INCOME INEQUALITY

Income inequality and how to resolve it has become a hot button political, social and economic issue. (Note, in this blog I am not referring to the truly needy who are not able to provide for themselves, but, rather, those who could but are content to have the government provide cradle to grave benefits for them.) Liberals espouse that the haves should give to the have-nots to balance out wealth, or, better yet, the government should take from the haves and give to the have-nots. They have spent the last five years advancing this philosophy. Why should the rich have more income and wealth than the poor? It’s not fair. Americans are all equal, right?

The problem with this philosophy is similar to that of many liberal ideas – it sounds good in theory, but it is impractical, if not downright ludicrous. For example, taken to its extreme, the government would transfer a goodly portion of Denzel Washington’s income and wealth accrued from acting to other less accomplished and less famous actors and actresses. Mr. Washington would no longer be entitled to a seven-figure fee for a movie while less famous and accomplished actors and actresses earn a fraction of that amount. Similarly, Lebron James, “50 Cent” and Lady Gaga should transfer a portion of their income and wealth to other basketball players, rappers and singers to balance out any disparities, and the accountant, plumber or salesman who works 60-hour weeks because he is ambitious and wants to get ahead should nonetheless transfer some of his money to others who choose to relax at home with their families and/or pursue “hobbies.”

The obvious point of the above is to denote that Americans should focus on equality of OPPORTUNITY, not equality of INCOME AND WEALTH. Society does not owe everyone cradle to grave benefits; what it does owe them is an equal opportunity to improve themselves, for example, through education and antidiscrimination laws in employment. Our system of capitalism, self-reliance, and free enterprise should provide the means and the tools to advance, not a guarantee of advancement. The rest is up to the individual. Not to sound callous, but there will always be people who are smarter, more talented and more ambitious than others. Those people will do better. It’s as simple as that.

I would have liked to be a major league shortstop, but I didn’t have the talent. I would have liked to be a famous singer, but I didn’t have the voice. I would have liked to play in the NBA, but I am 5’11’, not 6’11”. Life is not always fair, but you do your best to maximize your talents. Isn’t that what we tell our kids? Just do your best. If you can’t be a major league baseball player, be the best carpenter, accountant or salesman you can be.

The key is to take advantage of what society provides to you. If one is born into a poor family, rather than lamenting your lot in life and demanding that society provide a certain standard of living for you, take advantage of the free education provided, earn a scholarship to college and raise yourself up. Studies have shown that the level of one’s education is the single greatest determinant of one’s success.

Our society is not like the Indian Caste system or the lords and serf system in the Middle Ages. People can and do move up (or down). Just be happy that you were born in the US, where opportunities abound, rather than in a third-world country where if you’re born poor, you stay poor, and if you’re a female, you’re a second class citizen or worse.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

My advice and belief is don’t accept and bemoan your status in life. Don’t sit around and wait for others or the government to provide for you. Don’t have a sense of entitlement. The world does not owe you a living, just the opportunity for you to earn one. Take advantage of the opportunities that the US provides all of its citizens, and work your way up. Many billionaires started out very modestly, for example, Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). The much maligned top 1% is not static; people are constantly moving up and down depending on changes in their circumstances.

Those who preach self-reliance are on the right side of this issue. It is the time-honored American way. It has served us well for 250 years. I believe that most people want to work and improve themselves; they don’t want government handouts. They just need the government to provide the basic infrastructure and opportunity. I predict that a new Administration with a more traditional economic and social philosophy will do just that.

Advertisements

ARRIVEDERCI JAY

After 22 years and countless jokes Jay Leno has retired from the “Tonite Show.” He hosted his final show on February 6, 2014. He was joined by an impressive cavalcade of guests including Billy Crystal and Oprah Winfrey, among many others. The show evoked a range of emotions – humor, poignancy and sadness. Now, it’s on to Jimmy Fallon, a very talented and versatile performer who represents the next generation.

James Douglas Muir “Jay” Leno was born on April 28, 1950 in New Rochelle, NY. He was raised in Andover, MA, outside of Boston, although he normally identifies himself as a “Boston guy.” He has a very distinctive physical feature known as mandibular prognathism, in layman’s terms, a prominent chin. He has been married to the same woman, Mavis, for 34 years, a rarity in Hollywood where many celebrities change spouses as often as they change their shirts. They have no children, but they do have a cat. In addition, Jay has one of the most comprehensive private car collections you will find. Cars are his passion. Jay never seems to take vacations. For him, its work, work, work.

