Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I am getting heartily sick of listening to the paid lobbyists and their hirelings claiming that the various plans being put forward by the representatives of the proprietor class to the effect that we all have to sacrifice. At the worst, this supposed equality of sacrifice does not apply to special provisions protecting the rich and powerful, who get special provisions for themselves in the tax laws. Only slightly less onerous are the provisions, like increases in per capita taxes or per vehicle taxes or tuition charges for the children. Even flat taxes like consumption taxes fall far harder on the poor than on the rich. And the provision that e.g. income taxes on hedge funds are lower than on genuinely earned income, are especially onerous. But even the supposedly progressive taxes are far from the category of equal sacrifice. How much must you take from a billionaire, or even a mere millionaire before it matches the suffering of a worker who has been unemployed for over 2 years, and no end in sight, and has perhaps lost his home, maybe his marriage or his mental health, or possibly even his life, while the President tells him he must bear the losses stoically until the Depression cures itself? Or the stockholder who maintains a fictitious identity and foreign address where his dividends are paid? The charade in that case is especially onerous, as it deprives other people of the opportunity to rid themselves of their deficits accrued over decades of under-taxation that have enabled those debts to be accumulated? The bulk of the US government has been bent in the direction of holding the tax man away from “bothering” the rich while they have raided the Treasury for decades. As Anatole France once famously noted, the law in its supposed equality forbids both rich and poor from stealing bread, begging in the streets and sleeping under the bridges at night. That is the kind of equality of sacrifice that GOP is urging upon us as a substitute for restorative justice.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
In this week’s news, we see the fallout from the program of the Tories in UK to increase the tuition charges in their universities. The students have been protesting all over the kingdom. For many this will inevitably mean their being unable to afford college so long as the Conservatives, supported by the Liberals, remain in power. That could easily last as long as 5 years or even more and for many of the youngsters that will result in a new lost generation, considering how hard it is to pick up the academic mantle after pursuing the exigencies of adult life for a stretch of years. For some of the students, this denial of the chance for a middle-class life is a destruction of the dreams toward which they have worked all their young lives and they are very angry. Some have yielded to that anger to the point where their decorous UK training gives way before the enormity of that vile denial, and they express their rage in breaking things of value to the proprietor class. In response, the representatives of that class, notably those such as the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, who have been raised in the entitled surroundings of Britain’s rich, want to know why they have to break things. They want the demonstrators to carry out their protest in a decorous way where, just incidentally, the rich can safely pay no heed to it, without suffering any loss of any kind. Here in US, Obama announces that there is nothing the jobless can do about it but sit quietly in the corner waiting for the current Depression to cure itself and go away, with the fallout so far being only that so many of the working class make their protest by failing to go to the polls to vote for the Democrats, despite the fact that the GOP are even worse. When things get bad for longer, as they surely will, there will be disorderly protests, like those we see in France. The anger of the jobless, the resulting homeless, the dreamless and the hopeless may get out of order and turn ugly here also.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
As we move to pick up the pieces of the 2010 election, we must look at the situation more closely. Mr. Obama seems to remain the sole impediment to a restoration of the Bush policies, but that is too gloomy. He still has the vetoes and will have the votes to sustain them. Of course, if he remains wedded to his fantasy of making peace with the professional GOP by sweet-talking them, he will be left in the same pickle when he comes again to the electorate in 2012. Of course, he can pick up the standard he has let fall these past 2 years, in which case he would have a fight on his hands, which conflicts with his fantasy. Or he can succumb to McConnell’s program of disarming the troops in his left wing, which so many have said accords with his genuine middling strategy. In that case, he will follow Hoover into the history books as diddling while the economy of the US crumbles, and the second Great Depression afflicts the world for most of the rest of our lives. I do believe there is a Cause here worthy of fighting for, even if the outlook is as dismal as McConnell hopes it is. Democracy has always carried the risk that the People will be taken in by charlatans, which Plato thought was a disabling weakness, but Churchill accurately observed that its danger was less than for any other method of government. Perhaps its greatest benefit might be that as long as voting matters, the People can effect a revolution at the ballot box, regardless of the power of propaganda, without having to pick up their rifles. Stranger things have happened, even in regimes that seemed immune to that kind of democratic intervention. In the meantime, it will be a long and difficult period while the People struggle to find their way back to the dream that we called the Enlightenment, with the burden falling hardest on those least able to bear it, many of whom will have joined with others in bringing about their troubles.