The Sense Behind the Buffet Rule

26 01 2012

That grandfatherly guy with ukulele in the video is Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and he is a very wealthy fellow. He’s also never made a secret of who he supported politically, most recently President Barack Obama. Last August he publicly weighed in on matters of policy when he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which got him a lot of media attention. In it he made the argument for a higher tax rate on the capital gains (currently taxed at 15%) which are the main source of income for many wealthy folks meaning that many of those who would be paying the top rate end up paying a rate that is more on par with those at the lowest end of the taxable income spectrum. The White House took the idea which they had also showed support for and ran with it eventually crafting the Buffett Rule – a proposal which would establish a minimum tax rate of 30% on all those earning over a million dollars no matter how they earn their money. This idea resurfaced at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Like any other proposal made by anyone at any level of government, it’s something to fight over. The argument against the Buffett Rule is broken into two factions. Some feel that increasing the rate on capital gains for wealthy investors from 15% to 30% would discourage investment because people wouldn’t invest if they had to split their profits 70-30 with Uncle Sam. They also suggest that the downturn in investing would hurt the job market because if people aren’t investing in companies, then those companies can’t grow and that means no job creation, no hiring, and a stagnation of unemployment at our current painful level. I’m not an economics wiz, but I think that sounds a little off and I’m in good company. Mr. Buffett addressed this in his op-ed.

<blockquote>Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.</blockquote>

To put into an average American context, nobody refuses a promotion because they looked at their pay stub, saw all of the deductions that are taken out every week, and calculated how much more would be taken out if they took a higher paying position. Certainly each of us has grumbled about those deductions from time to time, but in the end we would rather make more money and so we would take the promotion and the associated increase in salary. Why would someone who makes money through investing be any different. Why pass up a profitable investment opportunity because of a 15% increase in the tax rate on that investment? They will still be making money and that is the draw of investments.

Other opponents of the Buffett Rule are opponents of the capital gains tax in general and these  critics are further subdivided. Some say that it is double taxation arguing that people invest their money after they pay taxes so to tax capital gains is to tax the same money twice and that is grossly unfair. It would indeed be very unfair if that were the case but it’s not because capital gains are just that – gains, profits, new money, income and thus subject to taxes. The principle investment is not a part of the equation so they aren’t being taxed on the same money twice, just on the money their investment brought in.

Others say that because capital gains have already been taxed as part of that company’s income and therefore should not be taxed once it goes to the investor. There is no gentle way for me to say this, that argument is completely illogical. The money that company pays the people who work for them also comes from corporate revenue which is subject to corporate income tax, yet those workers are taxed on that money and nobody (except the Ron Paul supporters who want no taxes, I guess) complains a bit about it. Investors may not “work” for these companies per se, but they do provide a service – they supply capital – so why should the profits they make from their contributions to the running of a particular company not be taxed while the wages earned by the person whose contribution to that same company earn them a paycheck when it’s all paid out of the company’s (taxed) profits? If you extrapolate this theory out further, almost no person or business would ever pay any taxes. In our current system, our money gets taxed when it’s our income whether or not it has been someone else’s income beforehand. Sorry.

I side with Warren Buffett. Taxing the investments of millionaires at the same rate as the income of a person who works 40 hours a week and takes home, at most, $17 in taxable income an hour is ridiculous. It makes the whole “class warfare” argument a farce when some of the very wealthy are simultaneously lamenting the top tax rate and not paying it. They pay, at most, the same rate as an individual making between $8,700 and $35,350 a year according to the IRS. I don’t begrudge them their success, but I’m certainly not feeling their pain. A millionaire making the majority of their annual income from capital gains should pay a tax rate closer to the rate millionaires who collect a paycheck are paying. How is that class warfare and not just common sense?

Advertisements




It Isn’t Envy, Mr. Romney, and It Isn’t a War on Capitalism Either

14 01 2012

Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at his campaign presentation. Rather than pointing out his experience in the actually process of governing, Mr. Romney has chosen to campaign on his career in the private sector as a “conservative businessman” and “job creator”, as he often describes himself at campaign stops and in debates. After winning the New Hampshire primary, he gave a victory speech that bypassed his primary opponents and blasted the President for engaging in “the bitter politics of envy”. On Wednesday morning, NBC’s Today Show host Matt Lauer asked specifically about that choice of phrase.

