Ask Auntie Pinko
May 19, 2005
By Auntie Pinko
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Don't you think that rich Democrats are not any different than
rich Republicans? Or does being a rich Democrat somehow change the
mindset of a wealthy person to that of an altruistic proponent of
charity and their fellow man, while a rich Republican is automatically
changed to nothing more than a robber baron?
How is it possible that an across the board tax cut and lowering
of the rates does not benefit all citizens? Could it be that anybody
that really wants to return to the times of the Fifties doesn't
want the economic Fifties but the social Fifties when kids could
walk the streets in safety and didn't have to sleep in the tub to
avoid being shot in their own house?
Auntie agrees with you that Democrats are as vulnerable as Republicans
to the corrupting influence of wealth. I have known wealthy people
of both political affiliations, and have found warmly altruistic,
thoughtful individuals among them on both sides of the political
aisle. I have also seen callous disregard for the moral obligations
that accompany wealth among both Democrats and Republicans.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a man who grew up with wealth and
privilege) put it, "The test of our progress is not whether we add
more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide
enough for those who have too little." The same is true of wealth.
The moral obligation that accompanies wealth is not how effectively
the wealthy individual preserves that wealth and adds to it, but
how effectively they use that wealth to relieve the misery and suffering
of those without, whether they "deserve" it or not.
Jesus made no distinction; he comforted prostitutes and con artists
as well as widows and orphans. A wealthy individual who fulfills
this obligation is acting meritoriously, and political party has
nothing to do with it. A wealthy individual who ignores the suffering
all around them, or flees to the exclusive company of other wealthy
people, so that they do not have to confront the pain and inequity
of human imperfections, is abusing their wealth. No amount of tax
deductions they may garner for token "charity" gifts to their alma
mater, or "naming opportunities" at local institutions where their
closest contact with poverty and pain are the pictures in the slideshow
at the annual fundraising gala, can change that.
There is also no distinction between Democrats and Republicans
in terms of how they are willing to acquire their wealth. A business
person or entrepreneur who treats their workers with respect, compensates
them adequately, offers them opportunities to share in the wealth
they produce, and produces a quality product that does no harm,
is marketed responsibly and honestly, and sold at a fair and reasonable
price, is acquiring wealth conscientiously. Someone who makes their
wealth by exploiting cheap labor, creating shoddy or harmful products,
marketing them rapaciously, and grossly inflating their prices,
is acquiring wealth destructively, regardless of their party affiliation.
It is possible to benefit all citizens by lowering tax rates,
but simple "across the board" cuts in only one form of taxation
rarely accomplish that goal. Generally, such actions result in benefits
grossly skewed towards those paying the largest percentage or amounts
of that particular tax, and can sometimes cause real harm to those
who needed whatever services or infrastructure were funded by those
tax revenues. "Across the board" tax cuts are a cheap and often
harmful form of political pandering that usually result in an eventual
worsening of the problems faced by all citizens who must deal with
a decaying and inadequately funded public infrastructure and a vastly
disparate distribution of wealth.
Public servants who really wish to address the problems and inequities
in our tax structure would do better to undertake a thoughtful,
long-term review of our entire national tax policy, with
an eye to balancing the tax burden equally between assets and income,
between earned and unearned wealth, and to making it appropriately
progressive based on who benefits to the greatest extent (in terms
of wealth accumulation) from the public infrastructure supported
by the tax system. It would also be beneficial to examine our national
priorities in terms of what our taxes should be funding. For example,
we could increase the competitiveness of American businesses by
creating and maintaining really effective transportation and communications
infrastructures, and decreasing our dependence on power sources
that require us to purchase fuels from foreign states.
More affordable housing, available and affordable health care,
and an adequate retirement system for workers would decrease pressure
on wages. Preserving the future of our children by assuring them
of clean air to breathe and water to drink, healthy food to eat,
and a quality education would create a highly productive, competitive
workforce. Addressing issues of poverty, blight, and urban decay
would reduce crime and make it more desirable for businesses to
locate in population centers, preserving the environment and decreasing
sprawl. By prioritizing these items, rather than trying to address
the problems of business piecemeal with subsidies, corporate welfare,
pork-laden military equipment contracts, and repealing or relaxing
the enforcement of regulations, we could achieve real "across-the-board"
benefits to all taxpayers.
Auntie Pinko is glad that your memories of the "social Fifties"
are so peaceful and idyllic, Michael. But not everyone experienced
them that way. Many people experienced the equivalent of "sleeping
in the tub" to avoid the possibility of being lynched, hauled off
to jail for violations of Jim Crow laws, removed from their job
for "communist sympathies," or victimized by gang violence
which was just as real then as now. Half of the population suffered
from a system designed to exclude them from full economic and social
participation in public life, and rendered them vulnerable to abuse
and exploitation. Countless families in rural America and urban
ghettos lived without plumbing, electricity, heat, adequate clothing,
and nutritious food. Polio and other epidemics periodically devastated
the nation's population of children.
If the economic, social, and cultural structure of the Fifties
had produced an experience that matched yours for everyone, Auntie
Pinko would be at the front of the line advocating a return to those
times. Since it didn't, I'll continue advocating for a system that
improves the futures of all Americans. But thanks for asking Auntie
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