Why "earn" is a poor word-choice when describing the profits of the 1%

Discuss

98 Responses to “Why "earn" is a poor word-choice when describing the profits of the 1%”

  1. Simon Cohen says:

    So does that mean we should ban the use of the word any time someone generates income, or just when the person in question generated an amount that 99% find offensive?

    • scifijazznik says:

      Did you actually read what was written or are you really that thick?

      • Cowicide says:

        Did you actually read what was written or are you really that thick?

        Conservatives.  Are they purposefully obtuse or just dense?

        • Simon Cohen says:

          Just because I disagree with Gillmor’s premise doesn’t make me a conservative. Just like labeling me one doesn’t mean you’ve contributed to the dialog. 

      • Simon Cohen says:

        Of course I read it. Now, instead of taking the easy way out and resorting to insults, why don’t you offer a rebuttal if you disagree with what I wrote?

    • Cowicide says:

      So does that mean we should ban the use of the word any time someone generates income

      NO

  2. Cowicide says:

    They earn money the same way a serial killer earns bodies in his basement; through deceit and an utter lack of empathy.

  3. mtskeptic says:

    I’d say “accrue” is also an accurate and neutral alternative. Since a lot of their income is from interest and dividends on securities they own.

  4. scifijazznik says:

    I would even say “made” is an incorrect word when we’re talking about bankers and hedge fund tycoons….unless we’re now counting the creation of clever financial instruments as actually making a thing.  I think finding ways to profit by moving other people’s money around and treating it as just numbers on a computer screen shouldn’t count for “making” or “earning” anything.

  5. JohnMc says:

    “Received” is nice and neutral.

    “Finagled” has its uses.

  6. pqaq says:

    Sometimes words are just words. It’s language, just accept it. Not everything makes perfect sense. No offense to Mr. Gillmor but that’s just absurd and reeeally reaching. There are plenty of real, substantial, factual arguments to be made but this isn’t one of them.

    Similarly, the English earn money, Americans make it and Germans “deserve” money (if translated directly). There may have been cultural reasons for that at some point but these days they are just words. Nobody thinks about their ancient meanings.

    • Cowicide says:

      just accept it

      You may underestimate the power of propaganda over a populace, but there’s some of us who understand both its power and implications.

      Thanks for playing.

      • pqaq says:

        Let me get this straight, you think centuries-old usage represents “propaganda over a populace?” Are you for real?

        Or let’s all switch to Newspeak, would be easier: no redundancies, no bias.

        Oh, just to be extra clear: I’m about as far removed from “conservative” as one could be but just think about how you feel when them Freepers try to redefine words to fit their needs.

        • Cowicide says:

          Let me get this straight, you think centuries-old usage represents “propaganda over a populace?” Are you for real?

          Current “usage”.

          Go back.  Check out my links.  Educate yourself.  Get “real”.

          just think about how you feel when them Freepers try to redefine language to fit their needs.

          RTFA. It’s not talking about redefining language. It’s talking about proper usage of language if the media was to stop with weasel words and instead speak truth/facts and educate the populace.

  7. Robert Marks says:

    You know the thing that bothers me most about this entire occupy movement, other than the protestors ignoring private property rights, is that they are generalizing everyone. Not everyone in the “mythical” 1% is bad or earned their money in any nefarious manner. And then since I haven’t been fortunate to make a lot of money (yet) I am thus grouped with them in this 99%.  I am all for stopping people from stealing money like say Jon Corzine did. But no one should take you seriously if you don’t respect the law. Why not have serious discussions with all levels of government? Why not ask your representives to fix this and if they are unwilling, vote them out. The founding fathers set up this republic in such a way that we could continue to change and govern as the world needed it. We don’t have to remain static. If all these idiots in tents would just stand up and actually do something then they might actually get what they want. I know I could talk to them and agree with them on certain points but as long as they are outside on my courthouse’s lawn and other areas around the country, I can’t take them seriously. We arent children. You can’t get what you want by throwing a fit.

    • Cowicide says:

      Robert Marks: [emphasis mine]

      You know the thing that bothers me most about this entire occupy movement, other than the protestors ignoring private property rights, is that they are generalizing everyone.

      Yeah, don’t you hate it when people generalize?

      Self-reflection.  You lack it.

      Why not have serious discussions with all levels of government?

      Why not educate yourself on the OWS movement?  If you did, you’d know that OWS is protesting against both Wall Street and the government and its supporters are from all walks of life who are both on the streets in protest and are behind the scenes changing this country for the better.

      Educate yourself.

      If all these idiots in tents would just stand up and actually do something then they might actually get what they want.

      Once again, how about you quit being a lazy bum and educate yourself?  Is that too much of an effort for you?

      We arent children. You can’t get what you want by throwing a fit.

      You’re correct.  Here you are throwing a fit like an infant and nothing has been accomplished.

      Maybe in the future spend more effort educating yourself on the OWS or anything else you dismiss in future?  Otherwise, you appear uneducated, cantankerous and lazy.

      • Robert Marks says:

        Well said Cowicide. I am guilty of generalizing the entire movement. I am sure there are some people out there that are honestly trying to change things for the better but that still doesnt invalidate my arguments. They are illegally protesting in some instances. I am all for freedom to assemble and protest but I don’t like seeing tents and people defecating in buckets on my courthouse’s lawn. I respect private property above all other things. I wish they would as well. Some (I wont say all) are breaking the law. They are the face of the movement and so that is why I generalized them. Every instance I hear about them is either they are breaking the law or complaing that the police did exactly what they said they would. I’m not throwing a fit. I am just mad because I am sick of all the blaming and complaining. Do something productive. I went and talked to the protestors in my town and honestly I was terrifed by what I heard and saw. I only hope it is not indicative of the entire movement because if so then we are really screwed if you guys ever get power.

        • Cowicide says:

          I am sure there are some people out there that are honestly trying to change things for the better but that still doesnt invalidate my arguments.

