A Political Challenge ~ Ten and Ten

A frequent reader and friend on Facebook has challenged me to identify ten good things about the Democratic Party and ten things that President Obama has done to improve America. I’ve taken on the challenge.

While all democrats might not fully agree with my list of party virtues, I’ve listed what I think are most important and good. Likewise, all who voted for Barrack Obama might not agree with my list of accomplishments. But what follows is according to Opa.

Ten Things That Are Good About the Democratic Party

Democrats believe in and support the values of most hardworking, middle class families:

  • that wealth and privilege shouldn’t be an entitlement to rule
  • that working men and women deserve a fair wage for an honest day’s labor
  • that people have a right to seek justice in a legal system that punishes the excesses spawned by greed and corruption that flourish in an unbridled economic system
  • that all children deserve a good education
  • that no one should be denied quality medical care
  • that everyone should be afforded basic civil rights, which include equal opportunity and freedom from exploitation
  • that the government has a legitimate role to play in protecting both society and the environment
  • that our economy grows from the bottom up, not from the top down, and government can help it grow by investing in people, technology and infrastructure
  • that those who are more fortunate have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate
  • that, in order to protect First Amendment rights for everyone, matters of religion are and should continue to be kept separate from the state

All these things, I believe, are good.

Ten Things Obama Has Done to Improve America

In just the first half of President Obama’s first term he has done the following, in no particular order of importance:

  • he, along with his economic advisors and Congress, rescued our economy from the brink of depression. The original cost of TARP, $700B, has now been reduced to a mere $25B with financials and the domestic automotive industry returning most of the funds;
  • he has commissioned a bi-partisan balanced budget commission which is about to shed the light of day on deficit spending claims and chart a path for America to rescue our young from the yoke of future unbearable debt;
  • he has, by doing nothing more than just getting himself elected, substantially improved the self-esteem and resolve of millions of young African-Americans  to succeed;
  • he has reduced inter-faith and cultural tensions contributing to world terrorist threats by convincingly addressing the Muslim world and convincing many that we are not at war with Islam;
  • At the cost of much political capital, he has seen major health care reform enacted which includes insurance coverage for millions of young people who can now remain on their parents’ insurance until they are 26;
  • he has fully funded the Veterans’ Administration;
  • he has begun the removal of combat brigades in Iraq and increased our efforts to confront al Qaeda and supportive extremist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan from which the original 911 attack originated;
  • he has, for all intents and purposes, ended the practice of torture by America;
  • he is in the process of further reducing the nuclear threat in the world through verifiable treaties (the new START Treaty being held up by Republicans in the Senate) and marshaling UN cooperation on meaningful sanctions against Iran and North Korea;
  • he is about to legally and permanently end discrimination against gays and lesbians in our armed forces by ending Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.
  •  

    Please feel free to post a comment whether you agree or not.
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Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm  Comments (22)  

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  1. Time for my counter to your points on both the Democratic Party, and the President.

    Ten Things That Are Good About the Democratic Party

    Democrats believe in and support the values of most hardworking, middle class families:

    * that wealth and privilege shouldn’t be an entitlement to rule
    —Show me a single member of Congress or the executive who is a Democrat and comes from the middle class. There are none. Doctors, Lawyers, and few others, all part of those of wealth and privilege in both parties rule the government, and through it, the rest of us.

    * that working men and women deserve a fair wage for an honest day’s labor
    –Who decides what is a “fair” wage? Should it not be what the market in those skills dictates, and not the dictates of the government?

    * that people have a right to seek justice in a legal system that punishes the excesses spawned by greed and corruption that flourish in an unbridled economic system
    —We definitely do not have an “unbridled” economic system. Rules abound at all levels from local zoning to federal standards and all levels in between. Justice is a concept related to crime, not economics.

    * that all children deserve a good education
    –Why? Why do children “deserve” a good education and why should the rest of us provide it?

    * that no one should be denied quality medical care
    –Again, why should anyone “deserve” what they cannot obtain through their own merit?

    * that everyone should be afforded basic civil rights, which include equal opportunity and freedom from exploitation
    —Here I actually agree with your terminology. Everyone deserves the rights that are then to be protected from GOVERNMENT interference in the exercise thereof. Equal opportunity, not result, is the law of the land.

    * that the government has a legitimate role to play in protecting both society and the environment
    –the only role the government has to play in protecting society is to “provide for the common defense” and no more.

    * that our economy grows from the bottom up, not from the top down, and government can help it grow by investing in people, technology and infrastructure
    —The economy has never grown from the bottom up. Those with resources risk them by starting businesses which spawn jobs. The Government is not a bank, to invest in anything. It is up to business, venture capital, and people to invest in what they think will be successful, and to live with the results of their investment, successful or not.

    * that those who are more fortunate have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate
    –This is a “Christian” ideal, and not that of Americans. There is a responsibility to take care of your family, and a social need to help others, but not a responsibility or a demand.

    * that, in order to protect First Amendment rights for everyone, matters of religion are and should continue to be kept separate from the state
    —The state (meaning the federal government) should not endorse a particular religion, but is founded on a belief in a creator who grants the rights Americans have. Taking this belief out of the realm of government takes the moral imperative out of government action.

    All these things, I believe, are good.

