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Don’t Mess With Taxes

16 Apr

No, that’s not a dyslexic typo.  But as for lapses of logic, spelling gaffes, general bouts of stupidity, and Palin-esque aposiopeses, please read on…

The tea party (TP) “spatriots” came to town today — on yellow school buses no less — and were met overwhelmingly by a counter-protest pro-union contingent which effectively drowned out their “drown it in a bathtub” Grover Norquist message.  But rather than tell, I’ll show:

Paid for by the Americans for Prosperity — a groupthink tank astroturf institution sired by none other than oil billionaire David Koch* and Richard (I swear I’m not making up his last name) Fink, one of whose critical missions is to destroy unions — a few hundred braved the snow and sleet to bear signs reading “Support Walker” with the Americans for Prosperity sponsor conspicuously emblazoned.  That’s the kind of parody I would come up with, where that “b(r)ought to you by [insert corporate sponsor/puppeteer here]” byline is attached like a price tag next to a candidate’s name.  But they brandished these signs with zero sense of irony or self-consciousness — they being (it appeared) real average middle class Wisconsinites who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid tea and can regurgitate the day is long that it’s public workers, unions, Democrats, etc., that are draining the nation’s accounts.

This is the most sinister implement of the so-called Tea Party: goaded and misinformed by the vested interests of anti-tax conglomerations and corporate sympathizers, middle class Americans are pitted against themselves.  And the poor?  Please!  The message is they should go do something anatomically impossible.  The poor do not exist in the myopic world-view of the TP.  Or in Walker’s budget; for despite campaign promises pledging otherwise, Walker will effectively be raising taxes — but only on the poor.  You don’t see too many folks of color at TP events.  Which is entirely understandable — I mean, given all that 18th Century colonial costuming, who’d want to show up in rags and shackled?

*  David Koch was one of the major campaign donors to Governor Scott Walker last year.  A major donor to Americans for Prosperity is ExxonMobil, so please, please, please, when you can exercise your consumer discretion, do not buy gas from ExxonMobil.  (This should be obvious, especially after their escapades in pseudoscience attempting to discredit global warming.)

For more on the relationship between the Koch Bros and their tread with tea parties, take care to read this excellent consummate piece in The New Yorker.  (It’s long, but well worth saving and setting aside for more leisurely reading.)

Let’s take a moment here to reflect and laugh.  Always reliable for both, Monty Python provides an illustrative moment in Life of Brian:

Right?  This is the point.  If brevity be the source of wit, then satire is the silly trifle that perfectly punctures a self-serious float.

But some things speak for themselves and are so abundantly dumb that you couldn’t make it up if you tried.  I point your attention to some of the homemade signs I saw today…

“‘Duh…winning’ — Charlie Sheen”

“Fredom [sic] Isn’t Free.”

“Fox News Tells the Truth.  Liberal Dumocrats [sic] Can’t Handel [sic] It.”

So now quoting Charlie Sheen is wise either to get your point across or give credibility to it?  I guess with a desire to cut all taxes, including those that go to schools, goes one of those bedrock lessons learned in school: how to spell the very language the TP so defends and demands be nationalized (about the only thing they think should be nationalized).  (Or maybe the Handel spelling was a punny reference to the composer’s “water  music” and the whole drowning theme…)  And since when did network news become partisan?  Many signs — also funded & distributed by Americans for Prosperity — exhorted not to believe in the “liberal media.”  Seriously, what liberal media — and where do I go to find it?  (I’m kidding.  I mean this in the sense of “Do I support third party candidates?  Sure, but hell, I’d settle for a second political party!”)

Two other signs snagged my attention:  a humongous one that read “Collective Bargaining Bullying.  Stop the unions!” with the age-old image of solidarity and the left next to it, the clenched fist.  This was an act either of incredible unintelligibility or basic co-optation.  The other read “We the People, not We the unions.”  Really?  Because I’m pretty sure that the rest of the preamble’s first line continues “in order to form a more perfect union…”  For folks who trot out the U.S. Constitution faster than a preacher thumps a Bible, this act of cognitive dissonance is quite incredible to me.

