REDISTRIBUTION

Why does it take a guest on Comedy Central to point out that our PROGRESSIVE INCOME TAX was the brainchild of Teddy Roosevelt – the Republican president John McCain most admires? A progressive income tax is the foundation of redistribution – was Teddy Roosevelt a socialist?

Why does it take that same guest (David Simon, creator of ‘The Wire,’ on The Colbert Report) to point out that the EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT was established on the watch of Ronald Reagan – the Republican president McCain’s supporters most admire? The EITC is redistribution pure and simple – was Ronald Reagan a socialist?

Consider this from Teddy Roosevelt in 1910:

No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered – not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective – a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

☞ Certainly times have changed a lot since 1910, and the income tax has come to be levied not just on ‘big fortunes’ but even on the middle class. But it’s because the need for government spending has increased since 1910, and with it, the need for tax revenue.

There is our huge military, of course. But with respect to redistribution, the biggest culprit may be the increase in American life expectancy. In 1910, white women lived 52* years on average, black women, 38 – and grandparents tended to live with their children – so the need for an old-age safety net (Social Security and Medicare) was less. Also, what we now consider minimally acceptable living standards have risen to include luxuries like indoor plumbing.

* Higher infant and childhood mortality account for much of the difference. But even looking at life expectancy for those who reached 20, say, it was around 63 in 1910, versus around 78 today . . . making programs that kick in at age 65, say, at lot more expensive.

The excerpt above is from a stirring speech by an inspiring, transformational young Harvard man – Roosevelt graduated magna cum laude! – just 43 when he assumed the Presidency in 1901.

There’s common-man appeal to a candidate who got ‘gentleman C’s’ (Bush) or who graduated 894th out of 899 (McCain) or who got a D in macroeconomics (Palin). But when you face multiple complex critical challenges, there’s also something to be said for a youthful, brilliant, well educated mind (Teddy Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama).

Teddy’s speech begins:

We come here today to commemorate one of the epoch-making events of the long struggle for the rights of man – the long struggle for the uplift of humanity. Our country – this great Republic – means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy, the triumph of popular government, and, in the long run, of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him. That is why the history of America is now the central feature of the history of the world; for the world has set its face hopefully toward our democracy; and, O my fellow citizens, each one of you carries on your shoulders not only the burden of doing well for the sake of your country, but the burden of doing well and of seeing that this nation does well for the sake of mankind.

☞ President Bush appealed to us to shop. Senator McCain and Governor Palin have been mostly appealing to our fears of socialists and pals of terrorists. Barack Obama seems to have a way of engaging people, especially young people, in something bigger.

TAXES: OBAMA V McCAIN

Almost everybody comes out ahead under Obama’s plan, yet according to the Tax Policy Center, Senator McCain’s plan would increase the deficit by $5 trillion over the next ten years versus ‘just’ $3.5 million for Obama’s plan.

How can that be? How can McCain’s plan be more costly if almost everybody does better under Obama’s? Shouldn’t Obama’s plan cost more? Where is that extra trillion-and-a-half going?

The answer, of course, is that, where McCain is less generous with most folks, he is more generous with the best off – and an absolute Godsend to truly rich and super-rich. Same as Bush.

YOU JUST HAVE TO LOVE REPUBLICAN INTEGRITY

Tuesday, I gave the example of the attacks on Darcy Burner and others. Two more:

Kay Hagan is running for the Senate from North Carolina. She is a Sunday school teacher. She is an elder in the Presbyterian Church. Her opponent, Elizabeth Dole, trailing in the polls, has approved this ad suggesting she is an atheist. (Incidentally, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with being an atheist – but she’s not one.)

Jack Rivers:This ad, put up by Marilyn Musgrave, may be the worst I have ever seen. It purports to show her opponent, Betsy Markey, taking a lie detector test and failing. Of course, the woman in the ad is NOT Betsy Markey. The accusations in the ad are either down right lies, or just silly. (Of course she was told not to engage in any transactions that would lead to an appearance of impropriety. ALL federal employees are told that).’

HALLOWEEN

Makes me nervous. I don’t like it. Leave me alone.

 

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