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Producers vs Takers – if takers win, we all lose

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A village of 100

Let’s boil America down to a village of 100 people. They can easily be broken up into two basic broad brush camps — those who Produce — and those who Take from those who, you know, Produce. Let’s look at some undisputed facts about America’s population as it relates to Takers and Producers.

The Producers

We’ll start with who pays 70 percent of all personal income taxes. That would be just ten of the villagers. Let that fact sink in a bit before continuing. I, and many of my good friends are part of that group. Know what hurts, but more than that, galls? Those same ten people provide a super majority of the jobs in the village. Jobs providing food and shelter for their employees. So, let’s review what we know so far. Ten percent of our village’s population pay 70 percent of the taxes, AND provide by far, most of the jobs in the village.

Yet, many, somewhere between just under or over half of the villagers, claim those ten people aren’t payin’ their fair share. Think that’s a bit cheeky do ya? It gets better, much better.

46 of the villagers don’t even pay taxes. Hmmmmm. They love the current system. Are you surprised? In fact, they elected a new leader not long ago who sided with them completely. Those greedy Producers, all they wanna do is make more money and pay less than nearly 3/4 of all the village’s taxes. Yeah, they provide most of the jobs, but all that does is make ’em richer. Are we gonna stand by and let that happen?!! NO! Let’s make ’em pay more taxes, till at least they’re payin’ their fair share.

The Takers

The 46 villagers benefit from all that taxes pay for, without contributing. Water/sewer, education, electrical power, and the rest are all paid for by, well… not them. They take all those benefits though, and with a sense of righteous entitlement. They’re also horrifically close to achieving a plurality in the village. It’s been comin’ for some time now. If they can just convince a few more neighbors that the strategy of livin’ off the bounty of what they’re able to steal vote into tax law, taking from Producers, they’ll have finally won — and probably for good.

Which means sooner, much sooner than most realize, the village will end up with roughly 85 villagers, give or take. Most, if not all the ten who were payin’ 70% of the taxes? They’ll simply stop producing past the point of supporting their own families — or flee the village outright. A few others who make a bit less, but much more than most, will do the same.

California

It probably woulda been more accurate to have begun with my native state as the analogy, instead of America. It’s much farther along the path of ultimate economic failure. The Producers are leaving at an unprecedented rate. As mentioned above, fleeing would be the most accurate description. How else would you describe a family with multiple generations rooted in the state, leaving friends and family behind? Why would they choose to experience the financial and emotional upheaval that extreme option brings to bear?

The Takers never learn. What they know for sure, is that livin’ off producers has been workin’ most of their lives. Why change now, and mess with something that’s ‘produced’ such reliable results for so long? Indeed — why?

California recently exhibited this blindness towards reality. Since their Producers, people like you and me, plus hundreds of employers are racing to the nearest exits, they decided to tax Amazon’s ‘Affiliates.’ Now, Amazon has no presence in California. But, as the Taker role model state, it behooved them to tax California residents who were part of Amazon’s Affiliate program.

Amazon’s response was like Paul Revere — The Takers are coming!!

They immediately fired all California Affiliates. Boom! Tax that, California. Know what 100% of nothin’ is? The so-called Golden State just found out in real time in front of God and everyone. In fact, they just did a humiliating u-turn reversing that law, but with a condition. (laugh track inserted here) Amazon had to agree not to continue signing folks up to put a new proposition on the ballot that would’ve ended this forever. As it stands, the new law is only good for a year, as I understand it.

The real question

Anyone with an IQ of three digits, all of which are whole numbers to the left of, and before  hittin’ that pesky decimal point, can see the trend of our village.

Are you a Taker? Or are you a Producer? We’re all about to find out there is no middle ground. When there’s nothing left to plunder, the Takers, in a final act of abject ignorance, will blame the Producers. A crime when you think about it, especially when there are so many mirrors available.

When the Takers win, we all lose.

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Erion Shehaj

    September 26, 2011 at 9:35 am

    The premise you started with is incomplete and it represents only half of the equation. The portion of the overall taxes paid by the top ten percentis a function of the fact that they make over 90% of the total income. This is after all an income tax… Put differently a tax on income. The more you make the more you pay. Just like the more you make the bigger your tax benefit when taxes are cut.

    As far as the portion of people that pay no taxes, there are several subgroups in that. First you have retirees on social security making under $20k a year. Even without a mortgage and income taxes its hard to make it on that. Second you have other folks working full time jobs and making the same. Same issue.

    The way I look at this debate is this: if we are trying to undo the deficit mess we are in, we need to reverse some of what created it. And that is, entitlements (reform), tax cuts (increase) and wars (wind down).

    What say you?