          How can you be sure?  Have you checked?

          They are illegally protesting in some instances. I am all for freedom to assemble and protest but I don’t like seeing tents and people defecating in buckets on my courthouse’s lawn. I respect private property above all other things.

          Freedom of Assembly is the law of the land and you should investigate that further.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment#Petition_and_assembly

          How do you feel about this illegal protest, I wonder?
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Tea_Party

          Also, “your” courthouse lawn is public property… not private property.  And, it’s “our” courthouse, thank you very much.

          We can also discuss the tea baggers that defecate into port-o-john buckets provided by the Koch brothers who in turn support the Koch brothers who pollute the hell out of our country by land, water and air.  We can also discuss the massive toll it takes on our general sewage system when fat ass tea baggers shit out all their non-stop inhalation of treats such as fried butter on a stick and the constant influx of lard they throw down their gullets.

          Or we can maybe discuss the topic of this thread?  It’s up to you.

          so that is why I generalized them

          And, that shows you haven’t learned a thing.

          Every instance I hear about them is either they are breaking the law or complaing that the police did exactly what they said they would.

          That’s your fault for maintaining a monolithic information diet of only right wing media.

          I’m not throwing a fit. I am just mad because I am sick of all the blaming and complaining.

          I have no response to that.  I just wanted to quote that sentence to give others a laugh when they read it.

          Do something productive.

          Once again, please educate yourself.

          we are really screwed if you guys ever get power.

          “You guys”?

          You mean the American people? Why do you hate the American people?

          But… I guess you feel we’ve been doing just fantastic with the corporatists in power, huh?

          I went and talked to the protestors in my town and honestly I was terrifed by what I heard and saw.

          You mean you listened or watched one of those rightwing shows that went and selectively interviewed and selectively edited a so-called OWS protestor?

          • Wally Ballou says:

            “You mean you listened or watched one of those rightwing shows that went and selectively interviewed and selectively edited a so-called OWS protestor?”

            I spend a lot of time reading a blog that selectively quoted and selectively edited a few carefully culled so-called tea partiers.  Does that count??

          • Cowicide says:

            I spend a lot of time reading a blog that selectively quoted and selectively edited a few carefully culled so-called tea partiers.  Does that count??

            Not unless two wrongs make a right-winger.  ;D

          • Robert Marks says:

            You know just because the constitution says you have the right to peaceably assemble doesn’t mean you can just go wherever you want and disrupt others. There are limitations to our rights based on the public good and safety. Take for example the freedom of speech. You can’t go into a theater and yell fire. That shows a clear and present danger to the public. The freedom to assemble was designed so that the government could never stop individuals from collectively coming together to express ideas and grievances. Now I would say that some of these OWS protests are unlawful assemblies. An unlawful assembly is “A meeting of three or more individuals to commit a crime or carry out a lawful or unlawful purpose in a manner likely to imperil the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood.” Now if I am not mistaken Zuccotti Park had posted hours. My courthouse’s grounds sure do. Weren’t weapons found there? Haven’t protestors been threatening violence? Haven’t they been destroying and trashing the places they are occupying? Just because you have the right to something does not mean you can ignore the law. I love the law and that is why I can never support a movement that is breaking it actively and constantly. I think Teddy Roosevelt said it best with No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.
            Also I have never been to a tea party rally or protest but I will say this, there was one a block away from where I live and after they left you could not tell they had ever been there. They assembled made their point and left. Very nice.
            I’m not sure how you add the quotes from my posts but that makes responses a lot easier. Sorry for not knowing how to do that and listen no hard feelings. I enjoy debating. I hope the smart and law abiding people of this movement come to their senses and change the course for the better. No one likes people that have robbed, cheated and stole to gain power. I just hope that extends to everyone on both sides.

          • menton says:

            Laws are important but not all-important. Your absolute love of law makes you an opponent to Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. And Jesus Christ, if we put any credence in the biblical narrative of him as a person. Is that really the position you want to take?

            The basic question is, which side are you on? Power and vested interests – or the rest of us?
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iAIM02kv0g

          • Robert Marks says:

            I say very often that Gandhi was one of the most dangerous people of the 20th century. He actively said that no one should resist the Nazis and just let them take over. So sure I am glad I am not like Gandhi. I’m not saying an unjust law is right but I do believe in the rule of law. Christ preached that we must follow man’s law as long as it does not conflict with God’s law. I think I am good there. Why is it that because I love the law I am anti-civil rights? The law has fixed the issues that plagued that generation. There are no longer Jim Crow Laws. People are allowed to vote freely and safely. People are not judged based on the color of their skin by the law. Why can’t we have pride in that? Why can’t I love the law for being able to accommodate and be just? The law can change when it is required and that’s what I love. Not some static and arrachic system, but a living and breathing system that is constantly changing to meet the needs of the next generation while still holding on to ideals and vision that the founding fathers laid out.

          • menton says:

            I haven’t heard anyone in the OWS movement being against anything you just wrote. We all want rule of law under a system of fair laws that are fairly enforced. That is not where we live today. In a situation like ours, where much of the law regulating property and wealth has been captured by the corporate interests, minor lawbreaking is a necessity and morally defensible thing to do. So then your previous law-based objections to OWS seem nullified.

    • marilove says:

      “We arent children. You can’t get what you want by throwing a fit. ”

      When did protesting and using your constitutional right to free speech to speak out against the blatant greed among most of the 1% become “throwing a fit”?

      It’s really sad when even clearly progressive, thinking people speak out AGAINST our right to protest.

      I, for one, think highly of those who know their constitutional rights and choose to utilize them.

    • Marc45 says:

      Well said Robert!
      Generalizations are the tool of the ignorant.  The world is messy, opinions are subjective and criminal behavior is not the exclusive domain of the wealthy or the poor.
      I agree, it’s important to use the system for change as much as possible.  If our elected officials had actually been working for the people then guys like Angelo Mozilo would be in jail, the irresponsible banks would have gone out of business and Congress would have taken responsibility for the mess.

