Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It’s time to move the political center a few feet to the left.

Since almost nothing’s as nauseating as a wonky recap of political history, I’ll spare you reams of historic details. Suffice it to say that not so many decades ago, the American center was in favor of a robust Social Security system with defined benefits. The center was in favor of Medicare, in favor of graduated taxes, in favor of much higher taxes for the most highly-paid individuals than we have today, in favor of mutual sacrifice for the future of America.

What do we have now? Thanks to the Republican Greed-Is-Good crowd, not a single politician I know of – left, right or so-called center – dares to say, “We need a tax increase for the good of the United States of America and future Americans.” The word “sacrifice?” Count on most people to sacrifice somebody else’s chicken, and then only to Mammon, the god of greed.

If you’re a candidate running as a Democrat and you oppose reducing taxes, you’re “hopelessly liberal.” More spending? Sure, say the Greedniks, especially if it's money spent in Iraq. Taxes to pay for the spending? The Greedniks assume the money will materialize magically from a galaxy far, far away. (My own suspicion is that the Bush administration is secretly printing money to pay its own bills, gradually moving the value of the dollar, in the direction of the value of toilet paper.)

The Democrats, at least recently, have been overly careful to watch what they say ( except for Gaffing John Kerry.) I’m not certain whether the latest election will change that. House Democrats are talking about bipartisanship. As of this writing, control of the Senate is iffy at best, and Republicans in the White House and the judiciary seem to be sticking to their guns. Which leaves nobody standing up for America and our nation’s future prosperity, or sweating over the terrible debt we’re placing on our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

HEREWITH, A NEW DEFINITION
OF THE POLITICAL CENTER

We need to move the political center a few feet to the left. Hereafter, let’s define the center the way it should be defined. Here’s are some of the key commonsense things that real “centrists” believe:

1. ON WAR

As a centerist, you have to believe in Colin Powell’s doctrine of going into combat only with “overwhelming force.” In war, as in almost everything else, you get what you pay for. Right now we’re paying for a losing proposition in Iraq. This has been said many times before but it’s worth repeating: It’s taking us longer to drown in the mire of Iraq than it did to win World War II. Don’t you get the feeling that history and current events are telling us something?

2. ON GETTING THE U.S. INTO WAR

It’s a no-brainer that any time you get into a war, people get killed, wounded and horribly maimed, and that the loss is financial as well as human. Therefore, war should be conducted only in the gravest and clearly tangible circumstances.

Anyone proved to have gotten the United States into war on a pretext such as non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” – thus robbing the United States of citizens’ lives and of economic treasure for no valid reason – has committed a deed equivalent to treason and ought to be tried and, if found guilty, punished with according severity.


3. ON TAXATION

If you are truly in favor of capitalism, you have to be in favor of graduated federal income tax with extremely high taxes on the highest incomes that paid to officers of public corporations. Here’s why:

Taxation does more than raise money for Federal projects. Properly applied, taxation also controls rapacious and clearly anti-capitalist behavior, such as looting corporate treasuries, thus directly robbing the companies’ owners – the stockholders. Another example: The Ken Lay Maneuver – committing fraud to prevent stockholders from selling out and cutting their own losses. Taxation should make it pointless to take more than about $2 million a year in total compensation out of any public company. If that means a 97% tax bracket on CEO incomes over $2 million, tax the greedy bastards!

You’ll hear the CEOs who make $50 a minute – that’s a minute – whine, “But I’ll lose my incentive to work!” Yeah, and so would Willie Sutton, the bank robber. Fine, lose your incentive, be gone and be damned. Meanwhile, maybe your board will recruit an innovative leader who’s more interested in growing a company, innovating new products, and contributing to America’s economic base than he is in stuffing his own bank account.


4. ON SMALL BUSINESS VS. BIG BUSINESS

Americans, Democrats included, seem to have forgotten that the true wellspring of economic growth is the small entrepreneur, not the big business mogul. Job-creating new industries – the ones that grow into the Apples and Microsofts – start in garages, not in executive suites.

Therefore, preferential tax treatment should be given to small companies. And companies that get “too big” – and perhaps we ought to have a national debate over how big “too big” is – ought to be broken up for being the anti-competitive dinosaurs that they are.

5. ON GUNS

True Centerists agree with the U.S. Constitution on the right to bear arms. Specifically, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Therefore, the Government should, under the Constitution, keep a list of all owners of arms, large and small, to make sure those people are properly enrolled in their militias, now known as the National Guard, and are providing regular service to those militias. Those gun-owning individuals not doing so should be arrested as AWOL or as deserters.


6. ON PRIVATIZED VS. PUBLIC
FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT

The first instance of privatization recorded in American history occurred during the Revolutionary War – fortunately on the British side. Rather than put their own soldiers everywhere, the Brits rented Hessians to do the soldiering for them. It was a lot cheaper, and a lot less upsetting back in England. The result? Of the 17, 000 Hessian soldiers, more than 11,000 were disasters.