Last but not least, the now de rigueur “Don’t Tread on Me” image.  This always makes me chuckle when I reflect how the word “tread” means both to step on, to have sex with, to encroach upon another’s rights, and to keep one’s head above water.  Leave it to TP’ers to conclude that librarians and clerk typists are stepping on them!  “Don’t tread on me”?  Fine, but don’t take away the rights to collectively bargain of others, all right?!  ‘Cause all that Americans for Prosperity aspires to, in tread with Scott Walker and anti-tax TP’ers the country over, is to drown what they see as government, and with it hardworking public workers who teach their kids, keep their drinking water safe, pave and plow roads, etc etc, all of whom are busting their butts to keep their heads above water and not being drowned by this despicable lack of gratitude.  What have the Romans ever done for us indeed.

On the other side, my three favorite signs in opposition were: “Tea parties are for little girls with imaginary friends”; “In Wisconsin, we drink beer, not tea”; and “Unions make Americans with Prosperity.”  Amen brothers and sisters!

It must be noted that the belle of this witches’ sabbath ball was Sarah Palin, oh sure then you betcha, eh.  It’s not worth the time it would take for me to type or you to read her comments.  What I personally find mentionable are two little things:

1)  Her wardrobe and overall coiffed appearance.  She is no more a mama grizzly or even average hockey mom any more than John Wayne was a cowboy.  She’s makeover run amok, period.

2)  She did have this to say in her signature faux-folk pandering: “What better place than the home of the Super Bowl champs to tell [President Obama], game on!”  Ahem, those would be the only publically owned sports franchise in the entire country; a team whose name refers to blue collar union jobs (meat packers); an entity of professional athletes who all belong to the players’ union in the first place — the representative of whom is the very quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.  And it was the players’ union who came out that first week of the rallies back in February and went on record to say this: “The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.”  Furthermore, current and former members of the Packers went even further, criticizing the governor and State Legislature for stripping the rights of public workers.

Another demonstration of unselfconscious irony.

On the subjects of fathers’ fathers, mine worked for Ma Bell in New York City as a line repairman.  Based on that blue collar, union job alone, he could afford a house in Queens where lived his wife and two children — my aunt and father — as well as a summer home on Long Island.  (Yes, on, not in.)  This is positively inconceivable today.

Moreover, I grew up in one of the first planned communities in the country: Radburn in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

How ridiculously cute is this?  Is it any wonder I'm a bicyclist?

A gated community this was not by any means.  However, each household did pay an additional property tax to the one already levied by the greater town (in NJ called a borough) surrounding it, Fair Lawn.  One did this in order to receive a wide-range of benefits that today seem almost utopian: two swimming pools, pre-K day care, a community center, library, rec hall, and community theater (all in one building called The Grange, a reflection of the Garden State’s bygone day of farmsteads), a summer camp, public parks, a soccer field, baseball diamonds, an actual archery field (!?!), so forth and so on.  Everyone had to pay into this system, but it was applied on a sliding scale assessed by your taxes.  In other words, a family of five renting an apartment paid a different amount than say an elder caring for her grandchild who owned her own home — yet both received the same services and benefits.  In other other words, this was a progressive system at its heart and soul.  Even if you had no children or your children long ago grew up and moved on, you still paid into it.  Why?  Because back when you did directly benefit from the system, others first helped provide for it; and so too will it be your turn, by and by, to contribute to it for others to benefit.  It’s cyclical.  It’s saying grace.  I know this is madness to some who think it’s crazy to pay for something that no longer directly benefits you, but to me this is what community is all about.  Anything less than this is sheer self-centered selfishness.  We do not stop caring about clean rivers and lakes and oceans just because we no longer swim or never wanted to in the first place.  The world is a whole lot bigger than us ourselves — and we should be bigger than that petty attitude.

No man or woman is an island; we are an archipelago of families woven together into the collective fabric.  Taxes are the price tags for the cost of living in a civilized society.  Don’t like that?  Move to a backwater wood shack in bumfuck, a ranch shanty in eastern Montana, or a plantation in whip-smart Mississippi.  But not where actual people actually live.  No one likes paying taxes, obviously.  Yet we do it because it’s part and parcel of participating in society; it’s what rational, responsible grownups do.  You can’t have it both ways — any more than you can gorge on ice cream and bacon every day but still expect to have a perfect body.  But what Americans for Prosperity are pushing is imbecilic shibboleths that do little more than inspire the basest impulses in us, whisper in our ears false messages like siren songs lulling us not to dump tea overboard but to jump out ourselves and abandon ship.  We’ll be all alone and adrift out there — and then we’ll find out who’s treading on whom.  Meanwhile, guess who will be taking over the wheel?  The very same plutocratic lunatics who founded and fund these tea party protests.