    • Andrew Wolf says:

      A couple of things. 
      1) you aren’t going to ever be in the one percent. I’m not saying you won’t be really wealthy, but you just are not going to amass and manage that much money. It isn’t rich the way you think probably think of rich. The fantasy that someday you might become that wealthy (along with a lot of lobbying)  is what keep taxes low and loopholes open for these people.
      2) almost no one in the 1% directly generates all of their income, nor do they invest and secondarily create their income through industry. They’ve found ways to profit by being the middle man or taking advantage of situations this is bad for the economy. 
      3) I keep writing almost and most and what not. its kind of a pain in the ass. no one thinks that everybody in the 1% is doing something wrong they think that most of them are it is just easier to say all. if it helps just fill in most of every time you see 1% somewhere. 
      4) OWS isn’t a fit, its a protest and the founding fathers had a lot of them, some of them were really violent and I think that the fact that we haven’t had that sort of violence yet says a lot about how rational the protesters are being, but people are really unhappy because more and more money is becoming a form of speech and political power. If we allow people to  inherent huge sums of money and that money caries so much power we are creating a de-facto  aristocracy. That is really scary to me and I would hope it is to you to.    

  8. Zippy Gonzales says:

    “Skim” would be a more accurate handle. For example, X Corp posted higher than expected skimmings in the last quarter.

  9. Mordicai says:

    I like “profited,” it has the sort of “did you know the ownership class is monetizing your labor & then giving you a small fraction of it?  Hahah, & you complain about taxes?”

  10. georgebailey says:

    This “us” vs. “them” rhetoric is counterproductive.   There are many people and families in the “1%” who earn (make, accrue, or get, whatever) money as payment for work they do, and many in that income bracket who lament the growing wealth gap, the increasing influence of corporations over our democracy, and the collapse of public investment in social programs, education and infrastructure.  Rhetorical attacks on Americans based on how much income they receive is not the solution.    We should instead focus on returning progressive principles to our tax system so that those who can afford to pay a higher percentage of their income(regardless of how that income is derived) do so.  

    • Cowicide says:

      There are many people and families in the “1%” who earn (make, accrue, or get, whatever) money as payment for work they do, and many in that income bracket who lament the growing wealth gap

      [citations sorely needed]

      la·ment/ləˈment/
      Noun:
      A passionate expression of grief.

      Yes… those poor… poor… rich people. They are so helpless to do something about it and just can’t control themselves when they bribe our government. Oh God, I lament how much hell they must go through to be corrupt and not be able to control themselves.

      We should instead focus on returning progressive principles to our tax system so that those who can afford to pay a higher percentage of their income(regardless of how that income is derived) do so.

      That’s doesn’t happen magically. First you have to educate a public that’s been indoctrinated to believe otherwise and then perform the herculean task of helping them to realize they can do something about it after also being indoctrinated into feeling helpless (when they aren’t).

      And, it’s certainly not just the tax system. We need systemic changes in the very structure of our government to fight the corporatist insurgency.

      This is war. There are mass deaths and suffering involved. I just don’t think some of you understand the levity of what’s going on here and just how strong propaganda and lies are in an information age.

      This “us” vs. “them” rhetoric is counterproductive.

      We tried it your way and look where most Americans are today?

      Facts.  Just look at them:

  11. justawriter says:

    I think the word we are looking for is “handed.”  As in, “The CEO of the firm of  Engulf and Devour was handed a 2.5 million dollar bonus for being very tall with good hair.”

  12. thaum says:

    “it is that much of this wealth, by any rational standard, is undeserved”

    So, where exactly is the threshold for earning/accruing/yielding/whatever money go from “deserved” to “undeserved”? Is there a table or spreadsheet somewhere? I mean, it says by any rational standard, but that’s not very specific. 

      • thaum says:

        I’m sorry, the article is talking about wealth higher than some given amount being “undeserved”. Putting aside the language issue, nowhere does it say what this amount actually _is_; the only numbers _in_ that article are “1%” and “0.1%”. 

        Media can make glib comments about “by any rational standard” like everyone is supposed to agree that “these people are making too much money”, but how much _is_ that? Is it when one becomes part of the vaunted 1%? Is it less than that? What?

        • Cowicide says:

          Once again, RTFA and put on your critical thinking cap (if you have one).

          You really want me to spoon-feed this to you?

          So, why are you here, anyway?  What’s the point of your rhetoric?  Your message is muddled.

          • thaum says:

            Mmm, a light flavouring of ad-hominem. Yummy.

            If the general consensus is that arbitrary unidentified boundaries between what is “deserved” and “undeserved” are totally acceptable, and don’t need to be subject to a critical exposition or outlined at all,  then — I think I want to run away screaming from this mess, thanks.

            Why is “income derived from the buying and selling of assets” undeserved or deserved? Why should we say profits are “deserved or undeserved”, or “earned” or “not earned”? Like I said, the article makes an interesting point about language, but assumes the reader agrees with the writer on the propositions being made without actually expounding those propositions in any sort of tangible form. 

            Jesus, I think I’m wasting my time here.

          • Cowicide says:

            Why is “income derived from the buying and selling of assets” undeserved or deserved?

            You’re moving the goalposts and trying to reframe the argument to suit your own ends.  Sorry, you’re not smart enough to get away with it.

            Please watch this man’s lecture linked in this post above and then get back with us.

            Also this:
            http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#goalposts

            Why should we say profits are “deserved or undeserved”, or “earned” or “not earned”?

            Because most of society doesn’t consider stealing earning a living.

            The bank robber earned money from a bank last week…  Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?

            assumes the reader agrees with the writer on the propositions being made without actually expounding those propositions in any sort of tangible form. … Jesus, I think I’m wasting my time here.