So, if you dare to raise questions about Mr. Romney’s business decisions, it’s just because you’re so jealous of him. Can you possibly get a more self-absorbed sound byte? It made me think of Gordon Gekko’s “Greed Is Good” speech from the movie Wall Street.

No, Mr. Romney, everyone who whats to see proof of your claims of net job creation and wants to know whether your decisions regarding the leveraging of debt and the mass layoffs were the actions of a shrewd businessman or a corporate profiteer is not envious of you. They are vetting you, sir. That is what happens in a campaign. You make claims that you’ve done fabulous things, people say “Oh yeah, prove it,” and then you either give them the proof they’re asking for or they will go off and find it on their own. Also, the more time it takes you to prove your claims – the more you squirm, and hedge, and try to explain why no proof should be needed because you’re such a nice guy or whatever your excuses are – the more people will start to wonder if you’re trying to hide something from them. Running for president is, after all, a candidate applying to the American public for the job of running the country. Asking for more in-depth information on the business practices of the man running for office under the banner of “the business guy” is not anything I see as questionable. To return to my job application analogy, it can be likened to a potential employer asking for references at a job interview. The more cagey an applicant about supplying the references, the more the employer will no doubt wonder if there is something that this applicant might be misrepresenting. Does the “scheduling conflict ” they listed as their reason for leaving Company X really mean that it clashed with their grad school courses, or could it be that this person’s definition of “lunch break” more closely resembled the rest of the world’s definition of “afternoon off?”, the prospective boss might think and questions like those floating around in potential employer’s mind doesn’t bode well for the bumbling applicant. The best thing Mr. Romney could do for himself right now is open up about his Bane Capitol days. It’s not like Democrats won’t be asking these questions in the general election if he makes it to the next round.

My other issue with Mr. Romney and his supporters is that while they condemn those to there left for using what they deem to be the rhetoric of class warfare, they are waging a pretty good battle on that front themselves by labeling those who would criticize predatory capitalism, what most would consider unethical, “bad” business practices, as trying to destroy capitalism in general. That argument make absolutely no sense at all and yet it is everywhere. This becomes crystal clear if you use this logic outside the realm of election year economic policy. For example, if I say that I don’t like a particular painting, then using, this thought process, I am against painting as an art form and trying to engineer its demise. If I don’t like a particular book, then I am obviously crusading against all of literature. If I eat brussels sprouts and say “yuck,”, then I am really saying “DOWN WITH VEGETABLES!” In every other context this line of pseudo-reasoning is quickly and easily identifiable as a heap of bullfunky, but apparently if you’re talking about how big money people make big money when one of them want to be President, such talk is apparently tantamount to heresy in this country and particularly in this country’s Republican party.

There is nothing wrong with examining our economic system to see if it is working effectively and doing a little routine maintenance when it’s needed to keep the country moving. You can have vibrant and competitive capitalism without allowing it to become predatory. It’s all in how the game is played and what the rules are. Many people have a problem with the practice of outsourcing, for example, and it has been stripping the country of  jobs since the eighties, yet there are tax incentives for companies that outsource and business organizations support this practice and lobby to keep it as an accepted way to do business in America, but not really in America. Until the incentives to send jobs overseas are eliminated and perhaps there are even incentives set up to bring jobs back here, we will continue to be bled of every job it is possible to outsource because that makes these companies the greatest profit. That’s not a criticism or a compliment, it’s math.