The word is called wedge; that’s all this is.  And decent folks are fawning for and falling over these tired tirades like converts revved up in a Revival.  Except there’s no soul, and there sure ain’t no body politic to it.

Again the ghost of historical irony rears its undeterred head: the real tea party — the original one in Boston in the 18th Century — was not a complaint against excessive taxation (at most the colonists were charged 1/50th, or 2 percent, of what their British peers were paying); rather, the tea party was a protest against a tax exemption for the British East India Company, the then largest company in the world, and the imposition of a monopoly that would do to colonial tea sellers what WalMart has done to Ma & Pop shops.

That average working (or not) citizens are doing the bidding of the greedy rich in the name of patriotism is a distortion of history and a perversion of reality.  Let’s remember also that our first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, failed because it had no way to create revenue, i.e., collect taxes.  Our Constitution was created in large part in order to simply pay for all the wonderful items inherent in its beautiful prose.  Paying taxes is patriotic.

It remains yet one more irony — which is to say amnesia — that the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, famously wrote that “the revenue of the state is the state.”  If only modern conservatives remembered that.

P.S.  Where in the hell was the Tea Party before Barack Obama?  No, seriously — can anyone answer this for me?  Remember, those eight long, hard, horrible years of Bush II, when government spending and the debt absolutely skyrocketed and we fought two unfunded wars and began the TARP banker/broker roll out?  When the PATRIOT Act actually did invade the lives and privacy of American citizens?  When nothing was still done — just for longer — about immigration?  When tax cuts favored the rich with a windfall?  When No Child Left Behind was the sine quo non of Big Gov’t telling the local level how to do things (like run schools)?  If the lead-up to the 2008 election was lipstick on a pig, then the aftermath of it is chauvinistic pigs in three-corner hats and silly stockings.

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6 responses to “Don’t Mess With Taxes

  1. scottsinope

    April 17, 2011 at 11:56 am

    In a lot of ways you missed the point of what the TPs are saying in their signs and slogans, whether it was intentional or not I can’t begin to know.

    You point out a lot of facts (and yes most of it is factual), but the problem I have is the same– where is your solution to the economic problems and dilemmas people, towns, counties, states and the US are facing right now? You have to cut spending. If you are against tearing apart the unions to save on employment and benefits costs, then I pray you, tell me on whose back are you going to lay the problem on? Remember, most unionized public employees pay less for better benefits and make more per hour worked (not yearly) then their private counterpart. Start somewhere. Do I think the TP’s are going to far? Yes, but you have to tear down before we can afford to build up.

     
    • t corcoran bauer

      April 18, 2011 at 12:49 am

      Hey Scott,

      Thanks for reading my two cents and caring enough to respond to them. Also, I want to thank you for being evenhanded and civil; I appreciate the dignity and wish to honor it in kind.

      I’d like to begin by saying that I invite a respectful (i.e., non-hysterical) debate about this, open-ended. I’d like also to disclaim that economics is not my background, but it would be both naive and remiss of me to prettily distance myself from that elephant in the room for the sake of more flowery prose and heart-strung sentiment.

      So to begin answering your questions, the most immediate (but not exclusive) response is tax the rich. Maybe you expected me to say that. But it’s true — the country needs to get over this irrationally construed taboo and past the empty rhetoric that doing so would “kill jobs” or “penalize success.” No one can rationally argue that those who can afford the most in our society are actually paying for it. If this smacks of noblesse oblige, then so be it; the opposite is the most venal greed wherein, like a drug addiction, too much is never enough.

      But I want to be more thorough and nuanced than the mere bumper sticker slogan of “tax the rich.”

      So how about at least stop lowering the tax rate on capital gains, if not actually increasing it?
      Actually enforce anti-trust laws.
      Actually regulate industries, particularly energy and financial institutions, and provide transparency.
      Stop borrowing money to fund unnecessary wars, not to mention stop waging ill-defined and unwinnable ones. With that, begin closing our bases around the planet.
      Where feasible, reduce the Dep’t of Defence’s budget — without laying off staff. The U.S. spends just shy of 50 percent of the rest of the world combine’s defense funds allocation. That’s simply incomprehensible. This is neither the time nor place to debate what I personally would describe as our national bellicose predilection, even addiction to armed conflict, but I think most reasonable people can agree that contributing to half of what every other nation on the planet combined spends on their defense budgets is just staggering/
      Quit the space missions. I mean, really? The moon? Mars? Or is our approach both to America and Planet Earth itself not unlike our planned obsolescence model: throw it away and find something new?

