Partisanship has reached the point where my local small city newspaper's Letters to the Editor column is largely taken up with conservatives repeating talking points. Some are such extreme over-simplifications and exaggerations that their repetitions amount to practicing the Big Lie technique. I'm dubious that conservatives can be persuaded to significantly change their world views. But I think there may be a margin of readers open minded enough to realize how shaky these points are when they are questioned in a non-offensive way. So I've created some short (Letter to Editor, 250 word maximum) passages raising those questions. I was a college teacher of critical thinking in philosophy. So I've written them in Socratic questioning style. Most newspapers, I've found, rarely or never publish letters from out-of-circulation area writers. So anyone who wants to respond to such talking points in their local area has my permission to use any ideas and even phrases in letters to editors responding to these talking points. My hope is that progressive readers will find something of value in the work I've done to boil complex issues down to near 250 word limits.
"The U.S. is Broke"
John Boehner said "The country is broke." This is troubling in light of facts stated in a couple of recent articles from Bloomberg, and the Financial Times available online. How can the wealthiest country in the world, which can tax and even print its own money, be broke? Bloomberg's article is "Treasuries Fluctuate Before Bidding at $16 billion Bond Auction" The Financial Times article is "US Treasury sells negative-rate bonds."
Where is that boogieman of general inflation feared since bailout and stimulus legislation passed? Facts in the Bloomberg article raise these questions: Do foreign central banks lend to borrowers they think are broke, and at very low interest? If not, how can the U.S. Treasury sells all its "full faith and credit" (FF&C) bonds at every auction, at now very low interest? Why do bidders offer to buy over 2.5 times the amount for sale? Facts in the Financial Times article raise these questions: Why do some lenders buy negative-rate US Treasuries, i.e., pay more than face value to hold U.S. Treasuries? This happened at the height of panic in 2008 and now in TIPS. Why are Treasuries said to offer a "risk-free interest rate?"
The claim that the US is broke can be used to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and deny health care insurance extension to the uninsured. That will help keep taxes low for the wealthiest Americans. But it invites us to allow politicians to cut benefits and make life poorer for our children. (249 words)
"Social Security is Broke"
Conservatives say "we're broke." But we're the richest country in the world. Our Gross Domestic Product is nearly 2.5 times that of China or Japan. Our government has Constitutional authority to tax to support programs and even create money. Some conservatives argue that Social Security "is broke" this way: "The money in the Trust Fund was spent on other things. So it was replaced with worthless IOU's." But the IOU's are Treasury securities backed by the same full faith and credit that backs our bonds. Behind this terrible argument is a simplistic image that money is coins and bills stuck in a safe that was then burglarized. But even "money in the bank" is not mostly coins or bills; just accounting entries.
Social Security has never missed a payment. But hundreds of thousands of corporations have, and even gone bankrupt, like AIG (which sold some annuities.) About fifty-three million Americans receive Social Security. So a failure by it to pay really would destroy the "full faith and credit" of the US. When needed, a few keystrokes could cancel a security in the Trust Fund as the Federal Reserve and Treasury create cash crediting the Trust Fund. Unless you're a hermit, placing more trust in some people or institutions than others is not optional. Which is more probable: that a private company or personal investment account you rely on for payments for decades of retirement will become insufficient or empty, or that the federal government will go broke and not pay Social Security? (250 words)"Corporate Taxes are Too High"
Corporations accumulate wealth. It's not wrong, so long as their controllers don't use wealth to win every legislative conflict between their profit and interests of real citizens. Real citizens have short lives and unlimited liabilities. Giant corporations have unlimited lives and limited liabilities. Their controllers are so wealthy that, through campaign funding and lobbying, they've captured Congress and Supreme Court, leaving the Presidency an impotent, aspirational office. A president can make wars and false promises but not achieve hopes of majorities.
Paid controllers "experts" talk to persuade us government is incompetent; taxes too high and wasted. Billionaire controllers (Peterson, Murdoch, the Koch brothers) want to persuade us of this to cut their taxes, lower our benefits and privatize Social Security. But historically and legally, governments are the mothers of all corporations. Corporations get limited liability from governments that birth and bail them out. Now, like insolent, hulking youth, they don't want to help support their mother governments.
Suppose the Board of a condominium you live in admitted a tenant who made extra use of condo services, e.g., waste disposal, but complained that he shouldn't have to pay proportionate fees for condo maintenance. Isn't he a freeloader? Living in a society is like living in a condominium. Corporate taxes are like condo fees for services government provides for them. Government even sends your kids to war to get control of foreign resources and markets. Don't let politicians sabotage benefits for your children and excuse themselves based on controllers' propaganda. Talk Back! (250 Words)
"The Federal Government is Too Big and Spends Too Much Money"
Conservatives' talking points provoke questions. They say "The federal government is too big" and "spends too much." Shouldn't size be related to functions? Isn't the U.S. relatively big and rich? Didn't the Preamble to the Constitution set out six purposes, including promotion of the general Welfare? It was important enough to mention a second time. Congress was given power to tax "and provide for the common Defense AND general Welfare" (capitalization is mine.) Isn't America rich enough to keep all our people out of poverty? Are conservatives picking and choosing parts of the Constitution to revere and others to ignore?
Doesn't the merit of spending depend at all on what you buy -- bread or bombs, general welfare or warfare of choice? Do rich people have no debts? Aren't countries with least debts (places like Angola, China, Kazakhstan, Zambia) those where people are the poorest and have the least economic security? Isn't whether a party "spends too much" complex, depending on purposes of the spending, the wealth and revenue possibilities of the spender, and how much time it has to repay?
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