That brings me to another point – corporations are not people. The best analogy I can come up with is that corporations are like robots. They have a few things in common with people – they can be sued, etc – but they are basically computers running on a yes/no system (hello, binary) which analyzes whether or not a given circumstance is profitable. If the answer is yes, that options chosen. That’s it. There are no emotions involved. Workers don’t matter beyond their productivity to cost ratio. You can’t be angry about it not having feelings or empathy – it’s just a machine after all – so if you want to change its behavior, you have to alter the program it runs on. We have a minimum wage, so even though it would be more profitable to pay American workers a dollar an hour, the robot of an American business, let’s call it RoboCorp, won’t do that because the program it runs on tell’s it that it can’t.  RoboCorps large and small run off of the same basic program – the rules our economy runs on. We have to engage in a national discussion about the economy to decide if changing laws is necessary and if so, then what needs to be changed.

That is the discussion that is being derided as anti-business by Mitt Romney and his surrogates. In that video Mr. Romney says that talk of the economy should take place in “quiet rooms” and that brings to mind images of the Gilded Age when the titans of industry would meet in private clubs and decide what the rules were among themselves and far away from the little people who worked for them. Those workers could vote, well, as long as they were male citizens over the age of 21 and in some places they kind of had to be white too, but, voters or not, they couldn’t be part of any serious economic dialogue because they didn’t have enough power or money. They didn’t know the right people in the right context, they didn’t belong to the right clubs, etc. That’s not how things are supposed to work now a century later. I’m not naive enough to think that power and money don’t buy influence in this day and age, but everyone should be able, and is able, to discuss economic policy just as they do foreign policy and social issues. No quiet rooms required.

The Rachel Maddow show Thursday night brought up another point last night and I thought it was worth a mention. (The video is long, it wouldn’t embed, and there is a somewhat related story about a dog and his bodily functions. Sorry.)

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

As mentioned in the clip, in 1992, times were tough and George H.W. Bush had an image problem. He was seen as an out of touch rich guy who just couldn’t understand what kind of problems the country was facing and he lost the election at least in part because of that. Somebody needs to knock on the door of the quiet room  Mr. Romney likes to work on economic issues in and remind of that.





Negative Political Ads Done Right

29 09 2011

As much as the political process interests me, there is one inevitable part of any election season that I cannot stand – those obnoxious, negative ads that just whack away at the candidate that the group who paid for the ad doesn’t like. Around a week prior to the election it’s practically raining negative ads – they’re on the internet, the radio, and they are all over TV – to the point that at the end of your day, unless you are either working on the campaign for, or personally close to one of the candidates,  you’ve heard so much about lies told and dirty deals hatched that you don’t want to vote for either of them. They both look like dishonest, cheating, morons and, frankly, they do that to themselves.

We hear this every couple of years. “Everybody hates these attack ads,” and yet the attacks return when the elections do. They come back because, as much as everyone says they don’t like them, studies have shown that they work. They get remembered and they get results. My father told me that he still remembers a negative ad run by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964 and that it played a role in his voting for LBJ. That ad is known as the “Daisy” ad and insinuated that Goldwater’s A-bomb friendly attitudes could lead to World War III if his itchy trigger finger was in control of the red button. Just as Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again in America” ad defined his 1984 re-election bid, the “Daisy” ad came to define Barry Goldwater’s candidacy and did a lot to lose that election for him.

It seems like every campaign enters in a race to come up with the next “Daisy” ad – the next attack that so effectively vilifies their opponent that it goes down in political history and is referenced in poli-sci classes (and in the writings of political geeks) for decades to come. That makes for some very unpalatable advertisements invading our every information source. It’s already well underway for the poor souls who live in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Thankfully, amid all the allegations and insinuations, one can occasionally find a bit of a humor. This is from Texas Democrats and is aimed at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. It made me chuckle and I wanted to share it.

And you know what, for any more Republican leaning individuals that have kept reading this post and made it this far, I have something for you, too. It is from the campaign of Roger Williams a Republican running for the US House of Representatives from Texas.

Now, obviously I don’t agree with Mr. Williams’ characterization of Democrats, but I have to admit the ad is clever. I wish we had more of these kind of negative ads. Cute, snarky ads get the message across without leaving people pondering whether or not they want to vote at all. These are attack ads done right. Politicos, take note.





