A Combined Response to a TEA Partier (4/17/11)

Here is where I shall vent my spleen on whatever political topic might cross my mind on a given day. Comments or responses may be posted to whatever forum might be appropriate to that particular topic.

A Combined Response to a TEA Partier (4/17/11)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Sun Apr 17, 2011 1:05 pm

A TEA Partier, one Gary Meier, has chosen to respond to two of my recent little screeds ("Fine Words" and "The Great Capitulator Outdoes Himself") regarding Barack Obama's recent budget speech and his most recent compromises with the rabid right-wing on spending and social programs. I shall combine my responses here, and this will also serve as a prelude to the next installment of my "Reasons to Really Hate Republicans" series, which will focus on their style of political debate (if you can besmirch the word "debate" by linking it to their manner of arguing).

Here is my "redirect," so to speak. First, from "RE: Fine Words:"

Regarding my argument that our fiscal house would be in better order had Obama and congressional Democrats allowed the Bush tax cuts to expire in December, or extended only those on the upper-middle class and below, as was passed by the Democratic House:

>> What the rich have is none of your business. What they earn is a result of their labors
>> and there is absolutely no reason they should be taxed more than the rest of
>> us. WE ARE NOT A SOCIALIST OR COMMUNIST country.

What the rich have is indeed none of my business. I wish them all the best and I would love to join their ranks some day.

How fairly they are taxed on it, however, is my business and the business of all Americans.

What they earn is sometimes the result of their labors, and sometimes it is more accurately described as being the result of the labor of others, others long dead, or others who are prevented from sharing in the benefits of their own labors so the rich can keep more of it for themselves. A CEO who runs the company they head into the ground does not "earn" his or her bonus. A stock speculator who creates nothing does not "labor" in any commonly recognized meaning of that word. An insurance mogul whose advancement was achieved on the backs of policy holders whose legitimate claims were denied has not "earned" his income, at least not by performing any task that society should regard as beneficial.

The reasons why the rich should be taxed progressively more the richer they are are manifold. First and foremost among these reasons is that the burden of paying for the costs of operating our government should be fairly shared. If a robber baron, athlete, actor, whatever making $10 million/year is taxed at a rate of 40%, he is still left with $6 million in income for that year and can afford to purchase whatever it might please him to buy for himself and his family. His lifestyle is unaffected by his tax "burden" even if he has to pay the whole thing without the tax breaks that tend only to be available to the rich. On the other hand, if a person making $30,000 a year after the few deductions available to him is taxed at only 15%, he must shell out $4,500 of his hard-earned salary to the tax man, and his family will have to do without a considerable portion of the mean subsistence that his salary could otherwise have afforded. It is almost impossible for a person trying to support a family on a salary of $30K to write a check to anyone for $4,500 at any time.

Do you see here how even the proposal to eliminate a heinously unfair tax cut, a proposal merely to restore the rates to what they were and that was placed into Bush's tax cut law as a condition of its initial passage, on the on those who can most easily afford to pay their fair share of taxes has become "communism" in the mind, and in the lexicon, of the right? These people haven't got the first clue what "communism" is, and their sense of even the most basic fairness is heavily skewed by the most abominable forms of selfish greed.

Now, in response to my lament that Obama chose to give up a number of very worthwhile social programs to avoid a temporary government shutdown that would have played very poorly for congressional Republicans and would have resulted in a massive rehabilitation of Democratic approval ratings for the President and for Congress, Gary Meier responded:

>> However you look at it, the country got snookered again. $40B is a miniscule
>> amount next to the total budget. What we witnessed was an exercise in unreality.

Actually, what we witnessed was an exercise in pointless cruelty of Republicans (the cruelty of Republicans will be the final installment of my "Reasons to Really Hate Republicans" series, upcoming at some unspecified point in the future) and the weakness of congressional Democrats and Obama to stand our ground. It was also an example of Republican bad-faith dealing, as we saw Democrats agree to their original proposal in its entirety only to have the Republicans then reject it because it didn't adequately serve the religious and social agenda of their most radical components on the farthest right.

$40 billion is indeed minuscule when compared to the amount by which our deficit would be reduced had allowed Bush's tax cuts to expire, or even if we had only extended those cuts for all but the very, VERY rich, as was passed by the then Democratic House.

