Archive for September, 2010

If one were to listen only to Republican hype and the hysteria of the Tea People one might think that the only thing worse than paying taxes is to be boiled in oil. The question we should ask is this: are both of these groups crazy or is it only the Tea People?  The answer, of course, is that the Republicans aren’t crazy; they’re simply cunning, like a tiger, or maybe more like a snake that stalks its prey relying only on deceit. The Tea People just don’t know any better.  Like children following the Pied Piper, they believe anyone who says taxes are bad, and they willingly follow anyone who promises to reduce or eliminate taxes – people like the cheerleader from Alaska who seems to think that all you need to do to win a debate is shout the loudest and drown out the opposition. Honest debate is simply out of the question.

The question we might ask is why is there this odd coalition of nasty, crafty, old rich men and undereducated, cheerleader-following, poor people? Why? Because it works. It works for the cunning, crafty old men that is. As for the unsuspecting Tea People, they will simply be dessert for the snake – after the large middle class has been devoured by the unquenchable appetite of the wealthy.

It has been claimed by many, myself included, that our country is already in the clutches of a ruling oligarchy. The evidence is not hard to find. Just look how our businesses have been allowed to export our jobs to China and India and so many other countries. Just look how our banking system was allowed to destroy the world economy with no adult supervision.  Just look at how the gigantic energy companies are allowed to destroy the environment with gargantuan oil spills and the total destruction of mountains (yes, entire mountains) in the search for coal. Yet, clean nuclear energy that provides almost all of the energy for countries like France, and clean wind energy that supplies large amounts of power for Scandinavia and the UK is opposed on all fronts. Just look how President Bush became President even though he received fewer votes than Al Gore – even in Florida.

Under the reigns of Republican presidents like Reagan and Bush our economy has been practically destroyed and our national debt soared into the trillions. Under Bush taxes on the extremely wealthy were drastically cut while the poor received almost no break at all – and all of it justified by the lie that it had to be done so the rich could create more jobs for the poor people. Except they didn’t. At least not for the poor of America. The simple fact is that they eliminated all the jobs the poor people had – the unskilled labor jobs – and exported them to even poorer countries. Then they started on the skilled jobs, IT jobs, pharmaceutical jobs, jobs that needed a college education – and they exported those jobs too. So what was left for the citizens of the USA? Not much. That’s why people resorted to buying and flipping houses – they had to make money somehow.

Then it all fell apart and the wealthy Republicans started with their tax lies again. Don’t tax the rich – their money can help create jobs. And the Tea People? They just don’t have a clue about what’s going on. They just know they are desperate. Money is hard to come by and, thanks to the conniving of George Bush they have no tax relief. They know they would be better off today if they didn’t have to pay taxes. These are poor desperate people who can’t afford their tax burden. So what do they do? They align themselves with the Republicans!  That’s like thinking you can be friends with a snake. They don’t know they are dessert.

The truth about taxes is this: we need them. Without taxes there is no police force, no fire department, no roads, no municipal water, no schools, no army, no navy, no marines, no air force, no coast guard, no city hospitals, no railroads, no airports, no centers for disease control, no snow plows, no life guards, no federal aviation administration, no national transportation safety board, no food and drug administration, no FBI, no CIA, no sidewalks, no border patrol, no national guard, no sheriffs, no ambulances. Without taxes there would never have been an Internet. There would have been no Moon landings. There would be no Interstate Highway System.

The truth is that society needs taxes in order to operate. The Republicans know this; that’s why they write all those laws that tax the poor.  The poor Tea People are just lost. They don’t understand. They think that teaming with the Republicans will save them, but such an alliance will only lead to their destruction. You can’t make a deal with a snake.

The truth is this: a society can only function well when the major burden of taxes falls upon the wealthy – after all, they’re the ones with the money. Our country used to know that. It was obvious. We had a graduated income tax – the more you made the more you paid.  Pretty simple rule – and it worked. The Republicans turned that sensible notion on its head and created a disproportionate system that unfairly taxes the lower-income people and allows the wealthiest people in the entire world to pay absolutely no tax at all. This is simply untenable. A country cannot long exist that doesn’t tax its wealthiest citizens. The poor Tea People don’t get it. They just know they are suffering and they want to stop paying taxes and the Republicans say they’ll help. Pure deceit.

