Saturday, September 20, 2008

Taxing Credulity

Joe Biden has said that willingness to pay one's share of taxes is patriotic. Naturally, those paragons of patriotism, those arguers for putting country first, Sarah Palin and John (I-was-a-POW-and-you-weren't) McCain, put it down like a steaming turd, and their audience laughed and roared their approval.

So let's see if I understand.

We are in a war for dubious reasons and with questionable results, mismanaged from the start, for the price-tag of, conservatively, a trillion dollars. After Republicans put into place the diabolical duo of tax cuts and deregulation, resulting in what is generally agreed to be the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression (worse, some say), another trillion dollars of our tax money (give or take a few billion) will be required to clean up the mess. Our national debt has ballooned in the last eight years by about six trillion dollars, before accounting for the aforementioned debacles. Infrastructure is crumbling. The military is depleted and degraded. We need to find and fund a way to disseminate alternatives to fossil fuels. Terrorism, despite our so-called war on it, is increasing around the world. It's no exaggeration to say the survival of our country as we know it is not at all certain.

Willingness to help pay for this, our would-be leaders to the right have told us, is laughable.

It's not hard to understand, I suppose. It's their policies, their most tightly-held beliefs, that have gotten us here. Aided, of course, by the constant declarations that everything is fine, not to worry, no need to pay our way, it's all good. Look the other way while we pick your pockets, scoop up your kids. Nothing to see here, move along, move along. So to admit now that they've screwed us to the point of possible non-viability, is to admit they've been wrong. Seriously wrong. Since Ronald Reagan (may peace be upon him.)

What, I wonder, is on the minds of those laughing and waving lipsticks while Sarah McSame sneer at Biden's suggestion? How would they define patriotism, given the crises we face everywhere we look, and absent the money to address them? Another yellow ribbon on the SUV? Another smear of Obama, another suggestion that he hates America? Would those lovers of family values (and haters of families other than their own) similarly laugh if they'd run their household into staggering debt and were told they need to tighten their belts? Wave lipsticks and run the truth-teller off their lawn?

You can put lipstick on George Bush, but it's still Sarah Palin.

Even one of John McCain's own economic advisors has said the next president will have to raise taxes, and that was BEFORE the bailout of Wall Street. Yet John McPalin laugh it off. The choice, they've said, is between "Country first, or Obama first."

Joe Biden spoke the truth. There's no way to get around raising taxes to pay for the mistakes of George Bush and those, like John McPOW, who've enabled them. Anyone who loves the country enough actually sacrifice for it (and that includes me) would admit it (and, most likely, that any hopes of spending on the other things we need are now out the window). But not John and Sarah. They laugh it off. And their audience, their conserative country-first confabulators, slap each other on the back and the band plays on.


  1. Good for you! I am glad you opened this. I did not read the post yet but I most certainly will as well as the post in Surgeonsblog.

    Biden will be on (forgive me for typing the words)Fox tv tonight-I think interviewed by Greta or it is a documentary...not sure. (9pm-Sat. night)

    I am behind in most communications these days although just left a long political comment in Scalpel's blog.

    I will be reading your words with much interest and comment where I can. The only thing Dr can do intellectual circles around me... and so that might explain my McCain/Palin vote in your mind. :)

    Please come back to your Surgeonsblog when you see your way clear of the politics or sooner...obviously only if you want to. But you have so many years worth of experiences to discuss and no one has brought me into the OR looking through a surgeon's eyes like you have.

    The only reason I would tell you not to right...would be to save it for another book. :)

    Do you think there is anything to this conspiracy theory that Biden will have a health issue after the debates and Hillary will come on board as VP?

  2. anonymous: well put. Incisive use of data, a comprehensive analysis of the facts and a well-reasoned and compelling argument for your side. Well done.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. snowlite: you needn't have deleted your comment. In fact, I took it to heart, and scratched the picture. You were the second who expressed that opinion. The first was my wife.

  5. Thanks for starting this blog, because it always seemed like you were overly apologetic for getting down and dirty when it came to expressing your opinion on politics. Now, I won't have to skip the first paragraphs of your "Give 'em the truth and they'll feel like they've gone through Hell" posts.

    It's a good start, and one that brings up a few points:

    1. In 1984 Mondale told the truth on what needed to be done on taxes. It was the truth, but the Republicans were able to use it against him.

    2. I had heard a local twin cities conservative mouthpiece counter Biden's point with the claim that the wealthiest 10% all ready pay 65% of all the taxes and so they are all ready paying more than their share. I have heard this number before, but as with all "%" claims I hear from conservatives I am dubious about what it means. I am going to find a bit more detail and write about it at Tangled Up in Blue Guy (which blog will shortly feather "Cutting Through the Crap" on the blogroll.

    I am also curious as to the content of the post self-deleted by snowlite.

