I Support the Rich. I Guess.

Anyone paying attention to any media outlets lately knows that the Bush Tax Cuts are coming to an end this year. Democrats want to continue taxing the rich ($200,000+ a year income) and give tax cuts to the lower rungs of the ladder. Republicans want to extend them for everyone. Actually, I imagine if they had their way, Republicans would lower taxes on the rich and raise them on the lower and middle classes. I don’t think they’ve said that, though.

My opinion on this is mixed. There’s “the rich” and then there’s the “filthy rich” with more money than god. $200,000 a year in income isn’t a whole lot in my mind. Not enough to get mad at them for. But, that’s what Democrats have done. And good for them for at least being able to articulate rage for once.

First, tax cuts aren’t handouts. They just mean the government doesn’t steal as much from me or someone else. Republicans by and large like tax cuts because they leave more money in people’s pockets as they earn them. Democrats want to tax people and then spend it on people with less of it. I have a problem with that moral idea.

The practical side of me thinks about the matter of wealth creation. How many people making $200,000 a year are suddenly going to try and make $199,999 a year? Tax brackets encourage people to skirt around the numbers, all in the name of keeping the money they earn. Plus, by and large, taxes discourage wealth creation. If I didn’t think I could make more money running my business, I never would have left my last salary job. If taxes prevent that belief or possibility, then wealth stagnates. When I start a business, I at least have the opportunity to make more money — maybe even $200,000 a year or more. Take that away and people just get content to sit around and earn beans.

Plus, most people aren’t stupid. And rich people have more than two brain cells AND money to fix things. Maryland created a “wealth tax” that taxed the super-rich with the expectation of making $106 million. Instead, they lost $257 million because the wealthy all got up and moved.

I don’t hate or feel angry at rich people — Sam Walton, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, these people spent a lot of time and effort to create something and I believe they ought to get rewarded for it. They happen to be immensely rewarded. Frankly, I’m fine with the idea that Sam Walton makes a lot of money vs. a guy in a trailer in Kentucky drinking beer and wondering why he doesn’t have any money. One guy worked harder, longer. The other sits in a trailer and drinks beer on weekends.

If you wanted to eliminate this problem, you’d institute a fair tax of 10% or some equally agreeable number and everyone would just pay that amount of their income.

People work to get money and a better life. They don’t work to pay taxes or pay for someone else’s quality of life (at least not in a recurring manner). I do have more of a problem with people who “come into wealth”, such as people who just happen to be born in the right place. I think people should work for their rewards, not inherit them — or at least not all of it. But I don’t have a problem with the wealthy. I hope to be one of them someday. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But just because I’m not right now doesn’t mean I should be angry and try to take their money.

Review: Design is How it Works

Book Review: Design is How it Works by Jay Greene

Here’s a book that really had me captivated. I love biographies and I love autobiographies even more. There’s something about a successful individual giving someone else access to the life to write an unfettered and straight-talking essay on their lives. For one, it takes guts to be so confident in one’s own life and two, it takes a lot of effort and talent to accurately write about someone you may have never met.

Author Jay Greene works as a reporter inside the companies, offices and brains of some of the world’s most popular companies like Nike, Virgin, LEGO and Porsche. Greene interviews the CEOs, the teams, the marketers and the users of the products. He digs into the past of each of the companies and beautifully explains how they came to be the way they are today. He spells out the risks companies take, when they succeed and when they fail.

In the case of Virgin and its founder Richard Branson, Greene shares his own experiences testing out Virgin’s airlines, wedding boutiques and other forays. Greene comes off as someone you trust and someone who isn’t so out of touch with the mainstream that his own genuine surprise at using various products comes across in his writing.

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in learning how great companies are born, how they develop products (from LEGO bricks to vegetable peelers) and the inspiration behind it all.

World War I Officially Ends Sunday

The First World War will officially end on Sunday, 92 years after the guns fell silent, when Germany pays off the last chunk of reparations imposed on it by the Allies.

Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

The bill would have been settled much earlier had Adolf Hitler not reneged on reparations during his reign.

Review: The Web Designer’s Idea Book

Book Review: The Web Designer’s Idea Book by Patrick McNeil

The popular Design Meltdown website by Patrick McNeil recently got converted into book form. The first book of this series contained many samples of web projects from around the globe that display excellent use of color, layout, harmony and other aspects of design theory.

The problem with this book is that it’s a book. Web pages, not one to be confined by the physical limitations of paper, don’t always fit well in print. The result was small images packaged into pages with little room to really absorb the full detail of the site’s artwork.

While the sites were all attributed with their original links, this being a book, it’s stuck in its current form forever. As a result, many of the web pages I personally liked the most didn’t exist anymore or if they did, they didn’t exist in the same fashion as before. More often that not, the redesigns didn’t reflect as much identity as the prior design. It’s a trend I’ve noticed in eliminating more design elements for the sake of separating it from content, giving the site authors the ability to push content to other outlets and platforms without much fuss or trouble.

In all, a super-quick read. I skimmed the whole thing in about 15 minutes. A little pricey for what it’s value is likely to be in just a few months (almost zero). The second version of the book is due out soon. Hopefully for Kindle users.