SisMeech commenting on Peace +2
Putting this one on the high school graduation board for sure. Well, if Mykala lets me. I have ideas that aren’t funny that I think are funny, so I screen them with her first. This works just as well in real-life as it does on the internet.
Today, I was sitting in the corner of our kitchen on top of the countertops, nestled into the area where the toaster oven is, while Mykala made apple-and-cheese sandwiches at the stove. I looked at the results of painting and decorating this home over the past six months, the way the early fall light warmed the walls, and the breeze of a perfectly clear 61° day cooling off the space. Esmé slept peacefully in her carrier, tired after a three mile walk with her mom and dad. There were no television or radio noises, just the gentle rush of breezes through screens and the staccato sounds of kids playing down the street. It was a perfect moment, the closeness of family, the esthetics of the surroundings, and the peace of a respite from the exigencies of daily, young-professional, indebted life.
An extraordinary, above-average moment such as this is, by definition, out of the ordinary. Moments like it are connected by the rest of life, and I remain frustrated that I have trouble finding peace during those “rest of life” times. “Life is what happens when you’re making plans” popped into my head as I sat in my perch in the corner of the kitchen.
My good friend Nils’ father Garry passed away this past March 3rd, and I think of Garry all the time. It may be because this new home of ours is less than a mile from where he lived and Nils grew up, but I think it is because the potency of my feelings about Garry’s death surprised me. I guess my life has pivoted. Behind me are memories: where funerals were always grandparents two generations away, folks who had lived very long lives and seen multiple generations grow and live and love. Before me is the future, a new stage of life, one where the generation of my parents, sometimes of my peers, passes away too soon. Funerals where you think not of what the person saw, but rather what they missed. It is disheartening that meditating on loss and death is the quickest way to perspective on one’s current moment, the quickest way to convince one’s short-sighted poorly-prioritzing brain to ENJOY WHAT IS IN FRONT OF YOU, YOUR MORON.
Garry would have loved today, the same today I write of right now. You too, dear reader, know of someone who passed away too soon. Our task is to remember mortality and loss in a useful way: to let this perspective color our attitude and guide our way without darkening the days of our journey.
You learned how to be by yourself on the floor recently. The first of many steps towards independence. You are a little over 22 inches long today (your mom measured you) and right now, you are held closely to me in the Baby Björn and looking at my left shoulder. We really feel a greater peace in the house now that we can move about to tend to chores and you can happily coo on your blankets, discovering your hands as they wave in front of your face or staring at these picture rails on the wall behind the couch in the living room which transfix you and have done so for the past three weeks.
We love you.
“Let’s talk about margins” by Craig Mod:
On the other hand, cheap, rough paper with a beautifully set textblock hanging just so on the page makes those in the know, smile (and those who don’t, feel welcome). It says: We may not have had the money to print on better paper, but man, we give a shit. Giving a shit does not require capital, simply attention and humility and diligence. Giving a shit is the best feeling you can imbue craft with.
I’ve taken 14,086 pictures with my camera since I purchased it nine years ago, and I’ve found something wrong with every single one. I do not have the brain that goes “oooh I love that one that I took… let’s blow it up!” I have the brain that goes “I wish the light had been from the right instead of the left” or “I wish I had shot higher resolution” or “the dust on the sensor is really noticeable there” or “that flower is past its prime”. This type of analysis is exhausting and difficult to shut off. Take that brain and have it paint a room and you produce a very dissatisfied person at the end of the project: seeing only the flaws and, for whatever reason, lamenting the inexpert hand that produced them. I do not know why I expect perfection when I am beginning to learn these things.
So then there’s my job: there I want and expect myself to be perfect. All the time. And by definition, that can’t always happen. That’s really difficult, because my sense of accomplishment and progress gets tied up with work, so I take it really personally when things don’t turn out perfect. Mykala reminds me that I have only been at this for a little over two years, and it takes a long time to get these things right. I had lunch with an area orthodontist and he said something quite helpful: “After a few decades, you get better because you’ve made all the mistakes there are to make and learned how to avoid them.”
This picture is currently Mykala’s phone background. I’ve lost significant amounts of time just staring at it before I do anything useful on her phone.