    Ten Things Obama Has Done to Improve America

    In just the first half of President Obama’s first term he has done the following, in no particular order of importance:

    * he, along with his economic advisors and Congress, rescued our economy from the brink of depression. The original cost of TARP, $700B, has now been reduced to a mere $25B with financials and the domestic automotive industry returning most of the funds;
    –If this were true, the federal debt would not still be at $13.56 trillion. The Government has rules for bankruptcy which were set up to manage the effects of debt exceeding assets. The Government is not a bank, and is not in the business or rescuing anyone.

    * he has commissioned a bi-partisan balanced budget commission which is about to shed the light of day on deficit spending claims and chart a path for America to rescue our young from the yoke of future unbearable debt;
    — This commission is doing the job of the White House and Congress in charting a path to reduce government spending and control costs. If the White House and Congress cannot even figure out how to manage their budget, why should they be in office to pass spending bills?

    * he has, by doing nothing more than just getting himself elected, substantially improved the self-esteem and resolve of millions of young African-Americans to succeed;
    –President Obama is NOT an African-American in the group of leaders such as MLK, Jesse Jackson and other descendants of slaves. He is a Kenyan-American, born of a Caucasian Mother and a Kenyan Father who has no ancestry in common with African Americans. Those who have deluded themselves into believing that he is one of them are racists who have bought into the idea that regardless of the cultural differences, all blacks are the same.
    * he has reduced inter-faith and cultural tensions contributing to world terrorist threats by convincingly addressing the Muslim world and convincing many that we are not at war with Islam;
    –On the contrary, interfaith and cultural tensions have increased between Jew and Muslim, Muslim and Christian, and Black and White. No one respected in the Muslim world believes that Islam and the West are not at war, and most in the West believe that we ARE in a cultural war between them.

    * At the cost of much political capital, he has seen major health care reform enacted which includes insurance coverage for millions of young people who can now remain on their parents’ insurance until they are 26;
    –The president has shown his contempt for the rights of individual by demanding that all Americans purchase what he and the government determine to be the “right” insurance, and by doing so has begun the slump in the system of private companies providing health insurance as a benefit. Fewer people will be covered, and those who are will pay more. Doctors will stop taking government reimbursement for service due to the low rates, and more people will suffer because of this.

    * he has fully funded the Veterans’ Administration;
    –Congress has fully funded the VA. The president only proposes a budget. Congress allocates the funds.

    * he has begun the removal of combat brigades in Iraq and increased our efforts to confront al Qaeda and supportive extremist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan from which the original 911 attack originated;
    –He has done this. Remember that al-Qa’ida was training in Iraq, and that the leader we deposed used weapons of mass destruction on thousands of his own people.

    * he has, for all intents and purposes, ended the practice of torture by America;
    –And by removing the threat of difficult interrogation has hastened the date when another attack will happen, because no one will have a reason to inform us of it beforehand.

    * he is in the process of further reducing the nuclear threat in the world through verifiable treaties (the new START Treaty being held up by Republicans in the Senate) and marshaling UN cooperation on meaningful sanctions against Iran and North Korea;
    –Sanctions have produced no change in the policies of Iran or North Korea, and both have rightly concluded that we will do nothing to them, and have escalated events leading to an eventual violent confrontation.

    * he is about to legally and permanently end discrimination against gays and lesbians in our armed forces by ending Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.
    —Ending the DADT policy returns the military to it’s previous policy which court martials personnel who commit sodomy. There is nothing in any removal policy ending discrimination. No one in the military that I know of wants to be forced to room with someone who may find them sexually attractive, and no policy can be set up to prevent the sexual harassment or violence that may come if such a policy is implemented.

  2. True, no one in Congress ever got there without first establishing themselves in public and private venues. What I was trying to get at here is the original idea of one-man-one-vote… Corporate and special interests, which have deep pockets, have too much influence through the election process. This Democrat believes that this should change, that there should be strict limits on campaign funding.

    What is fair? Labor markets aren’t, that’s for sure. Businesses, so long as there are substantially more people desiring to work than there are work opportunities, will pay only what they have to pay — demand and supply. If progressives had not pushed for change, children would still be forced to work long hours for a pittance and miss out on the opportunities afforded through education. Greed has no conscience. That’s why WalMart and other retailers hire only part time workers so they can reduce their labor costs.
    No, our economic system is not “unbridled,” not entirely. But business interests would certainly like to have it so.

    Why do children “deserve” a good education? Because they grow into adults. Children are our future, and an uneducated society can hardly compete with others that are. We have public education because it’s in our collective interests to educate children.

    Why should people deserve quality medical care, even if they cannot afford it on the starvation wages that more and more Americans have to work for? Because it is in humane to let people suffer. Because misfortune can happen to us all.

    Without a referee on the playing field, the rules of the game would not be followed. Without government, our rights cannot be protected, whether from foreign or domestic trampling.

    If you do not believe that government has a legitimate role in anything but providing a common defense, read the preamble to the Constitution: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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. The common defense isn’t even the first-mentioned role of government.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Businesses invest, usually with borrowed money, to meet demand for goods and services. Without demand, there will be no supply. To believe otherwise, one must believe that supply creates its own demand (Say’s Law). The vast majority of today’s economists know this.

    Gee, many today subscribing to conservative arguments insist that America was established as a Christian nation. I don’t agree, but societies most certainly do have common interests and certain responsibilities toward the collective. Otherwise, we would be living in a jungle.

    After all that you have said about citizens having no responsibility beyond their own interests and taking care of their own families, it seems inconsistent for you to talk about moral imperatives. Keeping religion and government separate removes no moral imperative from government. Even secular humanists have morals. Keeping religion and government separate insures that all are free to worship according to their own faith.