Michelle Obama, You Were Right

14 09 2011

I’ve been trying to watch at least part of the Republican debates in the name of remaining well-informed. Frankly,the fact that one of these people might be president disturbs me, but their audience disturbs me more. Last week, in response to a question about the 234 executions carried out during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas, the crowd broke into cheers. Cheers?!

My issue is not over the death penalty itself. I have my opinions on the issue and I think responsible people can intelligently debate its pros and cons all day long. What I found so jarring was the raucous applause and whoops from the audience. We’re talking about killing people, not a great football play. Whether or not you believe a criminal deserves to die for their crimes, I think we can all agree that executions aren’t exactly cause for celebration.

Last night I had another of those “what country are these people living in” moments. A hypothetical question was posed to Texas Representative Ron Paul about what should happen to an individual who is uninsured and suddenly needs expensive medical care. Ron Paul tends to get a little long-winded, so the moderator pushed him asking if society should just let the man die which lead to several calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. Not as much glee as the death penalty mention some days before, but still creepy.

It isn’t just the fact that the idea of someone dying really pleases a few of these audience members. The thing that blows my mind is that not one of the candidates stepped up to say one of our strengths as a nation is our compassionate nature and that there would be something out there to keep citizens unable to afford insurance from being forced to go without necessary care. Looking out for one another doesn’t mean the “nanny state” is taking over. It means that we are part of a community – local, state, and national. Remember? “E Pluribus Unum”  – out of many, one. It’s on the national seal. (That was our motto before the 1950’s when “god” was added to our pledge to the flag and our money and the national motto became “In god we trust.”) A conservative can still have a soul, but you’d never know it. Empathy is apparently a facet of godless, socialistic, liberalism which must be abandoned as quickly and completely as possible.

In early 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was taken to task by Republicans (and supporters of Hillary Clinton) for saying that America could be a mean country. Well, Mrs. Obama, I have to say that you were at least partially correct. A country which cheers execution, calls for those can’t afford that which will save their lives to lose their lives, and lacks any feeling for those who don’t plump up some corporation’s bottom line is a mean, mean place. The thing is, that mean place is not where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it. When I was growing up, if someone lost their job due to downsizing, lay-offs, and etc they weren’t the problem, whatever lead to their job going away was. A social security check, and the check and medical benefits of a union pension were the well-earned reward my grandmother and many others of the “greatest generation” received for decades of hard, honest work building our modern society. No one ever said they didn’t deserve it or were stealing from their children and grandchildren. Times have gotten harder, but I don’t think getting meaner as a society will solve anything. I’m hoping that logic will overcome whatever makes seemingly ordinary people cheer death and view compassion as a curse.





What Do House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the iPad Have In Common?

24 01 2011

 

 

 

Both are small and partially made of plastic? No. Both are viewed as smug symbols of elitism by some Tea Party-ers? Maybe. It sort of depends on who you’re asking. The answer is that the public will be receiving both the iPad 2 and Pelosi 2.0 this year. If you’re wondering if this post is going to be both a bit of political theorizing and some nerd-girl swooning over a yet-to-be-released, shiny, new tech toy, the answer is yes. Why? Because I’m just that geeky.

Yes, technophiles are waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the iPad 2’s release date and many, myself among them, will head out to reserve one as soon as they are able to and then, once the happy day arrives, they will wait in insanely long lines for hours to, at long last, hold in their hands the second generation iPad. The clouds will part, beams of sunlight will pour warmly down from the heavens, celestial choirs will sing, and it will be Christmas in … whenever… for thousands of Apple lovers. The announcement has been expected for months and there are various theories about when it will come, many stemming from people with too much time on their hands analyzing every one of the few details they can get ahold of.  Those details are very few indeed and speculation is rampant, so take it all with several grains of salt. I’ve been casually following the iPostulating at Beatweek and I’ve also looked at Mac Rumors, where I pulled this picture from, and while there is a lot that’s just talk, these are some features that are generally accepted due to the surfacing of the photos of what are supposed to be iPad 2 cases made in China. Apparently, somebody doesn’t know how to keep a secret.

