Reality: Taxes or cuts; if cuts, specify where
Of newspaper editors, Cal Beverly must certainly be ranked among the fair. While possessing a strong conservative bent, he prints entire letters with which he must strongly disagree.
However it seems even he cannot escape his own prejudices, and this was most apparent in his headline for my Letter to the Editor of last week. It was titled: “So-called conservatives now are playthings of the rich who benefit most but contribute least.”
Headlines are supposed to catch the reader’s eye and the main idea, and I can only surmise Cal took away from my letter the supposition that I believe the rich contribute the least.
As humans we are all victims of our preconceptions. Yet our ancestors, through honest and difficult debate were able to agree on a completely new form of federal government in the face of political extremism certainly equal to anything extant today.
Fifty-eight men from 12 states met in Philadelphia to reform the Articles of Confederation and within days went well beyond the stated purpose of the convention. They were certainly not of like mind, and two New York delegates left rather than remain part of the convention.
From June to September the delegates remained sequestered behind closed doors and windows in a heat wave debating and re-debating ideas and practicalities.
Some, like Luther Martin of Maryland, were there only to disrupt the proceedings. Others, like Alexander Hamilton, staked out extreme positions on executive authority which he must have known were unacceptable.
In the end, enough of them found enough to agree on to recommend this entirely new form of government to a skeptical Congress and an eager nation.
I believe they did so because they saw the immediate danger of not doing so. There was rebellion in Massachusetts, trade disputes between New York and Connecticut, an empty national kitty, treaties not honored by foreign nations, hostile natives who were naturally opposed to the theft of their land, and a growing knowledge that the great experiment in popular government was about to fail.
Today we seem to be victims of their success. Like children given too much and challenged too little, we squander our advantages, and waste our resources. The growth of right wing charlatans and resultant popular delusion is a direct result of this national petulance.
About 80 percent of the national budget goes to defense, Medicare, Social Security, and interest on the national debt. The Tea Party swept in on the idea that we must cut expenditures but when pressed can give only vague notions of where those cuts must occur.
If we haven’t the political will to cut then we must tax.
According to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, the top 1 percent of Americans owns 34 percent of America’s private net worth. The bottom 90 percent owns 29 percent. In income the top 1 percent receives 24 percent of income in the United States every year.
The expiration of the Bush tax cuts would have meant about a 4 percent increase in marginal taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. The Republicans made it their TOP priority to save the Bush tax cuts, and then increased the amount of wealth sheltered by death from $1 million to $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a couple.
This by itself means more than 700 billion dollars in tax money forfeited by the national treasury when it is most needed.
Our Maginot Line is our inability to speak straight about cuts and our unwillingness to tax. If the Tea Party and the Republicans wish to cut, then they must speak openly and honestly about real cuts to real programs to somehow achieve a balanced budget.
Cutting the Department of Education isn’t going to do it. Cutting Visitor’s Centers from the defense budget (as proposed by a main Tea Party advocate on Eliot Spitzer’s show) won’t do it either.
And all you people on Social Security and Medicare; all you military retirees with your pensions and healthcare; all of you government employees and retirees; all you military industrial producers and workers had better realize that your pie is but a piece of the national pie and it must be part of the debate about cuts if we are unwilling to increase taxes.
Our system relies on the rich. It is the accumulation of wealth which can then be invested which allows us to produce wealth.
I never said the wealthy contribute the least. I did say they have benefitted the most in income while using their power to skirt their obligation to the system which has allowed their tremendous accumulation of wealth.
This latest increase in shielded estate tax money is an even more egregious example. We would never agree to make political power hereditary, but we seem easily convinced to extend the courtesy to monetary power, which remains always the basis of political power.
Let us then remove ourselves from the inflammatory and look for leaders who will engage in honest debate. I have little faith it will happen.
Colonel Charles DeGaulle went to visit General Gamelin, commander of French forces, to argue that France must concentrate her armored forces to attack Germany and if necessary to repel the coming armored attack. General Gamelin could only respond: Il n’est pas possible!
As a nation (not 50 sovereign states), we either address reality or wait for it to address us. And that is neither a conservative nor liberal idea.
Timothy J. Parker
Peachtree City, Ga.
[The editor replies: Mr. Parker’s exact quote — from which I fashioned the offending headline — is as follows: “The so-called conservatives in this country have become the intellectual playthings of the very rich who benefit most from our society but wish to contribute proportionally the least.” I left out one big word from an already overlong headline, “proportionally” and one small one, “wish.” I leave it to the reader to decide — proportionally — whether the omission materially — and wishfully — distorts Mr. Parker’s meaning.]