The Oklahoman

Enviers Of The World, Unite!

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Sometimes an unsigned, in-house editorial in The Oklahoman serves as such a glaring example of sophomoric, nonsensical argumentation that it’s difficult to believe it actually appeared in a daily, metropolitan newspaper.

It raises questions like these: Does someone really get paid for writing this nonsense? Does the writer really believe in the “argument” or is it a case of just following orders? Does The Oklahoman really think its readers are that stupid?

On Friday, an editorial appeared on the newspaper’s NewsOK.com site that, without one shred of evidence, reached this unremarkable and completely untrue conclusion: Those people who want wealthy people to pay more in taxes base their desire on envy. Oh, that’s the main problem with the universe these days, isn’t it? Envy. One of the deadly sins.

Titled appropriately enough, “One constant in push to raise taxes on the wealthy: envy,” the editorial is a meandering, senseless exercise in defending regressive, unfair taxation and widening wealth disparity in this country, nothing new for The Oklahoman. But what it absolutely doesn’t do is provide one iota of evidence that those who want to roll back the Bush-era tax cuts on millionaires do so because they’re sick with envy.

The editorial makes the argument that the rich pay the most in taxes, arguing, “. . . if more people were in the 1 percent class despised by the class-envy crowd, more money would be flowing to Washington to fund government programs desired by that crowd.”

Note the clichéd, GOP slogan “class-envy crowd” and the word “despise.” In what universe does the writer of this hackneyed, mediocre mush live? Who makes up this class-envy crowd? Who exactly do they despise? And, of course, the rich pay more in taxes. They have all the money.

After citing some statistics about how much rich folks pay in taxes, glossing over their reduced rate from earlier time periods and completely ignoring growing wealth disparity, the editorial reaches its foregone conclusion: “So what's left in the tax-hike justification arsenal? Nothing but this: Envy of the very small group of people paying a very large share of the taxes.”

Oh yeah, that terrible envy, envy, envy. Run for your lives. Take cover.

What sheer nonsense.

The main problem here is not just the way The Oklahoman lovingly depicts the Benevolent American Aristocracy, which it has always argued should be worshipped for being so generous and kind with its vast treasures, it’s also that, again, the editorial doesn’t provide any empirical reasoning for the envy argument.

Is there really a group that defines itself as the class-envy crowd? Are there books and articles that discuss the current class-envy levels as a problematic or critical issue in terms of taxation? Are there statistical data and studies on the issue? Has envy been studied in a neurological sense and can those studies be applied to class issues? How does envy manifest itself in childhood development and how does that later become part of class-oriented awareness and lead to taxation beliefs?

In other words, where’s the evidence? The editorial doesn’t provide any at all.

How does one go about defining envy, anyway? Is it envy if a single mother trying to feed and clothe her children sees a wealthy person and wishes she were rich, too, and didn’t have financial worries? Is it envy if an unemployed 50-year-old man drives past a large, expensive home and wishes he could own one just like it? Is it envy if a young couple wishes they could afford to take a long vacation just like the wealthy often do?

The editorial, of course, doesn’t even try to define it.

What the editorial also doesn’t do is cite the empirical evidence that shows how much rich people have increased their wealth in recent decades even as their tax rates have gone down. One study shows that from 1992 to 2007, the country’s richest 400 households experienced an income growth of 392 percent and saw their tax liability fall by 37 percent. That’s just one study.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the wealthiest among us currently have skyrocketing incomes and pay less in taxes on a percentage basis than everyone else. How in the world does preparing such studies that show wealthy disparity or speaking about the issue in terms of taxation translate into envy? There are sound, credible arguments for a fair and progressive taxation system, and there are sound and credible arguments for creating wealth. What does envy have to do with it? Nothing.

Here’s the deal: The Oklahoman, now owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anshutz, has no real argument for providing cover for the 1-percent crowd, and a video clip of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has shown that it’s the 1 percent who are doing all the despising, not anyone else. There’s the real class warfare as rational people knew all along.

All this GOP hackneyed and archaic “class envy” reductionist argumentation has been completely exposed again this election season as fraudulent remnants of a dead, trickle-down fiscal ideology. Unfortunately, there are Oklahomans who will be manipulated by senseless and unproven claims about class envy and even repeat those claims as their incomes remain stagnant or even drop. I’m not envious of those people either.

Romney Won’t Worry

“And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."—Mitt Romney talking to rich donors about people who will vote for President Barack Obama

The video clip showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney making a pledge “not to worry” about almost half of the American people, many of them in red states, should doom his election chances and result in a landslide for President Barack Obama.

It plays into every disparaging stereotype and expectation one might have about the Republican Party, and it’s a personal indictment against a man who portrays himself as a compassionate, former religious leader, who once took care of less-fortunate members of the Mormon church.

But will it really cost him the election?