The "unreality" here is that our deficit will be reduced only through the elimination of social programs, the loss of which will damage not only our recovery but the lives of millions of real American families, all in the name of allowing the rich to escape taxation.

Now, in response to my observation that Republicans will do what we see them doing right now, trying to hold the debt ceiling increase hostage to try to achieve an imposition of their religious views and to further their cruelty to our less privileged citizens, Gary Meier responded:

>> What a bunch of crap. Nobody's holding our debt ceiling hostage. Democrat
>> spending is holding the country hostage

Oh, aren't they? I believe that the facts are otherwise. The debt ceiling increase needs to be passed free of any social agenda. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is at stake, and this isn't the time for horribly irresponsible, in fact dangerous, right-wing games.

When I then pointed out the most likely consequences of default, including a massive devaluation of the dollar, $10 or more for a gallon of gas, unemployment at or exceeding Depression levels, and investment dollars abandoning America for our international competitors, he childishly retorted:

>> Thank you democrats for all of that

It is not we Democrats who are messing with the debt ceiling increase. Indeed, during Democratic administrations the dollar tends to grow stronger, unemployment falls, and investment dollars flow to America rather than away, or at least flow away more slowly. Look it up.

Don't forget, the last time a Democratic president was in office, we ran a budget surplus that had Republicans like Al Greenspan tearing their hair in woe about, warning of the dangers (which they never actually described any of) of a "runaway surplus."

Those were the days! Bush and the Republicans took care of that budget surplus in short order, WITH BUSH'S INSANE TAX CUTS.

Finally, when I expressed my desire for Obama's actual actions to match his words, Meier replied:

>> He is a fine wordsmith. Too bad he's so incompetent.

This is one area in which we agree.

Now turning to "The Great Capitulator Outdoes Himself."
---

To my statement that the TEA Party holds a dangerous gun to our heads in the upcoming debt ceiling fight, Meier said:

>> Let's hope you are right here Woody. The salvation of our country stands on
>> the shoulders of the Tea Party.

I find this to be a strangely curious statement. The TEA Party was formed by the health insurance industry and the pro-pollution Koch Brothers to try to sabotage, through violence if necessary, any progressive initiatives that might be enacted following the 2008 election, when Democrats had huge House and Senate majorities and had taken the White House. They are in large part racist, xenophobic, ignorant, cowardly, and very, very shortsighted, with no understanding of matters related to public policy beyond that of a fourth grader in public schools. They have proven themselves to be easily manipulated by forces that oppose their own security and well-being. They zealously ignore, and indeed actively resist being exposed to, any sources of information that might inform them of facts, even the most indisputable, well-verified, well-documented, and widely-known facts, that they find might find inconvenient or incompatible with their dogma. They bandy about the word "constitutional" a lot but consistently confuse the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation and the Declaration of Independence, and they want to "achieve" such things as the repeal of the 14th and 16th amendments.

This is not the foundation on which I prefer our country's salvation to stand.

When I pointed out that there is a likelihood that the Bush tax cuts will be extended again or made permanent in 2012, Meier opined:

>> For the sake of everyone, let's hope you are correct on the tax cuts also. Another round
>> of cuts is the medicine our economy needs for a compete healing.

It is interesting that, aside from programs they've never liked and that they have sought to gut or eliminate since their inception, Republicans have not indicated a single item they are willing to cut from our budgets to pay for any of the tax cuts they advocate.

The problem with our economy has a root cause. That root cause is that wealth is now concentrated too heavily at the top to support American industry and American commerce. The richest have taken too much from the pockets of the working classes now for the working classes to purchase enough products to keep our economy growing. Tax cuts have been the most major cause of this upward shift of our nation's financial resources, and to continue them as they are will cause the BIG crash to come. To cut taxes on the rich still further will accelerate and intensify any crash.

It is the extension of the tax cuts last December that caused my break with Obama, because there could not possibly been any wronger thing for him to do if economic recovery and stability, and the reliability of our currency, are our goals.

