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Not the best of times

The question mark ending the title of this article is appropriate. This is not the best of times! Being a Progressive is not laying on a chaise longue, waving a handkerchief and hoping for positive change. Sweeping generalizations do not solve problems. Solving problems is a lot of work, and there are no easy answers.

You have to ask questions! For example, why do investment banks and multinational companies want open borders? Do they have a history of supporting the interests of those in the global South or exploiting them? Even when they operated from a base in a developed country, why did they seek a "free trade" relationship with under-developed countries? Because tariffs prevented them from dumping their manufactured good on these countries, preventing their industrial development and gaining control of their commodities for their industrial base. They favored a one way "free trade" relationship.

Now they are using the low-wage global South to drive down wages in the developed countries and create a two-class global society consisting of the very wealthy and the working poor.

The American experience teaches us that development for any country occurs behind trade barriers, because that is how we became a major industrial nation. Independent national economies mean development! "Free trade" means exploitation!

In a global economy, when one part fails, there are ripple effects that affect every interconnected economy. When an independent economy fails, it has little effect on other independent economies. Protectionism is about the dispersion of risk that increases with economic concentration. It is not all about protecting one county's economy! It is also protecting every country's economy from concentrated power and the risk that is associated with that type of economic power.

The Sherman antitrust act was not about competition, it was about the dispersion of concentrated economic power and reducing the risk of universal national economic failure.

You need to know how the world works before you can solve problems!


Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

Jul 13 2010 - 5:34pm

All that great?

Dear Mr. Iglesias,

No one would take issue with the fact that everyone on the planet should have access to a healthy environment in all of its aspects. Yes, there are problems with wealth distribution and poverty and ignorance that must be continually addressed. What I question is, How can you possibly state that on the moral balance sheet the improvement in the living standards of other nations far outweighs the stagnation of middle-class wages in the United States?

I hope you are not just another self-appointed elitist who believes that simply because you are a progressive you can make hollow arguments without any basis in fact or practical experience or that you detest this country because it hasn't done enough for you. If you aren't, then you will continue reading.

I have asked my so-called progressive friends who express similar frustrations what exactly they base their opinions on. I have never gotten an answer. I get blank stares as if to say, "You don't know?" I have implored them to convince me why I should see things their way, why I should be willing to sacrifice more in spite of decreasing income in the face of more professional and personal demands.

My husband and I didn't go to an Ivy League school (unless you count one of the best prep schools in the nation—and one of the most multicultural. Lord knows we were never able to afford our kids the same opportunity because we don't qualify for scholarship money) but between us we have fifteen years of post-graduate education. We are proud because we paid off our house note so we wouldn't be burdened with a mortgage payment. How silly, since it doesn't seem to matter anymore. We don't go to the movies or out to dinner so we can save money. We have accepted the fact that we will never buy a new car again. We have dropped our golf club membership. After all, some do not have the opportunity or means to belong to one, so why should we in any case? We don't entertain and we drive to vacation spots. We read books from the library instead of buying. We shop almost exclusively at COSTCO and Target. We still donate much of our "stuff" to charity. We no longer have a cleaning service and we waited four years longer than we should have to replace our crumbling roof. Those drips just had to wait! We rescue pets and wait as long as we can to take them in for check-ups and shots. We'd adopt more if we could afford it.

Yes, we are good, even though we don't have enough to retire on because of the economy and we were careful with our money. For all the years my husband has worked, the Social security retirement he will receive is laughable, and part of it will be taxed as income. We can no longer afford to pursue certain hobbies. I gave up my one day a week riding lesson and tennis years ago. Now I walk. What Medicare we will receive is partly taxed and it is already hard to find a doctor if one is on Medicare. We were hoping to inherit a little money from our parents to pay for retirement and healthcare in order to stay independent—that is, not burden our kids or live off the government. Now estates will be taxed at 55 percent, so we can kiss most of that goodbye. It must be shared with the poor. Who are we to get any inheritance anyway, since that gives us an unfair advantage?

If we believed, like you do, that continued sacrifice places us in the category of enlightened, self-righteous progressive intellectuals or multimillionaires (or billionaires, since a million ain't much these days), then we would exult in the fact that many in the public sector earn huge salaries and fabulous benefits, much more than my husband does as a lawyer after his years of education and thirty-five years of professional experience. We pay our own health insurance with after-tax income, but that's the way it is. We were never given other benefits. The Health Care Act will make things worse for us—worthy of another letter.