  3. Hi, Opa!

    In the interests of brevity, I won’t take on all ten of your points about Obama and the democrats, but I will hit two main things that I think are on the minds of millions of Americans today.

    1) Unemployment. Latest figures show that the unemployment rate is now 9.8%, up from 9.6%. The democrats/Obama told us that if we didn’t inact the stimulus plans (by whatever names they were known) that unemployment would hit 8%. Well, those plans were enacted and low and behold, unemployment now at 9.8%!! What went wrong here? Futhermore, what has Obama, himself, done to try to reduce this rate?

    2) Yes, Obama/democrats got health care “reform” passed (without a single Republican vote – so the dems really own this one!), and most of the touted “benefits” of it don’t come into play until 2014, but the supporting taxes, etc. went into play almost immediately. Also, this “reform” STOLE $500 billion (about half of the total projected cost) or so from Medicare to help pay for this fiasco. That’s taking tax dollars paid in by folks, like me and you, to help pay for OUR care when we need it. Now, the dems have taken that money (or will take it) to pay for care for folks who are too lazy to work and are, for a large part, on the public dole anyway. Maybe it seems inhumane to you to not care for other folks by making the working folks pay for their care, but who speaks for us workers who have done NOTHING to deserve this financial slap from the democrats? I only hope and pray that the legal challenges to this disaster (mainly the requirement by the government to purchase insurance)are successful and throws a permanent stick in the spokes of this horrible law.

    The dems still don’t get it – they lost 60-some-odd seats in the House last month, and their priority is the Dream Act and the START treaty? Tell me how either of those bills/treaties puts people back to work or food on their tables!

    Regards,
    Curtis

  4. What you’ve said about unemployment and the so-called “stimulus” spending is undeniable, Curtis. Economists missed the mark badly when they “estimated” how bad things would get without the government spending. But how are we to know now that, rather than 9.8 percent unemployment it could have been 10.8 or 11.8 and sooner. Frankly, I have little hope now that Republicans seem to have won the argument about deficit spending that the unemployment number will start to decline anytime soon. We seem to be in this mess for the long haul.

    As for your comments on the health care law, nothing was stolen from Medicare. It was always the government’s money to spend having been collected from taxes. The money of which you speak has simply been redirected from Medicare Advantage programs to other Medicare services. The reason the law got no Republican votes in either the House or the Senate was entirely political. There were Republicans who were supportive of the effort to expand insurance coverage for all Americans, but the party controlled their votes in an effort to bring about Obama’s “Waterloo.” Had the effort been more bi-partisan, I believe it would have been a better law. I believe that there should have been the public option that the president and most Democrats wanted.

    As for the seats in Congress lost this year to Republicans, they, sir, were bought and paid for largely by corporate and special interest money which is now legal thanks to our Supreme Court.

  5. 12/5/2010

    Opa,

    Thanks for your thoughts and comments! You are correct in that it is an unknown what would have happened had the stimulus efforts not been attempted, but the old adage of when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging comes to mind. I don’t know of a situation where a government spent its way out of a financial hole. Unlike a good number of conservatives, I do agree that unemployment benefits should be extended – but find ways to cut at least some other “fat” from the budget to at least “pay” for part of those costs. I have two friends who have been unemployed through no fault of their own, who are good workers and know their stuff, but just can’t find a job. This brings it home to me that jobs should have been first priority, not health care “reform.”

    I still beg to disagree with you on “stealing” from Medicare, no matter what particular program within it (Medicare Advantage) that you call it. As a go-by, theft as defined in Texas law is the unlawful appropriation of someone’s property without the consent of the owner and with the intent to deprive the owner of that property. The government has no money except which it can obtain through taxation. It can print more money, but it doesn’t do anything to earn it. Medicare funds were accumulated through payroll taxes of workers to be set aside for the specific purpose of providing payment for medical care for those persons when they became eligible. With the “theft” of $500 billion from Medicare to help pay for “reform,” the government is taking those Medicare funds without the consent of the owner (taxpayer) with the intent to deprive the owner of it – and to add salt to the wound, spend it on care for those who never contributed to it in the first place. This is why I liken it to a theft. If you want to expand health care coverage, create a specific tax for that purpose, don’t take Medicare funds to do it. I certainly agree that health care delivery and payment methods can be, and should be improved – but not at the expense of others who have paid in all their lives with the expectation of receiving future benefits. Regardless of whether or not Republicans were trying to bring about Obama’s “Waterloo,” I think that most of them had major disagreement with how health care “reform” was to be funded. The law may have come out better had there been Republican support, but Obama saw the handwriting on the wall about the public option and so to get SOMETHING passed, the public option was dumped.

    In regards to Republicans winning 60+ seats in the House last month, what proof do you have that these wins were “bought and paid for” by corporate and special interest money? Don’t democrats do the same thing regarding political contributions? I didn’t get paid a penny by anyone to vote the way I did, so who was paying and who got paid? The media reported that more corporate money was going to the Republicans this year (maybe for good reason), but the Democrats were still getting some too. Should only Democrats be allowed to receive this kind of financial support? Maybe that’s one reason why Democrats are so down on rich people – the rich people aren’t giving them the money they think they deserve.

    Regards,
    Curtis

  6. According to the history books from which I have taught, 1930s and 40s New Deals’ spending followed on their heels by the massive spending during WWII is what finally lifted us out of The Great Depression.