We need to reinstate our graduated income tax – with no exceptions. Tax the wealthy more than you tax the poor. That’s right, John McCain, redistribute the wealth. What do you think taxes are anyway, if not the redistribution of wealth? If Republicans had their way we would reenter the Middle Ages and have a feudal society – a society where the only people who pay taxes are the peasants and they pay them to the wealthy landowners.  So Tea People, if you want tax reform, I’m with you all the way. But let’s be sensible. Tax the rich – we really need their money – and they have lots of it.  And don’t tax the poor at all – they need their scant resources far more than we do.

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Dear President Obama,

I hate to say it, but you’re no John Kennedy. I know you weren’t even born when JFK was elected, so I suppose you just don’t know what it was like then. Let me try to explain. I just read the news about your new mini-stimulus proposal – the one about building roads and railroads and runways. I understand you are talking about injecting $50 billion into the budget for this. Ummm… let’s see… there are about 300 million people who live in the U.S. so…  50 billion divided by 300 million comes out to be about $166.67 per person worth of stimulus. Pardon me for not leaping out of my chair.  Just what do you think $166.67 is going to do for me over the next ten years? Besides, since I am not a bulldozer operator or a truck driver, I actually expect my share of this new stimulus to be about the same as my share of your last stimulus – that is to say $0.00.

I think what we have here is a failure of imagination and perhaps a failure of boldness. Perhaps a certain lack of courage even. I get the sense that you are trying to fine tune the answer and strike a deal with the Republicans and the TP people. Take my advice: forget it. They won’t ever make a deal with you, they just want you gone so they can continue sending money to their big bank friends. Barack, listen to me. You give great speeches, but I think there is a certain lack of follow through – a desire to avoid a fight. You seem an awful lot like a lawyer or a Senator who is always looking to compromise. We didn’t elect you to compromise.  We elected you to lead.  If George (What me worry?) Bush could lead the country, you should be able to do it too.

Let me tell you about John Kennedy. At a time when we were fierce adversaries with the USSR, Kennedy went eyeball to eyeball with Nikita Khrushchev over the nuclear missiles in Cuba. We were on the brink of global thermonuclear war, but Kennedy didn’t back down, Khrushchev did. That’s leadership. But there was more than just that. Kennedy had vision and he followed through on it. He created the Peace Corps, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. He gave a sense of purpose to NASA: he set a goal of sending a man to the Moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of the decade (the 1960’s). NASA went into full gear research mode, created thousands and thousands of high tech jobs, and spun off countless new technologies that now permeate our lives. And our astronauts went to the Moon before the end of the 1960’s. That’s vision. That’s determination. That was a stimulus that had far reaching economic effects for everyone.

So now you want to build some more roads. Boy, that’s exciting. Railroads too – maybe even some high speed rail. And we’re going to pave some runways. Do you see the difference?  Why not say something like this: We are going to use the full technical resources of NASA and America’s research labs to design and build the world’s first high speed supersonic train that will cross the country faster that the fastest passenger jet planes? Then we are going to build an entire high speed train system that will be the envy of the world in speed, comfort, safety, and cost. The project will cost $1 trillion – maybe $10 trillion, but it will be worth it. It will change the way we live and spin off a whole new generation of technical capabilities and products that we can barely imagine now, but they will form the basis of employment for  a good portion of the American people for the next fifty years. And by doing this we will reestablish America as the world leader in technology.

And…. Oh, by the way, we’re going to repave some roads too.

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The loosely aligned group of people who refer to themselves as the “Tea Party”  began to appear in 2008 as a response to the efforts of the newly elected Obama administration to cope with the collapse of the American banking system and the country’s screaming nosedive toward The Great Depression Part II. The movement gained more supporters as the new Democratic government pushed health care reform through Congress. Several people claim to be the originators of the movement and there are various splinter Tea Party organizations who all subscribe to one general line of thought: they are rabidly against the present Democratic government that was elected by the majority of the American people. This has made them natural allies of the Republican Party that is also adamantly against everything the present government is for. I imagine that if President Obama declared that, “Today is Sunday”, they would disagree. So, OK. I get it. They are uniformly against the Obama administration and the Democratic Party because they want their power back. I can understand that. It’s called hardball politics. It is nothing more than a struggle for power – winner takes all. Right?

But what about the poor, innocent, true believers of the Tea Party? Are they motivated by the same self-serving cynical ideas of the mainstream Republicans? Hardly. As I said, they are true believers in an ideal; in fact their belief in these ideals is comparable to a religious belief.  I say that because they brook no counter arguments, they are not open to discussion or debate, they will not accommodate or listen to a reasonable challenge to their statements. They just know that they are right, by God. And that’s it. Period.

And that, of course, is the problem.