      Again, this is a humble beginning. I know that true solutions will be more complex and more complicated.

      That said, I absolutely refuse to accept that it is public workers’ or unions’ faults for the financial fix the nation is in. Asides from mere mathematical incompetence and mean spiritedness, it just doesn’t make sense. Today, barely one in seven workers in Wisconsin are unionized, amongst whom almost half work in the public sector. This is the lowest number since 1964, at which point one out of three nonfarm workers in Wisconsin were unionized. That’s an astonishing diminution, though it’s nothing compared to private sector union workers alone in the state. In 1983, of the 1.64 million private sector workers in the Dairy State 19.8 percent of them were union members. In 2010, only 8.4 percent of 2.13 million were. (By the by, these numbers are coming from here: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_fe67703e-6855-11e0-9b38-001cc4c03286.html)

      Unless one is partisan or ideologically tendentious, everyone knows that unions might as well be put on the endangered species list. Yet the mainstream media, never mind the rattled sabers of Fox News or The Wall Street Journal, are more and more amenable to the shrill and hollow talking points that unions have too much power. How? Where? This is like saying someone who eats less and less somehow gains more and more weight. It just doesn’t hold.

      The Wisconsin Retirement System is fully funded and is one of the most solvent in the nation. This isn’t my opinion; it’s what the Pew Center determined. In fact, if it weren’t for the recession, the WRS would have actually had too much money in it. Is this the reason the state faces a deficit, when employees pay into this via deferred compensation — money that’s earned but put aside? Regardless, the heads of WEAC and AFSCME both conceded to pay more for healthcare and pensions, but still this was not good enough.
      And even though Walker just testified last Thursday that stripping public workers of collective bargaining and requiring unions to recertify annually does nothing for state debt, still he is relentless. That’s what sticks in the craw. It’s ideology, pure and simple.

      I wholly welcome any responses you may have. Again, thanks for responding.

       
  2. scottsinope

    April 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Sorry it took so long for my response.

    “Tax the rich.” Everyone says it, no one understands it. If you changed the taxable amount of income for the top 10% from 20% to 100% (meaning Jobs, Gates, ect. are flat broke that year) it would net us less then 1% or our current shortfall for each year’s budget. It simply doesn’t make a difference. Although I am not against a tax increase (across the board) because I understand the necessity, one should not overestimate the paltry sum of money we would gain from it.

    On to your thought that taxing the rich would not effect jobs ect. I disagree.

    My first argument is simple- have you ever worked for a poor person? Personally, I have only been employed by the wealthy- and I sometimes have trouble getting paid by them.

    My second argument brings to light a lot of the problems inherent in any economic system- the people in power who are used to a certain lifestyle will retain their lifestyle regardless of outside economic forces. To put it bluntly- if widget factory owner Mrs. Smith makes $10million/year and you change her tax burden or increase the amount she must pay in benefits or decrease the amount she can sell a widget for, I can guaranty you that she will still have her $10million at the end of the year. The shortfall will be made-up by the consumers (you and me), her employees (you and me), and in reduced charitable donations (God forbid, you and me) and in reduced usage or payments to outside vendors (you and me at our other job.) In shorter- the rich will maintain their level of income and the rest will bear the burden.

    The government attacking businesses, the rich, wall st., ect. always comes down to the Swahili proverb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers most.”

    Your next point of enforcing regulations: I’m sorry to be the one to point this out to you, but outside of some rogue industries in the early 1900’s, historically, government regulation and involvement created increases in consumer costs (costs to you and me) as well as increasing the economic burden of the government. Outside of Wall St. (where regulations are strict and enforced) the free market did a wonderful job regulating banks and the insurance industry- until Pres. Carter decided that banks had to lend to people who could not reasonably repay a loan and regulated the industries (which snowballed into our housing disaster some 30 years later.)

    Onto the Unions. I agree that they are not responsible for the financial mess we are in, but much like raising taxes, their eventual abolishment is a necessary evil now that our problems have escalated to this level. Also, as a former union member, I would like to point out that (at least in my case) they do nothing for the average worker and ONLY do what is best for the top brass’s wallet and would gladly throw us all to the wolves if we would still pay our dues.

    The rest of that paragraph you have written I agree with, not in totality, but enough to stay any argument I have for the sake of “six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.”

