Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Ghost That Isn't There...

I don't believe in ghosts.

I don't believe in monsters under the bed.

I do believe in facts that can be proven.

There's a lot of things in life that we hear, read or are told that we shouldn't believe. The idea of why falsehoods are passed along is a complex one and not a riddle I've yet solved. At least completely.

Falsehoods are a sort of lie or deception. They come in all sizes, shapes and can be about just about anything. In this election season people are worked up, pissed off and anxious that "their guy" might not win next Tuesday. Some people, from both sides, are downright paranoid about what will happen if "the other guy" wins. Its best to tune those voices out, I think. They're not usually open to any kind of mental compromise. Their candidate is good and will save the Country, your candidate is evil and will destroy the Country. Blah-blah-blah...

The campaigns, advertisers and special interest groups all know how to construct an evocative message. Its easy to combine the right script, the right actor, the right production values, music, lighting, etc. Sometimes ads tell the truth, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they split the difference and leave it up to the viewer to decide on their own.

Have you seen this commercial from Billionaire Thomas Peterffy?

Mr. Peterffy is a success. Born in Budapest, Hungary during World War II, not satisfied with living in a Communist Country, he came to the Unites States in 1965, learned how to program computers and also consulted various Wall Street companies. Eventually starting his own electronic trading firm, which grew rapidly and made Mr. Peterffy, a very wealthy man. A success story, income level and lifestyle that all would've been impossible in his native country.

Mr. Peterffy raised a family, sent his kids to college and has been very generous with his wealth. Forbes magazine estimates his net worth at $4.6 Billion. Bloomberg says his net worth is closer to $7.6 Billion. Regardless, he's quite wealthy. In 2007, he and his partners sold a small 10% slice of his company in an initial public offering. Within five years, his company had grown. In the first half of 2012, his company made a profit of over $585 Million on revenues of $1.36 billion in sales. While the stock price has fallen almost 50% since they went public in 2007, the money has kept pouring in for Mr. Peterffy.

In his commercial, which he paid for out of his own pocket and cost between $5-$10 million to run on several centrist and left leaning television networks, he expresses a concern that America is basically losing her way and according to Peterffy, in danger of becoming a modern day version of his homeland, except this time under some sort of Socialist rule. Caused in large part, by the anti-rich attitude of the Obama Administration. While he mentions no candidate by name in his ad, he does implore the viewer to vote Republican. He has contributed to several Republican campaigns in recent years including Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, Linda McMahon and John Boehner.

He feels the wealthy have been attacked unfairly, presumably by President Obama; "I’ve paid $1.9 billion in taxes in my lifetime, now I am being told that I am not contributing my fair share?" Peterffy said. 

$1.9 Billion in taxes over a lifetime is a chunk, no matter how you slice it.

Let's get back to some things that aren't there, shall we? 

The tax rate for the highest income bracket is 35% and has been at that level since 2003. President Obama has not suggested increasing that amount.* The highest tax rate for corporate income is 39% and has been at that level since 1987. Mr. Obama has proposed the highest rate be dropped to 28% .

The meme that President Obama is out to raise all of our taxes and drag us into some Socialist utopia is laughable. He's not. 

Mr. Peterffy has done quite well for himself. He is a great example of the American Dream in action. But Mr. Peterffy's concerns ring hollow when faced with the facts. To paint such a dramatic picture and evoke such imagery from a harsh time in the world's history is obviously a very effective way to communicate his message: Vote Republican. That's what he wants us to do. Before our glorious country is betrayed into an alternate way of life. 

He's an old man. He built his own business from nothing. He deserves respect. He is a poster child for what we've boasted about in terms of what America can do for anyone if they work hard enough. But he is more than that. He is a business man. A capitalist. An opportunist. And, if he has his way, a manipulator. 

Peterffy's commercial is a sales pitch. Nothing more, nothing less. He's willing to use his success as a means of frightening his viewers. And they will, because to reject what this self made man has to say is an anathema to most people. With his credentials, he can put forth this scary story about a ghost under our beds and we'll believe it. Sadly, its as much con job as anything else. 

Taxes are lower than at any time in the last 30 years... 
Obama proposes a lowered maximum corporate tax rate of 28% after twenty five years of 39%...
"Obamacare" is a massive stimulus program for private market health insurers and drug companies...
Most of the monies used to bail out the US auto industry have been paid back...
Regulations on Wall Street are too weak to prevent another meltdown...
President Obama appointed two long time Wall Street insiders to his financial team, (Geithner and Summers)...
Candidate Obama's biggest donors included no less than five Wall Street firms...

Mr. Peterffy, I salute your success. Your success has enriched this Country and we have both benefited from your being here. I wish you hadn't made this commercial, Sir. The "scary thing" you're suggesting to your viewers that's hiding under the bed isn't there. It isn't and you know its not there. To use your own success in some sort of con is wrong. To tell a group of people a thing when you know it to be flawed in its premise is fundamentally wrong. It was wrong when the Russians tried to tell you that Communism was the best form of Government. It is wrong for you to tell your fellow citizens that we're in danger of losing of fundamental form of government. 

There's no ghosts or monsters coming to get us.

Nor are there any Socialists coming, either...

*Correction: A reader correctly points out that President Obama has proposed raising taxes on those who earn more than $250K per yr., specifically that amount above $250k, that would be taxed at a tiered rate of either 36% or 39.6%, which would revert back to their pre-2001 levels. (Currently, the top two tiers are 33% and 35%.)


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