In Case You’re Certain


Reading time – 5:47; Viewing time – 8:36  .  .  .

Things have been upside down, wrong, hurtful, unfair, dishonest and threatening to America. They’ve been that way for a long time and it’s high time we got about fixing things and restoring what’s right.

The starting point for this post is that those two sentences apply to the feelings of both far righties and far lefties. Likely, you don’t like that, but almost nobody gets up in the morning scratching their chin as they think of how they can be dishonest, unpatriotic and evil. Which means that all the stuff you think “they” do that looks crazy comes from a conviction they hold that they’re doing what’s right. Yes, I know that makes no sense. It’s much more fun to simply see them as bad and wrong, but what if there were people who disagree with you but are just as wanting to do the right thing as you are, even though their right thing looks wrong to you?

Well, that’s where we are. In fact, that’s where we’ve always been. Our system was made to work this way. If you’re a progressive or liberal (pick your label) you might be surprised to learn that there are lots of conservatives who are honest and smart and who hold solid notions. One of those people is my friend, John Calia.

John wrote a couple of comments on my last post, “Conservatives and Grandchildren,” and I asked his permission to use his second comment for this post, too.

In an earlier blog, “How Ya Gonna Pay For That?“, I posited that sometimes it isn’t a simple straight line from what we want to how we’re going to pay for it or even if we should pay for it. Just saying, “The government will pay for it” is a red, white and blue shot in the foot, because simply loading a cost onto government gets handled in only three possible ways: 1. you and I pay more taxes, or; 2. we put it on the government credit card (i.e. we borrow), so that our children for seven generations will pay even more taxes, or; 3. we cut other government programs and services. And yes, it really is that simple.

But government policies and practices aren’t that simple and I’m offering John’s comments to make that case.

John has invoked the words of progressive economist Robert Reich, who recommended eliminating the corporate income tax. Before you hyperventilate, read what he said. It’s a bit thick if you’re not a tax expert, but be sure to read the last sentence carefully. I’ve edited John’s offering from Reich for brevity. You can read the entire piece in the Comments section at the bottom of my Conservatives and Grandchildren post here.

John wrote, “Here’s what liberal economist Robert Reich (Sec. of Labor under Clinton) said about corporate income taxes in his 2008 book [Supercapitalism]:

“In reality, the corporate income tax is paid—indirectly—by the company’s consumers, shareholders, and employees.

“It’s inefficient because interest payments made by corporations on their debt are deductible from their corporate income tax while dividend payments are not. This creates an incentive for companies to .  .  .  retain earnings rather than distribute them as dividends. The result, in recent years, has been for many corporations to accumulate large amounts of money that the company then uses to purchase other companies or to buy back its shares of stock.

“Logically, there is no reason why [stockholders’] ‘corporate’ earnings should be taxed differently than their other earnings. Abolishing the corporate income tax and treating all corporate income as the personal income of shareholders would rectify this anomaly.”

Abolish the corporate income tax? That’s heresy to progressives! But wait – that was a liberal economist recommending that.

The point I want to make is that nearly everything is more complex than we want it to be and sometimes best answers and solutions have the appearance of being counter to our beliefs. Just being reactionary really doesn’t serve us well.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Click me.

John has a frustrating and, really, an annoying way of being reasonable with his mostly conservative opinions, which at times leave me with not much more of a response than a huffy, “Oh yeah?” Have a look at this post by John on his website and see for yourself. Your instant reaction may be to disagree and then, quite surprisingly, find that this conservative writer is – I’ll say it again – annoyingly reasonable.

AOC and others have offered what they are calling the Green New Deal (you can download a copy here). It has been cheered by progressives and pilloried by conservatives and, because of its lump sum extreme policy recommendations, it may be the vehicle that ensures Donald Trump’s reelection. My view is that it doesn’t represent much sustainable policy, is counter-productive, whimsically dismisses cost and unintended effects, is long on lofty ideas and extremely short on tangible actions and it crazily attempts to reinvent the universe over a period of 10 years, all this outlined in just 14 double-spaced pages. If this resolution were to somehow pass the House and Senate and get signed by the president, it would have no force of law. Nevertheless, I’m glad it exists.