No doubt some of the silence surrounding the release date has to do with Apple’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, taking another medical leave of absence – this time without setting a date when he’ll be back. Jobs took a medical leave in 2006 in order to undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer and another in 2009 to undergo a liver transplant. With a medical history like that, the level of concern expressed by everyone from stock market analysts to run of the mill Apple fans is understandable. I join the chorus of those wishing Mr. Jobs a speedy return to health.

So nobody who’s able to confirm anything to the rest of us knows when the iPad 2 is coming or what fabulous things it’s going to be able to do when it gets here, yet many people are anxiously waiting, blogging, and talking about a device that Apple won’t acknowledge even exists yet. The question then becomes why. Why are so many people so excited by the sequel to the iPad? History. Apple functions on a very predictable schedule and has for several years now. They come up with a great product and then, within a year or two, the second generation is released and they have:

* Fixed all of the inevitable bugs that go along with anything 1.0.

* Created a buzz which results from their 1.0 being so good – a device that has become the gold standard in its category or damn close. For example, nobody says mp3 player. We all talk about iPods.

* Figured out what “it would be awesome if this thing had/could do ____” and added that feature to the second gen. product if it’s at all possible.

A bit of patience tends to be rewarded if the newest Apple gadget is your heart’s desire. As a bonus, most of the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc generations don’t change a whole lot from the second gen. device – maybe they’ll have more memory or look a little cooler – until

there’s a major innovation (think classic to iPod touch) that really warrants an upgrade, so your second generation product stays current for a few years and you get your money’s worth which always feels rewarding when you’re dealing with techno toys. Since the iPad’s debut I have been waiting for all of the reasons I have described. As I recall, the iPad didn’t have much in the way of new device bugs. There were, however, things people wanted to see added or improved. The speakers could’ve been stronger. Many people want to see a camera added. I’m not among their number, but nobody called to ask my opinion. More

memory is a plus. The biggest thing I heard about was the screen’s glare issue, so that might be dealt with. The newest iPhone has a super high-resolution Retina Display screen. While this article says the iPad 2 won’t have it, an improvement in resolution and less glare is all but a given, especially given that an ad for Amazon’s Kindle e reader took a swipe at the iPad over the glare-prone screen. Throwing my own hat into the release date guessing game, I’ll say that we’ll have an announcement before June and I’ll have my iPad 2 in hand by December 1st.

On the political front, the House Minority Leader’s public image upgrade is looking to be on about the same time-table as my future iPad2. Starting well before the mid-term elections Nancy Pelosi had become the arch-villain in the Republican’s fairy tale of why everything that’s wrong with DC and perhaps even the world is the fault of the evil, no good, country-destroying, monolithic left. Even though sensible people on either side can take a look around and see that laying the blame for problems that were quietly growing in complexity for decades – even reaching back to the Reagan years in some cases – at the feet of Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid, or even the Democrats as a group as the foolishness it is, Nancy Pelosi has become the personification of every one of our nation’s ill and all that’s hated about the nature of bureaucracy in general for many on the right. Her name was invoked to great effectiveness in campaigns by conservatives against then-incumbent Democrats during the mid-terms and conservative commentators on TV and in radio take every opportunity to skewer her for whatever’s making them unhappy at that particular moment. Glenn Beck was already joking about poisoning her in 2009. Some might say the character assassinations have worked a little too well. Last April, a man was arrested for threatening the then-Speaker of the House and I’m sure that not the first or the last threat she’s received. Unfortunately, it seems death threats are par for the political course. That’s nothing new of course – Abraham Lincoln kept a file of his in his desk at the White House – but just because it’s an old idea doesn’t make it acceptable. In short, whether you like Minority Leader Pelosi or not, you have to admit that she’s become politically radioactive – a pariah even among some members of her own party.