Jay was the host of the “Tonite” Show for such a long time that many people are not cognizant of the fact that he had a long career before that gig. He didn’t just appear magically one day as the host. Like many entertainers, he paid his dues for many years in sleazy backwater clubs and in forgettable movies and television shows. If you want a good laugh, you can access these on “U-tube. In 1977 Jay began appearing periodically as a guest on the “Tonite” Show. Eventually, he worked his way up to guest host, then permanent guest host, then, finally, the “anointed one” (to replace Johnny Carson upon his retirement). In the ultimate non-wisdom of NBC executives he was passed over in favor of David Letterman, but, eventually, he became the permanent host on May 25, 1992, where, except for a brief ill-advised hiatus, he remained until February 6.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

Jay is not at the end of his career, not by a long shot. He is still very popular. According to Nielson, the “Tonite” Show ratings are #1 in the late night-time slot among both total viewers and the coveted 18-49 age group. It has been averaging significantly more viewers than the “Late Show,” its primary competition. In leaving now, Jay is following the showbiz tradition of “leave ’em wanting more.” I predict that, being a workaholic, Jay will not simply retire to some beach or be content to fiddle with his cars. Expect to see Jay appearing at your local comedy club or, perhaps, in a TV special or two, and if Fallon should falter, who knows?

As for NBC, I believe they are taking a calculated risk in replacing him. There are both pros and cons to their decision, but my philosophy has always been “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Time will tell if their decision was a wise one.

WINTER OLYMPICS SOCHI STYLE

The 22nd Winter Olympics commence on Friday, February 7 in Sochi, Russia. The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924, and they have been held continuously ever since, except for 1940 and 1944 because of WWII. Sochi, for those of you who do not know, is located in Southern Russia, near Chechniya and other terrorist hotspots. Why the Olympic hierarchy selected Sochi, which unlike the last three venues, (Vancouver, Canada, Turin, Italy and Salt Lake City, Utah), is well off the beaten track and lacks sufficient facilities to host the Games, is beyond me, but it did, and here we are.

Everyone is cognizant of the potential for terrorism at the Games. The Russians have gone to great lengths to prevent an attack. Security-wise these Games will be unlike any other. For example:

1. There are reports that suspected troublemakers/terrorists have been rounded up and imprisoned or shot. If this sounds extreme, remember, we’re talking about Russia. They don’t have to concern themselves with legal impediments such as due process or habeas corpus. People just disappear.

2. There are even reports that stray dogs and cats, which are a real problem there, are being shot.

3. US athletes have been advised to keep a low profile. For instance, they have been advised not to wear their Olympic uniforms when outside Olympic venues. In fact, it would probably be advisable not to venture outside the ring of security at all. This takes away from part of the Olympic experience, but the situation is what it is.

4. Families and guests of many Olympians have decided not to go to the Games. In some cases, this has been their own choice; in some cases it is at the request of the Olympian, himself, who wants to be able to concentrate on competing without worrying about his family’s safety. Imagine your spouse or child has worked all his life to compete in the Olympics, and you cannot share his experience in person.

5. The US has stationed two Navy warships in the nearby Black Sea to be available to protect and/or evacuate US citizens, if necessary.

In addition to security, certain accommodation issues have been reported by journalists and others already on the scene. Evidently, the facilities in Sochi are woefully substandard for an Olympic venue. Stories have been posted on facebook, twitter and/or U tube. The pictures are illuminating, to say the least. I don’t know whether they are funny or just embarrassing. You decide. For example:

1. Many of the streets have not been paved. Construction is ongoing.

2. There are many stray dogs and cats roaming free.

3. Six of the nine hotels are not fully operational, and the accommodations in those that have been completed are cramped.

4. Many toilets are not working. Some of the bathrooms have a sign that reads: Please don’t flush toilet paper…Put it in bins provided.”

5. The hotel rooms have double-toilet bathrooms. That’s right – two toilets side-by-side in the bathroom.

6. The water is not potable. You can’t even wash your face with it. One lady described how she had to wash her face with a bottle of Evian water.

7. The actual floor was missing from behind the reception desk in one hotel.

8. In many cases, hotel rooms were not even available. Reservations are non-existent.

9. Stray cats and dogs were found in some rooms (apparently having taken up residence there).

10. Examples of some basic items missing from hotel rooms are:

a. shower curtains
b. lamps
c. light bulbs
d. hot water
e. heat
f. televisions

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

Welcome to the Olympics. The Sochi Games are starting out as one big embarrassment for both the host nation and the Olympic hierarchy that chose the venue. It is obvious that Sochi is not ready. It illustrates the risk of choosing a site lacking the basic facilities based on assurances that such facilities will be ready on time. The story of the venue, itself, and why it was chosen may turn out to be as big as the Games, themselves.