Monday, December 10, 2012

And Steve continues his long, sad march... the Commie-pinko Left.

This piece ran today in my local paper, The Morning Call. I like the overall presentation, though they could've made the photo a tad bigger, don't you think?

It's generally bad form in opinion writing to begin with an apology or qualification, but I feel that I need to establish that I'm not quite as militant and extreme as this piece (which I do admit to writing) makes me sound. Nor am I stupid or totally myopicwhich is to say afflicted with Michael Moore Syndrome, wherein everyone who's not part of the solution is part of the problem. There are plenty of good, hard-working Americans who vote Republican because they believe in limited government (except when it comes to the military) and/or they think the GOP best represents their lens on certain social issues. So if you're a right-wing stalwart pulling down your $100K or $200K salary, this piece really isn't directed at you.* It's just that I'm so tired of hearing genuinely wealthy people and their GOP bootlickers whine about being misunderstood or persecuted by the masses.

And I'm sick and tired of all the disingenuous, intelligence-insulting bullshit about top-down job creation. If a billionaire in America 2012 rakes in an extra $10 million in profits, he doesn't double salaries or add a whole new division to his business. No. He buys his trophy wife a jet "just for her"** so that she doesn't have to tie up his to embark on that 2000-mile shopping expedition to Rodeo Drive. In that sense it's absurd, to me, for anyone to argue that today's Republican apologetics are sincere.

If the GOP wants to be the party of greed, fine. Be the part of greed, dammit, and don't paper over it. And don't you dare try to present your ongoing money-grabs in the guise of philanthropy or patriotism!

By the way, the piece as originally submitted included a reference to this Forbes article about the vast sums of money that the rich have squirreled away in offshore accounts. We're talking about $21 trillion here. (And remember, this is Forbes, not The Nation, so it's hard to see an antiestablishment motive in the report.) One has to feel that some of that money, I dare say a goodly amount, is the product of ill-gotten gains or marginal, off-the-grid activities; at the very least it was cleverly (illegally?) siphoned off and sheltered from taxation. Now, I gather from the Forbes piece that some of these wealth-hiders are international businesspeople, thus so not necessarily subject to U.S. laws. But even a fraction of that $21 trillion would help balance our budget. If we can't feasibly or legally seize that money, then maybe the Feds could do their due diligence, decide if the funds were accumulated in bad faith, and then exact some sizable levy against whatever wealth the subject individuals do maintain or declare here in the U.S.? I dunno, just  thought.

Theft is theft, people, whether you're holding up a 7-Eleven or evading your fair share of the tax burden.

* though I do hope you realize that if you're pulling down $100,000 or $200,000 in family income and you vote Republican, your party doesn't represent your interests; your party regards you as being just a step above the great unwashed 47% that Mitt Romney scorned in that infamous speech.
** by giving himself a bonus or writing it off to the business. 


roger o'keefe said...

Let me make sure I've got this straight, Steve. You want the federal gov't to just "seize" $21 trillion in holdings that wealthy people have accumulated offshore?

You have gone way beyond Left and left the Constitution in the rearview mirror.

Dimension Skipper said...

Reading your Mcall piece, I was reminded of an interesting NPR article I read on the weekend. Took me a while to find it again, but here it is...

Not Just Patriotic, U.S. Manufacturing May Be Smart

There's audio as well, but I didn't actually listen to that, so it's possible that may expand on the text. Not sure what it means... I'm not saying it's typical or representative of a trend or anything, just a "For your consideration" tangent.

a/good/lysstener said...

I've said before and I repeat here, I'm amazed at how selfish some people can be even when they have more money than God. I just read that Obamacare might cost people $63 a year to have pre-existing conditions covered, and some people are up in arms over this. It works out to less than $6 a month. I know many working people who pay almost that PER DAY for Starbucks and a croissant in the morning!


RevRon's Rants said...

I'm amazed at how the "trickle-down" disciples can actually keep a straight face when pushing their theories, given how they've been historically proved not only ineffective, but disastrous on a grand scale. I'm even more amazed at how many people swallow the whole sermon, despite the fact that it is certainly not in the best interests of anyone but the top 4% of the populace. I suspect that a significant part of its appeal to them is the chance to at least appear to be part of some "elite" group (which, in their minds, is one of those rare occasions where "elite" is not considered a pejorative).

I frankly have little use for anyone who would deny healthcare to ANYONE, simply because it might cost them an additional 14 cents to purchase a pizza. I'll gladly pay the extra pennies... just not to Papa John's.

Anonymous said...

One thing that amazes me about people who are amazed that some would support Republican policies is that they are usually much less critical of Democrats. These last few years the federal government has gone on a massive spending spree, and it wasn't like they were disciplined before that time, but they amped up the spending something fierce. And they want to spend even more running us into debt even more so. The red flags go up all over the place and people warn about the unsustainability of our spending, the crisis in entitlements, and the effect on the economy that going over the fiscal cliff would have Yet all the president has to do is say "Blame the Republicans" and a lot of people give him a big pass on his part in the problem. This is the problem with "Tax the Rich!" I'm sure they could pay more taxes, but I think it's clear too that that won't solve all of our problems, and too often we are told that we only need to "tax the rich more," when really government officials are just running from taking responsibility for runaway spending.

Steve Salerno said...

I have been very critical of certain Democratic policies through the years, especially back when I was writing regularly for the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. I do not disagree that there's way too much sloppiness in the administration of entitlement programs, and I also agree that for too many low-income Americans, the so-called safety net programs have become a generational way of life. We've made some strides in that area since Clinton's welfare reform, but I'm sure there's still much more to be done.

