Thursday, October 27, 2011

No New Taxes. Ever!
          Benjamin Franklin On Taxes -

Dear H,

Thanks for your email.

One of my "late life" epiphanies is that facts can be marshaled to make a convincing case in support of any position on any political spectrum.

The key to "fairness and balance," however, is to secure a relatively-objective perspective predicated on proportionality.

For example, every political movement – right and  left -- has a huge number of supporters who are ill-informed, stupid or ignorant. 

In my lifetime, I have seen no set of political opinions as weird as those set forth in the following poll.

Currently, America's right wing is more aggressively ignorant than any political movement in living memory. These neo-Know Nothings routinely attack the preponderant findings of science, preferring articles of faith to the rubrics of Rationality.

I aspire for perspective and proportionality by doing my best to find notable Republicans who validate my own position. 

First I'll link to a Wall Street fund manager who, in my view, expresses the essence of what has taken place on Wall Street much more proportionately than the accurate statement that Countryside (which is probably under the management of Republicans) contributed to the real estate bubble.

The following views by notable Republicans (and one Founding Father who predated contemporary political nomenclature) are quite remarkable. Who would have thought that Benjamin Franklin, the most successful businessman of all The Founding Fathers, was parsecs to the Left of most American leftists: 

Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris
25 December, 1783

"The Remissness of our People in Paying Taxes is highly blameable; the Unwillingness to pay them is still more so. I see, in some Resolutions of Town Meetings, a Remonstrance against giving Congress a Power to take, as they call it, the People's Money out of their Pockets, tho' only to pay the Interest and Principal of Debts duly contracted. They seem to mistake the Point. Money, justly due from the People, is their Creditors' Money, and no longer the Money of the People, who, if they withold it, should be compell'd to pay by some Law.

All Property, indeed, except the Savage's temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it."

Reagan Budget Director, David Stockman, who oversaw the biggest tax cut in the history of humankind: “In 1985, the top five percent of the households – the wealthiest five percent – had net worth of $8 trillion – which is a lot. Today, after serial bubble after serial bubble, the top five per cent have net worth of $40 trillion. The top five percent have gained more wealth than the whole human race had created prior to 1980.” Elsewhere in this same CBS “60 Minutes” interview, Mr. Stockman describes America's obsession with tax cuts as "religion, something embedded in the catechism," "rank demagoguery, we should call it what it is," and "We've demonized taxes. We've created... the idea that they're a metaphysical evil." And finally, this encompassing observation: "The Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves."  -;contentAux   ///^DJI,^GSPC,GLD,DIA,TBT,TLT,UUP   ///  ///;housing  (There is a self-resolving glitch near the beginning of this final clip.)     

Teddy Roosevelt: “Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally does some deed like founding a college or endowing a church, which makes those good people who are also foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country." Theodore Roosevelt - February, 1895 -  

Abraham Lincoln: "In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism. It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life. Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless. Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."  Read more: State of the Union Address: Abraham Lincoln (December 3, 1861) —  

Marine Corps Commandant, Major General Smedley Butler on Interventionism
-- Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC -
In his lifetime, Major General Butler was the most decorated Marine ever. 
In retirement, General Butler, a life-long Republican, ran for a Pennsylvania Senate seat.

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

The entire text of "War is a Racket" is freely available online at

Pat Buchanan (the living American who has spent most time as a White House staff member): "The Republican philosophy might be summarized thus: To hell with principle; what matters is power, and that we have it, and that they do not.” "Where the Right Went Wrong" -

Whatever you think about these references, they represent a very Republican world view that completely contradicts every fundament of contemporary American “conservatism.” 

To turn one's back on these views is not "conservative" but radically deviant.


It may be that somewhere beyond 98% confidence limits, contemporary American conservatives have “got it right.”

But "reasonably" they've got it wrong.

My working hypothesis is that contemporary conservatives are mostly aggressively ignorant people, who delight in rumor, misrepresentation, whole cloth falsehood and anti-scientific irrationality.

If Know Nothing, pro-Armageddon "Christian" fundamentalists were summarily excised from the GOP Base,  the Republican Party would lose every presidential election for the foreseeable future and would not control either house of Congress til kingdom come.

It is one thing for people not to know much. For example, I can excuse people not knowing that TARP was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October, 2008, but who went along with TARP. Despite his free market inclination, Bush's deeply conservative advisers persuaded him "Hell would break loose" if he didn't.