            Why don’t you just come out and say you don’t agree that the 1% is stealing from the general public despite the preponderance of evidence that proves they do?

            Or you can just keep beating around the bush, it’s up to you.

          • thaum says:

            Okay, okay. I’ll bite.

            You say:

            “‘Why should we say profits are “deserved or undeserved”, or “earned” or “not earned”?’

            Because most of society doesn’t consider stealing earning a living.”

            You’re saying when, say, the owner of a corner store buys a gross of apples to sell, buys them from the farm at $1/kg, and then sells them in their store at $1.10/kg, they’re stealing? I’m sorry, that’s just an insane proposition. 

            There _is_ certainly a moral dimension to profit — but you either have to hold that all profit is theft or that some profit is theft and some profit is not theft. 

            I am not trying to “move the goalposts”, I’m trying to find out where those goalposts _actually are_.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            You’re saying when, say, the owner of a corner store buys a gross of apples to sell, buys them from the farm at $1/kg, and then sells them in their store at $1.10/kg, they’re stealing?

            The owner of the store did actual work to purchase the apples, receive them, display them and sell them. That’s different from buying and selling things without ever doing anything but hitting a button on a website. Or having one of your employees hit the button. Do you not see the difference between actually providing some value as a middleman versus just skimming profit off the top without adding any value into the chain?

          • thaum says:

            Is it? 

            By your “button on a website” comment I assume you mean the sharemarket. What about the skill and intelligence required to understand how a public-traded company is behaving, gathering data sources about news related to it, and understanding when the company is faring badly and should sell versus knowing when the price will bottom out and knowing when the best point to buy is? What about the skill and intelligence in embedding this knowledge into algorithms, using these algorithms, and working out how to make sure the networks interface with the markets with as low a latency as possible? 

            Is that not commensurable to physical work? The apple seller and the share trader _are working_ to gain a profit. Is profit only seen as morally acceptable when there is direct involvement in its gain?

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            What about the skill and intelligence required to understand how a public-traded company is behaving, gathering data sources about news related to it, and understanding when the company is faring badly and should sell versus knowing when the price will bottom out and knowing when the best point to buy is?

            It adds no value to anything except someone’s bank account. Safe-cracking is a rare skill-set, too. That doesn’t make it meaningful or valuable.

          • thaum says:

            So, you’re implying that share trading is criminal, and implying that everyone involved in the finance industry are criminals.

            Yeah, I think I’m done here.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            So, you’re implying that share trading is criminal, and implying that everyone involved in the finance industry are criminals.

            Yeah, I think I’m done here.

            You were pretty obviously done before you started. You wanted to know if someone who develops the skill and knowledge to game the system and make money without adding any value into the system does something “commensurable” to work. My answer is a flat, axiomatic ‘No”. I used the safe-cracking example to point out that the development of skills is meaningless unless the skills provide value.

          • Jonathan Badger says:

            But who determines value? If a stockbroker working for a retirement fund uses these skills to “game the system” as you call it, making money for himself but also for all the people planning to retire on the fund, is that “adding value?” It’s easy to think that stockbrokers perform no socially useful value, and like the complaint of the refrigerator mover about musicians in the Dire Straits song, that they “get their money for nothing and their chicks for free”, but plenty of us in the 99% benefit from their actions. It’s one thing to be against fraudulent behavior and quite another to be against the system while simultaneously benefiting from it.

          • menton says:

            A lot of people benefit from a lot of peoples actions. That’s society! The problem is that a tiny group currently grabs almost all the benefits even though they don’t contribute more to society that most other hard working people do.

          • stylophone says:

            “I used the safe-cracking example to point out that the development of skills is meaningless unless the skills provide value.”

            I think we could find other professions / skills that don’t provide value under the definitions in your answers. Some examples below off the top of my head – I’m curious to hear what you think of them, because I’m really not sure where you draw the line.

            Advertising agent. Redistributes wealth by making people buy one product instead of another. Skims some fees off the top. Doesn’t earn what he makes?

            Venture capitalist. Allocates capital to investments – this particular one doesn’t add anything else, just harvests the resulting profits. Doesn’t earn what he makes? Not even considering some real value-creating projects would never have gotten off the ground without his funding? Note, this guy is a finance professional, likely in the 1%.

            Business school professor. Just enables his students to “sit around on their asses and get money for it”. Doesn’t earn what he makes?

            I’ll think of more examples if you like. But if you do think that any of these actually earn, I’m curious to hear why. Conversely, if you don’t think they earn, then surely the number of professions that don’t provide value is so large as to render any judgement about who earns and who merely makes/steals a useless distinction.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            What would be the point of me answering a list of rhetorical questions?

          • Cowicide says:

            the owner of a corner store buys a gross of apples to sell, buys them from the farm at $1/kg, and then sells them in their store at $1.10/kg, they’re stealing? I’m sorry, that’s just an insane proposition.

            Agreed, you did just make an insane proposition.  What’s wrong with you?

            You’re doing the old tactic of throwing every fallacious, inane, false argument at me you can.

            But, it doesn’t work on me, sorry.  I never said anything like you propose and if you bothered to RTFA you’d see the article makes no such stupid claims either.

            You’re the one making ludicrous claims and trying to pass them off onto others.  Give it up, it’s not working on me or anyone else here.  Try a Fox News forum or something.

            Conservatives.  Are they purposefully obtuse or just dense?

          • thaum says:

            Anyone who doesn’t agree with you must be a conservative and love Fox News, huh? Four legs good, two legs better!

          • Cowicide says:

            Anyone who doesn’t agree with you must be a conservative and love Fox News, huh?

            Nope.  Wrong again.

          • stylophone says:

            Cowicide, you seem very fond of picking what you perceive as holes in other people’s arguments in an attempt to make them look deceitful. Let’s use your own favourite source.