If we thought like you did, we would be disgusted by our wealthy friends' successes, their homes and trips, their ability to give thousands to their community. We would no doubt curse them under our breath and regret we ever knew them, publicly admonish them and wish higher and higher taxes for them. We could eat our hot dogs and tuna sandwiches knowing that all those rich people are getting what they deserve and all those poor countries are finally making it. We could be a lot happier. It reminds me of all those times my mother told me to eat all my dinner, presumably because if I did then all the starving children in the world would not go hungry.

Or we can live in fear of people like you that people like us are too stupid to know that the Progressive Zeitgeist should trump any other, that our great nation should take a back seat in all international affairs so other countries can have a chance too, that great success is to be scorned if it is too great, depending upon a Progressive definition of "rich and poor." Sacrifice more and feel better.

Why do you live here ?

Why can't you see that as imperfect as we are as a nation, our greatness lies in our efforts, no matter how imperfect, to become stronger so we can give more to the world community? In order to give you must first be strong enough to share with the world. We must have a viable middle class and maintain our upward mobility without being hog-tied with regulations and higher taxes. They create the small businesses that create jobs and sometimes grow into large companies that can hire more. They pay the most taxes.

We must educate ourselves on what it means to be exceptional (but not necessarily superior) and without lowering our standards so much that our very citizens become too willing to rely on government without understanding the meaning of hard work and self-reliance. As it is half no longer have to pay income tax.

Thank God I grew up with the freedoms that allow me to write and complain to you about your outlook. My elderly uncle did not almost bleed to death in the snow in the Battle of the Blulge at the age of 17 for nothing. He paid for that private school education, didn't he, being sent to the front as soon as he graduated from that elitist high school. What is he supposed to think now as he reaches the end of his life? Maybe he didn't bleed enough or feel enough terror as he played dead while the Germans continued to shell the area.

Maybe if we had lost the war we would have learned our lesson before now.

I pray to God we can remain proud of those who succeed through hard work without complaining about how unfair life is or that all those evil rich people and corporations are making everyone miserable. Only then can the strong help the weak, from the lowliest person on the totem pole to the most exceptional, no matter where they live.

When the strong become weak everyone loses.

If you read this far I thank you for taking the time.



W.E. Kirk

Memphis, TN

Jul 4 2010 - 3:41pm

Let's deal with the long term as well

I disagree with some suggestions of this article, particularly with regard to starting raising taxes at the $250,000 level, in light of the following history.

In the early 1980s Ronald Reagan lowered personal earned income tax rates to a level below that of corporate taxes, which made it possible for corporate owners and executives to remove large amounts of money from the corporations to themselves without a tax penalty. This was a seminal event in neoconservative plans to remake America to their own image.

Prior to Reagan’s tax cuts, the person paying themselves tens of millions of dollars would have had to pay 70 percent of all earned income above a few hundred thousand dollars in taxes to the US government. This dramatic restructuring of the tax structure fueled the record transfer of wealth upward to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. It provided incentive and enabled CEOs to eliminate jobs and pass the resultant profits to themselves in salary and stock options and avoid the 70 percent tax penalty. Previously, they had to circumvent this tax penalty by leaving the money in the corporation for long-term performance and capital gains, which was good for everyone.

Congress voted down a bill to make interest on borrowed money for corporate takeovers non-tax-deductible. and a flood of mergers and acquisitions followed that consolidated markets, money and power under a select few CEOs. This consolidation enabled huge corporate CEO salaries that could support political candidates and lobbying in order to keep the revolving door between private business and government moving. The banking industry was consolidated and deregulated, leaving us with five large banks controlling the majority of financial services in the United States.

In light of this economic history, it would be best to focus on the damage done to our economy by the one-tenth of 1 percent of the upper bracket incomes and substantially rescind the Reagan tax cuts. Unless we deal with the sources of real problems we will never have real solutions.

The income number above which the highest tax bracket would kick-in should be adjusted to a few million, or enough to give incentive but not give away the store. If this is really the investor class, then let them invest and get rewarded by tax incentives for the long term, which have been depleted in value by giving away the money in advance. We have to break up the monopolies created by the Reagan tax policies. The resultant smaller companies will create jobs and enhance competitiveness, shifting policies away from corporate empire-building.

William J. Hague

Hoboken, NJ 07030

Jul 4 2010 - 1:44pm