Straw Woman

There is an informal fallacy in logic that is committed with great frequency. It is called a “straw man argument.” It occurs when person A misrepresents the argument put forward by person B and attacks the misrepresentation — which is always a weaker form of person B’s original argument. Thus, I might argue that you should stop smoking because there is a very high correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, and despite the fact that a strict cause between cigarette smoking and cancer has not been shown — due to the fact that some people smoke and do not get lung cancer and some who do not smoke  get lung cancer anyway. You might then say, “oh, I see what you’re saying. You’re saying that there really is no risk in smoking because no one has been able to show a causal relationship between the smoking and lung cancer.” In this replay we see the “straw man,” a weaker (distorted?) form of my argument that is easier to attack because it is vulnerable.

A similar sort of thing is taking place in today’s political contest for the office of president of the United States. The opponents of Hillary Clinton have created a “straw woman,” a fictional person who closely resembles the female form of the devil (Trump has actually called her that, among other things!) and who is in no way like the original. This fiction is easy to attack because she embodies evil, is ambitious, dishonest, weak, and determined to bring the country down about her ears.

Now, I don’t know the “real” Hillary Clinton but from what I have read, despite her flaws, she is nothing like the creation of the Tea Party and Donald Trump. But since the real Hillary will be hard to beat, the creation has taken her place in the minds of a great many voters who now hate the woman and would not vote for her even if she could walk on water.

We tend to believe what we want to believe, of course. So it is easy to “sell” this fictional person to the voters of this country who almost certainly fear strong women in their lives in order to sell them their own fiction, a man who “tells it like it is” and offers us his proven expertise as a successful businessman and a refreshing alternative to politics as usual. Clearly, this is a fiction and nothing like what we know about the man himself. But it is a fiction that “sells” and in the minds of a great many people is preferable to the straw woman they have grown to hate and fear.

To be sure, attacks on politicians whose image has been created for us by marketing experts are always terribly weak, though commonplace. Such attacks tend to miss the mark because we have no way to know precisely who those people are and what they will do when elected to public office. Such is the case with Hillary Clinton — and Donald Trump, to be honest — because the straw woman has become the main figure in the target practice that has become politics. Create the image you want to hate and start slinging mud. That’s now the name of the game.

As responsible voters, we must do whatever we can to put aside those caricatures and try to see who the people running for office really are: listen carefully to what they have to say, “vet” them to know as far as possible how much experience they have had and what sort of track record they have thus far. We must rely on the media, which is a problem, but there are sources that are known to be unreliable (e.g., Fox News) and there are sources that are known to be reliable (e.g., the New York Times, CNN, and PBS — or even the BBC). The latter sources are more likely to present us with a true picture of the candidate than are the former. But, in the end, we must be as sure as we can be that the person we vote for is the person himself or herself and not a straw image that will hurst into flames as soon as elected.

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Hoist By His Own Petard

In a most interesting article on “Alternet” by Sean Illing the author refers to Charles Koch’s frustration over the lack of civility in today’s politics — as reported in an interview in the Wall Street Journal. Illing is delighted by the irony he sees in the Tea Party founder’s frustration over the Frankenstein he has created and now cannot control. As the story relates, in part:

The “lack of substance and civility” about which Charles complains began in earnest with the rise of the Tea Party between 2009 and 2010. To the extent that the Tea Party is a centralized movement, it is so because it has been mobilized by the groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, both of which are Koch-financed. As it happens, these groups were formerly a single organization, called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was founded in 1984 by, you guessed it, the Koch Brothers.

The Tea Party, from the very beginning, was designed for disruption, and it was a pet project of the Koch brothers (they actually created the first national website for the movement). Charles Koch says he’s interested only in advancing “free-market, small-government ideals,” but what he’s done is manufacture a faux-populist movement that has whipped the conservative base into an anti-government frenzy.