• 535 and were reported as killed in action
• 3,014 were reported as deserted or missing
• 2,628 were reported as captured during the war
• 4,983 reported as died of other causes (disease, accidents, etc.)
[Source: http://www.vondonop.org/hessianfaq.html]

Incidentally, my source for the privatized Hessian numbers considers these figures to be conservative. By other accounts, Hessians killed in action numbered 1,200.

In any case, the founding fathers learned a lesson: Some government functions, most especially war, are far too important to be left to private enterprise. The lives, security and health of American citizens are too important to be entrusted to a bunch of greedy corporate jerks out to make a buck. If the American Revolution were left to the likes of the today’s Hessians – the Halliburtons and Bechtels –we’d still be singing “God save the Queen.”

Functions reserved to government ought to include not only national defense and local policing but also highway construction and maintenance, the maintenance and expansion of national forests, and health care insurance, to mention only several. It’s a national crime that over 20 cents of every healthcare dollar you spend goes to enrich an insurance company (or more probably its under-taxed CEO) rather than to purchase medication, get you the doctor you need, or support your local hospital and medical school.

7. ON REGULATED INDUSTRIES

Big business is out of control. You can see this almost any time you pick up a newspaper, but moderates ought especially to be outraged that Big Banking is working overtime to drive American citizens into debt that – thanks to Repulican legislation – is becoming harder and harder to escape by declaring bankruptcy.

Puppet Republican legislators, their strings yanked by banking lobbyists, get irate and declare that people ought to pay their credit card debts without recourse to an escape by declaring bankruptcy. The problem is, most bankruptcies in this country are caused not by carelessness but by out-of-control medical bills that can destroy a family. And Republicans don’t seem to give half a damn about that.

How bad is the situation? Credit card interest rates can go as high as 25 percent, and maybe higher under the right circumstances. That’s worse than the rate Legbreaker Louie, the Mafia loan shark, used to charge back in the days when the FBI and the Treasury Department were working overtime to send Louie to the pokey.

Centerists believe in stronger usury laws and stronger limits than we have now on the pursuit of people who’ve fallen in over their heads on debt, usually for no fault worse than trying to pay for the medical care needed to save a family member's life. Incidentally, where are all the “right to life” people when it comes to paying for life-saving healthcare?

7. ON GAY MARRIAGE

Centerists would gladly oppose gay marriage if we could see one iota of harm it does. However, all evidence is that it does no harm at all.

“Defense of Marriage Act?” Defense against what? How does it hurt my heterosexual marriage, or yours, if two gay folks down the block tie the knot? The issue is pure hokum from the get-go, designed to take your mind off issues that really matter to your life and your future.

How come people who don’t want government “meddling” with a life-and-death issue like healthcare suddenly get all worked up about gay marriage? It’s time to get off this piece of crap “issue” and focus on what’s important.

MORE TO COME

When The Crank gets around to it, we’ll have more to say about the center – and about what a good Centerist’s position ought to be on public education and its outrageous cost, on abortion, about pseudo science and its toxic fallout, and more.

Until then, stay centered.

1 comment:

New York Crank said...

Occasionally, non-bloggers send me e-mails at etaoinshrd@aol.com.

A reader called Geff and some of his friends wrote in with this quote, from Oliver Cromwell when he unseated the English crown:

"It is high time for Me to put an End to your Sitting in this Place, which you have dishonoured by your Contempt of all Virtue, and defiled by your Practice of every Vice;
"Ye are a factious Crew and Enemies of all good Government; Ye are a Pack of mercenary Wretches and would, like Esau, Sell your Country for a Mess of Pottage; and like Judas, betray your God for a few Pieces of Money; Is there a single Virtue now remaining amongst you?
"Is there one Vice that you do not possess? Ye have no more Religion than my horse! Gold is your God: Which of you have not bartered your Conscience for Bribes?
Is there a Man amongst you that has the least care for the Good of the Commonwealth?
"Ye sordid prostitutes! Have you not defiled this Sacred Place, and turned the Lord's Temple into a Den of Thieves by your immoral Principles and wicked Practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole Nation.
"Your Country therefore calls upon me to cleanse the Augean Stable, by putting a final Period to your Iniquitous Proceedings in this House, and which by God's Help, and the strength He has given Me, I now come to do.
"I command ye, therefore, upon the Peril of your Lives, to depart immediately out of this Place;
Go! Get out! Make haste, ye Venal Slaves, begone!"

Geff then added this from a more contemporary enemy of big and corrupt government:


"President Bush said that if illegal immigrants want citizenship they'd have to do three things: pay taxes, hold meaningful jobs, and learn English. Bush doesn't meet those qualifications."
--PJ O'Rourke

Thanks, Geff and friends, for both contributions. And keep coming back to this blog. Postings usually go up about twice a week.

-=The Crank