Passing time after dropping off my daughters at their afternoon writing groups, waiting until the end-of-class celebration, I decided to stop in to Senator Collins’ office.
It’s super-easy to drop in and write a little note. There’s a form to fill out in the waiting room and the guy at reception was friendly.Read More →

A friend of mine made some great points in her comments on my last post. Most important: not every child is better off staying home with a parent or loved one. I hope I was clear I realize that’s the case. That’s true for the children and for the parents. That’s part of why we need well-funded programs outside the home.
My friend then wrote what I think sums up the problematic and very popular views of taxation and the common good. She wrote:

“I DO NOT want my taxes increased to help parents stay home with their kids, so that my kids end up with less … nor do I want ‘rich people’ taxed more if that means I end up out of a job.”

However, our taxes will definitely increase if we continue on this path of cutting back on social services and allowing corporate greed to destroy our economy. It is our responsibility as citizens to be sure our nation functions relatively well (the common good). We already pay for other people’s life choices: prisons, police, schools, school meals, afterschool programs, the entire justice system, child protection services… the list goes on.
It’s short-term thinking and, I believe, misguided to be concerned our taxes might increase if we begin supporting families with young children. If we pay for a parent or loved one to stay home with children ages 0-5 (when all key brain formation happens) we are investing in our nation’s future. As I’m not an economist or an expert, I don’t have numbers to back this up, but, it only makes sense to me that if we really “focus on the family” and seriously support parents of very young children that in the end we’ll all benefit.
Living in the United States of America brings with it responsibilities that include supporting the common good. When the instant response to the idea of supporting parents staying home with their children is “don’t take my money!” it’s clear the radical right is winning the debate. Although my friend’s reaction is common, the real issue isn’t the government taking our money. Our money will go and does go—in the form of our contribution to the common wealth (taxes)—to support our fellow citizens. That’s how our country works. The question is what that support looks like. Will it be allowing a parent to stay at home with their child? Or will it be 10-15 years in prison?
As far as regulating greed and Paula’s fear for her job, that sounds like corporate greed successfully blackmailing the workers. “Don’t make my greed illegal or I’ll lay people off!”
If we set limits on what is a reasonable amount of profit and require the additional funds be invested back into the company how, really, could that result in more layoffs than are already happening? I’m not saying it’s impossible, of course, that upper management might find ways to make the workers pay for their decreased and no longer obscenely excessive financial gains. But we’ve tried the free-and-easy version of capitalism and look how that has worked… Greed begets more greed and common decency is lost. How someone can live with themselves when they bring home millions of dollars, and then more millions of dollars, while their staff are losing jobs or are barely making ends meet I’ll never understand.
My friend’s concern that her taxes might go up is the prevailing concern among the Tea Party types (she isn’t one, but that’s what we hear about so much lately in the mainstream media) and among so many people from moderate to conservative. There’s the misconception that tax money leaving our bank accounts goes to waste while the money we spend on a toilet brush from Target that was made in China is somehow a good investment.
Here’s the simplistic, over-simplified, and did I mention, entirely too general a statement to be worth much? version of what I think ought to happen:

  • laws are passed indicating what is considered fair profit and what is considered greed (greed = illegal)
  • when mega corporations (obviously this wouldn’t apply to smaller businesses who don’t have enough $ to be so bloody greedy) break the new greed laws the money they took (above the greed level) goes directly to the employees, equally, no matter the position

It might also be nice to have incentives for paying employees well and taking less compensation at the upper levels. Tax deductions, even!
Oh, and, for any of this to work we need the government to pay for all of our healthcare and we need to scrap the insurance industry entirely. But, um, that’s a different post.

Reading Children Just Like Me with my daughters this morning I was struck by how many children mentioned clean water, not liking the smell of dirty water, or wanting there always to be water available for everyone in the world. Our privileged, entitled, and spoiled citizenry (in particular the “taxes are bad!” “fewer taxes is the solution!” radical right wing or Tea Party versions) so easily forgets it’s our government, using the common wealth (taxes), that makes sure we have clean water available almost everywhere in our nation.
Most of us don’t think about it. Some of us who luxuriously take time for such things might look into issues about our water not being clean enough. I’ve got friends who use ceramic pots to filter their drinking water and I’ve got friends who won’t use tap water unless its boiled. Everything is relative, though. We have a government, made up of citizens (too embroiled in corporate wealth, to be sure, but still elected citizens), who raise the funds necessary to run the Environmental Protection Agency. The bits of concern some people have about our own water quality are nothing compared to the daily survival concerns around the world. When I get a glass of water from any sink anywhere in this country, the odds are I’m not going to ingest internal parasites or microbes that make me seriously ill. On this day, blog action day, when so many are writing about the crisis internationally about the need for clean water, I’m just going to stick to this point: If we didn’t pay the taxes we pay, we would likely not have dependable clean water to drink.
Just a little international flavor from wikipedia, a sampling of what we don’t have to cope with on a daily basis because the big ol’ mean ol’ greedy politicians are stealing our money:

“According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease accounts for an estimated 4.1% of the total DALY global burden of disease and is responsible for the deaths of 1.8 million people every year. It was estimated that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and is mostly concentrated in children in developing countries.[1]”

Taxes are our contribution to the common good, and the common welfare of our nation. Our nation was founded to increase freedom. We do that by fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens: investing in the systems that keep us free. We are free when we are safe. We are safe when we are protected. We are protected when we know our water is clean enough to drink and that it will not kill us if we do. Taxes increase our freedom. In fact, they are the only reason we are free at all.