In the process of serving his narrow and self-interested ideological ends, he allowed the worst elements of the conservative movement – the xenophobes, the nationalists, and the theocrats – to hijack the Republican Party. Initially this worked, because it sent obstructionists to Congress whose only mission was to shut the government down. But, over time, it’s created a political climate in which it’s nearly impossible to govern. And it’s prepared the way for someone like Donald Trump (whose campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is a product of Americans for Prosperity), who exists only because he’s been able to tap into the sentiments let loose by the Tea Party movement.

As the article suggests, the problem goes much deeper than mere lack of “civility,” though that is certainly something to deeply regret. The problem goes to the very core of a democratic system which demands an enlightened electorate, open discussion, civil disagreement, and willingness to compromise. The Koch brothers and their ilk have turned over some rocks and the like-minded vermin that have crawled out have taken over the system and are determined to break it down completely — in the name of lower taxes and “free-market, small government” ideals. Their goals are absurd, of course, since the agencies they target are the warp and woof of our political system — not to mention the fact that this country has never experienced a “free-market” economy. There have always been economic restraints built in by various state and federal agencies.

Democracy requires a government committed to the common good, not huge profits for some. But this is the goal of the obscenely wealthy who can spend millions of dollars in order to turn our democracy into an oligarchy, which is precisely what is happening before our very eyes. The Koch brothers spent over $400 million on the last election and plan to spend $750 million on this one. And their goal is not to merely control the Presidency and the U.S. Congress, but also numerous key legislatures around the country. Their scope is large, indeed. Charles may have regrets, but it certainly hasn’t altered his goals at all.

Indeed, there is irony here. But there is also a terrible sadness due to the fact that the monster let loose by the greed of a few is threatening to destroy one of the greatest political experiments since the Roman Republic.

His Own Man?

You’ve got to like Chris Christie of New Jersey, the rebel Republican Governor who refuses to play by the Republican Party rules. In fact, you have to admire any politician these days who refuses to play by the rules of their party, though you do have to wonder about their political future. The name of the game these days is money and independent politicians have to garner a huge popular following to even keep close to those who are funded by the Big Spenders.

Governor Chris Christy

Governor Chris Christie

In any event, Christie has refused to play the roles assigned to him, first by having the gall to thank Barack Obama when he sent Federal help to the state of New Jersey after the carnage from Hurricane Sandy. (Heavens! What is the world coming to?) He was recently denied an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference because he doesn’t mouth the strict party line on gun control: he does not oppose the state’s current laws, which, according to a 2011 scorecard from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, are the second strictest in the nation after California. (Gasp! What next?) Most recently he has indicated that he will not join a dozen other Republican governors in refusing to become involved with the Affordable Health Care Act, since that is regarded by the party faithful as a Democratic plan — despite the fact that it was initiated in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney several years ago. In any event, what Christie said in accepting Federal assistance in accordance with the Affordable Care Act was most refreshing. According to a recent HuffPost story his reasoning was as follows:

“These folks are consistently among those who need help the most — men and women who have suffered trauma in their lives, live with mental illness, rely on New Jersey’s emergency rooms for primary health care, or those citizens who lack insurance or access to treatment in other ways,” Christie said.

“These folks” are the poor who are in desperate need of health care and can’t afford it. Christie seems to be placing their needs above his own political future. Or so it would seem. If he is an astute politician, as I suppose he is, he may see the end of the stranglehold the ultra-conservative, true believing, Tea Party types have on the Republican Party and may be placing himself at the head of a group he hopes to draw from the middle ranks of the Party. It would make sense. After the recent election, the Republican Party is in shambles, divided into several unequal parts and a strong leader who emerges from the middle might well pull the party faithful with him and begin to build a new consensus. Let’s hope so for the future of our Democratic system. We need two healthy parties that will work to accommodate one another and even agree to compromise from time to time. As things now stand the two Parties are drawn up into warring camps throwing stones and accusations at one another across an ever-widening chasm.

I speculate, of course. I have no idea what Christie’s plan is. But I do admire him for giving the finger to the Powers-That-Be in the Republican Party and for doing the right thing — regardless of what his reasons might happen to be.