  2. Jody Cowdrey

    September 26, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Unfortunately, you can't "boil down" our country into a population of 100, and even further by some imaginary dividing line between good people and bad people. Using the phrase "undisputed facts" with such a generality is ridiculous.

    Until we, as a whole, start looking at reality instead of sticking our necks in the sands and pointing fingers, nothing will change. If there were in fact 100 people in America, simple solutions might work, but not with a population of 300+ million.

    As "Producers", a more "productive" route would be finding real solutions instead of "taking" the typical emotional talking points and rehashing them, but if you're set on having winners and losers with no grey areas, then I'm afraid your as much, or more, a part of the problem as anyone.

  3. Kim Hannemann

    September 26, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Right on, Jody and Erion. Exactly.

    I have heard Jeff's tired argument so many times, and it's so incomplete and inaccurate. I, like Jeff, also pay taxes – income taxes, in addition to all the other taxes that EVERYONE pays – but I, like Warren Buffett and unlike Jeff, believe higher income earners should be paying more relatively speaking.

    And that is the likely extent of my similarities to Warren Buffett, in case you were wondering.

  4. Jeff Brown

    September 26, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I stand by the post without reservation. Taker Nation is now being heard from via comments. They're welcome.

    The only question I have for them is:

    Considering the Taker slant in our federal gov't the last 50 years, and the economic trends having Takers in charge of the House/Senate for the vast majority of that period, and having the current Taker in Chief in charge lately – How are the bottom line results workin' out for ya lately?

  5. Timm Eubanks

    September 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I do believe it actually does work with 100 people in a village or 300 million. Mr Brown has simplified for a reason. It seems that the problem is that people (commenters) want to make it more complicated like shell a game. If you tax me anymore as a business owner, I am out of here!! That also means my employees are unemployed. Is that simple enough? Good economic plan! There aren't more in poverty and our economy in the tank because of evil companies but a government that keeps growing and is "helping" people and adding regulations, fees (taxes) to companies.

  6. mike

    September 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I worked roofing for years. my boss brought me back at 9.00 an hour. I was laying shingles that it usually pays at least 15.00. he doesnt do any work. who's the takers again?

    • Timm Eubanks

      September 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm

      Then Mike you worked for a Schmuck! Good, small business owners, who want great workers pay them well and treat them with respect. May I ask, were you ordered to work for him by someone? He didn't do any work? I as a business owner, I find that hard to believe. If that were true, wouldn't you want to start a roofing business?

  7. Jeff Brown

    September 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Um, Mr. Eubanks appears to be a Producer. 🙂

  8. Ryan Schattner

    September 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I don't mind paying taxes based on what I make if it was a flat rate. The problem I have is once you hit a certain point you have to give away almost half of your money. I am in CA and I had to pay something like $15,000 in the "self employed" section. That does not include all of the other normal taxes we pay. I think it would be fair to just pay a flat 15% for everyone instead of jumping all of the way up to 33%+7% federal tax.

    Then again, taxes aren't the real problem. I can hire people in any other country and have work done just as good at 70% lower cost. Good luck creating jobs with that kind of global competition.

  9. sfvrealestate

    September 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Um, Jeff. A few points. At the risk of stating the obvious, we're real estate brokers. That makes us middle men and women. We don't create jobs. And we don't provide a market, so you can't call us "takers" either. Rather, we'd be the parasitic fleas on the producers and takers. Sorry, but true.

    And your 10% paying all the taxes? What about sales taxes? And property taxes? If you consume, and we all do, you pay sales tax. In L.A., it's almost 10%. The producers AND the takers pay that.

    As far as the producers go, do you think they'd have any sort of market for what they produce without the takers? And without a market, would they be producing anything? They certainly wouldn't be selling it.

    And where does Amazon fit in? I did not get this part of your argument at all.

    And who gets their electricity for free? Or their water/sewer charges?

    Jeff, face it. You just don't like to pay taxes. None of us do. But some people (like me) like having our roads paved, our soldiers supported, our food inspected, our pilots supervised, etc.

  10. sfvrealestate

    September 26, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I forgot to ask two questions: since in the 100-person village, if it fits population demographics, probably 20 people are children who can't work and 10 people are seniors who can't work, can we just get rid of them to help balance the equation? Why support the scofflaws, eh, Jeff?

    And two: if I read AG and don't patronize the sponsors, does that make me a taker or a parasite?

