Sad Implications of the
Two Dueling Santa Claus Strategies in Political Economics
An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
Politicians are engaged in a power struggle between
influential people who demand lower tax rates and competing constituencies that
seek more generous government spending on a wide variety of programs that
include military spending, public education, health care, physical infrastructure
maintenance and improvements, investments in research and development, an
adequate and affordable social security safety net, Homeland Security, and
funding for environmental protections and recovery from natural disasters.
essay assesses the two dueling Santa Claus strategies that are tailored to
appeal to these two factions, and delves into these two
hyper-partisan strategies of political economics that involve either
tax-cutting plans or increased spending plans.
The misbegotten bottom line result of these two competing ideologies is
that the rights of people in the future to be free from excessive and
burdensome debt obligations are being rudely and rashly ignored.
political conflicts over the issue of a rapidly expanding U.S. national debt
took place in the summers of 2011 and 2012, and again in 2013. The spectre of this mounting debt led to a
16-day shutdown of the federal government by Republicans in October 2013 in
which Texas Senator Ted Cruz and other conservatives again threatened to
default on the national debt. This
enormous national obligation has been increasing due to record annual deficits
in the federal budget in the past 15 years.
The national debt exceeded 100% of GDP at the end of 2012 for the first
time since the years immediately following World War II. This high level of debt creates serious
economic risks, intensified pressures for austerity measures, and a heightened
possibility of market turmoil and political instability and the potentiality
for another paralyzing international credit crisis. It would behoove us to better understand these two driving Santa
Claus strategies so as to see the way clear to smarter national policies.
These issues are also
provocatively explored in Real Live Experiments in Applied Trickle-Down
Theoretics. Check this essay out online,
or in the published Common Sense Revival, for an evocatively
convincing assessment of issues related to trickle-down economics,
corrupted national tax policy, worsening inequalities, competing
ideologies, and the most providential plans for healthier societies.
of the Two Dueling Santa Claus Strategies
economist named Jude Wanniski originally proposed a Two Santa Claus Theory of
election campaigning. It is a real
interesting idea. Politicians in our
democracy make many promises to voters to get elected. The Two Santa Claus
Theory holds that, when one political party and its candidates promise to spend
money to provide a wide variety of perks, services and benefits, the other
party must compete with this strategy by promising to cut taxes to attract the
support of wealthy people and thus help finance a barrage of political ads that
sell voters on their shrewd agenda.
monetarists like Milton Friedman contended that the only way to control the
growth of government spending is by starving the government of revenue. To
achieve this starvation, the strategic initiative of cutting taxes has been
ardently advocated, but unfortunately, cutting taxes since 1980 has NEVER ONCE resulted in lower total
federal government spending. Annual
spending by the U.S. government has increased every single year since 1980,
when it was under $600 billion, until 2014 when it exceeded $3.8 trillion.
often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to
Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of
lies: lies, damned lies and
--- Mark Twain
The tactic of
cutting tax rates reduces tax revenues.
Coupled with continuously increased spending, the inevitable outcome has
been annual budget deficits and an increasing national debt. In January
1981 when Ronald Reagan took office, the national debt was less than $1
trillion. It has increased to more than
$19 trillion by early 2016. There is no
doubt but that large budget deficits and record levels of national debt
are the result of these twin Santa Claus strategies of cutting taxes and increasing
The only time
that budget surpluses were created in the last three decades was when President
Bill Clinton increased taxes and also did a relatively good job of controlling
spending by the federal government.
Clinton compromised by triangulating to economic positions that resulted
in these budget surpluses. In contrast,
when George W. Bush was president, he embraced both Santa Claus strategies at
the same time. He slashed taxes to get
the strong support of rich people, and he profligately ramped up spending on
wars and a costly new program for prescription drugs for Medicare recipients,
among other things. The main
beneficiaries of this strategy were the wealthiest Americans and vested interest
groups like Big Oil, enormously profitable pharmaceutical companies, and
corporate entities involved in the military-industrial complex. These “gains” came at the expense of
everyone else in America and the prospects of all people in future generations.
Whole edifices of
ideology have sprung up to defend Santa Claus spending and Santa Claus tax
cutting, and to get voters to go along with the narrowly circumscribed agendas
of the real decision makers in our society.
These “deciders” are the people with lots of money and the vested
interest groups focused on outcomes that benefit themselves at the expense of
the greater good.
increased Santa Claus spending often cite the need for Keynesian economic
stimulus to create jobs and get the economy growing. They sensibly champion an expansion of investments in education,
physical infrastructure, social safety programs, environmental protections and
other common good goals. And they use
this rationale to justify deficit spending.
Santa Claus tax-cut disciples stick religiously to the “purity” of their dogmas
by pledging no tax increases ever, no matter what, come Hell or high
water. They cite “supply-side” economic
theories, and disingenuously misconstrue the infamous Laffer Curve to
hypothesize that reductions in taxes will result in higher total tax
revenues. This is a confounding concept
that postulates “Less Revenue Is More Revenue”, like some of madcap conundrum
from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. These particular partisans work tirelessly
to advance anti-regulatory ideologies and dishonestly take advantage of
people’s frustrations and anger, and they pander more or less insincerely to
social conservatives on the Religious Right to gain more political power.
Jude Wanniski was
one of the first persons to promote this dogma of supply-side economics and
laughable interpretations of Laffer Curve hypotheses about how to optimize tax
revenues. A little background on these
ideas helps us see how profoundly and adversely they affect our society today.
economics is a theory that maintains tax cuts stimulate economic growth and
thus miraculously pay for themselves.
The theory was promulgated by American economist Arthur Laffer, who had
developed the Laffer Curve to explain it.
Ronald Reagan latched onto this simplistic theory and enthusiastically
endorsed it, and it became known as “trickle-down economics”. George H.W. Bush appropriately described it
as “voodoo economics”, and the facts concerning the outcomes associated with
this dogma definitely confirm this disparaging characterization.
Jude Wanniski was
a zealous proponent of lower tax rates, so he fervently believed that the
fanciful concept of tax revenue optimization embodied in the Laffer Curve
provided proof that cuts in taxes would result in higher tax revenues. It is advantageous to understand exactly
what was he thinking in these counterintuitive claims. At a zero tax rate, no tax revenues would be
generated. At a tax rate of 100%, the
theory goes, tax revenues would also be zero, because there would be no
incentive to work or take investment risks to earn any income, and the motive
to evade paying taxes would be overwhelming. The Laffer Curve model proposed a
hypothetical tax rate between 0% and 100% at which revenues would be
maximized. Jude Wanniski argued that
tax cuts would result in increased revenues at any point where tax rates were
higher than this optimum revenue-maximizing rate.
controversy surrounds this whole idea.
It is implausible that significant tax cuts would result in higher total
tax revenues at any real world level, or conversely that increases in taxes
would actually result in lower total tax revenues. Economist Paul Pecorino argued in 1995 that the peak of the
Laffer Curve would occur in the range of top tax rates being around 65%. Economic conservatives always tend to
estimate the point to be lower; in
fact, they claim that every tax cut, no matter what the current rates are, is
desirable because it will stimulate economic growth and thus increase tax
revenues. These are true fanatics among
proponents of Santa Claus tax cuts.
The top tax rate
until the end of December 2012 was only 35%, and almost every Republicans
politician obstinately asserts that a big reduction in this rate would be a
better plan for our country. All the
Republican presidential candidates hoping to win the White House in 2016 call
for lower tax rates for corporations and rich people, and they make similar
fraudulent assertions that such tax cuts would not require huge new amounts of
the evocative aphorism, “a rising tide lifts all boats” in claiming that tax
cuts for high-income earners benefit everyone.