Even so, reasonable people – and I think most Americans are reasonable – need to take a step back from the easily tossed slogans of the street marchers and the rants of Glenn Beck and his cohorts at the Fox Electric Propaganda Machine and carefully consider the important fundamental issue that no one ever talks about.  To do this we need to go back in time a bit – about 60,000 years. Why 60,000? Because scientific DNA evidence indicates that we (every person on this planet) is descended from a couple of individuals who lived 60,000 years ago.

During those last 60,000 years every group of humans, no matter where they lived, found that one thing was necessary for survival – you had to belong to a tribe. If you went off on your own you would die. There was no place for rugged individualism in those days; and not only those days. Tribalism, in one form or another, is necessary even today in modern society. Indeed, what is a united country if not just a very large tribe?  The key to having a successful tribe is a division of labor and an understanding that the members of a tribe take care of each other. It’s “all for one and one for all”.  Or, as Benjamin Franklin said upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”. That’s because we were leaving the tribe of Great Britain and forming our own tribe, The United States of America.

Throughout American history, whether it was the Mormon pioneers who went west, the sailors who manned the New England whaling ships, or the unionized workers who built the cars in Detroit, everyone knew that survival meant belonging to the “tribe”. You were loyal to the tribe and the tribe was loyal to you. In recent history other parts of the world have tried other versions of the tribal concept. Karl Marx was an advocate of a tribal society called Communism. The countries of Scandinavia and other parts of Europe have formed tribal societies based upon the ideas of Socialism. Today the U.S. military (a sort of tribe itself) is engaged in warfare with the tribes of Afghanistan.

My point is simple: humans need to be members of some sort of organized “tribe” to survive on this planet. You can not go it alone. This is also true of those “rugged individualists” who live in Alaska – a state that receives more federal aid per capita than any other state in the United States. It’s interesting to listen to the Tea Party types from Alaska who want less Federal government. Do they know what they are asking for? With the loss of Ted Stevens from the U.S. Senate I think they will soon find out what that is like.

But wait a minute. What about the Republicans? Surely they can’t be for less government – they are part of the government, aren’t they? Do they want to eliminate their own jobs? No, of course not – they just want the government to tax their businesses less and they want to stop any oversight of their businesses – things like those pesky consumer protection laws and laws that keep the environment free of pollution from the waste products of companies who don’t give a rat’s behind about your backyard anyway. The Republican Party is not about smaller or less powerful government – just look at Bush/Cheney and how they stepped all over the laws regarding privacy, equal justice, and torture. They were not against the power of government – they just wanted to use the power as they saw fit without any constraints. And they did. It was an out of control government. I guess you call that Republican freedom or liberty or some such misuse of the English language.

So, what is the error of the Republican/Tea Party Coalition? It is this: no society can thrive based upon a concept of “every man for himself”. Such a society isn’t even a society. It is chaotic. It is the Law of the Yukon, where “Only the strong shall thrive, that surely the weak shall perish, and only the fit survive.” It is not the way that humans have lived. It is selfishness in the extreme. It is blind ignorance. The poor Tea Party people who believe they can live without government are foolish. They wouldn’t last a week in the wilds of Alaska.

Yet, one must ask: how many true believers are there in this Republican/Tea Party coalition anyway? Probably very few. That’s because Republicanism is not about “no government”; it’s about government by the wealthy for the wealthy. Their problem is that there is not, and never will be, a majority of wealthy people to vote them in – so they need to hook up with “like-minded” people, such as the Tea Party types.  Many of the TP people are not wealthy but they foolishly believe they don’t need a government to help them.  They don’t want to pay taxes, and they most certainly don’t need a black Democratic President telling them they need government health care or any other government help, i.e. things like bailouts and so forth. These are the selfish “believers”, and these are the people who would blindly walk off a cliff believing they can walk on air. They are simply out of touch with reality and the history of the human race.  The Republicans are not the true believers, they are the exploiters of the true believers. While some may call them the Party of No, they are in fact the Party of Me. And it is here where we see their common ground with the Tea Party types, for they are simply another version of the Party of Me. And this is the fundamental error of both, because a society can never succeed based on the concept of “ME FIRST”. Societies and mankind only prosper when we think of ourselves as the Party of Us and a country of Us. The concept of “us” is tribal and tribal means two things: the individual has responsibility to the tribe and the tribe has responsibility to the individual. This has been mankind’s recipe for success for 60,000 years.

The fundamental error of the Republican/Tea Party Coalition is that they believe they can form a successful government and country based upon selfish individualism. History has proven them wrong time and time again, but they don’t care and they won’t learn, because all they really care about is “Me”.

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