Continuing the Highest Lesson for Mr. Turner (Part IV)

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Before I get to the Israel question, I feel I must add a few more facts to the history lesson, about our country Shrub inherited and the mess he left it in. I hope you and Mr. Turner will stay with me, or protest. Reactions are welcome

Bill Clinton presided over the longest economic expansion on record with falling unemployment, rising incomes and improved competitiveness with other nations. Present suggestions from Willard Romney would raise taxes on many lower-income Americans and sharply cut taxes on the high end. As the 1921 song has it, “The rich get rich and the poor get children.”

Warren G. Harding, another winner, was president then. Look him up. You’ll have a ball. So did he. It was the Jazz Age after all. He was followed by Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, famous, among other things, for having Hoovervilles named for him. And I don’t mean gated communities.

The share of government benefits going to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54 percent in 1979 to 36 percent in 2007, according to the Congressional Budget Office. These are the latest figures I could find.

The Census Bureau has reported that nearly one in six Americans — 46.2 million — live in poverty, the highest number ever reported by the Bureau. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the period from 2001 to 2007 was the first recovery on record where the level of poverty was deeper and the median income of working-age people was lower at the end than at the beginning. Those were the years of Shrub and Republican congresses, even before the Great Recession they brought us.

When Clinton was president, more than 22 million jobs were created. Compare that to the 2.5 million jobs when Shrub was the boss. The Great Recession, which started under Shrub, ended six months after Obama took office. It cost the country 8 million jobs. We are beginning to make progress, but, as I wrote before, we have a very deep financial hole to dig out of.

Obama wants to restore tax rates to what they were in the Clinton era, when all those jobs were created. By 2007, the share of pre-tax income received by the top 20 percent had risen to 55 percent of the population. Congress and Shrub chopped their maximum income tax rate in half to 35 percent. The share of income for every other group in the country went down.

All the Bush tax cuts were the single biggest contributor to the deficit, reducing revenues by about $1.8 trillion between 2002 and 2009. Yes, that’s trillions. It is almost a certainty, in this era of “no compromise,” that Congress will do little if anything about the economy between now and the election.And then?

I happen to be an admirer of Clint Eastwood, as a director and an actor. His films, “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Letter from Iwo Jima” are, in my opinion, some of the finest done in the last few decades. Eastwood’s politics have been all over the lot, to some people, or intelligently non-idealogical to more.

On Super Bowl Sunday this year, Eastwood was the spokesman for a long ad for Chrysler, one of the companies which has come alive again, thanks to aid from the federal government. Eastwood donated his fee to charity. In that ad, he said this: “All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together?”

He was speaking about motor vehicles, but I think he was speaking about our country, to which he has devoted so many years of talent. Eastwood didn’t need the money for the ad and I think he would not have said the words if he did not believe in them.

You can see the ad and hear the words again on your computer. It is worth doing. By the way, Chrysler has repaid most of the loans it received from the United States and Canadian governments. And its many new workers are paying their share in taxes, as are the new workers of the vendors Chrysler purchases products from. Whether or not you buy a car from Chrysler, please try to buy into Eastwood’s message when you exercise your rights as an American citizen. Those rights, to me, are the most precious we have.

But I must leave those afflicted with Permanent Political Amnesia (and there are so many!) with some thoughts about “debt ceilings,” which is a new phrase for doing little or nothing about much.

Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times. That’s eighteen. Shrub raised the debt ceiling 7 times. That’s seven. Bill Clinton raised the debt ceiling 4 times. That’s four. Reagan and Shrub never had a balanced budget, which helped raise the national debt. Clinton had a balanced budget in three of his last four years in office and he left with a surplus.

One final note, which Turner could have read as far back as last September, before the election: The gap between the wealthiest Americans and their fellow-citizens is the widest it has been since the 1920s.

Does anyone care, really? John Adams sang about it in the musical “1776” : “Is Anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?”

I will get around to That Special Election, or “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,” but in the meantime I am hoping to pull off, for this Luddite, a technological coup. I have written a very long piece on civil discourse, centering on “The Second Coming,” a poem by William Butler Yeats, and including contemporary comments. I hope the first half of it can appear as my column, “I Sit and Look Out” and at the same time have the second part appear as a blog. We shall see.

Updated 5:52 pm, July 13, 2012
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