    I’m glad you see clearly that cutting-off all support from millions left without jobs in the aftermath of the sub-prime meltdown and subsequent Great Recession would not only be unconscionable, but a huge economic mistake as well. As I have posted elsewhere, the CBO lists continued funding of unemployment as the number one priority for government stimulus spending to help the economy. Yes, Curtis, in times like these it is important for government, as the spender of last resort, to continue and even increase spending as every dollar spent becomes somebody else’s income.

    I agree on trimming fat from government spending where we can. So does the president. Recall that President Obama, just last week, froze federal salaries for two years. I don’t think it would be wise to curtail services and add more people to the unemployment rolls. I would call for a moratorium on government purchases of foreign made goods.

    Once collected, tax dollars are no longer the property of tax payers, and taxes are legal. What makes it legal? The Sixteenth Amendment makes it legal, and Texas ratified the amendment on August 16, 1910. Differ if you wish, but I firmly believe that your “so-called” theft of government funding for Medicare “Advantage” programs so that more Americans can receive care and so that Medicare can be made solvent for a greater number of years is a good thing.

    Everyone who ever held a “legitimate” job, paid their taxes and had FICA deductions made from their paychecks, deserves Medicare. Generally speaking, people who have not had legitimate employment for ten years or more are not eligible https://questions.medicare.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/10/~/who-is-eligible-for-medicare%3F. In my book, it’s okay to express opinions, so long as they are informed opinions.

    No, I’m sure nobody gave you money to vote the way they wanted you to. But in congressional districts where Republican and Tea Party candidates were reasonable contenders, the airwaves and satellite signals were jammed with conservative ads, and it is well known that the more candidates spend on these ads, the more votes they get.

    The cost for these ads was staggering and, for the most part, they were not paid for by the Republican National Committee. The combination of Michael Steele and Citizens United is creating a paradigm shift in how elections are funded among Republicans. Rather than giving to the Republican Party, where Michael Steele controls the money, where their name is made public and they are limited by regulation as to how much they can give, major donors have abandoned the RNC and are now giving to 527 and 501(c)(4) organizations, which can also take money directly from corporations, and they don’t have to account for the source. This new approach to campaign finance will alter U.S. politics reducing the power of political parties and increasing the power of concentrated corporate wealth. Read more about this at http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/Voices.php/2010/08/26/voter-beware-concentrated-corporate-powe.

    Yes, Democrats got some of this kind of money from labor union 527s and some special interest 501(c)(4)s, but these sources don’t have the deep pockets that corporations do.

    As a Democrat, I have no problem with rich people; I wishI were rich too. I do, however, have a problem with how some get rich and how some use their wealth. Read Luke 12:13 – 21. Jesus calls upon us to share our wealth, and the more we have, the more we have to share. So, why are the rich so against sharing their wealth? How can they selfishly hoard their wealth yet call themselves Christian?

  7. Opa,

    I’ve been seeing a lot on TV lately about the proposed deal between Obama and the Republicans regarding the Bush tax cuts, unemployment benefits, estate tax, payroll reduction, etc. Seems like a lot of Democrats are less than pleased (some even hitting whine mode) with the deal and Obama’s part in it. The Democrats opposed the extension of the tax cuts for the rich (however you choose to define them) and wanted the estate/death tax to go to 55% on Jan. 1.

    Why is it that Democrats/liberals/progressives hate the rich? Is it jealousy? Greed? They want to tax the heck out of them at every turn and seem to think that just because they’re financially successful that they should be the source of extra money that they want to spend on whatever the program du jour is for them. Referring to your comment above, are you saying that Democrats who are Christians are citing the Bible or Jesus as their justification for taxing the rich so much? Seems to me we might have a separation of church and state issue on that one. I’m not rich and have sometimes wondered what it would be like to be rich, but I don’t hate rich people for being rich, nor do I feel that rich people owe me something/anything just because they have more money than I do. Obviously, I will never have to worry about my heirs having to deal with an estate tax, but why should the government tax the estate of a deceased person? Its true you can’t take it with you, but why does the government feel that its entitled to up to 55% of anything over $1 million left in someone’s estate? If you’re well off in this country, the government will still be taking your money even after you’re dead. I understand that we have to have taxation in order to run the government, but it seems that these examples are unneeded excesses. I tend to agree that this country doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

    Regards,
    Curtis

  8. You ask why Democrats hate the rich. They don’t, Curtis. This Democrat doesn’t anyway. Like you, this Democrat would like to have the problem some day of having to decide on how to use vast sums of money – how to divide my wealth among my heirs. I do think that it’s fair to say, however, that most Democrats resent and fear the majority of rich. They fear the power and influence that comes along with accumulated wealth, power and influence that can and has been used to undermine progressive ideas.

    No, Curtis, I’m not saying that Democrats are necessarily better Christians than Republicans. The reference to Scripture in my last response to you was meant solely to state how this Christian, how this Democrat understands how society should deal with the wealth issue. As a Christian, my beliefs are influenced by the Bible, especially the New Testament.

    Jesus had much to say about wealth and the accumulation there of. For example, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).” Another example comes from (Luke 12: 13-21), the parable of the foolish farmer. This parable teaches that wealth, by itself, is not sinful. What is sinful is how many of the wealthy choose to use their wealth.

    I just taught a Sunday school lesson on the Advent Conspiracy — how the date chosen by the early church to celebrate the birth of Jesus, December the 25th, has become more about spending money than about worshiping our Lord and Savior. If interested, you might want to read my posting, Jesus Christ ~ In Today’s World Would He Be a Capitalist or a Socialist?

