Sunday, September 24, 2017

In Defense of Tax and Spend Liberalism

I harbor no shame in openly admitting to being an unreconstructed tax and spend liberal.

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma I am more resolute than ever in my support of tax and spend liberalism that advocates environmental checks on growth and provides assistance from natural disasters. In the financial fallout after the hacking of 143 million accounts from Equifax I am more resolute than ever in my support of government regulations to monitor financial services companies. In the sadness evoked by the deaths of elderly residents of nursing homes in Florida during Irma, I am more resolute than ever that government regulations are vital to the health and welfare of all our citizens, particularly the most vulnerable.

I could go on citing examples of natural and man-made disasters, plus corporate greed, that command government action. We are well beyond the time when we should accept the notion that natural selection would weed out the less fortunate in our society. As the richest country on earth we should not begrudge assistance to those in need because of the vagaries of nature or the capriciousness or malfeasance of their fellow human being.

Assistance does not have to be after the fact, as when FEMA responds to floods, tornadoes or hurricanes. Proactive legislation and regulations can lessen the impact of misfortune. As Gail Collins of The New York Times recently pointed out, there’s irony in the Trump plan to dismantle government regulations.

“You don’t want all that much consistency (in presidential leadership) when you’ve got a chief executive whose recent triumph in regulatory reform was to roll back the requirement that new highways be protected against flooding — 10 days before the first hurricane,” wrote Collins.

Republicans and conservatives favor reducing taxes while spending more on defense. They want to gut regulations and assistance programs. What they fail to appreciate is that America is strongest when government cares for its people. CEO after CEO will tell you, perhaps not from their heart but they’ll tell you anyway, that their corporation’s number one asset is their people. So it stands to reason that investing in people should be the number one priority of our government.

We hear a lot about repairing our infrastructure. Fixing roads, highways, interstates, bridges, tunnels, canals, dams, mass transit systems, seaports and airports. Years of neglect have undermined our transportation network.

Yet it is equally important that we invest in the human side of our infrastructure. We need to designate money for early child care and education. We need to invest in technical schools for those who choose a path that does not include college or university. We need to make college more affordable. We need to reduce the burden of excessive student loans. 

I’m not against appropriate spending to upgrade our military. But defense spending should not be at the expense of programs to feed the hungry, to care for the infirm, to educate the young, to retrain workers whose jobs have been disintermediated or eliminated by new technologies, especially if the rollback of government funding provides tax relief to the wealthy, a cohort that surely does not need more daylight between its opulent lifestyle and those struggling to put food on their family table.

Foreign Aid: A friend wondered if the true face of the base of the Democratic Party was reflected in Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ call for a reassessment of U.S. aid to Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians. In fiscal 2017, Israel received $3.1 billion from Washington (

I doubt if Sanders reflects more than a slim portion of Democratic opinion on this issue. But I am equally certain there is an impatience with the Netanyahu government, a disappointment intensely felt by all but the most Orthodox Jewish communities. 

“It is an abomination against all Jewish principles and our tragic history to accept an Israeli government that discriminates against its own citizens (both Jewish—in other words, non Orthodox—and Arab) as well as the Palestinians under its control,” I responded to him. 

“Yes, the Palestinians have been guilty of terrorism amplified by their stupidity and greedy leadership. But the failure of Likud and other right-wing parties to recognize the unacceptability of controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians reduces our ethical standing not just around the world but among fellow Jews. 

“I refuse to be part of a Jewish Bund in the diaspora. From what I’ve heard in the past so does Bernie Sanders. But I would hope that Sanders imposes equally strong demands on the Palestinians requiring them to abandon terrorism while recognizing Israel before any funds would be made available to them. And before any recognition of a Palestinian state which would have to be demilitarized and include several early warning Israeli posts.”

Swearing Allegiance: That same friend opined that “Dems just lost 2018 and 2020 elections” because “Middle America has zero sympathy for millionaire athletes” protesting during the recitation of the national anthem before sporting events. My response: 

“If Middle America loses its health care,
“If Middle America keeps seeing no increase in their living conditions including family wealth,
“If Middle America thinks Trump is placing them in physical jeopardy,
“If Middle America sees the environment, including their water supply and air quality, deteriorate,

“Democrats will win regardless of what athletes and entertainment figures say.”