Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Pandering, Part One

Last Sunday my blood boiled watching the Sunday morning talk shows on ABC and NBC. In both we had a moderator who was badgering an administration representative to get them to admit that a tax increase would be necessary. This represents the worst of journalism in the U.S., a subject which I will explore in a later post in this series. It also illuminates the pandering of politicians in not being willing to admit to unpleasant realities, a subject I will also explore in a later post.

But something in Treasury Secretary Geithner's response struck a chord I want to explore now. First, Geithner said that this is no time now to talk about raising taxes, while we are still in a recession. So far so good. But then he said that Obama is committed to his campaign rhetoric, which is that any family making less than $250,000 a year would not be subject to any tax increase.

I say this latter position presents a serious pandering issue. Implicit in this is that Obama is saying that any family making less than $250,000 a year is not rich. This is utter nonsense. Think how many families the world over would be tickled to death to see a small fraction of $250,000 a year. The fact that in American politics the $250,000 figure would get thrown around as the gateway to being considered rich just shows how spoiled rotten Americans are. Surely America is way past its prime as a civilization if we cannot recapture the energy and frugality and resourcefulneess which made us great, and stop feeling entitled to a mountain of luxuries just because we exist.

What would an honest, non-pandering response look like? Perhaps something like this: "In our democracy the tax rates are subject to constant review and revision, based on changing conditions and changing understandings and changing social policies. Some rates will inevitably rise, and some will fall, as a consequence of this continuing analysis. What we pledge is that any increases will not hit those families which can afford it least, these being the families in the lower half of the income spectrum."

Of course, this sort of thoughtful analysis will never be offered by anybody in American politics, as it would be the kiss of death for anybody who did. The stupid media in this country would sound bite it down to "Obama to raise taxes", and that would be the end of the road for Obama's effectiveness.

1 comment:

MakeCulture said...

Yeah, the level of democratic discussion on how things are to be run is pathetic, especially the key economic decisions that affect people the most. Also, Geitner is pathetic. Choosing Geitner is, hands down, Obama's biggest mistake (I am writing a blog post about this).

Oh, to demonstrate how poor the discussion is and how politians are pandering and want to talk about fantasy-land, I am surprised you didn't mention John McCain's statements at the Saddleback forum. There, Pastor Warren asked McCain about taxes and wealth, one of the only times somebody did so, with the question: "define rich." McCain answered with, "So, I think if you are just talking about income, $5 million," (!!) and "I don't want to take money away from the rich -- I want everybody to get rich." People literally laughed at him with his $5M comment. Even Obama's answer of $150,000 income still goes into the 94th percentile.

Great chart here (which also shows how out of step Geitner's $250,000 number is: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2008/08/placing-john-mccains-rich-context
McCain video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k40y4mcCk54&feature=PlayList&p=741A0B0A7D538A51&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=105