Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Tao of Facebook

After the earthquake on August 23, several witty comments made the rounds on the internet.  One of the more popular ones said, "MSNBC reports that the Washington Monument is tilting to the left; Fox News says it's tilting to the right."  I thought that was funny, so I posted it on my Facebook account where a friend wrote, "And somewhere in between is the truth."  Well, maybe not.  In this particular case, this would mean that the Washington Monument was perfectly straight and not leaning at all.  I think my friend missed the point that this was only a joke.

Logically speaking, my friend's thinking would mean that the moderate point of view is always correct.  It may seem that way to many people, but there is no evidence to prove that this is the case.  It is just as possible that the extremist left point of view is the truth, or that a conservative opinion is true.  It's hard work to sort through the facts to determine exactly where the truth lies.  Truth is what remains after all other possibilities have been eliminated. 

The concept of truth is like a bar of soap in the shower:  crucial to accomplish the task and clean things up; sweet smelling, and hard to hold onto.  Consider the voices calling out, each one claiming to have the truth.  It isn't possible that all of them speak the truth, yet each one says, "Believe me!  Trust me!  I can fix everything because I have the truth!"  If taxing the rich at a higher rate is more fair, regardless of what the outcome is, explain to me how that works.  Tell me what fair means.  If you come to a decision based on trite phrases you've heard repeated ad infinitum, you may want to gather and review more factual information to see if there is substance to the current talking points.

A friend on Facebook recently posted a quote from Walt Whitman.  "Whatever satisfies the soul is truth."  How existentialist!  The individual is everything, and there is no certain knowledge of what is right or wrong, or, in the terms of the 1960s, if it feels good, do it.  I agree that truth will satisfy the soul, but often we're tricked into thinking something is true because of faulty logic or misleading information, whether it's political, religous, or cultural.  The very things that we thought "true" or satisfying after a while induce pain in our lives.  I believe Whitman is wrong.  There is a cosmic truth, there are concepts of right and wrong to which we should strive.  There is a greater power than man.  And sometimes, the truth hurts. 

Facebook holds forth on almost any topic of which you can think.  Religion, politics, art, education and careers are all discussed openly.  Some statements are true; some are not.  On Facebook there is the freedom to post whatever is on your mind.  I've seen everything on Facebook.   Just today on Facebook the link to this site was posted:  The title of this post?  "Ponzi!  Ponzi!  Ponzi!  The Truth about Social Security".  I see.  This article may indeed hold the truth, but that cannot be determined until it is read, dissected, and tested. 

The income tax is the topic of discussions everywhere from Congress to Food City.  I think most people would agree that everyone needs to pay a "fair" share of their income for this tax.  But the definition of "fair" is complicated, and much like Walt Whitman, each individual has a different persepective on the truth of the matter.  The truth about the income tax should be clear-cut, concrete, and easily determined. 

The United States did not always have an income tax.  In the early days of our country, the government raised money by import tariffs, poll taxes, and excise taxes.  Abraham Lincoln implemented the first income tax in our nation to pay for the costs of the Civil War.  It was considered a temporary tax.  The United States again used an income tax to pay for World War I (top earners paid a rate of 77%).  In 1895 the US Supreme Court found the income tax to be unconstitutional, and in 1913 the 16th amendment was ratified to allow the government to implement the tax.  These are facts, but when the discussion turns to what is right and what is wrong, the truth flies out of our hands like that soap in the shower.

It would appear that by raising the rates the rich pay, more money would be paid to the federal government, but that isn't the case.  Larry Schweikart (48 Liberal Lies About American History) writes that federal income increased beyond economists' expectations when John Kennedy cut the tax rate.  When Ronald Reagan reduced the tax rate, federal income rose by more than 40 percent, with larger amounts coming from higher-income earners.  What should be logical (raise the tax rate, take in more money) turns out to be NOT true. 

The great truths of Facebook, unfortunately, feed the thinking of many people.  Is Social Security a ponzi scheme?  I think, by the strictest definition of ponzi scheme, that yes, it is.  Should we raise the tax rate on "rich" people?  I don't think the history of tax rates as they relate to actual federal income proves this is a good idea.  But, then again, my reading list is more extensive than Facebook.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."  Jesus

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