Does the ultra-right carry water for the ultra-rich?

To paraphrase the Wicked Witch of the West in the “Wizard of Oz,” “How ‘bout a little truth, scare mongers?”

In my last article, I debunked the myth that our tax dollars are taken against our will and given to lazy people who refuse to work. Nevertheless, up popped a letter repeating that we’re “immorally taxed against our will” which apparently has origins in libertarian doctrine.  A corollary myth is that the only true purpose for the government is to “protect our freedoms” presumably meaning the military and police.  These are a poor reading of American history and a distortion of the Constitution and the government it established.  Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion here, but we’re not entitled to invent facts.

For American revolutionaries, taxation was an issue, but it was not, as implied by current “tea partiers,” an issue of high taxes.  For the colonists, the issue was taxation without representation – paying taxes when they could not elect voting representatives.  Other economic issues, which led directly to the Boston Tea Party, were favorable treatment for the British East India Company and restriction on colonial trade with countries other than Britain.

The East India Company was perhaps an early capitalistic, multinational corporation.  It was granted monopoly status by Britain and given preferences to supply the only tea colonists were allowed.  So colonists smuggled in tea from other sources and refused to buy British tea (even though it was cheaper).  In 1773, they attempted to send tea back to Britain and, when that failed, dumped it in Boston harbor.  There was reaction from Britain, counter-reaction from the colonists, eventually the Declaration of Independence and war.

After throwing off one government, the Americans turned around and formed what?  Another government more to their liking. The Preamble to the US Constitution gives the overall mission statement, the purposes, for the government.  I’ve covered this in a previous article, but repeat that the mission to “promote the general welfare” includes a large number of activities that are appropriate, constitutional governmental roles.  Saving an economy in free-fall and aiding the least of us in our society – the sick, the poor, the elderly, the unemployed, the children – are entirely appropriate roles for government, as are financial, and environmental and safety regulation.  Over the years, we have demanded that these roles be fulfilled.  We love this most about our country: Here we care about each other.

American revolutionaries believed in government and accepted taxes set by elected representatives.  And that’s just what we have today.  Whether born here or becoming citizens or legal residents by choice, we enjoy the blessings of this society and we have obligations to follow the laws and pay taxes.  How is this coercion or taxing us against our will when we are free to live elsewhere? Without our government we would effectively have no income and our assets would have no legal standing or even a record.  Without government we may think we have individual rights, but there is nothing to assure them, no one to truly “protect our freedoms.”

With funding and misinformation from capitalistic, multi-national corporations, today’s tea partiers (about 80% are Republican), libertarians and ultra-conservatives, wrap themselves in the “patriot” flag.  However, ideologically they bear a stronger resemblance to the secessionist southerners than to American revolutionaries.  They even talk of states’ rights and secession. For the policies they advocate, they would be on the side of the British and the East India Company were we back in revolutionary days.  They support the anti-tax, anti-government policies that serve the mega-rich. They protest high taxes when they, themselves, just received a huge tax cut enacted as a stimulus to the economy. Income taxes in 2009 were at an historic low.

They claim, but have no evidence, that the government is intruding on their individual rights.  On the contrary, it is these extremists who pose the greatest risk to individual rights.  Where they have been able to gain power themselves, instead of solving real problems they have enacted laws that certainly do intrude on the constitutional rights of millions (e.g., Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, Oklahoma’s invasion of the doctor/patient relationship regarding abortion, and some state denials of equal protection under the law to all).

They complain that the deficit is too large yet said nothing when most of the deficit grew by tax cuts for the wealthy and two unfunded wars.  The portion of the deficit caused by recent spending was essential to turn around this deep recession caused by, you guessed it, the mega-rich. They don’t see that we can more quickly pay down the deficit if we rebuild middle America and return to fair taxes for the wealthy than if we destroy the safety nets just to keep top tax rates low. Despite ample evidence that the stimulus did work to prevent economic free fall, they call it a failure.

They want to “take back” a country that they haven’t even lost. Many are proud of their faith, some even proclaiming this is a Christian nation.  How is it, then, immoral for us to be taxed but perfectly moral to eliminate our social programs that fulfill the “Golden Rule?”

Middle and low income Americans have every reason to be angry these days.  They have been dealt a raw deal – an unprecedented reduction in their economic wellbeing.  But some are directing their ire in the wrong direction.  It’s not the government, workers, immigrants, or minority group members who have harmed us.  It’s the banksters, the Wall Street stalkers and “free-market” capitalists.  Yet those same capitalists use their billions now to feed back to the uninformed all the talking points of the ultra right.  Their purpose is have us detest the government because that is the only force that can stand up to their unbridled greed.  They want us to repudiate the mission of the government to care for the least among us just so they can avoid their fair share in taxes.  And their vision for America’s future is…. what?  Future?  What’s that?  If it’s beyond their next quarterly earnings, it doesn’t matter.

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