Category Archives: Post-politics

This is why taxes are going up on the wealthy

Income growth inequalities

This graphic for income growth over the last thirty or so years does a pretty good job explaining why taxes are going up for the wealthiest Americans. That orange line at the top isn’t me, it’s not my family and it’s probably not yours; it’s the wealthiest 5% of Americans. The next line is the wealthiest 20% of Americans.

The rest of us are headed in the other direction.

The next time you see an article about millionaires and billionaires wanting to pay $300,000 a pop for membership rights to a private island so that they can avoid taxes, remember this is the context. Our government’s “tyranny” is our only line of defense against CEOs making more money than ever before, especially in places like Michigan where wealthy conservatives are going are unions. That union exists to keep income growth at a competitive level; right to work is nothing more than the right to work for less. Of course, the most effective way to combat this would be the institution of a law saying that executives can’t be paid more than X times more than the lowest paid employee.

Here’s another way of looking at it.

Growth of CEO pay in America

Are CEOs doing 200 times the work of their workers? Those who speak against taxing the country’s very wealthy often use the argument that the wealthy accrue a lot of risk in investing their capital and that they should be rewarded for the risks they take.

But their workers take a lot of risks, too. They risk their health by taking on extra hours to get ahead at work. They risk getting into accidents or breaking down on the side of the road by putting off car repairs that they can’t afford. They risk their safety by living in an unsafe neighborhood because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. Workers making 1/200 that of their companies executives don’t have fewer risks; they have just as many with far more at stake.

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…But I’m still not a Democrat

I’m not a Democrat.

Even though I’ve voted for far more Democrats in my life than Republicans, I still consider myself a political independent. By the way, let me include Libertarians and Green Party candidates in there as well.

Given that I’m admittedly left-of-center and that I just spent the last six months volunteering for the Obama campaign, you might think it inauthentic on my part to insist that I’m not a Democrat.

Even so, I am not associated with any political party. I voted in the GOP primaries in 2008 because I believed that my vote would be better served by voting for John McCain than participating in the Democratic party’s 2008 Florida-Michigan debacle. Moreover, when I voted in the primary, I was unsure where my loyalties would lie on election day in November. At the time, I believed Obama and McCain were the strongest candidates so I cast my vote for McCain, hoping in vain that Mitt Romney would not carry the Mitten.

I didn’t get my immediate wish, but Obama and McCain did show-down for the presidency in the end.

In the years since, I’ve solidified my stance as a political leftist. However, I first and foremost remain a pragmatic. I don’t believe in mindlessly touting ideology when our country is better served by communitarian pragmatism. After all, I think the majority of us want the same things for our country and for one another: Prosperity, economic opportunity, freedom of self-determination? The question should be, though it is not always, about the means rather than the ends.

While a lot of people are cynical about our political process (myself included), getting to talk to actual voters rather than simply listening to our 24 hour news cycle does wonders to combat this.

In a period of six months or so, I only had two bad experiences talking to voters – and they were both within about five minutes of one another. Most people recognize that you are sacrificing your free time to do something that you really believe in – the same would have been true had I been canvassing for the opposing party.

I consider myself first and foremost interested in the well-being of the country as a whole; this supersedes identifying myself as a Democrat or a Republican. I just happen to think that Democrats offer the best way forward at the moment.

At the same time there are many things I would like to see the Democratic Party do: How about end the war in Afghanistan? Maybe stand up for the people of Palestine? OK, what about real education reform? Universal healthcare, possibly?

I once was a Republican and now I see; I see that political parties are first and foremost interested in advancing their candidates and attaining majorities; they are secondly concerned with the welfare of the country.

I am pleased that Democrats did so well in the last election – but the election is over and we have two years to go before the next one. Victories must be earned and I hope that the Democrats we’ve just worked to elect will prove themselves worthy when they are up for reelection – on all of our behalves, not just for those who voted for them.

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Soul Searching with Steve Schmidt

Steve Schmidt and David Plouffe visited the University of Delaware tonight as part of UD’s National Agenda Speaker Series. Steve Schmidt is one of my favorite Republicans and I’ll tell you why: Based off what he said tonight, he could have been the author of a post I wrote after the election calling for the Republican party to step up.