We have some vexing and even terrible challenges before us, nearly all of which we refuse to solve. My hope is that this crazy document will start a worthwhile conversation that leads to a few desperately needed solutions. For that to happen will require that a lot of people leave their certainties behind and open themselves to other points of view. It’s a bit like progressives reading my pal John’s offerings and being surprised, finding that his notions are – dare I say it again? – reasonable.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see how reasonable you can be and, in the process, open your thinking about our national needs and how we’re going to meet them.

From The Onion. Click me

Here’s the one caveat: This call to being reasonable and open to other points of view DOES NOT extend to plainly hateful behavior, anti-constitutional actions, self-serving promotion that excludes (i.e. discriminates against) anyone or efforts to harm our democracy or the fundamental principles of our country. For any of those conditions, feel free to be closed-minded, antagonistic and energetically advocating for your opposing solutions that actually are solutions and which don’t harm others. Here’s an example of this caveat.

In his closing comments for his report on the southern border last Thursday, Chris Hayes perfectly captured what’s going on by saying:

“It’s not about the border, and it never has been.

“The wall is not the issue. The issue is what this country as a whole looks like, and who gets to call it theirs.”

Click here or here or here or here for fact checking on what Trump said during his rambling Rose Garden announcement of a national emergency for the non-emergency at our southern border. Be clear that his words are not just self-serving fantasy; they betray the hateful truth, that the solitary goal of Trump’s vanity wall and his bogus claims of crisis and emergency on our border is to keep brown people out of the US. It is akin to his hateful Muslim ban. These are exactly the kind of things described in my caveat about which you and I and all of us must never be reasonable and never tolerate.

In the absence of such hateful things, let’s all be a little less certain and maybe – just maybe – we can start to make things better.

Late addition to this post

For a reasonable example of considering various points of view, have a look at the lead editorial in today’s New York Times about healthcare here.

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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6 Responses to In Case You’re Certain
  1. Dan Wallace Reply

    Jack, in my humble opinion (“humble” here is a euphamism for “absolutely correct, really right and totally on top of things” because, after all, it’s all about me), this is the best post you’ve ever done. I haven’t had a chance to read any of John’s posts, but I’m sure I’ll like them. As you and I have discussed, I’m reasonably sure that I’m a profound Centrist because I have flaming lefty friends who think I’m a flaming righty and flaming righty friends who think I’m a flaming lefty. I’m happy about that, but by Centrist, I don’t mean “compromiser.” I actually mean being passionately in favor of what is demonstrably true and what can be demonstrated to work. I’m with you – those who go from belief to fact rather than from fact to belief endanger us, regardless of the side of the spectrum on which they reside. Thank you.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Dan, your approval of this post is proof positive of how smart you are.

  2. JOAN E LINDGREN Reply

    The comment by your friend, John, is just another example that needs to be fixed. When corporations have NO SKIN in the game for the “common good”, it gives the corporations a reason to go about business as usual……hoard the tax money in off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes, paying workers less, taking worker’s benefits from them enhancing profits, bargaining/blackmailing to get tax incentives or they move to another state, allowing the taxpayer to foot the bill for what the corporations don’t want to pay, like for infrastructure that their workers use. Basically, the corporations are taking advantage of workers and taxpayers is the reason most people understand that this is wrong and unfair to everyone..This is what needs fixing and unless laws are rewritten to make this system fair, nothing will happen. When CEOs are sitting at the same table with politicians to write bills to get passed in their favor , it’s going to be a mountain to climb.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Much to say, but solving our problems like those you’ve described will hinge on our definition of “fair.” We all want things to be fair; however, there is no concensus of what is fair. Perhaps weirdly, some who advocate for the very things you list as wrong support their advocacy calling it fair.

      Those people are citizens, too, and, much as you and I disagree with them, they get a vote. That means that we have to work with them to make things better; hence my call for being reasonable and open to hearing others’ points of view. You’re not required to agree.

  3. John Calia Reply

    Thanks for highlighting my blog, Jack. I appreciate your description of me being reasonable. However, I dislike labels like “conservative” because of the baggage that comes with it. If I tell you I believe we should keep taxes low and balance the budget (which I do), you are inclined to tag me with a whole bunch extreme social beliefs (which I don’t). On the other hand, if I tell you I have a gay son and was delighted when he was able to become legally married (which I do), you are likely to tag me with a whole bunch of extreme beliefs about the role of government (which I don’t). Go figure.