Almost two hundred and fifty years ago Voltaire wrote in the Dictionnaire Philosophique (and I will paraphrase), "In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of the citizens to give to the other."- I would add that the sole choice available is whether government will take money from the poorer citizens to give to the rich, or from the richer citizens to give to the poorer.
In the last thirty years, we have seen the transfer of large portions of America's wealth from the poor, working, and middle classes to the top ten percent in terms of money. When Ronald Reagan became President in 1981, the nation's wealthiest one half of one percent held twenty percent of this nation's wealth, and the national debt was nine-hundred-and-fourteen billion dollars ($914,000,000,000.00). Almost twenty-eight years later, that wealthiest one half of one percent holds forty percent of America's wealth, and the national debt exceeds ten trillion dollars ($10,000,000,000,000.00). The top ten percent of Americans holds more wealth than the bottom ninety percent of Americans.
Yet, the wealthiest Americans want the American people, as a whole, to bail out Wall Street at no cost to them?
Give me a break.
I am reminded of what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1840, "What is most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands. In that way there are rich men, but they do not form a class;"- (Democracy in America, volume 2, Appendix 5, "Democracy"-).
The last thirty years has seen an attempt by the richest Americans to establish a permanent class of wealth.
People like John McCain's "Joe the Plumber"- have bought into the widely disseminated but mistaken beliefs of people like Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Phil Gramm and Grover Norquist. They imagine that they can obtain paradise on Earth by cutting taxes, deregulating business, and reducing the size of the government (through lack of funds and privatization) until they can, in Grover Norquist's words, "drown it in a bathtub."-
They are as wrong in their extremist views as the Communists ever were in theirs.
We can now see the effects of their almost thirty years of trying to make these ideas reality: a Federal Government which can no longer properly respond to disasters like Hurricane Katrina; the nation's infrastructure falling down around our ears; an education system so starved for money that teachers have to buy basic supplies for their classrooms, a food distribution system where widespread outbreaks of diseases like e. coli and salmonella are common occurrences; a financial system that is tottering on the edge of an abyss deeper than the Great Depression. All of this while the four hundred richest Americans have increased their share of our nation's wealth by more than six hundred-and-eighty billion dollars ($680,000,000,000.00) over the last eight years. At the expense, I might add, of the very programs and services enumerated above that Americans used to take for granted.
The right wing ideal of lower taxes, deregulation, and smaller government--taken to its logical conclusion--leads to a nation of privatized services and infrastructure (including police, fire, roads, water and sewer among others), without legal recourse or protection for the vast majority of our citizens unless they have money or a patron who has money.
You know, like The Godfather.
Yes, the right wing-libertarian-objectivist ideal does not lead to more freedom for all, but to the only existing example (in a first world country) of a libertarian system, organized crime.
Patronage has a long precedent in Western societies going back to the Greeks and Romans. Hitch your wagon to whatever family or group looks like it will do you the most good, and ride it while you can. Of course, sooner or later different patrons will fight among themselves for dominance. God help you if you chose the wrong patron.
The guiding principle upon which I have based my personal philosophy of human group dynamics (political, social, economic, etc.) was expressed by James Madison in The Federalist Papers No. 47 (and I paraphrase to make it include more than politics): that if men were angels, any organizational structure imposed on them would work. However, human beings are not angels, and because of this fact, checks and balances, rules and regulations, expectations and motivations, must be included within the framework that governs a given human group dynamic.
Our nation is no longer primarily agricultural, with a population of some three million souls. It is a post-Industrial behemoth with a population of over three hundred million residents. To expect this nation to be able to function with the minimal government and tax structure of two hundred years ago is insane.
No one likes paying taxes. Let us place the primary burden back where it belongs, back where it was when the American middle class grew by leaps and bounds, and the rich were not taxed out of existence, no matter how much they complained. In all fairness, let us make the rich pay their fair share again.
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