Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Republican Party Must Go

President Obama has been avoiding the real fight he must take on if he is to guide this country out of the wilderness. He has been trying to propitiate the Republican Party. But the Republican Party is the creation of the wealthy class and only wants to perpetuate itself in power. A compromise with the Democratic Party, which represents everyone else, would be suicidal. The wealthy, as recent history shows, will stop at nothing to hold onto their power. They would even destroy the Union if they could only retain their fortunes.

Why do I say this? I look back at the last 8 years and see one long list of lies, crimes, and pandering to the wealthy. The plan of the Republican Party since Nixon has been to espouse any crack-brained minority that values its own rights over those of the country. First they absorbed the racist Dixiecrats, who maintained themselves in power by the crudest appeals to bigotry. Then they aligned themselves with fundamentalist Christians who condemn democracy and the will of the people in favor of divine guidance from their demagogic leaders. These they added to a coterie white males who are frightened of sharing power with women or other ethnic groups. Of course, they always had the holders of vast wealth and the unscrupulous who wanted to obtain wealth, no matter what the cost.

The Republicans did not care to build for the future, either of their party or of the country. In fact, many have been convinced by their religious leaders that there is no future in this world, only a fiery furnace, and they have done their best to turn the earth itself into a cinder to fulfill that prophecy. They have used every cynical trick and conniving lie conceived by the minds of men to seize power and maintain themselves in it. Their favorite tactic is "triangulation", where you take over another's argument and deny your opponent his rightful constituency. For example, the Republican Party contains many of the surviving white supremacists from the Old South, yet it claims the other party is using racist tactics, or, as they call it, "playing the race card". Their last president claimed, in his campaign, that he would heal the rifts of society; instead, he spent two terms ramming through the program of the Republican Party. When California asked for help from the federal government against price-gouging by Enron, the president said that California had made its own bed and must lie in it. By which he meant to say, California was the fiercest opponent to his election and had to pay the price.

The deceit and vengeance of the regime had but one goal (if you discount those who only sought to enrich themselves): To keep the majority of the population from exerting its will and acting in its own best interest.

Now that the majority has finally gained political power, will the Republican Party join them to form a united front against the enemies of fear, greed, and self-interest? Of course not. To do so would mean capitulating to the enemy. They will fight tooth and nail, with even greater fury than before, for their very survival is at stake. They care not whether they bring down the United States, so long as that keep their gold.

The United States will never be defeated by a foreign foe. It can only be destroyed from within by corruption, ignorance, and greed. That is why the Republican Party must go.

Tax wealth not people

The income tax is essentially a modified capitation tax. It counts the number of people, applies a mystical formula, and viola! The resultant tax is supposed to be fair and balanced. But it's not. Poor people pay a larger percentage of their wealth than rich people. By far. Rich people amass huge fortunes without paying any tax on it. The US Tax Code is responsible for concentrating wealth in the hands of a few and causing needless suffering among the many.

The Tax Code has a libertarian basis for this injustice. It regards the people as individuals, each of whom needs to contribute to the national government. This is so much taken for granted by everyone that it is not even questioned. In fact, there are other ways to view the US.

The founding fathers are not the font of all wisdom, but in this case they have made a good point. The constitution begins with the words, "We the People". It does not say anything about individual rights. It describes collective rights and obligations. The version of the constitution placed online by Cornell University, not surprisingly, does not capitalize the word, "People", but the capital "P" is there in the original. The rest of the preamble continues with the collective viewpoint. The Constitution is formed

in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

The framers of the constitution clearly intended the newly created government to serve the interests of all the people.

Some would argue that rich citizens should not pay more taxes than poor citizens because they don't use more government services. This was clearly not the intention of the framers. They showed not the least concern about fairness of revenues, only that citizens could not be taxed without representation -- as a group, not as individuals.

In fact, though, the rich do receive greater benefits from the government than the poor, because they have much more to lose. The laws protect their property from confiscation without due process, a protection also afforded the poor, although they have no use for such protection. The armed services protect the rich from foreign invasion to a far greater degree than the poor. The poor might lose their rights but the rich would lose all their possessions in addition to their rights if the country were invaded by a hostile power. But the primary purpose of the armed forces is to protect overseas rights of American businesses by keeping the sea lanes open and assuring that US trade and overseas possessions are protected. One goal of warfare since the end of the Vietnam War has been to assure the free flow of oil, a goal supported primarily by the owners of corporations that depend on oil. Such benefits are of little use to the poor, who would be better served by domestic sources of energy.

The Constitution itself recognized that the wealthy would receive more benefit from the government it created. While all the people were to be represented in congress, only the property owners could vote, hardly surprising since the framers were primarily wealthy property owners. Furthermore, the wealthy framers intended to benefit themselves above all.

In practice, while the wealthy give money to support the government, the poor give their children for military service. Those who claim that the wealthy don't get more benefits than the poor do not take into account soldiers who have risked death or died to preserve the rights of others to amass property. The wealthy of late have resented having to provide benefits to those who fought for them and their survivors. I suppose the rationale for this is that the poor must fend for themselves regardless of their service to the nation.

