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Follow Up: Lucky Duckies

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Regarde les riches ...

Follow up -

William Raspberry had a column in the June 9th Washington Post regarding the issues below - on fairness and how the new tax cuts overlooked a good portion of the working poor.  He said, "What is ostensibly a fight over how best to jumpstart the U.S. economy is, at a deeper level, a fight over the nature of government's basic duty: to help the helpless and provide a certain level of comfort and security for everyone; or only to protect us against the common foe, leaving the rest to the legerdemain of the free market."

Well, that's putting it pretty starkly.  What is a government supposed to do?  What is it there for?  There is a major disagreement now.
It has fallen to us, I suppose, to face that choice now.  Krugman in the NY Times raised the flag.  I've been writing about it for weeks.

Time to fish or cut bait.  But I'm afraid the choice has already been made, and my conservative friends have won.  Oh well.

Being quite well off, Raspberry adds, "I'll do okay under the Bush approach.  But a lot of Americans - millions of them children - will not, and someone ought to be thinking about them, too." 

To which my conservative friends would say, but why?  How can we build their character if we coddle these children?  That would ruin their attitude, and they'd always think of themselves as victims.  We'd kill their initiative if we "protect" them.  And that would be far crueler to them than this business of making their lives easy with a free ride - giving them something for nothing - and not forcing them to take responsibility for themselves. 

Sigh.  I've argued this out lots with my friends.

- AP 6/22

Why lower taxes for the rich and not at all for the poor?

Because being rich is an outward and visible sign of one's inward and spiritual grace.   Amazing grace.


Yeah, one of my pet peeves with my conservative friends is our differences on just how to organize society - individualism (the freedom to succeed) in conflict with community (the sharing of risks, burdens and troubles).  And I came across this: The Return of Class War - Bush and the new tyranny of the rich by Michael Kinsley.  It was posted Thursday, June 5, 2003 in SLATE.COM and reprinted this morning in the Washington Post Sunday Outlook section.

Kinsley casts the argument a little differently. The conflict?  "Democracy presumes and enshrines equality. Capitalism not only presumes but requires and produces inequality."  Okay.  That seems true.  And it presents a problem.

What Kinsley writes is mainly about the tax system, but it is more broadly about the recent shift to reward achievers and heavily tax the morally unworthy.  I also recommend all the Wall Street Journal stuff that rails against those folks they have, for the last ten months, been calling the "lucky duckies" - those lazy folks who have traditionally pay lower taxes because they barely make enough to get by.  That is changing slowly and the Wall Street Journal is applauding.

The Wall Street Journal stuff is more than an argument for a pure flat tax.  The editors there are raising the issue of who is inherently good and moral, and who is evil and bad.  Rich is good.  Anything less is contemptible.  Of course.

This is what I called the new Calvinism, where one knows who is moral, right and good by the goodies they own.  It's nothing new, just the return of an old idea.

What would Jesus drive?  An SUV.  Who would Jesus bomb?  The weak folks with all the oil.  Ah, that's too cynical.

Kinsley writes,

"The majority acknowledge that capitalism benefits all of us, even if some benefit a lot more than others. The majority also take comfort in the belief that everyone has at least a shot at scoring big. The affluent minority, meanwhile, acknowledge that their good fortune is at least in part the luck of the draw."

Ah, Michael, this strikes me as pure bullshit, as my conservative friends claim their financial success is an "outward and visible sign of their inward and spiritual grace" - that is, they have the right stuff, the right attitude, the right values, and folks who don't have the goodies obviously have not been graced by the powers in the universe with the right stuff.

June 8 2003


F. Scott Fitzgerald is famous for having said, "The rich are very different from us."  Hemingway famously replied, "Yes, they have more money."