I am sad today. I am sad for my country, sad that there seems to be little to be done about it. As the campaigns flare up, we have gone beyond the usual slandering and now just turned to out and out lies. I have been following very closely the recent TV appearances by McCain and Palin, and watched the latest ads. I read every story I can get my hands on, and many say that McCain and Palin are repeating things that have been proven as untrue. From the Jet sold on eBay, the “Bridge to Nowhere,” denying seeking earmarks, and that Obama is going to raise your taxes. These have all been proven false, and not on left-wing extremist websites, but I find them every day in the Associated Press. The jet was not sold on eBay, they did try to sell it on eBay, but after several attempts, they handed it off to a broker who sold it at a $600,000 loss, plus his fee. The “Bridge to Nowhere” was part of her campaign for Governor, and only after it became unpopular did she start talking against it, and she kept the money. There was even a report in today’s AP written by Garance Burke called, “Palin supports $600 million ‘other’ bridge project,” which just happens to be a bridge and highway project to connect Alaska’s largest city with her home town of Wasilla, a small town with 7,000 residents. McCain was on “The View” last week, and again repeated the lie that Palin didn’t seek earmarks, when in fact she sought over $200 Million this year as Governor, according to “McCain and Palin castigate the earmarks she seeks,” by AP writer Jennifer Loven. But the “Straight-talk Express” keeps repeating the lines, and they know if they keep saying it, enough people will think it is true.
AP Economics writer Martin Crustinger did a comparison between Obama and McCain’s tax plans in an article called, “Obama and McCain have big economic differences,” and found that under Obama’s plan, individuals making under $200,000 will see a decrease in the taxes they have to pay. Yet a recent Gallop poll from August 26, 2008 said that 53% of Americans believe Obama will raise their taxes. I don’t think 53% of Americans make over $200,000. If you keep speaking the lie, eventually enough people will believe it. It’s even in McCain’s TV commercials. And I know most people aren’t going to read the fact checks, even if they are in mainstream media, and the McCain campaign knows it too.
It’s just like the rumor that Obama is a Muslim; the idea got into enough people’s minds for it to make a difference. I’ve even heard it from people I consider friends. I know this is nothing new, and I’m preaching to the choir, because anybody who might read this already knows what I am talking about. But it seems like it is getting worse. Even Karl Rove thinks the campaigns are going too far. He told FOX News, “McCain has gone, in some of his ads, similarly gone one step too far in sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100-percent truth test." What?
But let’s go beyond just the election politics and look even further at how the truth has little meaning anymore in government. We just passed the seven year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Even if you are not part of the Truth Movement, it’s hard not to believe that at the very least our government let 9/11 happen. Writer David Ray Griffin was on the Rob Kall Radio Show on September 10th, and he brought up a rather chilling story that he says has since been removed from The 9/11 Commission Report. It tells the story of a young soldier who comes in to Cheney’s bunker while the plane is approaching the Pentagon, and asks, “The plane is 30 miles out, do the orders still stand?” “Yes, the orders still stand,” chimes Cheney. A little later, the soldier tries again, with the same response from Cheney, and it goes on until the plane is ten miles out, when the soldier repeats his question, and Cheney turns around and yells, “Yes the order still stands, have you heard anything to the contrary?” David Ray Griffin says there is no way a plane would be allowed to hit the Pentagon, it would be shot down, and this story appears to be Cheney ordering the plane not to be shot down. I read the 9/11 Commission Report when it was released, and remember this story, and the discrepancies about when Cheney actually made it to the bunker. Some reports had him already there before the planes hit, and even his official story has changed. And then the lies began to bring us into war, with false documents and phony intelligence.
Now, this skeptic is wondering why the timeline worked out so well for the administration. One year in office, an attack on our country gives the President extra powers, the war starts one year before reelection, and we are told not to change horses. That gets Bush elected again, and now Iraq has demanded timetables for release, which this administration fought for several years, that would have our next President bringing the boys home after one year in office. What a great boost, and I’m sure any tactic available will be used to ensure that McCain, the man who fought for victory in Iraq, will be the man in office to receive that boost. And now the President has signed an order to allow more secret missions to be carried out in the Tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the presumed hiding place of Osama Bin Laden. Anybody else out there think Bush will find him right before the elections? Save his presidency and set the stage for a McCain landslide, or at least a new war with Pakistan?