    But none of this is relevant in a nation that believes in the separation of church and state. True enough. Nevertheless, I do believe that wealth should be shared, and for practical reasons as well as for religious reasons.

    You bring up the estate tax, AKA “death tax,” and argue that it is unfair. Well, fair or not, economists argue that the estate tax serves to prevent the perpetuation of wealth, free of tax, in wealthy families. It is a necessary part, they say, of a progressive tax system. Proponents of the tax point out that it affects only estates of considerable size (currently over $3.5 million and $7 million for couples). Further, it provides numerous credits (including the unified credit) that allow a significant portion of even large estates to escape taxation.

    According to my economics text books, the distribution of wealth in this country has never been more disproportionate and it has grown much worse since enactment of the Bush era tax cuts. Currently, the top 1 percent own 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. A whopping 85 percent is owned by the top 20 percent. That leaves just 15 percent for 80 percent… all the rest of us.

    Another argument that economists make for the estate tax is that it is essential for true Capitalism, an economic system which, at the core, is a survival of the fittest contest that breeds a strong society. But without an estate tax, the wealth of the nation practicing capitalism becomes concentrated into fewer and fewer families. This prevents the brightest and fittest from being able to compete. Furthermore, with an estate tax, there is more need for the heirs of the wealthy to continue earning rather than just drawing upon the wealth they have inherited. Without earning, and just collecting capital gains on savings and investments is not earning, people don’t contribute to the competition that is Capitalism.

    Proponents argue that, without estate and inheritance taxes, many large fortunes do not represent taxed income or savings. Wealth is not being taxed by the estate tax. It is the transfer of wealth that is being taxed.

    You ask why the government feels that it’s entitled to up to 55% of anything over $1 million left in someone’s estate? The government doesn’t feel anything, Curtis, and those who represent the government are very much divided on the issue of what and how much is appropriate to tax. The estate tax, as I’ve already pointed out, currently only impacts estates over $3.5 million for individuals. But, take half of that much away to be used for the common good and you’re still talking about a lot of money still left over for heirs. There’s still more than enough for heirs to multiply and grow without ever having to lift a finger.

    You say that you believe that this country has a spending problem rather than a revenue problem. Well, guess what… there is no top without a bottom. This country has both a spending and a revenue problem. According to the president’s bi-partisan deficit spending and balanced budget commission, the problem of growing debt cannot be resolved without concessions being made in both taxes and spending.

  9. If it did not make me so sad, I would find it funny how many middle class Americans so passsionately take up the cause of the rich….why? To me these people all seem under the delusion that they too are rich. Which they are not…just wait until you need long term medical care and you will see how NOT rich you are. Quite frankly…after the first or second generation most rich families don’t seem to produce the kind of innovation and business opportunites that everyone thinks they do…can you say Paris Hilton!

    Some of the Ford family has been useful….but off hand I can ‘t think of too many others.

    History has shown over and over again that when the disparity between the wealthy and the poor is too great it causes great social unrest and is actually a deterent to intellectual growth.

    As for the poor soul who say that all children do not deserve a good education…what a sad bitter person…I wonder what doctors and nurses will care for him when he is old…or what police…you want a huge class of hungry, illiterate souls on your doorstep…the lessons of the Gilded Age may come in handy here my friend.

    Carol

  10. I should have added to my paragraph about disparity between the rich and poor that intellectual capitol is our greatest resource and which leads to greater over all prosperity. Which is why we need good schools and an educated populace.

    Carol

  11. WOW! Opa I enjoyed articles between you & your readers. Makes we want to go out and buy one of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s books. I just do that if I can spare the cash. Opa, please keep up the good work. I especially enjoyed the one about our President not being African-American. I dunno. We all see things a bit different.

  12. Hi, Opa!

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to my post! I have just a few thoughts to respond with, por favor.

    You opine that most Democrats resent and fear the majority of the rich because of the power they have that can and has been used to undermine “progressive” ideas (my quotes). I guess that’s reasonable – no one likes their thoughts of what’s right for others to be undermined by those folks that they presume to be against them. Maybe this is where the individual has the right, and responsibility, to be aware of their world and take responsibility for any actions that they believe right and just to protect their positions and way of life. Just because a progressive expresses an idea doesn’t make it right, any more than a rich person’s, or conservative’s idea is automatically wrong.

    As for the religious/Christian influence on wealth redistribution, etc., I’m leery of walking out into that minefield – politics is volatile enough without adding religious aspects to it.

    Your statement that economists (how many? A majority? A sampling?) argue that the estate tax serves to prevent the perpetuation of wealth, free of tax, in wealthy families. On the face of it, I agree with that statement, but I go back to my original thought…. Why should the government seek to prevent this perpetuation? Just because a family has been successful, why should the heirs be taxed on an estate that had already been taxed throughout its accumulation? Seems like double taxation to me.

    You also quote some stats about the “distribution of wealth” as being “more disproportionate” since enactment of the Bush tax cuts. Even if the percentages you cite are dead on, so what? Are you advocating that rich people should have at least some portion of their property taken away from them and given to people who haven’t worked to earn it themselves? The U.S. is a land of opportunity for those who apply themselves – just look at who’s in the White House right now. I also don’t buy the premise that without an estate tax the wealth of the nation would become concentrated in fewer and fewer families that would prevent the brightest and fittest from being able to compete. If people are bright and fit, they can compete – regardless. The fact that the Rockefellers, etc have a pile of money, in and of itself, is not preventing me from getting out there and busting a hump to try to earn more money and excel if I so choose (and if money is my goal). You also state that wealth is not being taxed by the estate tax, it is the transfer of wealth that is being taxed. You’ve made my point – transferring of wealth (taking from the rich and giving to the poor) just because someone doesn’t think its fair that someone makes more money than someone else, is what upsets folks. They don’t like the concept of redistribution of wealth merely to try to even out how much money folks have. I just don’t buy it. You should be able to keep what you earn, minus a fair and reasonable amount to pay for the basic services that government provides to ALL citizens (e.g. police & fire protection, infrastructure, sanitation services, national defense,etc.)

