Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Scaring Up The Truth

To those of us who keep a watchful eye on politics and power in the U.S., the reality of what's happening on the American political right has recently become painfully obvious - both in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and in day to day politics.

While most Republicans remain in firm denial about it, the flailing and infighting on the right has long ago ceased to be the kind of mild conflict that could be kept under the "Reagan rule" (also known as the Eleventh Commandment) where Grand Old Party members never speak ill of one another. We're not even talking about the constant sniping that's been happening at the recent GOP debates, or the bizarre and somewhat contradictory results from the latest straw polls this past weekend. Both of those events were messy but merely continued to expose a political party at war with itself and with everyone else - which any honest, sane observer could have told you was happening already.

What's been truly disturbing is seeing the way Republicans and others on the right have been running around lately like crazy people, screaming about Warren Buffett. They demonstrate a lack of understanding of the real argument about the role of wealth in America - and the responsibility that comes with that wealth.

If anyone knows anything about Warren Buffett, they know that he's one of the richest men in the world - and that he has a great deal of experience with contracts of all types, lengths and sizes. Yet when Buffett wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in mid-August  titled, "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich" his point wasn't just the idea that he pays less in taxes than most of the people in his office.

He was breaking down, in detail, the responsibilities he and those like him carry due to the social contract of success in America.

What Mr. Buffett was pointing out is the same thing that Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren recently pointed out, and the same key fact that President Obama alluded to on Monday when he was answering the question of Doug Edwards - one of Google's original employees, now a multi-millionaire.

Obama said to Mr. Edwards - who asked the President to raise his taxes so that public services and the government could be run properly - “I appreciate the fact that you recognize we’re in this thing together,” Obama said. “We’re not on our own. And those of us who’ve been successful, we’ve always gotta remember that.”

Ms. Warren made a similar observation back in August when she said, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

Warren continued, "You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

The reason that any of us succeed in America isn't because of divine right - the feudal idea that so many extremist Republicans seem to want to bring back as governing theory. They seem to believe that those who do well in life, who have wealth and influence were actually ordained by a higher power to be in such a position. They think they're rich because THEY are supposed to be rich - and if you're not rich like them, then you can eat cake.

What seems to terrify the fake conservatives of the extremist right is that there might not be some higher power that's chosen them to be blessed more than the rest of us. They're apoplectic that they may be forced to accept the fact that they are just as vulnerable to reality and calamity as the rest of us - and the ONLY defense they have against fate is to partner with all those who have contributed to their success.

As the old saying goes, the most successful among us stand on the shoulders of giants. Or as both President Obama and Mr. Buffett have put it, it's long past time we shared the sacrifices needed to get America going again.

Only those afraid of the truth will run from that fact.

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