Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Paranoia Overdose

It's almost become cliche here that whenever John Torinus or Patrick McIlheran write a column in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel I have to spend a post correcting their many fallacies.

Well, Pat has done it again. So here I go.

In his piece - Not against taxes, just an overdose - McIlheran mumbles on about teabaggers and deficits. Let's do a point-by-point critique of the many falsehoods, embellishments, and misdirections.

First, I'd like to point out McIlheran's go-to research group, The Tax Foundation. Their work has been discredited over and over by many much more thoughtful social scientists. His continual reliance on them in article after article only weakens his arguments.

He then refers to deficit spending as a "deferred bill". Deficit spending is an investment like any other. Corporations use internally financed capital expenditures to grow their businesses (Henwood, Wall Street, p. 3). When the private sector is not providing the demand stimulus in the economy, the only entity left to do such is the government. Deficit spending is an investment in the future. Conversely the Republicans' tax cutting has led to increased inequality, allowed our infrastructure to crumble, and increased deficits with no tanglible improvements to show for it.

Next, Pat tried to revive the story that the Teabag fiasco was a grassroots endeavor. This is a display of delusion and cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. (Maybe Pat needs a history lesson regarding the original Tea Party.) He goes on and on about citizens rightfully uprising over onerous taxation. The Teabag theater was organized by well-funded Washington lobbyist groups - Freedom Works (Dick Armey) and Americans for Prosperity (Newt Gingrich). And, most importantly, President Obama has not increased taxes on 98 percent of the population. To keep claiming the opposite of reality just so that these right-wingers can hear themselves speak really does a diservice to the country, and muddles any attempt at a civil discourse - which seems to be their aim.

McIlheran then goes on to compare all Wisconsin municipalities with Washington County to prove there can be good government with little cost. Pat also states that these people have no problem with the share of taxation consumed by the Fire and Police departments. In the City of Milwaukee, the proposed 2009 total budget for general city purposes is $590,058,363; total wages and salaries for the police department are $159,065,554 - 27 percent; for the fire department $71,126,450 - 12 percent. I doubt most people know that fire and police consume 39 percent of the total budget for general city purposes. Across the U.S. these two departments, on average, account for 25 to 75 percent of budgets.

Moreover, Washington County (pop. 129,277) doesn't have the population, amenities, infrastructure, and concentration of poor people, like the City of Milwaukee (pop. 602,191). If we expand to Milwaukee County, the population is 953,328. So, comparing Milwaukee to Washington County is deceptive at best. And, to think that the surrounding communites do not benefit from the many amenities - the stadium, Calatrava, the lakefront, the theater, the riverwalk, the festivals, etc. - provided by the City is ridiculous.

Mr. McIlheran then bellows about an "ever-growing, unlimited government". Talk about paranoid. Government runs up its largest deficits and expands in size the most under Republican administrations. It also performs the worst economically under right-wing rule.

He then goes on to make snide insinuations toward "nationalized health care and vast new energy taxes." I guess he feels our health care system that doesn't cover 50 million people and cost twice as much as any other industrialized nation is just fine. He also must think our dependence on foreign oil and the fact that its pollution is destroying the planet isn't anything to worry about either.

He routinely comes back to the (I'm paraphrasing) 'government is taking your money' mantra. The fact is, most people feel government is a necessary regulator of the market, a provider of base services and institutions, and a means to ensuring equality of opportunity among its citizens.

McIlheran closes his rant by complaining about "subsidizing, taxing, regulating, and bailing out every corner of life." This completely ignores the fact that a lack of enforcement and regulation enabled our current mess. It also ignores the fact that the majority of government subsidization is corporate welfare. Only 1 percent of state and local budgets go toward assistance to the poor. And, the ones bailed out thus far have been corporate behemoths and the largest banks...the (auto) workers have been the only ones whom have had to sacrifice.

It is really work to correct and keep up with all the misinformation Teabaggers like McIlheran can imagine.

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