When I pointed out that Obama broke one of his most important campaign promises when he permitted that tax cut extension to be enacted into law, Meier put on his dunce cap and wrote:

>> Obama's batting about 000 concerning his campaign promises

Well, no, not .000, but his batting average is not good enough to make a baseball player proud. He did not enact his health care program but one closer to the one Hillary ran on during her campaign and that he rejected. His credit card and financial industry reforms may have been enacted, but their only effects have been lower credit ratings for millions of individuals, consolidation in the credit card industry, and very nearly the elimination of free checking. Their bonuses, default rates, and penalty charges remain largely intact, and even the seemingly worthwhile aspects of that legislation has now been totally circumvented by clever banking lawyers. The obscene bonuses and perilous derivitave markets remain intact, unfettered by any sensible regulation.

These promises nominally passed, sure. His bat came into contact with the ball, but the result was not base hits or home runs. They were all foul balls except health care, which was an infield single that the other team is still screaming at the umpire about. He has now eliminated DADT, so he's got two hits in about 20 at bats, hitting .100 instead batting a goose egg. This would even embarrass some pitchers.

When I pointed some of the benefits to our economy that eliminating the Bush tax cuts would have achieved, Meier spouted a few parrot phrases, to wit:

>> Tax job producers and jobsdecline. If tax hikes had been instituted our economy would
>> now be hurtling over the cliff.

There is indeed a chance that the economy would have taken a minor hit if ALL the tax cuts had been allowed to expire. Working Americans have difficulty affording their necessary subsistence as it is, and that would have made life even more challenging. Letting the tax cuts expire on top earners, however, and the economy would not have felt it but the Treasury would have taken a step toward solvency far larger than any of these Republican program cuts could achieve even in theory.

But the canard "Tax job producers and jobs decline," remember, we're talking PERSONAL income taxes here. I find it somewhat whimsical to envision a CEO in a boardroom meeting telling his staff that they must now fire some workers because he didn't get as big a personal tax refund as he wanted.

The fact is, businesses hire workers based on their operational needs, not the rates at which their executives are taxed. The goal is generally to get more customers, which they can obtain when more of the "little people" have more money to spend and can then buy more of the products they make. Then they hire people because of the need for greater capacity.

Restore a proper progressivity to our marginal income tax rates and we might still pull out of this tailspin. Go the other way, as the Republican right-wing advocates, and we will just hit the ground harder and cause greater harm.

Then, when I pointed out the political benefits to Obama and congressional Democrats had we stood our ground on the budget and let the Republicans take the heat they would certainly have faced (and even the TEA Partiers in congress knew it) for shutting down the government, Meier unthinkingly retorted:

>> Woody, you used the wrong word...we badly need DECREASES in every area of spending.

This is the Republicans' new parrot phrase, where they link government spending decreases to an increase in employment. They think that by repeating it often enough, it will become inculcated in to the public's mindset that it becomes axiomatic and its truth or validity will no longer be subject to scrutiny.

But it is patently absurd. Increasing government spending DIRECTLY increases employment, in both the public and private sectors. On the other hand, cutting government spending DIRECTLY increases unemployment. It cuts government jobs, cuts the jobs of private contractors to the government, cuts jobs in the support structure for those laid-off people who can no longer buy new cars, buy new clothes, travel, etc.

I dare anyone to show me even one example of even one person who got a job because government spending was cut. I can show you a multitude of people who were put out of work as a direct result of cuts to government programs.

The claim that government spending cuts create jobs, whether in the private or the public sector, is absolutely 180 degrees backward. It's as perfectly false as a statement can be. It's the new "Big Lie."

Meier then goes through a brief spate or pure argumentativeness and ad hominem (my favorite being, "Woody, you're have trouble with the English language") thoroughly unsupported by reason or fact before trundling out our dear old Constitution. When I pointed out worthwhile benefits to real Americans that are created by many of the programs the Republicans are seeking to cut (like Social Security and Medicare, SEC enforcement), he bloviated:

>> If you would have even a rudimentary knowledge of the Constitution, you would know
>> that there are very few worthwhile programs that the government is allowed to fund ...
>> Where is this in the Constitution, Woody?

Hmmm. "Rudimentary knowledge." Like in knowledge of the Preamble, which states:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Congress can pass any law that serves these stated purposes. It is nonsensical to claim that these programs do not "promote the general Welfare." It is fairly clear that, for a large percentage of Americans, they help to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," and many of them, particularly Social Security, was enacted as part of Roosevelt's "New Deal" a set of programs passed in the face of increasingly dangerous Communist agitation, with the purpose to "insure domestic Tranquility."

