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Calling Them Out As We Should

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opednews.com Headlined to H2 12/20/10

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What some call "common sense" is now nonsensical and speaks not for the common man.

When you hear in political discourse the same comments, the same exact phrases, repeated again and again, and they're no better grounded in fact on the umpteenth time than when first heard, you know someone's in the back room cranking them out for someone else to repeat. That, in fact, is what's happening, and for a reason. There's method in the madness of these lies.

Let's sample a few of the prominent lines and address their veracity, or lack thereof.  For example, was health insurance reform "crammed down our throats"? On the eve of President Obama's election in 2008, in public opinion polls, health care reform ranked third among the most important issues to deal with, superseded only by the collapsing economy and the Iraq War. Americans wanted health reform at that time; 95% wanted access to care for everyone. After it was adopted, polls indicate support for the effort is high and rising as people discover what the reforms include.

Was reform a "government takeover" of health care? No, in fact, it gave private health insurers millions of new customers in return for ending their most egregious abuses. They started raising premiums before the ink was dry and blamed it on reform. In 2010, health insurance profits are up 41%! They sure don't want it repealed now and Republicans who got elected by calling for repeal are already walking back those plans. Yet, while over 70% of the public wanted a government-managed insurance option, the reforms did not include it. However, Politifact has dubbed this the "Lie of the Year." They said, "Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections...The phrase is simply not true."

Are Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Compensation simply "entitlements" and inducements to lazy living?  Actually, they're all insurance programs that people pay into against the day they will need the benefits. Is Social Security bankrupt? Far from it. Social Security has a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it is not part of the federal general budget deficit. Does unemployment compensation encourage laziness? The prerequisites for receiving it are documentation that you are looking for employment and that you lost your job through no fault of your own. It temporarily provides, not a living wage, but a percentage of earnings when you worked. These are not incentives for recipients to kick back and forget about working.

Another myth: Higher personal income taxes hurt the economy; they are always are too high and should be cut. This isn't even true in a thriving economy, but it sounds so delicious we gobble it up. In a shaky economy, such as ours, it matters more whose taxes you're talking about. If it's middle-income taxpayers, yes, taxes should be kept low to help them meet their needs and to build demand in the economy.

However, if we're talking about marginally higher incomes, the dollars earned beyond say $250,000, it is HIGHER, not lower, taxes that benefit the economy. If those dollars come from a business, higher taxes are an incentive to leave those extra dollars invested in the business. If those dollars come from speculation, higher taxes are a disincentive to speculation and savings. And speculation, as we have seen, leads to bubbles that burst and hurt everyone, including investors. Excessive savings suck the very wind out of the real economies of agriculture, manufacturing and services.  Finally, higher taxes on marginal dollars allow greater public investment in building the real economy. And, another myth is that the government doesn't create jobs. It does.

Is there a moral equivalence between the capitalist backers of the Tea Party and Republicans vs the wealthy who support progressives and Democrats? No, there is a very obvious factual difference between them. The capitalists who fund today's political right are clearly openly engaged in electing those who support government policies that directly enrich them in return. They have a direct financial interest in the public policies they seek.

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Take the Koch brothers, for example. They are today what Standard Oil was in an earlier era -- "oil refineries and pipelines, paper, lumber, a conglomerate of companies second only to Cargill in scope. They funded Libertarian, Tea Party and Republican officials to enrich them directly through public policies that lower taxes on higher incomes and corporations, maintain subsidies for oil and commodities, deregulate polluters and financials, privatize public services and ignore global climate change.

The political right elected a President to appoint Supreme Court Justices who granted corporations personhood free speech rights. They've got their own TV network -- Fox News -- to spin misinformation 24/7. They literally do have whole operations dedicated to distorting facts and disseminating misinformation. That's the method to the madness.

On the other hand, wealthy Progressive and Democratic supporters are not in it for the dough personally. George Soros hasn't made a dime out of his support for progressive public policies around the world. Lyndon Johnson made nothing from the enactment of Medicare. John Kerry has family wealth, and so did Ted Kennedy. Clinton and Obama made their money from writing popular books. In fact, these wealthy people stand to lose personal wealth by implementation of progressive public policy.

Is great wealth an indication that you work harder or are smarter or better than other people? Not these days, friends.  Not on the scale we're seeing of the capitalist take. The people who earn their incomes are people like truck drivers, nurses, teachers, restaurant managers, carpenters, manufacturing workers, miners, fishermen, farmers, store operators and people who provide services that others need to enhance their lives. They've seen their incomes flatten or go down over the last decades, while the capitalists at the top. The hedge fund managers, bankers and CEOs of big corporations, have accumulated wealth many times beyond their need. And it is not "their money" -- they got it from all of us.

I'm not demonizing wealthy people or corporations. It is the behavior of some that brings their own shame, because the moral distinction lies in what people do with what they have. However, we must call these political deceptions for what they are -- greed. And we must stand up to it, even if that requires rethinking our political alliances, because this nation belongs to the people, not the corporations.

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I'm a retired public health worker focused these days on supporting a variety of progressive issues, such as criminal justice reform, energy efficiency, environmental protection, universal health care, civil rights, and worldwide peace and respect. (more...)
 

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