I’m not just saying that to flatter myself. I may no longer be a Republican, but I grew up as one and I still have a lot of friends and family who are red as blood. Moreover, as an American, I take it as a manner of national honor that we should have a political discourse that is fitting for our great country – and sadly that’s been missing from the GOP over the last few years.

There are good signs, though, that the GOP is waking up. While there is still some convincing to do, I think there are at least signs showing that this long winter of unwillingness to work together could be about to break. I have to give Michael Steele a lot of credit for being a class act over on MSNBC the other day as well as he talked about the need for a broadening of the Republican party, the GOP needs to “get outside of its comfort zone.”

I’m glad to hear a Republican finally say what so many of us have been thinking for the last four years: Republican leaders need to stand up to the Rush Limbaughs of the world and take their party back from people who may have some influence with the far right, but will never appeal to the rest of us. This “conservative entertainment complex”, as Schmidt terms it, is one of the greatest obstacles to our country moving forward – and by forward I don’t just mean that in the sense that we should advance Obama’s policies over the next four years and keep supporting Democrats, but in a much more general sense that we should move forward by relearning the art of compromise, remembering that we are “more than a collection of red states and blue states” but instead the United States. We should be able to agree on some things, like helping veterans as they return to civilian life or extending tax cuts for people who make less than $250k/year.

I noticed tonight, here in little blue wonder Delaware, that the biggest applause lines were all Steve Schmidt’s and almost all for bipartisan sentiments. There was applause for ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, sure, but not as much applause as there was when Schmidt calle for civility, for a new Republican party to retool and “soul search” (as I think was the most overused phrase of the night).

A Republican in Delaware got by far the most applause tonight in a room full of people that helped reelect Barack Obama and couldn’t be prouder of their own Vice-President.

The Republican party just suffered a huge loss, but every loss is an opportunity to retool and to bounce back.

If you can get applause in Delaware, surely you can win an election.

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Time for the Republican party to step up

I’ve had this conversation twice today, once with a fellow liberal and the other time with a fierce independent and we all three agree:

The Republican party needs to step up over the next four years if it wants to play a serious role in this country’s politics.

Four years ago, in the wake of the Bush presidency and after the failure of the McCain – Palin ticket, the party was hijacked by the Rush Limbaughs of the world and dragged impossibly far to the right.

The GOP’s position on things like abortion and immigration were revised so that what once had been moderate positions within the party were now considered outside the party.

With no apparent heir to Bush or McCain, the Republicans have given into the extreme wing of their party for fear of getting unseated by Tea Party candidates the way Christine O’Donnell destroyed Mike Castle’s chances at the US Senate here in Delaware or Lisa Murkowski had to run as a write-in candidate after getting defeated in the primaries by Joe Miller.

We saw this again last night: When you go too far to the edges, you may still win your party, but you’re not going to win the general vote. Dick Lugar would have won easily last night, but his unseating by Richard Murdoch winded up giving Republicans a pick-up in the Senate.

There is an alternative, though, to this crazy, fanatical version of the Republican party as it exists right now under Donald Trump.

I have two examples of what I consider good leadership for the GOP to consider.

Firstly, Chris Christie. While everyone is obsessing over his ability to work with Obama following Hurricane Sandy, I think this a no-nonsense man who could teach some of the clowns in his party a thing or two.

Secondly, Rick Snyder. Michigan’s nerd. Although I haven’t always been the friendliest to our governor on this blog and I definitely disagree with some of his policies (EFM, anyone?), I think that Snyder is a smart man, a good leader, and he knows how to stay above the level of petty politics that has kept this country in a stalemate for the last couple years.

Today, Snyder reiterated his desire to stay away from “divisive issues” like right-to-work laws that House Republicans want to bring forward.

Earlier this year, Snyder said that he would not sign a bill passed by Michigan Republicans requiring voters to bring photo ID to the polls, correctly citing the confusion that it would introduce right before an election.

While other politicians are out pursuing blatantly partisan agendas, Snyder is doing a pretty commendable job working in a bi-partisan (maybe even non-partisan) manner.

