Death and Taxes and Facebook

My blog didn’t used to have as much direction as it (sorta) does now. Originally I created a page to work on my writing, but inevitably it turned into a run of the mill Xanga page that mostly wasted time romanticizing about the mundane nature of everyday reality. It was raw, and it had no center. Becoming a writer was my first real dream, but I didn’t commit myself to it until I was 18, at a time when I didn’t really have anything to say.

As a result, for the first few of years I blogged for the most part about myself and my life. If you knew me, then you probably had a pretty solid idea of what I was talking about. If you didn’t know me then it probably came across as ambiguous. In either case, there was no doubt I felt like what I was saying was important. Later on I realized that I was only experiencing what many other teenagers/young adults go through, and there was never anything special about it. I was a wolf crying out in the wilderness, being my most honest self to a bunch of strangers on the Internet.

It’s because of self-awareness, and the idea that most people don’t (and shouldn’t) care about my life, that largely changed what my blog focused on. It started out about me. Then it became a place to talk about (me and) sports, or my favorite sports teams. Ten years later it’s hell-bent on talking about (me and sports and) labor issues — things that affect all workers — and in a way it feels like the pendulum has swung completely in the opposite direction. Politics and organized labor is what I prefer writing about, but is that all I am now?

I always understood that what was good for my family was good for me, and what was good for me was good for my family. I always understood that what was good for my friends was good for me, and what was good for me was good for my friends. We all came from the same socioeconomic background, in the city of San Bernardino no less, and so we all inherently knew that we were in it together.

For how selfish I am with my personal goals and ambitions, I’m pretty fucking good at being a team player. I was never the most talented individual on any baseball team I played on growing up, but I never played on a team that didn’t finish in first place in the league. Presently I deal the team-game of craps for a living, and even though I’m not (yet) the best there isn’t a craps crew I’ve been on where there’s been any drama or overweening conflicts of ego. I think the moral to the story is whether it’s little league or dealing craps, I’m good enough at what I do to get respect — and therefore have some control over the unit’s moral. That might not count for much, but philosophically I find that if everyone is getting along then the outcomes improve.

Basically all I’m saying is lefty politics — policies that benefit everyone, instead of only the very most well-to-do — were always a part of me. I believed in them even when I didn’t know what I believed. It so happens that such policies have historically been pretty damn effective in the United States, so We’re All In The Same Boat isn’t an especially difficult position to argue from.

All that said, I deleted like five political items I had posted on Facebook over the last year or so. I’m not particularly active over there, but every month or two I’ll get into a debate with one of my right-wing friends. I think, ultimately, that’s what made me reconsider what exactly the fuck it is I’m doing on there. I mean, have I for real turned into the guy who argues about politics on Facebook?

Fucking taxes, man. The topic just sucks me in. I have a buddy who’s white and a couple years older than I am. He works at the casino I left four years ago, and probably makes between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. That isn’t anything to shit on, especially compared to many other millennials, but he certainly isn’t breaking the bank anytime soon. He is a normal, working class person.

Then you take me. I’m white. At 28 years old, I’m a fellow millennial. I work in the same industry he does, though I earn about twice as much. I’m not gloating too much in admitting that; it’s just a fact. So how is it when he and I get into arguments about taxes, he is consistently on the side that believes higher taxes are immoral, and I am on the side who believes poor people should get more bang for their tax buck? I’m not a math scholar, but you’d think it would be the opposite, right?

As we went on our little Facebook discussion a few other people chimed in. One was a Trump-lover who courageously informed me that “Socialism doesn’t work brother,” another was the mom of one of my friends growing up who called my beliefs “misguided.” And then I had my buddy from my old job, who said things like “some of us see a moral problem with redistribution of wealth,” and “I believe in a 15 percent flat tax.”

I took a step back, just to appreciate the types of people I was arguing with about taxes. Is this really the hill I want to die on? I thought to myself. Naturally I referenced Amazon owner Jeff Bezos paying nothing in federal taxes on $11 billion in profits (he actually received a $129 million rebate), and I referenced how the American economy was stronger when the rich paid more in taxes. But of course, none of it landed.

Anyway, I can’t do this for you. You’ll have to figure it out yourself. I can’t waste any more time on Facebook arguing with people dumber than I am, who haven’t themselves put in the work to find out that lower taxes, and trickle down economics, have literally never worked. But if I can’t convince someone making $40,000-$50,000 a year that they are poor (without saying it directly), then there is no way I am going to convince him that I’m poor, too, even though I do a little better.