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.

Waiting For Plan C

As the country lurches toward the fiscal cliff an army of Tea Party supporters has been on the phones putting pressure on Republican representatives to reject House Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” which was supposed to help stave off the inevitable. Bear in mind that Plan B would have, in effect, involved raising taxes on people making over $1 million and that was considered unacceptable by the Tea Party faithful. They think they can save the economy by raising taxes not on themselves but on the dwindling middle class and cutting programs such as health care and food stamps — but NOT “defense” (which is a sacred cow). Their plan is absurd, but this doesn’t deter them in the least.

One of the more disturbing facets of the fight to avoid the fiscal cliff is the amount of pressure Tea Party groups can put on the Congress. Clearly, this group is made up of the 20% of those in this country who control 93% of the wealth. As a story in HuffPost noted recently, referring to the Club for Growth, a powerful Tea Party affiliate:

“Members of Congress know we’re not afraid to get involved in a primary,” Club for Growth’s communications director, Barney Keller, told HuffPost on Thursday night. “Members know that the first thing we do is look to our scorecard, and decide who is a pro-growth vote and who isn’t. And we felt that to vote in favor [of Boehner’s plan] would be to vote for a tax increase, and against economic growth”

Talk about arrogant: if you want to keep your job you will play ball with us. And why wouldn’t the members of Congress want to “play ball”? Where else could they make the kind of money they make for doing little or nothing and voting themselves pay raises whenever they feel like it? It’s the gravy train and they want to stay on it. They are indeed single-minded in their determination to remain in office. You can’t really blame them. As HuffPost noted:

Keller was unapologetic about Club for Growth’s impact on congressional races. “The number one thing people in Congress fear is losing their jobs,” he said. “So we don’t lobby members, we help educate them. And if you look at the rising stars of the [Republican] party, it’s a lot of people who were supported by” Club for Growth.

Why do I get the feeling as I read this that the man is smirking? In any event, the notion that we can work out of the economic mess we are in by raising taxes on the dwindling middle classes and protecting the wealthy — that this will promote “economic growth” — borders on delusion. It can’t be done. To be sure, some programs will have to be cut, including (one would hope) defense spending. But the wealthy who pay very little of their income in taxes must start to pay their share or matters will continue to worsen. One does wonder if they really care.

The wealthy on average pay somewhere around 35% of their income in taxes — though exact figures are hard to come by in light of all the loopholes in the tax laws and the ways the rich have found to hide and protect their wealth. Mitt Romney, for example, was reported to have paid a mere 14% last year in income taxes on a very large income. But when we think that this country was at its most prosperous just after the two World Wars when the wealthy were paying a large portion of their income in taxes — as high as 91% in 1946! — the unwillingness of the wealthy to pay the piddling amount they are being asked to pay, even with Boehner’s anemic plan, tells us more than we want to know about their commitment to the growth of this economy.

Even if the wealthy were asked to pay as much as 70% of their income, they would still retain $300,000 on an income of $1 million. You could somehow manage to feed your family on that amount, and the wealthy make considerably more than $1 million a year. Stare at the flag and put your hand to your heart, but heaven forbid that you part with some of your money to help out your country. This is “patriotism” spelled  f-u-c-k-y-o-u. It stinks.

The Ugly American Award

Years ago I read a book titled The Ugly American. The title’s reference was to the U.S. government and its unwillingness to understand another culture — in this case Viet Nam. Also, it referred to the central character, Homer Atkins, who was the “typical” American abroad: brash, loud, rude, and always calling attention to himself. As I say, the recollection is fuzzy.  But this stereotype may well fit a great many Americans abroad, though not all certainly. However, the characterization of this country as smug and ignorant of other cultures is spot on.

