Thursday, April 07, 2011

Brief Comments on Politics

I only ever write about politics as a penance for not having a greater mastery over them, either in actual influence or merely ideologically.

This rush, in my state as in many others, as well as at the federal level, to smash public unions, reduce pensions and other benefits of public workers, cut funding for schools and health care, among various other of the usual bugbears of the right wing, all accompanied of course by much talk about adult responsibility and seriousness, the inability of leftists to grasp basic economics, the non-productiveness and unconscionable selfishness and parasitism of public employees, the thankless toil and groaning agony of the ever-dwindling number of net tax contributers and the increasing difficulty of retaining these vital people in the municipality/state/nation, it probably goes without saying, has a stink about it to me that is beyond rotten. There is nothing objectionable in pointing out that governments at all levels are in a financial crisis and that certain levels of spending at current rates are unsustainable. This does not account for or excuse the way the right wing is attempting to address these issues. The tone of discourse as well as the character of the moves taken is absolutely ideological. Everyone knows that destroying public unions, and taking the hammer to Medicare and Social Security and school funding have been long-held goals of the right wing, and their politicians and more zealous supporters anyway are in their glory at having an opportunity to do this. If these cuts absolutely must be made, as the self-proclaimed responsible heads insist, it should be undertaken in a considerably more sober attitude. Taxes should be raised if for nothing else as a token--by the nominal political leadership of the people--of societal solidarity and respect to those who will be badly hurt by these cuts, and to help mitigate the effects of them as much as possible.

I do believe that if deficits are the problem that they are said to be, that tax increases on the upper brackets should have been one of the first options rather than the last. However poor my grasp of economics and deficient my sense of justice are compared to Republicans if the numbers published regarding the wealth possessed by the top people are true 1) they can absorb a substantial tax hit and not suffer in the least, let alone unduly, compared to the needs of the greater society which, as great as individually many of them doubtless are, still affords them a considerable amount of support in ensuring their lives go off without too many unpleasant hitches and 2) there is something badly wrong with the system that requires correction. Superrich people really do not like it when you say, in the political arena, that their massive wealth has any whiff of having been gained unfairly. So I will merely say that whatever system we are currently operating under by which people who already possess enormous wealth are positioned to fairly easily acquire ever more jaw dropping sums while large swathes of the population sink ever deeper into debt just to maintain the bare trappings of a civilized modern life, and even larger swathes have largely abandoned any pretense to those trappings altogether, is so badly skewed in favor of the wealthy as to be in my opinion a structural problem of society, in much the same way that in the past other gross inequities and abuses of privileged status by one class or group over another came to be viewed as structural problems of the society and addressed politically as such.

As to the argument that there are not enough billionaires to tax to pay for all of the entitlements the masses crave, there are at least enough to pay for a few of the more worthy ones. If it is true, as it is frequently reported, that the 400 richest Americans have as much combined wealth as the bottom 100 million--some accounts say the bottom 150 million--then there are definitely enough to keep Social Security (average recipient around 14K a year) funded, especially with the contributions of present workers contuining to stream in, for a few more years, if that were a national priority.

I want to put something up before a week goes by, so I am going to save my thoughts on health care and education spending and the general need of the whole structure of the economy to adjust to a level that would make our society reasonably functioning again for another posting.

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