The evidence, however, reveals that in the absence of appropriately fair
policies, rising tides lift some boats but cause many other boats that are
tightly anchored to be dragged down.
Those who cannot afford a boat in the first place remain stranded high
and dry and increasingly desperate as inequalities increase.
chuckle aloud, and rather ruefully, at the broad abuses of supposition,
simplistic reasoning, dishonest spin, manipulative disingenuousness, and
self-serving deception that the Laffer Curve has enabled in the world of
political economics. The Laffer Curve
is a hypothetical graph that is a symbol of cunning propaganda working overtime
to cook up rationales to ensure uninterrupted progress toward an increasing
concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few. This sad trend has accompanying side effects
that are unfortunate because they lead to an unempathetic worsening of
hardships in the lives of many. Tough
love? More accurately, tough luck,
people contribute generously to “conservative” politicians and corporate front
groups that help enable corporations, insiders, CEOs and investors to gain more
profits, perks, privileges and power.
Supply-side proponents have captured the Republican Party since 1980,
and they zealously oppose government regulations, and have stubbornly adhered
to these discredited claims that cutting taxes will generate more tax
revenues. Look into how badly such
obtuse adherence to ideology is turning out for Governor Sam Brownback and the
people in Kansas!
principal outcome of tax-cutting policy in the past 35 years has been to
radically increase federal budget deficits and the concentration of wealth in
the hands of the few, it has become increasingly obvious that this ideology is
a smoke-and-mirrors story that is transparently erroneous and deceitful. Historically, low tax rates on those who
earn the highest incomes are NOT the best plan for the country as a whole.
“Follow the money. Always follow the money.”
--- Deep Throat, in All the President’s Men, the 1976 film about the Watergate scandal
The Implications for
Future Generations of Competing Santa Claus Gambits
Abraham Lincoln once stated early in his life
that his greatest ambition was to be truly esteemed of his fellow men, by
rendering himself worthy of their esteem. That is noble and worthy
leadership. Today, one might think that the greatest ambition of most of
our highly partisan political representatives is of much meaner and more myopic
capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and
now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to
appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel.”
Lincoln's “First Reported Speech", January 1837
“The task of our forefathers was to uprear
upon the hills and valleys of our land a political edifice of liberty and equal rights, and it
is ours to transmit these undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by
usurpation to the next generation. This task is imperatively required of us faithfully to perform in
gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and
love for our species in general.”
--- Abraham Lincoln (paraphrased)
Smiling irony is an endlessly entertaining trickster. National decision-making in the USA in the
last five years has been afflicted by a ruthless game of political
brinksmanship over the need to find a way to reduce the unprecedented amounts
of deficit financing that have been incurred.
The negotiations over the bloated national debt were intense in the
summer of 2011, when they led to the brink of a default in August. Then a
“Super Committee” was anointed to find a way to cut about 15% of a projected
$10 trillion increase in the national debt in the next 10 years. But moneyed interests have proven to be
stubbornly intransigent and completely unwilling to give up one iota in
compromise on their cherished low tax rates, tax loopholes, corporate subsidies,
and tax evasion schemes. So the Super Committee flopped, and their failure to
find a sensible solution created a “fiscal cliff”.
on. Only eight months earlier in
December 2010, as the Bush tax cuts were about to expire, President Obama and
Senator Mitch McConnell did reach a compromise deal, behind closed doors, that
was estimated to add $858 billion to the national debt over the course of the
next two years. The brazen Bush tax
cuts had already added trillions of dollars to the national debt. A large proportion of this additional $858
billion in new borrowing benefitted rich people, either directly or indirectly. Working people were grudgingly granted some
gimmicky crumbs in this compromise, in the form of temporarily lowered payroll
taxes to encourage them to continue to work hard and be complacent about this
bad deal, and to accept the cumulative worsening deal that gives the richest 1%
most of the benefits of this system.
This provision to
cut payroll taxes was estimated to result in a cost of $112 billion. At least it was a good idea from the
standpoint that it gave workers more money in their paychecks, but it was a bad
plan from the perspective that payroll taxes are important in financing the
Social Security system. Such a cut
theoretically had a more stimulative effect on consumer spending -- and thus on
job creation -- than tax cuts for the rich, but this gambit somewhat eroded the
solvency of the Social Security system and was thus misguided.
is a retirement income system that needs all the revenue it can get to remain
solvent in the coming years. The year
2010 was the first year that demographics finally caught up with the system and
resulted in more money being paid out to growing numbers of retirees than was
collected from current workers. This
provision to cut payroll taxes was another gimmicky and fiscally foolish plan,
and it served to undermine the Social Security system that provides such an
important lifeline to millions of retired Americans. We should not be so willing to undermine the solvency of this
plan. For a revolutionarily simple
common sense solution to the insecure state of Social Security, see Radically Simple Ways to Make America
Fairer, and to Fix Both Social Security and Health Care So We Can Move On to
Address Much Bigger Issues.
The December 2010
“compromise” was really just another in a long series of capitulations to the
small minority of wealthy people who control our political system. These people wanted to have the tax cuts
made in December 2012 become permanent, of course, and on top of that, many
Republicans proposed and continue to propose further reductions in taxes on the
wealthy. These people apparently don’t
give a damn that this generosity is coming at the expense of the majority of
Americans, and of all people in future generations.
obviously been failing to govern fairly and sensibly. They not only avoided making what should have been an easy
decision on fairer taxation in the December 2010 compromise, but they also
figuratively kicked the can down the road for two years, to a time when the
expedient exigencies of the then-upcoming presidential election made
fair-minded solutions less tenable.
left intact one of the most egregious tax-abuse provisions put into place to
reward wealthy hedge fund managers and venture capitalists and private equity
managers. This is the so-called
“carried interest” provision, which allows Wall Street types like Mitt Romney
to declare much of their enormous incomes as capital gains rather than ordinary
income, so they pay only 15% tax on their huge earnings rather than the 35% top
rate at the time that would otherwise have been owed. This loophole is seen by almost everyone who understands it as
being indefensible, yet nonetheless the influence of this tiny minority of
high-income earners is so powerful that they have managed to preserve this
outlandish scam for many years. Doesn’t
it seem like these folks have overplayed their hands? Fair-minded people think so!
express deep concerns that the two viciously-competing Santa Claus tactics of
cutting taxes and increasing spending are creating a risk that could cause
another full-blown credit crisis. In
any case, there is no doubt that this internecine competition is negatively
influencing our national planning and hampering better approaches. Our representatives should responsibly work
together more closely to reduce these risks.
Disaster capitalism and extreme partisanship have collaborated to double
down on bets that this game of stealing from the future to further enrich
already wealthy people can be continued a bit longer before the piper must be
paid. This insidiously
corrosive game is perversely predatory upon everyone in the future.
sought a “grand compromise” that would have taken $4 trillion out of the
projected $10 trillion shortfall that was then projected over the next 10
years. This goal was modest, even
inadequate, in light of the size of projected deficits. Nonetheless, Republicans summarily rejected
it. Why? Because it would have included higher tax rates on amounts of
income in excess of $250,000 per year that are earned by the top 2% of Americans. This impasse proved once again that the
highest priority of Republican politicians is to preserve and expand perks for
rich people who control our politics and have such outlandish influence in
determining all our national policies.
stated top priority of the Republican Party before President Obama’s reelection
was to try to make him a one-term president.
