Thursday, September 22, 2011


I find several interesting things happening under President Ronald Reagan that give me pause for reflection, as noted by Jeff Madrick in his book Age of Greed /Madrick/169-175).

Reagan cut taxes. In turn, he raised military spending. He cut taxes 25% over 3 years but ended up with a deficit of $130 billion.

Consequently, he added payroll taxes to 12.3% on the working - mid-class (up to $107,000 in 2010) and raised retirement to 67. “It was a decidedly regressive tax: earners in the middle fifth of Americans would now pay 9.8% of their income in payroll taxes, while those in the top 1% now paid 1.4% of their income in payroll taxes.”

We also note that Security taxes were “commingled” with general revenues to pay for all government programs, and have been ever since.” (altho passed and intended only to pay Social Security.” This suggests shortages in the Social Security funding are generated by legislators “borrowing” out of budgetary funds not theirs to spend, and that most of the hubris about Social Security is just that: political hype.

“The rate of actual federal taxes of all kinds on the middle fifth of income earners in America (households) fell only be .7 percent between 1979-1989, but for the top 10 percent it fell by 3.3 percent, and 8.1 percent for the top 1 percent of owners.”

“Thus, Americans paid lower taxes, but the cuts for the well-off were far greater on a percentage basis than for those in other brackets.”

Under Reagan, Defense spending rose from 5. To 6.5% of GDP in the late 80s. “Business investment remained significantly weaker as a percentage of GDP than in the 1960s and 1970s.”

The 1983 Budget deficit, which was above $200 Billion and 6+% of GDP dropping to 3% at its lowest point, was “never as low as Carter’s final years.,”

“As for American workers, who so strongly supported Reagan politically, their wages, as noted, generally stagnated or at best grew slowly. Male wages were especially weak. In this period, income inequality started to climb to the levels reached in the 1920s. Typical family incomes rose only because spouses went to work. Female incomes rose consistently, but not robustly, and a typical woman of the same age and experience as her male counterpart still earned far less. Meanwhile, the public goods of America were neglected. Under Reagan, investment in public transportation infrastructure was reduced from 0.5 percent of GDP to 0.3 percent - a sharp drop. And more and more Americans had no health insurance.”

As a Christian, I am decidedly uncomfortable with this system of taxation, for the inequity of the system and for the increased military spending, which continues to dominate our pocketbooks, to the point it seems we pay for Defense and War but we deserve neither adequate infrastructure nor a public safety net for the more vulnerable.

Issues for the common good are made to appear as politically incorrect. However, I am no more interested in Socialism than I am in Capitalism. I do not need the government planning my life for me. Neither do I appreciate being increasingly impoverished by the Barons of Corporate Capitalism. I long ago committed my life to the teachings of Jesus, which are the only teachings I have found with power to change a human heart, and on which humanity can build a safe and friendly environment for everybody. I read Matthew 25 and take seriously His Word, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me: (v. 26 NIV).

It sort of reminds me of a statement Michael Kazin quotes from William Jennings Bryan: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold. ” Bryan recalled tethering the hogs back in Southern Illinois as a boy when he had to prevent the hogs from tearing up the land. “And then it occurred to me,” he said, “that one of the most important duties of government is to put rings in the noses of hogs.” (of greed).

What I want to know is not your politics, or religion, but how you live and how you treat your fellow man. I like following examples like that of Thaddeus Stevens, the Pennsylvania Congressman that led a move during earlier days to redistribute southern lands to slaves. You may challenge his politics, but I find it hard to disagree with his final example in death.

When Stevens died, he was interred in the one integrated cemetery in Lancaster, PA with these words on his stone:
“I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death The Principle which I advocated through a long life EQUALITY OF MAN BEFORE HIS CREATOR (Kazin, American Dreamers, P. 61).

From Warner’s World,

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