“You think everything the Democrats do is bad and everything the Republicans do is good.” I was surprised to hear my Mom make this statement in a conversation we were having about a recent Associated Press article that stated “the wealthiest Americans pay a lot less in taxes than they did two decades ago.” I’m surprised that she sees this as a Republican versus Democrat issue. I guess the assumption is that Republicans are rich and Democrats are poor, which would be news to two of the richest men in the country, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. I think whether a person is a Democrat or Republican has more to do with geography than income level. While most of my family members who still live in the blue collar, union area of Ohio are Democrats, the ones of us who moved away are Republicans.
Like many of my fellow Tea Party members, I see the problems the U.S. is facing as caused by both parties having a short-sighted emphasis on winning the next election versus doing what is best for the country. In this regard, “the American people” are just as guilty as the politicians. For decades, it’s been known that Social Security and Medicare were on an unsustainable path. But as recently as the second Bush, any attempt to even discuss the problem has been political suicide. Not only did Republicans not address Social Security, they borrowed a technique from the Democrats in attempting to buy votes by passing Medicare Part D – the drug program for seniors. A famous quote is that democracy can exist only until the people realize they can vote themselves benefits from the public purse. As such, our democracy is at severe risk. “For the first time, Standard & Poor’s lowered its long-term outlook for the federal government’s fiscal health from ‘stable’ to ‘negative,’ and warned of serious consequences if lawmakers fail to reach a deal to control the massive federal deficit.” (Paul Wiseman, Associated Press, April 19, 2011)
As I think that a biased media shapes public opinion versus just reporting the “facts,” I decided to do some research into the statement about the “wealthiest Americans.” If you look at the fact that the 400 richest Americans (which I’m sure includes Gates and Buffet) who had an average income of $345 million, their federal income tax rate dropped from 26% to 17% from 1992 - 2007. Keep in mind that a lower tax rate does not necessarily mean they paid less total taxes. If their income increased dramatically but total taxes at a lower rate (which could very well happen since the rich probably make most of their money through investment, and the capital gains tax is 15%), they could have conceivably paid more total taxes, albeit at a lower rate.
One statistic the Republican news sources cite is that the top 10% of earners in the U.S. pay 69.94% of the taxes. Since the wealthy are “paying less in taxes” now, that percentage has probably decreased, right? Wrong. In 1999, the top 10% of earners paid 66.45% of the taxes, while the bottom 50% paid only 2.7%, down from 4.00% in 1999. (I was surprised to hear that the bottom 50% paid that much, as another statistic is that 45% of taxpayers pay no Federal income taxes, and actually make money through the earned income credit.)
But regardless of how many statistics each side throws at the other, not many opinions are ever changed. In having a Global Warming debate with a Democratic friend of mine, we finally realized that neither of us believes the others’ statistics. He thinks I’m a Fox news zombie and I think he is Kool-Aid drinking Obamaniac. I’m starting to understand why there is no peace in the MidEast.
The really (un)funny thing is that my mom and my global warming friend have the very conservative values of hard work, individual responsibility and compassion for the disabled while expecting the able bodied to work. They realize that while a hand-up is helpful, a handout is a disincentive to work. Democrats having the types of values that should lead one to being a Republican is a problem I attribute to two causes. First, a “main-stream” media that is decidedly liberal, so what people perceive as neutral news is not; second, a Republican party that has not stuck to its values, especially in recent years.
It is the true conservative values that our country was founded on that we need to get back to in order to prevent the downfall of our nation. The Libertarian party better espouses those values today than does the Republican Party. If the Republican Party doesn’t soon shape up, it should ship out.