Monthly Archives: September 2012

Danielson for Real Leadership!

Last Summer I attended a fundraiser for Iowa Senate incumbent and local firefighter, Jeff Danielson, where he launched his campaign, and as he spoke to the crowd of around 200 supporters he gave a brief history of Iowa congressional activity during his two previous terms. A consistent divide between the left side of the aisle with the right was made very clear regarding various legislative proposals.

One of the most glaring differences is evidenced in a bill to reduce commercial property taxes in Iowa. Democrats proposed a $200,000,000 annual tax break that would see a reduction of 40% for 4 out of 5 Iowa businesses. The bill included provisions to insure its success; small businesses would be helped the most (small business comprises most employment), there would be no tax shift onto residential property taxes, and schools and local government would be protected so as not to burden local budgets.

House Republicans (supported by Governor Branstad) voted against the bill, effectively saying that small businesses should not receive the lion share (note: the bill reduced corporate property tax, as well), and that schools and local government budgets do not warrant protection, and they had no interest in keeping residential property taxes immune from increases.

The Democrats in Des Moines have consistently worked for legislation and budget support for working class Iowans, teachers, and small businesses. They have been committed to a balanced budget and primarily under Democratic leadership (prior to 2010) have created a budget surplus while reducing unemployment and increasing teacher’s salaries.

It has become clear to me what the fundamental difference is between the two sides of the political aisle. On the Republican side is a position that nothing should interfere with corporate growth and that any (literally any) spending or program that is directed away from them is anathema to their platform.

Their platform contends that it is indisputable that corporate growth motivates entrepreneurs and creates jobs, which in turn, increases private sector spending which in turn creates more growth.

Democrats draw from history what actually happens, however, and create policy to compensate or amend inevitable inequities. Corporate growth does not necessarily lead to jobs, and in fact, when not regulated efficiently, can lead to malfeasance and profit funneling which benefits very few.

A civilized society, built on a foundation of human rights and dignity, will offer assistance and not allow people to be dismissed by their misfortune.

Reality also shows us that nearly 3000 children are born into poverty each day in the United States and closing the door on the welfare programs that put food on their table or give them a better opportunity for an education, will not reduce those numbers.

Democrats in Des Moines proposed that $200,000 be taken from our budget surplus and given to the Iowa Food Bank.  28,000 children in Iowa are hungry today, by no fault of their own, and the Food Bank offers help by providing needed food, creating partnerships and through education programs.

Republicans to the man and woman voted it down. They believe that every dime of surplus should be redistributed to reduce corporate taxes, because that is the only thing that can grow business and create jobs….etc…(yawn).

Democrats believe that the prosperity of America should be realized by reducing the inequities that are created by class struggles, unemployment, sickness, or prejudices.

Simple logic tells us that not every American can be wealthy and that for most of us our piece of the prosperity pie is opportunity, justice and fair access to our freedoms and resources.

In the meanwhile, dear Republican friends, what can I tell the hungry children, or their parent who may be disabled, or the retired Iowan who lost her pension, or the construction worker wondering why some of 1.6 billion dollars in surplus isn’t providing more jobs to rebuild Iowa roads, bridges, hospitals and schools?  Or to UNI teachers and students who clearly do not receive your grace.

This is why I’m a Democrat. I support business, I support local charities, I pay my taxes, I contribute to corporate success, I support working families, and I also support social programs and compassionate legislation to offer assistance to those who have not been given the same breaks I’ve had.

It’s also, by the way, why I support Jeff Danielson for the Iowa Senate.

Is this cup half empty or half full of lazy Americans?

I try very hard to keep my political arguments civil.  I have been known to fire back with a little hostility at times in threads that became insulting, but it is never my intention going in to get nasty, quite the opposite actually.  I do research, I don’t accept rhetoric from either side at face value and I at least attempt to give a discourse credibility and an open minded perspective.

I’m sure everyone is aware of the story of the day that revealed Romney, privately recorded, saying, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.  All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That’s an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.”

Let’s be very clear here.  47% includes social security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits.  I have to ask, “Is Romney under the impression that people on social security are waving the ‘victim’ flag, or people on Medicare…or that people who lost their jobs during the Great Recession and are desperate to put food on the table are merely uninspired or lazy?”