In any event, I think we should have a contest with an award for the ugliest American each year. My nomination for this year’s award is Rick Santorum. You remember Rick? He ran for President recently and his name is in the news again because he led the battle in the Senate against ratification of a United Nations treaty called “The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.”A well-written op-ed piece by Gail Collins in the New York Times tells us about the recent vote in the Senate on that item:

Santorum is still in there swinging. Lately, he’s been on a crusade against a dangerous attempt by the United Nations to help disabled people around the world. This week, he won! The Senate refused to ratify a U.N. treaty on the subject. The vote, which fell five short of the necessary two-thirds majority, came right after 89-year-old Bob Dole, the former Republican leader and disabled war veteran, was wheeled into the chamber to urge passage.

“We did it,” Santorum tweeted in triumph.

One does wonder where Santorum is coming from. He railed against the bill because he regarded it as “an assault on the family.” Apparently he is convinced that since the bill notes that “the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration” this translates into an assault on the (American) family. I must confess I fail to connect the dots. He is worried about home schooling and the right of parents to keep their kids out of schools where they might be taught sex education (horrors!) and what science really is. Santorum is famous for his support of the “intelligent design” theory of creationism which he has said is “a legitimate scientific theory” and ought to be taught in the schools. But none of this explains his actions on the U.N. treaty. I simply wonder: it is hard to get inside a deranged head. But it is no surprise to discover that the billions of dollars that support the Tea Party are pushing this agenda. As Collins notes at the close of her piece:

The big worry was, of course, offending the Tea Party. The same Tea Party that pounded Mitt Romney into the presidential candidate we came to know and reject over the past election season. The same Tea Party that keeps threatening to wage primaries against incumbents who don’t do what they’re told. The Tea Party who made those threats work so well in the last election that Indiana now has a totally unforeseen Democratic senator.

In any event, the treaty was not ratified, sending a message to the rest of the world that this country doesn’t care about persons with disabilities. This message coupled with our armed presence around the world, coupled (again) with those vacationing Americans who do behave like Homer Atkins — all of these things combine, I say, to further the image of Americans as unfeeling, militant, small-minded, self-absorbed idiots.

However, I want to post a disclaimer: while the majority of the Senate apparently fits that mold and a growing number of Americans do so as well (as mounting evidence seems to suggest), none of my blog readers are in that mold. I sincerely hope I am not, and most of my friends are not — to my knowledge. Indeed, I would hope that most Americans don’t fit such an ugly mold. But there it is thanks to people like Rick Santorum, my nominee for Ugly American of the Year.

Disenchanted Republicans?

A recent story in the HuffPost by Robert Reich caught my eye. He was attempting to figure out why Mitt Romney is slipping in the polls and speculated that two reasons count heavily in the analysis. The first is that Romney is a lousy campaigner. Mitt certainly does seem ill-suited for the huge stage he is now performing on, flubbing his lines and terribly uncomfortable with the role he is being asked to play. But the second reason Reich gave is most interesting. I quote at length:

. . . the second explanation strikes me as more compelling. The Republican primaries, and then the Republican convention, have shown America a party far removed from the “compassionate conservatism” the GOP tried to sell in 2000. Instead, we have a party that’s been taken over by Tea Partiers, nativists, social Darwinists, homophobes, [birthers], right-wing evangelicals, and a few rich people whose only interest is to become even wealthier.

These regressives were there in 2000, to be sure. They lurked in the GOP in the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich took over the House. They were there in the 1980s, too, although Ronald Reagan’s sunny disposition gave them cover. In truth, they’ve been part of the GOP for more than half a century — but never before have they held so much sway in the party, never before have they called the shots.

The second view about Romney’s decline also explains the “negative coat-tail” effect — why so many Republicans around the country in Senate and House races are falling behind. Scott Brown, for example, is well-liked in Massachusetts. But his polls have been dropping in recent weeks because he’s had to carry the burden of the public’s increasing dislike of the Republican Party. The same is true with regard to Republican senate races in Florida, Virginia, and every other battleground state.

