Kleptocratic Sentiments Revealed

I may be giving him too much credit, but President Obama probably misspoke when he revealed his true sentiments toward individual private property in today’s White House press briefing regarding the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations.  Whether it can be justifiably termed socialist, the fact is that he – along with many other American politicians, members of government, and economists – truly feel that the fruits of one’s labor rightfully belong to the state to do with as it sees fit, and any retention of that income by the individual in question is seen simply a privilege to be grateful for.

When the citizenry’s private property, rightfully earned, is taken and redistributed, especially to politically-solicited groups such as unions, “community organization groups,” certain demographic groups, religious institutions, corporate and organizational allies, etc., the state has in effect become a vehicle of the oligarchy to obtain and retain power and authority at the literal expense of productive citizens (of which only 1 out of every 2 households actually pay said federal income taxes by the way).  This, in its most basic form, is what defines a kleptocracy – “government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed.”

While Republicans and Democrats spar with each other over what kind of deal is to be reached to establish a new debt ceiling before the nation defaults* – whether to cut spending or raise taxes, or both – I find that a couple of very important, substantive, and ethical questions directly relating to the issue at hand are largely going unaddressed.

For instance, by what sovereign right does government expect tax revenue increases – in effect a bailout of the very government that all too recently bailed out insolvent corporations while admonishing them for their collective and individual displays of irresponsibility?  When the debate comes down to a conflict between slashing expenditures and raising revenues, reducing spending is the only ethical choice available simply because government does not have any inherent right to that property which individuals earn through their own labor.  At its worst, this mentality is tantamount to government-instituted bondage, where an individual that hypothetically falls within the 30% income tax bracket must work about four months every year on Uncle Sam’s Plantation before s/he begins working for themselves and their families (this before including FICA taxes and state income taxes, if applicable).  At best, it equates to a modern aristocracy where the people exist to provide assets for the ruling class to ration as they see fit.  As James Madison once similarly pondered, do the people exist for the state or the state for its people?

It is highly offensive for President Obama to suggest that the elderly will slowly die of exposure or impoverished children will starve without more government-sponsored thieving from our pockets.  This is the tried-and-true modus operandi of smooth political operators who seek to play on the emotions of the electorate, however, and is not altogether unexpected.  But for those that still retain some measure of reason, logic, and a healthy dose of common sense enough to understand that a nation which already takes in considerable tax revenues annually (~$2.2 trillion in 2010) ought to be able to better manage that money and address these issues at the ultimate expense of other nonsensical expenditures, if they are indeed as important he suggests.

I can think of just a few ideas off the top of my head to help facilitate this much needed management.  This is certainly not an exhaustive or comprehensive approach, just some talking points to get folks thinking and illustrate my meaning:

1.  Perhaps we could stop funneling foreign aid to every single third world cesspool with a well-documented history of corruption and fraud (e.g., Haiti, Pakistan).

2.  We could stop running record trade deficits with every nation on the planet that is simultaneously receiving offshored American jobs.

3.  We could let the generals and admirals do their jobs and request what they need/desire rather than continuing the current trend of using defense appropriations as a congressman’s/woman’s personal district/state auction house for unwarranted and unsolicited programs, systems, and platforms.

4.  We could return to limiting the military to its sole constitutional role – that of protecting and defending the United States and her national security /commercial interests (yes, this was an original function of the navy), rather than using it as an aggrandized Interpol or International Red Cross.

5.  The nation could adopt some general components of President Obama’s own commissioned Bowles-Simpson Plan†, which suggests to establish a single, lower overall tax rate (for both individuals and corporations) while eliminating all loopholes and deductions and all exempt statuses.  Both substantially increase collective revenue across the board by themselves, so what is not to like by the kleptocracy?  This is the only way I would support increasing revenues on income, be it individual or corporate, because it would effectively lower the rates of those already paying taxes while requiring those not currently doing so to contribute.  This is the more fair, equitable, and ethical approach and would address the growing phenomenon of class warfare in society, as all citizens and residents will have a relatively equal fiscal stake in the matters of government as they should if they are to share a voice in it.  On a side note, it is my estimation that introducing significant simplicity and stability into the corporate tax hell that is the American economy are probably the two most immediate causal factors that could lead to internal business investment and expansion (i.e., job creation).