            “Sorry, you’re not smart enough to get away with it.
            “http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#hominem

            “Once again, how about you quit being a lazy bum and educate yourself?  Is that too much of an effort for you?”
            http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#hominem
            http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#dismissal

            “Yes… those poor… poor… rich people. They are so helpless to do something about it and just can’t control themselves when they bribe our government. Oh God, I lament how much hell they must go through to be corrupt and not be able to control themselves.”
            http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#straw

            “RTFA” (repeatedly)
            http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#dismissal

            “Because most of society doesn’t consider stealing earning a living.
            The bank robber earned money from a bank last week…  Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?”http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#strawMore generally:http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#selective_reading

            I find it tiring. Sadly, your unwillingness to enter into a proper dialogue means you are just preaching to the choir.

            Edit: Just edited to add back some missing and misleading line breaks.

          • honen says:

            “The bank robber earned money from a bank last week…  Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?”

            Well…to be fair he did have to work for that money, take a risk and if it that risk would be realized he’d be personally responsible and go to jail for his actions.

  13. thecleaninglady says:

    If you’d like to learn about the power of language and how it is intentionally manipulated for political purposes (and why millions of dollars go to thinktanks carefully crafting speaking points) , do yourself a favor and watch George Lakoff’s Moral Politcs lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f9R9MtkpqM

    Radio, tv or press/web media will never be the same. It helped me see beyond the BS pushed down our throats.This should be required viewing for children in any non-totalitarian regime.

    • Cowicide says:

      do yourself a favor and watch George Lakoff’s Moral Politcs lecture

      A lecture from a cognitive linguist that studies semantics?  How dare you try to get some of the detractors in this thread to think!  It’s abuse!

  14. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Yay!  I won the lottery!  I earned a hundred million dollars!

    Yay!  I inherited money and I get income from investing it!  I earned a hundred million dollars.

    • pqaq says:

      Maybe you should try French, same word for “earn/make money” and “win the lottery.”

      You’d be better off debating facts than changing your language to fight your enemy du jour.

      • CastanhasDoPara says:

        Ha, nice try, but I believe the point Antinous is making is that it sounds stupid (and wrong) to say that money from the lottery or an inheritance was earned. In French, ‘gagner,’ does have that multi-purpose usage. BUT, it more or less means ‘to gain’. While that is fine for French, however, for the most part people that hang out here on BB use English and as such we are discussing the usage of words in English, not French.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        A) We’re not French, nor is this discussion about French usage.
        B) You seem to be enraged that a discussion on semantics has been derailed to talk about semantics.

    • Simon Cohen says:

      The problem with your example is that it discounts the employment component.
      We may not agree that a CEO deserved to get paid what they did, but their employer decided (for better or worse) that they should get it. Thus, the CEO *earned* the money through his employment. It’s a contract between the CEO and his employer. If I pay someone $100 to clean my house and they sit around for a few hours doing nothing and then maybe dust a few knick-knacks, did they “earn” the $100? Yes. Unless I decide otherwise. Changing the language doesn’t change the reality. Wouldn’t it be great if it could?

      • menton says:

        The objection isn’t that those saying that the 1% “earned” a boatload of cash are confused about the LEGALITIES of the situation. Though a lot of 1% behaviour is likely legally criminal too. But even if it weren’t the objection would still have merit because it is a moral objection. To say that someone has earned X commonly has a positive moral connotation of merit, effort and desert. But in the case of the 1% that is false. They do NOT deserve to get almost the whole wealth pie for themselves.

        To make the distinction clear, imagine that our society legalized child labor. Some in the 1% would then see new business opportunities in the child business trade. Soon they’d raked in billions in profits from exploiting extremely poor children in third world countries who’d do food safety testing by eating new and experimental food stuff before it is released on the US market. Given that it would be legal, does it seem ok to you to say that the child labor exploiters “earned” that money?

        Your last two sentences are strawmen. No one claims that improved wording will solve all problems. But words are powerful and help shape our thinking. Language that hides and eases the immoralities of the 1% should be uncovered and corrected, that is all.

        • Simon Cohen says:

          I’m not really sure what to do with your child labour example – it’s too hypothetical for me. But let’s go back to the starting concept: that “earn” doesn’t work because the wealth accumulation of the 1% is viewed as undeserved by some. The problem with this position is that it requires media to make a moral judgement when reporting salaries etc. This means that if I’m a news anchor, before I use the word “earn” when discussing a CEO’s annual salary, I need to evaluate whether or not the CEO was deserving of that money. What yardstick do I use? Let’s say he created thousands of jobs. That’s a good thing. So he did “earn” his salary. Oh but wait, most of those jobs are in third-world countries where working conditions are deplorable. That’s bad. So he didn’t “earn” it. Oh but it looks like he actually built the factory in that third world country and it has set a new standard for worker safety and living conditions. Has he “earned” his salary yet?
          Do you see the problem here?
          By treating the wealth accumulation of the top 1% as a homogenous thing and then making a moral judgement on all of it, we oversimplify what is a much bigger problem.
          I don’t see any problem in continuing to refer to wealth accumulation by employees of companies, regardless of their position in that company or the amount of wealth accumulated, as “earnings.”
          If, during the course of an investigation, it turns out that the person in question behaved in a way that was morally wrong, we can refer to the money as “ill-gotten earnings”.

          • menton says:

            Simon Cohen: Your point is that it is hard for media to make the required moral call if some income is deserved or not. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you’re right about that. Then there is a good reason for media to use terms with less morally positive connotations. So stop using “earn” completely unless it is a clear case of something being earned. Various better terms have already been suggested above.

