Friday, June 26, 2009

“What can I do?”

Robert Reich calls for political action, writing and calling your elected representatives.  I’d go further and say that Americans have to stop being afraid to get out in public to rally in support of their initiatives.  We need to throw the authorities’ labeling of protesters as “terrorists” that I recently noted back in their faces.  Where’s your courage, America?  There is strength in numbers.  The more people show their faces, the less they can be persecuted.  Recent history teaches that political action works.  We haven’t seen the action we expected from Obama, but as Reich points out, he’s only a politician.  He can only do what the people demand of him.

Via:  Robert Reich’s blog

What Can I Do?"

Someone recently approached me at the cheese counter of a local supermarket, asking "what can I do?" At first I thought the person was seeking advice about a choice of cheese. But I soon realized the question was larger than that. It was: what can I do about the way things are going in Washington?

People who voted for Barack Obama tend to fall into one of two camps: Trusters, who believe he's a good man with the right values and he's doing everything he can; and cynics, who have become disillusioned with his bailouts of Wall Street, flimsy proposals for taming the Street, willingness to give away 85 percent of cap-and-trade pollution permits, seeming reversals on eavesdropping and torture, and squishiness on a public option for health care.

In my view, both positions are wrong. A new president -- even one as talented and well-motivated as Obama -- can't get a thing done in Washington unless the public is actively behind him. As FDR said in the reelection campaign of 1936 when a lady insisted that if she were to vote for him he must commit to a long list of objectives, "Maam, I want to do those things, but you must make me."

We must make Obama do the right things. Email, write, and phone the White House. Do the same with your members of Congress. Round up others to do so. Also: Find friends and family members in red states who agree with you, and get them fired up to do the same. For example, if you happen to have a good friend or family member in Montana, you might ask him or her to write Max Baucus and tell him they want a public option included in any healthcare bill.

Let me just say, as a long-time independent, that this red state-blue state thing is a red herring. 

There is only one party in America, the Money Party, and it needs to be knocked down a peg, in my humble opinion.  Here’s a comment I left on Yves’ blog on her article about the potentially snapping American middle class:

Via: Naked Capitalism

I'd like to see the phone lines of Congress flooded with calls to RAISE MARGINAL TAX RATES ON RICH FOLKS (say, with incomes over $250K a year) with the rates steepening as income climbs into the obscenosphere so that incomes over $1 million would be taxed at 75% or so--and get rid of the "hedge fund exemption."

Obama has been too timid to pursue this, poor man. This would be the clearest signal "the people" could send to "the ruling class" that they've got to learn to share. And then maybe pay multiples in American corporations might come down, as the idea that sharing is *good* spread.

Don't like it? Emigrate. See if you can get your money out of the country.

Who can get their rep to introduce a steeply graduated progressive income tax bill on the floor of the House? Sell it as shared sacrifice. The problem here is that the libertarians and Republicans don't like to raise taxes on anyone, even though at our most successful times in history, marginal tax rates have been much higher, reflecting a much tighter social cohesion. We are stuck with our government and need to try to make it work--and even use it to instill a values change.

My position has always been that it's okay to raise taxes on people who make more than I do. Screw a VAT! That's just more regressive taxation! The rich in the this country are supremely well set-up, and would be wise to give back to their ailing government and countrymen.

And then on the other end, start livable workfare for the growing ranks of the unemployed to avoid radicalization and upheaval.

Hope springs eternal.

Happy 4th of July!


  1. While i generally agree with the need for some redistribution I find higher marginal income tax rates to be a poor way of achieving that. That plan simply ensures that the rich will stay rich and those hoping to get rich have no hope. In fact, if i were very wealthy I would be in favor of higher marginal tax rates as a means of "building a moat" around my relative status.

    Marginal tax rates should stay low but we should end the hidden subisidies to the banking / credit creation sectors of the economy. Further, we should consider a wealth tax either directly (10% of wealth over $50m) or indirectly (much higher property taxes).

    The income tax is a blunt tool and seems a poorly thought out plan for a well thought out problem.