Similarly, I can excuse people not knowing that TARP, under Obama’s administration, has been an extraordinarily successful program: “Originally expected to cost the U.S. taxpayers as much as $300 billion,[1] by December 16, 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the total cost would be $19 billion,[2] although Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner argued that the final cost would be still lower.[3] This is significantly less than the taxpayers' cost of the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s. The cost of that crisis amounted to 3.2 percent of GDP during the Reagan/Bush era, while the GDP percentage of the current crisis' cost is estimated at less than 1 percent.[4]While it was once feared the government would be holding companies like GM, AIG and Citigroup for several years, those companies are preparing to buy back the Treasury's stake and emerge from TARP within a year.[4] Of the $245 billion invested in U.S. banks, over $169 billion has been paid back, including $13.7 billion in dividends, interest and other income, along with $4 billion in warrant proceeds as of April 2010. AIG is considered "on track" to pay back $51 billion from divestitures of two units and another $32 billion in securities.[4] In March 2010, GM repaid more than $2 billion to the U.S. and Canadian governments and on April 21, GM announced the entire loan portion of the U.S. and Canadian governments' investments had been paid back in full, with interest, for a total of $8.1 billion.[5]”  Please read more at 

Having said all this in defense of "tolerating a modicum of ignorance," we cross a crucial threshold when a critical mass of American conservatives – comprised of people who are aggressively, boisterously and boastingly ignorant -- are the sole reason why the GOP and The Tea Party still have decisive power in federal politics.

We are all entitled to our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts.

With the accurate description of TARP (given above), and with the wise insight of those Republican luminaries I’ve mentioned, the salvation of the Republic depends on pragmatic political compromise coupled with strict limitation of “religious” conviction and "principled" intransigence.

"Not only are pure principles inadequate to America’s “salvation,” it is, I believe, manifestly true that "The terrible thing about our time is precisely the ease with which theories can be put into practice.  The more perfect, the more idealistic the theories, the more dreadful is their realization.  We are at last beginning to rediscover what perhaps men knew better in very ancient times, in primitive times before utopias were thought of: that liberty is bound up with imperfection, and that limitations, imperfections, errors are not only unavoidable but also salutary. The best is not the ideal.  Where what is theoretically best is imposed on everyone as the norm, then there is no longer any room even to be good.  The best, imposed as a norm, becomes evil.”  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander -

By focusing on any person or any institution’s “shadow side” (and we all have a shadow side)) it is possible to present evidence that factually condemns a person or an institution. (This is same mechanism that destroys most marriages.)  ///

Our patriotic duty is to resist the feel good temptation of condemning “the shadow side” in order to focus the proportionality of Truth, weighing “the good” and “the bad,” then choosing “The Golden Mean.”

Finding fault in an individual or an institution is always do-able.

But to fault Barack HUSSEIN Obama – who clearly has his faults – for being a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist, anti-American, job-killing quisling whose Anti-Christ goal is to surrender the United States to a One World Government headed by Arab sheiks, is simply nuts - (Take a look at the partisan results on Table 1.)

Either we shun this kind of lunacy, or America is going down.

All the way down.

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got 'til it’s gone.”