More than half of all Americans believed the obvious: that Republicans were actively sabotaging
the economy with their obstruction in their attempt to make President Obama
fail. This is a high stakes game, and a
cynically mean-spirited one in its practical effects. This is the top priority of Republicans primarily because they
want to once again gain the great power of the Oval Office. With that power, they could then continue
expanding perks for individuals with high incomes and high net worths, and they
could further advance their narrow-minded agenda. And they could stack the Supreme Court and federal courts
nationwide with even more ideological conservatives to ensure the supremacy of
their power and control for generations to come. Newt Gingrich once provocatively referred to the social
components of the Republican agenda as “right-wing social engineering”. That would be the wrong direction for our
country, because the freedoms of tens of millions of people would be
circumscribed, especially women, and it would make our society less prosperous
and less healthy and less secure and less cohesive.
Money talks, and if we “follow the money” we see that Congress
and the Supreme Court narrowly approve of the overriding freedom of moneyed
interests to dominate free speech.
Meanwhile, in the face of the huge challenges looming before us, we are
failing to support sustainable public policies or to commit our country to
fair-minded precepts like those proposed in the Bill of Rights for Future
Generations. There is no question in my
mind about the overarching need for a new mechanism like this to guide our
public decision-making, and to constrain the unconscionably irresponsible
expediencies and short-term-oriented policies that are driving our nation and
the world to ruin.
Good solutions to
these daunting challenges exist, and they are to be found in cooperation, not
in stubbornly uncompromising politics.
A comprehensive understanding of the Big Picture nature of the problems
facing us, and of the hindrances obstructing good solutions, will provide us
with a clear roadmap to smarter ways forward.
This Sad Implications attempts
to identify this roadmap to our figurative and perhaps quite literal salvation
here on Earth.
Lies, and Real Economic Trends
Santa Claus tax
reductions targeted to primarily benefit the rich, it turns out, are really a
means of putting cold-hearted and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge sensibilities on a
high pedestal of righteousness. Those
who emulate Scrooge tend to display uncompassionate attitudes and exploitive
behaviors. In this sense, they seem to
emulate Scrooge’s spite “for Christmas and all things which give people
happiness”. The outcome of these
efforts is to make our nation an increasingly unfair and inegalitarian
place. This is an outrage against
democratic fairness and humanitarian well-being. It is also an exceedingly cynical means by which to steal from
future generations. Bah, humbug!
No matter how
deceptively persuasive the propaganda is that claims it is the right thing to
do to give more tax breaks to wealthy people, it is a “Big Lie” that such
strategies will trickle down to lift all boats. In 1981, when Ronald Reagan slashed taxes on high incomes and
increased spending on the military, and acted to deregulate banks and bust
unions, the wealthiest 1% of Americans had about 20% of all wealth in the U.S. By the year 2012, after 32 years of supply-side
economics and further regressive changes in taxation, the wealthiest 1% of
Americans had DOUBLED their share of the nation’s wealth to 40%.
Most damning of
all, several authoritative economists have corroborated the stunning assertion
made by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that the top 0.1 percent of
Americans have nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. In a speech to students at Liberty
University, Sanders concluded, “And in your hearts, you will have to determine
the morality of that, and the justice of that.” If we really want liberty and justice for all in the United
States of America, as so many people implicitly declare when they recite the
Pledge of Allegiance, then we cannot allow the wealthy to grab an ever
increasing monopoly on the nation’s wealth.
As the rich have
gotten significantly richer, the majority of Americans who have the lowest
earnings have experienced an actual inflation-adjusted decrease in their
incomes since 1981. All productivity
gains in the U.S. economy in the past three decades have basically been given
to the wealthy, with little going to workers.
Prosperity has not been fairly shared in the least.
During this same
period, as the national debt has increased by more than $18 trillion, it is
clear that the tactic of cutting taxes on high incomes, capital gains,
dividends, and rich kids’ inheritances has resulted in a more extreme
concentration of wealth in the hands of the few WITHOUT benefitting the
many. It is stunningly clear that this
outcome has been achieved by irresponsibly and unethically saddling our
children and future generations with colossal amounts of debt.
political power are strongly correlated in our country. A very narrow 5-4 majority of
“conservatives” on the Supreme Court before Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death
had been ruling repeatedly that money in politics cannot be limited. One consequence of this fact is that
increasing concentrations of wealth are being more easily translated into
increasing concentrations of power -- and inevitably to more abuses of this
power by corporations and CEOs and billionaires like Charles and David Koch and
say that we have a system that gives us the choice between private plunder or
public graft. I believe we can design a
much fairer system through smart and far-reaching reforms!
"The true rule, in determining to
embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but
whether it have more of evil, than of good."
--- Abraham Lincoln
<And so, my fellow Americans: ask not how our economic system
can be rigged to be of greater personal benefit to you, ask what you can do to
help make our nation fairer now, and how to ensure that our world will remain
propitious and providential for generations to come. Let us hear the
ringing of the bells of individual freedom and responsibility, and thereby
support this overarching cause, seeing it to be just, for it should be clear
for whom the bell tolls, and it tolls for us all.>
The Goal of Shock
Doctrine Disaster Capitalism: Austerity
for the Masses
The amount of
federal debt per person in the United States is larger today than the debt per
person in the nation of Greece, which is all but bankrupt. Austerity measures imposed on Greece by
European lenders and the International Monetary Fund have caused widespread
unemployment and serious social unrest and violent demonstrations. Astoundingly, less than half of young people
under the age of 25 have a job in Greece, a rate worse than the rate
experienced at any time during the years of the Great Depression in the United
States. This situation is not only
negative, but dangerous.
Austerity measures in the United States
gained force after deficits spiked in the wake of the harsh recession of
2008-2009, and this led to spending cuts in federal, state and local
governments. Social inequities and costs of public education for university and
college students are increasing dramatically.
Healthcare injustices continue to persist. These trends are causing social unrest to intensify, and are
proving to be detrimental to the majority of Americans, and they introduce
bigger risks of instability and reaction in our democracy.
Now that we are facing a stronger impetus
for austerity measures in America, the idea of “shared sacrifice” is coming
into sharper focus. Republicans propose
that all the sacrifices should be made by workers and the middle class and the
vast majority of Americans, and that NONE of the sacrifices should be
shouldered by rich people. This is
ridiculous! We can no longer afford to
give so many benefits to the rich, and to make everyone else shoulder so many
of the sacrifices.
Understand this issue in a big
context. To rein in potentially
catastrophic imbalances between tax revenues and government spending, the Santa
Claus gravy train needs to be derailed.
In doing so, all special interest groups must absorb some of the
“sacrifice”. Republicans insist that
they will never compromise their principles, but they do this only because
their highest value is to win at any cost and to have
domineering power over the populace. If they severely harm the nation’s
prospects and Earth’s magnificent ecosystems in the process, so be it, their actions
This whole story makes P.J. O’Rourke’s ironic
observation seem incisively valid when he said, “The Republicans are the party
that says that government doesn’t work -- and then gets elected and proves it.”
Republican Party was once the bastion of small business owners and fiscally
responsible national plans. No one
would have been able to imagine, 50 years ago, that Republicans would become
pushers for counterintuitive and demonstrably deceptive and unfair national
policies and voodoo economics.
