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Category: Politics

Fork It Over
I hope you don’t mind my asking, but are you rich? Well-to-do, maybe? How about upper middle class? If you answered yes to any of these, I have some good news for you and some bad news.

First the good news. It’s probably not news, really, just a reminder about something you may tend to forget sometimes: you’ve got plenty of money. Now, you might argue with the term “plenty,” but let’s face it — you’re not hurting. And if you own more than one residential property, you’ve certainly got plenty of room to spread out.

Which leads us to the bad news: you need to pay more taxes. Oh, I know…it’s already too much. They’re bleeding you dry as it is, even with that new tax cut, and you can barely make ends meet. Believe me, I get it. Still, I must insist. And if you’re in that “rich” category, you’ll have to pay a lot more.

Still reading? Good! And look, if you don’t believe me, ask Thomas Piketty, the French economist who’s gone deep on the subject of income inequality. Briefly put, Tom’s research shows that when people get too rich, society in general does poorly. His solution: more taxes on the rich and even more on the super-rich — for everybody’s sake.

It’s not just that our government needs the money, even though it’s not cheap to keep a First World country up and running. No, the main rationale for a high graduated income tax — like we had back in the good old 50s — is that it’s the best way to preserve and nurture the free society we are all lucky enough to live in.

If you need evidence, take a look at the current state of affairs. Taxes on the high end are much, much lower than they were in the 50s, and the gap between rich and poor has grown enormously. There are many potential problems associated with such a disparity, but the place where it seems to be showing up most is in housing. The rent, like the man said, is too damn high. Teachers, cops, firemen, and people with plain old regular jobs can no longer afford to live in the communities they work in. So much of their income is gobbled up by housing that they can’t save, and their kids have to go deep into hock to go to college. Not only is this not a sustainable system, but it builds in unhappiness and kills hope.

This ugly side effect of income inequality is among the first we see because the rich (and the well-to-do, and the upper middle class) put a lot of their free capital into real estate. And why not? It’s a time-proven method of making more money. Flip this house? Sounds fun, sounds savvy, sounds profitable. And it is for those who can afford to do it. If, however, you are a member of the middle class or lower — like most people — all you see from this phenomenon is a rise in the cost of living.

Those tax cuts the supply-siders sold to us are at the root of this problem. They launched income inequality into the stratosphere by allowing the wealthy to keep most of their money. Like most stupid humans, the wealthy went for short-term profits with their investments, not ventures that would benefit society over the long run. That’s human nature, I guess, and one reason why pure capitalism will cripple a free society if left unchecked.

That’s what taxes are for…not just money for the things we all need, but as a brake on the ravages of runaway acquisitiveness. And the more people acquire, the more we have to take from them. High taxes will make for a happy, hopeful society.

So, rich folks…for the good of all (including you), pay up. Thank you.
Real Lies
Let’s just imagine that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court is confirmed. That is not a sure thing by any means, but what would that leave us with?

Well, for starters, we’d have a reality TV star at the very center of our justice system. And by “reality,” of course, I mean “fake.” The only genuine part of his testimony before the Judiciary Committee was his blubbering account of the anguish he and his family have undergone. As we know, however, tears are not necessarily a marker for unjust accusation. The guilty cry, too…most often when they realize that their own acts have brought them to ruin.

The rest of Kavanaugh’s emotional testimony was not so credible. His combativeness and outrage seemed calculated to me. You can witness that same kind of heartfelt emotion any time you tune into The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Some might say that misrepresenting your true feelings in this way is the worst kind of lying, but even if you don’t agree, Brett supplied plenty of plain old factual untruth— as well as a tightly woven pattern of evasiveness.

So let’s just say he lied, repeatedly. And while he was at it, he threw in some partisan conspiracy theories to muddy the waters. That undermined his credibility even further. That’s my opinion, anyway. Compare his twitchy, angry performance with Dr. Ford’s testimony. She was obviously truthful, both in her openness and in her story’s ring of truth. She withheld nothing, while he acted like someone who’d say anything to get that seat on the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas did the same thing. Maybe he and Brett will end up sharing a locker at the High Court Gym.

Besides reality TV coming to the justice system, and the lying, and sexual assault, we’d have a judge who was willing to make a fool of himself on the world stage. He is now a truly pathetic figure. Does anyone really want to watch this show for the next 30 years?

There will no doubt be other real world plot twists in this bad TV show. Trust in the justice system will erode further. The same goes for faith in our legislative branch of government, even with Senator Flake’s public agonizing. The multiple political and cultural divisions among us will grow wider and deeper. Our democracy will be weakened.

While all this has been happening, however, there is something else going on. Have you noticed that there are a lot more angry women around than there used to be? I’m going to say, as as matter of fact, that there is more anger among women now than there has ever been. It’s everywhere: on TV, all over social media, and right there at the kitchen table.

What’s more, I don’t think it’s going away. No matter what the outcome of the Kavanaugh nomination, this anger will continue growing and solidifying and evolving. To call it the “MeToo” phenomenon doesn’t do it justice. It has the look of something very big in the making — a fundamental change in the chemistry of our society.