     
    • t corcoran bauer

      April 26, 2011 at 12:14 am

      Scott,

      Thanks for your provoking responses; I appreciate and welcome your two cents. I too apologize with the delayed reply; it’s been an unusually busy last week.

      I did make a point of saying I was being droll when I burped “tax the rich” as a solution. That said, by “rich” I most certainly mean corporations and businesses, not merely wealthy families. If you can provide an analysis or link to a source for your 1 percent figure, I’d be grateful. I don’t think anyone realistically concludes that we will be paying off the entirety of the budget, so discounting what real good a truly progressive tax system would do seems extreme and baby-with-the-bathwater (so to speak). I think everyone recognizes that there’s no silver bullet; a problem this complex and unwieldy will require a combination on ingenuities. But dismissing what if for nothing else is a moral imperative – demanding that the wealthiest give the most back – seems to me only to further enable this discrepancy.

      I don’t know if it’s a new trend of talking points that’s getting more and more traction, but I keep hearing about how nobody’s ever been hired for a job by a poor person. This is patently self-evident, but evades the deeper point. There’s the category of small business owners and then the national conglomerate. I’m not saying that relatively small fry local businesses should be further taxed; I’m arguing that the system of big business holding citizens in some kind of hostage state of bartered collateral wherein it threatens to leave the state or cut jobs unless the local government cuts its taxes needs to stop. Maybe I’m missing your meaning, but to conflate the two again seems only to perpetuate the evasion of the moral imperative of wealth.

      Secondly, if we are accept this oft-repeated talking point about no one being hired by poor people, then it would do us all well to keep in mind that (1) not all rich people hire non-rich people and (2) some rich people’s only relation to business ownership is in their stock in it. A wealthy widow or heir may receive oodles in dividends, which asset, if sold, is taxed as a capital gain at the low-low rate of 15 percent. Now, she or he or whoever is most likely selling said asset via a broker, who because s/he is actually earning an income (as opposed to living lazy off of largesse) is taxed at the personal income level of let’s say 25 percent (progressive rate), on top of the federal payroll tax (which is an additional 15 percent — or at the very least half of that, as the brokerage/employer is supposed to pick up the other half). The question remains: why should someone making say $50,000 a year pay upwards of 40 percent and someone who is so rich as not to even have to work for a living be taxed at nearly 1/3 that rate? That widow or lucky son is not creating jobs or hiring people; they’re living off of profits made by working people.

      And for all of this, conservatives are red in the face about eliminating the tax on capital gains!

      Furthermore, I think that on the local level we would all do well to implement more cooperative business models and fewer top-down hierarchies. It might still not be a poor person hiring you, but neither would s/he be inequitably rich.

      I absolutely agree with you, albeit regrettably, that the rich will try to find a way to escape increased taxes. This is a truism borne out in countless examples, but one that often is forgotten or seldom anticipated; your insightful candor is dead-on. The rich can afford the most duplicitous lawyers who know how to and make a living off of exploiting all the loopholes and tweaking the system in a way that happens to be perfectly legal, though wholly immoral. But again, I don’t think it prudent just to dismiss the imperative of asking the wealthiest to return in kind; if nothing else, it encourages the behavior. The point I think is to be neither naïve about how this will plug all the shortfalls – it won’t – nor so cynical as to discredit what good can come of it. There probably always will be a kind of cat-and-mouse chase between Mr Millionaire and the Taxman, but that just means that the latter ought to better permanently close the gaps that are manipulated by the former.

      We’re in strong disagreement about regulation, but that might be better to address in a separate response. I would seriously love to believe that the necessity of regulating businesses is a lesson in history from the unbridled abuses of the early 20th Century, but that to me is unconscionably ridiculous. Again, maybe we’re not talking about the same thing here, but may I just refer to the anniversary of the worst work-related environmental disaster in this country’s history to illustrate the incumbency of regulation?

      As for your comment about regulations resulting in an increased cost shouldered by schmucks like us. Well, yeah, because nothing matters to an industry beyond profit. Say a business is required by an environmental regulation to treat animals more humanely or install a less polluting mechanism, that will cost the business money to implement. And since the golden rule of profit is “too much is never enough,” they will pass those costs down to us. This is the nature of greed. But this doesn’t mitigate the moral good of keeping something in check. Are we seriously just going to hand over all the controls and say, “Now, we trust y’all will be doing the right thing, right?” Come on!

