I have a friend who is a bit more conservative than I am. He recently posted a lengthy critique of my political views using the rhetoric of Fox News. Normally I don’t respond to those sorts of arguments because I consider them so obviously lacking in merit that I let them fail on their own, but this once I decided to answer them comprehensively in a single post. Here are his original comments:
All of this began because my friend wanted to chase these strawmen and ad hominem arguments rather than addressing the issue at hand – the Republican Party has gone so far into extreme nutter land that they won’t even support a treaty that supports human rights and is based on American law.
What follows is my reply. Although I address his points, in order, I think these comments stand on their own as a critique of the propaganda currently coming from Fox News.
1. Saying it’s “impossible” to seriously consider my critiques because you dislike my other positions is a classic ad hominem attack. It’s a way of avoiding actually discussing the issue at hand to attack the speaker. It’s not relevant, and shows the weakness of your argument.
2. I stand by my characterization of the new Republican party. Their opposition to rights for same-sex couples and their opposition to supporting equal rights for women (e.g. the “Equal Pay Act“) makes them bigots, their alliance with fundamentalist Christianity makes them ignorant and superstitious, their opposition to fair taxation on the wealthy makes them greedy, and their opposition to government regulation of industry and organized labor indicate that they support a corporate hegemony over a representative republic.
3. President Obama is “looting the producers of this country?” The producers are the people who actually make stuff in this country. They are easy to spot. They have dirt on their jeans or grease on their hands. The mega-corporation CEO’s and hedge fund brokers are not “producers” – they profit off the labor of others. I’m pretty sure the term for that is “parasites.” And yet, their salaries – relative to that of their employees – are the highest they have ever been in US history: by an order of magnitude!
On top of that, they enjoy a tax rate that is roughly 1/3rd of what it was at its highest (when our economy was thriving). They are not being looted. They are doing the looting.
4. President Obama is “foolish” and “destructive?” What, exactly, is he destroying? Not the environment, he’s increasing regulation there (although not as much as I would like, and he’s still too friendly with the oil companies). Not healthcare, he’s making sure that tens of millions of people have access to it. Not the economy, the stock market is making millions for people and unemployment is down. What is he destroying?
5. There is no “shame” in the word socialist. The countries with the highest standard of living, the best healthcare, and the best educational systems all recognize that importance of the social contract and the importance of socialism in protecting the rights and well-being of all citizens. Without socialism, we have no schools, no public safety departments, and no military. We need socialism.
6. President Obama is not a “fool” and he is not lacking real-world experience. He earned a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard. His work as a community organizer helped get people jobs and educational training as well as protected their civil rights. He taught constitutional law while also practicing civil rights law for eleven years. That made a difference for real people living in the real world.
7. Again, no one’s “responsible efforts to create a good retirement” are being looted. Trying to bring the tax rate for our wealthiest citizens back up to where it was before their Congressional stooges lowered it is not looting, it’s insisting that they pay a share commensurate with their extreme wealth.
8. The estate tax rate will not go from “0% to 55%.” It will go from 35% to 55%. And the first MILLION DOLLARS will be exempt – the levels where they were in 2001. In a worst case scenario – the expiration of the current deal on estate taxes with no replacement legislation – the only people affected will be millionaires and then only on assets over a million dollars. President Obama is on record of supporting a 45% tax rate with an exemption on the first 3.5 MILLION dollars. That’s hardly the position of a “looter” and far more generous than I think we should be. In the end, very, very few people are affected by the reversion. Nevertheless, the all-or-nothing tea baggers are so intent on protecting the wealth of the very, very wealthiest that they refuse to compromise. Regardless of your thoughts on the estate tax, you completely misrepresent the current state of affairs. For someone who claims your positions are about facts, you use gracious few of them here.
9. Benghazi – Ultimately the buck stops with the President, no doubt about it. We should have had more assets available to protect the ambassador, and we did not. State made a mistake, and had/provided bad intel both before and after, and ultimately the President is responsible for the efficiency and effectiveness of the State Department. This does not, however, mean that the President is unfit to lead or made some catastrophic or unique failure. Reagan, Both Bushes, and Clinton all experienced embassy attacks – with fatalities – under their presidencies. No one I know who works for State thinks that this is the smoking gun Fox News wants to claim it is.
In addition, the entire issue is a complex one. Note Republican Rep. Chaffetz critiquing Benghazi while also talking about his votes to cut embassy security. Democrats were concerned about this before 11 September 2012.
10. Socialism is not “theft.” It is not theft to recognize that the people who make hundreds of millions of dollars off of the safety, security, and stability of our Republic owe money back into that Republic to continue to sustain it. This is fairness. Recognizing that an unregulated, capitalist economy constantly funnels money away from the people who actually make the goods and provide the services is not “theft” – it’s common sense. The free market does not protect workers on its own; this is self-evident, as is the clear and unequivocal data that shows that protecting the wealth of the 1% does not trickle down into job opportunities for the working and middle classes. Warren Buffet, arguably the most successful American capitalist in history has pointed this out over and over again.
The “looters” and “thieves” are the venal carrion birds from people like Bain capital who are more concerned with disassembling a functioning business (something that “produces” something – to use your vocabulary) and selling off its assets or outsourcing its labor so they can get even wealthier. The “looters” and “thieves” are the CEO’s who continue to grant themselves raises and line the pockets of their executives (none of whom actually make anything with their own hands) while denying medical benefits to their workers and paying them a wage upon which those workers cannot even afford safe housing or healthy food. The “looters” and “thieves” are the corporations that spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress so that they can manufacture their products in ways that destroy our environment or our health.