The following is a letter to the editor of Medina County Common Sense. Medina County Common Sense is an online newspaper that can be read at www.medinacountycommonsense.com.
After witnessing the results of decades of tax cuts for the rich and stagnant wages for most employees as well as the crippling growth of government and private debt, we can say: Been there and done that.
Between 1979 and 2003 according to the Congressional Research Service, the income from wealth for the top 1% (interest, dividends, rent and capital gains) has risen from 37.8% of the pie to 57.5%. Today, it is clearly even higher. If that is not the definition of greed what is?
Wealth is being redistributed upwards in America, especially as the government with an employer-biased National Labor Relations Board undercut the ability of American workers to bargain collectively. We live in a society that rewards wealth and punishes work. A society created by the GOP and corporate Democrats.
When GOP officials talk of a free market economy they are talking about a government of, by and for the rich. They love the phrase "free market" because it conjures up pictures of the inevitable flow of the tides as the moon tugs on us. The fact is that a "free market" economy is an economy run by the financial sector for its ends: to create asset bubbles and dept dependency.
With each passing year Americans have and less ownership of their homes in the "loanership" society they are creating. For the first time they now own less than half their homes. In other words, the banks and the financial class now own more and more of our homes. Of course, personal debt is also at a record high.
The FIRE (Financial, Insurance, Real Estate) sector does not create real jobs in a real economy. Their jobs are strictly at the gaming tables of Credit Default Swaps and derivatives based on other dervatives based on other derivatives. (These three level gambling games actually exist! See A Demon of Our Design by Richard Bookstaber for the details.)
Successful economies are not Cuba's nor the recent American debacle. They are mixed economies where business and government each play an important - and necessary - role. I am a progressive who believe in market forces. I am also a progressive who sees hugely efficient, well-run economicl safety nets like Social Security and Medicare.
Unfortunately, the brand of extremism on display at the TEA rally has little concern for those safety nets, although I did see one sign:"Some help, yes, entitlements, No." While I would love to have had a discussion with the sign-holder about which programs to abolish, which people we should allow to suffer and die, I have learned a lesson. Most of these nice, well-meaning people are clueless as to what their slogans actually mean in practice.
Why do you think that their leaders almost never mention specific safety net programs? Could it be because they would be exposed as un-Christian, un-patriotic Americans? When these people are asked John Oliver (British correspondent for the Daily Show) type follow up questions they become agitated and frequently angry to the point of becoming violent. Clearly, many of the people at the rally were anxious about our economic times. Sadly, almost pathetically, they didn't recognize their own party's hand in all this.
This was not a meeting to assign accountablity for decades of failed GOP-plutocratic propaganda parading as policy. It was time to lambast an administration which has still not reached 100 days.
Incidentally, there are plenty of reasons to lacerate President Obama for continuing Bush's TARP program as Paul Krugman, James Galbraith and Michael Hudson and lots of other great Ph.D. economists do. But to scream at this administration for lowering taxes on nearly everyone in the crowd and trying to stimulate the economy seemed surrealistic.
But sadly, the rally was real. The puppet-masters in America's board rooms had summoned them to their grassroots-fabrication knowing of their inchoate anxieties about nearly everything - and they had come.
About the market speakers called "free." God did not make the capital gains tax 15% which is less than the Social Security and Medicare taxes on the first dollars every American earns. The capital gains tax and the lowering of the top marginal rates from 91% to the 30s did not occur because of planetary forces. It occured because the rich, the contributor class, made it happen with their minions in Congress - including plenty of corporate Dems. Their Gollumesque cries of "My precious, my precious, it's all mine" simply don't mesh with "We the people in order to form a more perfect society do hereby...." They just don't get it that we are our brother's keeper, that what happens to the least of us should matter to all of us philosophy and policies.
Do they not hear the gospel messages on Sunday? They don't even have a clue of how to answer this simple question: How is it that we are the only industrial society on earth not to have national health care. Perhaps because they haven't suffered from a lack of health care (I assume) the problem simply doesn't exist. They live in the bubble of Medina and the rest of the world is just so remote - and frequently - distasteful.
Incidentally, I did see a sign about "Government Greed" at the rally but none about the private greed mentioned over 200 times in the Bible. Nothing about a hedge funds manager earning $3.7 billion in a year and paying a lower tax rate, for most of it, than those who clean our bedpans.
It was odd that a crowd that clearly believes in personal responsibilty and working hard (I assume) helps a political party who policies punish work and reward wealth. Of course they try to sell the myth that if you tax the rich they will stop creating jobs. Did you know that the rich are a fragile group? That when we increase their taxes from 35 to 39% they become so disheartened and disconsolate they shut down their business. If they can't keep most of their money they simply see no reason to go on. If they make another $30 million and only keep $17, there is clearly no incentive to continue.
Remember, however, that the poor are very different than the rich: they need to be prodded to work. If we keep the minimum wage low, their hunger and physical needs will help "motivate" them to work.
