William Greider is stuck on the trivial subject of how compromises on the estate tax worsen deficits. It fails to point out why an estate tax--indeed, a much higher one than the US had before the Republicans went on their "death tax" propaganda campaign--is useful and important. Estates are unearned and undeserved income. They lead to aristocracy. They undermine the opportunities of all who weren't born rich. They deprecate the value of labor, the basis of all our past and future wealth. They distort our political values. A strong estate tax in itself isn't enough to level the playing field but at least it sends a message that a level playing field is something to be desired. As for the deficits, the estate tax is almost unique is that increasing its rate won't drag down the economy--the rich are no less likely to die to avoid a stiff tax rate than they would otherwise. As for the heirs, they need to learn to stand on their own two feet. Few political issues are as clear-cut as the estate tax.
Great article! My one objection is that Cookie Monster should be angered to be used in reference to Mr. Mann's shoddy "reporting." I would ask that Mr. Blumenthal apologize or clarify his message to Cookie Monster.
APO AE 09703 (Overseas Military)
In Max Blumenthal's article, "Generation Chickenhawk," the quote by Cory Bray particularly galled me. "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," Bray declared, "and I wasn't going to pass that up." Great for him. Now that he's had a chance to attend the best business school in the country, he has the opportunity to become an Army Lieutenant (assuming he can pass). There are hundreds of high-school valedictorians, class presidents, football team captains and 4.0 students going to West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy. They are real men and women who don't just talk, but DO. As far as I'm concerned, this yuppie-to-be is just another Brooks Brothers suit on the soft underbelly of America.
Max Blumenthal gave a satirical account of the College Republican National Convention and basically portrayed all College Republicans as chickenhawks. In his research Mr. Blumenthal apparently never took the time to interview Pennsylvania CR Chair Nick Miccarelli, a Specialist in the Army National Guard who just returned from Kosovo and will soon leave for Iraq, nor Florida Vice Chair Scott Wacholtz, who served in the Marines from 1987 to 1994, nor myself (I'll be trading politics for Air Force Navigator training after I commission next May) or the at least half-dozen other service members that were in attendance. Blumenthal's op-ed is another example of the left's fallacious reasoning for its ineptitude on national security. The left can't convince a majority of Americans that withdrawing the troops from Iraq (who don't want to come home before the mission is complete) is worth surrendering Iraq to people like Zarqawi, so what they will do is erect a strawman: the people who advocate a vigorous national defense aren't willing to provide one; ergo poor people's children are dying for rich people's oil. That kind of neo-Leninist worldview didn't win the Democrats any elections in 2002 or 2004 and it won't in 2006.
JOE G. BILES
Vice Chairman Emeritus Texas Federation of College Republicans
I write in regard to your article on patriotism. It is wonderful and insightful. I was particuarly impressed with Katrina vanden Heuvel's opinions and her quotes from FDR.
In my view, patriotism is a concept of great values. Beginning with our government official who should never lose sight that they are our servants rather than our masters. They are placed in high offices to do the work for American citizens. If a people are to be patrotic, our leaders must pave the way; set a patrotic, democratic example. They will never lie to us nor wage illegal wars against other countries.
Patriotism and democracy go hand-in-hand. One cannot work without the other. We cannot spout off about patriotism while our democracy is hanging by a thread.
A patrotic people takes care of one another and does its best to assist nations less fortunate. America must come first in aid. It is our money they're dealing with; an amount large enough to provide health care, decent housing and the needs of every American. When these needs are absent, patrotism and democracy are also absent. Patrotism is not simply flag waving.
As a person who loves my country very deeply, I am saddened and angrier than I'm able to express at where our present leadership has taken us. I believe that we must fight to reinstate our constitution; thereby democracy. We cannot end this fight until patriotism guides our government once again.
SYLVIA BARKSDALE MOROVITZ
As a Christian who claims to be a progressive, I'm writing to let you know that you are successfully driving one more wedge between secular leftists on the coasts and the vast numbers of mainline Christians who are grieving over the way their faith is being used to drag us all towards despotic plutocracy.
One example is Katha Pollitt on Jim Wallis. Finally a progressive Christian achieves a high media profile, challenging the use of faith as a fig leaf for greed and warmongering, and because he doesn't agree with Katha Pollitt on abortion, he's some kind of Trojan horse for the right wing. Her piece has come up in my church, and people are mystified, and more than a little alienated. Is it necessary that someone pass a litmus test to be an ally? We might as well give up. Whatever happened to coalition building?
It seems to me that The Nation has no idea what is going on in American Christianity. It's as complex as any aspect of American society. If The Nation feels that this religion is such a big scary threat in itself (or perhaps in its exploitation by rich men and women who want to lie to preserve their power), then perhaps the magazine should consider hiring an actual Christian to report on it, or at least someone with enough intellectual curiosity to find out the whole picture. Your magazine seems to treat this problem as a side issue. It's not. It's a struggle for the mind and heart of the nation. Yes, the religious bigots are organized and have lots of resources, and they are never going to let up. And you're never going to succeed in undermining their momentum by telling the religious non-bigots that we're idiots, or liars, or naive phonies.
What a terrible moment in our history this is, and what a lousy time to ignore the source of most of the successful progressive activism that has ever happened in America: Jews and Christians, reading their scriptures, and noticing a strong imperative to support justice for the poor, and a strong proscription against preserving position through violence. Let me be more local, and more positive. Here in Charlottesville, in conservative Virginia, the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice is about half Quakers and mainline Protestants, and about half atheists. And this group is the reason that here in our town, more than 5,000 people marched twice against the war in Iraq.
It's clear from both our points of view that alliances are necessary. And allies don't get very far when they spend their time tearing each other down.