Ever wondered who the “liberal elite” are that threaten to destroy, no, who are destroying the Constitution and taking away everyone’s civil liberties?
Here are a couple lists for you. They’re long, but not exhaustive.
Part I: The yes questions. If you answer yes or maybe or have to think about it for more than four seconds on any one question, you are part of the Liberal Elite.

  • Do you call the Tea Party movement “teabaggers?”
  • Do you make fun of fundamentalist Christians?
  • Are people who misspell signs at demonstrations fucking idiots?
  • Does human-produced pollution contribute seriously to global warming?
  • Is global warming an issue we should all be concerned with?
  • Is Sarah Palin not very bright?
  • Should the government be required to obtain warrants before wiretapping our citizens?
  • Is empathy a strength, or, at a minimum, is empathy a very important quality in the experience of being human?
  • When you hear “freedom” do you think freedom of speech, freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom to improve our lives, freedom from harm?
  • When you hear “patriot” do you flinch because you think of the Tea Party movement types but then, with some thought, do you realize that actually you do feel patriotic because you want the best for everyone in our country?
  • Do you see groups of impassioned Tea Party movement protesters and really, truly not get why they’re so upset? (And, do you then think they must just be idiots?)
  • When you pay your taxes do you maybe think, this totally sucks, but do you also have a sense if you really think about it that you are investing in the infrastructure of our nation, the commonwealth, so you feel a sense of pride and responsibility?
  • Do you wonder how anyone could watch FOX News and take it seriously?
  • Does everyone have a right to a high quality education in the USA? Should schools get the funding they need? Do you believe some students need more support to be successful in school than other students?
  • Do you believe it’s the responsibility of the government to protect us?
  • Does governmental protectionto you mean the government is responsible for:
    • building and maintaining our infrastructure
    • keeping our food/water/air/medicine safe
    • researching health, environmental, and other nationally important issues
    • ensuring big corporations don’t abuse their workers
    • maintaining a strong national guard, police, fire fighters
    • providing the resources necessary to predict and/or prevent and/or recover from natural disasters.
  • Do you believe that hiring private businesses to take over governmental functions in most cases actually takes taxpayer money and turns it into corporate profits?
  • Do you think that no-bid contracts given to private corporations to perform government functions costs the taxpayers a hell of a lot more money than it would cost to have the government do it? Might you refer to that as privateering?
  • Do you believe that private corporations in most cases hired by the government to take on governmental functions end up being governmental entities themselves but without any accountability to the public? Again, might you call that privateering?
  • Do you believe the government has a moral mission to provide for the general welfare, the common good of the people while corporations are only concerned with profit and are only accountable to their shareholders? And, again, might you call that privateering?
  • Do you believe it is literally dangerous in many cases to turn governmental functions over to private corporations? For example, asking medication companies to test their own medicines for safety since the FDA hasn’t been properly funded and can’t handle all the testing required? (Privateering.)
  • Does it scare the shit out of you that not only is Blackwater a private firm making millions of dollars in profits—taxpayer money—has a massive training facility in Southern California so they can take on border patrol work? Is the idea of a private corporation taking over so much of the work the military is trained to do absolutely abhorrent to you? Does it seem wrong that it’s Blackwater personnel guarding the sites where Blackwater crimes (murders) were likely committed so investigators are guarded by the same people they are investigating? (Privateering.)
  • Are protected lands such as National Parks an important part of our commonwealth?

Part II: The no’s. If you answer “no” to any of these, you are part of the Liberal Elite.

  • People who have a lot of power generally deserve that power. They must have worked hard to get there. If they inherited wealth and social capital that’s because their family worked hard to get there, so the power they get from their wealth is still merited.
  • Do you look to the person lowest on the totem pole (the “bad apple”) when something goes wrong to right those wrongs? (Think Abu Ghraib and who was punished there.)
  • When someone says, “I want the best for everyone in this country,” do you hear them saying, “I know what’s best for everyone in this country.”
  • Have the Liberal Elite have taken over Washington and are they trying to dictate how Americans spend their money because the Liberal Elite are so full of themselves they think regular Americans don’t know better?
  • Civil liberty means the freedom to do as I please.
  • Freedom of religion means the government should allow schools to force children to pray. Freedom of religion means that the Truth should be shared with as many people as possible because otherwise they’ll burn in Hell.
  • If someone is poor, they must not have worked hard enough.
  • If someone is addicted to drugs, they are immoral.
  • Corporations are in bed with Washington and there’s nothing we can do about it.
  • Corporations are in bed with Washington but the Corporations are less to blame for it since they’re just doing everything they can do make a profit which is an admirable goal.

Well, how did you do? Are you, like me, a member of the Liberal Elite?
Every single time you call the Tea Party movement people names, you are reinforcing the radical right’s frames. You are enforcing the myth that there is some Liberal Elite trying to crush regular Americans. We progressives need to step outside the frames of the radical right and start over.
The radical right/Tea Party movement uses facts, but they are driven by emotion, morality, values.
The progressives/liberals use facts, but we don’t even know what our own emotions, morality, or values are because the radical right has taken over so completely the framing of the issues. Until we, the progressives, know what our values are (you can see above some examples of what I believe they are) we will never make serious change.
Empathy and empowerment = strength and responsibility. That’s what we’re about. We are regular Americans. Empathy and empowerment equals strength and responsibility. Be proud of it.