Pax on both houses


PS As I write, I’m listening to Diane Rehm. Her show today concerns Occupy Wall Street (OWS), a topic prompted by a recent poll showing that OWS is twice as popular as The Tea Party. One analyst observes that the chief difference between The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street is that The Tea Party focuses exclusively on "politics and politicians" while never addressing the underlying economic structures that have rendered politicians impotent. Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, emphasizes the core non-viability of top-heavy, essentially irresponsible economic structures that have driven America’s breakdown. In comparison to this broad stroke audacity, The Tea Party gelds itself by refusing to “follow the money” to the top of the pyramid. Like most American conservatives, The Tea Party has unmitigated admiration for American captains of industry – even though these plutocrats have become self-centered marauders, gaming the system for personal advantage – America be damned. As a result, Tea Bags are incapable of advocating structural intervention in economic process. Why? 1.) American conservatives adhere to a bedrock belief in the “invisible hand of the market” - a mechanism that, in their view, must be completely unregulated and untaxed if it is to operate at all. Needless to say, there has never been, nor will there ever be, an absolutely free “invisible hand.” It is precisely this sort of "Impossibly Pure Principle" that convinces contemporary conservatives that they need not do anything, that their "Purity" is enough for "God" to bless them with abundance.  2.) The Tea Party will not tolerate any structural intervention in “The Free Market” because the very fundaments of intervention smack of Class Warfare - and mere mention of Class Warfare is strictly verboten. Nevertheless, we are enveloped by the inconvenient truth that class warfare has been waged for decades and middle class Americans are the last ingenues to realize they’re under attack. As Warren Buffett pointed out: “There’s class warfare, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.  Pshaw! What does Warren Buffett know about economics? Meanwhile, America’s "real" cognoscenti bare their forearms for the IV drip of Limbaugh, Beck, Colter and Savage. It is often said that Occupy Wall Street is naïve and ill-informed. By my lights, the most naively ill-informed political movement in American history is comprised of those conservatives who believe that taxes must NEVER be raised. Even Thatcherite conservative Niall Ferguson understands this refusal as "a plan to wreck the country.” Wreckage Herb. Wreckage!   It is high time to bridle Cowboy Capitalism, while incorporating the wisdom that has made Germany an irrepressible economic engine, a socialized capitalist state, and a country, which almost single-handedly, is “bailing out” the rest of Europe because failure to “bail out” spells Economic Catastrophe. Here in the United States, we cut off our nose to spite our face, refusing to bail out even ourselves. If the ideals of contemporary American "conservatism" prevail, the United States will fall off the edge of the economic world. Keep in mind that current conservative ideals were NOT the ideals of Ronald Reagan. "Dutch" raised taxes on several occasions and routinely participated in standard operating procedure. It surpasses irony that if the "real Reagan" suddenly reincarnated, he would be hounded from pillory to post as a "Republican In Name Only."

PPS If you listen to Diane Rehm's interview with Robert Frank, I believe you will reconsider your fundamental economic view. In "The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good," Frank argues that Adam Smith (as commonly understood) was a "special case" economist; that Socialist Darwinists were categorically wrong; and that Darwin was spot-on right.


On Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 11:03 AM, HC wrote:

Hey Alan

Speaking of interviews about Occupy Wall Street.  One reporter on the BBC news the other night, interviewed more than 20 of the “leaders” and those making the most noise before he found one who even knew what TARP was.  Then he watched these clueless “leaders” organize a march up the street to J.P. Morgan.  It was sort of humorous because J.P. Morgan took no TARP money and did not participate in the toxic mortgage business and I understand tried to educate those financial companies like Countrywide who were leading the charge down the road to bubble bursting time.  Reminds me of what we watched in the 60’s and early 70’s, idealism of youth who are easily led and who have no real understanding of the situation, no solutions, and too much time on their hands.  The day the reporter was there he counted almost twice the number of tourists watching and taking photos (to show the folks back home, most of them from foreign countries) of the spectacle than the occupiers.  The latter appeared to be doing a good job of loitering, laying and milling around and perpetually fingering their iphones.  Meanwhile, the news media were highly visible and in their usual feeding frenzy and with good precise angles of their cameras, excluding most of the above from their “documentary”  Reminded me of the 9 or so people at Silent Sam who tried to represent the entire student body with their social agenda.  The camera man must have been lying on the ground since the photo was taken with their feet in the foreground looking up at their faces and everything else cropped out to make it look like a bigger crowd.  The caption read something like large crowd gathers to support the removal of the statue.  Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy that the news media uses to feed the zealots.  They seem to think the money for corporate compensation needs to be distributed to the workers who are mostly non federal taxpayers.  I think it should go to the stockholders who were willing to risk their savings to support a company to give people jobs and to help them provide for their retirement and not look to the federal and state government, through some community organizer like our president to provide for their “entitled” retirement.  The latest figures of the fact that almost 50% of people have not saved a dime for their retirement.  It the majority of these people don’t save anything for their kids schooling or their own retirement but who all have their cell phones, 64 inch HDTV, blue ray DVD player, Pandora, Ipads and on and on.  These items are probably bought on a credit card they have no business using. 

Greed is everywhere, including in the Unions.  The salaries that those top dogs pull down is also outrageous.  That would be another good occupation for next month but I see that probably won’t happen because the Unions with their failed organization are already infiltrating and trying to capitalize on the publicity generated by the youth to get more dues to increase their salaries. 

Oh well we will somehow work our way out of this morass but not by these techniques but by strong, courageous leadership which we are sadly lacking on all sides.


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