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Beware the Bogeyman!

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Message Ed Tubbs
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In Monday's New York Times, former senator from Oregon, Republican Robert Packwood, writes in his "The G.D.P. Question" op-ed concerning President Obama's plan to raise the tax rate on those individuals earning above $250,000 that the issue is "not how much we want to tax, but how much we want to spend."

This slight-of-hand canard would be worthy of David Blaine. (For those unfamiliar with the street magician, let me offer this YouTube treat.

The false choice tactic advanced by Packwood is typical of today's Republican Party.

The US Air Force, for the first time in its history, will be ordering more un-piloted drones than it will piloted aircraft. Those things fly so high, above 10,000 feet, that they're invisible to the mere mortals living at lower elevations. That's the way Obama's tax-rate hikes will be to 95+% of us.

Back in the day, Ronald Reagan's, to be precise, I had what I considered a good income that permitted me to enjoy a good lifestyle. I had a nice home, in a nice neighborhood. My wife - we're now divorced - and I each drove nice new cars. We had two nice sons (We still do!). We had nice money in the bank. And we paid taxes. Did we ever pay taxes! But we did not mind. Honest! I did not. The living was good, even under Reagan's tax-rate structure.

Nonetheless, here's the absolutely essential point: Obama's plan would have those in the rarified strata at a rate that yet will not reach Reagan's when he left office . . . depending of course on how they itemize their deductions, which, of course, those way up there do. They pay the best accounting, finance planning, and legal minds to get their client as close to zero as possible. That $250,000 will be a "net" income per person, or $500,000 per couple. Any individual whose gross income is $250,001 and any couple whose gross income is $500,001, and who pay a tax rate based on nets of $250,000 and $500,000 respectively need to find new accountants, financial advisors and attorneys!

But the kicker, the clown behind the curtain so to speak, that Republicans always fail to include in their "low-tax" mantra, is the full array of services and infrastructure the country has been ignoring, at least since Reagan took his first oath of office. Locally and interstate, our roads and streets are in disrepair, costing motorists billions in wasted repair dollars. Our seaports and airports are woefully outdated, functionally obsolete, as is our entire rail system. Our 50-100+ year old urban sewer and water systems, while inadequate, also face imminent collapse. However we initiated the high-tech revolution, we trail every industrialized nation for broadband penetration. We are behind every advanced economy on earth for basic education. Per capita, we graduate fewer at the public school level and are left in the dust for the sciences and math and engineering college grads we need this moment, let alone for those we will need in just the next few years.

The actual list of matters this country has for decades blithely and quite irresponsibly just plain ignored is exhausting. We've been surviving on our seed corn.

In 1981, Fram ran an oil filter commercial that featured a couple auto mechanics. One fellow was in the background, bent over the front fender of a car, its hood raised. The other mechanic, in the foreground held an oil filter in his right hand. "Now an oil filter doesn't cost much..." he said. The mechanic who was bent over the car smiled broadly and interjected, "But I do." The fellow holding the oil filter then said, "You can pay me now," to which the working mechanic appended, "Or pay me later."

"Later" for the United States was many, many yesterdays ago.

The present economic mess the US financial industry triggered, and which the entire world is now suffering through, at least insofar as the United States is concerned, was a dive into a pool we'd emptied long ago. It was a mess we'd be facing with or without the financial industry's shenanigans. Perhaps not this very moment, but soon. As we have been behaving for multiples of decades, it would have been unavoidable. We refused to invest in those areas I mentioned above when it would have been a fraction of what it is today.

For every politician and for every individual who is railing and whimpering about President Obama's intentions a couple questions should strike the imagination the way the blaze of mid-afternoon sunlight does to those leaving a movie theater matinee. If not now, when? And whenever "when" is decided, exactly how will the exorbitant fees be paid?

The answers are painfully plain and simple. In lost wages, in lost industrial production, in lost revenue, we're paying for our irresponsible past right now. We cannot put what we've been putting off any longer, and count on a productive, competitive tomorrow. And somehow we're just going to have to find some way to pay for it, whether Republicans and the conservative Blue-dog Democrats like it or not. Unless of course, they can provide workable answers to the two questions I raised in the preceding paragraph.

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An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."
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