Financing tax cuts for rich people and giant corporations by borrowing
money is crazy. These are the two main
groups that can afford to help our nation invest in a stronger and fairer
country. Cutting taxes on the two
groups that benefit most from these deceptive ideologies is stupid. Statistics and common sense and smart,
empathetic and responsible fair-mindedness startlingly refute this strategy,
because of the fact that it is so contrary to the greater good.
should demand an end to this gamesmanship over tax cuts and government
spending. We should recognize that both
the underlying Santa Claus strategies of increasing spending and lowering taxes
can no longer be adequate national goals.
Voters should scrupulously insist that fair-minded compromises be
new variety of compromise should be an honest and visionary one that takes into
account all the competing interests in this complex equation. The interests of
our children and people in future generations should be given greater weight
because their prospects are being adversely affected by the short-term
orientation of these expediencies.
Again I think how scandalous it is that we continue to borrow trillions
of dollars from our descendants in order to stimulate the depletion of
resources and allow toxins, pollutants and climate-disrupting greenhouse gases
to be wantonly dumped into the commons, and to obtusely facilitate practically
irreversible damages to Earth’s vital ecosystems.
sense and right understanding and visionary perspectives can coincide. Now is the time to embrace these healthier
perspectives and act to make our nation a better place!
Twain expressed moral outrage at wickedness in his times. He derided the gluttony of the Gilded Age
and criminal malfeasance in the business world, and voiced strong opposition to
American military adventurism abroad, and mocked people’s absurd foibles and
peccadilloes. It is healthy for us to
laugh at the foolishness of our similar foibles in today’s world. But while we are chuckling to our selves, we
should remember that our most important legacy to our heirs should be to “pay
forward” some good deeds to offset the damages that our collective activities
are causing to their prospects and to the health of planetary ecosystems. Let’s just do it!
Leadership – A Particularly Clever and Shrewd Coalition of Dunce-Like Leaders
McConnell wields a lot of power. It is
revealing that this man from Kentucky has so much power today, for he gloats
about having basically undermined our democratic republic through his staunch
opposition to campaign finance reforms that would have given the American
people more influence and moderately limited the influence of rich people and
multinational corporations. Mark Twain
was sure right when he said that politicians are bought by narrowly-focused
interest groups in the United States.
Unfortunately, this trend has become much worse in recent decades.
is a Republican who is the veritable epitome of outlandish corruption in our
politics. He proudly displays nearly
200 political cartoons on the walls of his Capitol office that ridicule his
Machiavellian opposition against common sense initiatives that would limit the
corrupting influence of Big Money in our politics. He definitely does not fairly represent the American people. How did such a man reach the highest
position in the U.S. Senate?
ideologically reactionary on the issue of Big Money in politics, but he prefers
being regarded as PRAGMATIC. Like
almost every Republican in Congress, he is staunchly opposed to even the
insipid accountability of requiring the disclosure of who is bankrolling
the obfuscating tsunami of political propaganda that sways the public to elect
such unethical leaders. Republican
opposition persists despite the fact that 97% of groups paying for election ads
in 2008 disclosed the names of their donors, but only 32% made similar
disclosures in 2010 (according to the Federal Election Commission). There is something insidiously wrongheaded
about allowing increasing amounts of “dark money” and secrecy and a lack of
transparency in our democracy!
opposition is strictly for political gain.
Yes, this is pragmatism, all right -- but it is a form of pragmatism
that is highly unethical and unscrupulous.
It is a shrewd form of pragmatism that is focused on highly unfair
principles that are antagonistic to the greater good of working people and the
general public and our children.
McConnell’s pragmatism is in actuality a form of influence peddling and
institutionalized bribery. It is
corruption. It is truly No Change
We Can Believe In. No No No! It is a sad day for the American people that
we did not boot McConnell from office in November 2014!
the sound of lampooning laughter, and in the glaring glow of the distant bright
truth, no bastardized bulwark of
unprincipled principles can with impunity stand.”
Krauthammer -- what a name for a neoconservative! -- expressed the opinion
after the tax compromise in December 2010 that extended the Bush tax cuts that
it would act as “Stimulus II” and would boost the probability that President
Obama would be re-elected in 2012 by stimulating the economy and lowering the
unemployment rate. The jobless rate did
go down, and this may have been a factor that contributed to Obama’s re-election,
but in any case I’d have to agree with Krauthammer on an adjunct point he made:
the costly compromise made “a mockery of the Republican’s newfound,
second-chance, post-Bush, Tea-Party, this-time-we’re-serious persona of
debt-averse fiscal responsibility.”
statistics prove a surprising fact: the
national debt has consistently increased under Republican presidents more than
it has under Democratic presidents since the 1970s. We cannot trust the Republican rhetoric that claims they are the
most fiscally responsible party. All of
this is enough to make one want to cry, like John Boehner occasionally does in
public. But Mr. Boehner, the Republican
Majority Leader in the House of Representatives until he was forced to give up
the position in late October 2015, does not deserve much sympathy for his
tears. We need not just figuratively
cry for Argentina anymore, Evita, because we really should be crying for the
American people, and for our heirs in the future, and indeed for the prospects
of a healthy environment and biological diversity on Earth. And we should staunch our tears, and resolve
to take action to change course and honestly work to propitiously alter the
In the most civil manner possible, I’d like
to express my deeply felt suspicion that the economist John Kenneth Galbraith
was rudely correct when he once observed:
“The modern conservative is engaged in one
of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy;
the search for a superior moral
justification for selfishness.”
Republicans definitely don’t have a monopoly on
unscrupulousness, but they sure seem to dominate the market! As Huck Finn said in The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, these ideas ought “to
give the bullfrogs something to croak about for days, I bet.”
Revealing Aside Concerning Karl Rove
Karl Rove is
another Machiavellian character in the Republican trenches. In the book Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, the
authors analyze the effect that Karl Rove had on shaping the policies of the
Executive Branch from 2001 to 2007.
Rove was Bush’s Senior Advisor in the White House, and was known for his
role as master strategist in the retrogressive social and financial fiasco of
the Bush years. After his tenure in
the White House, Karl Rove has become, according to the insightful journalist
Bill Moyers, “a mover and shaker of the money tree for the
corporate-conservative complex”. Rove
raised hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy people in 2012 for Super PACS
that tried to defeat President Obama.
favorite historical figure was Mark Hanna, a
wealthy Cleveland businessman and political operative back in the Gilded Age of
the late 19th century. During this
“degenerate and unlovely age”, as one historian described it, Mark Hanna was
the first modern political fund-raiser.
He famously said, “There are two things that are important in
politics. The first thing is money, and
I can’t remember what the second one is.”
Mark Hanna was depicted by one cartoonist as “Dollar Mark,” a prototype
of plutocracy and hardball politics.
Hanna tapped railroads, banks, insurance companies and wealthy
industrialists like oil baron John Rockefeller for enough money to get William
McKinley elected governor of Ohio. Then
Hanna was instrumental in raising ten times more money in the 1896 presidential
election than his populist opponent William Jennings Bryan, helping ensure that
William McKinley was elected president.
Mark Hanna believed that “the state of Ohio existed for property. It had no other function … Great wealth was
to be gained through monopoly, through using the State for private ends; it was axiomatic therefore that businessmen
should run it for personal profit.” He
and McKinley therefore saw to it that first Ohio and then the federal
government were “ruled by business … by bankers, railroads, and public utility
corporations.” The U.S. Senate was
infamous as “a millionaire’s club,” and “City halls, state houses and even
courtrooms were bought and sold like baubles.”