            But I’m not sure if your first point is credible. Media make moral calls every day, in almost every sentence. They often call it consistently in line with the interests of their corporate owners. That’s the wrong call to make but they call what they aim to call. So media is capable of making a moral call given that they adhere to some background moral criteria. So it is perfectly possible for media to refer to regular folks getting income as “earnings” but withhold that term for corporate profits, given the background knowledge of how such corporations actually operate.

            edit: the knot here might be that you simply don’t detect the same moral connotations in the term “earn”. But then note that the important thing for this argument is not how you or I as individuals interpret the term. The key thing is if people in general think “earn” has morally positive connotations. I think they do and so does many who have posted here previously. Maybe an empirical investigation answering if people in general see “earn” as expressing a morally positive attitude could go some way towards settling our disagreement?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Using the word ‘earn’ for sitting around on your ass and getting money for it represents a change in the language that we’re trying to roll back.

  15. Walter Guyll says:

    One can make the same argument about Stephen King, or any best selling author, where the income depends on the taste of the book buying public, rather than the effort in creating the book.

  16. ackpht says:

    I think we are long overdue for invoking different language for someone who amasses wealth by producing a product or providing a service, and someone who amasses wealth through speculation and manipulation of markets, which is just redistributing money that came from other sources.

  17. Antinous / Moderator says:

    pqaq,

    Now you’re just having a fit.  I’ve removed your last two comments and given you the rest of the afternoon off.

  18. Doug Nelson says:

    Insisting that there are discrete degrees of “earnedness” that can be measured and judged is a uniquely working-class view. If I sell you a first-class foreverstamp for $100, I have earned $99.56, regardless of how fair you judge it to be.

    • Cowicide says:

      Insisting that there are discrete degrees of “earnedness” that can be measured and judged is a uniquely working-class view.

      Yes, those working-class peasants don’t know what they’re talking about, huh?

      My goodness, to separate “earning” from “stealing” is just so… low class.  What will these silly serfs come up with next?

      If I sell you a first-class foreverstamp for $100, I have earned $99.56, regardless of how fair you judge it to be.

      False argument.
      http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#digression

      Give me an example of where you sell a worthless, forged foreverstamp and charge any amount for it while fraudulently saying it’s genuine… then we’ll talk.

  19. Ranting Nerd says:

    What are called “capital gains” these days used to be called “unearned income”.  That shift is possibly even more of a victory for the 1% than relabelling inheritance taxes as “death taxes”.

    “They only call it class warfare when we fight back.”  – Sign from Wisconsin

  20. Marja Erwin says:

    The whole point is that “earn” isn’t neutral language.

    What one earns means what someone deserves. It creates confusion when it’s also used to mean what someone takes in. It begs the question, by saying that what each person does take is what they deserve to take. We need more neutral language to refer to what one does take. Only with more neutral language can we ask whether some take more than they deserve and whether others take less than they deserve, and what system-changes [less influence peddling? wildcat labor organizing? more credit unions? commodity currency? ending capitalism and the growth-based-ideology?] could set things right.

  21. myke says:

    Wow, just typed a long reply (long for me anyway) that apparently got lost by the comment/login process.

    Man, disqus blows, sigh.

  22. peregrinus says:

    I totally believe the point of George Bush (junior)’s whacky speaking techniques was to destabilize the ability of the population to finely distinguish the meanings of words, and to let Fox nooz re-assign new meanings to words.  Thus robbing people of the ability to use words correctly.

    Collusive behaviour to profit from bait and switch scams is thoroughly perfidious, and makes the usage of the term ‘earned’ dishonest and false.  Never forget the CDO’s that got us where we are now!

  23. Wally Ballou says:

    The “1%” in terms of income starts somewhere around $350K – $375K.  And there are a lot of people (doctors, engineers, attorneys, small business owners) in that range who work an absolute shitload of hours every week.  If you think those aren’t “earnings” we have an irreconcilable definition problem.

    Now to get to the coupon-clipping, Gulfstream owning leisure class, you’re talking maybe the .02%.  And you’ll find that even if you take away everything they own, at current rates of expenditure you burn through all of that in a couple of years. (even if you shut down all the wars…check out the projected growth rate in Medicare and Medicaid)

    So -that- means that in order to keep the welfare state welfare-ing, you’ve got to dig down deep below the rich, to the almost rich, to the merely well off, eventually to everyone who earns more than the median.

    A historical analogy that I’ve used before is that once the Bolsheviks got rid of all the aristocrats and found that milk and honey still failed to abound in the land, they sicced the class war machine on the “kulaks”.

    I’m not in the 1%, but I’m definitely a kulak.  And no, you can’t have my cow.

    • Eric Rucker says:

      The trick is, Medicare and Medicaid can’t exert enough pressure to force better economies of scale by kicking out the middlemen, malpractice insurance companies, insane drug company profits, anticompetitive behavior, etc., etc. at their current scale.

      A true single-payer system may be able to fix the medical system in this country by largely replacing it. A whole hell of a lot of medical costs in this country go to middlemen that don’t actually *DO* anything, and if taxpayer dollars are being used for everyone’s healthcare, there’ll be tons of pressure to get those middlemen out.

      • Wally Ballou says:

        You might get some middleman costs out by going to a single payer system. But not all by any means.  Ask any hospital or doctor how much they spend on chasing after Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, and how much money they have to spend complying with the insanely complex coding and billing rules of those programs.

        Frankly we have to get away from the idea that everyone is going to be able to get every treatment that medical science can possibly think of.  We have to ration the living shit out of healthcare, and the sooner we start the better.  My friends on the right wing blogs hate it when I say “death panels….you betcha, when it’s my tax money paying the bill”

        • Eric Rucker says:

          For that matter, we have death panels now, in the privatized system.

          In any case, the insanely complex coding and billing rules likely should be streamlined somehow – and may be able to if the costs are driven down.

          The other thing is, it’d likely be a good idea to encourage self-care for minor issues, rather than going to the doctor, saving doctor resources for the serious issues.

          • Wally Ballou says:

            ” saving doctor resources for the serious issues.”

            Yep, agree 100%. 

