Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back, to the Future

With the sad comments recently by Senatorial candidate Akins about women, rape and abortion, it struck me (and not for the first time) that the solutions to our problems offered by the current version of the Republican party more often than not draw on a desire to return to the past.

Women's issues

Without actually saying it, the clear message from the GOP to women is a desire for them to return to the jobs God created them to do; keep house and raise children.   

Equal pay for equal work; NOPE. 
Control of ones' own uterus.  FORGET IT.   
Access to contraception.  NO WAY YOU SLUTS.

The sad fact is that our children grow up to be better people with a strong family structure as the GOP believes, but without the tools needed to provide that structure, living wages, family planning, and the freedom to procreate or not, our children will not get the material and emotional support they need.  A return to the Leave it to Beaver days is not the answer.

Despite the fact that the sun provides the fuel that drives our planet, the GOP prefers digging in the ground to satiate America's thirst for energy.  Now, I know we all played in the dirt when we were kids.  But isn't it time for us to grow up.  Do we need coal, oil and gas to power our culture?  Of course, we have committed so much time and resources that we can't just turn off the faucet.  But when will we learn the lessons from our experiences with all these dirty forms of energy.  How much dirty air, polluted waterways, fouled fields, and dead marine and land animals must we see before we realize that oil will never be 30 cents a gallon again, coal can only be so "clean", and the fracking technique/chemicals for releasing natural gas was kept secret for so long for a reason.  

A comprehensive policy that acknowledges the necessity of oil, gas and coal, while encouraging the development of cleaner technologies is the path to the future.  More holes in our land and ocean floors might keep the status quo but won't prepare us for a time when we run out of energy sources we must dig to access. 


If there is one thing that all Republicans agree on, it is that we need to have a smaller government.  This is followed almost always with the call for lower taxes.  Lower taxes will keep jobs in America and help spur spending.  If only we had the same tax rates that helped create the middle class in America.  Surely, if taxes were the same as the 1950's and 1960's when our standard of living rose like a rocket, leisure time was actually spent by working class folks, and we built roads, bridges, canals, buildings like crazy we would all be better off. 

Did I get you?

The fact is, individual and corporate tax rates during the 1950's and 1960's was astronomical, one might even say borderline socialistic, when compared to today.  Now, it is certainly hard to compare the actual tax rates as paid by Americans from 1950-1985 to the actual rate paid today, as the definition of income has changed in the past 50 years, and tax breaks and deductions have been added and subtracted infinitem. 

However, research will show that in the years after WW2, top tier tax rates, rates applied to those with incomes in the top 1%, were 91% from 1951-1963.  91%!!  77% in 1964!!  And 70% from 1965 through 1981.  It was during the Reagan years that top rates began plummeting, finally landing at 34% in 1988. 

But wait you say.  How could the theory that lower tax rates for the top wage earners will create jobs and opportunity be such a popular economic theory if during the time of America's greatest increase in rising standard of living and prosperity the tax rates for the top wage earners was so, dare I say it, draconian?

Good question.  You see, when the GOP likes to take us on their fantasy trip to the past, they often forget to point out that after WW2, paying taxes, while certainly not enjoyable, was considered necessary to help America pay the debts of the war, perhaps even patriotic.  Everyone paid some, and those with the most paid the most.  But today we would rather complain about the government, and complain about our taxes.  We still want all the security that our defense department supplies, we still want our food to be safe, we still want our consumer products to perform as expected, we still want our parks and recreation areas to be clean and accessible, we still want mass transit to work when we use it once a year, we still want the luxury of knowing when we are sick and old we will have a safety net to keep us from living on the street, or worse, with our kids; we still want it all, but we don't want to pay for it.  

The problem is, when you run on a platform that paints the government as the bad guy, paints the government (and especially this current administration) as anti-business, paints the government as an entity that is best when it doesn't get in the way, then you risk the potential that when you want to actually govern, govern in a way that will advance the interests of America, you may be ignored too.

The GOP wants to take us back, to the future.   And they find much support from those with resources because they all conveniently ignore the facts of our past tax policies, while wrapping their sound bites in the flag.  Despite George HW Bush's labelling of trickle down economics as voodoo economics (before he adopted it), despite the data that demonstrates that lower tax rates do nothing more than redistribute America's wealth from the middle class to the upper class, many Americans will vote Republican in this election cycle because the Republican party is good at reminding Americans of the greatness of our country with slogans like "I Want My Country Back".  And because the GOP is more in touch with the issues that drive people to the poles to vote, especially when those issues can be diluted to sound bites that portray a time when all was right with the world and don't you want to return to that time.

And, finally because we, the American electorate, are so selfish that we believe that we can pay as little taxes as possible and still enjoy the benefits that only a country like America can provide. 

In the movie "Back to the Future" there is a cute scene where the Michael J Fox character looks with surprise at the attention bestowed on a car and its driver at a local "service" station. There must have been a half dozen guys who trotted out to fill the tank, check tire pressure, look under the hood, etc. Contrast that with today's self-service gas stations, and it becomes clear how silly it is to believe that we can return to this time, no matter how soothing the thought might seem.



  1. Hi Joe: I think most people know that a return to the past is unworkable, and that there never was a time when all was right with the world.
    The value of the past (it does have it)is as mis-understood as the value placed on the unknown, or the future as most prefer to call it.
    My complaint is the speed with which we leave the past behind. We don't question any changes and we don't try to hold on to what has spiritual and emotional value.
    60 years ago I was 18 years old, had finished high school and had enlisted in the military to fulfill my obligation. My future lay ahead of me.
    Today is closing on the end of that future. There is very little about I admire or enjoy.
    One quick example of one thing we lost and what it represents:
    During most of my boyhood, pedestrians walking on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC could leave the sidewalk and walk on the White House grounds without approval or question. Walter Kronkite wrote that when he was a reporter in DC, driving his opentop convertible, used to dash up the drive way and park under the east portico of the White House when a sudden PM shower hit the city. Today we can't drive down Pennsuylvania Avenue past the White House.
    About that "service" station (why the quotes?): I used to work part time in one when in high school, weekends and sometimes evening. This feature provided work and work lessons for a great many young people. I got to know more people in the town than I knew before. I made a little money. Road maps were free. So were compressed air and water.
    Yesterday I visited a modern food mart which also sells gas. Air and water each require $1.00 poked into a machine. Road maps are $3.95. I didn't talk to a soul, didn't recognize anyone there either.
    Of course, I know that batteries are sealed, radiators are closed systems and modern engines burn less oil than before. Efficiency is king of the world. It's all about reducing labor costs. That may be a clue as to why their are so few jobs.
    Happy trails.

  2. Linc,

    As always, thanks for your continued readership and comments.

    And, as always, balance is the key. Ignoring the past, running from it, or running back to it can provide solace and inspiration but focusing on one over all of those choices won't provide answers.

    A good example might be the family. No one argues that strong families provide the physical, emotional and spritual support that our children need, yet denying our gay community the chance to become a family, supporting economic policies that decrease the availability of living wage jobs, and placing money and material gain over ones community and country run counter to the chance of families staying strong.

    Learn from the past when families seemed more stable and supportive, but adapt to the changing dynamics of what makes a family to expand its influence rather than limit it.

    Also, I don't agree 100% that everyone understands that returning to the past is unworkable or that there was never a time when all was right with the world. It appears to be a theme running through all Republican messages, and it obviously resonates with a large enough percentage of the American electorate to produce a tight presidential race.

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