“Instead of enforcing the rules of fair play, government served as a
valet to the plutocrats,” according to Bill Moyers in a speech he gave in
November 2010 at Boston University. In
the speech, which commemorated the life and legacy of the late great historian
Howard Zinn, Moyers mentioned that McKinley “governed negligently in the
interests of big business”, despite many Americans being “outraged at the
rapacity and shenanigans of the monopolies, trusts and corporations that were
running roughshod over ordinary Americans.”
Moyers compelling speech continued:
The young journalist Henry George had written that “an immense wedge”
was being forced through American society by “the maldistribution of wealth,
status, and opportunity.” Now inequality
exploded into what the historian Clinton Rossiter described as “the great train
robbery of American intellectual history.”
Conservatives of the day -- pro-corporate apologists -- hijacked the
vocabulary of Jeffersonian liberalism and turned words like “progress,”
“opportunity,” and “individualism” into tools for making the plunder of America
sound like a divine right. Laissez
faire ideologues and neo-cons of the day -- lovers of empire even then --
hijacked Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and so distorted it that judges,
politicians and publicists gleefully embraced the notion that progress emerges
from the elimination of the weak and the “survival of the fittest.” As one of the plutocrats crowed: “We are rich. We own America. We got
it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it.”
And they have never given up.
The Gilded Age has returned with a vengeance in our time. It slipped in quietly at first, back in the
early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan began a “massive decades-long transfer of national
wealth to the rich.” As Roger Hodge
makes clear, under Bill Clinton the transfer was even more dramatic, as the top
10 percent captured an ever-growing share of national income. The trend continued under George W. Bush --
those huge tax cuts for the rich, remember, which are now about to be extended
because both parties have been bought off by the wealthy -- and by 2007 the
wealthiest 10% of Americans were taking in 50% of the national income. Today, a fraction of people at the top today
earns more than the bottom 120 million Americans.
You will hear it said, “Come on, this is the way the world works.” No, it’s the way the world is made to
work. This vast inequality is not
the result of Adam Smith’s invisible hand; it did not just happen; it was no accident. As Hodge drives home, it is the result of a
long series of policy decisions “about industry and trade, taxation and
military spending, by flesh-and-blood humans sitting in concrete-and-steel
buildings.” And those policy decisions
were paid for by roughly one percent of Americans who make political
contributions in our capitalist democracy.
Barbara Lee’s Point of View
lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor
those ideals by upholding them not when it is easy, but when it is
--- President Barack Obama in his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance
measures have been compromising the hopes and potential prosperity of millions
of people now and in the future.
Deficit spending allows us to collectively avoid making the difficult
decisions we really should be making today.
The 2010 compromise between President Obama and McConnell violated the
idealistic vision of fairness and reform that the president was elected to
Representative Barbara Lee noted of the tax deal, after the House of
Representatives had approved it on 12/16/10:
“It’s a shame and a disgrace. We
know who’s going to pay. It’s going to
be on the backs of low-income people, the working poor, communities of
Then again, what
does Barbara Lee know? She was the
single solitary voice, out of the 535 members of Congress, who went on the
record to oppose giving George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld the
absolute power to launch wars against entire nations in the Middle East when
she cast a NO! vote on September 14, 2001 in the horrified, fearful and angry
wake of 9/11.
later we were able to have a calmer, more rational perspective. As Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph
Stiglitz pointed out, the wars we launched after 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq
will cost more than $3 trillion, once all costs are factored in. That’s a hell of a lot of money! This will include the costs of healthcare
for the veterans of the wars and the interest expense on national debt related
to borrowings incurred to finance the wars.
Stiglitz conveys his estimates in a book about the Iraq War called The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost
of the Iraq Conflict.
this. The attack on Iraq and the
subsequent long-term U.S. occupation was military adventurism undertaken
because the war in Afghanistan proved to involve inadequately rich targets. If, instead of launching the war on Iraq, we
had invested this money in domestic needs and good neighbor policies, not only
would we have saved thousands of lives of American soldiers and hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis, and a pile of money, but we could have avoided energizing
extremists and antagonizing the more than one billion adherents of Islam, the
world’s second most populous religion.
We could have invested in greater independence from our addiction to
polluting fossil fuels. We could have
afforded better programs to create greater fairness of opportunity in public
education and employment. We could have
invested in universal healthcare and the security and well-being of American
communities. We could have provided
very attractive incentives to corporations to keep millions of manufacturing
and service jobs at home instead of helping export them abroad.
We could have
taken much smarter steps to improve conditions in the world so that the causes
contributing to radicalism would not cause spiking levels of terrorism and
insecurity. The smartest and most
economical steps would be to make investments in reducing marginalized people’s
feelings of isolation, lack of opportunity, alienation, humiliation and
discrimination. Heck, we could have
made the USA a great country gain, and prevented the powerful
anti-establishment sentiments that are roiling the U.S. in 2016 and giving the
divisive authoritarian D.J. Trump a chance of grabbing and abusing power!
We could have
increased good-guy foreign aid by engaging in respectful diplomacy and
international cooperation, and by investing in peacebuilding initiatives and
humanitarian projects focused on reducing poverty. We could have had enough money to set up a robust fund to
mitigate the increasingly costly and highly disruptive impacts that billions of
tons of carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions are causing every year as a
result of human activities. We could
have acted to offset the increasing concentration of these heat-trapping gases
in Earth’s atmosphere by helping developing countries significantly slow the
rate of deforestation on our beautiful home planet. Shucks, we could even have reduced the risky level of deficit
spending we have incurred since 9/11!
Security: Freedom versus Equality
is the bedrock of our great American experiment in democratic
self-government. I recall Janis Joplin
famously singing, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” That is an exceedingly curious idea in our
materialistic society, but one thing seems perfectly clear to me: to borrow huge sums of money is a risk-laden
and shortsighted expediency, especially when the money is squandered rather
than being well invested. This irresponsible
gambit could portend that instead of greater freedom, most Americans will suffer
increasing insecurity, stress, anxiety and hardship. Austerity and exacerbated inequalities and further economic
disruptions are consequently likely lurking ahead.
security is one of the most basic and important of all government purposes. One definition of security is the freedom
from risk or danger. Another meaning is
the freedom from doubt, anxiety or fear.
The economic course we have been collectively charting since Ronald
Reagan was inaugurated the first time in 1981 has been one of insidiously
growing economic insecurity for the vast majority of the American people. This has been caused by the staunch
adherence by politicians, and those they serve, to national priorities that
emphasize high levels of spending on the military and entitlements. This extravagant spending has been coupled
with tax cuts and corporate subsides and loopholes designed to increase the
inequalities between the well-to-do few and the mightily-struggling many.
in inequality are contrary to the Founding principle expressed in the American
Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” Increasing inequality causes increased
economic insecurity among the masses and more stress, longer work hours, worse
poverty, more crime and the need for more spending on prisons. It also creates an incrementally greater
probability of destabilizing change, even possibly of revolution, if reasonable
reforms are not made to create a fairer society. It is incumbent upon us to find a better strategy than continuously
caving in to excessively greedy, stingy and ruthless demands by the moneyed
class. Legislative reform is needed
Concentration of Stupidity Takes Humanity by Force
Implications originally contained a story about my friend El Gaviero,
and about the Goddess of Poetic Justice.
This story has been moved to Happy
Harbingers in Good Ideas for a Better Future. After that took place, I looked around for a way to make an
intuitive transition herein from the paragraphs above to the ones below. I decided a new focus was needed on the
increasing concentrations of wealth and power and uncompromising foolishness in
our society today. Santa Claus
strategies, after all, are big contributors to these things.
