Friday, June 24, 2011

Dear Republicans,

Republicans of conscience, May 19

The Republican Party used to be an honorable party, but today it is corrupted by the Tea Party. I promised to write about Republicans of conscience. Here are a few.

David Frum, conservative journalist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush , is angry at “conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio” who whip Republicans into “such a frenzy that deal-making [is] impossible.” He points out that the Health Care Act, what the right calls “Obamacare”:
“. . . builds on ideas developed at the [conservative] Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.”
So what Republicans of today denounce as “socialism” is a rather conservative Health Care Act largely based on Republican ideas.

David Stockman, the budget director responsible for engineering the Reagan tax cuts, the largest in American history, now says all the Bush tax cuts should be eliminated—even those on the middle class. And he says his own Republican Party has gone too far with its anti-tax religion.
“. . . It's become in a sense an absolute. Something that can't be questioned, something that's gospel, something that's sort of embedded into the catechism and so scratch the average Republican today and he'll say "Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.”
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower sounded a theme that Republicans today would term "socialist" and "liberal":
Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. And a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.” [We cannot afford to reduce taxes until] the factors of income and outgo will be balanced.
Eisenhower's Republican Party platform of 1956 called for expanding Social Security, broadening unemployment insurance, and improving health protection for all. It called for full voting rights, equalizing pay for workers regardless of sex, expanding the minimum wage, and improving job safety for workers.
When Eisenhower was president, the top tax bracket for the richest people was 92 percent. He defended that tax bracket, insisting that taxes on the rich are the way to achieve a balanced budget. Three nights before the end of his presidency in 1961, Eisenhower warned of a scientific-technological élite that would dominate public policy and claim,
our toil, resources, and livelihood. . . .
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
Going back further still, Republican president Theodore Roosevelt understood that, to preserve the free enterprise system, we have to reduce the monopolizing power of the richest in the country. Roosevelt famously curbed the gilded power of his age. He would be aghast at the grotesque imbalance of power and wealth in our country today.

In Washington state, Bill Gates Sr., wealthy father of the Microsoft founder, says the rich don’t pay enough in taxes, and the poor pay too much. On 60 Minutes he said,
This notion that all innovation is the function of private funding, . . . that’s just sheer nonsense. . . . . Taxation creates little things like a great university, and like a competent, rigorous high school . . . like early learning for kids three-years old . . . That’s innovation. . . . The notion that public money is somehow anathema to innovation is just plain wrong.
Campaigning against wealthy business interests, Bill Gates Sr. pushed for a state income tax, but the push failed because the tax-raising proposal included the middle class.

Minnesota's Progressive Republican Tradition includes Governors John Pillsbury, Harold Levander, Elmer L. Anderson, Jim Ramstad, Arne Carlson, and Al Quie. The last three have spoken out against the extreme right’s attempts to cut social programs while protecting profits of the obscenely wealthy.
Andersen called himself a liberal and progressive Republican, as an obituary described it, “a vanishing if not already extinct breed.”
Former Republican Senator David Durenberger merits mention as a national health care expert who says Democrats do a better job with health care. He no longer supports Republicans, and he vigorously opposed the Iraq War.

There’s nothing dishonorable about being a Republican or a conservative if the term includes fairness and respect for government, both of which the party used to support. What happened? I think Big Money took over.
More on this subject next time.

DEAR REPUBLICANS, May 27

Compromise: Give some and get some. So please move off the no-more-taxes position, just as Obama moves off his positions. Please meet in the middle. Consider:

• Relief for small business owners requires raising taxes on top incomes. Those making hundreds of millions and even a billion dollars a year are taxed at the same rate as those making less than a half million ($379,150)!
• While the unbelievably wealthy look for places on Wall Street to invest hundreds of millions, the bottom 90% worry about health care, education, safe food, other basic needs, and taxes.
• Food banks and homeless shelters see a sharp rise in use of their services—by the employed!
• Close to a quarter of America’s children live in poverty, and nearly 15% of households are food insecure. Consider the talent wasted!
• Social service programs yield returns in dollars up to 20 times the original investment. To be blunt, not investing in social programs is fiscally stupid.
• Financial executives who helped to cause the recession get pay raises in the hundreds of millions. But unions, once representing a third of American workers, now weak and unable to protect workers, are under attack.
• Income inequality in the U.S. approaches that of “third world” economies we deplore. Consequences are beginning to appear—crumbling infrastructure, neglected schools, neglected elderly, disabled, and unemployed, neglected mineworkers, homeless on the streets, health care worries, bulging prisons, financial catastrophes in states . . . the list goes on.

Authentic “fiscal restraint” requires fair taxes on those who have not shared in the sacrifice. The grotesque imbalance of money reflects the grotesque imbalance of power that money wields in our money-driven society. Please summon your courage and resist the right-wing ideologues who scream, “Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.”


JUSTICE IN AMERICA? June 24
The June 27 issue of The Nation has excellent ideas for inserting real competition and initiative into capitalism to create an authentically free market.
I suggest reading it in the library because this site doesn’t include the best idea given—a small financial-trades tax to curb excessive speculation in pursuit of outlandish profits, which produced the near meltdown in our national and international economies. We pay a sales tax when we buy necessities like appliances, but financial speculators pay no tax for gambling on trades worth hundreds of billions. Even a 1% financial-trades tax could generate enough to fill Social Security shortfalls.

King Banaian, whom Minnesota Republicans appointed to the Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy, wrote in an email exchange with me,
Government policy has always redistributed income towards lower income groups. We spent $679 billion in the US on transfers to the lower third of the income distribution in 2008.
That’s hardly impressive, considering the trillions every year given in tax breaks to corporations and billionaire individuals.

An email reminded me to post my article in the local paper. Once published there, it belongs to the paper and I can't place the text here, only the link to Economy needs democracy. My message:
The extreme anti-tax position contains this contradiction—“Cut taxes,” and also “There’s just no money.” It is completely oblivious to the wealth wasted in our country in the form of tax breaks—essentially welfare for the wealthy, which runs into the trillions.

We can also chew on Wall Street's Dirty Business.
“I learned that the level of casual corruption, at least in the world of hedge fund traders and managers, is astonishingly high. . . .

Just the way in which people would make the decision to break the law, to commit a felony, to trade on inside information . . . as if it was part of the way they did business.”

1 comment:

Mary Lou said...

Thanks, for writing about this important subject. It makes sense
that we need a fair tax system. Those able to pay their fair share have the power to say "No." A change of heart is needed.

Mary Lou