On the other hand, if we regard at least some percentage of the vast wealth accumulated by America's super-rich as "ill-gotten gains," then I'm not so sure that taxation (or some form of confiscation) would fail to solve the problem. Understand, I'm not suggesting that we simply take the money from the super-rich...and of course, the procedural and legal hurdles in such an approach would probably be insurmountable anyway. I'm just saying, if we use Goldman as a microcosm--and we assume that the billions it swindled from its investors on those four or five bad deals alone were just the tip of the iceberg...then how much money is there for the taking?

Or let me put it another way. If I'm a totally unethical businessperson, and through my unethical practices I am able to "cheat" my customers and my employees out of millions, thereby transferring their monies to my own account...why is that so different from the example of the guy who holds up a 7-Eleven? In both cases it's a form of stealing, in my view, even though technically one may be legal and the other technically a crime. It's like the $21 trillion maintained in offshore accounts in the Forbes article linked in this post. That's probably the tip of some iceberg, too. And don't you think that $21 trillion might go a long way toward solving our budget problems, if we could get restitution?

I realize that I'm getting pretty far afield here, but I'm writing this comment totally off-the-cuff in the middle of a busy workday, and I'm merely trying to throw ideas out there...thinking outside the box. Somehow over the past generation or so the top 5% have managed to accrue an obscene percentage of all the funds generated in this country. We need that money back.

RevRon's Rants said...

Like Steve, I've been critical of any policy I think is bad, and don't care where it originates. The plain fact, however, is that the curiously misnamed "conservative" policies that have been forwarded by the Republicans for the last decade or two have been fundamentally responsible for the dramatic increase in economic disparity between the wealthy and middle classes, not to mention the devastation from which our country is still struggling to emerge.

"Trickle down" is simply an unworkable economic ideology for all but the wealthiest citizens, yet it is the ideology that has been enshrined in Republican platforms for quite awhile. Our economy - which must be measured by factors beyond the Dow - is driven by consumers' purchase of goods and services. In an atmosphere of low consumer confidence, goods don't get sold, so companies produce less, and therefore need fewer employees. Layoffs follow, and consumer confidence sags even lower. And that confidence is not restored by reports of significant dividends paid on stocks, or by the exorbitant salaries and stock options paid to a minuscule number of executives in each company.

To exacerbate the problem, the financial industry has taken the country for a massive ride, using the bailout money they were given not to ease the availability of capital to borrowers, but to shore up their own bottom lines and cover their execs' bonuses.

The last administration sold the country multiple unfunded wars, while simultaneously giving a huge gift to the wealthiest citizens. Did those citizens put the windfall to work, creating jobs? No. They set the precedent which the financial industry would emulate later, when their mismanagement drove them to beg the government for relief.

I agree that some entitlements need to be dramatically cut, but unlike the Republicans, I would base the privatization of who gets cut upon actual need, rather than upon the recipients' potential donations to a campaign effort. The subsidies, grants, and incentives we give to the most profitable companies cost the taxpayers far more than the programs that respond to the actual needs of our most desperate citizens. Certainly, we need to clean up the system and eliminate the abuse, but let's start with the most egregious and expensive abuses as well as those that cost us far less. I don't think that is too difficult to comprehend, but it does require a fundamental grasp of basic math and economics, as well as a genuine commitment to the well-being of our country, over that of one's party and donors. I fully believe that the representatives of both parties possess the basic knowledge. The commitment, however, is another matter altogether, most especially where the self-professed "conservatives" are concerned..

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, that was masterfully and often poetically put. If only more people took the time to think these things through, rather than reacting in knee-jerk, partisan fashion, we might have betters solutions from the powers-that-be.
And I include myself in that critique; I have tended to get very angry and reactionary in recent times. But I kinda feel like enough is enough. I am so sick of the self-serving rationalizations and politicized defenses offered by the likes of Sean Hannity et al...

RevRon's Rants said...

Thank you, Steve. I do want to issue a correction to my post. The line that read "I would base the privatization..." should have read "I would base the prioritizing..." Damned autocorrect!

I think that many people get confused when the subject of the country's debt comes up, simply because they liken national debt to personal debt, which is clearly an apples to oranges comparison. Like it or not, our country functions on a Keynesian economic model, where debt is an essential element, rather than a looming threat. At the end of WWII, for example, our national debt was staggering, yet our economy was robust and thriving. There were, of course, doomsayers at that time as well, predicting dire circumstances if extreme austerity measures weren't taken to bring down that debt. What actually reduced our indebtedness was the implementation of large-scale programs (with correspondingly large expenditures) that pumped dollars into the real engine of our economy - the middle class.

At the end of the Great Depression, those same doomsayers were demanding a massive reduction in government spending, claiming that FDR's programs would bankrupt the country. FDR bowed to the pressure and began cutting back on many of his programs, and the almost immediate effect was that the country fell back into a severe recession, almost as bad as the Depression from which it had begun to recover. Were it not for our entry into WWII (and the ensuing increase in spending), most economists are certain that the country would have dropped back into a full-blown depression, possibly worse than the previous one.

Bottom line is that even a rudimentary understanding of macroeconomics, balanced by an objective study of history, would serve to calm the nerves of the populace, and take the wind out of the doomsayers' sails. Even if one lacks an understanding of macroeconomic principles, the fact is that the economy has historically fared better under "tax & spend" Democratic leadership than under "conservative" Republican leadership. And historical fact is pretty difficult to spin away.