Here’s the quote played around the country in recent days as the video clip surfaced:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.... These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

The only truthful parts of this statement are that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax and that Romney will apparently not worry about them. The lies are apparent: (1) Many red-state voters who will probably vote for Romney, including a majority of the elderly, don’t pay federal income tax. (2) People who pay no federal income tax include those working at low-paying jobs. They are not dependent on the government, and they pay other taxes.

Obviously, Romney is merely giving voice to the fictional trope of the American aristocracy about the lowly masses, but it’s so brazen and crass that surely some bigwig GOP operatives are worried some red-staters might feel duped and unloved, especially in the swing state of Florida.

In fact, Romney’s entire campaign may have brought the GOP to a huge crossroads when it comes to obsessively supporting the interests of the wealthy. A GOP loss in this presidential election will force an internal discussion about the party’s future; a landslide loss could finally create the permanent schism between the wealthy Republican aristocracy and their useful tools (especially the ones that don’t pay income taxes) that might begin a much-needed reversal of extreme wealth disparity in this country. Or is that too hopeful?

The GOP still has its huge propaganda machine, of course, including the editorial page of The Oklahoman, in one of the most conservative states in the country. The Oklahoman has also never met a rich person it didn’t like.

This is really a headline of an editorial that appeared Monday on NewsOK.com, the web site of The Oklahoman:

“Plan to further tax the rich would leave less for the wealthy to give away”.

It doesn’t get more obvious than that. The entire editorial constructs a narrative of a benevolent American aristocracy that, well, needs even more money to help the less fortunate. The aristocracy, not voters, knows best who deserves help and who doesn’t, and the rest of us should embrace it. I’m sure Romney would agree with the newspaper’s position.

According to the editorial:

. . . Obama demonizes the wealthy and holds them up as villains who ought to be paying their “fair share” of taxes. Rather than scorn, they deserve their fair share of credit.

Note Obama’s demonization is urging a system of “fair share” taxes. Why are fair taxes so terrible? Does The Oklahoman not believe in the concept of “fair”? Of course, it doesn’t, and neither does Romney.

OKC Native Elizabeth Warren Earns National Spotlight

“Now, there's something I've noticed lately. You probably have, too. And it's this. Maybe just because I grew up in a different time, but though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.”—Bill Clinton in his speech at the Democratic National Convention

Image of Elizabeth Warren

Oklahoma City native Elizabeth Warren delivered a well-received speech at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, but don’t expect the conservative corporate media here to praise it.

Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor now running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, chaired a Congressional panel beginning in 2008 that oversaw the federal Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and she later helped create the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau.

In essence, she served as a major watchdog for American citizens during one of the country’s worst economic downturns in history, a daunting task she completed with great skill.

Warren, pictured right, grew up with modest means and was raised by working class parents in Oklahoma City. She attended Northwest Classen High School before leaving the state at a young age. She’s a role model—or should be a role model—for thousands of Oklahoma City area students, who also may come from low-income homes.

In one of her speech’s most powerful moments, Warren directly challenged GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement on the campaign trail that corporations are people when he offhandedly referred to the legal concept of corporate personhood. “No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people,” Warren said. “People have hearts. They have kids. They get jobs. They get sick. They cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die, and that matters. That matters.”

Warren’s personal story and her success are compelling. Her speech was remarkable. But the local corporate media here, led by The Oklahoman, have pretty much normalized what former President Bill Clinton referred to Wednesday night as the “hate” of the “far right that now controls” the Republican Party. In other words, don’t expect good reviews for Warren’s speech in the local corporate press.

Under the prevailing Oklahoma GOP rubric and its propaganda machines, someone like Warren is an enemy and a left-wing radical because she’s a Democrat and she supports President Barack Obama. It doesn’t matter if she’s a hometown girl or not.

An editorial in The Oklahoman this convention week makes it clear. The downward slide of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is because of President Obama, according to the editorial. What Democrats here need to do, and I guess by extension all Democrats, including Warren, is reject the president of their own political party, it argues. If they do that, then everything will be okay with Democrats.

Of course, the newspaper itself, one of the most conservative in the nation, isn’t to be held accountable for its one-sided, inane and consistent criticism of Obama or, for that matter, Clinton either when he was president. All the hatred for these presidents was generated independently of the right-wing noise machine, right?

Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin is serving as an attack dog for Mitt Romney’s campaign this week in Charlotte as Oklahoma taxpayers pick up some of the tab. Now there’s a hometown girl The Oklahoman can recognize for doing a good job.

The larger picture is this: Even if the GOP does win the presidency this year using the politics of hate and lies, it remains an endangered species in its current form in the long-term because of the growing diversity and cultural tolerance of this country. It will have to move left to survive as a viable political party, even in Oklahoma eventually. But there’s much damage it can do to the country’s social, medical and educational infrastructure in a few short years.

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