Thursday August 2, 2012  - Volume 3, Number 4

© Copyright 2012, The Ultrapolis Project – All Rights Reserved.



Obama Will Have the Latitude to Engage His Opponent on Obama’s Terms

One year ago from this July 21, I posted on Facebook a ‘note’ titled “Observations from Shanghai: The Republicans Will Not Save Us,” which was later published on this website thru the UWFR January 25, 2012 issue.  In that same issue UWFR also repeated out its prediction for the electoral result awaiting us this November.  This last week there were several developments in the presidential election campaigns that once again not only illustrated the almost willful ideological blindness of the Republican Party and its most ardent supporters, but actually reinforced it.

-Marco Antonio Roberts, Editor


·      Corporations Are People Claim Will Fail Romney, Help Obama

·      The Pointless Truths About Taxes on the Rich (Republican and Democratic Straw Men Arguments)

·      Chick-fil-A: GBLT Influence at Risk

·      COMING SOON: Ultrapolis Town Hall on the Growing Wage Gap


Chick Fil A: G/BLT Influence on the Menu

Customer Choice Will Cause Gay Marriage Setback


The latest dust up over gay marriage will not deliver the expected gains for the GBLT movement.  Instead, it is exposing the fallibility of polls, and the reality that most Americans are not yet strongly supportive, rightly or wrongly, of this radical re-definition of marriage. (For our position, please see A Gay Defense of Traditional Marriage).


The idea for a gay kissathon protest tomorrow is particularly bad as it will not be well-received by middle-of-the-road folks, and will make gay marriage support appear small in comparison to the massive outpouring of support for Chick Fil A.  GBLT folks make a small percentage of the population, and most supportive straight folks are not likely to join a gay kissathon.  We question whether even most gay people would.


Chick Fil A was an especially poorly chosen target for the GBLT activists.  This company has a strong reputation for ethical treatment of employees, charity support, and is known to forego hundreds of millions in profits in the name of principle – something remarkable in today’s highly competitive marketplace where corporations routinely use “maximizing profit” as the justification for everything they do, regardless of consequences to employees, communities, and country.


Lastly, Americans generally don’t take well to calls for boycotts.  Except for extreme cases of abuse or outrageous actions, Americans typically bristle at being told what to buy or not to buy, and so boycotts don’t usually work. 




Line of Argument Sign of Republican/Romney Tin Ear


“Corporations Are People” Argument is Lippy, Reactionary

On July 15, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal featured a column titled by the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, and his wife Suzy, “It's True: Corporations Are People.” The column had the added cheeky subtitle “What else could they be? Buildings don't hire people. Buildings don't design cars that run on electricity or discover drug therapies to defeat cancer.”  (Perhaps we could say that cars are people.  After all, cars don’t drive themselves to places, or change their oil.)  Befitting the stereotype of a likely author, Jack Welch has been criticized for what his detractors call his lack of compassion for the middle and low level employees at his companies, and for his expressed sentiment that the growing disparity between executive pay and everyone else’s is not his concern. In that context, the column would seem true to character, and perhaps should have been titled “It’s True: Jack Welch and His Wife Are Avaricious Asses.”


The column’s disingenuous title, and the lippy tone of its subtitle, aptly summarized its contents: a cynically and intellectually insulting game of semantics.  Of course corporations “are,” or are not, "people" depending on the context.  But, if they "are people," then they are in the same way all organizations - be they a crime mob, a government, a charity, a church, or even the Nazi Gestapo - "are people." Organizations are vehicles for human action.  So this argument is pointless, except as a charade meant to divert attention from the real question: what political rights should corporations have?  Obviously, we don’t give crime mobs the same rights or benefits as churches, or view them with as morally equivalent because they 'are people.'  One would expect such a crude and ridiculous staunchly ideological argument fostered by the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, and perhaps some Libertarians. It is disheartening to see it propagated on the pages of the Wall Street Journal.  But, the WSJ is on a tear these days, as is most of fiscal conservativedom, as its evermore ideological inhabitants rally against the evermore ideological assailants of capitalism. 