The hearing was a perfect window into how roles are assigned between the sexes. It was a caricature of the contrast in two styles — rage vs. accommodation — but I think the outlines of that caricature are in the throes of change. It will be a change for the better, is my guess, and it will be much more important than one seat — or two seats, or three — on the Supreme Court. No lie.
'Wulf at the Door
From the very beginning, we thought the Trumpmonster would trip over its own missteps. But each time the monster said something or did something that would have immolated another politician, it was somehow able to pass through the firestorm untouched by the flames.

Its base, which holds the entire Republican Party in its grip, would only shrug at the monster’s behavior. “That’s why we like him. He says what he (and we) believes.” Never mind that what it believes is repellant and wrong.

As its campaign went on, there seemed to be a new outrage every week. And each time we expected that story would, at last, be the one that destroyed the creature. I don’t want to name all of those stories, nor enumerate each of the torrent of lies that spill from its puckered maw, nor count every revelation of its callous selfishness. I’m sick of it, and tired, and I have almost stopped hoping that people will finally wake up to the awfulness.

Pundits went broke predicting the demise of the creature, and each time I believed them because I wanted it to be true — and because it would have been true for anyone else. But on it went, a monster spewing and threatening and laying waste to the hard-won gains civilization had made. Finally, I stopped believing the pundits and dared to let despair creep into my thoughts.

Then came last week, and this time the story felt different. First came the op-ed piece in the Times written by someone on the inside of the White House. Then came Fear, Bob Woodward’s carefully researched book of presidential reporting. The monster itself did its part by dishonoring the 3000 dead lost to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Michael Cohen, the President’s longtime fixer, was now openly shopping his tales of Trump secrets. Kavanaugh was accused of attempted rape as a teen. And then, the big one: Manafort flipped.

Now, nothing will come of any of this immediately. Just as with all the other transgressions and unmaskings of the monster, no immediate price will be paid. Still, there seemed to be something different about this blitz of bad Trump news. I am trying not to be duped by hope again, but this time I cannot help but feel that a corner has been turned, and now we are beginning our long journey back to The Good.

It is the Manafort plea agreement that makes the most difference. Robert Mueller, as cold and relentless as the mythic hero Beowulf, has now made this bold thrust toward the underbelly of the Orange Grendel. The monster, alone with its TV in the White House, went uncharacteristically silent, and I could imagine it trembling at the prospect of his own inevitable undoing.

This Beowulf will not dispatch his Grendel with the swift certainty of his namesake, but I believe that the end for this monster will be just as remorseless and sure. Mueller and his retainer of implacable prosecutors are moving steadily and with great care toward their goal, and neither the monster nor anyone else knows when and where and how they will deliver justice.

So I have new hope, but I must wait. "The Wheels of Justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine,” the saying goes. I am content, even as the ugliness continues to worsen and our democracy becomes more strained, to look forward to that return to The Good — or at least to The Normal.

The truth will out as it always does, and we will go to work to repair the damage. The Orange Grendel will be nothing but a bad memory — and a dark reminder that it truly can happen here.
Thanks for Asking, Though
I got a letter from Mike Pence today. He wanted to make sure I was on board to help keep the Republican majorities in Congress.

He cited his party’s commitment to such virtues as a strong military, small government, and low, low taxes. He also mentioned the Republicans’ unshakable belief in personal responsibility.

Not so fast there, Mike. I’ll grant you that the GOP wants to shrink services and soup up the war machine, but promote personal accountability? I don’t think so. As proof of your devotion to this principle, you and your pals point to your unwillingness to help people who don’t deserve it. It’s a tough love thing, you seem to be saying. We wish we could help, but you’re on your own, cousin. No extra charge for the life lesson.

Your version of personal responsibility, in other words, emphasizes theirs rather than yours. You’ve already got your piece of the rock, so there’s no need to prove that you deserve it. The have nots, on the other hand, have to be carefully monitored so they don’t get away with anything, no matter how teeny-tiny.

I am not a Republican, though I’m right with them on many of their issues. If we are going to have a military, I think it should be strong. Otherwise, why bother? But it shouldn’t be any larger than it needs to be. Same with the government. It should be as large as it needs to be, but not any larger. And everybody’s for low taxes — as long as we can afford to pay for the things we need.

When it comes to individual responsibility, however, I have to part ways with the right wing and head in the exact opposite direction. I’m not a member of any party, really, but I do like the Democratic Socialists. If any party is the party of personal responsibility, they are. Unlike the Republicans, they do not focus on the enforcement of other peoples’ duties. Instead, they emphasize the duties we all have toward each other.

Which makes sense, right? That’s the whole idea behind the social contract. We (through our government) promise to look out for each other so we can all be safer and more prosperous and maybe even happier. That is our personal responsibility — not just the simple, selfish obligation to see to our own survival.

I hope the veep doesn’t consider this Republican version of responsibility to be a high principle, because it ain’t. Rather, it’s a suspiciously convenient excuse not to give a damn about anybody but yourself. It elevates self-interest to an ideal, making it easy to dismiss the less fortunate as undeserving. According to your view, if they were deserving, then surely they’d be doing much better than they are. It’s the ultimate catch-22 — you’re only entitled to help if you don’t need it.

So, Mr. Vice President, I must decline your invitation to help the Republicans stay in power. In fact, I hope every last one of them gets thrown out at the earliest opportunity and sent packing back to their various Shires. That said, if any of them find themselves unable to find work or make ends meet, I hope their replacements have the wisdom to provide some sort of government assistance.

Even though they don’t deserve it.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon