Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “freedom isn’t free”

Do Progressives Want to Punish Success? – Tom Rossi

If you denied a request by your ten year old son for permission to buy a CD or go to a rock concert with his older brother or something, and then he went and asked your spouse and he or she said yes, you would probably punish your son for gaming the system. Your son would probably say, “But Mom said it was okay!” But you would know what was really going on.

The argument against taxing the (very) rich is most often that it would be “punishing success.” Well, we do punish some kinds of success in this country. We punish successful (and unsuccessful) burglars, bank robbers, drug dealers, con artists, murderers, embezzlers, and many other criminals.

Some of today’s wealthiest people fit into one of those categories, certainly. But many more, often acting through corporations, fit into the “play one parent against the other” archetype. What corporations do is lobby our government, often in ways that closely resemble bribery, to change the law more to their liking.

Tax laws, for example, are a favorite target of corporations and the super-rich who run them. They left the official rate high, (so they could continue to bitch, whine, piss, and moan) but they created a wonderful set of loopholes that mean that practically no corporation actually pays that rate.

In fact, the whole purpose of a corporation is to absolve the executives of any responsibility for its actions. A corporation legally insulates its operators, as long as it doesn’t violate what’s left of the law. But there is no law against creating ridiculously risky financial instruments and artificially inflating their value, essentially riding updrafts of hot air while pretending it’s solid ground.

Why is this not illegal? Because corporations and associations of very rich investors spend millions to kill financial reform. This is why nothing has really changed since the crash of 2007. The people calling for the heads of bankers and hedge-fund managers are the powerless – people whose net worth is measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars or less.

So, do we want to “punish” success? We absolutely want to punish the con artists who sent America into this pit. We also want to punish the success of those who have bribed their way out of paying for the function and infrastructure of the very country that has allowed them to become rich in the first place.

The success that allowed these corporations to become big and rich enough to sell out our country cam during the decades when the taxes they and their investors paid much higher taxes. Those taxes allowed America to become what it is – a land full of healthy, well-educated (on average) people with the means to physically travel to the places they are needed.

A lot goes into these factors, especially the health part. But taxes aren’t really punishment. As I’ve said before, it’s simply a matter of paying for what you get. You want a great country? Pay for it. It doesn’t come free. Conservative dimwits are fond of saying, “Freedom isn’t free.” Well neither is greatness. And private enterprise just isn’t effective at providing certain things like public health and education – two keys to a successful society.

The other side of the “punishing success” hogwash is that progressives or liberals want to “reward losers.” Let’s compare these punishments and these rewards… The punishments we’re talking about might mean buying a smaller yacht. The reward might mean paying the rent for a couple more months on the two-bedroom apartment where your family of five now resides.

So, to paraphrase what I’ve said before, please stop whining. If you’ve lost your job, been foreclosed on, and have to eat dog food to survive, you’ve got lots of good reasons to whine. It’s your right. But if you whine because you only get to keep $35million after taxes, kindly do us all a favor and shut your ridiculous, spoiled cake hole.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Peace vs. Patriotism – Grudge Match? Tom Rossi

I was on the road a lot for this year’s Memorial Day holiday. While I was driving along paying close attention, as I do, to the bumper stickers that people put on their cars, I started to notice something. Between all the “I’m cool because I like this or that brand of shoes, clothing, or whatever” stickers, there are cars proudly making one of two political statements. What’s interesting is the clear division between the two: Patriotism…

or Peace.

These two statements of character are represented by one of two stickers: an American flag or a peace symbol. It’s very rare to see both of these on the same car, and this sort of agrees with what I see on the sidewalk as well. People are either, “pro America” or “pro-peace”. And, if you are pro-America, you are anti-peace, or pro-peace and anti-America – at least that’s what some people would have you think.

What a weird thing this is. How the heck did we get to this? What tweaks me the most is that these concepts, patriotism and peace, would appear to be not only mutually exclusive, but in opposition to each other.

The people who wave the flag think that the people who want peace would roll over and play dead if the Red Army stormed across the Pacific, while the people who want peace think that the flag-wavers will support a president (at least a republican president) who decides we should bomb Canada.


The flag sticker asks, “Why can’t you be a patriot? Why can’t you support our country and our wars?” The peace sticker asks, “Why is war patriotic? Defending yourself is one thing, but why do we have to go and look for asses to kick and people to kill?

Flag-wavers often seem to think that peace-mongers live in a dream-world where they can dance around, dropping daisies on the ground and Russia, China, Israel, Palestine, Iran, and everybody else will just join the love-in. That there is just never any justification for war or military action at all. Peace-lovers seem to think patriots just want all of our enemies bombed until they are dead, and our enemy is anybody who doesn’t serve our empirical aspirations.

Although closer to the peace side, I’m kind of stuck between these two groups. I think the U.S. has (especially recently) taken war to the business level in order for war-based corporations (that have a lot of influence on our government) to profit big. However, some wars MUST be fought. Iraq and World War II could not be more different, for example. Just looking at the European “theater”, as it was called, in WWII. Hitler had unleashed a massive killing machine on that part of the world, with no sign of stopping there. Diplomacy wasn’t going to get us anywhere. We had to fight and fight hard.

It’s probably true that, once we got going, we might have gone a little too far – in fire-bombing Dresden at a VERY late stage, for example. But our heavy, military involvement in WWII was clearly necessary.

But even I must admit I feel a sort of tension in my gut when I see a flag on someone’s car. I pre-judge on an emotional level, of which I am somewhat ashamed. I sometimes think, “There goes a dumb redneck who will vote us into more wars, more killing, more military spending, and then blame the resulting financial ruin on public employee’s unions or something.” I’m certainly not the only one who is so judgmental, but all that just from a flag sticker? Wow.

OK, so I’ve proven to myself and to all of you that I can be as much of a judgmental jerk as the next guy. But what I really want to ask is: Why is it unpatriotic to want peace? Why can’t peace and patriotism go together? Patriots often argue that peace or freedom “isn’t free.” But why do people, the people who love to chant: “Freedom isn’t free,” assume that the cost of freedom or peace is war? As I’ve said, sometimes war is inevitable and necessary. But can anyone think that the only way, or even the best way, is to strong-arm our so-called enemies and scare everyone else?

I have some ideas, but I’m interested in what people think. Can you come up with some ideas that, except in the extreme cases, might promote peace, prevent war, or make for sustainable, good relationships with our neighbors on this planet? Can we find reasons to be proud of our country other than its hegemony? Please tell us what you think!

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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