Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Blind Side

We watched the movie “The Blind Side” the other night. It wasn’t a bad flick but I couldn’t help but wonder about a number of things in the movie.

I hadn’t heard anything about a subtle undercurrent of criticism or mockery so I can only assume I was expected to take everything at face value, then again, perhaps not.

The basic plot is a rich white family in Memphis adopting a homeless black boy with a talent for playing the offensive line and in particular left tackle on the offensive line where he can protect the quarterback’s blind side, thus the title of the movie.

Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive but I perceived a number of digs in the movie at the very people it was supposedly trying to praise.

Here we have this upper class white Christian family that drives beamers, sends their kids to a private lily white Christian school and lives in an enormous house. Daddy does basically nothing because they live off of 80 or so fast food restaurants that he has managed to acquire. How he acquired them isn’t described but there were a number of hints about his business acumen which implies both a degree of intelligence and a degree of ruthlessness.

Let’s start with the stark contrast between white society and black society represented by “the projects.” The disparity is shocking but not surprising. It exists throughout the country but the gap seems to widen the further south you go.

The family owes its luxurious lifestyle to fast food restaurants where they are (1) selling cheap unhealthy food to people who probably shouldn’t be eating it at an exorbitant profit and (2) probably using minimum wage minority or white trash workers. Should a franchise become unprofitable, I’m sure daddy would not hesitate to close it and open another elsewhere while dumping his minimum wage employees on the unemployment line.

The bottom line is this generous white family is being charitable with money they essentially stole in the first place. Ok, perhaps “stole” is too strong a word. But at the very least they were taking unfair advantage. Allow me to explain why I say this.

Between 1980 and 2006 the real income of the bottom 20% of earners increased by 11%. This is a good thing. It implies long term prosperity where even the poorest of us had more money to spend. However, in that same timeframe the real income of the top 20% of earners increased by 88% and the real income of the top 1% increased by a whopping 345%.

You will excuse me but there is something fundamentally wrong with these numbers.

In the same time frame the effective Federal tax rate has DECREASED across the board but which group has gotten the largest decrease? You guessed it, the top 1%. Its effective tax rate has decreased from 37% in 1979 to 31.2% in 2006. In the meantime the tax liability of that top 1% has only increased from 15.4% to 28.3%. In other words they’re benefiting the most and contributing a much smaller percentage of that benefit back into public coffers.

You will hear the argument that the upper 1% already contributes 40% of the Income Taxes so it’s unfair to increase that burden. You will excuse me but that’s the problem. In 1979 it was only 18% of the Income Taxes. What we need to do is undo the income disparity that has developed and redistribute the tax liability. But you don’t do that by reducing the tax rates of the upper tax brackets. That’s a formula for disaster and a further widening of the disparity. What you do is RAISE the marginal tax rates to the point where it becomes not worth squeezing the working class or fighting off an increase in minimum wage.

Ok, enough with the economic stuff. Almost no one understands it anyway. Let me make it simple. We are rapidly developing a disparity precisely like the disparity that Marx predicted would occur.

There were two other sort of sidewise points in the movie. When they’re looking to hire Kathy Bates as a tutor to get the boys grades up so he would be eligible for a college football scholarship, Bates makes the point that the school wouldn’t hire her because she wasn’t “Christian enough.”

As I’ve pointed out previously, religion is allowed to discriminate. Yet I’m certain the school had its tax free status and was taking advantage of any and all state and federal funds which might come its way.

I have a problem with this. If you want immunity from hiring discrimination laws based upon your religious views then don’t expect to be tax exempt or receive public funding.

The last point was when the lady of the house tells off a street thug with a statement something like “I’m a member of the NRA and I’m always packing.”

Yeah, that made me feel real comfortable. Just what I need is society airheads like this one walking around with a loaded 9 mm.

I almost felt like I was watching a parody but I suspect they were serious. I have a great idea. Let’s share the wealth a little better and then talented black jocks won’t have to be dependent upon white society airheads for a roof over their head or their education.

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