  6. But McCain said that our economic fundamentals are strong... just on Monday! Before he realized that Spain wasn't actually in Mexico or South America... except maybe he hasn't quite realized that yet.

    Imagine where we'd be if we'd taken Carter's admonitions about our greed and materialism to heart, if we'd really put our resources into alternative energy in the 70s instead of putting our heads in the ground.

    So, the big question is, do you have hope that we'll come to our collective senses by November?

  7. Mike: thanks. I hear that % thing a lot, too. I think it's a bit of sophistry. I'd go further, though: given how bad things have been made, I think Obama's $1000 cut for the middle class will need another look, too.

    The deleted comment referred to the original title picture of the blog, which was a very close-up of a turd.

    Bardiac: I've pointed out before that the great hero Reagan reversed every one of Carter's directives on energy. Had he not, we'd be in much different shape.

    And I wax despondent and then cautiously optimistic, depending on ... what? ... cosmic rays, sunspots? It seems a few people are noticing what an empty vessel Palin really is, how like George Bush in her lack of knowledge and receptiveness to manipulation by neocons; and that her persona is a pure fiction. McCain's performance in the last week or two raises serious questions about his marbles. Yet here in Washington, Obama's lead has shrunk to 2 points, from double digits. Same in Oregon, my original home and generally sensibly liberal state. People don't want to hear truths; and the more serious the situation, the more true that is. And negative smears have always worked, no matter how patently false. So I'm preparing my head for the worst. But I really don't know if I could handle it...

  8. Clinton cleaned up Reagan's mess (Can you say, "Savings and Loan") and threw in NAFTA, WTO, CDA, Welfare "reform", and FCC deregulation as a bonus.

    So... Obama -- if gets elected -- will spend a trillion dollars cleaning up Bush Jr's mess, all while being extra careful not to blame the Republican party. As a bonus, we'll lose Roe v. Wade, keep the status quo on health care, a war in Iran, and who knows what else.

    The Democratic party is just Stan to the Republicans' Ollie.

    Who will we get in 2012 or 2016?

    Nixon > Reagan > Bush Jr. > the mind boggles.

  9. I was about to plug my two favorite media-watchdog blogs, but let me just say this. I have enjoyed your blog and your rants, but this election year's (!) rhetoric has been too much. I even think your rants are more effective than most. But to truly create value on the internet, you must link, link, link. He-said she-said politics distracts the public with a song and dance. Give us the source material. Don't just connect the lines, show us the dots.

    Good luck!

  10. i look forward to reading this new blog.

  11. Glad to have you back. I hope venting will help you. It certainly helps me to read your 'rants' for what it's worth.

    (Thank you for getting rid of the turd - it was a bit much.)

    Take care, dr Schwab (and look into emigrating ...).

  12. anonymous: you're right, of course. I'm aware my current post, and my rants on the other site have often been a bit hypo-linked. Maybe I've assumed the force of my logic would be so overwhelming that no further persuasion would be necessary. I'll be more attentive; recognizing, of course, that it's more fun just to rant wildly.

  13. Sid, enjoy your rants tremendously, but have to agree with the suggestion about links. Gottal have some data when talking to my right wing friends, even if they don't!! Congrats on the new blog!

  14. Sid, I don't think I'll every change your mind, but here is the most recent tax data (2006).

    The top 1% (AGI of $388,806 or higher) earned 22.1% of all income and paid 39.9% of all Federal income tax.

    The top 5% (AGI of $153,542 or higher) paid 60.14% of all Federal income tax.

    The top 25% (AGI of $64,702 or higher) paid 86.27% of all Federal income tax.

    The bottom 50% (AGI of $31,987 or less) paid 2.99% of all Federal income tax.


    It's really quite progressive. In 2004 the top 1% earned 19 of all income and paid 36.9% of all Federal taxes. So they are making more and paying more.

    As for myself, ( I am in the top 3%), my taxes have also gone up under Bush. I never got a tax cut. I got moved into the dreaded AMT and paid even more.

    So if you want Joe Biden's type of patriotism, the Government does accept gifts if you think your taxes are too low. They had a department for that since 1847.
    But I haven't seen too many people who are currently advocating for higher taxes to give a gift to the government.

    I see myself as a conservative OB/GYN. I make as much as Joe Biden does, but I have given between 5 to 9% of my post tax income to charity. He has never managed to make it above 1%.

  15. I'm delighted to see that you've opened a manure connoiseur blog.

    I don't know if this will give you any solace, but this week I attended a Kennedy Library Forum by Eleanor Clift, Mark Halperin and Jonathan Alter. They were climbing all over themselves trying to give Obamaand his advisers advice. (It will be radiocast next Sun at 8pm on WBUR). None could say anything which inferred lending credibility to anything the Palin/McBush campaign is saying.

    This morning, the ABC talking bots roundtable had George Will giving a pompous dissertation about the strength of Obama's poisiton and gravitas, while entirely dismissing FailinPalin/McBush. It was quite something to see.

