Tag Archives: Democrat

Why Warren Buffett’s Op-ed Resonates So Much with Us

15 Aug

First thing’s first, read this.

Work of Mark Hirschey

The buzz, surprise and resonance that Warren Buffett’s New York Times op-ed has created is keeping it amongst the most emailed news stories today and a constant trending topic on Twitter. The editorial is a rare instance of a public figure taking a stand against the political winds to stand up for the long-term benefit of the country.

U.S. tax policy is far too mired by the ongoing war between short-term politics and long-term benefits. Short-term politics are what continuously keeps our government officials from tackling truly sensitive issues like Social Security reform, Medicare, universal health care and a revamp of our tax code. The political climate in Washington is so subservient to the status quo that our leaders run elections by trying to say as little as possible, offend as few as possible and hide their stances as much as possible. It’s why a discussion on tax policies always turns into: jobs are good. It’s why any conversation about entitlements turns into: old people are nice.

Poll after poll reveals that for the first time in recent American history, a majority of people believe the lives of this generation will not be better than the lives of the past generation. This is because our politicians refuse to put the long-term benefit of this country over the short-term political maneuvering that has incited the ire of the public and put Congress in a 14% approval rating.

So perhaps the very thing needed in society today was someone outside of the political system (truly outside of it, not just as a talking point). Buffett’s article has spread across the annals of social media like a wildfire –a testament to how much of a chord it has struck. It’s odd that a billionaire’s opinion on taxation would resonate so much with people who can relate to him so little –but that’s exactly the case. For those of us outside the D.C. environment, it’s quite obvious how desperately change based on pragmatic but drastic measures is to this country’s wellbeing. The majority of Americans favor increasing taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year. Despite the fact that the public has spoken, no provision of sorts was included in the recent debt deal, much to the glee of Grover Norquist I’m sure.

Let’s not let tax policy turn into what climate change has turned into. A majority of Americans believe that climate change is occurring and we need to enact more environmentally friendly policy –but a vocal few deniers have prevented this from happening. And while a majority of Americans still believe in climate change despite PR efforts on the extreme Right to dismiss its validity, the spin-tactics have had an undeniable effect on public opinion and the percent of people who believe in global warming has declined. Yes, you read that right: as more and more irrefutable scientific evidence proving the existence of global climate change has been promulgated, fewer Americans believe in it. (You can’t refute the evidence, but maybe you can refudiate it?)

That’s why I love Buffett’s op-ed. As a billionaire himself and someone of significant fiscal acumen, spinmasters can’t just use their usual ad hominem attacks against him. Since he’s not a political figure and because he’s arguing against his own financial interests, the PR machine can’t just dismiss him. He’s given a level of credibility to this stance on taxes that no politician or pundit could give.

A focal point of his argument is that raising taxes does not kill jobs. He mentions that during periods of high taxation, significant job growth has occurred. During a recent period of low tax rates, job creation fell off a cliff (the Bush years). The main point of the argument is not that billionaires do or don’t mind paying more taxes – it’s that the rate they pay has no correlation to how many people they employ.

Fiscal conservatives will argue that you can lower taxes and still increase overall tax revenue: this is true if the employment rate is high, so more people have taxable income (If there are more incomes to tax, then it is feasible that the government could gain more revenue by taxing more people at a lower rate than by taxing fewer people at a higher rate). But, it is a farce to mistake what could be true with what always is true –and furthermore, to argue this proves a causal correlation is wrong because it doesn’t. While low tax rates and increased revenues can occur concurrently, it has never been proven that low tax rates cause the job growth necessary to increase overall tax revenue in the country.


An Open Letter to the President

14 Aug

Dear President Obama,

Photo Credit: Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project

Three days of UK Riots, Bashar’s bloodbath on the streets of Syria, famine and violence in Somalia, inflation in China, global stock market uncertainty, high domestic unemployment, an increasingly probable double-dip recession and public distrust and disappointment with government officials dominate the world headlines. The world we live in is a layered and complicated place in which suffering and tragedy are daily events that we’ve learned to ignore in favor of concentration on the simple, the understandable and the easy.

I’m 22 years old and entering my last year of college, I will graduate with a Master’s degree in Public Communication and a Bachelor’s in English in 2012 because I enrolled in an accelerated degree program. I also plan to attend law school after graduation and I am currently in the process of studying for the LSAT. But for the past month and a half I’ve had difficulty concentrating. On October 1, I will take the most important test of my life and allow four hours to determine the trajectory of my career. For a test as important and difficult as the LSAT, I should be able to concentrate and care –but I’m having trouble doing so.

I believe my problems focusing on LSAT-preparation stem from my growing skepticism that a law degree will guarantee me any job-certainty or even employment. While I’ve wanted to be an attorney since my early childhood, the closer I get to my goal, the less certain I am that I’ve made the right choices. With education should come confidence. But young people growing up in this economic and social climate have very little of either, education or confidence.

2008 was the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in; I was hopeful and idealistic as young voters often are. For all of my idealism and hope, I feel you have not actually enacted any changes in the status quo that I can be proud of. I voted for you because I thought it would bring about changes in policy and the political climate. But I know that many of the other young voters, who came out for you in record numbers, voted for you because of what you stood for and because we believed that you understood that deep structural changes were necessary in the way that our government functioned.

You became the President at a very uncertain and unlucky time in American history. You inherited a great deal of failed policies, a deficit, two wars, a recession and a political system where change is based on backroom deals and not constituent voices.  I can now see that the kind of veering change that I expected was naïve. But the factor that most elicited my support of you, your eloquence and honesty, is a glimmer of what it was in 2008. While seven seasons of The West Wing have taught me that the idealism of the campaign must turn into pragmatism and realism in the actual presidency, I do not believe that that shift should manifest itself in the inability to stand up for what you believe in.

One of the most compelling statements you made in your campaign was when you said U.S. foreign policy should extend an open hand to the Middle East instead of a closed fist.  I know that the rhetoric of your campaign indicated that you would be a collaborative, pragmatic and compromising leader. While I know numerous Op-eds and pundits have already belabored this point, but I do want to state that compromise doesn’t mean capitulation. All leaders must have two hands, one open hand to compromise, but one closed fist to stand firm.

This brings me to the point of my introductory paragraph: the world is complicated. Each and every one of us has far less control over events than we can find comforting. I do not expect you to create miracles out of destitute situations across the globe and at home. But if you make the case for the things I thought you stood for in 2008, even if you don’t accomplish them, at least these issues will have a voice. There is structural inequality and systemic poverty in the world, I know you can’t solve it, but you are standing behind the largest, most powerful podium in the world. When you say something, it matters; which is why I hope that you will choose to say what matters in the future.

I know with 2012 around the corner, you must say what people want to hear rather than what they should hear, in order to get reelected, but I’m just not sure what the point of reelection is if we’re reelecting more of the same, especially when we all believed in change.

I will be voting for you in the 2012 election; but this time, not out of excitement and promise, but out of fear and uncertainty. Maybe that change in me is just a part of growing older. The small but resilient part of me that still hopes you will reemerge as a strong leader to re-inspire the nation wishes you the best of luck.

Thank you,