New York City
Contrary to your editorial “A Serious Man” [April 25], those of us over 55 would also be affected by Ryancare. Paul Ryan’s scheme to destroy Medicare is a prescription for intergenerational warfare. Americans under 55 and not eligible for Medicare will become resentful of Medicare beneficiaries. As those of us over 55 die off, the voting bloc for Medicare will become smaller and smaller, Medicare funding will decrease, services will be reduced and fewer doctors will accept Medicare payments. Newt Gingrich will have achieved his goal of having Medicare “wither on the vine.” I am 65. If I live to be 85, I doubt Medicare will be there for me, either.
The Medicare issue seems a smoke screen. What should really have citizens concerned is Paul Ryan’s proposal to lower the highest individual tax rate from 33 to 25 percent. Perhaps we should raise that rate from 33 to 50 percent (Reagan-era rates). Now that would be “serious.”
Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare in three sentences: (1) eliminate Medicare for those under 55; (2) shift the cost of Medicare to future seniors by issuing vouchers that don’t keep up with healthcare inflation; (3) hope that today’s seniors are stupid/greedy/selfish enough to go along with this. Ryan’s plan follows the standard right-wing playbook—pit one group against another (private vs. public sector workers, nonunion vs. union, rich vs. poor, young vs. old) and privatize everything in sight. It’s a simple strategy—divide and conquer. Congressional Democrats, President Obama, progressive TV and radio talk-show hosts need to be out there with simple charts (à la Ross Perot) to explain this. We don’t have a minute to waste, because Medicare isn’t the only program in jeopardy.
In “Axis of Fundamentalism: Gainesville to Mazar-i-Sharif” [April 25] Patricia J. Williams shows us what can happen when words are infused with unreflective self-righteousness and wielded as weapons in confused and overheated rhetoric. Too often they become metaphors that fundamentalists hate, kill and die by. Psychiatrist Silvano Arieti wrote about aspects of the thinking of adult schizophrenics, also typically found in children 1 to 4, characterized by a primitive form of logic that Arieti called “paleologic.” Misconceptions based on it in the child may confuse him and amuse his parents, while those of the psychotic may be bizarre and idiosyncratic. But paleologic inspired by fundamentalist fervor in otherwise normal adults can be lethal.
STEPHEN E. LEVICK
Just Another Word for Nothin’ Left to Lose
Corey Robin, in “Reclaiming the Politics of Freedom” [April 25], is right in seeing conservative ideology as successfully identifying freedom with the market and depicting government as the source of constraint. Of course, we need to reverse this falsehood by showing how the market enslaves while the government can enhance freedom. But he is dead wrong when he talks about “the age-old suspicions on the left that freedom is…inherently antagonistic to equality.” Since the origins of the terms “left” and “right” in 1789, the left has conjoined liberty with equality. Karl Mannheim’s classic Ideology and Utopia makes it clear that it is the rightists (ideologists) who see freedom as requiring inequality; the leftists (utopians) have consistently viewed equality as a requirement of liberty—as did, incidentally, the ancient Athenian democrats.
I agree with Corey Robin’s argument about the need to “reclaim the politics of freedom,” but only to a point. The GOP—since Reagan, I think—has been adept at connecting “freedom” to a deep love of country, responsibility and order, despite advocating a radical agenda that diminishes those things. Democrats don’t need to talk more about “freedom”; they need to talk about doing what is right, as a matter of faith, patriotism and just plain human decency. Rather than “freedom” they should find religion—not a church but the source of their own deeply held convictions—and connect through that. And if there are no deeply held convictions, then there are more problems than just what terms we employ in our rhetoric.
Corey Robin argues for the left to adopt “the politics of freedom.” But “freedom” has little to say to our day-to-day concerns. Here in Carrboro we prefer “stewardship, caring and community.” These values have sustained a thirty-two-year-old farmers’ market, helped us join just four other Eastern cities as a silver-level bike community and led to ready acceptance of a growing immigrant population. A former mayor is now the most progressive member of the State Senate. Another was the state’s first openly gay elected mayor. We have five coffee shops, none of them chains, and a locally owned newspaper. We are the smallest town in the Southeast to receive stimulus funding for energy retrofits. Our citizens embrace advocacy on a host of issues from climate change to human rights to war and peace. In 2003 we declared Buy French month in response to the “freedom fries” nonsense in Washington. Stewardship, caring and community have served the left well because they truly speak to the experience of the people.
Buying the Wiesenthal Book
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
D.D. Guttenplan has made a sale for Tom Segev [“On the Case,” April 25]: I will buy Segev’s book about Simon Wiesenthal because he approaches the man’s life with compassion. Yes, Wiesenthal often made inconsistent claims. Yes, Wiesenthal was vain, etc. But without his lifelong dedication to truth and justice the world would be less informed about Austria’s gleeful attachment to the Nazis. More important, many Nazi war criminals would have gone to their graves never having to publicly acknowledge their crimes against humanity.
You Say Spartacist, I Say Sparticus
In his April 25 letter Tom Tilitz states, “[Clara] Zetkin was a leader of the revolutionary wing of the Social Democratic Party of Germany…. Her opposition to World War I led her, along with her close friend Rosa Luxemburg, to split from that party and help found the German Spartacist League.” The party of Luxemburg, Zetkin and Karl Liebknecht was the Spartakusbund, or Spartacus League. The Spartacist League is a Trotskyist party founded in the United States in the 1960s. In German, Spartacist League would be Bund der Spartakisten.