    Regarding revenue and spending, why doesn’t the federal government adhere to the same financial standards that states and municipal governments do? In other words, if you think an expenditure is worthy, justify the need for it on paper and elsewhere, and rejustify it every year if you need to. If federal programs were required to do this, we might see a lot of savings because some of these programs couldn’t reasonably justify their continuation in terms of the results produced for (as you like to say ) “the common good.” I would say, see what unnecessary expenditures you can find and cut first – to realize revenues available for more worthy causes, BEFORE you raise taxes to pay for some new program. You and I, and most all families and individuals in this country live within their means, because if they don’t they go bankrupt or go to jail. The government, at all levels, should also live within their means.

    Have a nice weekend!

    Curtis

  13. You ask how many economists are proponents of our progressive tax system and estate taxes. I cannot say exactly, but I suspect that you will not find any legitimate economist today that isn’t. As a former teacher of advanced placement macroeconomics, I have reviewed many, many text books and ancillary materials for use in my classes. They all spoke to the necessity of these as economic stabilizers in capitalist economies. All of my professors in college economics classes taught the same thing. Further, none of the speakers at Federal Reserve economics summits here in Dallas that I have attended were advocates of flat tax schemes or value added taxes to replace our current system. To believe that any of these would be good for our economy one would have to believe in “trickle-down” economics, the idea that the richer the rich are the better off the economy will be. Which is just plain wrong. Strong economies depend on the middle class being affluent enough to create demand for goods and services. Businesses only produce to satisfy demand.

    I am reminded of a story about the industrialist, Henry Ford. When he started building model T’s he paid his workers substantially more than other industries of the time. When asked by his fellow industrialists why – of course they were angry with him for setting a higher wage standard – he said, “Somebody has to be able to afford to buy my cars.”

    You might want to read my blog article, Economic Truths, Part III ~ Why the Rich Pay Higher Taxes. It’s at https://kgarry.wordpress.com/words-of-wisdom/basic-economic-truths-part-iii-why-the-rich-pay-higher-taxes/.
    I understand fully why you don’t want to entertain what the Scriptures say about wealth. There’s no way to win conservative economic arguments using the Bible as justification.

    You ask if I am advocating that the rich should have some portion of their property taken away from them and given to people who haven’t worked to earn it themselves. No, I am not, Curtis. Estate taxes take nothing away from the wealthy; estate taxes kick-in only after the wealthy have died. Their heirs are not wealthy, at least not yet or on their own merit. So, why should the heirs get it all? Is it their birth right? That idea is what leads to aristocracies. As I have previously said, the wealthy are not being taxed. It is the transfer of wealth that is being taxed.

    You say that you don’t buy the premise that without an estate tax the wealth of the nation would become concentrated in fewer and fewer families and that this would prevent the brightest and fittest from being able to compete. Well, perhaps I can help you understand this better, per chance to actually “buy” the premise. I’m going to write an entirely new post on this subject. For the time being, perhaps the words of one of America’s most intelligent and best educated Supreme Court justices will do. Louis D. Brandeis once said, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

  14. Opa, (are you a grandpa? That’s the German word for grandpa) you explain things so well.Clearly, logically and even humanely. I am finding here a lovely resource to concisely explain economic principles.
    You have a new student here. 🙂 I feel lucky to have found your blog.

    To your first respondent (Bob) on the ten and ten topic; so much confusion my poor man, but I MUST help you with this main one: Kenya is a nation in the continent of Africa, (I was born on that Continent) therefore the term African American would apply to Obama, as well as would “Kenyan American”, just as the term African American applies to all our citizens with African ancestry.

    I’m not sure why a person wouldn’t know that Kenya is a part of Africa…
    I guess our public schools are really terrible after all.
    Norway becons….

    Also on the question of why we “should” educate our youth? Really? No, seriously???? You’re wondering that?
    Have you been those countries where only the rich children get an education and the poor raise chickens and yams?
    It’s not pretty.

    I recommend libertarians/conservatives take a vacation to some of Earth’s many poor nations where education is not public, health care is randomly provided by les Medicines Sans Borders, and they have extremely small governments (one dictator, often installed by the US)…But the oil companies, as usual, have free rein/reign to the natural resource and its profits.

    Greed is a powerful human instinct and if it is not self controlled, it must be controlled by laws.
    I thought the example of Ford was good. Yes he did pay his workers well so they could afford his cars (free advertising), but when they finally went on strike to ask for less work hours (they were becoming crippled from the repetitive factory work) he had the governor call the national guard who came and threatened them back to work at the point of guns…

    Ahhh, corporate controlled governments will be the doom of us all.

  15. “We have the best congress money will buy.”
    Will Rogers.

  16. Earthpeacegirl, you make me want to get busy again with more social science contributions… maybe after I recover from the results of the recent mid-term elections.