And then there's that "establish Justice" thing. It is not justice to allow the rich to escape any burden of funding our government and society.

Clearly it was among our Founders' chief purposes to achieve a nation that would remain stable, fair and just. Republicans have forgotten this most basic and most grand among their purposes.

As to taking any specific program and asking, "Where is this in the Constitution?" well, although I know this kind of "thinking" is popular among conservatives these days, it is a genuinely stupid and pointless argument. For example, where is, say, the FAA in the Constitution? Do you think it should be eliminated because the Founders didn't specifically mention it there?

Have you ever actually READ the Constitution? Have you noticed things like the 16th Amendment? The "Commerce Clause?" Our entire Constitution was passed to empower the FEDERAL government to take whatever action, within certain amorphous boundaries, it deems necessary to uphold the goals stated in the Preamble. If we don't like what it's doing, our remedies can be taken on election day. It's such a darn shame they didn't foresee the combination of money and mass media, or the willingness of those we have elected to congress to be so quintessentially corrupt and willing to ignore the needs of our people.

Then when I mentioned that Obama's health care plan leaves us still at the mercy of private, for-profit health insurers and their armies of attorneys, where the government might have less incentive to deny needed care, he answered:

>> Wouldn't this be a welcomed change. Over the years, the government has proven it
>> ineptness at running anything.

Let me ask you this: When was the last time FedEx delivered anything, anywhere, for $0.44?

The Social Security Administration, considering its cashflow, is more efficiently run than any private company on this planet. The fact is, most government programs are far more highly efficient than most private industry. They've just had their budgets cut so deeply that they have to minimize that part of their programs that involve the public interface. SSI, the USPS, etc., would LOVE to hire more clerks to serve behind the counter or deal with various licensing tasks more rapidly but their budgets have been slashed and their hiring frozen.

Then, after I stated my opinion that Barack Obama is (at least so far) the worst DEMOCRATIC president since James A. Buchanan, Meier's childishness came to the fore and he blurted out:

>> Barack Obama is the worst president in our history.

This, of course, is patently absurd. Buchanan wasn't even the worst president in our history, although he may very well have been the worst Democrat.

I feel strongly that George W. Bush, by a very wide margin, is the worst president in our history. I am quite certain that, despite all Republican efforts to create a revisionist history in an attempt to whitewash his horrendous record, future historians will agree with me and will be nearly as unanimous on that point as historians can ever be.

Bush took took office during the longest consecutive period of unbroken prosperity we have ever known as a nation, when we were running a budget surplus well over two hundred times the size of the largest surplus we had ever before experienced. Unemployment was very near its theoretical minimum. Profits were high throughout American industry. The dollar was very strong, $0.91 to the Euro. Gasoline prices were less than a dollar a gallon nationwide. We knew peace throughout the world to an extent far more profound even than the one historians call the "Pax Romana." Our good offices were trusted to mediate international disputes. We were the unchallenged sole world superpower in every field of contention, most prominently in diplomacy, in economic matters, and in military might.

It took Bush less than a year to return us to deficit, to start a war (and then another shortly afterward, both of which still burn), to send unemployment skyrocketing, to throw us into recession, and to abandon our anti-terrorism programs and our peace processes in the Middle East, the abandonment of which cost us the World Trade Center -- on BUSH'S watch and as a direct result of BUSH'S policies reversing those of his predecessor. Before Bush left office, unemployment was double what it was and had become chronic, our diplomatic good offices had been rendered worthless by overt self-interest and bias, we were in two ruinous wars, gas cost $4.00/gal., it took $1.50 to buy a Euro, we had a runaway deficit at higher levels than we had ever previously known, our civil liberties had been systematically and seriously curtailed, and the economy was in a free-fall crash, the worst since the Great Depression and that we have yet to recover from.

I hope we never get a president again who causes as much harm to America and to the American people as George W. Bush.

The next worst president was probably Warren G. Harding, although Ulysses S. Grant certainly contends with him for second place. I once would have said that Nixon came in fourth, but I think he's dropped to fifth now, surpassed by Ronald Reagan, who deliberately set out to end the concept of the "career" and the "pension" for American workers, and whose war on organized labor is now drawing to a successful, but extremely unfortunate, close.
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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