I began to reminisce about past opinions
I’ve expressed, and how strong my conviction is that there actually is a bright
silver lining to all the dark clouds that are gathering on our human and biotic
horizons. All my ruminations led back
to the idea that it is a bad plan to let rich people abuse power.
So why is it that we allow wealthy people
to abuse the power of their money to get more and more of the national wealth
for themselves? The richest 1% of
Americans has already almost doubled their share of the national wealth in the
past three decades, for Christ’s sake!
In absolute dollar terms, the wealth of the top 1% of people has
increased by more than $20 trillion.
Republican proposals to cut taxes on
corporations and high income earners from 35% to 25% would likely ensure that,
in the next 30 years, the richest 1% of Americans would own more than half of
the nation’s wealth. How much more can
they grab before a powerful movement arises that unequivocally demands greater
fairness, or even a measure of civil restitution?
This increasing concentration of wealth is
obscene in light of gambits by multinational corporations to get the government
to allow private interests to gain bigger profits by externalizing real costs
onto society. An increasing
concentration of wealth is also unethical from the standpoint that this scheme
is causing a more serious subversion of our democratic principles. The fact that this is harming the prospects
of future generations by mortgaging their future with unprecedented amounts of
debt makes the situation even worse.
We collectively face epic fiscal, social,
demographic, moral and environmental problems.
It is starkly misguided to allow the wealthy to gain more and more of
the nation’s common wealth in light of the ever-more-difficult challenges that the
majority of Americans face in their struggle to make ends meet. The problems of most Americans are becoming
increasingly challenging as jealous rich people increase their share of the
national wealth and abuse the power of their influence while everyone else
endures more intense hardships in dozens of significant and measurable ways.
“Damn compromise!”, say rich people to all
of our representatives. “We want
freedom, not taxes. Just wait, and
prosperity will trickle down to everyone.
Our policies guarantee it.”
God hardened the heart of the oppressive
Pharaoh in ancient Egypt when Moses asked for his people to be set free from
the bitter bondage of their labors. The
children of Israel asked for three days off from their work to journey into the
wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD their God to appease Him, but God hardened
the heart of the Pharaoh over and over again, according to the Exodus story, so
the Pharaoh commanded the Egyptian taskmasters to lay more work upon the men,
who he charged with being lazy for wanting a few days off work. Sadly, conservatives today emulate that
“I don’t mind going to
work, but the thing about having to wait 8 hours to go home is really
--- A photo of a
humorous workplace sign on the Internet.
If God is still hanging around these days
and supervising human affairs, He is up to His same old tricks of hardening the
hearts of the rulers and taskmasters, in order that they may prosper at the
expense of the people. Redeem us, oh
Lord, with great judgments. The lack of
empathy associated with greed-driven, sink-or-swim capitalism and Strict Father
domination are unconscionably unfair and pathologically pathetic. Let’s change this!
when he was newly elected to lead Canada, promised to shift the burden of taxes
off the middle class, and his progressive plan is likely to improve the general
welfare of all Canadians.
The Impasse of
Politics in America Today
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated in late June 2011 that tax increases are
“politically impossible”. He stubbornly
refused to allow any revenue increases to be part of a debt-cutting agreement
as another national debt-limit ceiling approached. What baloney! With taxes
on wealthy people at the lowest rates in generations and very high amounts of
deficit spending and record levels of national debt, and with Republican
refusals to compromise on rich people’s ever-greater perks, our political
system is badly broken.
Our tax system is
a hornet’s nest of absurd tax loopholes like the one mentioned previously which
allows hedge fund managers who earn hundreds of millions of dollars per year to
pay low capital gains tax rates on their enormous earnings. This “carried interest” provision will cost
$20 billion over the next decade. It is
astonishing that anyone can defend such a glaringly generous provision for a
few people who exhibit such defiant airs of unprincipled self-righteous
the August 2011 debt showdown, Republicans tried to extort some serious
concessions from unions, workers and old people before agreeing to another
increase in the debt limit. At the same
time, they stuck stubbornly to their Santa Claus tax cut ideologies in
vehemently opposing any higher taxes on the highest income earners. They held the nation hostage in their
attempt to make President Obama fail, even though it hurt working people and
our economy and the global economy in the process. A default might be a good thing, said some Tea Party types in the
summer of 2011 and again in October 2013, despite the fact that it would
probably have cost trillions of dollars in immediate stock market losses
precautionary principles indicate that we should be honest about the growing
risk of a severe debt crisis, and consequently act boldly to forestall the
danger. It is deeply perplexing that
the main idea Republicans have advanced to deal with the increasing national
debt is to make the problem more severe by significantly cutting the top tax
rate on the highest income earners.
Lower government revenues would force deep cuts to Social Security,
Medicare, Medicaid and other areas of discretionary federal government
The fact of the
matter is that balanced budgets cannot realistically be achieved without more
tax revenues. If Congress made radical
reductions in spending for the military and entitlements and a wide range of
important government functions, we still would not be able to balance the
budget without more revenues because large spending cuts would cause severe
economic dislocations and another recession would likely result from sudden
cuts in government spending on a scale adequate to balance the budget. In any case, it is a recipe for almost
certain fiscal disaster to continue to have inadequate levels of government
revenue to pay for current levels of government spending.
Soon after Mitch
McConnell remarked that it is politically impossible to implement any tax
increases, he stood in front of national cameras in late June 2011 and
audaciously declared that a balanced budget amendment should be passed. Talk about “politically impossible”! To enact an Amendment to the Constitution,
two-thirds approval is required in both the U.S. Senate and the House, and
three-quarters of all State legislatures must ratify it. It would be much more challenging to get
this passed than to agree to fair-minded compromises on increases in taxes on
incomes in excess of $250,000 and other initiatives like eliminating some tax
loopholes, corporate subsidies, and tax evasion schemes.
Besides, it would
be ridiculous and inflexibly risky to set a balanced budget requirement in
concrete for each year, instead of allowing the federal government the flexibility
to manage the economy more intelligently in accordance with business
cycles. The devil, as they say, is
always in the details. A balanced
budget amendment is a backhanded and disingenuous approach to avoid making
actual specific decisions on how to reduce budget deficits. Almost all economists agree that balancing
the budget by slashing government spending and increasing taxes during times of
recession is dangerously counterproductive and could lead to higher joblessness
and a more severe economic downturn.
proposed an Unbalanced Budget Amendment. This would be a Constitutional Amendment
that would make practical sense by requiring budget surpluses in good economic
times to offset the counter-cyclical fiscal policy of deficit spending stimulus
during recessionary times. That is a
much better idea than the hypocritical gamesmanship of Senator McConnell’s grandstanding proposal. Good recommendations are made in the Earth
Manifesto on how to fairly and sensible balance the federal budget. See One
Dozen Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies, in particular.
