I should be bleeding red, white and blue over reports that the Internal Revenue Service has singled out some Tea Party groups for extra-special scrutiny as tax exempt organizations. Instead, I can’t help but giggle. If ever there were two groups who deserve one another it is the tax department and the playpen patriots wearing tin foil hats.
First, the tax man.
A federal income tax has been part of the United States Constitution for 100 years now. The sixteenth amendment saw to that. The amendment is, frankly, a mockery of the first ten amendments. In a bygone era folks actually worried about limitations to what government could require of citizens. Now the Supreme law of the land tells the tax man the Government is entitled to a piece of all we earn, unless, of course, the Government decides we can keep it. The country has become a tax plantation; your efforts are harvested one dollar at a time. Unless you are rich.
There are no serious calls for tax reform in this country. Instead, we get what amounts to tax war on behalf of the well-heeled and corporations. Nonsense about trickle-down tax policy justifies a growing divide between a privileged few, and an increasingly impoverished many. The rich get richer, and poor, well they fade from view: Just how many Americans have dropped out of the economy is unknown.
The other day, the evening news carried a medley of stories. The stock market reached record highs. Unemployment was down, at least among those still looking for work. Suicide rates overtook total deaths from automobile accidents, with many of the suicides coming among middle-age white males. And older workers, those older than 50-years-old, increasingly were reported to be unable to find work. Four quick snapshots of a country spinning out of control.
Of course, the evening news did not connect the dots. No one asked whether the boom for the few reflected anything other than a deepening divide in a nation riven by vast differences among socioeconomic classes. No one asked whether a rising suicide rate was a response to a loss of hope. We don’t ask such questions in this country. It cuts across the grain of the prevailing ideology of denial.
Political dissent in this country is a limpid joke. From the right comes all manner of sterile chest-thumping about tyranny. Gun groupies snort saltpeter and dance around fictive militia maypoles. For all their rhetoric about liberty and their incendiary anxiety about oppressive big government, the right is, by contrast to dissent at other points in the nation’s history, impotent, sterile, and, frankly, silly.
A century ago, bombs went off at Haymarket Square in Chicago and elsewhere. In Homestead, Pennsylvania, displaced workers exchanged gunfire with corporate security hired by Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills. One of Carnegie’s lieutenants, Henry Clay Frick, was nearly assassinated in his office. Violence was, in those days, as American as apple pie, and the result was, a decade or so later, progressive legislation that made the American dream a reality for a broader class of Americans.
The pissing and moaning that passes for protest among the Tea Partiers is really nothing more than corporate propaganda. These would-be revolutionaries want nothing so much as the right to be let alone, to be unaccountable to the community in which they live, and unmolested in their right to profit from the labor of others. Fearful lest we peons awaken to their game, they wave flags and guns; we’re supposed to salute the flag, arm ourselves against Armageddon, and, if we must shoot, then we are to shoot one another.
If the Government and the Tea Partiers waste one another’s resources squabbling with one another, then here’s to hoping they exhaust one another, and leave the public policy slate clean for the rest of us. All this bitching and moaning about Benghazi and the IRS is white noise. Ordinary Americans are hurting while the likes of John Boehner and the other boneheads on Capitol Hill huff, puff and strut like circus barkers.
We don’t have serious political debates about policy any longer in this country. Politics has become entertainment. In the meantime, a dream is dying.