The government itself (EPA) calculates the value of a single human life at $6.8 million. Do the families of fallen servicement receive any similar compensation from their government? In many cases, what they get is a thankyou, a free funeral, and a flag. Where is the justice in that?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why Bill Gates Laughs at the IRS

The tax situation today resembles that in France before the French revolution. Commoners had little enough to call their own, but what little they had was taken in taxes. The nobility had nearly all the wealth but were exempt from taxes. So today, the top 20% who own 80% of the wealth in this country pay almost no taxes on it. They pay income taxes, but this only exposes their income, not the wealth itself.

Take a single example. Warren Buffet is worth about $58 billion, yet his salary is only $100,000 per year. The federal income tax on his salary is about $38,000. In 1956, Buffett was worth less than $1 million. So his average increase in wealth over his lifetime has been $58 billion divided by 52 (2008 - 1956), or approximately $1 billion per year. If the increase of wealth were counted as income, his income tax rate is $38,000 divided by $ 1 billion, or about .0001%. Why should a man of great wealth, like Mr. Buffett be paying only .0001% of his annual increase in wealth when the average person in the lowest quintile, the poorest 20% of the population, pays 11% of income in taxes (state, local, sales, property, etc.)?

It is fun to fantasize about the wealth these people possess, but why should they pay no taxes at all when the rest of us pay so much? The reason is that the wealthy are able to control both tax policy and public opinion much more effectively than the French nobility of the ancien regime. The idea of taxing wealth itself is seldom heard in the public forum. People are convinced, not only that capitalism is a great good, but that concentration of capital in a few hands is also beneficial. The two ideas are not inseparable.

Conservatives protest that they shouldn't have to give up what they have attained and have it given to someone else. This is the basis of all taxation, so the argument could also be used to abolish all taxes. But modern states have become larger for a reason. They are like fish swimming in a tank with other fish. Bigger fish thrive. Smaller fish get eaten. So the government supported by taxes provides protection to the wealthy, by monetary policy, military defense, treaties on trade, the list goes on and on. In fact, the wealthy receive services from the government in proportion to the size of their fortunes. The more they have, the more they have to lose. They should be taxed accordingly.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Freedoms?

Sean Hannity begins each radio show with about 10 minutes of blather. Yesterday he announced that taxing the wealthy would cause everyone in the country, including the poor, to lose their freedom. Freedom is a big buzz-word for Hannity, so he never bothers to explain how the freedom is lost or which freedom he means. Apparently, he means that if the wealthy have to pay higher taxes, your freedom will be lost in the same way that letting gays marry will spoil the sanctity of your marriage, by osmosis, by magic, by telepathy, or something like that.

There are some freedoms the poor may want to lose by forcing the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

1. The freedom to go without medical care.
2. The freedom to die because a cancer was not discovered soon enough to be operable (see freedom number 1.)
3. The freedom to remain unemployed, or underemployed, forever.
4. The freedom to live on a continually diminishing social security pension.
5. The freedom to stay put in your home because you cannot drive a car and there is inadequate public transportation.
6. The freedom to freeze in the winter because you can't afford to heat your home.
7. The freedom to watch the real purchasing power of your wages continue to decline.
8. The freedom to go bankrupt because an unforeseen illness transfers all of your wealth to the medical system.

I could go on, but the point is made. Hannity and his pals want us to believe that some intangible freedom or basic right will be lost if we tax the wealthy. The implication is simply false. We all pay taxes to support basic services that we all use. So if the wealthy pay taxes, they are in the same boat as everyone else, except they will hardly notice what they have to pay. For most of us, taxes hurt. Let's make sure the wealthy pay enough that their taxes hurt, too. That's a freedom I'm sure the 95% of us who aren't wealthy would like to share with Hannity's rich pals. Yet another of the many reasons why the Republican Party must go.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where is Justice?

     We read and hear a lot about freedom in the US. "We trust that people, when given the chance, will choose a future of freedom and peace," announced President Bush in his final State of the Union adress. Freedom is one of his favorite words. He likes to talk about the freedom we are spreading throughout the world while he whittles away at the rights we enjoy at home. But what about justice? Why don't we hear about that? Is it less important than liberty? There is a great difference between a free society and a just one. People get angry when they feel they are victims of injustice. Right-wing demagogues are masters at setting voting groups against each other, attacking immigrants, or ethnic minorities, or gays and lesbians, or liberals, or government itself for all manner of ills: Crime, unemployment, poverty, immorality. 

     But aren't they actually complaining about injustice? Why should my group be crime victims, while another group are the perpetrators? Why should my friends be unemployed while others have taken their jobs? Why should I be poor when others have so much handed to them by the government? Why should my children be exposed to immorality from which I cannot protect them? Even attacks on liberty are actually injustices: The suspension of habeas corpus, torture, wire-taps--these are all injustices because they do not affect our freedom right now, but they could affect it drastically at some time in the future. Freedom is what we have and enjoy; justice is what safeguards it. 
     Nothing infuriates a person more than a perceived injustice. Did I get a traffic ticket when I was only doing what everyone else was doing? How unfair. Did I lose my job instead of the kid they just hired to take my place? I got screwed. Did I lose my house because I couldn't make the mortgage payment? What a gyp.
     But in today's America justice is a rare commodity. True, it seems that the wealthy can get it. But what about the rest of us? We are subject to laws that don't work, taxes that take money from the poor and give it to the rich, systems that reward those who learn to abuse them.
     So I ask again, where is justice? Who has it? How can the rest of us get more?