      Unions, lastly. This too probably calls for a separate email. I strongly disagree with you about abolishing them for more reasons than I can list here. I’m sure you will agree that unions came into existence for a reason – namely the abuses of capital/management, the exploitation of labor/workers. Why would we turn the clock back half a century? Are we so gullible as to think the systemic nature of overwrought disenfranchisement would not rear its hideous head again? Why wouldn’t it? It’s in the nature of workplace motivation.

      Also, like it or not, without unions, please tell me where the countervailing voice to corporate “free speech” (i.e., unlimited money to political campaigns) in the wake of Citizens United will come from?

      I’d like to share with you a personal story about what unions do for their members – and it’s not about being redistributed to the top brass. My girlfriend’s sister teaches high school in Rhinelander. The editor of the local newspaper went off on a weird power trip of paranoia trying to sniff out a story where there was none. Because other schools closed during the first week of protests in Madison due to so many teachers calling in sick, this Rhinelander editor found a conclusion in search of a problem. The Rhinelander HS did not close a single day. While some teachers did call in sick that week, the amount of absences that week was exactly the same amount on average as that week in February 2010 as February 2009 as February 2008, etc. In short, no different; ergo, no story. But that wasn’t good enough. The editor filed a FOIA request to publish the names of all the teachers who called in sick that week AND what their salaries are. Why? You got me – “guilt” by association? Bear in mind that it takes 4 hours to drive from Rhinelander to Madison one way, right? How many teachers actually drove 8 roundtrip hours to attend a single rally? None, that’s how many – not one. One teacher called in sick because she was. Another because his wife just had a baby. My girlfriend’s sister, what kind of sinister leftist unionizing no good was she up to? She was in the emergency room; she had a miscarriage. To cut to the conclusion, it was their union that supported all of them both morally and financially: they were going to fight this in court, and the union was to pay all the legal fees. (In the end, the editor backed down, finally accepting that there was no story and that this would have looked very unprofessional.) Before this, she was a lifelong critic of unions and begrudged belonging to one, thought it a compulsory waste of her money. Now she gets it and appreciates being a member.

      I have many similar stories. So many people do not understand what unions really do. Are their advantages taken in some unions? Yes, absolutely; only a fool would say no. Should there be selective reform? Yup. But to tear down the entire institution, which is the very bastion of workers’ rights, this would be a great travesty.

      The point of all this tax talk is not a silver bullet “solution.” I agree that taxing every definition of “rich” still would make but a dent in the total deficit. But that is not a sound argument for doing nothing or scaling back a progressive system. We need a new form of taxing in the first place. What we have today is woefully outdated, impractical, and doomed to fail. It will require a lot — from everyone. But let’s stop coddling the wealthiest amongst us; it’s ridiculous pandering.

      Thanks for writing and thanks for reading!
      Timothy

       
  3. Patrick

    June 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Timothy:

    How is it civil or openminded to suggest as you did on C.P. that republicans are immune to reason? Perhaps you are the one who is not listening.

    I read the post above, and I think Scott is very kind about suggesting there is a lot of reason there. I didn’t see it between all the personal attacks and warmed over rhetoric about the Koch brothers. It is hypocritical to suggest that people attending the TEA party rally are drones of the Koch Brothers or that, because the rally was sponsored by AFP that it is somehow less legitimate than rallies planned by AFLCIO or WEAC. A little more respect would go a long way toward broadening your political thinking and perhaps making you a stronger writer. In the case of rallies sponsored by both groups, people cared enough about the issues to come to Madison. Who are you to dis them in such small language?

    I think you should study Scott’s responses more carefully; he is not B.S.ing you, and the facts are clear. We already have a progressive tax code, as he notes and the wealthy pay staggering tax burdens already. But also remember this: corporations pay no taxes, only people do. So when you say “conglomerations” you really mean consumers and really, the poor. Secondly, all individuals who make any money from corporations in wages or capital gains are already taxed. That “fat cat” CEO pays income tax, so does his assistant. So a corporate income tax is really a “double-dip.” It is taxing the same income twice. What more do you want?

    As for collective bargaining. Why should I have “rights” not available to federal employees? Look, I’m a real person, a teacher. I will be taking one in the “behind” here, and it will hurt. But my emotional response to this is different than my logical response which is that these actions are necessary for the state. I read your anecdote about the realative who had a miscarriage–and as people close to me have gone through that I sympathize. But two of my siblings have lost jobs in the past two years. What is it like lying awake trying to figure out how to pay the bills? Or telling the little girl there will be no more piano lessons and seeing her worry? Perhaps this is the narrative the republicans are listening to. Corporations are in business to make money and only need people to serve that end. This is reality. IF you want people to work, accept the realities of the world. Profit is good because only profit drives employment–and in the end taxes.