Romney says that his message is to inspire Americans to “take personal responsibility” in order to become a contributing part of our system.  Apparently, this lesson includes the elderly, the sick, and the unemployed,

This is insanity.  It is perverse.  It is unethical.  And it is the position of the entire Republican Party. Even the ones who are part of the 47%!

Admittedly, I recently wrote on my blog about what I view as an epidemic in America to feel “victimized.”  I stand by that position but I must clarify that the victim-mentality that I’m speaking of extends to all of us.  My point was that there is a nation-wide deterioration of fortitude and resolve and, yes, that can create a sense of entitlement to compensation but that check is being cashed by as many conservatives as liberals; and as many rich people as poor people.

Show me a wealthy person who doesn’t take advantage of shelters, tax breaks, subsidies and grants, and feel entitled to the riches produced often by doing nothing more than calling their broker.  The 100 billion dollars (plus) that we pay for corporate welfare comes out of our pockets.  That’s a welfare horse of a different color but its welfare all the same.  

Back to the Romney quote.  One can never be sure what statistical analysis Romney is using to make his points.  He famously includes the month before Obama was sworn into office as part of Obama’s unemployment numbers so we can never rely on his blanket statements.   The truth is, 47% is usually the percentage Republicans attribute to the number of Americans who don’t pay taxes.  Relevant welfare numbers, meaning food stamps or cash assistance, is closer to 8%.

My guess is that Romney keeps hearing “47%” regarding any number of things, including the percentage of times his wife Ann drives one of her Cadillac’s to the club compared to being driven, and parrots that statistic any time he needs one.

Many times on Facebook threads, here on my blog, and in arguments around town I will hear a Republican use that 47% figure (or say “half of America”) when pointing out how many American’s “don’t pay taxes.”  Their point, and it is Romney’s point, as well, is that these people love being on the dole and want to keep things that way; they are freeloading Americans who will vote for Democrats because that’s how they can keep getting money for nothing!

Don’t argue with me, Republican friends, that is exactly what you are saying.

This is where I get angry.  Are you saying that half of America loves not making enough money to have to pay taxes?

Are you saying that they pity the Mitt Romney’s of the world who do? (We will assume Romney pays since we can’t see his returns).

First of all, the figure of “47% not paying taxes” is false, since nearly everyone pays regressive taxes, but for the sake of argument we can pretend that the Heritage Foundation (or chose the conservative publication of your choice) assertion is true.

Let’s look at a hypothetical to illustrate why many people don’t pay Federal taxes:

A couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax because their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero.  The basic structure of the income tax simply exempts subsistence levels of income from tax.  “Subsistence” is the key word in that sentence.

Low incomes account for fully half of the people who pay no federal income tax.

A second reason is that for many senior citizens, Social Security benefits are exempt from federal income taxes.  That alone accounts for around 22% of the people who pay no federal income tax.

And there is a third reason and this is one that sticks in the craw of revisionist Republican policy makers.  Written into the tax code is the earned income tax credit, child credit, and childcare credit for low-income families with children and that accounts for another 15% of the people who pay no federal income tax.

The gall of those liberals wanting to provide sustenance to children of low income homes!

But here’s the part that really gets my dander up—-

Mitt Romney’s thinking is absolutely sick!  The idea that working people needing tax assistance, to allow for basic costs of living, are not taking “responsibility,” or worse are “lazy” is sick and offensive.

And when you consider that its people like Mitt who are the ones actually taking advantage of our progressive tax system with loopholes and shelters allowing them to pay rates 10 to 15% LESS than most taxpayers, you may realize they are the real freeloaders.  People, like Mitt, who smugly conceal their Cayman bank accounts, write-offs and sheltered investments and do nothing to create liquidity in our economy, and justify their accumulation with, “I haven’t done anything illegal.”

Perhaps they haven’t, but neither has the family making less than $26,500 and just getting by.

If you can accuse the poor of using welfare to buy Cadillac’s and flat screen TV’s – at least they are spending!  That’s not even meant to be a joke!  The money, dear Republican friends, which your precious tax dollars use toward cash assistance programs, is going into the hands of people who SPEND it!  When the Bush tax breaks of 2001 and 2003 put more money into the hands of the wealthiest Americans do you know what they did?  They kept it.  They increased their personal holdings.  The “job creators” didn’t create jobs.