In the following Monday’s WSJ’s editorial pages we found another similarly shallow argumentation of fiscal conservative platitudes, this one on how the rich pay more than “their fare share” of taxes, headlined “The Latest News on Tax Fairness” by Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President Bush I, with the subtitle: “A new Congressional Budget Office reports shows the share of taxes paid by the top 20% has gone up over the last 30 years, while the share of taxes paid by everyone else has gone down,” which tells you all you need to know to know there are no new arguments here.  This has been argued for the last twenty years, each time as if some new revelation is being brought to the attention to the public.  Yes, the argument is pointlessly true, just as it is also pointlessly true what liberals have equally disingenuously counter-argued: that tax cuts benefit the wealthy.  These arguments both are like saying that you get more water out of a cup that has more water in it.  (See more on this point below.)


Hardened Arguments Will Fail in the Center

However, though not a scientific survey, it was interesting and somewhat telling to see that most WSJ readers, not a socialist liberal lot, who replied to the Welch column, did not buy it.  Corporations are amoral, but can be very powerful.  And, as we have seen thru so many public examples (the Glaxo SmithKline scandal most recently), as well as in the direct experience of those of us who work for them, the profit motive can often lead to the economic, and sometimes even physical destruction of many lives, especially when millions or billions are involved, and when the profit drive is unchecked by strong moral codes or effective laws.  Most folks near the middle know the truth is a mix.  And most realize that all power, corporate or governmental, needs to be kept in check.


The reality is that activist conservatives and liberals that are moving further and further to opposite sides of the political spectrum don’t see that this is not expanding their appeal to new converts.  Instead, we have a growing middle that sees less and less relevance from the dominant two political ideologies for solutions to problems in their own lives.  Grass-roots efforts are becoming more strident in their views, and more defensive of all the implications of their ideologies (e.g., the irony of Christian conservatives saying “greed is good,” or aging hippies preaching “government always knows best”), while establishment types pay lip service to them.  The reason for the David Dewhurst’s recent defeat at the hands of the anti-establishment candidate Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination for the Texas U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison was at its core, a frustration with that lip service.


Obama Will Take the Center

In the end, it is our assessment that the Republicans will lose in this presidential race because, as much as people are losing confidence in President Barak Obama’s administration, the middle part of the electorate that decides elections is not seeing in the Republicans a coherent response, and are not going to be convinced by the pro-unfettered corporation rhetoric.  Moreover, as Governor Mitt Romney continues to have to shore up the conservative side of his electoral base, he will not be able to run to the middle as is a must in these elections.  The Tea Party will see to that.  Today’s polls aside, once the debates begin, President Obama will have the latitude to argue from the center.  In short, Governor Romney cannot win a national debate with the core idea that unrestrained corporate power is all good – not when even moderate Republicans and independents can see their jobs being outsourced abroad while CEO pay again surges even as corporations benefit from government handouts.  But, if Romney tries to move away from that position, his loudest defenders will abandon him.


The Tea Party is not to be faulted.  It is raising legitimate issues.  It is the flip-side of Occupy Wall Street.  For all their ideological differences, these two movements are both reactionary and ideologically defensive, but also a result of political frustration that has grown beyond the norm.  And both are a revolt against the crony corporate capitalism that has been entrenched and protected thru government by our legislators (the conservative revolt, of course, is better organized).  Unfortunately, instead of magnifying their influence where they agree, they have divided the opposition to crony corporate powerbrokers that explicitly tell us that moral or national welfare concerns are not their problem.  (Prediction:  The Tea Party influence will grow within the Republican Party, but the party itself will weaken).