            But the only way you do that is by incentivizing people not to go to the doctor’s office or ER for every trivial thing.  If you’re willing to take that route so am I…

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      And you’ll find that even if you take away everything they own, at current rates of expenditure you burn through all of that in a couple of years.

      Burn through it? I don’t think that anybody is suggesting that we spend it on hookers and blow. Maybe we could pay down the national debt a bit. That would be a gift that would keep on giving.

      • Wally Ballou says:

        Yes, we could pay down the national debt a bit.

        Then the rich have been wrung dry, and two-thirds of the national debt is still there.

        Then, instead of going for the top 1%, we go for the top 5%.

        Then, the top 10%.

        Then, the top 20%

        Lather, rinse, repeat.

  24. flyoverland says:

    The man’s definition is incorrect. Earnings are an expense to a business, not a “profit.” Earnings may, or may not be profitable. Example. I hired a guy the other day to plant some bushes for me. He claimed he knew how and quoted me a price. It took him four times longer than he thought because he didn’t really know what he was doing. Those “earnings,” we not “profitable.” A profit is the difference between sales and expenses. Personal earnings are simply one line item in that equation. 

    You may argue that investment banks pay too much (and most CEO’s would agree with you and also that they charge too much), but that is not the point. Goldman Sachs, for example, must deduct all the salaries, regardless of the their fairness, from its sales to see if it reached a profit (which it did not last quarter). I started out with $34.00 and an overdue car payment and am now firmly ensconced in the upper one percent. I built and sold a business from one desk and one phone to a market cap of over a billion dollars. I never took a high salary. I gave every employee stock options and many average, non-Ivy League types, became millionaires, too. That model works. Get everyone on the same page, incentivize them and get out of the way. I don’t feel embarrassed by it. I earned it. 

    • Susan Carley Oliver says:

      “I started out with $34.00 and an overdue car payment and am now firmly ensconced in the upper one percent. I built and sold a business from one desk and one phone to a market cap of over a billion dollars. I never took a high salary.”

      See, this right here is why language is important.  This guy had me scratching my head, wondering how he could end up in the upper 1% if he never gave himself a high salary; no matter how many years you work at a non-high salary, you’ll never make it into that elite 1%. Math isn’t magic that way.

      But language is! Because, you see, he probably *did* give himself stock options, bonuses, and other income sources, which combined to give him a total compensation package that enabled him to end up in the upper 1%. By talking about salary, and not total compensation, here he’s got his audience thinking he was just a lowly wage earner, who bootstrapped himself into the upper reaches.

      Just for kicks, I wonder how much of his upper 1% he won in the lottery: I’m guessing male (ka-ching!) and caucasian (ka-ching!), the two biggies. Money’s good on college education too; probably a public university back when they were cheap.

      • flyoverland says:

        No Einstein, I didn’t take a penny. Of course, I took stock options. that’s the whole point. When the company worked the stock went up and we all got rich. My top salary as the CEO of a NASDAQ company was $300k. That was always the lowest of any CEO in this town. I could have kept it all myself and been a smaller company, but stupid me, I cut everyone in. My receptionist cashed in her options and paid cash for a new house. Some people were stupid and as soon as there was enough for their husband’s new bass boat they sold out cheap. Stupid, but their choice. Here’s the point you don’t seem to understand. While I was working, I was not in the 1%. I worked hard. Kept my own pay low to make the company was more profitable and when it took off and the stock went from $3.00 to $75.00, guess what, I was rich, we all were. When I retired and sold my options, I met with my broker (yes, Goldman) with my wife. I told her I was selling out and her first reaction was, “we won’t have a paycheck anymore how will I pay the bills?” The broker opened a leather binder and showed her what we had. She said, “that’s just all on paper.” The broker said, “ma’am, that paper all turned green. That’s cash. I can send you a check, just tell me if you want it every week, twice a month…etc.” There’s nothing wrong with taking stock options. Its the best incentive known to man. What is wrong is when just a few people get them and the rest get a kick in the butt and a ham at Christmas. 

        Will you get rich? Maybe. Maybe not. However, if you don’t believe you will, I can guarantee you won’t. I realize what I did defied the odds. My venture capital guy still tells me to this day I don’t know what I did. He says they see a hundred deals a week. Might meet with five a week and then after all that they invest in ten deals a year. Of those, three will go bankrupt, three will make money and the VC’s job is the figure out the four in the middle quickly to cut losses or move them into the plus column. I made the cut. Got the meeting. Got the funding. Was one of the three profitable companies that year and ended up being their biggest deal in the history of the fund. Will that happen to you? Only if you want it to and are willing to dedicate your entire being to making it happen. Then you have a chance. Hoping it will happen, well, like the old VC always said, “Hope is not a business strategy.” And if you had any idea the work it takes to do it, you would know that nobody would do it unless there was a golden ring at the end. 

        Someone asked me once what it is like to be rich. The guy knew me when I was so poor that I used to put black shoe polish on my heels so people wouldn’t see my socks had holes in them. Back when the teacher would let me get clothes out of the lost and found at school. I tell them this: “When I get gas, I fill it up every time. I never get ten bucks worth. When I go McDonald’s, I get whatever I want. I don’t ever look at the price. I get hardback books. No paperbacks and if the washer or furnace breaks, I know I can get it fixed. Being rich won’t’ stop your wife from getting cancer like mine. It won’t make you happy, but it can help you and your family feel a little more secure. I am sitting here wearing a shirt I bought at Sam’s for six bucks. I have a nice house, nice car and my kid goes to a great school. Otherwise, we are pretty normal. You will find that most entrepreneurs really aren’t in it for the money. Money is just the scorecard. Last year, we gave away almost 70% of our taxable income. We didn’t need it and the good part about being frugal is that the interest on the account will make you rich again next year. 