One thing about this campaign that has struck me is the amount of time Romney spends explaining what he meant to say. My memory of past elections is that the Republicans were always on the attack and the Democrats were on the ropes, explaining and apologizing. But the shoe does seem to be on the other foot this time around (though thanks to Romney’s gaffes the Democrats don’t need to attack) and if Romney doesn’t shine in the debates — his own people suspect he will not — Obama should retain the White House. The Senate race is a whole different ball game, as they say.

But Reich’s analysis gives rise to this interesting question: if enough Republicans get sick and tired of the nasties and crazies who have taken over their party, could a third party with both money and political clout be aborning? Interesting.

Your Typical Pauper

A recent blog written by “Salty Political Musings” on July 7th received a belated comment this month from someone calling himself “Auth.” In his comment, Auth said that “In Wisconsin we have what is called Badger Care and it has . . . left the poorer citizens having nothing to pay for, when they are the folks who are usually smoking crack and pumping out babies at 1 a year. .. . ” For some reason this comment showed up on my blog and I thought I would respond to it.

To begin with, I have a problem with anonymous writers, though I realize that the broad audience of the blogosphere demands for many people that readers not know who they are. Anonymity allows them the license to say what they think without fear of recrimination. I can understand that, and I respect it. But sometimes it is also a shield to protect the narrow-minded and bigoted, as in this case. The reference to the poor as “usually smoking crack and pumping out babies at 1 a year” suggests a narrow, if not a closed, mind. It suggests stereotyping and castigating all of those who are below the poverty level — what is it, $23,000 a year for a family of four? — as beneath contempt. It suggests that we should have no sympathy whatever for those who struggle to keep their heads above water in an economy where many are going under for the third time. It suggests that the poor are a burden the rest of hard-working Americans must carry about on their backs. Finally, it suggests a heart closed to the pain and suffering of others. It is truly sad.

The assumption seems to be that poverty is the result of a lack of will, that the poor are somehow poor on purpose. These people are not impoverished, they are “bums.” They bring it on themselves, thus we should not have any patience with them or any sympathy for their plight. This view is insensitive and naive to the point of stupidity. It suggests a prejudice strong enough to be called “bigotry.” I have no doubt whatever that there are some, perhaps many, who can be described as the poor are in this comment. I have said before that there are indeed many abuses of the welfare system. Let’s agree that there are thousands. For all those thousands, there are tens of thousands more who are pulled from under the waters and brought back to life as a result of the social programs that have come under attack by politicians on the right side of the political spectrum. This is not acceptable. Surely, we should err on the side of compassion for our fellow humans.

When one reads that a Tea Party audience cheers and shouts “yes!” when Ron Paul is asked  by Wolf Blitzer during a primary debate whether an uninsured man should be allowed to die, one can infer that Auth’s position is not just an anomaly, but is rather widespread in this country. And this is deeply disturbing, though it explains why the Republican Party has received such broad support for its continued call for tax cuts and the reduction or elimination of social programs that sustain the poor. If, as one suspects, there are a great many Americans who regard the poor as lazy and unmotivated, who are poor not through accident but on purpose, then the attacks on social programs by people like Mitt Romney and Ryan Paul make perfect sense.

What is most disturbing about this phenomenon, however, is that we are supposed to be a nation of caring people guided by ethical and religious principles built around the notions of love and charity. But this may in fact be a fiction if there are enough people like “Auth” and those who cheered at Ron Paul’s comments about the uninsured. And if it is indeed a fiction then the character of this nation has assuredly changed for the worse. Time will tell.

Giving Us The Finger

I have touched on this before at the time when Mitt Romney announced his running mate, (you remember, the next President of the United States….sorry, the next Vice President of the United States) Paul Ryan. As a rule the Vice President of the United States is a titular figure —  he or she Chairs the Senate and mostly does PR for the President when he is playing golf or shooting buckets with some friends. But think of LBJ and think of Paul Ryan as next President of the United States. ‘Kind of sends a shiver up the back, doesn’t it? But he’s like us, he says, because he worked at McDonald’s and he drives a truck. Somehow I don’t find that very reassuring.