Despite her notoriously gaffe prone, generally nervous performances in press conferences and such which I attribute to a touch of stage fright (You can actually see her freeze up before she starts to trip over her words.), she is, contrary to popular belief, not a dumb woman. You don’t work you way up through the congressional leadership and become the most powerful woman in American political history by being an idiot. While the American public at large might decide to vote a likable doofus into the presidency, our Representatives take voting for their majority leaders, minority leaders, and speakers of the House very seriously. They vote for the one among them who can get things done and, whether you like the results or not, Nancy Pelosi got a lot done and she was able to keep most of the House Democrats in rank even after the Republicans took control at the beginning of the month. The fact that only three broke ranks to vote for a repeal of Healthcare Reform is a testament to her abilities. Still, she can’t do much when her public image is this toxic. She has to do some damage control… and it looks like she is. She has, for the most part, been able to avoid a lot of media attention with the exception of a few interviews. There are not many pictures of her coming out, so she’s generally under the radar. She wasn’t front and center at the memorial for the victims of the shoot in Tucson. She was the only member of the congressional leadership to attend the state dinner that was held for China’s President Hu Jintao, but I challenge you to find a picture of her there. Even the fact that she stuck around after losing the Speakership reflects well on her and casts a new light on someone reportedly only in it for the power and the parties and such. By just lying low and keeping as quite as the House Minority Leader can be expected to be, she’s keeping herself from become the story. That doesn’t sound like much but in six months, when the 2012 election cycle really gets underway, it will be much harder for Republicans to use her as the poster woman for why all liberals should be despised if she hasn’t said or done anything overly controversial in the last several months. If she can stay in the background while Speaker Boehner and the Republicans try to get their agenda legislated and take the political flak that comes with doing so, she’ll begin to look more like a person and less like the demon she’s been cast as. In fact, the Republicans might come to regret posting that “Hire Pelosi” sign over the RNC. They underestimate her at their own peril.





Snow, Chaos, and the Merchant of Hate

12 01 2011

According to this, we got the most snow this state has ever seen in one day. That’s saying something considering the state is Connecticut. It’s up to my hips. I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow at one time. I have dug out and am feeling the results.

This is the Amalfi Coast in Italy and that is where I have been wishing I was all day today. The warm sun, a glass of wine, and gorgeous men sounds great right now.

There’s too much going on in the aftermath of the shooting in Arizona, my previous post‘s topic not to go back to it and, since I couldn’t do much other than dig out I’ve had a decent amount of time to work on this. Here is my opus magnum. On Monday evening, Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor that those calling for the political debate in this country to take a more civil tone in the wake of the shooting of a congresswoman “Merchants of Hate” because some on the left had taken the opportunity to go after various conservative voices, naming them as potential (unintentional) accessories to the crime before anything was known about the shooter. Go figure. He singled out national publication which had specified specific individuals like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or groups like the Tea Party-ites, conservatives, or the right in general but expanded his point to include anyone who had put out ideas about lowering the intensity level of our nation’s partisan tone. So you say “can’t we all treat each other properly ’cause somebody could get hurt” and you’re labeled a Merchant of Hate.

I expected being an evil, nation-destroying villain would be different to tell you the truth. I mean, do I get a costume? Do I get a scythe? A mace? A cat o’ nine tails? It seems like a Merchant of Hate should have something dangerous, painful, and medieval in their hand. I’m envisioning a combination of the grim reaper, a ringwraith, and a dominatrix (or the male version thereof). “Beware, you are in the presence of a Merchant of Hate. Hey, are those BBQ potato chips? Sweet!”

Mr. O’Reilly also made a claim that it was all due to a great liberal fear of the left-wing dissolving. That’s madness plain and simple. The left-wing isn’t going anywhere. Even in the good old conservative days of Father Knows Best, mandatory prayer in schools, the acceptance of the use of every racial, ethnic, religious, and social slurs except those pertaining to white, protestant, middle or upper class men – the days before the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation, or the first Pride Parade was ever thought of – there was still a left-wing. Don’t believe me? Look up “Joe McCarthy” to see how scared they got people. They were always there and, no matter how small or large their number, conservatives have always been screaming that they would destroy the country and should be stopped. News flash, Mr. O’Reilly, the left is not going away. There’s been a political shift, a common occurrence in this country, but, barring some large-scale, Mao-style re-education effort or the far right wingnuts getting the right to make arrests on sedition or treason charges, there will still be a population of liberal thinkers in this country involved in politics, voting, and serving in elected office. If the our system of national government can accommodate the views of the likes of Ron Paul in can also handle those held by people like Nancy Pelosi and everyone else on the spectrum. It’s been making things work in spite of our elected officials’ flaws for 235 years and I have faith in it. I find it strange that some who would wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism and Americana would view the building blocks of our country as so easily able to be broken. Come on, we’re stronger than that.