According to Mitt, spending money is not taking responsibility, HAVING money is what he’s sees as being responsible.

The brain twist that I get into at this point becomes too much.  There is no arguing logic with an ideology that prides itself on having a lack of it.

So…I stand down.  For now.  I’m sure something will get my goat before the day is over so maybe I’ll avoid the news.  In fact, I’m going to audition for the Community Playhouse production of “White Christmas” today.

I’m a liberal so I might try to get them to change the lyric to, “I’m dreaming of a multi-colored Winter solstice…”

Dear World, First let me apologize for Mitt Romney…

Mitt Romney has centered his message around a very succinct concept: He will never apologize for America.

The sentiment is building momentum for his uneven campaign as we inch closer to November and now he’s getting raves from conservatives, who previously eluded him, for his book, “No Apology; The Case For America’s Greatness.”

Millions of Americans are inspired by that nationalism and it’s become a battle cry of the far right against President Obama who did, in fact, once offer contrition regarding some of America’s foreign policies.

“Apology is a sign of weakness!” said one conservative pundit on Fox News.  “We are vulnerable to enemy invasion if we do not show our strength.”

Many Americans, myself included, feel pride in our country at the very thought of the principles of freedom and justice on which we were founded, the problem is, those principles are becoming a fairytale version of reality. While the feelings are sincere, they are no more relevant than the sensation we experience when Snow White comes back to life with a kiss from her prince.

To say, as President Obama did, that “America has, at times, been arrogant and dismissive” is simply a statement of truth.

Hiding the truth of our foreign policy contradictions, or pretending that America has always been on the side of justice does nothing to enhance the world’s view of our strength, or to instill fear of American retribution.

Is it so hard to imagine that Iranians shook their heads in dismay when our government sold them weapons during our own embargo against such an action?

Were they confused in Central America when the United States gave that money to a revolution to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, even though the US itself had rendered such an act illegal?

When US interest in oil allied us with the Shah of Iran, who forced a one party system onto his people and whose affluence made him a monarch in an oil rich kingdom of poverty, does anyone think Persians gained trust in our foreign policy?

Let’s not even start with American expansionism and the annexation of Mexican land or our ever changing trade policies and relations with China.

The point is America does not carry a flawless history to uphold the principles of freedom with compassionate wisdom and Heavenly guidance.

American foreign (and domestic) policy is peppered with inconsistencies, even betrayals of justice, yet to many Americans, and to Mitt Romney, the mere mention of that truth translates into “hatred” of America, however, it is anything but. What the “liberal” agenda hopes to achieve is more than a parroting of America’s greatness but to actually realize American greatness.

We cannot improve unless we know what we need to improve. We cannot become closer to a greater realization of America’s promise of freedom unless we acknowledge the mistakes we have made. That doesn’t negate our “pride” or our “patriotism,” what it does, in fact, is make us more capable of achieving greater strength, having safer borders, and it creates a new history of moral authority. It makes us adults.

Make no mistake, pride in American freedom is a good thing. It’s the only game in town if we are to live a just, happy and peaceful existence. It is the thing we should live within, aspire to uphold and extend to those who live without that hope.

The mistake Mitt, and many others, make is that freedom is not perfect in and of itself. It’s a perfect idea, but not a reality without risks, even drawbacks. Ironically, prejudice thrives as fertilely as tolerance within the context of freedom. Freedom of speech offers bigotry a voice and the KKK, the Aryan Nations and Neo-Nazi’s have a forum from which to recruit and it’s why their expressions of hatred continue to be woven into the fabric of our history.

Individual freedom can render us less secure, as we do not, and cannot in its realization, require proof of citizenship and state our intentions at every bridge and crossing.

The cost of freedom is more than the blood shed by our brave military in its defense overseas, it is also the challenges it presents in that pursuit of liberty, civil rights, justice, truth, tolerance and compassion abroad and at home. When Mitt Romney says, “I will never apologize for America” he is saying “I will never pursue an honest foreign policy.”

He would condemn us to the very constructs that have made us less secure and more vulnerable to attacks born from hatred; policies that make freedom ring, not from truth and justice, but from the ringing in our ears when bellowing politicians fan the flames of nationalism into a pyre that alienates America from her own promise.