Us,” they cry, “Free us and your economy will be wonderful! Everyone will be rich rich rich!”.

I may have used this term in a prior post.

BULLSHIT!

For all the whining and kvetching about how much taxes and regulations stymie them, the Rand disciples are thriving far beyond how you would think they are doing if you took their gripes to heart without even a cursory examination of the truth.

Indeed, if the tax rates and regulations these “most productive citizens” carp, grumble, whimper, squawk, lament, bleat, grouse and yammer about are so bad, how the hell do they explain these facts?

In the past 20 years corporate profits have quadrupled while the corporate tax percent has dropped by half. The payroll tax, paid by workers, has doubled.

So states Paul Buchheit in this opinion piece. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/18/were_living_in_an_ayn_rand_economy_partner/

Individual tax rates, despite the recent bump in the highest marginal rate that occurred when the Bush cut in it was allowed to expire, are the lowest since World War II.

More remarkably Atlas seems to be on an extended coffee break from bearing his burden as more and more of what should be our shared responsibiliteies are either neglected or the burden shifted to the lower income classes.

Not only do corporations and individuals benefit from lower tax rates, Buchheit emphasizes that they also benefit from contrivances in the tax code to lessen their payments.

There’s much more. Companies call their CEO bonuses “performance pay” to get a lower rate. Private equity firms call fees “capital gains” to get a lower rate. Fast food companies call their lunch menus “intellectual property” to get a lower rate.

Prisons and casinos have stooped to the level of calling themselves “real estate investment trusts” (REITs) to gain tax exemptions. Stooping lower yet, Disney and others have added cows and sheep to their greenspace to get a farmland exemption.

I could be generous and describe the Ayn Rand approach and the complaining arising from it a mere subterfuge, or public relations spin, or misdirection, or political slant. But I’m no more generous than are these Titans of industry who have the audacity to compare themselves with Atlas, the Titan of Greek mythology.

They are plain lying and they know it.

One should not begrudge these “productive citizens” their financial rewards because of the economic benefits we all derive from their diligence and perspicacity.

Like hell one shouldn’t. Over the past thirty years, remember, the growth in income disparity and the gap in wealth distribution is so acute that the only gains in terms of real dollars belong to the top percentiles of income.

Whatever the basis for the economic theories preached by Ayn Rand and her progeny, that basis resides just as much in mythology as does the tale of Atlas.

Even if these theories were operable or viable at all, the lives of the very people Rand preached to demonstrate clearly that those conditions must be almost nonexistent for her target audience to have prospered so well.

So the next time you hear Paul Ryan or another person of his ilk pontificating about the need to cut taxes and slash regulations close your eyes and visualize that he is offering swamp land in Florida for sale or is on the back of a wagon purveying his special brand of snake oil.

Then realize if you buy what he is selling you’ll either be up to your ass in alligators or retching your guts out with still no cure in sight for what ails ya.

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Comments

  • Little_Minx  On May 21, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Atlas shrugging?

    “Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites — Apparently, we have deserving and undeserving disasters, Oklahoma senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn explain”:
    http://www.salon.com/2013/05/21/inhofe_and_coburn_red_state_hypocrites/singleton/?google_editors_picks=true

    “…There’s something so typical about today’s GOP in the way Inhofe can dismiss comparisons between tornado aid and Sandy aid while Coburn grandstands for his long-term demand that new spending, even on disaster relief, must be “offset” by cuts elsewhere. Meanwhile, the notion that a new disaster relief bill should include funding to cope with future disasters isn’t lauded as common sense, it’s derided as pork. Like Inhofe, Coburn objected to the Sandy bill’s including funding for future disaster relief. (It should be noted that Moore, Okla., Rep. Tom Cole, also a Republican, voted for the Sandy aid bill.)…”

    • umoc193  On May 22, 2013 at 1:51 PM

      Minx

      With reference to your comment about Okla.’s Senators and disaster relief.

      Recall a couple years ago with the east coast earthquake and Bachmann and others’ assertions it was god’s will to visit havoc on evil D.C. Or ny of Pat Robertson’s declarations of tragedies occurring due to our wicked wicked ways (with apologies to Errol Flynn). Doesn’t the argument now exist then that this terrible thing happened to Oklahoma due to its electing such troglodyte politicians?

      BTW, I read that the Congressman from Moore did vote for Sandy relief.

  • toadsly  On May 21, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Terrific post! I hope the trolls take the time to read it.
    Why are we such sheep?