    So all said, I’m happy to keep my job and stop paying worthless union bosses who just want to play power–like the Koch brothers. I’m smart enought and determined that if education becomes a bad deal, I’ll find another line of work.

     
    • t corcoran bauer

      June 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm

      Patrick,

      I appreciate your time and response, I do.

      I want to be very clear about something from the get-go. I do not consider myself a partisan person. My probable voting for a Democratic candidate often is the lesser of two evils, thanks to our regrettable winner-takes-all system. But it’s virtually impossible not to become somewhat affected by partisan thinking when Republicans — and to keep this simple and specific, I’m referring to those in government here in Wisconsin — have been so utterly conformist and silent with roughly 99 percent of Walker’s agenda. That’s what I was referring to. Patrick, I have sit through hours and hours and hours of hearings — enough to claim whole entire days — watching hearings, both physically attending them in the Capitol or at home via WisconsinEye. That’s my evidence for sounding unreasonable for making statements about Republicans. Morality doesn’t matter. Basic math doesn’t matter. They don’t listen. It’s called a hearing because you’re supposed to do just that: hear what your colleagues are saying and the testimonies of individuals speaking. Whether it’s curbing collective bargaining or charter schools or voter ID or public financing or Planned Parenthood (just to take a few examples) the absolute absence of reason is found when no testimony, no counterpoint, no separate consideration, makes a single dent in the hellbent manner of a predetermined agenda. It makes it a farce of the process. Whether it was a 12-4 vote in the JFC or 60-38 in the Assembly, the Republicans have gone along with everything Walker has proposed with the exception of recycling and SeniorCare — which are welcome deviations, of course; but otherwise they’re just rubber stamps. But essentially it’s all a foregone conclusion, where open-mindedness has been told to go to die, and bogus talking points rule the day.

      And this isn’t about not voting the way I want them to vote. It’s about evidence-based no-brainers. Like why spend over $7 million to “fix” something for which there is no evidence that it’s broken in the first place? Or why defund public health centers that may individually have nothing to do with abortion, but because they’re affiliated with one somewhere that does perform terminations, even though this will make it harder for some folks in certain parts of the state to receive care? Or, let’s just get this out and center, why ban collective bargaining when (a) the unions all conceded from the very beginning that they’d be willing to pay more and (b) the governor testified that it did nothing to balance the state budget?

      This is what makes me a reactionary partisan.

      I don’t want to belabor an endless back-and-forth either about the tea party people or taxation. All I care to mention is that if you are honestly comparing Americans for Prosperity — founded and funded by Koch, and has no interest in real working families — with the teachers’ union in Wisconsin…wow, I think that is so fundamentally erroneous as to be a waste of time to discuss. There have been two tea party rallies at the Capitol, both sponsored by Koch, both literally transporting the supporters via bus. That’s why it’s called astroturf, as opposed to grass roots. The spirit and dedication of the protesters at an AFP-sponsored event compared to let’s say WEAC is like one block of households who bought ice cream from a store and are selling it for twice the price and a whole community who made it from scratch and are donating it on a sliding scale.

      As for taxes, I’m open to looking at something you might want to send illuminating me about the staggering tax burdens the wealthy already pay. And corporations do pay income tax on capital gains. I don’t understand your double dipping point. The concept of “double taxation” has been a ballyhoo for the rich or aspiring-to-be-rich for a long time. First of all, I pay more at my $11/hr manual labor job than General Electric or Verizon did. They are not unique. Secondly, about 2/3 of dividends are paid to tax-exempt entities like pension funds or other forms of retirement.

