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Every Dishwasher Will NIot Become a Millionaire

by Anna Gielas Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 at 5:30 AM

Citizens of the US are tyrannized by "dead ideas," Matt Miller insists. One dead idea is that taxes damage the economy. With taxes, long-term advantages can be created for the economy when the government invests in the infrastructure.


In the US the former McKinsey advisor and journalist on “Daily Beast” Matt Miller rattles the basic convictions of his fellow citizens

By Anna Gielas

[This article published in Freitag, 10/30/2009 is translated from the German on the Internet,

. Matt Miller is a columnist at “The Daily Beast” and author of “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity,” Times Books.]

“Americans are tyrannized,” Matt Miller declares, but not by a socialist president as some fear or by the aftershock of the economic crisis as others presume. “Citizens of the United States are tyrannized by dead ideas,” Miller explains. He resolutely criticizes familiar US dogmas. He is not the only one who criticizes but one who quickly polarizes.

Miller is an author, columnist and radio moderator in one. The native New Yorker worked for the government before he began combing through the innards of different businesses as a McKinsey advisor. Miller studied law as his criticism and argumentation attest. His words sound like the final speech from a courtroom: eloquent, rousing and sometimes exaggerated. “Americans are ruled by ideas that are on a direct collision course with current social and economic developments. These notions are not only dubious or completely false,” the Daily Beast columnist warns.

As a colleague at the Center for American Progress (CAP) that seeks restoration of American leadership in the world, he indirectly criticizes the pillars of CAP. With his statistics, he breaks through mythology. “Around a hundred million Americans earn less today with their work than their parents earned several decades ago,” he summarizes.

Their promotion prospects are trifling today. Nevertheless the general public holds persistently to the myth of the dishwasher climbing up to be a millionaire. Miller admits the American fairy-tale has a true core. Generations of poverty-stricken immigrants made good money and were successful. The American trust in ambition and individual fitness drove them, Miller says. But the reverse side of the paradigm cannot be repressed anymore in Miller’s opinion. “We equate the financial and economic weaknesses of a person with worthlessness.” The columnist demands social measures and asks, “How do we define our obligation to the 100 million Americans who increasingly sink into poverty?”


Miller pokes about in American convictions. He condemns the belief that taxes damage the economy. According to Miller, this dogma has its origin in the self-interest of the economic and political elite. “Top brass knew how to substantiate its own interests with American virtues,” he argues. They propagated their goal of low taxation through recourse to work morale and the will to work one’s way up. Why should the self-made millionaires be punished for their success by paying more taxes? Already at the end of the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century, influential and hardened republicans described taxes as intolerable and criminal confiscation of property.

“That we have had an unwritten law in the US since the 1950s is hardly astonishing,” Miller argues. “Whenever taxes are about to be raised an iota, adversaries appeal to the dogma.” This is nonsense, Miller says. With taxes, long-term advantages can be created for the economy when the government invests funds in the infrastructure.

The former advisor of the Clinton administration focuses on Americans’ third favorite child: the free market. Regardless of how many people are injured from raging capitalism and globalization, Americans are still unwilling to limit them, Miller says. He urges patriotism: “The economic elite should focus on the prosperity of the US, not on its own profit.”

Miller offers improvement proposals, not only scolding. One of them is: “Businesses should carry out dead idea assessments and continuously reevaluate their business philosophy according to developments within society.” Miller does not provide details of the evaluations. The columnist does not comment on essential questions: How should and can the economy, society and politics cooperate to banish harmful ideas from American consciousness? Is such a cultural endeavor possible? What could move the economic elite to question the dogmas, which according to Miller would be a good service? Miller’s appeal to reason and altruism does not answer these questions.

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