Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking the Pledge

The failure of the Congressional supercommittee to reach a deficit reduction compromise is being hailed and attacked as a victory for Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform organization. For those not familiar with Norquist and his outfit, they are dedicated to the proposition that the fewer the taxes levied on the public the better. Moreover, Norquist has signed up almost every Republican of note to a pledge never to vote for another tax increase. Thus, any compromise by GOP lawmakers that included additional taxes, especially on the wealthy, would have been a violation of the non-binding but politically pragmatic oath they signed.

Speaking to NPR today, Norquist discounted any criticism from members of the Grand Old Party, such as David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director, that his pledge ran counter to the national interest. “They’re no longer Republicans,” he reasoned.

I won’t venture into purely Republican internal squabbles, but I would like to suggest an alternative to the no new taxes pledge. How’s about a pledge that in the richest country in the world we don’t let children go to sleep hungry; or that we provide workers with a livable wage; that we don’t allow corporate executives to reap huge bonuses while everyday workers are laid off or have their wages and benefits slashed; that we don’t reduce veterans’ benefits; that we provide affordable health care to all who need it; that we protect our citizens from unscrupulous corporate greed, unsafe products, pollution, and unsafe working conditions?

Conservatives would say I’m advocating a welfare state, that in this land of opportunity if you just worked hard you’d have everything you require or want without the need for government intervention or assistance. Sadly, they are not only mistaken, they are also ignorant, for history has shown time and again that without government oversight and control companies and individuals cheat, pollute, harm, oppress, violate the law and take advantage of the less fortunate. The argument that the free market will regulate offenders hardly compensates those who are offended, surely not in a timely manner.

Few people like to pay taxes. But the alternative is either anarchy or a system where the elite live well and the rest of society does not.

No Sympathy: I don’t have much sympathy, check that, I have no sympathy, for the laid off workers from the financial sector, as depicted in a NY Times article today (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/11/21/wall-st-layoffs-take-heavy-toll-on-younger-workers/?scp=1&sq=sam%20meek&st=cse).

Oodles and oodles of dollars were made over the last 20 years by Wall Street practitioners cobbling together mergers and acquisitions, LBOs and IPOs, managing hedge funds that only the wealthy could afford to invest in. At the end of the day, any day, though they made tons of money they hardly ever produced anything tangible, of lasting value. They destroyed as many companies as they saved.

Tell me, what child or teenager, except the Michael J. Fox character Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties, wakes up and says, “When I grow up I want to be an investment banker”? No, I’d wager the idea of Wall Street first entered their brain when they read or saw movies about the fast and luxurious life of financial honchos.

Assuming many of these unemployed financial types are good with numbers, perhaps they should reconnect with some down to earth values and look into teaching math. I understand there’s a real need for math teachers in many school districts.

I’m apparently not alone in my unsympathetic response. Check out the feedback to the original Times article: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/for-distressed-young-bankers-a-symphony-of-small-violins/?scp=2&sq=sam%20meek&st=cse