We have little understanding of why it is we are here in this life; little understanding of our universe and our place in it.
“A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration, the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.”
The burdensome gift of thought overwhelms us; it brings both joy and care. It brings philosophy and reason. It brings multitudes of deities and religions all of which are founded upon the rock of conscience. Where does this come from? A creator’s final touch perhaps? A cosmic lightning bolt, a bubbling by-product of the galactic primordial soup?
Science tells us that ancient civilizations barely yet out of caves cared for their sick and elderly. They hunted for those too sick or weak to hunt and gathered for those too weak to gather. They did those things not as a matter of government or religion but out of a sense of common humanity. Eons before the question was asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It had all ready been answered.
Bees will protect their hive and their queen; they will lay down their lives so that others might live. Many species in the animal realm will mourn the loss of a spouse, a parent or a young one. Could it be then, that love is merely a function of survival? A biological mechanism to aid in the survival of the following generation? Or could it be that love for these creatures, at their intellectual levels
is simpler but no less heartfelt?
Humanity stands in its unique station equipped not just to mourn but to do something about it; to develop tools, not just to protect ones self but to protect those around us whom we love. It is a higher and nobler thing altogether to protect those around us who we do not love; to go into harm’s way for someone else’s child or parent, not for money or accolades but because something inside of ourselves demands it of us.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. “
John Donne 1572 -1631
When I first began to read about the President’s deficit reduction commission I was fueled by the fires of moral indignation. Eventually, those flames cooled to the embers of political understanding, yet this is not a political crime. It is a moral crime, a crime against American society and the principles of humanity everywhere because at its heart is an alien philosophy: the belief that, money is more important than humanity.
In ancient Athens it was a crime to steal bread, but it was also a crime not to give a man bread who asked for it. The concept of justice required a symmetry and a balance. Without that balance justice becomes a synonym for enforcement and democracy, a synonym for tyranny. Without justice, all else in government becomes an illusion.
In order to save Social Security the commission recommends raising the age to collect Social Security to 68 in 2050 and 69 in 2075. They propose stealing a year or two of a young person’s retirement far off into the future. They are in effect stealing from both today and tomorrow. By raising the eligibility age, it allows a shuffling of obligations against the certainty that fewer will ever reach it. Why not raise the age to 100? That would solve the problem for good and all, except it defies the purpose for Social Security. Marcus Aurelius said, “the days of our lives are short and the days of our powers are shorter still.” No matter how long our life expectancy, old age still comes when it comes.
Thieves will always return to a place of easy pickings and this is the second time this gambit has been suggested. If allowed to pass it would certainly not be the last time we would see it attempted. Committee co-chair Erskine Bowles is a former banker with Morgan Stanley. Alan Simpson is a former Republican Senator and long time foe of Social Security. It is indeed a curious world when the President would choose a banking executive and a close friend of Dick Cheney’s to head his deficit reduction committee.
They propose tax increases of $751 billion, the weight of which is to be borne by the working class. The keystone is the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. This is the last and largest deduction that the middle class retains. It’s purpose is to encourage home ownership and participation in society. A home is more than just brick and mortar, it is a concept, a foundation, and a political distinction. A society of homeowners is a participatory society, a society of tenants is a society of peasants.
The taxing of mortgage interest not only punishes the middle class, it also punishes the building trades, building suppliers, the Real Estate industry and the county tax base. Hobbling the economy doesn’t seem an effective method of curing the deficit.
Along with raising the age for Social Security eligibility, the commission also suggests $733 billion in additional cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Another interesting suggestion, program cuts for the poor, the sick and the elderly.
The commission has asked for a $100 billion dollars in defense cuts, in a budget that has doubled six times since 1980. These cuts would barely equal ten percent and are targeted at non-combat salaries. Wage freezes and deferred maintenance. No reduction is planned in US troop commitments overseas, the wars will go on unabated and so our biggest waste of money and the largest budget item goes mainly ignored.
Alice Rivilin the former head of the Congressional Budget Office suggests a 6.5 percent national sales tax. Rivilin, who claims to be liberal to middle of the road politically, suggests the most regressive form of taxation known to mankind. We certainly know that the middle class is struggling and must spend most everything they earn to stay afloat, so the commission suggests we add 6.5 percent to that burden. We also know that wages for the middle class haven’t kept up with inflation for the past two decades. And so the committee suggests taxing 100 percent of the income for the poor and middle class. While for those such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Alice Rivilin, Erskine Bowels and Alan Simpson the sales tax would amount to a tax of no more than .5 percent of their annual incomes.
A fuel tax of .15 cents is purposed and that’s not necessarily a bad idea. Except, it is just one more burden for the poor and middle class there is no offset, no symmetry. The burdens are to be carried almost exclusively by the working class. The committee purposes to continue the capital gains taxes provided there is a tax cut involved. The working class almost never pays a capital gains tax and the wealthy pay it only occasionally. Here is where the commission tips their hand.
After purposing one and a half trillion dollars in program cuts and tax increases, of which ninety percent is shouldered by America’s workers, her poor, her sick and her elderly, the committee then proposes tax cuts.
Change the current worldwide taxation of corporate profits to a territorial system, taxing only profits earned inside the United States.
Cut corporate taxes from 35 percent to 26 percent.
Cut the income tax rates of the wealthiest Americans from 28 percent to 23 percent.
Cut to the next highest tax bracket from 25 percent to 23 percent and the lowest bracket from 15 percent to 8 percent.
A deficit reduction commission that proposes tax cuts? Iniquity grows in dark corners where honesty is lacking. This commission is about reformulating how America collects taxes. Taking advantage of a crisis for the sole purpose of taking yet again from his countries working people.
Since 1980 the wealthiest Americans have received a 42 percent tax cut. Since 1980, income for the wealthiest ten percent of American households has increased by nearly fourteen percent from 34.6 to 48.2 percent in 2008 of all income. Since 1980 wages for working Americans haven’t kept up with inflation and because of that, the average American worker takes a 10 percent pay cut every five years. While at the same time corporate profits have reached their highest levels in fifty years.
There simply are no appropriate dark adjectives for this type of thinking. This is a de-evolutionary process; not just because it threatens to roll back a century of progressive progress, but because it is an assault on our basic humanity and a numbing of our basic human instincts of caring for the poor, the sick and the elderly.
It is a black mark against our society; it transcends politics and sinks deeply into who we are as human beings and what we will tolerate done in our name. It extols greed as a virtue and cunning a talent, care a weakness, concern a vice; it announces to the world that our social policy is vulgar.
“Cunning… is but the low mimic of wisdom.”
David Glenn Cox is an award winning writer and musician, and is the author of the novel, The Servants of Pilate.