        Because I made a lot of money really isn’t hurting you at all. I didn’t take anything from you. Maybe you bought my product. If you did, it probably changed your life. We “created wealth,”  where there was none. That’s the way its supposed to work, not just demanding that I give some of mine to those who have less. If I had a nickel for every time someone, even relatives say, “well, if I had your money…” I always tell them this. “You had the same background, education and chance I had. Back in 1988, while I was sleeping in the Detroit airport because the last flight out was snowed in and all the hotels were full, you were sitting at home in your underwear, feet up on the coffee table, drinking beer and watching the Cosby Show. That was your choice. Life is full of choices. We end up living with all of them. 

        • menton says:

          The core problem with the argument that flyoverland, like so many others on the right, put forward is this: it highlights the effort that he/she himself put in but

           (1) ignores the great amount of luck, circumstances and genetic/social background support that co-created the outcome and

          (2) only makes a comparison to a nonrepresentative, vague case of laziness or relaxing idleness when in fact millions of working poor fellow americans put in as much or far more effort and worktime than flyoverland and other high earner does.

          • onepieceman says:

            ” (1) ignores the great amount of luck, circumstances and genetic/social background support that co-created the outcome”

            The problem with this argument is that constructed in this way, everything is a matter of luck, even the genes you have. So where do you go with this? If one person is born with the good luck of being naturally industrious, whereas another is born with the bad luck of being a bit lazy, you try to equalize out? This will help society?
            What about someone born smarter than another guy?
            Or someone born more athletic than the next guy?

            If you accept that there should be at least a tiny amount of incentive for being better, because it might encourage people to try to improve themselves, then you’re left with the problem of those who didn’t have to try hard in the first place (because of their luck) being rewarded along with the “triers”. How can you handle this? 

          • menton says:

            onepieceman: Where we end up in life is to a large degree a result of circumstances even for the great, great majority of people who want to do their best and work full time or more. That means that huge economic inequalities are unfair. We can still have differences based on a defensible view of modest individual action and choice. We should definitely try to move toward a society where every citizens’ status as an equal is reflected better in outcomes and opportunities. The european social democratic tradition is a good example to learn from here: firmly democratic, respecting human rights, aiming for real equal opportunity in life for all through single payer universal health care and high quality free higher education for all.

            Re: incentives, we can’t of course just jump to perfect equality. Having a clear goal of justice is one thing and choosing pragmatically effective steps towards that goal is another. As a modest proposal, let’s increase the tax on the top 1% with 1% each year for a couple of decades. We will get funds for health care and education and will gradually be in a better and better position to find other, braver policies when the 1% chokehold on our economy and political system starts to lose its grips.

  25. travtastic says:

    Don’t you commenters here (and elsewhere) ever getting tired of arguing against your own interests? I almost feel like I’m burned out here. I can’t even think of a snarky, specific comment.

    You’re not rich. You won’t be rich. The money that the truly-rich have? It’s your money. Just fucking stop already.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Don’t you commenters here (and elsewhere) ever getting tired of arguing against your own interests?

      The zebra believes that if he’s nice enough, the lions will let him join the pride. Nobody ever wants to admit that they’re food.

  26. bengee says:

    I think this discussion  highlights the necessary isolation that capitalism has from humanity and government.

    The worth of money is essentially circular, just like the capitalist system. We do not assign specific dollar values to moral deeds or human lives because to do so is to strip them of dignity.

    Because of this, it is necessary that capitalism is unjust and confusing: that some earn legally, with labor and intelligence and some earn by more suspect means.

    Drug dealers earn their money, so do gamblers, so do the secret masters of the world. If we say that the money is not earned, we lose the logical thread of capitalism: that earnings are only relative to each other in terms of that system, and have no relation to human worth.

    We do not earn our right to live. If we redesign our language to say that, what we have is not a liberal democracy, but a totalitarian state.

    • Wally Ballou says:

      ” some earn legally, with labor and intelligence and some earn by more suspect means.”

      Which is exactly why fraud and bribery should be punished.  Everyone knows that it hasn’t been, and it’s why an OWS movement that focused on that principle (rather than a laundry list of leftwing cant) would get support from the entire country.  I know it would get mine.

    • Cowicide says:

      We do not earn our right to live. If we redesign our language to say that, what we have is not a liberal democracy, but a totalitarian state.

      Well, you did just earn an award for best mental gymnastics in this thread in yet another inane attempt to distort the message of the article into some kind of totalitarian push to destroy a liberal democracy.

      Ok.. but back to reality, please.  The article isn’t about a “redesign” of our language.  ONCE AGAIN, it’s about proper usage.

      It’s YOU that wants to redesign things.  If we go by YOUR corporatist logic, we change:

      “The bank robber stole money from the bank.”

      TO:

      “The bank robber earned money from the bank.”

      By the way, you may not have noticed.  But with the way things are currently… America IS becoming more and more of a totalitarian state.  Look around.

      We’re just trying to reverse that trend, thanks.

  27. Ipo says:

    If all these idiots in tents would just stand up and actually do something then they might actually get what they want. LOL!
    They really would be idiots standing up in their tents. Those are not big tops, silly.

  28. Daemonworks says:

    Almost nobody in the world has done ANYTHING worth a stereotypical American CEO’s payscale.

  29. atimoshenko says:

    Late to the party, but will still add my $0.02.

    To harp on a favourite theme, the amount of stuff one can do is more or less determined by effort x talent/skill x access to capital (of course, there is also dumb luck, but I leave it aside for now). Furthermore, the amount of stuff one can do can be deployed to the creation of value or to the expropriation of value others have created.

    By any sensible definition of “earn”, income can only be said to be earnt to the extent it is a function of creating value  through effort and talent. The extent to which the value of one’s efforts is amplified through privileged capital access obviously involves no “earning” on one’s part (i.e. if a random person plucked off the street and placed into your position would end up generating about as much value), and deploying one’s abilities to expropriate value generated by others is a type of earning known as “theft”.

    The only question is then how do the 1% make their money.

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