One of the most persistent attacks waged by Republican pundits over the last few weeks of the campaign has been the assertion that an Obama administration would be a “socialist” administration. Those with just a little perspective would recognize this as political hyperbole in the midst of a very heated campaign. Attaching such a label to your political rival and having it stick leading up to the election can be quite useful in these United States of America. However, the label caught on and began showing up in Facebook statuses regularly.
I read an interesting editorial in the current issue of the Christian Century commenting on the tax proposals of McCain vs. Obama. It contains some very interesting stats:
Since the late 1970s the share of national income going to the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled and the share for the top 0.1 percent has tripled. More than 40 percent of total income goes to the wealthiest 10 percent—their biggest share of the nation’s pie in at least 65 years. The very wealthy have become enormously wealthy, while middle-class workers have seen their wages stagnate—barely keeping pace with inflation—and at the same time have had to deal with sharp increases in the costs of health care and education. (Italics mine)
In light of this trend, the dispute between McCain and Obama on taxes is minor: Obama wants to return the top marginal tax rate to 39 percent, where it was under Clinton, while McCain wants to keep it at 35 percent. Both men, in other words, would maintain the mildly progressive tax system that currently exists. The current system is actually much less progressive than it was in earlier decades—under Eisenhower the top tax rate was 91 percent, and under Nixon it was 70 percent. Those were hardly socialist administrations.
I have had discussions with numerous friends supportive of McCain who earn well under $100,000 per year but for some reason vote and argue for conservative policy as though they earn many times that amount. That, I believe is a product of political manipulation and a refusal to actually dig a little deeper in the the policies being proposed. It’s much easier to say, “my guy good, your guy socialist”; “my guy lower my taxes, your guy raise my taxes.”
The editorial closes with the following paragraph:
Though tax rates are not the only factor shaping economic conditions, they are an important measure of how the burdens of common life are being distributed. The warnings about socialism should be seen for what they are: a blunt effort to block any discussion of the ominous fact that the U.S. has become a nation of increasing inequality and, for many, of declining opportunity.
I believe this is a situation that we must address if we are going to work our way out of the economic malaise in which we find ourselves. I think it points to a hard reality that all of us need to face. It will not be resolved via partisan politics or manipulation of the electorate. It’s time we all open our eyes to that reality and work for justice not only via our votes, but also in our communities, in our relationships* and with our own check-books…in proportion to what we can afford.
I think we also need, as a nation, to re-evaluate our definition of what is “sufficient” in terms of our lifestyles.
*I’m really over-reaching this particular blog post with this but it hit me while I was using the word “relationships” above. Do any of you have an actual relationship with someone dependent of food stamps for their grocery purchases? I do not… Why is that? Did you know that food stamps provide only $1/person/meal? Who can buy groceries on that? Why is it that the user of food stamps is often the symbol of abuse of governmental entitlements? Why are we not outraged that real people are HUNGRY in the United States of America? …this is becoming a rant…I’ll shut up now… (the questions however are not necessarily rhetorical…go for it below…)