  2. Cut spending of bloated government FIRST, and then tax raises become politically easier. Everyone now believes that taking more in taxes just allows higher spending. With good reason, as the politicians WILL spend every nickel and then print up more (at the Fed level).

    Social cohesion? And what the heck is "Livable workfare"? How about just getting out of the way of private business and making it easier for it to MAKE JOBS?

    How? Lower corporate taxation, lower compliance costs for taxes and regulation (I'm not saying get rid of taxes, just make it easier for small businesses to comply), litigation reform (lawsuits by predatory law firms is part of the problem for California business), etc.

    I'm NOT saying you are wrong about everything, I'm splitting the difference. There has been massive corruption, and income inequality, but we've gone about "fixing" it the wrong way. Higher marginal rates to screw all those nasty rich people sounds "fair", but it's just stupid by itself.

    Reform government first, pare its size down and make it palatable to increase "social cohesion". Government will not be able to foster that. If anything, by giving us lousy schools and welfare dependency, it's done the opposite.

    Seriously, what's a livable wage?

    FDR tried to keep wages high during the Depression, lengthened it by years in doing so. Jobs, even at low pay (but don't take out anything, or very much, for the multitude of taxes), are better than no jobs.

  3. More on the above:

    You can't have social cohesion just trying to blame this on the elite rich. There is also the underclass that doesn't work, never has worked, never will work, feel they deserve to be paid to NOT work. They have numerous children..and this all may be a stereotype of welfare, but I SEE IT. Kids coming into my ER with their 4th pregnancy by age 20. And grandma, who is 15 years older than her daughter, is pleased as punch with another child.

    So while the elite and greedy bankers may have ripped us all off (and I don't doubt that), and some big business types have scammed us, there is enormous resentment from the middle class to those who are on the other end. I'm not talking about helping the truly disabled, or the folks who have lost a job because of the economy...I'm not talking about folks down on their luck, but about the entrenched entitlement crowd. Forgot to blame for it, doesn't matter, that entire system needs to be changed.

    The folks of this country have been THE most generous of anyone in spite of these things. We gave hundreds of millions after the Tsunami, after Katrina, after floods, after earthquakes...we give and give and give some more.

    The social cohesion thing is CRAP the more I think about it, becuause what's riven it apart is identity and victim politics, welfare insanity, and many other factors other than low marginal tax rates. Low rates maybe allow the superrich to keep more of their money, and maybe its unfair, but I say that you need to work on both ends...fix welfare, fix the culture that rewards babies of welfare teenagers and penalizes middle-income folks who agonize if they can afford one more child in the family. Quit these and stop the polarization it causes.

    Want to go after the supperich? Fine, do that too, but if it's part of an aggressive campaign for REAL fairness, and not the kind of lying communist "fairness" that Obama promotes (why is it a lie? Did he not say he would seek the best care for his kids, i.e. he wouldn't let their care be rationed! All pigs are equal, and some more equal than others, to paraphrase Orwell.

    Anyway, go for real fairness, and then you can get social cohesion. Otherwise, it's a STUPID IDEA

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    I look at the progressivity of the tax system as a rough indicator of the degree of social cohesion (very rough). So I agree that trying to forge social cohesion by raising marginal tax rates puts the chicken before the egg. See The fate of nations (graphs to contemplate) at

    It is easy for ordinary Americans to blame those at the bottom (for whom children are the readiest and most rational source of wealth), and to delude oneself that marginal tax rates on incomes over $1 million have some personal relevance.

    Ronald Reagan a generation ago was the one to enshrine the idea that it is un-American to have high tax rates on the rich, but in fact it has been during the greatest crises that rich Americans have been willing to pay the highest marginal tax rates. I say willing because if they weren't it wouldn't have happened, our plutocratic republic being what it is.

    So I still think we're heading toward (a) a vast crisis that will make Americans pull together again, or (b) neo-feudalism, in which inequality widens further and social mobility and productivity drop dramatically (because I believe national productivity depends on an "optimal" degree of inequality that we have exceeded).