History Lessons

After Athens and Sparta led the Greeks in battle against the mammoth forces of Persia and won the battle of Marathon — where Herodotus estimates that they were outnumbered as much as 10 to 1, the Greeks formed the Delian league which exacted tribute from the various Greek City-States too help build Greek forces against possible future attacks. The funds were kept at Delos, home of the Delphic Oracle and a place sacred to the Greeks.

Eventually, Athens transferred the money to Athens and used it to help them build their navy and arm their forces (and the Parthenon), while assuming control of many of the City-Sates that were weaker than they. Indeed, the Athenians thought it only natural that the stronger should take control of the weaker. And, oddly enough, the rest of the Greeks seem to have adopted that view as well — even the weak ones! But eventually Sparta realized that the growing power of Athens was a direct threat to them and to those City-States that looked to them for protection, such as Corinth. Soon began the Peloponnesian War that lasted 27 years and ended with Sparta taking control of the country and occupying Athens. The war is chronicled by Thucydides who lived thorough it and who gave us what many regard as the first truly factual historical account of what was happening in the dark and distant past. It should be noted that Thucydides was intent to dismiss the poetical “fancies” of such people as Homer who didn’t tell is “like it was.” The new history was to be factual and the historian seeking above all else to be objective.

Well, it is a fascinating question whether a historian can be objective and many now think that all history is poetry — or fiction at the very least. But the lessons that Thucydides sought to teach the future he was convinced were lessons that could help us all understand the forces that operate on us all and assist us in dealing with an unknown future. He regarded history as cyclical, major trends repeating themselves while the personages and specific challenges changed with the times. What happened in Greece in the fifth century B.C.E. can teach us how to prepare for what is happening to us right now. The decision of the Athenians to send a majority of their troops to Sicily late in the war (resulting in 40,000 Athenian deaths) parallels almost exactly Hitler’s decision to attack Russia during the Second World War — with almost identical results. And George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq following the huge success of his father’s adventure in The Gulf War may be yet another parallel.

The key elements in this repetition are the greed and ambition of human beings coupled with their aggressive instincts — according to Thucydides. Those elements are still very much with us, as noted above. And it should also be noted also that toward the end of the Peloponnesian War Athens became arrogant and in its excessive pride took a step too far and brought about its own ruin. There are lessons here for us all.

In our eagerness to “make America great again,” we must recall the lessons that the fifth century historian sought to teach: pride and arrogance coupled with fear and our aggressive impulses often, if not always, lead to tragic consequences. I have noted in the past that the greatness of this country lies not in its military power — such things as increasing the already obscenely huge nuclear arsenal and a “defense” budget that dwarfs all others on this planet — but in its espousal of values such as honor, nobility, and generosity. These were values that the Athenians paid lip service to, but which were displaced in their frenzy to build their empire and amass land and wealth — which brought about their demise. We, too, have paid lip-service to values such as these while we play the game of power politics. And we have a leader recently elected whose avowed purpose is to disconnect with the rest of the civilized world, build walls, and increase our military strength in pursuit of what he regards as “greatness.”

Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it, according to the philosopher Santayana. And Americans are notoriously ignorant not only of world history but of their own history as well. It is not a formula for success, and we would be wise to pause and reflect along the way toward “greatness” and ask repeatedly whether we really want to go where we seem to be headed. We must cling to such values as integrity, nobility, true heroism, sacrifice, and charity toward those who rely on us if we are to approach greatness, which does not wear armor but wears, rather, the cloak of generosity and selflessness.

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The Real Victim

We have already heard the claim that this election is “rigged” and that Donald Trump may lose as a result. What this translates into it: My name is Donald The Trumpet and IF I lose it will not be as a result of my own failings as a person and a potential president, it will be because the Democrats have rigged the election.” In a word, it’s an escape clause that Trump has built into his ridiculous candidacy, because in his mind he cannot lose fair and square. The facts, of course, do not matter — though his claim is, indeed, based on the fact that the DNC managed to guarantee that Hillary would be their candidate and Bernie Sanders would not be. There is certainly some truth in that (if truth matters any more).

But it is a huge jump from that particular unpleasant fact to the outrageous claim that the entire election will be rigged to guarantee that Donald Trump will not be our next president. Why, we might well ask, should the Democrats bother to rig the election when the Trumpet is managing to undermine his own candidacy by continuing to shoot himself in the foot? If only he wouldn’t open his mouth, he might have a chance. But whenever he opens it another outrageous claim comes gushing forth and another doubter is born (we would hope).

To be sure, things have been done in the past to promote the interest of one particular candidate — Mayor Daily in Chicago practically delivered the election to John Kennedy back in the day. But there have been numerous other attempts, such as Jim Crow laws designed to disenfranchise certain voters (usually Democrats) and help the candidate of choice. And it would appear that Florida was pretty much delivered to George W. Bush by his brother not long ago. But to “rig” the entire election in favor of one candidate over another would appear to be practically impossible.

But that doesn’t matter, as we have learned. It’s not what is the case, in fact, that matters. It’s all about perception and the Trumpet is a master at deception — making the “truth” out to be whatever he says. He will say the word “rigged” enough to convince his mindless minions that it is a fact. And when he goes down in defeat in November (if he is not forced to resign sooner) he will shout “foul,” and his minions will rise up in protest. Let’s hope and pray that they not do so in violent protest — though I would certainly not bet against it.

The real victim in this race is not Donald Trump. If the real victim is not the Republican Party (which may well be the case) it is the truth. It is facts. It is what happens to be the case and not what people perceive to be the case. Truth is the real victim because the consequences of this transformation of lies into The Truth From On High are incalculable. The Donald will, as he says, take a long vacation and then probably work for Fox News and do the lecture circuit to help reimburse himself for the expenses he has incurred in this contest — and keep his face in the public eye. But what his mindless minions will do is anyone’s guess and those consequences follow directly from the rocks this man has turned over and the rage he has ignited in the hearts of so many people who might otherwise have simply remained mute. And, again, the truth will lie in tatters around our feet, unrecognizable and incapable of resuscitation. There’s the real victim.

Out Of Bounds

In the most recent Republican debate Donald “the Trumpet” had the audacity to speak the truth and the Republican loyalists collectively pilloried him. It matters not that he has been telling blatant lies throughout his campaign, as long as the lies are within the boundaries of accepted Republican dogma. It matters not that the trumpet insisted that the Muslims in New Jersey cheered when the Twin Towers were attacked (a lie) or that Mexican immigrants are all rapists (another lie). What matters is that he had the audacity to insist that the Iraq war was a mistake and that there never were any weapons of mass destruction. That was true but, more to the point, it was not acceptable to Republicans because George W. Bush was president at the time and he is regarded as the man who “made our country safe from terrorism” despite the fact that the Twin Towers were attacked during his presidency and all report indicate that he had been warned that an attack was immanent. The following slice from an interesting story on the internet spells out the essentials:

I won’t even hazard a guess as to whether this double-sided exchange helped or hurt Trump. Watching it on television you’d think Republicans watching hated everything he had to say. But the reality is that the in-studio audience was hand-picked by the state party, and seemingly stuffed with Bush supporters.

But if it did go badly for Trump what’s fascinating is that it went badly in exactly the kind of way you would have expected Trump’s campaign to go south months ago.

He went way outside the boundaries of the kind of things Republican Party politicians normally say, and in response Republican Party politicians (and their backers in the state party) piled-on to diss him. A political party, after all, is a coalition of like-minded people. When you step outside their zone of comfort and say things they wouldn’t say, they team up to crush you.

What’s important here is not that the Trumpet actually said something that happened to be true (which is remarkable in itself) but that the  Republican fraternity determined that these sorts of remarks are heresy, even blasphemy. You can say anything you want, no matter how absurd or untrue as long as you don’t bash one of us — in this case the Shrub who was supposedly in control when the Towers were attacked and later ordered the invasion of Iraq for bogus reasons. It really is about Party Loyalty and not about the Truth or about the Common Good.

And now that Judge Scalia has passed on the Republicans have clustered about and are determined to block any nomination that the president puts forward. Why? Not because he might suggest the wrong person for the job, but because he’s a Democrat and whoever he chooses is unacceptable a priori. This is called “poisoning the wells,” and it is an example of faulty logic, a logical fallacy in fact. But logic doesn’t matter to politicians these days any more than the truth matters. What matters is circling the wagons and making sure that those on your team are of one mind — even if that mind is closed and terribly small.

Obama On The Ropes

I have been warned by a fellow-blogger whom I respect not to push the parallel between Barack Obama and George W. Bush too far, though the similarities are at times disturbing. So I will stay away from that button. But I will push another: in attempting to please everyone, Obama once again proves that you can please no one. This time it is about the pilfering of private information in the name of “national security.” As a recent story notes:

Into his fifth year in office, President Obama knows well attacks from the right. Obamacare, Benghazi, IRS shenanigans, he’s taken his lumps from Republicans and conservative activists. “Impeach him!” many cry. Only occasionally is he whacked from the left (see Guantánamo Bay prison camp).

