Income Inequality

Arthur C. Brooks (past President of the American Enterprise Institute) has frequently spoken on topics relating to America’s economy.  He feels that the issue of income inequality is often used as a political distraction.  The real problem he said is the increasingly diminished opportunity for upward mobility for those in the lower 20% of the economic strata.   Without opportunity, comes income stagnation.

Social programs have gradually replaced upward mobility opportunities.  This creates a culture of dependence on social programs rather than incentive for individual initiative.  And effort.  The culture of dependency seems to encompass more and more people.    

When Bill Gates first came on the scene as one of the world’s most successful and richest men, a survey was conducted about how people felt about him.   Americans typically thought “my son or daughter can be the next Bill Gates.”  The French, however, incline toward burning his house down and taking his stuff.  The subtle shift in American attitudes in the direction of this European ethos has spawned a political environment of class warfare — the heroic and virtuous 99% versus the evil 1% (which is evolving into the heroic and virtuous 44% of Americans who pay no income taxes against those who do). 

The United States is already heavily-taxed and heavily-regulated.  To hear the recent debates – it may become more so.   But the proposed policies on dealing with income inequality (“free everything“) do not address the underlying problem.   We should want people to succeed.  Want people to learn.  Want people to achieve.  Want people to become entrepreneurs.  Want people to take initiative.  Want people to try.  Incentive and opportunity are liberating concepts.  These precepts can’t be replaced by stifling regulation, suffocating taxes and unrestrained governmental handouts with no expectation of responsibility . . . .     

 

Hank

My favorite baseball player as a kid was Hank Sauer – left fielder for the (then) hapless Chicago Cubs.  I tried – desperately – to get his autograph.   My dad would take me to Wrigley Field and I’d gallop down the steps to troll for autographs.  I remember one day Hank was walking a few feet away.  I screamed at him “Hank!  Hank!  Mister Sauer!”  He looked at me like I was a 9 year old lunatic.  And walked on. . . . . 

Some years ago, I had an article published which talked about Hank and how I was never able to get his autograph.  Someone read the article and sent me a note that Hank was living in Milbrea, California.   The address was included.  Sooooo, I sent him a letter – including a copy of the article. And I mentioned that I was his biggest fan in the world.  A few weeks later, I arrived at my office one morning and there was a package on my desk.  In the corner was a return address sticker shaped like a baseball.   Between the stitching, it said “Hank Sauer.”  My eyes filled with tears and I opened the package.  Inside was a large album full of original pictures of Hank (a few signed), original baseball cards and. . . .  a priceless handwritten sentiment – “To Scott – my best Chicago fan.”   

Hank passed away in August 2001.  But I will always relish the fact that I “hit the high note” in my autograph collecting career.  It wasn’t a George Washington letter.  Or Henry VIII.  I got Hank Sauer. . . . 

Fireworks – Follow Up

I had some gentle push back on my previous post about fireworks.  There was feeling that fireworks are dangerous – and thus in need of regulation.  Okay. Here’s my response. . . . . .
In 2017, there were 8 deaths from fireworks (primarily accidents at the big, massive shows).

In 2017, there were 15,549 homicides relating to firearms.

In 2017, 480,000 people died from smoking-related causes — including 41,000 innocents who died thanks to second-hand smoke.

You tell me — which one of these is heavily-regulated; which is heavily-politicized; and which is heavily-taxed.

Ahhhhh. . . . Now I get it. . . .

“F” is for Fireworks

[A timely repeat from August 17, 2014]  Every Independence Day, I am embarrassed that Illinois is one of the few states in the Union that disallows any and all kinds of fireworks for private use. This Fourth of July I heard a few neighborhood “pops.”  And saw a few puffs of light.   And I can just imagine police SWAT teams barreling down on the offenders.

I continue to believe that people of Illinois should descend on Springfield and demand equality for buying and using fireworks. As I reported earlier (10/10/12; 10/15/12; and 10/30/13), many kids – like me – grew up with fireworks.  And it was a hoot.  Don’t give me the “oooh oooh – you can get hurt” business.  It does not happen.  And you know it.  Your child has a greater chance of being seriously injured playing soccer than by a firework. 