We said last year the Republicans have no answers (See Observations from Shanghai:  The Republicans Will Not Save Us).  They are simply offering going back to what got us here in the first place.  Most people can sense that.  And if they don’t fully see that now, Mr. Obama will make sure they do by November.  This is not a vindication of President Obama.  It is an indictment of a sclerotic political system that can no longer advance progress.


About Taxes & the Rich: It’s All True – And Pointless

Here are some basics on taxes that are always true (except under the most unlikely, regressive tax system).


The Rich Pay a Larger Share of Taxes Today for a Very Good Reason

The rich pay a larger share of taxes today because they are richer today – that is, they get a larger share of the economic pie than they did before (most of you and I get proportionately less for the same amount of work than we did before).  To answer Mr. Fleischer and all other conservatives who bring this up as some sort of proof of just how more burdened the rich are with taxes:  Nonsense.  To complain about how the rich have been taxed the last ten years is astonishingly, self-servingly myopic.  Of course the share of income taxes paid by the wealthiest will go up when their share of income goes up, even with the Bush tax cuts.  If a CEO gives himself a pay raise while he outsources everyone else’s job to low-paid workers in Third World countries, yes – his share of income taxes goes up while everyone else’s’ goes down. For the CEO class to then moan that this is unfair is nothing short of intense, cynical or solipsistic greed.  Furthermore, what these arguments never take into account is the real, effective tax rate that we all pay to cover all government expenditures.  We all pay a flat tax rate in Social Security and Medicare taxes, and this tax rate is actually harshly regressive, where the lowest-paid workers actually pay a higher percentage of their total earnings than the wealthy.  As for the argument that we shouldn’t count these taxes because they go into a ‘lockbox’ where it is saved for the retirement of those paying those taxes, this is an accounting fiction.  The fact is all these taxes are used to pay the same things that income taxes pay.  There is no trust fund, and the Social Security and Medicare taxes paid are not assigned to anyone’s individual account.  At anytime the government can change or abolish whatever benefits anyone is entitled to, the same was as any other government benefit, like welfare, food stamps, or even roads.  So, when you consider those taxes, working class actually pays a much higher rate.  And if you take it a step further, and account for the wages not paid to employees because employers must take those dollars in taxes on behalf of those employees (taxes they do not have to pay for most of CEO compensation), the real effective tax rate for the lower and middle class wage earners begins to approach 50%. 


The Rich Benefit More From Tax Cuts for a Very Good Reason

Tax cuts benefit the wealthy disproportionately because they pay more tax in the first place.  To answer liberals who make this counter claim, any proportioned tax cut of tax rates will always benefit the rich more, if we are talking about absolute dollars.  It is preposterous to object to tax cuts on that basis.  If a CEO is paying $100,000.00 in taxes, while one of his employees is paying $5,000.00, obviously an even cut on the tax rates will give many more dollars back to the CEO.  About the only way to prevent that is to do something like what President Obama is proposing, which is to cut off tax cuts at incomes above $250,000 a year (even in the president’s plan, the rich will get a more dollars back in their pocket).  This may be acceptable policy under specific circumstances, but it makes no sense to say that you can only raise tax rates on the rich and then you can never lower them again since they benefit disproportionately from tax rate reductions.


Ultrapolis Town Hall Meetings Coming in September

First Topic: The Truth About the Growing Wage Gap Between the Rich and the Middle Class


The first week of September we will host a “town hall” event that will invite attendees to participate in a discussion on the reported decline in the middle class share of the national income, during the same period in which those at the top of the economic ladder have increased their share.  The event will include an opening presentation to set the stage for the discussion, a moderated open discussion on the topic, and a vote on options for a solution, with the opportunity to send a joint message to our elected representatives. The results of the discussion and vote will be reported in the UWFR.  The event will have a social framework to promote respectful and friendly discussion and exchange of ideas, and perhaps the chance to meet new like-minded friends.


If you would like more information, please write to contactproject@ultrapolisproject.com, or contact Marco Antonio Roberts directly.



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© Copyright 2012, The Ultrapolis Project – All Rights Reserved.