Of course, rally speakers I heard said nothing about torture, aggressive wars, military waste, Social Security - especially private accounts, national health care, unemployment insurance, skyrocketing tuition costs for state schools. the budget problems of all local governments, the repeal of Glass-Steagall or the killing of the financial cops on Wall Street and Washington, what happened over the last eight years to cause this collapsel. And I heard nothing about the class warfare waged agains the middle class for decades. In fact, I don't believe I heard about anything good that taxes produce.
Nothing about the roads that got them there, the Park where they held the rally, the police protection, the education that some of them received.I never heard President Franklin Delano Roosevelt mentioned. The other Democratic president who had to save the "banksters" from their wretched self-dealing. A "socialist" who clearly saved capitalism and put our economy on a sound track for over 50 years until his reforms were unraveled by the money changers. Remember that FDR was the other Democratic president they called a fascist and socialist.
It would have been wonderful to hear someone recite part of FDR's first inaugural:
"The money changers have fled their high seat in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of our restoration lies in the extent to which we appy social values more noble than mere monetary profit."
Unfortunately, as one observer wrote, the money changers returned to Washington the following day on March 5, 1933. And so it was on January 21, 2009. And clearly it is up to Democrats to pressure our president to reject the advice of the Rubins, Geithners and Summers. They and the GOP Federal Reserve (See James Galbraith's research on how the Fed manipulates interest rates for GOP candidates) should be some of the last people we listen to. Saving THEIR economic system is not the same as saving a just economic system. The system (banks) they are putting on life support is one that has literally robbed American families of the fruits of their labors. It is time for an economy (and, of course, tax policy) that actually works to keep capitalism vibrant and not to preserve the privileges of the few.
Parenthetical: One well-intentioned minister talked of our Christian founders like Thomas Jefferson. They also had a Jefferson banner attached to the Gazebo. I guess he never heard of Jefferson's redacted bible. Redacted as in taking out all the miracles and leaving in the social message.
There were good and serious people at the rally who believe in self-reliance and that is a good thing. The problem is that these same people do not believe in self-reliance when bad things happen to them. They are more than happy that Social Security disability exists. Self-reliance is great when you are healthy because you can, with hard work, acquire money. But when the trials of Job come, you wish to live in a more compassionate society than the one the rally-holders envision. One with national health care.Some of the beliefs of the rally holders and GOP apologists in the media like Charlie Gibson are simply wrong.
Recently, the Plain Dealer ran an op-ed piece that said: "When taxes rise, revenues fall." Many apparently believe, despite Congressional Budget Office (CBO) evidence to the contrary, that less means more.. The "evidence" that cutting taxes actually increases them has a thin underpinning. When capital gains taxes were cut, revenue did go up for a while. Over time, of course, revenue drops. That why the non-partisan CBO indicates significant capital gains tax losses from permanently cutting the tax rate on them.
Why do you think that capital gains taxes did increase after a tax cut - at least for a short period? The CBO and others have pointed out the obvious: people rushed to realize their capital gains when they had the break. Capital gains only occur when you decide to take them. The timing is in your hands when to sell your stocks or other appreciated asset. It was simply a matter of timing and that over time, the Treasury would lose money.
Incidentally, I do believe taxes can be so high that people struggle to evade them with tax shelters etc. That is not the case when you are making small changes in the 30 percent area and not returning the top rates to the 90+%.
The Greed Party has only one issue left: taxes. After doing their best to destroy capitalism and our standing in the world no one listens to them about much of anything else. Their problem though is this syllogism they make: 1) The rich pay almost all the taxes 2) We must lower taxes
Conclusion: The only possible conclusion is that the TEA party was all about lowering taxes on the rich. That is a fair plutocratic proposition but it is rejected by many of the rich as well as the vast majority of the population. Of course, the vast bulk of the people at the TEA party (I attended and took copious notes) had no clue that they were working against not just the economic interests of consumer and industrial capitalism but against their own narrow economic self interests.
That in a society where over 70% of GDP is consumer spending that consumers (the middle class) must have enough to spend. They had merely been summoned by the economic elites to do their work, just as they do in their companies: for no or substandard wages.
At the end of the rally state representative William Batchelder III spoke. Clearly, the organizer and thinker behind the rally spoke last. The one with personal connections to Newt and other aspiring Republicans on the national stage. The chair person of the Ohio 1976 and 1980 Ohio Steering Committee for Ronald Reagan. As he spoke you recognized that he was facile, glib, skillful. I would guess he had 30 IQ points on the other speakers and 50 on the median score in the audience.
He made the point that the rally was not partisan and made a perfunctory attack on George W. Bush for not vetoing some spending bills.His most memorable line was: " “The answer to our economic problems will come from the private sector.”
First, I thought of George Washington's "doctors" applying more leeches to him on his deathbed. Clearly, the Ohio representative believed that we did not allow the banksters enough freedom to loot and pillage. Then I though of a more apt analogy for our sinking economy: the Exon Valdes.
There was the best and brightest of the Medina Republican Party standing on the bridge of the Valdes with Captain Joseph Hazelwood (George W. Bush) yelling: "Maintain course. Full speed ahead. Things are fine"Things are not fine and until the GOP explains the mistakes they had a hand in they will have zero credibility with the American voter.
A Democratic rally attendee