Shark Tank And The Federal Child Savings Plan

I’m consistently vexed by the perturbation headlines about Progressive policy proposals elicit among large segments of the news-consuming American public.

In my rather grim view of humanity, people aren’t generally capable of altruism — selflessness isn’t our thing. We care first about self-preservation, second about protecting the interests of those closest to us and very little (if at all) about the well-being of anyone else.

Accordingly, I don’t “blame” the wealthy and the rich for wanting to preserve their fortunes or for chafing at policies that threaten to upend a social structure atop which they and their progeny sit.

The recent ProPublica report (which revealed that many of America’s richest people pay almost no income taxes) was billed as a “bombshell.” Forgive me, but it was nothing of the sort. It was neither surprising nor infuriating. Rich people continue to exploit a system which, over time, has evolved in symbiotic fashion with predatory capitalism. And we’re all complicit. Until we stop worshipping capitalism and subjugating all other concerns to its unfettered perpetuation, we scarcely have room to complain when the system produces wholly predictable outcomes.

More disconcerting (to me, anyway) than the “revelation” that the rich avail themselves of legal opportunities to reduce their tax bills (or the overwrought lamentations of people like Leon Cooperman, who accuse Democrats of trying to usurp the American dream) is the general public’s aversion to common sense policy proposals aimed at leveling the proverbial playing field. This aversion is as instinctual as it is pervasive. And it’s rooted in the middle-class’s misplaced (and pitiable) allegiance to American-style capitalism.

On Monday, a statement from Bob Casey, Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer outlined a bill that would grant a $500 savings account to every child whose parent or guardian earns less than $100,000 per year. The accounts would get $500 per year in government contributions. Half of the money could be used to pay for the cost of college. Funds could also be rolled into a retirement account, used to buy a home or to start a business.

This is hardly a novel concept. And it’s not the first time such a plan has come up. Casey tried to float it in 2017, for example.

My guess is, headlines about this legislation (assuming it gets any coverage) will be met with the same type of derision as other manifestations of “socialism” and government “handouts” and that the most irritable opposition will emanate from people whose own children (or grandchildren) would be eligible.

As of this writing, that’s a strawman. But it won’t be long before some major media outlet (or three or four) writes about the bill. At that point, you’ll be able to peruse what’s sure to be a shrill social media cacophony decrying “free money” and demanding Chuck Schumer stop interfering with every child’s solemn right to start out dirt poor and become a millionaire by successfully navigating the shark-infested waters of American capitalism.

Note that Americans are extremely proud of how cut-throat and merciless our brand of capitalism really is. So proud, in fact, that we created a game show about it and called it “Shark Tank.”

If we had any sense about us (as a body politic), we’d celebrate proposals like Casey’s and do everything we could to get them enshrined into law. The median household income is just over $60,000 in the US. A simple interpretation (i.e., without reading the full text of the bill) is that the federal child savings account proposal would benefit damn near everyone’s children.

I’m exaggerating for effect, but the point is just that most Americans don’t make anywhere near $100,000 per year. And if you don’t make that, the chances your children will are lower than they would be if you did. And so on down through the generations in a world where upward mobility is no longer a given.

Not much is capable of rendering me truly irritable for extended periods of time. But seeing middle-class voters decry proposals designed to benefit their families out of allegiance to the meritocratic myth that helps legitimize the same system that dooms them and their children to second-class citizen status, is pretty vexing.

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7 thoughts on “Shark Tank And The Federal Child Savings Plan

  1. Surely you jest about being vexed. Propaganda machines have most people so crazy that they vote against their own financial interests almost every time. This is not a bug it’s a feature of successful propaganda.

    You’ve written that length about financial propaganda, some seemingly focused on enriching the mouthpiece. But some I have to say is focused on confusing the masses into thinking that what is really good for them is bad for them.

    1. I used to think that but, you got to admit the truth, eventually. Most people vote their values, not their economic interests.

  2. Giving is never selfless though we convince ourselves otherwise. You want to feel good about yourself, give something away. You want to punish yourself, give something away. Altruism is a very nice concept to con ourselves with under the sun. A beneficial evolutionary con. Nothing grim about that in my opinion.

    The pendulum of conformity has a long way to go before the middle class you speak of get slung off of their positions.

  3. It’s pretty impressive to see so many people dedicated to the idea that the harder they beat themselves and theirs down the more virtuous they are. Economic Flagellants.

    But definitely the most common refrain I got from people I considered friends who voted Trump was “I’m looking out for me and mine, no offense but if it hurts you and yours that’s your problem.” Basically saying I’d rather potentially save money on healthcare than allow your family to be treated fairly under the law and I’m not sorry about it because you’d do the same to me if you could. These people legitimately see community and government itself as a zero sum game and taking anyone else’s interests into consideration as immoral. This is a failure of basic human instinct. Humans are innately cooperative which is fundamentally not zero sum.

    Add them together and it’s a pretty toxic sludge, vote against your interests AND your neighbors all while thinking somehow you’re winning because abortion may become illegal. Political suicide bombers engaged in Jihad.

  4. This proposal is not an expense. It’s an investment with a long-term return. Unlike tax credits for parents of dependent children, it can’t be used to buy a new boat or to take a trip to Las Vegas. Much can be explained about our policies toward children by the fact that they can’t vote while their parents can.

  5. whatever it takes for people of particularly “red” US states, but also the “blue” states to entertain and adopt the notion that government by the people for the people is really on their side, a seemingly self evident principle so distressingly removed from our collective awareness at this point in time and history…

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