But what Romney’s selection does is, in effect, is to present his middle finger to the country. It says, in effect: (1) we don’t give a damn about the poor and those in need; we will continue to cut social programs while we increase “defense” spending;  (2) we don’t care about education and improving the public school system so our kids can compete with the world at large in the coming years — where they are rapidly losing ground; (3) we don’t give a damn about the planet as long as we can continue to amass profits and maintain our “way of life.” The only thing we really care about is saving some tax dollars so you can buy a few more pull-tabs or perhaps a new golf club and we can augment our off-shore bank accounts. And we think enough of you will buy into this plan and vote us in to office in November.

In a word, these two Republican candidates taken together represent the reduction of politics to greed and filthy lucre, pure and simple. There is only one thing that matters and that is tax dollars, though neither man seems to want us to know how much they pay in taxes! The fundamental message sent by a moderate Republican who has already announced a tax plan that favors the wealthy and has targeted the E.P.A. for “reductions” when he selects a Tea Party supporter who is known to favor cuts to social programs that help the poor while increasing defense spending is clear: people and the planet don’t matter. What matters is that we save a few dollars. Let’s hope the American public sees through the smiling political masks to the smirking faces beneath.

Trickle-Down Economics and Other B.S.

[You’ve probably seen the photograph. It shows Ronald Reagan with a group of his associates in their Armani suits, holding drinks in their hands and doubled over in laughter. The word “Reaganomics” appears below the photo and below that the caption “We told them the wealth would trickle down.”]

Candidate Romney has proposed a tax plan that would continue and even expand the current tax breaks for the infamous 1% and increase taxes on the rest of us. The plan, which is phase two of Reaganomics and the equally infamous “trickle-down” theory, is designed to encourage the wealthy to invest their money and thereby create more jobs for those currently unemployed, thus enabling them to carry the tax burden which the wealthy prefer to transfer to others. In case we didn’t know that this is bogus economics, a recent story reveals that

The 2012 Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America, from American Express Publishing and Harrison Group, finds that One Percenters are hoarding three times as much cash as they were two years ago. Their savings rate soared to 34 percent in the second quarter of 2012, up from 12 percent in 2007.

I couldn’t possibly improve on the careful and detailed analysis my blog-buddy did on the idiocy of Mitt Romney’s tax plan which pleases no one this side of the Tea Party (which may help explain Romney’s recent choice of a running mate).  But unless I am mistaken what this means is that the poor will get poorer and the rich will be more careful to protect their already obscene amounts of spare cash. We have already seen the gap between the rich and the poor widen annually since the Reagan presidency as the rich continue to hide behind their tax breaks and subsidies and the poor continue to struggle to put food on the table. The notion that the rich will expand their companies, invest, and create jobs is tissue paper-thin: it is a myth exploded by downsizing and outsourcing — and information like that in the article quoted above. Indeed, there are a number of myths out there in this election year — some coming at us from the right and others coming at us from the left. We must be on guard. But above all, we must think through all the empty promises and vapid bromides to the real truth that lies hidden beneath — if there is any.

Anyone who tells us that he has a “secret plan” to restore health to the economy should be suspect. We should want to know the details; we should demand to know the details. Otherwise we are buying a pig in a poke. And anyone who tells us that the current tax breaks for the wealthy are a good thing, that the very rich should not pay their fair share of the tax burden, is shooting the bull. I have written about the need to rethink our take on taxes, how they do a great deal of good and should not be seen as simply a burden. But however we perceive taxes, we should all be asked to pay them, the rich as well as the not-so-rich.

In the end, the unperceived problem here is that the middle class, on whom this country has come to depend for its economic stability, is rapidly disappearing in the widening gap between the very rich and the growing number of poor. So more than ever before, we need to be aware of the wind-eggs that are afloat, especially in this election year. That is to say, we should read what is printed and listen to what is spoken with a considerable amount of skepticism: the people running for public office are coached to tell us what their marketing experts have told them we want to hear. It’s not about telling us the truth; it’s about getting elected — that’s pretty much all they know how to do.