Archive for the Commentary Category

IN DEFENSE OF JIMMY CARTER

Posted in Commentary on January 4, 2011 by Ted Salins

Ted Salins © 2011

If Ronald Reagan had volunteered as a Naval Officer to enter the melted core of the first nuclear accident at Chalk River, Ontario to supervise the clean up, and to expose himself to the melted core of Three Mile Island as President to reassure a frightened nation – monuments would be built.

If George H.W. Bush had personally made dozens of trips to impoverished parts of Africa to oversee the near elimination of guinea worm disease and to start mass inoculations for river blindness, his legend would be mythic.

If George W. Bush had conducted Sunday school throughout his entire presidency, he would be regarded as a true Christian.

If any of the above went to hot spots around the world to monitor democratic elections in unlikely, dangerous places, he would be cited as a tireless fighter for human rights and the spread of democracy.

Yet Jimmy Carter actually did all of the above and many Americans treat him with such vile as can only be explained as partisan hatred. A quick search on the blogosphere to find comments about the former President:

“He should just go away and do what old people are supposed to do.”

“He is a senile old fool who should stay home and watch the grass grow.”

“I am amused by the mental failings of this old man.”

“Maybe if (Carter) would just shut up and go away these stories of his failures would as well.”

“Why doesn’t this old fool just give it up and leave us alone.”

“Jimmy Carter is the poster child for former Presidents who should be seen and not heard. I guess we should be grateful he doesn’t play golf or we all would be ducking for cover.”

There seems to be three themes: 1) Carter is old, 2) old people have no value and 3) he and other older people should leave us alone. Where are these marching orders coming from? Are we to believe that angry posters who sit at their computers spewing venom are more decent and committed than Jimmy Carter? “This man has degenerated into the useless idiot category,” one of them wrote. What is the usefulness of that post? What child will it save from river blindness?

All presidents have their detractors, but none in such an inexplicable, lockstep manner. The theory seems to be that bad things happened during The Carter Administration and as President he made mistakes. Gee. Sounds like every administration – why is his held to a higher standard?

The reasons on the blogosphere that most “explain” why he is “the worst president” are “high interest rates”, “gas lines” and the Iran hostage crises.  By this standard, Reagan should be judged on the outbreak of AIDS, the crack epidemic and the murder of 250 plus Marines in Lebanon; George W. Bush would be responsible for the beheadings of Americans posted for all to see on the internet. Is that not worse than Carter’s high interest rates? Can someone explain the specific date and moment when Carter made the decision to “force” private companies to raise interest rates on the American public? Did the banks beg him, “Please Mr. President, don’t make us raise rates on our fellow citizens!”. Where is the proof that high interest rates during Carter’s term were easily avoided and with what policy? Explain.

Jimmy Carter was not perfect – no one is. Some of his policies did not work. I could easily argue that the beheadings of Americans are directly related to decisions by George W. Bush’s misadventure in Iraq. How many Americans were beheaded during the years of the Carter Administration? If “gas lines” make you want to punch a hole in the wall, the beheadings should make you burn the house down.

Carter made what is regarded as the worst presidential speech of all time, the “malaise” speech, July 15, 1979. Here is a sample:

“…In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communitie­­s, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indul­­gence and consumptio­­n. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning…”

If you have a problem with that, then you probably think old people have no value and should just “go away”.

“PICTURING WEALTH”

Posted in Commentary on November 22, 2010 by Ted Salins

Five people are shipwrecked and stranded on an island. With tools and wood from their beached, wrecked ship, they can rebuild together and sail home in 30 days. Only problem, it’s a desert island and there is no food.

A food supply is dropped on the island by the government. There is enough food for FIVE PEOPLE, THREE MEALS A DAY for THIRTY DAYS – exactly the right amount. One of the five, however, takes ALL THE FOOD and says “I will now have THREE MEALS A DAY FOR FIVE MONTHS insuring that I will be healthy, have the strength to figure how to save you unfortunate people and get you off this island! No matter how weak you are, I will encourage you. Assuredly, I will survive beyond thirty days in case we don’t finish the ship in time”. Two of the four think his plan sensible making a majority of three over the two who object.

That’s the Bush Tax Cuts.

Weighing tax relief towards the wealthy, or “trickle down economics”, has not worked. It’s really more like dropping a dry rag on a puddle. On the contrary, tax hikes on the top 1 – 4% of America’s wealthiest during the Reagan, first Bush and Clinton Administrations caused growing economies and equivalent reductions in welfare payments and crime. And wealthy people did very well. This happened, by his own admission, to Ronald Reagan in 1982. It happened to the first President Bush – Republicans are right that he should get some credit for the economic boom in the nineties attributed to President Clinton – and it is ironic that he lost the election for this very reason of breaking his “NO NEW TAXES” vow. In Clinton’s first term, his 1993 Economic Stimulus Package targeted only the wealthiest 1% and the economy performed in a way in which more people, even in the lower middle-class, owned houses and had jobs.

Most people don’t really understand how much money the top 3% has. Most people don’t know the difference between a million dollars and a billion dollars. Think of it in terms of seconds: a million seconds lasts 11 days, a billion seconds 33 years. Compare a $43,000 salary to 43,000 seconds – one half of a day!

Or convert this wealth to square miles of sea water: The money of the top 3% is the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The rest of us share the Great Lakes and The Gulf of Mexico. In the Bush I and Clinton “tax hikes”, the top 3% ceded The Caribbean Sea to the general good of the country. That sea water evaporated over America and rained down as fresh water swelling rivers and creeks irrigating a dust bowl of an economy.

In the Bush II tax “relief and reconciliation” cuts, the bottom 97% gave back The Caribbean, Lake Huron and now has to borrow the Indian Ocean to pay interest.*

Bush I and Reagan raised tax rates on the wealthiest 4%. Clinton only raised taxes on the top 1%. We’re talking about percentage points in the top tax rates – Clinton raised them from a historic low of 35% up to 38.6% but with good accounting and deductions, the aforementioned top 1% paid on average 15% in taxes after 1993 – not as high as the average worker, but a lot of revenue! The Bush II plan by 2003 lowered the top rate back down to 35%, or about 12.29% after deductions – much lower than the average payroll worker. We are suffering our worst economic downturn since The Great Depression.

Is it fair to make the wealthy pay more? Dick Armey once asked on TV “What’s wrong with rich people?” Nothing. Assuring financial security and clout helps everyone. More people had more money during the nineties – but the wealthy made the most and we all paid less in interest on the decreasing deficits. The more money people have, the more they spend it on services and products, often owned and manufactured by the wealthy.

What is this abstract concept? The “no new taxes” mantra is a meaningless political phrase meant to fire up knee jerk reactions and give the impression that the government is giving away YOUR money and being unfair to the wealthy.

Sensibly, it would be better to allot the food to all five shipwreck survivors. The problem is, fixing the economy with sensible and logical economics is not “sexy” and likely to disappoint TV advertisers and “no new taxes” conservatives.

Ted Salins © 2010

* Sea water sizes courtesy of the “The CIA World Fact Book”; Total wealth of the top 400 U.S. families in 1992 WASHINGTON POST 6/23/03; NEW YORK TIMES 5/25/03.

QUIET PLEASE!

Posted in Commentary on April 10, 2010 by Ted Salins

QUIET PLEASE! (2003, Style Weekly)

I was reading a computer magazine with heavy advertising web sites where if your cursor so much as accidentally drags across a particular ad – whether or not you noticed it – the site will keep a record and send you spam in the future.
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