Written by President Dwight Eisenhower
again think of the resounding warning expressed by Republican President Dwight
Eisenhower in 1954 that addressed the need for what he called “moderation” in
government, and his assertion about how “stupid” and disastrous it would be for
any political party to try to turn back the clock and eliminate basic social
safety net assurances and labor laws.
new calculus has come to dominate political conservatism today. Since Big Money has become the key to
“success” in politics, and because perceptions of reality can be easily shaped
and manipulated by attack ads and repetitious repetitions of negative
ideological propaganda, and because hot button social issues like God, guns,
gays, abortion, illegal immigrants and refugees are so effective to exploit,
the political operatives in conservative circles seem to believe they can
ignore Eisenhower’s cautionary words and only pretend to be concerned with
populist issues while primarily championing the anti-social agenda of
conservative billionaires. I ardently
encourage voters to prove them wrong in 2016!
blinders during these 21st century Years
of Living Dangerously is almost certain to turn out badly for the people
and for the self-deluded and deceiving politicians themselves. The demographics are against this
narrow-minded, anti-inclusive and fundamentally wrong-headed approach, and so
is reality itself, for erroneous ideological economic prescriptions like those
pushed by the Wichita Kansas billionaires Charles and David Koch have a way of
resulting in negative outcomes, and overly “pro-business” policies turn out to
be bad for both businesses and the people.
Governor Sam Brownback has conveniently provided proof of these understandings
with his radical experiment in cutting taxes.
Koch Industries has been the single largest donor to getting Brownback
elected during his career, and the Koch brother billionaires are now reaping
huge benefits from that investment by paying 25% less in state taxes on their
enormous earnings, thanks to the tax cuts Brownback put into effect when he got
into the Governor’s office. But this
Santa Claus tax cut strategy is proving to be disastrous to the majority of
people in Kansas.
many Republican politicians in recent years have continued to brazenly push to
slash spending on social safety net programs.
I conclude that this is a potential political kamikaze act that is
possible only because our democracy has become so obedient to the desires of
the top 1% of income earners. This is
why politicians from both political parties are able to vastly over-represent
the desires of moneyed interests and under-represent the interests of the
majority of people.
a result of Republican-driven tax cuts, a travesty of social justice is taking
place in which the rich are getting richer while the nation’s infrastructure is
falling apart, public schools are deteriorating, prisons are overcrowded, inner
cities are getting more gritty, and the majority of people are seeing their
life fortunes and prospects diminish. Since our
Congressional, Executive and judicial systems are so strongly influenced by the
corrupting influence of Big Money, the greater good is being undermined and
fair representation of the interests of the majority are being subverted. As a result, radically inegalitarian
initiatives have gained sway.”
no mistake about it. The potential debt
crisis is serious. The solutions
proposed by Republicans are ideological false choices that are contrary to the
fairness principles upon which our nation was founded. We should reduce budget deficits, and we do
need to implement fairer tax policies and spending plans. It is not impossible. Let’s get it together! And let’s not forget the overarching context
of the need for a fair-minded Bill of Rights for Future Generations in these
response to the bursting of the housing bubble and the severe financial crisis
of 2008, a recession began and unemployment skyrocketed. The Federal Reserve and the federal
government were forced to resort to drastic economic stimulus measures to
prevent another Depression. It was an
inopportune and risky time to cut back on either Santa Claus spending or Santa
Claus tax cuts. So the record deficit
spending of the Bush years became much higher deficit spending under the Obama
we need to have the sense to find common cause to move toward a comprehensive
solution to this epic economic challenge.
This must involve intelligently controlled government spending as well
as higher marginal tax rates on all incomes in excess of $250,000 per year,
with progressively higher rates for income over $1 million per year and even
higher rates for income over $5 million per year. The Bush Santa Claus tax cuts should be ended, and the tax rate
on capital gains should be increased.
So should the amount of taxes on the less than 1% of inheritances that
are big enough to be subject to any estate taxes at all. And corporate subsidies and agribusiness
farm subsidies and many of the loopholes in the tax code should be
could sensibly control government spending without slashing spending on vital
programs like education, environmental protections, National Parks, emergency
first-responders, family planning, public broadcasting, and the nation’s
physical infrastructure. We should
reduce spending on wars, war services, weapons, troops stationed abroad, and
military occupations. We should reform
entitlement spending in ways suggested in Radically Simple Ways to Make America Fairer, and to Fix Both
Social Security and Health Care So We Can Move On to Address Much Bigger Issues. There
are surprisingly simple and fair ways to achieve these reforms.
Rule of Two Impossibles in Human Affairs
When something is
declared politically impossible, and yet the alternative option is proved to be
impossible to an equal or greater degree, the first impossibility becomes
curiously more feasible. Intransigent
Republican adherence to the goal of providing ever-larger tax cuts to rich
people may make it “politically impossible” to achieve fair-minded compromises,
as Mitch McConnell has declared, but this can be seen to be a kind of
brinksmanship that is likely to become untenable because it is really a form of
national political and economic suicide.
To ravage the
social security safety net even further just to continue padding the bank
accounts of the wealthy, and to continue pandering so one-sidedly to
power-abusing factions, are courses of action that seem likely to be more
counterproductive than finding good ways to curb extreme inequities in our
Let us debate
these issues honestly, and chart a future course that is fairer to the majority
of Americans and all our heirs in future generations. Let’s have a truly honest conversation
about resource conservation. Let’s be
honest with each other -- and with ourselves, too. Let’s sort out special interest considerations and focus on the
greater common good. We can no longer
accept short-term oriented profiteering as being more important than
longer-term considerations of the greater good. New farsighted priorities are required.
changes are needed to make sure our ship of state is on course toward a
healthier future. We cannot continue to
pursue an unsteady course toward dangerous shoals of converging ecological,
economic, political, social and demographic catastrophes.
Louis XV of France accurately foresaw the approaching turmoil that later
resulted in the French Revolution of 1789.
“Après moi, le deluge”, he said.
He was aware of the irresponsible extravagances of his royal court and
the huge expenses related to decades of warfare. Today, we are facing an even greater deluge of debt and costly
militarism. In addition, far-reaching
demographic challenges beset our societies and ecological disasters and refugee
crises loom before us, and yet we are acting as if we can’t do anything about
it. We are acting as if, “Après nous,
le deluge viendra.” (After us, the
deluge will come.)
feel strongly that we must act on our best understandings and work together
with overarching commitment to prevent economic and environmental and climatic
disasters from severely affecting us and our heirs in the future.
new Enlightenment Era may be dawning, an era shaped by awareness of our
interconnectedness and interdependence with other people and natural
systems. Moral propriety, Golden Rule
fairness and social cohesion make it mandatory that we incorporate
intergenerational fairness into our national policies. It is becoming increasingly important for us
to work together to create a system that is more holistic, more likely
sustainable, and more responsible to the protection of healthy planetary
ecosystems and other people and other species of life. We can do this. We must do this. Let’s
Tiffany B. Twain
2016 (First versions were published in
“Pity those who’ve doubted
Tiffany!” --- El Gaviero
Santa Claus Strategies in Political
“The pessimist complains about the
wind; the optimist expects it to
change; the realist adjusts
--- William A. Ward
Our poorly controlled deficit spending
forces us to periodically increase the authorized national debt limit in the United
States. Recall the dramatic clash that
took place between the two opposing strategies of our partisan political
representatives in a stubborn impasse on this issue in August 2011. Congress had created a Supercommittee to
solve this impasse, but it had abjectly failed, creating a risk-laden “fiscal
cliff” in which federal spending was scheduled to be slashed across the
board. Again in October 2013, a debt
limit impasse caused deep consternation and elevated credit risk.
It is a good idea to understand bigger
picture perspectives. Liberals
generally espouse increased spending on social programs to appeal to voters,
while the opposing camp of conservatives counters to gain voter support by
single-mindedly promising lower taxes.