To the rest of the GOP, you have two options. You can stay on course. You can keep racing to the right and trying to win elections by voter suppression. You will definitely still win some contests. You’ll probably hold the US House for a while, too. But you will continue losing races you should win when you pick candidates like Joe Miller, Sharon Angle, Todd Aiken, Richard Murdoch, or Christine O’Donnell.

Or you could step up and show that you have a role to play in our politics that isn’t purely contrarian. You could show us that you want to be answerable to the American people rather than the most extreme elements within your party.

Mitt Romney failed, in part, because the GOP is dominated by voices demanding a “severely conservative” candidate. But the United States is not the GOP.

Maybe it’s time to retool.

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Lessons learned – or not

A certain temptation exists to draw parallels between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and there is definitely some justice to this: A hurricane hits a major population center and after an initial sigh of relief, the light of day reveals just how much carnage has been left in the storm’s wake.

But on other levels, the storms are very different. Katrina hit in 2005, a year after George W. Bush had been reelected to a second term in office. Sandy hit less than two weeks before a presidential election. You think Bush would have been so slow to react if his hide had been on the line?

Secondly, although Washington D.C. is the home to the White House and loads of other government buildings, everyone knows that New York City is America’s first city; it functions in the same iconic way Paris does for France or London for the U.K. A submerged New York sends somewhat the same message to the world that Nazi flags did when they flew over Paris and Hitler was bombing London. Okay, of course that’s a pretty far-flung analogy (and I hate WW2 analogies anyways), but you get the idea: to the rest of the world it’s a giant SOS sign.

Now I don’t want to suggest either that George Bush would have done a good job with the aftermath of Katrina if he had been facing reelection or that Barack Obama would be doing a poor job if he were faced with a situation in another less affluent part of the country.

But in my mind, I can’t help but think that this moment has very little to do with the lessons learned from Katrina but rather it has considerably more to do with the timing and location.

Have we learned anything from Katrina? Well, I hope so. I don’t think we’ll know the answer until some time from now, possibly weeks or months or maybe even more than a year from now. I can’t remember who said this in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (probably more than one person, I imagine), but that was a moment for us as Americans to reconsider the situation of the poor in our country, it was a moment for us to decide what sort of country we wanted to be. Did we feel comfortable as a country with abandoning the poor in the face of a natural disaster? If you don’t remember the horror of the days following the Hurricane, might I recommend a quick Google search for Hurricane Katrina Superdome. Better yet, Google search images.

I credit the events of Katrina with forcing me to finally abandon my hold on a political philosophy that I was already keeping at arm’s length. I was still a Republican, but more concerned with the environment than big business, and more worried about justifying our intervention in Iraq than the “strategic advantages” there were to being in the region or the oil resources we could now access.

While I was sitting in my classroom with a bunch of other privileged white kids in the Midwest, we saw a black woman on CNN crying, distraught at “raper men” in the Superdome. My classmates and my government teacher laughed. It was one of those moments that look insignificant on the surface, but seven years later, it’s still ingrained in my mind, it’s still forming me.

And so now as I wonder if we’ve learned our lessons, if we’ve taken a good hard look at ourselves as a nation I realize that what we’re seeing unfold in New York and New Jersey has remarkably little to do with what happened in Louisiana and Mississippi back in 2005.

My heart and hopes go to all of those affected by Sandy in solidarity – in solidarity with those in New Orleans, as well – and everyone in Detroit, Philadelphia, and all those other corners where you might not recognize the street corner for the United States or any other western country.

Note: For an informative and succinct overview of the days following Katrina, I would highly recommend this account from a photographer present at the Convention Center and the Superdome.

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Post-politics

I think I’m becoming post-politics.

I just don’t give much of a shit any more.

Don’t hold your breath, expecting me to stop writing about politics. I still give enough of a shit to ridicule politicians who are nothing but corporate puppets or just straight-up clowns.

There are just so many politicians begging for ridicule (of the American variety, anyways).

But I think I’m at a point in my life where people are significantly more important to me than political causes (which of course do involve people on a personal level, I admit). I’d rather work on developing better relationships with my family and people who think differently than I do instead of being militant for causes that are ultimately not going to deliver.

There are so many things that inherently divide us. Different backgrounds and experiences, different classes, different languages and religions. Why add one more thing? Why make politics, something so superficial, one more barrier between us?

Rantover.

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