“The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements.  What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?”

6.  Entitlement reform simply must occur‡.  Entitlements are the “sacred cows” of politics that are killing future prosperity potential in this country, as the collective entitlements of Social Security and Medicare are the greatest contributors to national debt – especially future debt projections.  While these entitlements do not draw from income taxes, per se, they will be funded in part by them once the legal debt limit is reached and the delta between revenue generated by payroll taxes and expenditures paid out can no longer be financed with credit (this also clearly demonstrates the pyramid-like structure of the programs).  It is an unpopular topic to be sure, but the arithmetic simply no longer supports the viability of these programs in their current states.

*This would not necessarily occur as the fear-mongering would lead us to believe unless the government bureaucracy fails to reprioritize its expenditures such to pay the interest on the debt prior to any other payments, thereby securing the nation’s international credit rating.

This commission’s recommendations have thus far gone largely ignored, essentially because they did not return findings and conclusions commensurate with the current political climate and/or will. In other words, it generally acknowledged that we are, in fact, in a lot of fiscal trouble.

There are far too many approaches, political and ethical concerns, complex factors, and constitutional considerations to briefly capture in a single paragraph within this post regarding this particular topic.

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  1. #1 by jcervoneohn Cervone on July 19, 2011 - 8:17 AM

    The Use of Scare Tactics by the United States Government.

    When the United States was entering World War II, President Roosevelt told the nation; “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”. What a comforting statement to make to a nation that was about to enter a war a that would be fought on two oceans. President Roosevelt did not wring his hands, he did not blame others and he did not look for excuses. He accepted the challenge that was presented to him and he handed the challenge down to his countrymen. He tried to inspire a nation, by his resolve and his courage, to be stronger then they ever thought they could be. And he succeeded.

    Today, we are witness to a new style of leadership, if what we are being led by can even be described as leadership. We are presented with a government that has no direction or goal. Our politicians have only one item on the agenda that truly matters to them; “How can I get re-elected, so as to continue to take the American taxpayers for a ride.”
    A ride with no clear destination in sight.

    The interesting part of this agenda is the implementation of one of the new tools they have decided to employ. The new tool is fear. While President Roosevelt preached against fear, our current President now uses fear as a weapon against the American people. No longer do we hear words of inspiration and glory. Today all we hear from our elected officials are name calling, back biting and whining as if they were a group of five year olds. And these are the ones who haven’t disgraced themselves on Face book and other internet sites. (Where do they find the time?)

    Their latest attack seems to be aimed at those receiving Social Security, Medicare, military pension checks, military disability checks and in some cases military checks in general. Let’s frighten the older folks and the disabled folks and the folks protecting our nation. Is this the way a government is supposed to work? Is this the way a government protects its citizens? Everything they do in Washington is simply a smoke screen, to hide their back room deals and their fleecing of the American public. They don’t care about you, your children, your hopes or your dreams. All they care about is getting more for themselves and they don’t care who they have to frighten or destroy to achieve that goal. They are in their own private world and we are not a part of it and none of us will ever be a part of it. I don’t fear them, I dread them.

    Examining the past, the present and God help us all, the future.

    Today our great nation has a president who seems to be both unable to govern and unwilling to govern. He seems to enjoy being in the spot light but only when things are going well. Sadly, for the nation, we have not been very fortunate in seeing him in that venue. Between his anointed calling, the infighting of the nations two most influential political parties and the nations new alleged political party, it seems that the United States is going to be led by groups of individuals who are inept, incompetent and in some cases dangerous.

