Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Punished for being too good

Some 9-year-old kid has been banned from playing baseball because he has a 40mph fastball, and is just too good for his age group. He throws strikes...he isn't hitting batters. But the other teams are forfeiting, because he's "too good." His parents are making incendiary remarks because he's being "punished" for being good at baseball. Most of us would probably read this article and say, "This is ridiculous."

Then again, I wonder if it's fair to apply the same logic to tax strategies. It really bothers me that Obama wants to tax successful people more. I think it kills the incentive to succeed. I'm definitely a fiscal conservative.

I generally steer clear of politics on my blog, but I thought this was an interesting situation to compare. Is it ever appropriate to punish those who succeed because they are successful? What about areas other than finance?

Some schools have stopped giving awards to students with best GPAs or performances, because they don't want to hurt the kids' feelings who don't score as highly. Isn't it good to have to learn that you can't always win, or be good at everything?

Thought the article was interesting. I'm also interested in what you think about it.


  1. I'm also a fiscal conservative, but it does strike me as interesting that in discussions like these the people who complain the most about policies that "punish people for being financially successful" are almost always middle class (i.e. earn $50,000-150,00 annually) and to whom those taxes don't apply and probably never will.

    I work with rich people all day (i.e. people who earn $500,000 and upwards), and they don't seem to be too worried. They do find it amusing, though, that the people whose kids serve them burgers and lattes seem so concerned about how the gov't treats people with an income they will never have... no matter what the tax policies are. Maybe it makes us feel better to argue as if we were already rich? Are we blaming the government for something that really is our own failure?

    But I'm with you 100% on being realistic about measuring performance. Life is not fair. Let's not help people perform less well than they could by pretending that they're meeting standards that they are not really meeting.

    Except in church, of course. There, we call that grace.

  2. Hey Jonathan,

    Thanks for your input. I'm not privileged to know too many people who make that much money...at least if they do, I can't tell.

    I think the part of it that bothers me must have something to do with where we draw the line in terms of who can be considered "wealthy." Barak mentioned $250,000 in the Saddleback forum as the line above which people can be considered rich. It seems to me that depending on where a person lives, that line can be pretty subjective.

    I guess for many of us it's wishful thinking about where we would want to be financially, and what we would want it to be like.

    I generally prefer a smaller Federal government and more powerful state governments. I don't think people living in New York, Los Angeles, or anywhere so distanced from where I'm living to be deciding on what's best for me where I am living. Anything that smacks of more governmental involvement tends to make me cringe. Granted, that's probably a very southern mentality.

    Mostly, I thought this was an interesting situation to draw a principle from and see how it could apply in other settings.

  3. Agreed. It may just be "southern mentality" Mark, but as with many things in that category, it's also just plain wise.

    My not being rich doesn't mean that I want my employer to give more money to a governmental system. I figure my employer has more money than I do and if they are taxed less, they grow business, they employ more people, and in one way or another, I get more. If my employer is placed under a heavier tax burden, these options are widely closed to them.

    Social responsibility lies with the public, not the government. Who is more giving, the government or your neighbor?

  4. I'm a moderate (don't call me a centrist!), so I see the wisdom of both sides. I understand your values. But I also understand the reasoning that to those America has treated well maybe they ought to owe a little bit more.

    How much more? Are we fleecing the rich? Then we get into a tax law discussion. And then everyone eventually agrees on the quandry, "Why don't we just have a flat tax again?"

    As you can see, I've had this conversation many times :)