But these days, it seems like the roles are reversed. Liberals are after Obama, while the likes of Republican political operative Karl Rove are in his corner.

The subject, of course, is government secret surveillance of phone records, a vacuum-cleaner approach whose purpose is heading off terrorist attacks but which pokes into what most people think of as private information.

It would be an exaggeration to insist that we are headed for Orwell’s world of 1984 — a few years late. But at the same time, there is some truth in the fact that this sort of nosing into the privacy of citizens of this country, presumably guaranteed by the Constitution which the President is pledged to serve is un-American, if it doesn’t smack of totalitarianism. It is certainly Machiavellian, since it embraces the notion that the end justifies the means — any means, apparently. It’s not at all clear that our “national security” is at risk, except in the minds of the paranoid. This is assuredly not something we would have expected from this man when he was elected, and the fact that he is pleasing Karl Rove is doubly unsettling. The man seems to lack a backbone: he is unable to find a principle he can embrace and defend. He is perfectly willing to disappoint those people who voted for him in the hope that he would lean at least a little bit toward the left on one or two important issues.

But he has ordered an escalating number of drone strikes in the Middle East, and inhibited the right of reporters to write what they regard as the truth. Further, he has shown himself unwilling to take a strong stand against the Keystone Pipeline, which many conservationists regard as the penultimate step toward environmental disaster. And recently he has indicated his willingness to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list, virtually guaranteeing open season on those animals that have struggled to make a comeback. And now he is checking on our phone calls and private correspondence. In a word, he is disappointing those who elected him to office seemingly because he doesn’t seem to know where he stands on any given issue and is willing to bend with the wind. And I dare to say that the wind blows strongest when it issues forth from the hot air that inflates the greed of the corporations that are increasingly finding this man to be their friend (I am thinking on Monsanto here, primarily, but the Koch brothers must be sleeping more soundly at night realizing that this man doesn’t seem to care in the least what they might do with their millions.)

In any event, even those who continue to support this president and hope that he will eventually “come around” must admit that he is far too conciliatory, too eager to please. As a result he seems to have managed to alienate folks on both sides of the political aisle. And in that regard, the parallel with George W. Bush does break down.

Nixonesque?

The HuffPost story begins as follows:

The Obama administration woke up on Tuesday to another morning of scorching criticism about the Justice Department’s decision to secretly obtain months of Associated Press phone records.

The DOJ tracked the incoming and outgoing calls on more than 20 AP phone lines, as well as the home, office and cell phone lines for six individual journalists involved in writing a national security-related story about Yemen that the Obama administration did not want them to write.

While many of us who supported this president are dismayed by this story and its ramifications — given its open attack on the first amendment — there are those who will insist that the president is in no way connected with this sort of suppression. How could he be? He’s a liberal democrat, after all, and Democrats are champions of a free press. But the story goes on to point out that

[Buzzfeed editor Ben] Smith wrote that the nuclear nature of the probe could, in part, be traced back to Obama, who has made it a policy to aggressively go after leaks in a fashion not seen in any of his predecessors. Though the White House said it had nothing to do with the probe and referred reporters to the Justice Department, Smith wrote that it was not hard to see Obama’s hand in some way: Elements of this approach, Obama’s friends and foes agree, come from the top. Obama is personally obsessed with leaks, to the extent that his second chief of staff, Bill Daley, took as one of his central mandates a major and ill-fated plumbing expedition. Attorney General Eric Holder, who pressed the leak policy, is a trusted Obama insider.

This obsession with leaks and attempts to suppress the news is disquieting indeed. I must admit I found Obama’s first term as president unsettling, given his urge to make everyone happy and reach compromises that violated fundamental principles he embraced during his campaign. But I figured that when he gets a second term and doesn’t have to run again he will come out strong on the principles one identifies with liberal thinkers and politicians who aren’t simply holding a finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. But there he is with his finger up — and it appears to be his middle one and it is pointed at us!  The man doesn’t seem to know what a principle is and he is acting very much like a paranoid Richard Nixon or George W. Bush, saying one thing while he does another. Shades of Watergate and the invasion of Iraq clouded in lies in the name of “freedom.”

