Sunday, November 02, 2008

If he'd have just left off the FDR misinterpretation

I can't help but think of my old Daddy when I reflect on FDR. Then again, I also look back on buying David Kennedy's Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 about eight years ago when I could hardly afford such a pricey purchase. I read it twice! So to read an attack, and there are legitimately some criticisms that can be made, of FDR from Bob McLaughlin in today's Birmingham News ran my stinger out a little.

Then again, a title of Don't punish honest makers of wealth admittedly had me looking for trouble. And using ExxonMobil, especially in Alabama even if the Republicans on the Alabama Supreme Court cut the punitives and dialed the damages back to merely breach of contract, might not have been Bob's best illustration of an "honest maker of wealth". Bob wrote,

In 2007, Exxon paid more than $32 billion in taxes with less than $12 billion in net profits.
How can they pay more than they earn? And his figures aren't even right.

According to Dennis Cauchon of USA TODAY they "earned after-tax profits of $41 billion and paid $14.5 billion in worldwide income taxes in 2007". That's worldwide! Marianne Lavelle of U.S. News and World Reports likewise used "$40.6 billion earnings for 2007" in her reporting.

And aren't those "80,000 good-paying jobs" including employees outside the US?

The 35% corporate tax rate that we supposedly have here in the US is laden with loopholes of course yet Bob failed to bark that dog and thus may likely receive poor performance reviews if in fact he's in the tank for the right wing noise machine. And for the record I doubt he is. I expect he's been exposed however. Given his line of work, perhaps he just wants to get some marketing done. Everybody has to make a living and I bet these days are dark for he and his.

I expect Mr. McLaughlin is aware of an undeniably regressive tax system where the poor pay a disproportionate percentage of their income in sales and excise taxes. Accepting the Federal Tax Code is somewhat Progressive, even more so before Bu$hCo's irresponsible tax cuts, then state and local realities take away or at least balance out that condition. This is especially so in Alabama.

I wonder if poor Bob got hold of figures from Dr. Mark J. Perry of the Macinac Center, what Gary Palmer's Alabama Policy Institute perhaps hopes to be when it grows up. That George Mason education is really paying off for the Funding Fathers. That ExxonMobil is tied to Macinac, and others of the sort (indeed "There's a tiger in your tank!") is just too rich.

Are taxes "stealing" or "robbing"? Do they "punish"? I doubt one can even discuss what might make a fair and reasonable tax policy from a person prepared to use such language.

And is all wealth earned by working hard? I'll let Chuck Collins do the heavy lifting via this American Prospect piece titled Tax Wealth to Broaden Wealth: Reframing the debate and mobilizing a constituency and this Nation piece titled A Fair Plan to Pay for Economic Recovery. Mr. McLaughlin even used "accumulated" and I'll submit that description applies more than "earned". There's a decent argument to be made that being born on third base counts more that one's effort and talent when it gets "to the day of the sale" (my old Daddy's way of talking about dying).

What got me most however was when Mr. McLaughlin uses a total misrepresentation of historical fact when he writes,

To make matters worse, in 1933 Franklin Roosevelt's National Recovery Act implemented a floor on corporate salaries. Companies were not allowed to reduce salaries even though their sales were plummeting and their tax bills more than doubled. This resulted in massive unemployment because companies simply could not afford the high salaries, declining revenue and high taxes. We killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
Truly unemployment remained high, and a good argument could be made that only WWII ended the Great Depression, yet after FDR took over the situation drastically improved. Pretty much any respectable historian gives FDR snaps for saving capitalism while also avoiding the fascism and militarism of Germany, Japan, and Italy.

And Bob, the big boys in business often helped write the NRA codes. It might not have been perfect but it was hardly as you've suggested. The idea was to create a level playing field and not let the race be about who got to the bottom first. Some ventures into unfettered globalism is attractive here yet that is another post for another day. I also think there are some nice comparisons to be made about how Hoover ran and Bu$hCo is running around with their hair on fire in response to their respective troubles but that's too another post for another day.

I'm certainly in favor of Mr. McLaughlin's urging that we "Punish the crooks." I appreciate that he's writing, "Put reasonable regulations in place that will keep the questionable activities from being repeated." Too bad he's wrapped up in false understandings of current conditions and past history. But for those failings, and they are deal breakers, I bet we could agree on some policies for broad prosperity and a better future. John Gunn

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