Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Mandate of Hell

Beginning some thoughts on what politicians and we might want to talk about as opposed to, say, Herman Cain's remarks to women, Sarah Palin's willingness to appear in public with a loaded gun, or President Obama's fondness for golf.

For some time now, approaching two years, this writer hasn't offered commentary here. Reasons include my spouse's ongoing illness. But another has to with the character of political discussion. To be honest, since early 2009, the only meaningful talk on major issues of our time has come at the popular level, especially local groups aggregating around the Tea Party movement. This national set of conversations, debates and demonstrations has been totally misrepresented by the MSM and by most officials, elected and unelected, of both major parties. At at some point, my interests turned toward participating in that conversation directly, especially since it was so grotesquely misrepresented by MSM and other representatives of the haute bourgeoisie.

We know how. Discussion of taxes has been disputed as racist, homophobic and anti-feminist by extremists, not to mention their useful idiots in MSM. It has been turned aside as irrelevant by a slick twist on the facts by the President and by the Democrats, who declare “half the country doesn’t pay federal taxes.” The national Republican party has added to this by addressing only federal taxes and federal spending, as if there were no other taxes. The political rhetoric’s raving against the Tea Party's arguments bears no resemblance to reality. Content to ignore so many problems, looming and present, the elected, appointed, and presumptive leadership travels down the road to national bankruptcy and the risk of major war in what appears to be a complete denial of the facts.

The Republican national party's argument is not quite as irrelevant as the ravings of MSM, Leftists like Al Sharpton, or the President of the United States, but in some ways it's worse. Its leadership claims to stand in for the complaints of the Tea Party movement, while at the same time completely misstating their arguments. How?

Let's take taxes again. Half the US working population pays no significant federal taxes. Federal taxes, for the middle income individual, are a small factor. The largest problem is local, especially property, school, sales, business, local and state income taxes. While the federal tax bite has become increasingly born by a very small percentage of the population, federal action, from Congress and the Executive, has mandated so many new or enhanced local services, all unfunded, whether for education, medical care, or a raft of other unfunded programs, that the tax burden for middle income workers, especially in states like California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and others, has become as unbearable for them as it is for their employers. None of this is direct Federal taxation but is attributable to unfunded Federal mandates. The Feds mandate and localities and states have to tax to get the money. It's ruinous. Don't believe me?

In the last decade, 800,000 middle-income people have moved out of New York City, and more than a million and a half from the state. The number is even higher in California. In western New York, for example, you can travel along stretches of the Finger Lakes resort areas and find no civilization but what the writer calls Medicaid ghost towns, where the only remaining residents are recipients of federally-mandated subsidies. Manufacturers, job-seeking younger people, their families, and their disposable income, have left for where the cost of doing business, and the cost of living, are significantly lower, such as Texas or Florida. In New York City, it is estimated that fifty percent, or more, of the enormous freight of social programs and services mandated by the Feds and by the state is paid for by taxes on fewer than ten percent of workers. The departing middle-income Americans, who produced a prodigious amount of goods and services, have been replaced in small part by wealthy people from the US or overseas, but mostly by uneducated immigrants who serve the wealthy as nannies, drivers, housekeepers, construction workers, home health care attendants, and handymen -- New York’s model now more like Mexico City’s than Paris’s, Berlin’s or Barcelona’s.

The current Mayor has celebrated this by encouraging a "sanctuary city" policy, supporting expensive housing development, an increasingly immaterial economic base (financial services, advertising, TV production, publishing), and provoking the exodus of companies that produce anything that might dirty the environment. (A recent and notorious example: the low bidder on wheelchair-accessible taxi was a Brooklyn group with a good track record. It would have meant 5,000 new, good-paying jobs, not to mention a nice positive contributon to the US balance of payments. The Mayor chose the Japanese bidder in an unsubtle bow to environmentalists). On the street, the most startling change is the departure of services that supported regular folks, the modest family restaurant, the hardware store, the family tavern, the family-owned clothing store. They’ve been closed by astronomical rent hikes, vast over-regulation by the city, and by hostile action by agencies intent on chasing every last bug out of restaurants, bars, or corner coffee shops. Increasingly, the city looks more like an Asian capital, with a small, fabulously wealthy elite, who live a boutique life, and their millions of lackeys, who eat or work at McDonald's. To someone who’s lived here since 1973, the change is hideous, and is entirely attributable to a decision to destroy a modern, middle class society and to replace it with a medeaval system of rich overseers and peasants. It is beautiful to look at -- so is Hong Kong from a distance, but bears little resemblance to the creative, dynamic, struggling city of thirty years ago.

Throughout, this process has been powerfully reinforced by the burden of local taxes imposed to cover the costs of federal and state unfunded mandates. Why hasn't the explosion of mandated, unfunded programs been at the heart of tax discussion then? Let's resort to a little story.

A family living in a nice house of several thousand square feet had a problem. They just didn't have any room. They spent nights at the family get-together each Tuesday discussing what could be done. But, no matter what contribution each family member made, from Lindy and Bob (the parents), to Gma Bertie (the grandmother), to George and Alice (the kids), and to Lucy (the dog, a Great Dane), they couldn't solve the problem: wherever they turned, sat, stood, or tried to sleep, they always bumped into something. One day, Gpops, who’d been missing since a huge fight with his wife of forty-two years (Gma Bertie) returned home. After the tearful reunion of the grandparents, who did love each other, Gpops embraced each family member. George and Alice whispered to him when their turn came. “Hmmm,” Gpops said. Then, Lucy came over, and licked him on the ear. “Hmmmm,” Gpops said. Then came Lindy and Bob, whispering somewhat louder. “Uh-huh,” Gpops said. Finally, Gma came over, hands on her hips, just short of another argument. Gpops asked a dangerous question: “Well? Are you going to tell them, Mother, or shall I?” “They won't listen, Pops.” “Listen to what, Gma?” the family cried. Gpops stood up, surveyed the parlor, and said in a fine, booming voice. “First thing, you've got to get this damn elephant out of the living room.” The family's eyes opened with a chorus of cries, g-rated cursing, and Lucy's harsh bark. A few hours later, an enormous vehicle arrived from Barnum & Bailey, a company headquartered in Washington, and escorted the elephant back to the circus in DC.

That little allegory is what it has been like following MSM, Presidential candidates, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, the White House and not a few bloggers I consider friends. We're not acknowledging the elephant; or we don't want to. Making this worse, there's more than one pachyderm there. We'll be looking at them over the next few posts.


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