  17. Opa & Earthpeacegirl,

    I have often wondered why individuals feel it necessary to identify themselves by their ancestry, e.g. “African American,” “Mexican American,” etc. If you are BORN in the United States why can’t you just be an “American?” My ancestry is French-German, but I don’t go around calling myself a “French-German American.” I’m simply an American, or more accurately, a citizen of the United States of America.

    As a matter of curiosity, I also wonder why President Obama chooses to call himself an “African-American” when in fact he is bi-racial. I think that his mother was a U.S. citizen (have no idea what her ancestry is)and she was Caucasian. Why did he choose to call himself “African American?” I guess I’m asking that last question rhetorically… in reality I think I know why he chooses to identify himself as an African-American. Can you say “voter base?”

    Regards,
    Curtis

  18. Actually, I too used to wonder why Americans who are largely descended from those who were enslaved and brought to this country against their will prefer to be identified as “African” American. It wasn’t until I taught my first social studies class on the meaning of culture and it’s distinction from race and national origin that I finally understood. My students helped me to understand. African Americans, Curtis, are of a distinctively different race or mix of races that have historically been considered inferior to the white majority. Accordingly, they cannot just blend-in like those of us from Ireland or Germany, France or Norway and move on individually from the horrors of their parents’ and grandparents’ pasts. To better appreciate this, you should read James Patterson’s latest novel, “Alex Cross’s Trial.”
    Self-identifying as African American rather than as Negro or Black allows the young of mixed-races (most today have a white man or two lurking somewhere in their genes) to grow up in this integrated society of ours focusing on the positive rather than the negative that many have been taught to believe.
    As for Barack Obama’s choice to self-identify as African American, you can choose to believe that he did so, as he has said and written about, for the sake of his wife and daughters, their sense of identity and community. Or you can believe that he made the choice purely for political purposes. The choice is yours. But I choose to take the man at his word.
    For more on the origin of the term, African American, read http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_did_the_term_African-American_originate.

  19. Curtis,
    if you have ever had to fill out a form where you are given an ancestry to select from, White European is a selection. Most “white” skinned people are of European decent where the climate and limited sunlight encouraged lower skin pigmentation and lighter eye coloring, while people of darker skin color come from all over the rest of the planet where more intense sunlight encouraged the evolution of many ranges of darker skin color and eye color.

    Differentiating ancestry is as important to dark skinned folk as much as it is to us lighter skinned folk. Simply saying you are White European does not inform enough about your French or Polish ancestry, but it informs about the continent and region your blood line comes from. Many take a sense of pride in that. Perhaps you do not and find this pride in ancestry curious.

    Identifying with the darker continents,(African, Indian, Asian), and island nations, (Pacific, Oceania, etc) allows people to connect and be identified with their ancestors. Ancestral connection is important to all of us, we are culturally defined by our ancestors, their religions, traditions, myths and history.

    Skin color is a byproduct of equatorial location, but many, like you, believe it is the defining factor of cultural or national association.
    That idea is debatable but in Anthropology we notice that ALL cultures, regardless of skin color, have very similar pride in their ancestry. Humans like to know where they come from, who they grandmothers were, so to speak. We like to trace that family tree as far back as we can. It’s all very tribal. Of course we all trace back to Africa, so on a DNA level, we are all related ancestors. However, what you are criticizing is the identification of ancestral connection at a micro-level (recent history rather than paleo-history). A disingenuous critique, if I may say so, akin to dismissing one’s connection to natal family name due to marriage and change of name…

    Whether you like it or not, this is what we all do, connect to our ancestry, sometimes passively, sometimes actively. I refer to myself as Greek-American, though I was not born in Greece (born in Africa). My father is a first generation Greek and my mother was born in Minnesota. I also consider myself part German & Norwegian, due to my mother’s ancestry, but I feel closer to my Greek ancestry due to my father’s direct contact, my having lived there and speaking the language.

    I am quite certain, basing this conclusion on my own personal experience and from friends who have lived overseas and are a mix of bloodlines, that president Obama, who has lived overseas, has an African grandmother(grandmothers are always more involved in the care and survival of grandchildren), has extensive African cousins and whose father was a first generation African, feels moved to connect with other African descended Americans by using the pretty normal across the globe term, African-American.
    In my other country, Greece, we have Greek-Africans, and Arab-Africans, and many other combinations of these terms. A close friend of mine is African-Greek-American. His African-American father married a Greek. How would you define him? Can you? I don’t think so. I can’t even define him. But he’s a wonderful human being. That’s what I care about.

    I believe defining one’s cultural connection is up to each person, and to criticize people for embracing their cultural heritage as political expedience is to assume you have some special insight into their thoughts and hearts. And no one can have that.

    Way more explaining here than is deserved…

  20. M/M Panagiotou,

    Very interesting comments and information; thank you for sharing this.

    I have filled out employment forms which inquire about ethnicity (which I believe is voluntary under the law – it can’t be mandated) and I have checked white or caucasian, but I have never seen a category of white European. I don’t doubt that it may exist, I just haven’t personally encountered it.

    I always thought that a person’s “color” was a function of skin pigmentation. If pigmentation can be affected by sunlight, or lack of it, to the point where it somehow becomes “incorporated” in a person’s genes whereby it can be passed along from one generation to the next, I was not aware of that degree of biology (I’m not a scientist or scientifically trained).