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I am reading the conclusions in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (It is rather unreasonable to try to wade through the 300 pages separating my progress in the book and the conclusions, given our two week old! So, I skipped to the end…). Here are some interesting quotes:
Throughout most of the twentieth century, however, and still today, the available data suggest that social mobility has been and remains lower in the United States than in Europe. (p.484)
In other words, parents’ income has become an almost perfect predictor of university access. (p.485)
To be sure, university fees are much lower in Europe if one leaves Britain aside. In other countries, including Sweden and other Nordic countries, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, tuition fees are relatively low (less than 500 euros). (p.485)
Stepping out of my quotation parade here—that means undergraduate educations are 12 times more expense on average in the United States than in Europe.
Finally, income support outlays (i.e. welfare) are even smaller (less than 1 percent of national income), almost insignificant when measured against total government spending.
Welfare benefits are questioned not only in Europe but also in the United States (where the unemployed black single mother is often singled out for criticism by opponents of the US “welfare state”). In both cases, the sums involved are in fact only a very small part of state social spending. (p.479)
Tax revenues in rich countries:
[In the US] In 1942 the Victory Tax Act raised the top rate to 88 percent, and in 1944 it went up again to 94 percent, due to various surtaxes. The top rate then stabilized at around 90 percent until the mid-1960s, but then it fell to 70 percent in the early 1980s. All told, over the period from 1932-1980, nearly half a century, the top federal income tax rate in the United States averaged 81 percent.
It is important to note that no continental European country has ever imposed such high rates (except in exceptional circumstances, for a few years at most, and never for as long as half a century).
Particularly fascinating is that it is not theoretical that government created the middle class in the United States after World War II (see the income inequality chart above):
Concretely, the two phenomena are perfectly correlated: the countries with the largest decreases in their top tax rates are also the countries where the top earners’ share of national income has increased the most (especially when it comes to the remuneration of executives of large firms). (p.509)
As Piketty points out, the above is not explained by the theory of marginal productivity:
A more realistic explanation is that lower top income tax rates, especially in the United States and Britain, where top rates fell dramatically, totally transformed the way executive salaries are determined. (p.509)
And lets throw out trickle down theory while we are at it:
… there is no statistically significant relationship between the decrease in top marginal tax rates and the rate of productivity growth in the developed countries since 1980. (p.510)
According to our estimates, the optimal top tax rate in the developed countries is probably above 80 percent.
The evidence suggests that a rate on the order of 80 percent on incomes over $500,000 or $1 million a year not only would not reduce the growth of the US economy but would in fact distribute the fruits of growth more widely while imposing reasonable limits on economically useless (or even harmful) behavior.
A rate of 80 percent applied to incomes above $500,000 or $1 million a year would not bring the government much in the way of revenue, because it would quickly fulfill its objective: to drastically reduce remuneration at this level but without reducing the productivity of the US economy, so that pay would rise at lower levels. In order for the government to obtain the revenues it sorely need to develop the meager US social state and invest more in health and education (while reducing the federal deficit), taxes would also have to be raised on incomes lower in the distribution (for example, by imposing rates of 50 or 60 percent on incomes above $200,000). Such a social and fiscal policy is well within reach of the United States. (p.513)
But Piketty’s definitive solution is not based on marginal tax rates but rather on a “global tax on capital.” He spends the book explaining, illustrating, and providing evidence to show that r > g where r is return on capital and g is growth of income and output. That is “Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future.” (p.571).
Not “a” solution but the solution:
The right solution is a progressive annual tax on capital. This will make it possible to avoid an endless inegalitarian spiral while preserving competition and incentives for new instances of primitive accumulation. For example, I earlier discussed the possibility of a capital tax schedule with rates of 0.1 of 0.5 percent on fortunes under 1 million euros, 1 percent on fortunes between 1 and 4 million euros, 2 percent between 5 and 10 million euros, and as high as 5 or 10 percent for fortunes of several hundred million or several billion euros. This would contain the unlimited growth of global inequality of wealth, which is currently increasing at a rate that cannot be sustained in the long run and that ought to worry even the most fervent champions of the self-regulated market. (p.572)
Extraordinarily illuminating. I look forward to revisiting it in the future, when I’ve more time to ponder details and better understand what Piketty is saying.
Esmé in the Baby K’Tan.