Originally Published: November 17, 2000 7:15 p.m.
Several writers did not appreciate my columns criticizing George W. Bush. They labeled me a socialist, got the facts of my life wrong and need to restudy American history and economics 101.
Those who think I am a socialist need to open their Webster's. Socialism is "theories or social movements advocating or aiming at collective government ownership of the means of production and control of the distribution of goods."
I advocate neither. I strongly support capitalism. But I am a compassionate capitalist. I think we need to level capitalism's playing field.
Unleveled and unrestrained capitalism tends to create a society sharply divided into a small group of the very rich and a much larger group of have-nots. Thus Roosevelt's "New Deal" strengthened unions, provided Social Security, and Johnson added Medicare. These, with a graduated income tax and other measures restrain the worst effects of capitalism, provide a fairer distribution of income and create the middle class America which most of us applaud and to which even the rich give lip service.
If my critics will read our history they will find the founders argued long over whether equality of income was necessary to sustain a democratic republic. They reached no final judgment.
Over years, the idea that all men are created equal was operationalized as a government role in assuring equality of opportunity to all. One of the reasons we were the first nation with a public school system open to all was, in part, to secure this kind of equality.
One writer assures us that "people must fend for themselves" and thus there should be no welfare, prescription drug help or socialized medicine. I note he does not suggest getting rid of Social Security or Medicare. Perhaps he benefits from these programs.
While it is true that the rich pay most of the taxes, it is equally true that the gap between the wealthiest 5 percent of society and the rest of us continues to grow despite their tax burden. A tax cut for the wealthy will widen the wealth gap.
We liberals fear that if wealth becomes too unequally divided, our democratic republic may be unsustainable. The ability of wealth to buy elections and influence legislation justifies that fear.
Another writer argues that the current boom was "born in Ronald Reagan's tax cuts." I know few economists who would support that statement. Reagan said we could have our cake and eat it too. We could cut taxes and spend more because rising growth rates would provide more income. Instead we got larger deficits and debt. Economics 101 tells us that savings and investment (often in new technologies) increase productivity, hence faster growth. Look up the data.
Reagan's tax cuts neither increased savings nor investment.
Too much money chasing too few goods causes inflation. Most economists say that a tax cut giving consumers more to spend in an already overheated economy will lift inflation rates and the Feds will raise interest rates to slow the economy down. I recently read three articles by Nobel Prize winning economists and all make this point.
One writer suggested that Al Gore had proposed a universal health plan, thus driving down HMO stock prices. He is wrong. Bill Bradley proposed such a plan. Neither Gore nor Bush proposed universal health plans.
Last, don't guess about my life. I was successful for 14 years in the private sector before returning to school to earn my Ph.D. Second, I am in the 39.5 percent bracket and so would benefit considerably from the Bush tax cut. I still oppose it. My belief in social justice as part of the good society is more important to me than my financial self-interest. That's what we liberals are all about.
(Justin Green wrote about and taught politics for 25 years before retiring to Prescott.)