I might be a Merchant of Hate according to Mr. O’Reilly, but I stand by my statements in my last post. I don’t care what the shooter’s motive was. If thousands of people – not the usual punditry suspects, but average people – hear that a member of congress was shot and start talking about tempering political rhetoric, that should be a hint that maybe there’s a problem there. Why not be proactive and curb our collective enthusiasm before it gets someone hurt and for goodness sake don’t ramp it up just for the hell of it ,or because you like controversy, or because you think your base will love it. I still believe that the caustic nature of our national climate is unhealthy and should be diffused, not through the passage of legislation, but through a little self-restraint on the part of our leaders and those who put their political opinions out for all to see (myself included).

This evening, The President spoke at the University of Arizona at a memorial for the victims of this senseless act. His eloquence served him well. I found his thoughts about the youngest victim, nine-year old Christina Taylor Green – words about public service viewed as nobel through the innocent lenses of a child’s eyes. “I want to live up to her expectations,” he said. Why not try? Seriously, let’s make the effort. There’s no downside that I can see to treating politicians like people instead of demons. A few paragraphs back, I mention having faith in our governmental process. Well, since I’m in a quoting mood, Ella Grasso, the former governor of Connecticut – the first woman elected governor in her own right – is quoted as saying “It is not enough to profess faith in the democratic process; we must do something about it.” We need to do something about the way we debate. We need to not take the easy way out – the systematic shredding of an opponent’s humanity as opposed to taking them to task on the more academic, less sensational realm of stands on issues, and economic plans, and polling data and all the other nuts and bolts of policy wonkery. Another politician who is way before my time said in his inaugural address “So let us begin anew remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.” The topic of John F. Kennedy’s quote was the Cold War. Compared to that, partisan hyperbole seems a lot easier to handle.

If you missed it, this is the President’s speech and the University of Arizona.





Twenty People Were Shot and Some Fools are Still at it With the Demonizing.

8 01 2011

I’ve been following this on CNN.
That’s Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Three days ago she was sworn into her third term in Congress. Yesterday she read the first amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives. Today she was shot in the head by a nut. That nut apparently shot nineteen other people as well and six of them, including a federal judge and a nine-year old girl, are reported dead. It goes without saying that my thoughts are with the victims and their families. You’d think we as a nation would step back, take a deep breath and say “Dude, what the hell are we doing? Demonizing public officials only creates an atmosphere that sets volatile crazies off and then people get hurt. We need too calm down.”

Nope!

People are already trying to sniff out his political affiliation so they can add that to the long list of why everyone on the left or the right – wherever he happens to fall – should be despised, written off, imprisoned, stripped of citizenship, charged with treason, etc. They see this as the perfect time to ratchet up the vitriol to deliver the knockout punch. Yes, please, by all means, let’s make the country so polarized that every individual with an iffy grasp of their sanity goes off and shoots an elected official because that’s obviously what civilized societies do when everyone doesn’t agree. How much more wrong can they be and how much longer are they going to stay that way?

It isn’t a conservative/liberal thing. It’s the tainted nature of the discourse that’s the problem. Pundits on the left and right, I’m taking about you. I don’t care if this guy was a “Takin’ my country back,” or a “They’re trying to take my country away and turn back the clock to 1776,” person. The result was tragic, why make it worse. There is no dishonor in not calling someone evil. Since when does name-calling equal strength anyway?  I hope we learn how to disagree politically without disparaging each other to no end, but I’m hardly optimistic. We’ve had this conversation before and, if nothing changes regarding the way we treat each other and our elected officials, I feel we will be having this conversation again as more people will be hurt .