It was terribly disappointing, for example, to see that even though 91% of the people in this country wanted some sort of background checks on gun sales the man couldn’t wheedle the Senate into a vote to support gun control. Is he really that clueless, not to mention inept? He seems to be sleeping with corporations like Monsanto who are determined to ignore ethics completely in the name of higher profits. Moreover, he promised to close Guantanamo where prisoners at this writing are still on a hunger strike to draw attention to their inhumane plight. And while the drone attacks started under Bush, they have escalated under Obama to an alarming extent — and he refuses to “come clean” and appear before committees to explain what he is up to. His tendency toward secrecy and his inclination to resort of prevarication when confronted smacks of the very thing we all hoped we were getting way from with this president who promised to be open and honest. He does, indeed, appear to be a Republican in Democratic clothing, fearful of “the enemy” and devoted to increasing corporate profits. It’s one thing to be a closet Republican with his hand in corporate pockets (there are a number of them in Congress), but it is quite another to pretend that he is anything but. It’s the duplicity coupled with the growing lack of trust that causes the greatest concern. Just who is this man?

Slowing Down The Snail

The United States Postal Service has recently announced that it will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays after August 1st of this year. An interesting movement is afoot to keep the Post Office open on Saturdays and this movement has made some remarkable claims. They are nicely summarized in the following paragraphs from a notice making the rounds on the internet:

The United States Postal Service has just announced that due to budget shortfalls, mail will no longer be delivered on Saturdays starting in August.

It’s true the post office faces financial challenges. But the financial problems are in large part a direct result of an onerous and ill-considered 2006 law called the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” (PAEA) that mandates pre-funding the postal service retiree health care and pension benefits for 75 years — something that no other government agency or private company is forced to do.

I checked on the PAEA and this information is substantially correct. The act in question became  law under George W. Bush and it deals largely with postal regulations. But it also specifies the amount of money that must be allocated into the health care and retirement plan of the employees, which (according to the movement) is what is causing most of the red ink in the running of the Post Office and is designed to lead to the eventual closing of the United States Postal Service. Or so we are led to believe.

The claim goes on to insist that the movement to slow down the Post Office is part of a plan on the part of the Republicans to “kill government services for the sake of proving that government can’t work.” This sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory, but there does seem to be some plausibility to the claim — outrageous as it may seem at first. As the movement goes on to point out, the overall objective of the Republicans is to “force more cuts and eventually privatize services altogether, handing over public goods to private corporations.” In this case, the private corporations are UPS and Fed-X.

Again, there is some plausibility to these claims, given the facts that the (1) Republicans are eager to shrink the size of government, (2) the trend toward corporate-friendly laws is certainly high on the agenda of the Republican Party, and (3) the fact that the law was passed under George W. Bush, who pushed hard for privatizing Social Security while he was in office. The movement to privatize public agencies in order to benefit large corporations is certainly something that has been on the Republican radar for some time.

Thus, while I can’t say with complete confidence that this movement to save the Post Office is not a hoax or part of a conspiracy theory designed to create angst in the public, I pass it along as food for thought. The group circulating this information is Credo-Action, a “publication of Working Assets.” Its hope is to get readers to sign a petition and contact Congressmen to keep the Post Office open in Saturdays. But if they are right and this is part of a Republican scheme to privatize postal services, then a petition and a letter to a Congressman seems to me a bit like playing poker with an opponent who is holding a straight flush and playing with house money while we are trying to bluff with a pair of twos. In any case, if you are interested in knowing more, I encourage you to check out the source cited above.

Our Perplexing President

Emerson once said “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” He would love the sitting President who has shown himself to be anything but foolishly consistent in his various political stands. Take the following story for example:

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all of his liberal positions on the environment, taxes and health care, President Barack Obama is a hawk when it comes to the war on terror.

From deadly drones to secret interrogations to withholding evidence in terror lawsuits, Obama’s Democratic White House has followed the path of his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush. The U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remains open, despite Obama’s pledge to close it, and his administration has pursued leaks of classified information to reporters even more aggressively than Bush’s. . .

To be fair, the President did make an effort to move the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, but the Congress would not hear of it. It remains an unfulfilled election promise, however, and, as a supporter and even an admirer of Barack Obama, this particular inconsistency disturbs me as I have tried from time to time to get my mind around it. I recall Dwight Eisenhower’s wise remark years ago “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.” I keep going back to that comment because I find it provocative and very insightful –especially in light of such things as Obama’s hawkishness. Why would such a liberal thinker be so hawkish when it comes to international affairs? It’s almost as though he is trying to one-up his military advisers. I worry that he is cowed by the impressive uniforms laden with medals clothing the commanding presence of the military leaders who surround him when he sits down with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not being “judgmental” about the President, as people love to say. It’s not my place to judge the man since in his shoes I would probably be just as cowed by the presence of those uniforms and medals. But I am reminded of the remarks made by Colonel Andrew Bacevich I quoted last month when he pointed out that “we have fallen prey to militarism, manifesting itself in a romanticized view of soldiers….” This man knows whereof he speaks as he comes to the problem from the perspective of a military man with combat experience who exhibits the same caution about the military that Eisenhower exhibited after he left the fold. These are words we need to take to heart.

