Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Divisiveness First

Forgive me for drawing attention once again to the thoughts of Dr. Groothuis, of The Constructive Curmudgeon. I am giving him and his blog a lot of undeserved publicity on these pages, but--all things considered--his hypocrisy is a good reminder of what all progressive-minded Americans are facing. Besides, he regularly censors my replies (and others') on his blog, perhaps because of the well-deserved condemnation he suffers here.

One of Dr. Groothuis's false idols is Thomas Sowell, the economist and conservative ideologue who shills for Republican plutocrats from Sowell's latest column, "Taxing Times" is a perfect example of his hypocrisy, and of the hypocrisy that Dr. Groothuis echoes and endorses from his own blog.

I will let you read the rest of Sowell's article if you have time to waste and anger to vent, but I would like to draw your attention to a couple of passages that exemplify the dishonest hypocrisy of the Country First moniker and of the unpatriotic crowd that exploits that patriotic motto.

Sowell begins:
It is not the money that is taxed away that is destroyed. What is destroyed is the wealth that does not get produced in the first place, because high taxes make its production not worthwhile.

This is fear-mongering at its vilest. First, it assumes that income that is taxed is destroyed. He does not allow the evidence that, while some of it may be wasted (and God knows it sometimes is), taxes go to fund the services we all enjoy (defense, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, ect). Also, he neglects to mention that Bill Clinton, the man that Republicans spent eight years trying to destroy (with his own clumsy complicity) increased marginal tax rates and yet oversaw one of the largest expansion (or the largest, based on different calculations) in the history of the U.S. economy. The much touted stifling effect of higher taxes on economic growth is a myth perpetuated by Republican shills, whose only goal is to reduce taxes for its richest contributors.

The next passage is truly chilling and dishonest, and drips with hypocrisy:
Those who are receptive to Senator Barack Obama's plan to increase taxes on "the rich" seem not to understand that the issue is the nation's loss of wealth. Today, wealth can leave the country when heavy taxes threaten it-- instantly, in an age of electronic financial transfers-- and create jobs and economic growth overseas, instead of at home.

The two months between the time of a presidential election and the time when the new president takes office is an eternity in terms of how much money can be transferred out of the country electronically before any new high-tax laws can be enacted.

In other words, says Sowell, vote for Obama and the Country First crowd will move cash out of the United States, to tax havens. Guess what: they already do it. U.S. corporations and wealthy individuals have always transferred their wealth to countries with low or non-existent taxes on capital. How patriotic is that?

Sen. Biden was ridiculed for saying that paying taxes is patriotic, but he is right. Paying taxes is the cost we pay for what makes the greatness of this nation possible. So is expressing one's opinion, and one's dissent, things that the Republican crowd would gladly punish as often as possible, as we have learned in this election cycle and in the past eight years in particular.

Dr. Groothuis does no better than Sowell, adding some of his own insulting reasoning to that which Sowell peddles : "[H]igher taxes on corporations hurts those with pensions dependent on corporate profits."

Beside the obvious point I made earlier that there is no proven nexus between higher taxes and economic decline (in fact, some believe that just the opposite is true), what Dr. Groothuis's seemingly fails to realize is that--if what he says is true--that is precisely why we need Social Security, the very fund that his Republican allies sought to gut and destroy under George W. Bush's presidency.

The incorrigibly misleading Groothuis leaves his readers with this parting, gratuitous, despicable shot:
[M]any Americans are emotionally manipulated ignoramuses when it comes to taxation and the philosophy of the state. They are sentimentally moved by inflated rhetoric about "taxing the rich to help the poor." Then those who do not support this confiscation are attacked as insensitive or even unChristian [sic].

This is classic Groothuis, at his very worst. Those who disagree with his indoctrination are "emotionally manipulated ignoramuses." Groothuis does not allow the possibility that they might be better informed than he is, or capable of independent and better reasoning than his own.

For Groothuis, anyone who supports a different scale of taxation than the one advocated by Republicans is "sentimentally moved by inflated rhetoric about taxing the rich to help the poor." He does not allow the possibility that they might be rationally motivated by the repulsion for a government that sanctions the use of public money to be used by religious charities that can discriminate on the basis of belief, or by the idea that public money could and should be used to benefit those who are struggling, to facilitate the transition of the many poor who float on rafts in an ocean of greed to the steady boat of a dignified middle-class.

Groothuis's dishonesty and prejudice is evident in his use of the word confiscation to describe a fiscal system in which the wealthiest are called to carry a greater share of the burden than those who have no bootstraps, or holes in their boots.

Describing taxes as confiscation of wealth shows a self-centered view of society that is anything but patriotic. It says "I, the supreme individual, know better than my elected representatives what is good for the nation. I should be in control of every dollar I make, and how it is distributed (through charity). I, not our elected representatives in concert, should decide what or whom deserves a share of my money."

Ironically, people like Groothuis are not against paying taxes for national security, and the policing of our community, as defined exclusively by them. But, even allowing that only expenditures for national security are justified (a hardly defensible view, I might add), from a logical perspective is health care not a component of national security? Should we allow disease to spread freely because people decide their money should not help others to be cured from sickness, and that it is legitimate to spend money on protecting the borders of our nation, but not the borders of our bodies? What about education? What about help for the unemployed? What about roads, airports, ports? What about federal agencies (USDA, EPA, FCC, SEC, etc.)?

So why should taxes be allowed for national security and policing, and for nothing else? Because, I venture this theory, the true goal of people like Groothuis is to deny the use of their tax dollars for anything they disagree with. Never mind that your or I pay taxes for the illegal invasion of Iraq, though we disagree with it.

The society people like Groothuis envision and are seeking to build is not a community of diverse people. Its a moral dictatorship, in which everyone must adhere to the accepted principles of the Christian ruling hegemony, or else. Those who stray from their shared beliefs are excluded from the community, unless they reform their beliefs.

Groothuis's crowd wants the freedom to make its own, discriminatory social policies while denying or limiting help for those who lead lives they disapprove of. Is that the best Christianity has to offer for the rest of us?

You might think that my reading and interpretation of Groothuis's belief and of his positions are uncharitable, extreme, or unjustified. I don't think so. Take his attacks on Sen. Obama, for example, or on the people who support him. Never have I seen a word of compassion on Groothuis' blog. Never a Christian call to unity. Never a prayer that they might be led to see the light that Groothuis himself sees so clearly. Never the sense that Sen. Obama and his supporters might be motivated by genuinely-held different opinions. Never a reminder that, though perhaps misguided, Obama and his supporters deserve the benefit of Christian charity. Only slander, division, all the way up to transparent hatred.

I cannot presume to know what drives Douglas Groothuis. What I can do is reason about his motives and call him on the fallacies and lies he spreads, which I will continue to do as long as I breathe.

Eventually, why a self-proclaimed Christian should be so callously and defiantly opposed to a fairer distribution of taxation is a question that Groothuis might be called to answer by his God, when he shuffles his mortal coil and is waiting to learn whether his efforts on earth have gained him admission to God's company or perpetual exile from it.

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