Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Death and Taxes, Now and Then

Try this for perspective on the two great inevitabilities of life: At my birth, life expectancy was 58 years. For a baby today, it’s over 75.

When I started earning in the Eisenhower era, the top tax rate was 84 percent rather than the current 35, and hardly anyone complained.

The only audible grumbles came from cartoon figures in upper-crust men's clubs and, on one occasion, John Wayne, the celluloid cowboy, whom I told, "If I could get millions for making faces at cameras, I wouldn't complain about giving most of it back to people who buy tickets to see me do it."

But that was when patriotism was about loving America rather than hating other Americans, when most of those elected to serve in Washington were working against prejudice rather than stoking it for political gain, when class warfare was being promoted only at the lunatic fringes of Communism and McCarthyism.

John Wayne paid his high taxes and kept making movies that exalted the red, white and blue. (That may come as news to Michele Bachmann, who praised his values in her announcement speech, mistakenly placing him in Waterloo, Iowa, where the serial killer John Wayne Gacy lived.)

How did we get from those days to this fractured, fractious parody of American values being played out in Washington today?

When the President talks about shared sacrifice (i.e., taking back a few percent of the Bush tax cuts from billionaires), how did that get to be a do-or-die issue for the Republican Party?

Why are so many patriots ready to take away actually do-or-die protections of Social Security and Medicare from their fellow citizens with those longer life spans?

Back then, we had just come out of a World War, where lives and limbs were sacrificed for American freedoms, and those at home uncomplainingly endured food shortages and gasoline rationing.

When and how did we morph from a nation of John Waynes to a parody of Clint Eastwoods (“Read my lips: No new taxes”)?

Whatever happens between now and August 2nd, it might help to look ahead to August 6th, the sixty-sixth anniversary of the day we exploded an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. That was a moral issue that makes today’s debt-ceiling crisis look like a sandbox fight among squabbling children.


Harley King said...

I strongly agree. Too bad the lost in Washington aren't reading your blog.

Don Quijote said...

The problem here is that we live in a multi-ethnic state.

When you see someone of your ethic group homeless in the streets peddling for change, you think "but for the grace of god, there I go", if you see someone from another ethnic group, the thinking changes to something "What do you expect out of those lazy, filthy (fill in the blank)"...

The financial elites in this country have spent thirty years working overtime to encourage the second sentiment, not that it takes a lot of work to bring it to the forth...

If you doubt me, look at the grievance of the Right-Wing Terrorist in Norway (This lefty government is giving money to those lazy, filthy, disgusting Somalis so that they stay home & make babies)...

PS. I would have posted this on "The Moderate Voice", but Logan Penza has banned me for calling him out on his "Why do they hate us" post...

Eric said...

As I recall, people in the '50s and early '60s used to brag about being in a higher tax bracket. My father complained a bit when a raise nudged him into a higher category, although he did admit that he was better off with the extra money that came with the higher bracket.

Sierra Volk said...

Well thought, well said. Thank you. Your vantage point is invaluable.

James Martin said...

When I was a whippersnapper coming of age in 1960s L.A. and protesting, as a UCLA student, against Dow Chemical's presence on campus to recruit for its Napalm-making operation, I was a child. Now that I am an adult, I still feel the exact same way, only different. At the time, in a review of his pro-Vietnam "The Green Berets," I lambasted Wayne's "crypto-fascist sentiments." I wish I could take that back; not because I don't mean it, but because his movies are so darned entertaining.