Posts Tagged ‘US Constitution’

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

May 7, 2010

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.

Responding to Anti-government Ranting

December 10, 2009

Though written for a West Texas audience, readers can readily adapt this to their own locality.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

–Mark Twain

There is history behind why some today express disdain for the federal government.  I’ll save that history for later but say here that a cruel joke has been played upon many Americans of moderate means.  They’ve been persuaded to think, talk and act politically against their own best interests, all to benefit controlling big banking, corporate and Wall Street interests.

Those interests I call “the banksters” want you to believe that your federal government can’t do anything right and is only bent on violating your rights, invading your privacy, taking away your guns, demolishing your religion and taxing you to death.  Funded and misinformed by the banksters, pundits and political mouthpieces doggedly sing this tune to make the lie become truth if only repeated often enough.  They do this because the only possible effective restraint on predatory capitalism would be the federal government; they want you to weaken your government or redirect it’s mission for their financial gain.

Let’s consider the accuracy of anti-government claims.  The US government is the foundation upon which our American society is built.  We’re lucky as residents of this country in that our social foundation was well thought out and crafted to withstand the test of time.  Perhaps the only thing that can bring it down is our own lack of understanding about it.  (These days we’re skating perilously close to that cliff.)

The government was established by adoption of the US Constitution with its purposes expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution.  It’s just one sentence but arguably the most important “mission statement” of modern times. With editorial assistance, the text as written is displayed for clarity:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to

form a more perfect Union,

establish Justice,

insure domestic Tranquility,

provide for the common defence,

promote the general Welfare,

and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

While the meaning of some purpose statements can be debated, some are crystal clear.  The rest of the Constitution, including Amendments, directs the organization and actions of the government to serve those basic six purposes. With the inclusion of the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (The Bill of Rights) the focus of this government and society clearly is on PEOPLE, those living at the time of adoption and their posterity (that’s us).  Any way you cut it, this society was organized as a “we” society in which we collectively look after and care for each other.  (And nowhere in this mission statement will you find mandates to preserve the profits of multi-national corporations.)

So, how well is the federal government addressing its mission statement?  Specifically, how is it enhancing the lives of those of us here in the wilds of West Texas?  We weren’t part of the original organization, but we wisely got ourselves adopted in 1845.  Since then, we’ve given the countless lives and vast personal and material resources to our government.  We have invested heavily, yet some are blind to all we receive in return.

Speaking of only one purpose, to “promote the general Welfare,” here’s just some of what we return to ourselves via our federal government:  Big Bend National Park, McDonald Observatory, NASA, Sul Ross State University (student grants, loans and program funding), AMTRAK; our non-commercial, public radio (Marfa Public Radio) and TV systems; food and drug safety systems including FDA and USDA (which also assists agriculture development); the federal highway system that conveys everything to and fro; money and regulation of our banking and commerce systems; transportation safety; disease and injury control; emergency response in disasters; environmental protection through research funding and regulation of pollution; employment assistance and occupational safety; housing assistance including construction funding, lending, regulation and support; the National Weather Service; and assistance to small businesses.

I left some biggies for last:  Social Security is a federal disability insurance and retirement system that provides basic income for many of our citizens who contributed to it and might otherwise be destitute.   TANF provides temporary assistance to needy families.   Medicare is a federal single-payer health care assurance system for those 65 and older.  Medicaid is the same for low-income folks (funded 50/50 by the Feds and the states).  Tricare serves military families and retirees.  And the State Children’s Health Insurance Program with joint federal/state funding covers care for uninsured children. These health care assurance (funding) systems are ALL federal programs, but many are operated by private insurance companies as contractors for the government.  Unlike for-profit health insurance, however, these programs focus on caring for people not making profit; overhead is low and client satisfaction is high.  The actual care is provided by our superior, mostly private professionals, hospitals and clinics. The VA health care system provides our veterans with health care both at government-run facilities and indirectly through payments to private doctors and pharmacies.  To those who consider health insurance reform intrusive, note that the government, at our request, is already deeply involved in health care financing and it works quite well.

“We the People” insisted that these services be provided.  It’s more efficient to provide them collectively and no one else does what the government will do.  Individual services may not be provided to our satisfaction, but if they are not, we have recourse.  They belong to us!  Consider too that these endeavors not only benefit West Texans, they also provide jobs for friends and neighbors.  And each of these endeavors creates demand for other goods and services provided by our local businesses.  If, as it now seems, we avoid a full-blown depression, we have this safety-net, this purpose to thank:  “…to promote the general Welfare.”

Those attacking the federal government “know for sure” some things that “just ain’t so.”  Believing what they say could get us all in deep trouble.