Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's story time

So imagine for a moment that there's a house down the street. It's been a pretty nice house for the last few years; the lawns have been well taken care of, the paint is fresh and the roof is in good shape. But then some new owners move in. They get a little cold in the winter so they start ripping out boards from the wall and burning them in the stove. They don't mow the lawns and the paint starts to peel. Pretty soon there're holes in the roof and broken windows all over. Then a fire starts. For a while it seems like they're trying to put the fire out, but you notice that they're dumping gasoline on the flames instead of water. By the time the house is almost completely burned to ground they've moved out and a new family has come in. Within days of the new family taking over this burned out condemned structure, the neighborhood association comes by and complains that there's fire damage in the house and the lawns have too many weeds. This collection of concerned neighbors had been deathly quiet while the house burned, telling everyone that it wasn't the owner's fault the house was burning.

This story may sound familiar, not because you've seen this in your neighborhood, but because it is exactly what has been playing out on Foxnews (the neighborhood association) as the new Obama administration takes the reins of power. While I have never believed that President Obama was the solution to all of America's problems, or even most of them, I do believe that they are doing what they can to try and patch up this burned out house that we all live in. I would love to see them go even further, but given how much difficulty they had passing the stimulus bill, one third of which was entirely made up of tax cuts, I shudder to think what opposition to it would have looked like if they had pushed for even greater progressive policies. Lately, the likes of Sean Hannity and the rest of the loud mouthed pundits at FoxNews have been criticizing Obama for "spending our children's future" but that began when their Presidential choice decided to push through tax cuts for the wealthy at the same time that he launched two wars of aggression. President Bush turned President Clinton's surpluses into massive deficits before Barack Obama was even a US Senator.

If we had taken all those billions of dollars that went into Halliburton's coffers and Warren Buffet's tax refund and put them into innovative new technologies or funding education then most of the country would at least have something to show for all those billions, instead of a few extra broken appliances from Wal-Mart. We need to stop letting the notion of tax cuts drive our domestic policy because as much as the conservatives shout about how they're against "entitlement programs" what they really mean is they are against entitlement programs for the poorest among us and that they would prefer to give more entitlements to the rich.

It is an undeniable fact, voiced strongly by one of our nation's wealthiest individuals, Mr. Buffet himself, that the rich actually pay less of a percentage of their income in taxes than do the poor because the richer you are, the more likely you are to qualify for a slew of tax credits and rebates that have been padded into our country's legislation since taxes were invented. I have always held the belief that a progressive tax system (where the richer you are the higher your percentage of taxes should be) makes the most sense because the richer you are the more you benefit from the wealth and power of this country. When the state and defense department dole out no-bid contracts it is the richest among us who benefit the most.

So the next time you hear someone bitch and moan about entitlement programs like welfare, food stamps or medicaid, just remember that the real entitlement programs are costing the tax payers many times what those underfunded attempts to keep our fellow citizens out of abject poverty could ever cost.

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