    • Timm Eubanks

      September 26, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      Funny, see using the shell game. The classic, seniors and children. If you love children so much, why not cut federal taxes and fees so one parent can stay home or a single parent can not work as long of hours? As for Seniors, how about letting them keep more their money when they are in the job market so they can have enough for retirement? Why give the power to the Gov't to decide who and how much they will give back to us? You really trust the same people who have scandal after scandal on both sides of the isle to take from you and give to others? We should be able to run the Gov't on much less money. Just the hidden fees sales taxes should be plenty. Here is an example of my actual rental car form last week: 3 days at $65.13= $195.39 / CFC (consolidated facility charges) fees $10.00 / Vehicle Lic Fee 3x.42 = $1.26 / Tourism fee $4.56 / Airport Concession fee $14.47 / sales tax $14.23 for a total of $239.91. Did I mention I had to fill that car up before returning and the local, state and Fed Gov't received money as well? It's not that we aren't taxed enough, it's that our Gov't is pissing away our money. I would prefer to keep my money and help and donate to charities that I trust. My 2 cents, oh crap, they just took one of those cents for tax!

      • sfvrealestate

        September 26, 2011 at 8:42 pm

        Timm, nobody held a gun to your head and made you rent a car. You could have used a Sedgeway. Or hitched a ride with a Producer. Or walked. And what's with the extra "m" in your name? You're unnecessarily using up the universe's supply of "m's," you taker, you!

        • Timm Eubanks

          September 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm

          I love a good come back! Damn that "M"!!! THX! No no one did hold a gun to my head to rent that car. But if I wanted to run my business, I had too. A Sedgeway or walking from Oakland Airport to my photo shoot location 70 miles North with 200 lbs of equipment probably wouldn't work. Do you hitch rides with other Real Estate agents to show homes or do you take your clients on a Sedgeway? C'mon let's both lean!!! 🙂

        • Timm Eubanks

          September 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm

          Ha! I see you are using the extra "f's in the universe. 🙂

  11. Jeff Brown

    October 6, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Hey sfvrealestate — Let me ax you a question. When I hire assistants in CA and the other states in which I do business, what would you call that? Taking? Or — wait for it — here it comes — creating jobs? Real estate brokerages don't create jobs? That statement was either meant in jest or . . . never mind.

    Let's not forget the transaction coordinator who's paid thousands each year for one reason: I'm a broker and created the need for her time and expertise, and must pay for it. Wouldn't ya know it? Another job. Then there's the photographer, who, since it didn't say Red Cross on his forehead, charged me for the shots he took of the listing I was marketing. Another job.

    I'm in Texas as I write this. I'm not the only reason, but a very significant reason why my investment lender in this state had to hire a full time assistant this year. Oops, another job.

    Since I'm not a Raider, or a Taker, I'll avoid the 15 yard penalty, and stop piling on. Geez, Louise, Myrtle. Ya can't make this stuff up.

  12. MikeDevlin

    July 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    These statistics are misleading and don’t tell the whole story. They leave out payroll taxes that every worker pays to make sure they will have Social Security and Medicare when they retire, which fall disproportionately on the middle class. And they don’t mention that the share of the nation’s income going to the highest earners grew rapidly in the past two decades – at the same time tax rates fell for the highest earners.
     
    In fact, because of growing income inequality, the top 10 percent of American earners now earns 42 percent of the nation’s income, and when correctly calculated, pay about 50 percent of the federal income and payroll tax burden – not much larger than their share of earnings.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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Opinion Editorials

Easy ways to help an unhappy customer

(EDITORIAL) We’ve all had to deal with an unhappy client or two, and maybe some situations didn’t play out too well. Here are some simple tips that will help.

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unhappy client

Who here hasn’t had a client get aggravated for what seems like no good reason?

(Raise your hand!)

Who here hasn’t had that awkward “I hear what you’re saying, but…” conversation?

(More hands!)

Whether you’re providing marketing work, strategic planning services, graphic design ideas, or basic business advice, you’re going to run into the occasional client who Just. Is. Not. Here. For. It. And it can be so hard to help that unhappy client get back to a place where you can all come together to get the job done.

(Hands! Hands! Hands!)

Especially in this day and age of angry emoji reaction clicks, dealing with confrontational feedback can require a new level of diplomacy and tact. You’ve got an unhappy client who doesn’t have the ability to communicate their “why” to you, so instead, they go nuclear and your inbox is suddenly filled with the kind of unhappy vitriol you’re more used to seeing in your Facebook feed.

How do you handle it?

Because… you can actually handle it.

First and foremost, understand where the negative reaction is coming from. They’ve asked you for help with their cherished project. Maybe they wouldn’t be happy with anyone’s work. Maybe they can’t quite communicate what they want. Regardless of where the sticking point is, understand that the sticking point is (a) not your fault and (b) not going to be acknowledged by them.

So then, the second step… remove yourself from the criticism. Even if they make it personal, remove yourself from the situation. Look at it in terms of the work. The client wants X. You feel you have given them X, but they see it as Y. Can you see it from their perspective? Because if you can, you are way more than halfway there. Where are they coming from?

