23 September 2011


A number of progressive thinkers and policy makers are increasingly speaking out against the tidal cesspool of neocon rhetoric which threatens every civil liberty and individual protection afforded by the U.S. Constitution. A few days ago on this forum, I challenged the skewed assertion by Republican leaders that removing tax breaks on the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporation, and imposing tax rates comparable to what the rest of us pay, amounts to "class warfare". In fact such reforms to the tax code would help to eliminate the very real class warfare which the wealthy have been waging on the poor and middle class in this country for thirty years.

Paul Krugman agrees. The Nobel Prize-winning economist writes in eloquent detail about the specific tactics employed by the wealthy and their conservative hirelings in Congress. Case in point ~ "between 1979 and 2005 the inflation-adjusted income of families in the middle of the income distribution rose 21 percent .... over the same period, the income of the very rich, the top 100th of 1 percent of the income distribution, rose by 480 percent. No, that isn't a misprint. In 2005 dollars, the average annual income of that group rose from $4.2 million to $24.3 million."

At the same time, the federal tax burden "has fallen much more, as a percentage of income, for the wealthy. Partly this reflects big cuts in top income tax rates, but beyond that, there has been a major shift of taxation away from wealth and toward work. Tax rates on corporate profits, capital gains and dividends have all fallen, while the payroll tax ~ the main tax paid by most workers ~ has gone up."

Enter the concept of the social contract, "an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accepting corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm." I assert that our history has gone through cycles of corruption and reform, characterized by the wealthy taking cruel advantage of the less privileged. We are now deep in a period of corruption, and in dire need of reform.

Paul Krugman's voice is one of those calling for reason, and for all citizens regardless of the power and influence afforded by wealth to pay their fair share. Another such voice belongs to Elizabeth Warren (image below), a Democrat who is running for the United States Senate from Massachussetts. Warren is an economic reformer who "cuts right through the poll-tested B.S. about job creators and class warfare, and gets right to the heart of what's going on in America ~ where our social contract has been broken by greed, and the middle class is dying."

Here is an eloquent video commentary by Warren, followed by analysis by journalist Thom Hartmann. The video is riveting, and should be required viewing in every civics and government class in the nation, not to mention in the halls of Congress ~ a venue where hopefully a newly-sworn-in Senator Warren will serve as the no-nonsense voice for Americans who aren't among the privileged wealthy, and who haven't been suckered by the empty emotional talking points of the Tea Party. The social contract remains the only valid format within which to conduct democracy. It's time we renewed our acquaintance with its particulars.

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