And while we’re in Springfield asking those who run this state for equality for buying, selling and using fireworks – we might create some fireworks of our own demanding honest government and fiscal responsibility.  Illinois has the worst credit rating in the nation.  And according to a new Thumbtack.com and Kaufmann Foundation survey, Illinois is the worst for business (okay, California tied us).  Illinois got an “F.”  Companies are leaving in droves to the tune of 1,000+ jobs a day.  Illinois is one of the most heavily-taxed states.   Yet new taxes, fines, regulations and penalties appear daily.  Did you know Chicago’s population today is less than it was in 1920?  Illinois leadership has ruined our State.   Yet they keep getting voted in.  Who votes for these people?  How’s that for a segue?     

Gabriel

(A summer repeat from January 30, 2012)

There are three archangels in religious tradition: Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Of the three, Gabriel is the one who curiously keeps popping up — not just in Christianity but in other faiths as well.  Gabriel is not just a divine messenger from God, he is an uber messenger. . . . .

In the Jewish tradition, Gabriel is the holy messenger who in the Old Testament book of Daniel offers an explanation of Daniel’s visions. In Christianity, it is Gabriel who foretells the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. It was Gabriel who visits Mary to deliver the good news of her new role.

In the Mormon faith, Gabriel ministered to Joseph Smith.  In his earthly life, Gabriel was believed to be Noah. Some say, Gabriel continues to serve as a divine messenger having visited earth as recently as 1954.

In Islam, it was Gabriel (Jibril) who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed. And in the Bahai faith, Gabriel is referenced in their holy texts (Baha’u’llah‘s mystical work Seven Valleys).

With Gabriel’s positive and influential involvement in so many religious traditions, one has to wonder why religious strife focuses so much on differences. Perhaps Gabriel, the Messenger, is trying to tell us something.  Perhaps He who sent him is too. . . . 

The Year with no Summer

There was really an entire year — without a season of summer.   No – I’m not talking about the year 2019 in Chicago (at least not yet anyway).  I’m talking the 1816. . . .

It is well-documented that the year 1816 had no summer.  Severe climate abnormalities caused temperatures to drop for the entire summer season in the Northern Hemisphere – around the globe. The ones who suffered most were those in New England, the Atlantic seaboard in Canada and parts of Western Europe. This climatic anomaly was characterized by a persistent “dry fog” that dimmed the sunlight such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the “fog.” Lake and river ice continued unabated in the northern climes of America — in August.  

There is evidence to suggest that this anomaly of nature was prompted by the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).  The weather had a dramatic negative effect on crops – and thus the supply of food.  The Columbian Register (New Haven) reported: 

It is now the middle of July and we have not yet had what could properly be called summer.  Easterly winds have prevailed. . . . the sun has been obscured. . .  the sky overcast with clouds, the air . . . damp and uncomfortable, and frequently so chilling as to render the fireside a desirable retreat.”    

I don’t know about you, but so far – as we approach July – weather in the Midwest has been cold and rainy.  I’d like 1816 to remain alone in the history books.  But hearken!  As of Monday, the temperature reached 80 degrees.  Today it is pushing 85.  Looks good to me.  Though the 7 day outlook has snow in the forecast. . . . 

The Rosetta Stone

From before the fall of the Roman Empire (408 A.D.) until 1799, no one was able to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.  On July 15, 1799, all of that changed.  Soldiers in Napoleon’s army while rebuilding a fort near the Egyptian port city of el-Rashid, stumbled across a stone marker made of black granite.  What made this marker unique was that it had writing on it — in 2 languages but in 3 scripts:  ancient Greek, Egyptian Demotic script and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. 

Viewed as a curiosity by the French, it was promptly acquired by the British in 1801 when the British defeated the French in Egypt.  And the Rosetta Stone has been in the British Museum since 1802.   Over the course of the next 25 years, the Rosetta Stone was translated – and the secrets of (and “key” to) Egyptian hieroglyphs were revealed. 

The Rosetta Stone was carved around 196 B.C. during the reign of Ptolemy V.  It is called the “Rosetta” Stone because that is the town where it was found — Rosetta (Rashid).  It stands as one of the most amazing “finds” in world history.  Today, if someone uses the term, it will most likely refer to a “key” (“The spectrum of hydrogen atoms has proven to be the Rosetta Stone of modern physics. . . “).  Someone ought to write a book about it.  Or at least a blog post. . . . .