      It has become my experience that only conservatives (including conservative economists) think that the rich already pay too much, whereas liberals and non-partisans recognize that the system is tilted terribly and that America is in a second gilded age, like the end of the 19th Century. If there’s something conservatives and liberals should agree on, it’s the staggering inequity of wealth distribution in this country. Democrats are to be blamed for this also. Regardless, part of Walker’s budget specifies $46 million in tax cuts for businesses over the next two years and then $40 million annually after that. Of course we have to cut the Earned Income Credit, cut W2, cut Medicaid, cut public school funding, cut public workers’ pay! This is called “combined reporting,” an idea initially proposed (not opposed) by none other than Gov. Tommy Thompson back in the ’90s. If you think I’m a wild-eyed liberal who’s making this up, read this article: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_25dd20d6-727f-11e0-a69d-001cc4c03286.html

      The rich don’t create jobs; they horde obscene amounts of wealth. Seriously, compare the jaw-dropping profits each quarter compared to the near-nothing change in the unemployment rate. The wealthiest amongst us are all but literally sitting on billions of dollars in profits, yet that humongously unimaginable amount of wealth is not resulting in the creation of new jobs. Jobs will be created by and by because that’s the nature of cycles. “Job creation” or “Wisconsin is open for business” are nothing more than euphemistic shibboleths for “undistributed profits” and “tax breaks and deregulation.” Why does the middle class fall hook, line, and sinker for the wealthiest elite’s transparently doublespeak talking points and become their most hopeless apologists? This is like a prostitute attacking a feminist while championing her pimp. It’s insane and asinine.

      Collective bargaining. Why do so many people want to go backwards in time? Look, I noted in your comments on the other blog that you’re a teacher. My father retired after 40 years of teaching in public school. Two of my aunts, an uncle, and many of my closest friends all are teachers. I worked in a school district as a para for years back in my twenties. So I thank you for what you do. And I have heard (though only from conservatives and Republicans) umpteen times that there’s no mention of “rights” in either the state or federal constitutions, to which my response is “so what?” Seriously, that it’s not enshrined on paper doesn’t make it any less ethically or morally so. I mean the Joint Chiefs of Staff are not in the constitution, but they’re a mainstay of the commander-in-chief’s day to day. And just because federal employees don’t have the right to collectively bargain, why shouldn’t states have their own individual systems? (Reminder: lest Wisconsin loses $60 million in federal money for public transportation, some workers must retain their collective bargaining. And I guess you get to keep it, too, if you endorsed and donated to Walker’s campaign, as is the case for the cops and firefighters.) So I would love to know how an employee who is concerned with her safety or working a double-shift or harassed by her boss who now will not be able to do anything about that is an action necessary for the state. That’s what collective bargaining does.

      On the other hand, my mother is a nurse, and she has been a member of her union for the last 19 years, out of which cumulative dues she’s paid tens of thousands. She’s gotten the shaft from management time and again, while her coworkers have been summarily laid off. Her union has done virtually nothing for her, which has been despicable. That said, I still support unions and a worker’s right to form one, and a worker’s right to sit at the table with management.

      “Union bosses”? Come on, man! Really? Who are these puppeteering union bosses people keep talking about these days? Have you sat in a union meeting or been part of a vote? If you’re going to equate “union boss” with David Koch, at least do us the benefit of specifying that Joe or Jane Union Boss endorses political candidates whose platforms are pro-worker and progressive, whereas David Koch cuts a check to someone who’s gonna slash taxes and deregulate, all of which will benefit one person: David Koch.

      I am sorry to hear about your siblings — I was recently out of work for six months myself. But what does that have to do with unions? Why are we so obsessed with dragging public employees to the bottom common denominator of non-represented employees? Why aren’t we demanding that everyone get a step-up instead of dragging down others? Republicans aren’t listening to this narrative. They were principal in creating this predicament in the first place by free trade and broker/banker buyouts, and now they’re exploiting the situation in order to divide people. I’m sorry, but you’re wrong about “only profit drives employment.” Public service in the New Deal got people working again, not corporations or their profit-lust. (Yes, I do think we need a new New Deal, but that’s a federal issue.) Besides, there’s nuance here. Cooperatives make profits, but that’s not their end-all, be-all. I am sick of the corporate worship in this country; it’s totally unrealistic first of all, and at what cost do all these profits come?

      I mean that. At what cost? To our natural resources, to our time spent with our families, etc etc. I appreciate the no-nonsense approach you have, but I personally believe it’s predicated on a faulty assumption: mainly, the shitty state of things right now is just how it is, as opposed to the consequences of policies that favor people and corporations who have neither taken responsibility for this situation nor are impacted on it; and to fix it, it must be done on the backs of the little guys and gals, which I find profoundly offensive. We keep losing more and more — and I don’t mean just progressives; because Republican-voting average folks are getting raked into this just as well — we all have been for the last 40 years. When is enough enough?

      Timothy

       

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