If this is an external review, on Google or such, just ignore it and move on. It’s done. You can’t argue it. But if it’s feedback you’re getting from a current client and your project is still in play… seriously, take a deep breath and give it a harder look. It might feel personal. But is it?

The best assumption to make is that there is something else going on. If you can keep your cool and work with your unhappy client to determine what’s making them uncomfortable, in a non-confrontational way, and to get them to an acceptable delivery — you’ve won. Because you’re continuing to provide them the service they’ve come to you for.

So take a look at the situation, and figure out the best response.

1. Is the argument clear?
Don’t waste your time trying to establish whether you’re right or they’re wrong. Instead, look at framing it in terms of what the client is trying to accomplish. Ask them to give you specific examples of what they hope to achieve. Allow them to tell you what they feel isn’t good… in fact, encourage them to tell you why they’re unhappy with what you’ve given them. All of this will help frame what they’re looking for and what you need to give them in round two.

2. Is their feedback relevant?
Well, yeah. There are times when you know that your client knows nothing. But they feel the need to demonstrate that They Know What They Are Doing.

Let them.

Just let them tell you, and let it go.

And… keep searching for that nugget of truth in what they’re saying. Their feedback may seem ridiculous. But what’s at the heart of it? Look for that. Look at this negative reaction as a signpost for what they’re truly after.

3. IS IT WORTH DEBATING?
This fits right in with number 2. They feel passionately that you need two spaces after every period. Is this something you really need to argue? CHOOSE. YOUR. BATTLES.

If your client really wants to engage on an issue … two spaces, or the use of a particular phrase … then let them say their piece. Then say your piece. But giving them room for an out. And once again, think about it from their perspective.

Maybe it’s someone who didn’t spend all their time in their first post-college job debating the niceties of the Oxford comma. Does it ultimately matter to the overall success of the project? If it does… go to the mat. Show them, with respect, why it’s important. But if it’s just a point of pride for you, the provider? Can you let it go?

I can’t sometimes. So I get it if you can’t. But still, it’s a good point to keep in mind. A good question to ask yourself, as a provider of a service. Which sword do you fall on… and why?

Clearly, you shouldn’t just roll over because a client has turned nasty. But neither should you turn every unhappy client response into your personal cause du jour. When you encounter negative, hostile client reactions, take a moment. Try to see it from their point of view. At the very least, the shift in perspective will help you handle their concerns. And at best, you’ll re-frame the discussion in a way that gives you both a handle on how to move forward.

You might learn from the exchange. Or maybe you’re just right, dammit. But you still have to think about what’s worth getting worked up over.

Finally, don’t let it bring you down. If it’s serious enough that you have to part ways over their reaction, help them do so amicably. Point them in the direction of someone you think might be able to accommodate their ideas. Stay positive for them, and for yourself. Then chalk it up to experience, and take the lessons on to the next client.

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Opinion Editorials

This website is like Pinterest for WFH desk setups

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) If you’ve been working from home at the same, unchanged desk setup, it may be time for an upgrade. My Desk Tour has the inspiration you need.

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Man browsing desk setups on My Desk Tour

Whether you’re sitting, standing, or reclining your way through the pandemic, you’re most likely doing it from home these days. You’re also probably contending with an uninspired desk configuration hastily cobbled together in 2020, which—while understandable—might be bringing you down. Fortunately, there’s an easy, personable solution to spark your creativity: My Desk Tour.

My Desk Tour is a small website started by Jonathan Cai. On this site, you will find pictures of unique and highly customized desk setups; these desk configurations range from being optimized for gamers to coders to audiophiles, so there’s arguably something for everyone—even if you’re just swinging by to drool for a bit.

Cai also implements a feature in which site users can tag products seen in desk photos with direct links to Amazon so you don’t have to poke around the Internet for an hour in search of an obscure mouse pad. This is something Cai initially encountered on Reddit and, after receiving guidance from various subreddits on the issue of which mouse to purchase, he found the inspiration to create My Desk Tour.

The service itself is pretty light—the landing page consists of a few desk setup photos and a rotating carousel of featured configurations—but it has great potential to grow into a desk-focused social experience of sorts.

It’s also a great place to drop in on if you’re missing the extra level of adoration for your desk space that a truly great setup invokes. Since most people who have been working from home since the spring didn’t receive a ton of advance notice, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of folks have resigned themselves to a boring or inefficient desk configuration. With a bit of inspiration from My Desk Tour, that can change overnight.

Of course, some of the desk options featured on the site are a bit over the top. One configuration boasts dual ultra-wide monitors stacked atop each other, and another shows off a monitor flanked by additional vertical monitors—presumably for the sake of coding. If you’re scrambling to stay employed, such a setup might be egregious.

If you’re just looking for a new way to orient your workspace for the next few months, though, My Desk Tour is worth a visit.

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