Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No New Taxes?!

How about the old taxes? Can we have the old taxes back? Please?

The top marginal tax rate was at its highest under Dwight Eisenhower (R), at 92% when he took office in 1953, and dipped only slightly to 91% in 1954. There it remained for ten broadly prosperous years until the Johnson administration, where it only dropped to 77% in 1964. It did not dip below 70% again until Reagan[1] took office, whereupon it dropped to 50%, then 38.5%, then to a jaw-dropping 28%(!) with the transition to Dubyadaddy. It shot back up under Clinton to nearly 40%, when we started thinking about paying our bills again, but W put a period to that silliness in a hurry.

In our current climate of entitlement, we all want the benefits without the responsibility, and taxes are routinely spoken of as a "burden" or as "punishment." You hear all manner of absurd propaganda posing "government" and "regulation" as evil monsters inimical to a healthy economy, hilariously oblivious to the obvious fact that without government, without regulatory structure, without reliable enforcement, well, there is no fucking economy. Period. The question ought to be "which version of these necessary structures works best for the greatest number." We speak as if our safety, our security, our health and our quality infrastructure (i.e. the "blessings of liberty" spoken of in the preamble to our Constitution) were privileges bestowed from on high, and not shared necessities to which we all have a duty to contribute significantly, as a meaningful function of the resource$ that we derive from this generous system of government that permits us to do so. Isn't that what "sustainability" means? Yet "from on high" increasingly has come to mean "from China" as we mortgage more and more of our future and the prosperity of our grandchildren with this dubious "friend."

If freedom has anything at all to do with financial independence--or even solvency--this nation is slipping increasingly into a state of bondage most dire. We've been reduced to groveling before a country that won't even permit one of its own citizens to accept a Nobel prize, merely to keep our ramshackle ship of state[2] afloat. We can't even muster the stones to stand up and look the obscenely wealthy in our own nation in the eye without blinking. "The land of the freeee and the home of the brave" my fucking ass. Outside of the narrowly circumscribed lock that lifts the yachts of the superrich to ever more vertiginous heights (and where could they ever possibly hope to sail to, once the gates open at their absurd zenith? It had better be another planet, for their sakes.), this is increasingly the land of penur-eeee and the home of the slave. Oh, the "American Way Of Life" (AWOL)? Just put that on our tab. We can explain it to the Class of 2040--they'll understand.

So, where is our President[3]? He has the rhetorical chops to make this case quite compellingly, yet his thumbs appear to be otherwise engaged at the moment as suppositories. I don't think that's what we meant by "Thumbs-up." I know that he's in a difficult spot--some even say this latest deal is the best we could have hoped for (m'kay...). What makes me grit my teeth right now is: we didn't even get to see him try! He didn't once stand up, like FDR, and make that "Old Enemies of Peace" speech[4] ("business-and-financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering!") explaining what we have to do and why.

He can still do it. We're still waiting. If it isn't time now, it never will be.


1 - 3 from Douglas Adams (R.I.P.):

1. "Humans are unique both in their ability to learn from the mistakes
of others, and in their extreme disinclination to do so."

2. "In real life it wasn't a ship he would have set foot in for all the rice wine in
China. "Extremely rickety" was one phrase that sprang to mind and "Please
may I get out?" was another."

3. "He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive
incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which."


[2] continues to be relevant:

"This is going to fly?" said Arthur, giving gaunt looks at the
lashed- together pipework and wiring that festooned the cramped interior of the

Slartibartfast assured him that it would, that they were perfectly
safe and that it was all going to be extremely instructive and not a little

Ford and Arthur decided just to relax and be harrowed.

"Why not," said Ford, "go mad?"


4. "They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere

appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized
money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob."

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Stephen...Keep 'em coming!
    I don't understand how statistically sound economic facts, like the current income/asset disparity, no longer have the power to sway minds. The yawning chasm is a given, a natural fact, as if the most necessary thing in the world. Ever notice how the Oligarchs and their Moneyed Right Bullhorners never even bother disputing the numbers? Ten years of this tax-cut voodoo produced nothing in the private sector--an actual job loss over the past ten years (New York Times). The only industries that thrived (an 8% annual growth) during the Burning Bush were those directly related or ancillary to the war on terror--contractors, logistical suppliers, spooks for hire, etc.
    It's likely that we're in the midst of the most tremendous gamble in world history (a gamble for us, a gambol for the top 1%). I wonder-and tremble at the thought-of the day when the Chinese call our bluff and begin unloading the T-bonds they've gobbled up...What fascinates me about it is the notion that Sun Tzu was correct in that wars (including economic ones) are ultimately won or lost by the characters of the leaders and the psychological dispositions of the soldiers. Ceteris paribus, between us and the Chinese, their populace could probably take the hit (a drastically diminished export market, partial collapse) such a bond-dump would create for them. The States, on the other hand, would probably fold in unprecedented civil unrest which would make the Sixties look like a dust-up at a Rotarian meeting.