Notebook, 1 December 2010: My Kind of Pragmatist…

First of all, I want to give a shout out to LarsThorwald for his fine diary, I am a pragmatist, but there is a limit to compromise. I thought that eventually this would happen. Democrats would reach out to the right enough until they reached the breaking point and find out where the line is where compromise becomes betrayal.

Because we all have something we cherish, be it a guaranteed income for retirees who have paid into Social Security throughout their working lives, affordable access to medical treatment, justice for our LGBT brothers and sisters, or whatever.

For brooklynbadboy, it is this:

There is one line in the sand, however: Social Security. Social Security is THE bedrock social compact that binds this nation together through generation after generation. It is THE signature achievement of modern American democracy.

(I have been remiss in failing to compliment bbb here. These are three of the finest sentences I’ve ever read on dkos. Bless him, the man can write.)

We all have something to cherish, and perhaps what I’m reading these past few weeks is the grand political tide where ordinary people, like you and I, say, “enough bipartisanship is enough.” I don’t want to put words in someone’s mouth, LarsThorwald expresses his point of view perfectly well on his own.

These specific things we choose to care about both unite us and divide us. LarsThorwald finds the line he will not cross in the issue of tax cuts for the wealthy. To me that’s less important than other matters, and presumably (I don’t know this, I’m speculating here, but he says that he finds the idea of rewarding corruption “appalling.” Can’t argue with that) he balks at ballooning the deficit, or the simple the injustice of giving yet another bailout to those who need it least. Both are egregious enough to change one’s inner political compass from support to opposition.

Has Lars reason to fear? In President Obama’s words, his main goal is to ensure that taxes for the middle class don’t go up come January first. (Which wasn’t what he was asked, btw.) What he pointedly didn’t say is that compromises elsewhere are (as always) possible. So Lars, the short answer is, yes. Be afraid.

The fact of the matter is, we don’t all recognize progress in the same way, and this is an individual matter. The tax cut for the wealthy is, to me less of a problem than the estimated $100 billion in lost tax revenues annually due to offshoring revenues, possibly probably illegally. In other words, sheltered in tax haven jurisdictions overseas. For me, it is more telling that 60% of all corporations (NOT S corporations!) paid no corporate income taxes at all, even during the boom years of 1997 to 2005, or that 40% of all large corporations, famously including both General Electric (with $77 billion in profits) and Exxon/Mobil ($90 billion in profits) paid no taxes as well. In fact, corporate taxes as a whole were less than one quarter of what individuals paid in 2009.

It gets even worse. Both GE and Exxon were doing so poorly they got tax credits.

Everyone has something to cherish, and a line in the sand beyond which that individual will not go. It’s individual because each of us have different factoids in our possession, and bring to this table different life experiences. Maimonides and I likely have more common ground than either of us are currently willing to admit. Completely normal, and I’m still not willing to go where Maimonides wants to lead me. While my actions may contribute to republicans being elected, the fact of the matter is, they aren’t asking for my vote and I have zero leverage with them.

It’s up to each one of us to decide where our lines in the sand are drawn. We can at least share our experiences and factoids, because, yes, it’s important for us all to be on the same page as much as possible.

It is also important to let our elected officials know exactly where we stand, or else, how can they know what we want? How can they know where those lines in the sand lie?


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