    They all appear to have their own agendas and the American people do not appear to be a part of any of their lofty ideals and aspirations. Naturally, this comes as no surprise to anyone who possesses intelligence of any type. These people are basically out for themselves and will do anything to maintain their power and their wealth. This is what we have to live with today. Leaders, who would not have been elected to the lowest office in existence, fifty years ago, and today are running our great nation into the ground.

    Does this seem like too harsh an assessment of those in power today? Well then let’s go back and examine, briefly, one of our past leaders. One of America’s most overlooked Presidents was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was not born into an elite family-his father was a mechanic and the family was an average American one. One of his major achievements’, before becoming President of the United States, was merely to lead the Allies to victory in World War II and stopping the Nazis from achieving their goal of worldwide domination.

    While President during the Cold War, he began building up on nuclear weapons to protect America and to warn the Soviet Union that the U.S. would retaliate if fired upon. When Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and then began relations with the Soviet Union, Eisenhower placed an embargo on the country. Eisenhower also created the Eisenhower Doctrine where he asserted that America had the right to aid any country threatened by Communist aggression.
    In 1957, Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to safeguard black students enrolling for the first time in a previously all-white school. This in itself was a very unpopular decision but one he felt had to be made. He didn’t consult the media when making this decision, he simply did what he felt was right.
    General Eisenhower ended his Presidency with a prayer for peace and gave this nation a warming about the Military Industrial Complex and said that it could turn out to be a problem for America in the future. He has truly been proven correct in that warning but like many great Presidents, his words were largely ignored.

    Could our current President make these decisions? Do we have anyone in the “Bullpen” who if elected, could make even one of these decisions? I will leave that for you to ponder and add the following; May God Help Us All!

    A Small Man, Who Wrote A Small Book.

    • #2 by The Observer on July 19, 2011 - 6:39 PM

      I would actually argue that the use of fear as a component of the politician’s toolbox has been around a lot longer than recent times but I understand what you are getting at. Certainly its prevalence can be said to have exponentially increased commensurate with the explosion of communications media and the relatively recent development of the 24-hour news cycle.

      Ironically, if we (both as a society of citizens and our government officials) adhered faithfully to the Constitution in our dealings it largely would not matter so much who the president is/was because discretion in general, let alone specific partisan discretion, is not tolerable under the framework of the general powers granted to the executive branch of the federal government. But I must say, I am not sure that there is anyone in the bullpen, as you say, that is ready to step up and exercise the courage to do what is right and not just what is politically beneficial.

  2. #3 by Chuck Temm on July 24, 2011 - 9:53 AM

    FDR is a rather poor example of any sort of courage in reality. Courage would have had him stop screwing over the taxpayer and nation at large sometime during almost 10 years of horribly ineffective economic manipulation. Never mind the brass of a man to to ignore his own oath to defend and uphold the Constitution as the ELECTED leader of a nation.

    FDR did use fear on an almost daily basis whenever he could do so with both national political and business leaders. Fear of revolution (if his way was thwarted domestically) and talking trash to potential enemies while ignoring preparing for the day when they’d call his bluff was a normal thing.

    Obama is little different except that maybe he has a bit more of the mass media on his side. While his fans enshrine him as the world’s smartest man and most eloquent speaker the US has ever produced (since FDR of course), he continues his babblespeak with much fanfare and virtually no substance. He talks trash to his domestic political opponents on a level I’ve never seen in 40 years of following politics here all the while expecting them to do what he wishes. That they don’t seems to baffle him somehow.

    No, Obama is a typical American politician (of which the leftist side seems to abound in) in that he’ll use whatever comes to hand to damn his opposition and not really say a damn thing otherwise.

  3. #4 by Bob on July 27, 2011 - 9:45 PM

    You have a very interesting comments on your post. and I agreed with your comments. I have a couple of things to interject. The first thing we need to do is get rid of the professional politicians.
    I also am a fan of Heinlein’s starship trooper, I like the restrictions of voting, to vote one must be a citizen, to be a citizen you have to have served.

  1. The Oligarchs Count on Our Ignorance |

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