Las Vegas Sun

December 20, 2014

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Where I Stand:

War within our borders threatens all of us

There is nothing classy about the trouble we’re having.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am tired of hearing politicians, talking heads, wannabe pundits and know-nothing know-it-alls telling us that good fiscal, tax and revenue policy is nothing more than class warfare. Because it is not.

If you are a member of a certain class and you feel put upon, under siege, oppressed or at war, you will actually say something about it. Like “help!”

In the case of President Barack Obama’s effort to ask the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations to contribute a few dollars more each year to help our country out of the fiscal ditch we are in, those who are screaming “class warfare” are doing a great disservice to this democracy. And those yelling the loudest are not the people who are being asked to pay.

By contrast, those asked to pay are saying, “yes.”

Long ago, I and millions of others bought into former President Bill Clinton’s mantra, which encouraged those of us who wanted to live like Republicans — two cars in every garage of a more-than-modest home, with a real savings account and a healthy 401(k) plan and some money to spare, etc. — to vote Democrat.

He proved his point in the 1990s when he raised the marginal tax rates on wealthy Americans just a tad. The result was that working Americans saw their incomes rise and, voilà, wealthy Americans got, well, wealthier! How could that happen? Especially when every pundit worth his paycheck predicted doom, gloom and disaster at just the thought of raising taxes on the upper crust of income earners?

I always explained the theory this way: When policies are implemented at the federal and state level that encourage middle-class Americans to work harder because they will earn more and, therefore, be able to buy more goods and services, then those folks who produce the goods and services — the wealthier business owners — will do much better also. It was a very Republican kind of argument, a good bit of logic coupled with a hint of greed.

It is also simple math.

But, like many good ideas today, it makes for complicated politics because the ability to scare people in a 30-second sound bite is always more effective than proving the theory over a period of months and years. As President Clinton did.

I don’t know one millionaire who didn’t do very well when his marginal tax rates were

39.6 percent under President Clinton. I know many millionaires who are either no longer millionaires or who are doing substantially worse now that their tax rates are nearer to

35 percent.

That is why you don’t hear, among those decrying President Barack Obama’s desire to raise rates on the wealthy to help pay down the crushing debt burden the U.S. has amassed, very many millionaires and billionaires. Most of those people who have succeeded so mightily understand not only the math but also the pressing need for those who have the means to help, to do so. As loyal and proud Americans, they are more than willing to step up when the need requires it.

Sure there are a few exceptions in the billionaire class who are either too greedy to put our country first or who actually believe that America is a better country if it cannot govern — because it doesn’t have the money — the way most Americans want and expect it to govern. Let’s just say there are folks who believe that Medicare, Social Security and hot lunches for poor children in schools should be none of government’s concern.

I could believe that too if we didn’t have poor, hungry children, elderly Americans without means of support and older, sick Americans who would die but for that Medicare card that gets them into a doctor’s office. In other words, in a perfect world, those theories may work. Right now, though, this world ain’t so perfect, in case you haven’t noticed.

But all that doesn’t matter in our supercharged political world, where the “game” is to tear down the other side rather than build up the United States. We used to live in a country that believed that people with opposing views could find middle ground — call it compromise — that moved us forward.

Today, if Democrats win, Republicans lose. And vice versa. How could we have let that happen? The natural end to that kind of process is disaster. If people in Congress don’t even listen to one another, how can anyone believe that they will come together for the good of America? They don’t, and the result so far has been a downward spiral of our reputation and position as the world’s economic superpower.

We have the means to fix our financial woes, but it appears that we don’t have the political will to even try.

And that brings me back to the class warfare debate. Yes, a war is going on, but it is not economic class against economic class. The fight in this country is for power, pure and simple. And the people — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — are the ground troops. We are the expendable ones.

The folks playing the philosophical games are manipulating the vast majority of voters in America to fight the war. The fight over taxes is just one tactic being used. We are taking the bait and, at least figuratively, killing each other over 30-second sound bites.

The fact is that the United States has a problem, and everyone needs to contribute to the solution. Those who can pay more, should. Those who can work more, should. Those who can sacrifice more, should.

This isn’t the first time the people of this great country have been asked to step up for the greater good. But from the way we are acting, this could be the first time the people, once asked, will have refused to do so.

If that’s true, class warfare will be just a skirmish.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.