Socialism — or a “redistribution of wealth” — is never a problem unless the money is being redistributed from the wealthy to poor people (like us). Over the last 50 years, through tax breaks for the wealthy and wealthy corporations, the United States has had a redistribution of wealth, only instead of going from top to bottom it’s gone from the lower and middle classes to the top 1%. We hear only crickets about this fact from the right wing, even as the middle class continues to disappear before our eyes.

I appear dumber when I argue with people like this. And, unfortunately, the way Facebook works, those who are most vocal generally aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. It may make me sound like an asshole to say so, but I really just need to use this specific blog time to get it all out of my system. I am generally fine being on an island when I argue — being a contrarian and playing devil’s advocate are in my blood — but when it comes to some things not all opinions are created equal.

Like, I could argue that cheddar cheese tastes better than gouda, but such an argument would be pointless because either way it’s subjective. I can’t, on the other hand, argue that lower taxes are better for the economy, because it’s just factually, objectively wrong. We have actual data dating back a hundred years to tell that story for us. To believe in trickle down economics is a religion. It’s a story you tell yourself, and other people in your bubble, to make you feel better.

My favorite part of this stupid saga was that the guy from my old job arguing alongside the billionaires — those who count on people like him to buy into their propaganda and be useful idiots — has the balls to bring morality into the debate. Then I — the guy defending poor people against billionaires and corporations that don’t give a fuck about ordinary people — become the immoral jerk for wanting the rich to pay more in taxes. I’m not trying to sound sanctimonious about this, but c’mon, really?

We’ll see how long it lasts, but I’m really going to try my hardest not to be Guy On Facebook Who Argues About Politics. It’s a truly lame look, even in spite of my attempts to build bridges with other workers who share the same economic interests I do. I mean, part of the reason I think college should be free is because it benefits everybody to have an informed electorate. On the Internet I am reduced to being just another jackoff who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. People have no reason to believe any of the things I say, even though the knowledge and information is at their fingertips.

Part of the reason I am reflecting on my online behavior is due to having a lot of conservative friends. Several times since the day Donald Trump got elected I have had friends and coworkers tell me they don’t usually like to talk about politics from people on the other side, but that, with me, they make an exception. They say what they believe, I say what I believe, and this is America. We move on with our lives.

They don’t generally like getting into it with “liberals,” they say, because too much emotion is involved. Both sides dig in, and neither side hears the other.

Conservatives are willing to talk to me, since I’m not into culture wars. I don’t get riled up about immigration or abortion — or whatever other current topic that divides people — because I’m straight up: Do you seriously think those are the biggest problems with America? 

So I take it back to what we can agree on. We agree that Wall Street and the big banks are out to screw us. We agree that the healthcare industry is a racket. We agree that the American government is corrupt, and that everyday workers deserve better. When it’s framed like that, and not just some red team vs. blue team bullshit, then both sides can share the same beliefs.

I generally find that people who are pro-Trump view me (correctly) as anti-Trump, and people who are anti-Trump (incorrectly) view me as pro-Trump. In other words: exactly where I want to be. I challenge the phoniness of the Democratic Party just as aggressively as the cartoonish GOP. You’ve seen my blog. You get it.

But on places like Facebook, I’m just another dude. I’m that guy who deals craps at the casino you work at. I’m that cocky and condescending son of a bitch you knew from high school. I’m that sad and pathetic kid from Southern California you knew from a couple semesters of college. I’m all those things to all those people, and then some, but if you don’t know that I’m right when I talk about taxes and their historical relationship to the American economy, then I’m just a random avatar with a name next to it. And since I argue for the people who have the least amount of money, and the least amount of education, and the least amount of everything else, I can go fuck myself.

In the end a random avatar is all I am, anyway, but I find it funny that the guy who argues for things that benefit like 70% of American workers — those who earn $50,000 a year or less — is a dick for wanting the top tenth of one percent to pay higher taxes. The guy who wants a better life for the oppressed and historically disenfranchised is essentially accused of being unfair, and oppressive, to the richest people on the planet.

If that’s the guy I have to be, and if that’s the lane I have to occupy, then so be it. Because the way I see it you are either with me and the rest of the 99%, or you are an unpaid vessel who regurgitates the talking points of the billionaire class. I mean, my dad falls in the latter camp. Most of the people I associate with fall in the latter camp. But until the day comes where I have tens of millions of dollars in the bank, I’m not going to be delivering any free advertisements for an ideology that doesn’t represent me.

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