I am afraid for my country if this happens. We know McCain and Palin have no problem with more war. When asked about Iran, McCain sang the song, “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of “Ba Ba Baran.” Palin was asked in her big ABC interview if we should go to war with Russia if Georgia joined NATO and Russia attacked it. She said, “Perhaps so.” Georgia attacked South Ossetia, a country that just wanted from Georgia what Georgia wanted and received from Russia, its independence. Yet we hear in the media that it’s all Russia’s fault, so I know it wouldn’t be too difficult to get the masses here ready for World War III, which is most likely what would happen. It’s just like the Christian Right here in America; do you really believe Jesus would be a Republican? These people vote Republican on issues such as abortion and gay rights, but forget that the rest of the platform is very Unchristian. I don’t think Jesus would be for trickle down my leg economics or tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and come to think of it, neither was McCain when he ran last time, calling them immoral. Democrats aren’t perfect either, and Obama has had to either apologize for some of the things he has said, or explain them, but at least he admits it, the McCain/Palin ticket have decided to let the lies ride, and now it becomes our job to fix it.
Should this be our job? Probably not, but sadly, it is. And I know very few of us will take it on, and that makes us as people just as guilty as the people trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Well, almost.
With this latest Fannie/Freddie buyout, we have essentially nationalized our mortgage business, and one AP report I read said one of the benefits of this buyout would be the CEO’s would now be public employees, and be paid that way. Still substantial salaries, but not the almost imaginary numbers the previous heads were making. My question is will the taxpayer turn a profit on this deal once (and if) the market is revived? Or, will the government give power back once the profits return? VP running mate Sarah Palin has said she had a surplus caused by the booming oil business in Alaska, and she gave that surplus back to the people of Alaska. So if we allow all this offshore drilling, shouldn’t we see a part of it? If we allow drilling in federal lands, shouldn’t those profits go back to the taxpayer?
I am for the nationalization of our energy, as well as for our medical care. The argument has always been that the quality would decrease if we allowed our Government to be in control, but are private industries doing so well? Why did the banks fail and need to be bailed out by the government, no, not the government, bailed out by the people, if they were doing such a good job? Our government did not use this same technique to save all those poor souls who’ve lost their houses, the same people who are now saving the banks.
The other argument is that the free market keeps prices down, and the loss of competition would mean higher prices. They say we should trust the free market. Trust it? Tell me why when the price of oil went down so substantially, the price of gas only fell a little bit? This morning oil was under $100.00. Gas in my town is $4.00 a gallon, the price it was when oil was $140.00. I’m told it’s because the oil we are buying today won’t be gasoline for several months. If that is the case, why does the price of gas go up immediately when oil does? And, if the rise in oil prices was not the fault of the oil companies, why are they making record profits? Shouldn’t their costs have gone up as well? Shouldn’t their profits match their profits from previous years? Proponents for the free market say it’s our fault for continuing to buy gasoline, and almost present the big oil companies as heroes for bringing about this change to Green technologies, because thanks to the free market, Green technology is finally becoming affordable, relatively. We as consumers may drive the free market, but we are doing it in the cars big business is selling us.
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And we as democrats try to pass laws that raise taxes on the rich, or raise the minimum wage of the poor to try to level the playing field; do you know what big business does? They either raise their prices, or cut jobs and hours so they don’t take a hit. The bottom line is never affected. The only solution is to somehow show the people with the most that they will benefit if they share the wealth. There is a great episode of the cartoon “The Simpsons” where the local school is in danger of closing, so they invite the richest man in Town, C. Montgomery Burns, to a private performance. The children play all the roles, and we see a child who never learned to read drop rat poison in to a rich man’s food at a local restaurant. We see the ambulance driver miss the hospital and crash with a dying rich man in the back. This may only be a cartoon, but the point is very simple. There is a benefit to educating everyone in our country; if we don’t, who will work for you? Who will cook your food and drive you to the hospital? Who will clean that hospital? We can’t send every job overseas. Somebody has to stay here and be qualified to work.
There is an absolutely amazing Tom Brokaw interview with Warren Buffet, number 2 on the Forbes 400 list, where Brokaw asks, “Are you surprised there's not more talk in this presidential campaign about economic fairness and economic justice?” Buffet replies, “Yeah. I-- I-- I am surprised-- it may be that everybody wants to be cautious-- while they're looking to get nominated, but-- but the degree to which the-- economic-- well, the taxation system has tilted toward the rich and away from the middle class in the last ten years is-- is dramatic, and I don't think it's appreciated. And I think it should be addressed.” Brokaw says “You've talked about in your office, for example, you pay a much lower tax rate with all of your wealth than, say, a receptionist does.” And Buffet responds “That's exactly right, Tom. And I-- I think the only way to do it is with specifics, and-- and - and in our office, 15 people cooperated in a survey out of 18. I didn't make anybody do it. And my total taxes paid-- payroll taxes plus income tax-- and the payroll tax is an income tax. It's based on income. Mine came to-- 17.7 percent. That-- that was the-- that was line 61 I think-- or, no, line 43-- is the percent of taxable income, plus payroll taxes, 17.7 percent. The average for the office was 32.9 percent. There wasn't anybody in the office from the receptionist on that paid as low a tax rate. And I have no tax planning. I don't have an-- I don't have a-- an accountant. I don't have tax shelters. I just follow what the U.S. Congress tells me to do.”
