Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekday At Bernie's

As I write this, Senator Bernie Sanders is doing his version of a filibuster, with the occasional help of some friends. He's been at it about five hours, honoring the rules of the Senate instead of using them cynically, and making nothing but strong and compelling points about the unwisdom of renewing tax cuts for the very wealthy. Listing the many needs of our country going wanting, enumerating the numbers of businesses not paying any taxes (Exxon Mobil made $19 billion last year, paid zero taxes, and got a tax rebate of $150 million!), documenting the increasing disparities between rich and poor and its effect on the economy, the diminution in education funding, he's making a compelling and incontrovertible case. He ain't reading the phonebook. One after another, the facts flow: we're behind the world in every important category. Significantly. Shamefully. Self-destructively.

It is, of course, falling on absent Republican ears. Teabaggers don't care. The occasional commenters here who are outraged by the idea of restoring reasonable tax rates, will remain unconvinced, even if they were to watch and listen.

The disconnect between claims of fiscal responsibility by the right and their evangelical belief in tax cuts for those that don't need them will continue to be ignored by voters, reporters, and the RWS™.

It's not a complicated concept. It's as obvious as Glenn Beck's demagoguery. The Bush tax cuts went too far. The Bush tax cuts went too far. The Bush tax cuts went too far. Period. Even Ronald Reagan's chief economic adviser and budget director agree. If allowing the very wealthy to keep their current tax rates would create jobs, why hasn't it happened, ten years down the road? The spending cuts required to finance the cuts would be devastating to infrastructure, education, safety net, even (maybe -- I'm not convinced) the military.

I fully agree there was a time when tax rates were far too high. (Those times, generally, were under Republican presidents. Reagan, after he cut them too drastically, went on to become one of the greatest tax-raisers of all time. For the record. And to his credit for recognizing he'd gone too far.) But the scalded screaming at this time is simply indefensible. We're not talking about going back even to Reagan's rates. Contrary to the disinformation campaign of Fox "news" and the RWS™, it's not about either hating or punishing the rich. It's about getting back (toward. We have a long way to get "back") to a modicum of sanity. People argue for a flat tax, the end of most deductions, and claim it's more fair. Decent argument, even though I've never seen a convincing crunching of the numbers. But as long as we have progressive tax rates the most wealthy will have a higher rate at the top. To me, it's sensible and fair, and well-established. Were the Bush rates on the rich, which have been a large factor in our imminent demise, to expire, we'd simply get back to the Clinton era, when the rich did fine indeed.

President Obama says, and he's probably got a point, "show me the votes." He says he thinks it's indefensible and damaging to continue the current rates for the very wealthy; but he claims there aren't the votes to change it. He may be right, in which case perhaps there really is no choice.

But what does that say about our democracy and its ability to govern itself, to provide leadership and smart choices when they are most needed? Loudly and undeniably, it says we're on the way to becoming a failed state. If there's any hope -- and the recent election suggests the opposite -- it's in the flickering possibility that people, voters, could find the wherewithal to reject the ways in which they're being manipulated, tricked, deluded, and overtly lied to by the right-wing propagandists and raise their voices.

Sadly, such a sea change would also require deeper thinking and the sort of actual patriotism and, yes, perhaps, Christian charity, of which they've shown themselves, in numbers enough to be meaningful, constitutionally incapable.

You go, Bernie. Would that people could hear. And call their senators. Email them. Raise hell.

[Here's a brief clip of it:]

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