It is just possible that Barack Obama, like anyone else who has never worn a uniform or fought in a battle would be awed by those who wear the uniform proudly and is told relentlessly (as we all are) that these men and women are all heroes to whom we owe our freedoms. As the article cited above goes on to point out, many of the Democrats in Congress share Obama’s hawkishness:

This past week’s confirmation hearing for Obama’s nominee to lead the CIA showed just how much Washington — Democrats especially — has come to accept the same counterterrorism policies that drew such furor in the first years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Is it possible, I ask, that we are giving up our freedoms to the very people who are pledged to defend those freedoms with their lives? Is this the way we really want to go? I don’t think we should see President Obama’s hawkishness as a sign of weakness on the part of a man adept at the political game and otherwise liberal in his thinking. Rather, I see him as a microcosm of the rest of this society which seems ready to hand over the reins of power to those who wear uniforms — especially since those same men and women have the backing of the wealthy in this country who are also doubtless in awe of the uniform and transfixed by the military mystique.

Defiant As Ever

Director R.J. Cutler has put together a film on Dick Cheney’s life that will appear on Sundance TV and later on Showtime. It features lengthy interviews with a candid and “defiant” Dick Cheney who says, among other things, that he has no regrets whatever about the torture techniques that were used to get information about terrorists — including the infamous “waterboarding.” Quoting Cheney, the Yahoo News story goes on:

“Are you going to trade the lives of other people because you want to preserve your honor?” Cheney replies when asked about waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques. “You do what’s required. That’s not a close call for me.”

Cheney always struck me as a thoroughly unprincipled man in a world of politics where principles are as rare as three dollar bills. This quote confirms that suspicion. It brings back that whole George W. Bush-era, all the lies about the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that Iraq didn’t have that led to the invasion that many think brought about the economic recession we now find ourselves in. It brings back memories of the thousands of American lives that were lost and the millions of  Iraqis who were killed and/or displaced in a war that appears to have been about the oil fields. At the time I recall that while the invasion was taking place, the Army’s first objective was to protect the oil fields — not, say, the museums where millions of dollars worth of treasure was being stolen or destroyed. But we know what matters to the powers that be.

In any event, the Machiavellian-like approach Cheney takes to politics is positively chilling. He asks what he regards as a rhetorical question that makes it clear that “honor” doesn’t count for anything when human lives are at stake. But we know that the human lives he has in mind are not foreign, they are of the domestic variety. I have always had a problem with those who insist that American lives are somehow “worth” more than foreign lives. This was the argument used after the Atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. It seems to me that all human lives are equally valuable, none more than others.

“You do what is required” translates into “the end justifies the means.” It means that morality has no place at the table and expediency is the name of the game. But even if we allow that torture was necessary to save American lives — which is debatable — the very act of submitting another human being to waterboarding and other interrogation techniques reduces the victim to a sub-human level. And it reduces the torturer as well.

Socrates said long ago that the one who inflicts harm on another harms himself more than he does the other person. That was an extraordinary insight on Socrates’ part and it is something that people like Dick Cheney will never understand.

Fallout From the “Deal”

I don’t pretend to understand all the ramifications of the “deal” struck in Congress recently to keep us from going over the fiscal cliff. But the complaints from the political right-wing suggest that the deal was a good thing for the rest of the country. I figure if the Tea Party doesn’t like it, it must be a good thing for the majority of people in this country.

I do wonder, however, whether it might have been better in the long run if we had fallen off the cliff — on our collective butts — in order to force this country to eliminate some of the fat in our budget (starting with defense spending, of course) and make all of us pay more taxes — given the fact that we are taxed at a very low rate compared with the rest of the “developed” world, and also given the fact that our economy thrived when we were paying more in taxes. I was especially hoping for tax raises on the wealthy who have benefitted mightily from the Bush tax cuts. As I understand it, the new deal will raise taxes on individuals who make above $400,000 a year and that will help reduce the deficit somewhat. But a great many people who make a great deal of money will still avoid paying their share.