Brokaw asks why there’s not more moral outrage about this, and Buffet says he thinks people just don’t understand it. “For one thing, you'll see a lot of surveys that say the rich, the top one percent pay this much of the income tax. Now I think what people don't realize is that almost one third of the entire budget comes from payroll taxes. And payroll taxes on income, just like income taxes are taxes on income. And the payroll tax is over $800 billion out of two and a trillion, or something like that. And people don't understand-- they-- they-- that the rich pay practically no payroll tax. I mean, I paid payroll tax last year on $90 odd thousand, whatever the number is. I paid income tax on $66 million. But my double income tax, one of 'em quits at $90,000. And the remaining $66 million does not get taxed with payroll tax. So, the person who makes $60,000 in our office gets taxed in full on the payroll tax, and taxed in full on the income tax. And-- and all the statistics you read, particularly the ones that don't like taxes, well now, they totally ignore the payroll tax. And it's huge now.” When Brokaw asks him why doesn’t Congress do something, he says “Well, I-- I-- I don't know the answer to that. I do know that the hedge fund operators made a record amount lobbying-- in recent months, so they give money to the political campaign and-- and who represents the cleaning lady?”
Brokaw says some defend Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, saying, “We wouldn't have gotten through the post-9/11 period without the tax cuts that George Bush pushed through.” Buffet gives to me his best answer yet, and the one that every Republican in my mind should hear, “Tom, I've been around rich people all my life. And I have seen capital gains taxes close to 40 percent. No one went home at 3 in the afternoon and said, ‘I've worked enough, and because tax rates are so high, I think I'll-- I'll go to the movies.’ I mean, people-- people want to maximize their after tax income, and there's two ways to do it. In-- increase their income, or get Congress to lower the tax rates for them. But I have never seen anybody with capital say, ‘I'm going on strike. I won't invest.’ I-- I've been managing capital for 50 years for other people. No one left and said, you know, ‘This-- the taxation system's too tough. I-- I think I'll just stick it all under my mattress.’ They can't stick under their mattress. They're going to invest their money regardless.”
America is a big market. People want to do business here. We can’t keep placating the rich because we are afraid they’ll move away. I can’t think of many countries on this planet where it would be better to be rich; I can think of some where the middle class and the poor have it better. But I am not going to blame it all on the rich. I’m not going to blame it all on John McCain and Sarah Palin, Bush or the Republican Party. The problem is the people who take advantage. People take advantage on every level, myself included, and we are all at fault for the world not being the way it should and could be. We don’t want to have to work too hard, we don’t want to have to pay too much in taxes, we don’t want to have to be fact-checkers for our leaders, and we want as big a piece of American Pie as we can get our hands on. And when something goes wrong, we wait for somebody else to fix it. Well, nobody’s coming. If we took all the money from the rich and gave it to the poor, many of the poor would become poor again, and some of the rich would become rich again. Money is not the solution. There’s the old saying, “Give a man a fish and you’ll have fed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.” And I think there are just as many problems with the way we handle welfare in this country as the way we handle the wealthy. Why should I go to work if someone else will and pay for me? I am proud of people like Warren Buffet, one of the have’s who will openly say it’s unfair, but did he go ahead and pay that other 15% in taxes his secretary paid? I doubt it, but at least he’s saying he knows he should. You know those stimulus checks we got? Our government spent roughly $152 billion in 2008 on all of us to help us in these troubled times. They’re prepared to spend $100 billion on Freddie and Fannie alone.
Obama’s tax plan raises the taxes on the wealthy and McCain plans to cut their taxes. According to the Martin Crustsinger article mentioned above, “McCain's plan would cut taxes by $596 billion over the next decade; Obama's would increase taxes by $627 billion during the same period.” So, both are cutting the taxes of the middle class and the lower class. If you make $19,000 or less you’ll see $567 through Obama and $21 through McCain. If you are in the what Crustsinger terms the middle, making between $37,600 and $66,400, you’ll see roughly $1,118 under Obama and $325 under McCain’s plan. Both plan to cut the taxes of people making up to $200,000, but McCain cuts those above that number, and he has a decrease in tax revenue, while Obama cuts more people’s taxes and has an increase in tax revenue. This is where that old Christian Morality should hit all those wealthy Republicans and make them realize how much more money could be in the budget for their wars if they paid just a little bit more, at least a little bit more like the percent I pay. I think I know how Jesus would vote.
Tim Buchholz is a free-lance writer living in Ohio