The failure to come up with a fair-minded deficit reduction plan was a
result of uncompromising political ideologies, not genuine and sensible
leadership. This failure provides us
with a stealth epiphany, like a flash of lightening illuminating a dark night
sky, revealing the extent to which both liberals and conservatives have been
ignoring the interests of everyone in future years in order to finance
Conservatives are doubling down on their
Santa Claus strategy of giving wealthy people ever-lower tax rates, even going
to the extreme of signing aforementioned “purity pledges” that commit them to
narrowly opposing any solution to debt problems that involves higher tax rates
or the elimination of tax loopholes that favor giant corporations and rich people. And all of the 16 Republican candidates for
president in late 2015 clamored for more tax breaks for corporations and rich
A proposed Bill of Rights for Future
Generations would help ensure that we “pay forward” fairer provisions for
people in the future, and sensibly prevent short-term-focused ideological
purity and narrow-mindedness from enabling wrong-headed national policies.
In a remarkable turn-around after the Republican Party had shut down the
government and stubbornly refused to increase the national debt limit in
October 2013, suddenly Congress agreed in December 2013 to a budget for the
next two years. This was a surprising
development that turned out to be another pathetic compromise in which no
efforts were made to reform the tax code or deal with the on-going high levels
of deficit spending.
House Speaker John Boehner then turned on the Tea Party for a change and
fumed: “They're using our members, and
they're using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous.” What was he talking about? Aha!
He was talking about special interest groups like Americans for
Prosperity, and their attempts to manipulate legislation. What was he glossing over? What these groups are really best at doing
is using their vast resources to buy
influence in elections, and they have done it to the detriment of the American
people ever since the inception of the organization.
Americans for Prosperity is funded to a large extent by the billionaire
Koch brothers. This right wing front
group is an organization that stands as a salient example of how Big Money gets
translated into a usurpation of power by wealthy people to corrupt our politics
and effectively abridge the economic freedom of We the People.
Some folks hoped to make 2014 a political year that would go down in history as “The
Year of Economic Populism,” but I’m still waiting as 2016 unfolds!
ought to be a no-brainer! The Sun never
shined on a greater cause!
Make no make
about it, we could find common ground that is in the best interests of the
majority of Americans and the greater good. It just so happens, however,
that greedy interests on both sides of the aisle reprehensibly make out like
bandits from our failure to do so!
It is not honestly or honorably
conservative to try to gain power by scurrilously anti-democratic means, and
surely it is a Tragedy of the Common Good that the goal of today's
conservatives marches pathologically to the orders of Big Money. And,
even worse, it is tragically sad that the demagogues that seek to lead the
Republican Party enlist the fervor of the far right "Freedom Caucus",
which oddly wants to impose its discrimination-championing and fear-stoked narrow-mindedness
on the American people, and its moral absolutes, instead of respectably
supporting a more inclusive set of civil liberties and social justice. Notably, former Speaker of the House John Boehner frequently calls
politicians in the Freedom Caucus the “knuckleheads” and “goofballs” in
The highest value of Republican politicians appears to be to gain power
at any cost, so they sell their souls to achieve this end, and instead of
honestly promoting the best interests of the citizens they are supposed to
represent, they deceive them about economic and tax policy and they
manipulatively take advantage of people's emotions and biases. They stoke
passions and self-righteous anger about divisive hot button social issues like
abortions and gay rights and immigrants in order to gain power, and then they
treacherously abuse this power to reward the wealthy donor class with changes
to the tax code that favor rich people at the expense of everyone else.
The consequential outcome of this calculating strategy is to make
economic inequities worse and contribute to more extreme social injustices.
Conservatives often exploit the echo chambers of Fox News and right-wing
talk radio to misinform and fool the people.
They advance their causes by unethically undermining the voting rights
of minorities and students, and by tortuously gerrymandering congressional
districts. They must realize that facts
and circumstances and honest evaluations prove that the merit of their ideas
and policy prescriptions is profoundly suspect. And with the con man D.J. Trump having become the presumptive
Republican nominee for the presidency, dishonesty and mischaracterizations and
uncertainties are multiplying, and our great experiment in democratic
governance is careening off the rails.
A humorous story has been conjured up by one Robert
Wieder, reports columnist Leah Garchik:
Robert Wieder imagines the scenario as a political fable: Donald
Trump wins, is sworn in as president and levies tariffs on Chinese
imports. This sets off a trade war that
ruins the economies of the U.S., China and Russia, resulting in worldwide
depression that leads to “widespread rebellion.” Putin invades the
Baltics; Trump refuses to get NATO
involved. France, feeling an
existential threat, nukes Russian troops;
Putin retaliates by nuking Western Europe; Britain attacks Russia. Trump orders ICBMs to attack Russia “and
the outcome is annihilation on a worldwide scale,” a cloud of radiation
surrounding the Earth.
the end, he writes, Paul Ryan and
Mitch McConnell, “observing the
barren planet from a satellite link, decide to take their own lives.” As they prepare to take cyanide, McConnell
says, “Well, it could have been worse.”
Ryan asks how. “Hillary could
have won,” says McConnell.
Voters who have been spoon fed the half truth that tax cuts will
stimulate economic growth can be easily fooled into supporting huge tax cuts
for the people with the biggest earnings and investment incomes and
inheritances. But the rest of the true story is that tax cuts for rich
people do not stimulate the economy nearly as effectively as tax cuts for the
bottom 99%, because increased DEMAND is the thing that really leads to
entrepreneurial success, not increased supply of money in the bank accounts of
Conservative politicians like to preach the gospel that rich people are
the job creators and that the government is trying to redistribute wealth to
the undeserving. The fact of the matter, however, is that it would be
vastly better for economic growth to give one trillion dollars in lower taxes
to the bottom 90% of the people and to assess this amount to the top 1%.
Yet since 1981, the American people have been fooled into doing the
opposite by supporting many trillions of dollars in lower tax rates for the
highest income earners. These regressive changes in taxation have only
served to hinder economic growth while further concentrating wealth in the
hands of the few.
Empathic acuity is respectable, while in contrast it is scandalous to
give only rhetorical lip service to middle class aspirations while in
actuality being unempathetic by giving strong support to policies
that serve to increase the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, no
matter how damning this may prove to be for the poor and people in the middle
Kansas has been proving for more than three years how stupid and
contrary to the common good it is to slavishly kowtow to greedy billionaires
like Charles and David Koch, who are corruptly abusing the influence of their
riches to undermine progressive tax plans and erode the rights of workers to
bargain collectively. By wielding the
undeserved excessive power of their huge fortunes, they are torpedoing
protections of the environment and clean energy initiatives and forward-looking
actions that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and
help humanity adapt to changing conditions in the global climate.
Scientists deduce verifiable information from close observation of the
way things are. In bizarre contrast, scheming politicians generally
promote disinformation and sow doubt about the best scientific understandings.
Conservatives, in particular, are often antagonistic to scientific
knowledge. With Republicans having gained majorities in the U.S. Senate
and the House, they are attempting to slash funding for research funded by the
National Science Foundation that would shed light on climate change and the
best ways to make a necessary transition to clean energy. They are also
trying to cut funding for research in economic and behavioral sciences and
political sciences, adhering to the "mushroom theory of management"
that keeping people in the dark and fertilizing them with manure is the best
As one of many instances, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and his
allies couldn’t pass their anti-clean water legislation through regular
procedures, so they resorted to "an obscure, Gingrich-era tactic called
the Congressional Review Act to block the EPA’s historic progress."
And if they succeed, the Clean Water Rule -- and protections for the
drinking water of one in three Americans -- will be erased."