    I am not advocating that people deny their heritage – not at all. I just don’t see the need to constantly put that information out “in public” for all the world to see. As you say, we are all connected to our ancestry, I just personally don’t see the need to call myself a French-German American. I was BORN in America (United States) so I merely refer to myself as an American, if the question ever comes up for a legitimate purpose. The fact that other person choose to do this is fine if they want to – it just doesn’t cut any ice with me. I formulate my opinion of people by their personal behavior, qualifications, etc.; I don’t favor people from England over people from Italy, or anywhere else.

    Obviously, President Obama can identify himself however he wants to. You may also be correct about grandmothers being more involved in the care an survival of grandchildren – its too bad that this trait is not reciprocated by the President in terms of his own grandmother being in this country illegally. Why doesn’t he care for her as to her needs (surely he can afford it) and also see to her need for legal assistance to remain in this country? Doesn’t he also have a half-brother who lives in sub-poverty level conditions in Africa? Has the President done anything to assist this man? If family ties are important to people, I wonder why the President doesn’t do more to assist members of his own family. Please correct me if any of this is incorrect or if he’s taken actions to assist his family members. I think the President would do well to “lead by example” in this area, if he hasn’t already. Naturally, you won’t see this mentioned very often by the “main stream media” or the likes of Rachel Maddow, or the recently cashiered Keith Olberman.

    Again, I appreciate your thoughts, even though you felt that your “explanation” was more than “deserved.”

  21. I believe you are referring to an aunt of the president, Zeituni Onyango, who was in this country seeking political asylum. According to a CBS “main stream” media report, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/08/20/politics/main6790082.shtml, her petition has been approved. According to another “main stream” media source, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2008/11/obamas-grandmother-dies.html, his only grandmother still living while the president was still campaigning was his mother’s mother who died in Hawaii on November 4, 2008. Obviously, Curtis, your source of news is not so main stream or consistently accurate. And what makes you think that the president hasn’t reached out to his paternal relatives in Kenya? Perhaps he has but has shied away from making it public because of the potential for political backlash about relatives who are Muslim.

  22. A reader named Curtis recently submitted a very lengthy comment in response to this post. Rather than approve his comment as submitted, I have agreed to post the following response which includes a summary of the points he made:

    As to the “shovel-ready” projects you refer to, the president has admitted already that much of what they wanted to spend they couldn’t owing to environmental impact regulations or decided not to because the return on the investments wouldn’t justify the expenditures. I give the administration credit for not wasting the dollars and for admitting the overreach.

    As for your points on the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler, there were restructuring requirements you know making both companies leaner and more competitive. The “bail-outs” did in fact save the auto industry in America and tens of thousands of jobs including those associated with parts and material suppliers. This helped save jobs even for employees of the foreign auto assembly plants. Yes, these corporations are still paying back the loans. But they are paying the money back, with interest.

    As to your comments on the bi-partisan balanced budget commission the president commissioned — recall that he first tried to get Congress to form the commission then agree to vote on what their commission came up with. It is Congress that disposes. The president can only propose, and he has done so over and over again. This is not a lack of leadership, in my book. The man can only do what, under the Constitution, he can do.

    As for Obama increasing the national debt — it was Congress that passed the first economic recovery act in July 2008 which was the beginning of the stimulus spending. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 was signed into law by President Bush http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_and_Economic_Recovery_Act_of_2008. Some provisions of this were modified and rolled into to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009. Whether or not these ACTS OF CONGRESS were as effective as the representatives of the people had hoped, one cannot give the president all the credit or all the blame. Republicans who voted against these bills have been all too happy to take credit for jobs created or saved in their voting districts http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/feb/05/barack-obama/obama-criticizes-republicans-who-opposed-stimulus-/.

    As for the world being a safer place today under President Obama’s leadership than it was under President Bush, I admit, I may have overloaded my mouth. One cannot say what the terrorist situation around the world might have been had John McCain been the people’s choice instead of Barack Obama. Yes troop deaths in Afghanistan have increased considerably since Obama ordered the surge there, but as I recall, most Republicans approved of his decision on this.

    Yes, the president did tell us that the unemployment rate would not exceed 8 percent if Congress passed economic recovery legislation. Obviously, he was wrong by one-point-one percent. But who can say what it might have been had Congress done nothing? Some economists are saying that it might well have rivaled the unemployment numbers of the Great Depression. Now, I know you hate the Affordable Health Care Act and you think that Congress should have spent more time dealing on the jobs issue. But what would you and other conservatives like have done, reduce taxes even more than the president and Congress did and let the banking and insurance industries fail?

    You previously asked whether or not I thought that offering tax incentives to businesses to create jobs would work. Maybe. Today’s world is today’s world. But it didn’t help a bit during the months following the stock market crash during the Hoover administration http://millercenter.org/president/hoover/essays/biography/4.

    There are things the government can do, but its bag of tricks is limited to two things, taxing and spending. Congress and the president have acted on both, providing the biggest tax cuts in history http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2009/02/is-obamas-tax-cut-the-biggest.html. The Fed is totally in-charge of monetary policy, and holding interest rates to historic lows has done very little in the absence of market demand to motivate businesses to invest.

    Yes, Curtis, I am and always will be against torture in any form by this country of ours. I am proud that President Obama has effectively ended this practice and brought us back into compliance with international agreements and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And, yes, I prefer diplomacy over war, hot or cold. When diplomacy fails, as it did during the two world wars, Korea and the First Persian Gulf War, all the sanctions prove to be fruitless and isolation is no longer an option in the face of eminent, real threats to ourselves and our allies, then and only then is it time to put our sons and daughters in harm’s way.


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