Published October 21, 2008
In recent days, the despicable din from the GOP has deafened reasonable discourse in our country. From assertions that small town values trump those of American cities to accusations of "anti-Americanism"--whatever that is--on the part of American-born citizens.
Appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews Friday night, Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann tried to cast doubt on Barack Obama's patriotism and called for a witch-hunt into the motives of all Congresspeople.
Sunday, she tried to clarify her remarks: "I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress."
Except, she did: "I'm very concerned that he may have anti- American views. That's what the American people are concerned about. " She continued, "What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that."
What exactly would such an investigation yield, and what are the standards under which it would be executed? Ms. Bachmann never explains exactly what she means by "anti-American," but looking back to the McCarthy era, we can guess that it is someone who disagrees with the faction calling for the investigation.
Colin Powell dispensed with the idea as well as anyone after his Meet the Press Sunday morning: "We have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity."
Then, there's the idea of Democrats as Socialists. Again, Powell tackles it deftly:
"Mr. Obama is now a socialist because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have. Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who pay it in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there's nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more, who should be paying less. And for us to say that makes you a socialist I think is an unfortunate characterization that isn't accurate. And I don't want my taxes raised. I don't want anybody else's taxes raised. But I also want to see our infrastructure fixed. I don't want to have a $12 trillion national debt and I don't want to see an annual deficit that's over $500 billion heading toward a trillion. So how do we deal with all of this?"
Sadly, the GOP campaign train has run off its rails, and hate and fear are all that's left behind. There's no hope there, only fear. Fear of socialists and terrorists and boogeymen all around. It's time to move past the fear into responsible governing. McCain stokes fear that an Obama presidency would establish a redistribution of wealth. As Powell pointed out, this is how it has always worked. The question is, in which direction is the wealth headed?
For the past eight years, it's gone straight to the top. Indeed, that's where it will continue to head in a McCain administration, with continued favoritism for corporations and substantial investment-portfolio holders. I want businesses to succeed, too, but not at the public's expense. David Cay Johnston spells out the problems of the current tax system in his book Free Lunch:
"I have tons of news clips that say, oh, this new shopping mall is coming or a new Wal-Mart or a new Cabela’s store, and thanks to tax increment financing, this store is going to be built. Well, what is tax increment financing? I’ll tell you what it is. You go to the store with your goods, you pay for it at Wal-Mart, and there’s a very good chance that that store has made a deal with the government that the sales taxes you are required to pay, that government requires you to pay, never go to the government. Instead, those sales taxes are kept by Wal-Mart and used to pay the cost of the store. And typically in those deals, the store is tax exempt, just like a church."
Johnston goes on to point out that the absence of this tax revenue is a major cause of the lack of resources for local government and public services, like fire and police protection. When Wal-Mart wants to come to town, Wal-Mart can afford to set up shop on its own dime. The notion of paying the Waltons to compete with local businesses that had to work their way up from the bottom is ludicrous, yet it happens in communities across the country year after year.
And speaking of socialism, which Wikipedia defines as "[A] broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods," isn't that what the current "conservative" administration has recently advocated and put into law with regards to banks, lenders, and insurance companies? The federal government is now the largest mortgage provider in the country.
We have free public education for our children, and we now have government control of financial institutions, but somehow proposing we adjust tax brackets is socialism? In my opinion, we're not going far enough in providing services to the citizenry. Single-payer health care should be our next goal; health care is a huge cost for working families, and there is no guarantee of coverage. My five-year-old daughter had two surgeries for juvenile polyps, I have to pay almost $600 per month to get medical coverage for her. That doesn't include what I pay for the rest of the family.
The bottom line is that we can disagree about policies. But the fear-mongering and incitement to hatred and violence that has been going on at the hands of the current GOP campaigns is out of bounds and must stop. If it doesn't, we're going to have a real security problem on our hands after the election results are in. The GOP faithful have been convinced that Obama and Pelosi are twin anti-Christs. If they don't get their way in the election, how will they respond?
Let's forget the anti-American and pro-American rhetoric, because it's just a transparent way of smearing your opponent. We're all Americans, and we all care about what's best for our country and for us personally. There's one America, and when the election's over, we're going to be governed by McCain or Obama, and we'd better be prepared to accept it one way or the other.
As Adlai Stevenson said at the 1952 convention when he was drafted for a Presidential run:
"When the tumult and the shouting die, when the bands are gone and the lights are dimmed, there is the stark reality of responsibility in an hour of history haunted with those gaunt, grim specters of strife, dissension, and materialism at home, and ruthless, inscrutable, and hostile power abroad. The ordeal of the twentieth century – the bloodiest, most turbulent age of the Christian era – is far from over. Sacrifice, patience, understanding, and implacable purpose may be our lot for years to come. … Let’s talk sense to the American people! Let’s tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions."
Thanks to those who have sent in comments. Have a topic suggestion? Or just want to give your feedback? E-mail me at reason-at-tylersclark.com