Press "Enter" to skip to content

Martha deserves a raise

Letter from Ed Hawkins

Economics – September 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Martha Quillen:

Well now you’ve done it again. You have set me thinking all over again. I’ve read your Letter From the Editor “Keeping Up is Hard to Do ” which appeared in the July Colorado Central Magazine. In fact, I’ve read it numerous times. Four to be precise. On first reading, I disagreed with a number of things you wrote. On second reading, I agreed with the article as a whole concept. On third reading, it was intensely thought-provoking. On fourth reading, I decided that you are one hell of a writer and thinker. Tell Ed to give you a raise; or better yet, ignore Ed. Give yourself a raise.

Best of all it set me to really cogitating about the salient points you wrote. Any disagreements and agreements I have are based on my own experience, my up-bringing, my business life, my political persuasion and other intrinsic values not visible to the casual glance. I’ll elaborate.

Slim Wolfe’s letter about being more active reached a resounding core in me. Having watched as a boy the deterioration of freedom in Germany during the 30’s and fighting for it in WW2, I’m more than intimately aware of the price of freedom. I think the protection of freedom begins at the local level. Lose it there and it’s hard to recover later. Over six million Jews and five hundred thousand Christians lost their lives and freedom during the Nazi era. Did they fight like hell and bleed for freedom? Some did in the Warsaw ghetto. Over twenty million Russians were killed by Stalin. Did any resist? Probably, but not enough. Mao’s killing record in China was worse. Pol Pot continued the killing. Serbia, Kosovo, Ethiopia, Somolia, it goes on. Who protested — is protesting — at the local level early on? Wish I knew.

I chuckled at your writings of urban sprawl, rural sprawl, mountain sprawl, valley sprawl etc. One solution: we gotta quit having children. That’s the trouble. We always seem to need more homes. Dam kids grow up, need someplace to live, and it starts all over again. And I’m one of the ones to blame. Nothing would do but I had to have two children in the 1950s, who had more children and now my grandson (fifth generation Coloradan) may continue the pattern. Home builders’ paradise. I can’t move to Wyoming. They’re doing the same thing up there. Havin’ kids.

I TAKE UMBRAGE with your statement: “The gap is growing between the rich and the poor; we have too damned many cyber-millionaires; workers are falling behind.” Well now, that’s a pretty broad assertion. How about that gap? What gap? You mean there’s no one in between the rich and poor, no one in the gap? What’s rich? What’s poor? Since 5% of the taxpayers pay over 50% of the entire taxes in the country, what would the poor do if there were no rich people? Hey, they would have to pay their “fair” shares in even more taxes. Zounds. What a revoltin’ idea.

To this point, I have a note of interest. My son who is an electronics engineer — worked his way through college — heading toward being a cyber-millionaire (40 something old) is also a “worker.” In fact he works his tail off (that’s why he’ll be a cyber-millionaire). He is acutely aware of the fact — if future follows history — that when he retires in 30 years, his million will more’n likely purchase what $100,000 purchases now. I believe it. I thought in 1949 if I made $8,000 a year as a “worker” plowing in the fields of journalism, films and TV, I’d be rich, rich, rich. Hnunph. Didn’t happen. But again, you have a point. The disparity between the lowest paid worker and the highest paid worker is enormous. Like you, I haven’t been able to discover a way to fix it. By hard work, education, and good luck I’ve managed to not be the lowest or the highest. I’m not particularly jealous of those of my contemporaries who are in the highest bracket and I’m not really sad about those of my c

I KNOW A LOT OF HOMEOWNERS in Salida — and elsewhere, incidentally — are having trouble paying their water bills. Some also are having trouble paying their utility bills in winter, or their telephone bills, or their medical bills or medical insurance, or anything else that everyone thinks they need. I agree with you. I, too, do not know what to do about any of this. What I do know is that my generation (born 1924) learned to do without something we couldn’t afford. And we learned to do it with grace and humor. We learned that you can’t have everything. But you can have some things. You work for these things, save for them, and cherish them when you get them. Rather a unique idea now-a-days.

But on the most serious note, I do not agree with your idea that we should increase the income tax on corporations and the wealthy. Taxes paid by corporations are paid by customers who buy the products or services sold by the corporation. You, of course, already know this if you watched prices go up as taxes went up; funny how that works. Corporate taxes just reduce the profit to the owners — read: “shareholders,” little old guys like me who live on dividends on their investments because social security doesn’t pay enough. Martha Quillen, most admired writer, please do not join the millions of people who believe that large corporations are the enemy. Don’t suck-in to that crapola. The larger the corporation, the broader the spread of shareholders across the country. The largest corporations are substantially owned by mutual funds, the shares of which, in turn, are owned by little investors like me. Some of my investments (about $8,000) are in corporate bonds which are really loans to the corpora

I also am still working to supplement my income. I have a little consulting business. It’s a corporation (how curious). I am eternally grateful for the lessons learned in the Depression (noted above). I saved some of my money as I earned it so I wouldn’t have to totally depend on the vagaries of government and social security.

And, I’m telling you it was hard at times. Very, very hard. We did without (see above) a lot of things so I could “put a little away” for retirement. I drove a ten-year-old car when I could have bought a new one. I raised my children in a house with only one bathroom when I could have had two if I had spent my “saving money.” You see, even as a boy, I didn’t trust Roosevelt and his fancy ideas about social security taking care of my retirement by having 4 persons pay into Social Security to support 1 retired person.

Government statistics now estimate that by 2010, there’ll be only 2.75 persons to support 1 in retirement. Heh, heh. I’d surely like to see 2.75 persons. Wouldn’t you?

But in the end, you are indeed correct when you write: “But at the very least, we have got to stop our politicians from patting themselves on the back about what a great economy they’re giving us…” and quit spending our money for things we don’t want with money that we don’t have but need to save for things we will really need when we get down to those 2.75 persons.

With most kind regards, I remain, Yr. ever Obt. reader

Ed Hawkins