    The media are finally realizing that their personal lives will also be on the bread lines with Palin/McBush takeover of the White House.

    Now that the media narrative has changed - and I think this is a real sea change, if there is actually a viable election (that's for another post) I think that the Obama numbers will continue to rise.

    (I'm just delighted that you're blogging again!) =^}

  16. Sid:

    When I give up my writing gig - which, following my recent medical "events" may be sooner than later, I'm going to beg my editor to let you take over.

    Go for it...I'll read you until you quit.


  17. storkdoc: I'm aware of those numbers. They don't change the fact (nor does how much charity one gives) that we have a current debt of over 9 trillion dollars, and have, apparently, just arranged for another trillion overnight. The current deficit is 450 billion this year, and McCain has proposed cuts that will add another 300. If you can figure out a way to pay for that without raising taxes, I'd like to hear it, along with everyone else in the country. I'm open to addressing entitlements and military spending. Even so, as I linked in this post, even McCain's main economic advisor (now that Gramm is hiding) says the next president will have to raise taxes.

    When I was working, I made about as much as you, and gave about as much, too. I paid more in taxes than most people make, and never really enjoyed it much. Still, I never felt I didn't need to do it. Country first, as they (or someone) say. Clinton lowered taxes in 1993, his Republican congress raised them in 1997. Things seemed to have been working pretty well. Bush lowered taxes further, and look what's happened. Why not go back to where we were in 1997, a tax plan pushed by the Republican congress in push back to Clinton? A compromise, in other words.

    The current deficits and debt are not sustainable. Pretty much everyone from all points on the spectrum seem to agree with that. We've been led into a situation where sacrifice (a much bandied word) is ACTUALLY called for, as more than a slogan. We've been screwed over by a philosophy that's said we can have it all and pay for nothing. It's time to pay up. I don't like it. You don't like it. But here we are.

  18. Sid,

    I grew up in Massachusetts, and was a liberal Democrat until I was about 30. So I think that I know how you think, (that is presumptuous I know)

    I'm not looking to reduce my taxes, but I really don't think I need to pay more. If I pay more it will reduce my consumption as I will continue save as I do now, because I have big doubts that Social Security will be there for me when I can retire in 2030. (I'll be 67 then, which is when I will qualify for full benefits.)

    So reducing my consumption will harm the economy. I'll eat out less, the weekly visit from the housecleaner will go, I'll smoke less (just kidding) and I can start to mow my own lawn again.

    Raising taxes isn't the answer. Giving the government more money worsens rather than helps the problem. The government needs to do what I have to do when I have less money: The government needs to spend less.

    Frankly I think that neither party is good at this especially when they are in power for a long period. It's my opinion that the Democrats are worse at it although only by a small amount.

    But the purse strings belong to Congress and not the president. Personally I feel that Congress needs some term limits....6 years for both reps and senators, so that new blood comes in frequently. Maybe that way they'll realize that they're spending the people's money and not the government's money. Which by the way the government doesn't have any of unless it takes it from someone.

  19. Spend thriftily, spend on essential services and goods, and spend in congruence with the will of the people/legislative charges.

    The mantra of the conservatives to have the smallest possible government is the wrong analogy, in my view.

    We need a right sized government with regulatory mechanisms in place to mitigate the effects of predatory free market capitalism.

    Neither party is acting to effect that. What's more, Bush has politicized and intentionally undermined the efficacy and competence of every single governmental agency, so now we don't have such quaint things as an apolitical department of justice, science-based health policy (consider the proposed rule which redefines contraception as abortion), adequate regulation and oversight of predatory lending (you've heard something recently about that?), no effective alternative energy policy, investment or industry development, failing transportation infrastructure, preemptive use of military force, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

    The most concerning is the deliberate, systematic, deep and widespread harm to the Constitution via the USA PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act, the FISA legislation - well you get the drift. Without a full restoration of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, We the People have no real representation in government. Congress has suborned itself to the Executive, which has usurped tyrannical and dictator powers. Indeed, the Constitutional law scholars and Balkinization blog refer to the US as a de facto constitutional dictatorship.

    The people - over 97% - have so few resources now to bring to bear, that the corporate oligarchy which is careering toward national socialism - is a very real and imminent threat.

    So perhaps it's time to change the paradigm and begin to discuss just who the domestic enemies are. And then maybe we can have an intelligent discussion about how to rid ourselves of them.

  20. annie: the whole political process, it seems, is about distraction.

  21. But, but, but....

    I can't disagree from my own experience.

    I wonder if addressing our political sickness from a therapeutic standpoint would have any utility. I speculated on my own feeble attempt to do that last week with the Chief Judge at the military commissions tribunals (the GITMO farce). Link at my name.

    I'd appreciate feedback - even if it's just to tell me I'm all wet and that it was a stupid act based on folly.


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