    • umoc193  On May 22, 2013 at 1:22 AM

      Well, the troll did read it and tried to post, but he joined Oscar The Grouch in the trash can

      • toadsly  On May 22, 2013 at 8:15 AM

        And don’t forget to weld the lid shut!

  • youngjef  On May 22, 2013 at 2:33 AM

    I listened to this book in its entirety recently. I must say that rather than listen to it the proper description is that I endured it. I like to have some familiarity with things people write and say which I disagree with. “Atlas Shrugged”, however, is so damned long and repetitious with the same theme repeated ad nauseum. It is truly scary that we have powerful politicians who hold this very simplistic view of things in such high regard. I look at this book as a product of the different era in which it was written when many were trying to develop a communism vs capitalism sort of dialogue. One would hope that our political conversation would have moved in the next half century to the present nuances relevant to our modern economy. Alas, unfortunately some of our political leaders think not and our still caught in a different age and unfortunately they hold sway over large numbers of like minded people.

    • umoc193  On May 22, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      I’ve never read the book and had to do some research to present the main theme, which I believe I did reasonably accurately. I suppose that could be open to interpretation anyways.

      But it seems that many of the loudest voices in our current economic conversations have professed to be such devotees of Rand and the book and seek to apply its “principles”. In doing so they simply ignore all the evidence in reality that those conditions have never been present, though they keep trying to convince us that we are in the midst of an onrushing economic Armageddon.

      I have never quite comprehended how Paul Ryan garners so much attention for his views.

  • ciejai  On May 22, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    Good stuff, Umoc. The sad fact is that the billionaire class can opt out of America. Hey, wasn’t the u-rate supposed to be 9 percent by now?

    • Little_Minx  On May 22, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      *Waving happily to CJ* Good to see you again (virtually speaking).

    • umoc193  On May 22, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      CJ

      No the rate was supposed to be 11% according to our deposed economics expert. Incidentally he keeps attempting to post. Rather he submits a comment, knowing it will be trashed, with the sole intent of annoying me.

      His recurrent theme is “O is done”. I agree. Obama will never be re-elected.

  • ciejai  On May 22, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Hey minx, Still think about you and the old gang. Waving right back at you!

  • ciejai  On May 22, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Gleeful Republicans try to light a fire:

  • ciejai  On May 22, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    And the proponents of the Rand’s ersatz philosophy have taken big gifts from the government themselves. But that’s different, right? They, like, the Okies are deserving.

    • Little_Minx  On May 22, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      Yup, I keep wondering why Senators Inhofe and Coburn aren’t announcing they’d decline Federal disaster relief on general principle, in favor of private (including faith-based) donations and financial assistance from local government (state or county).

    • umoc193  On May 23, 2013 at 3:28 AM

      CJ

      And think about this. Paul Ryan, save for a brief stint in his family’s construction business, has never worked in the private sector. He used SS survivor benefits to pay for college. The family business was established on government contracts building the railroads after the Civil War, and had huge chunks fo the O’Hare Airport and Interstate Highway contracts.

      • Little_Minx  On May 23, 2013 at 10:45 AM

        Reminds me of Rick Santorum criticizing higher education lest it introduce “liberal” ideas into people’s heads, when his father had a Ph.D. and his mom a Master’s (which presumably made his upbringing at least a bit more prosperous), and he and Karen law degrees.

  • ciejai  On May 22, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Strike “the” before Rand’s.

    • Little_Minx  On May 22, 2013 at 3:48 PM

      In the alternative, we could just start calling her The Rand (, you know, like The Donald).

      • umoc193  On May 23, 2013 at 3:23 AM

        The Rand! I like it. Mocking is fun, isn’t it?

  • Little_Minx  On May 22, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    HEY, TOURIST! Hope you’re keeping cool during the heatwave there (thank goodness for NHK World “Newsline,” on Ch. 13.2 here).

    Also, saw a fascinating report tonight on Tokyo’s Marumasu Dyeing, which manufactures some of the most lucsiously colored scarves, stoles and shawls I’ve ever seen. Do you know of them?

  • Little_Minx  On May 27, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    I suspected as much!

    “Some tea-party groups examined by the IRS indeed crossed the line”:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/05/27/some-tea-party-groups-examined-by-the-irs-indeed-crossed-the-line

    E.g., “the Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama […] sponsored get-out-the-vote training ‘dedicated to “the defeat of President Barack Obama.”’ Another, an organization meant to engage veterans in government, had given donations to a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives…”

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