There’s more: one of the more interesting ramifications of the deal is the complaint we are hearing from some of the wealthy who have threatened to discontinue giving to charities. A recent story on HuffPost focusing on this issue caught my eye. In that story we are told that

Legislation passed by the Senate late Tuesday night will limit the amount wealthy people can claim for charitable deductions on their taxes. While some say donors shouldn’t be motivated by the amount of money they can write off, others –- including some nervous nonprofits –- argue that tax breaks for charitable giving should have been left untouched in the deal.

One such dissenter is Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. Fleischer tweeted his distaste for the deduction decision on Tuesday:

“I increased donations to charity in 2012. This deal limits my deductions so I, & many others, will likely donate less in 2013.”

— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 1, 2013

When I was a kid I loved playing marbles. We played “keepies” where the winners get to keep the marbles they hit out of a ring drawn in the dirt. Every now and again a kid would see that he was losing and grab his remaining marbles and refuse to play any more. This is what Fleischer’s complaint reminds me of. Wealthy people like Ari Fleischer don’t want to play any more because they won’t get the tax breaks they are used to getting for giving some of their money to those less fortunate than themselves. Poor Ari. I expect he cries all the way to the bank. I thought the idea behind charitable giving was to help others, not to get tax breaks. Great wealth seems to cloud the brain.

Political Scum

A recent story on Yahoo News was somewhat disquieting but not that surprising under the circumstances. It begins as follows:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. government agency has withdrawn a report that challenged Republican ideas about taxes and economic growth – an action that drew fire from Democrats who accused it on Thursday of bowing to political pressure.

Republican lawmakers blasted the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report when it was issued in September and then went to the agency to complain. The report suggested that lower tax rates on the wealthy are not linked to economic growth, an item of faith among many conservatives.

The attack on the agency was led by Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch who released statements replete with political gobbledygook about the unreliability of the study and questioning its methodology. This is standard operating procedure these days: we don’t like what the study concludes, so let’s question the methodology. That is to be expected. What is not to be expected is the pressure these Republicans were able to bring to bear on the agency to force them to withdraw the report. Do I hear cries of “foul!”?

This is the season for dirty politics as we realize — on both sides of the political aisle. But some tricks seem to be dirtier than others and refusing to allow a group to do its job on the grounds that they have uncovered evidence to support a conclusion that is in opposition to party ideology seems to be very low indeed: down there with political scum.

We are all concerned about the economy. For some it has become the only issue that matters in the present election. But the trickle down economic theory that began with Ronald Reagan and was later coupled with tax breaks for the wealthy under George W. Bush are the major reasons our economy is in such dire straights at the present moment. Despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, the Republicans would still have us believe that reducing taxes on the wealthy in this country will benefit the rest of us and thereby turn the economy around and they don’t want us to believe anything to the contrary. In fact, while they weep crocodile tears about the weak economy, the wealthy are hoarding their wealth and not investing it in economic growth. There is no “trickle down.”

Consider the following: Prior to 1981 when this country was experiencing considerable economic strength, the percentage of their income the very wealthy paid in federal taxes was anywhere from 40% to 70%.  Then under Bill Clinton the wealthy who now pay at most 35% of their acknowledged income in taxes (Mitt Romney pays 14%) were asked to pay 39% and the economy began to recover from its slide that began soon after Ronald Reagan introduced supply-side Reaganomics early in his presidency — the infamous “trickle-down” theory, which George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics.” When sizable tax breaks for the wealthy were ushered in during “W’s” regime in 2001 and again in 2003 the downward slide began again in earnest. Furthermore, this country as a whole has one of the lowest tax rates among all of the developed countries in the world while the Tea Party screams hysterically about “cutting taxes” and the wealthy insist that they should be taxed even less than they are at present.

One can quibble about probable causes, but the fact remains that when the wealthy paid their fair share of taxes the economy was on much firmer ground. Whether or not there is a causal relationship here one cannot say for certain. Economics is not an exact science. But it is clear that the wealthy in this country do not pay their share of the taxes; and the trickle down theory of economics has been a bad joke. The strength of our economy depends on the buying power of a healthy middle class, not pennies “trickling down” from the overflowing pockets of the fat cats.

Thus we have two conjoined issues here:  first, the wealthy refuse to pay their fair share of the taxes required to get this economy back on its feet, and next there are the foul political shenanigans that have forced a federal agency to withdraw a report that would confirm the fact that lower taxes for the wealthy don’t help the economy one whit.  What’s wrong with this picture?