Sunday, September 25, 2011

America Prospered in the 1950s With a 91-percent High-End Tax Rate


I must admit, listening to the current debate over President Obama's tax hike proposal is a surreal experience. It just goes to show you that in the modern era, Americans have memories that stretch back no more than 15 minutes.

During the 1950s, America had a 91 percent high-end tax rate. If the 50s had been a dismal economic decade, then it could stand as "Exhibit A" for the GOP to use in attacking high tax rates today.

But in reality, it was an extremely prosperous decade for America. In fact, it was a prosperous decade for the great majority of Americans (in contrast to the past three decades, which have seen only the Top One Percent prosper). In fact, in many ways, the 1950s was a truly golden decade. While it wasn't, of course, perfect, the 1950s seems like a million miles away from today's Third World-like America.

In the 1950s, American workers made the highest wages in the world. We also enjoyed the best workers' benefits and the longest vacations. Most high-tech products were made in America. I'm not sure what the world's top 10 corporations and top 10 banks were in the 50s. But I'd bet they were all American.

American had a trade SURPLUS in the 50s. The dollar was strong. The U.S. middle class was the envy of the world. The U.S. made the best cars in the world. America's manufacturing base and infrastructure were second to none. U.S. public schools trounced their counterparts worldwide. Nations around the world regularly sent representatives here to study how we did it.

The 1950s was the decade that America became AMERICA, the superpower. We really were No. 1 back in the 50s. Today, we're only No. 1 in the minds of the "Rah Rah U.S.A.!" jingoistic retards of the Tea Party.

And all of this with a high-end 91 percent income tax rate.

Today's Republicans condemn Obama's attempts to raise the tax rate even modestly. They'd have us believe that even a small increase in taxes on billionaires would be disastrous for the U.S. economy.

The GOP, as usual, relies on the ignorance of the American public. I mean, how many people even know that the high-end tax rate was ever as high as 91 percent in the U.S.? I talk to Republicans all the time who're convinced that tax rates today are the highest they've ever been in U.S. history. Credit the Great GOP Noise Network of Fox/Drudge/Rush for dumbing down tens of millions of Americans.

Today's Republicans are always babbling on about "What Would Reagan Do?" (In fact, Reagan himself raised taxes on 11 occasions).

I find it interesting, though, how the Republicans never consider "What Would Eisenhower Do?" I find it interesting how they ignore the wisdom of Eisenhower, a true American hero who won World War II for America and then presided over the booming, prosperous 1950s.

Today's Republicans completely ignore Ike. Instead they worship at the altar of Reagan, a mediocre president, a lousy B-movie actor, and a coward who never set foot outside of Hollywood during World War II.

The GOP worships at the altar of a man who had contempt for international law, who presided over a White House that illegally sold arms to terrorists in Iran and then used the money to fund terrorists in Central America. Oh, and Reagan more than tripled the national deficit, leaving America with the ever-growing multi-trillion dollar deficits that plague the U.S. to this day.

One wonders what Eisenhower would have made of today's GOP. I'd suspect he would be sickened by today's Republicans, who want to roll back the New Deal. In fact, he called those who would abolish Social Security "stupid."

"Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
---President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

Monday, September 19, 2011

Palin Book Author Joe McGinniss Unfairly Attacked By "Liberal" Media Outlets


I have to admit, I'm baffled by the hostility coming from "Liberal" media outlets toward The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, Joe McGinniss's new book.

For me, the only question is whether McGinniss's revelations about Palin are true or not. If Palin wants to dispute their accuracy, then fine: she can file a libel suit. Otherwise, she needs to STFU.

Another question is this: is it really important whether Palin snorted coke? Yes, I believe it is. Palin is a Bible-thumping, holier-than-thou, right-winger and a member of a political party that supports a harsh "lock-them-up-and-throw-away the-key" approach to drugs. That idiotic stance accounts for a large portion of the $200 billion that taxpayers are forced to pay yearly to keep 2.2 million Americans behind bars.

If Palin was a true Libertarian and openly supported decriminalization, then her personal drug use would not be that important. But given that she is on the far-right of a GOP party that has been responsible for the insane Drug War over the decades, then, yes: I do think people should know whether or not she's a hypocrite on this issue.

I also find it interesting how "Liberal" outlets like Salon are suddenly feeling so sorry for Poor Little Sarah. They're taking Mean Old Man McGinniss to task over his bare-knuckles expose of Palin's hypocrisy.

But all McGinniss is doing is serving up a big dose of what Palin has always served up to others in her bare-knuckle style of politics.

In fact, what Palin has done to others is far worse. After all, nothing McGinniss has written has proven to be wrong.

By contrast, Palin routinely lies and smears her opponents with outrageous falsehoods. Recall how she smeared President Obama's health-care bill with her despicable lie that it provided for "Death Panels."

Over the years, Palin has repeatedly smeared Obama with various malicious attacks. Recall how she claimed that Obama was "palling around with terrorists."

And let's not forget Palin's infamous "target" map that illustrated Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' 8th district with target crosshairs

As Giffords herself put it in an MSNBC interview 8 months before she was shot, "The way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that action."

Frankly, the Democrats who are falling over themselves to slam McGinniss sicken me.

Increasingly since 1980, the GOP has come after the progressives with a switchblade. And we think we can fight back with politeness and good manners.

The increasingly rabid right-wing has gotten pretty much everything it wanted since 1980 with bare-knuckle tactics and fighting tooth and claw. They even stole at least one presidential election, simply because they were more aggressive in claiming they "won." And now, they're systematically tearing down what remains of America's social safety net.

And what have progressives gotten for all their politeness and good manners over the decades? Nothing. We've taken it up the ass over and over while the GOP has driven this nation over a cliff.

Look, progressives, if you want to criticize "bad" journalism, please give McGinniss a break. Instead, take the fight to Fox "News" and other right-wing propaganda outlets that are committing the real outrages in this country.

All McGinniss is doing is giving Palin a well-deserved dose of her own medicine. And by exposing her contemptible hypocrisy, he's doing the nation a favor.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A 9/11 Conspiracy Theory That Makes Sense


I find it interesting how, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the whole once-noisy "Truther" movement seems to have faded away. 9/11 conspiracy theories were already on the wane before Bin Laden was killed. Now, they've faded into the woodwork.

I myself have long been allergic to conspiracy theories. Whether one is talking about the JFK killing, or Princess Diana's death, or 9/11, the problem is that conspiracy theories tend to suffer the common problems of either (A) being too implausible or (B) raising more questions that they answer.

Personally, I believe "our" government has yet to tell us the truth of what really happened on Sept. 11, 2001. But on the other hand, I'm not ready to join the ranks of those who believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by explosives that were covertly smuggled in.

Most 9/11 conspiracy theories I've heard are just wacky. They don't make much sense. For example, if the Twin Towers were really brought down by planted explosives, then what, exactly, was the whole point of the hijacked airliners? If some secret Bush cabal was really behind 9/11, then why not just detonate the towers and leave it at that? Why make the whole conspiracy vastly more complicated by including the hijacked airliners scenario?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these Bush-supporting, Truther-bashing wingnuts who scoff at the very notion of a 9/11 conspiracy.

In fact, I personally believe that there was a 9/11 conspiracy. But it wasn't anything like the "Truther" movement has conceived. And unlike some elaborate James Bond-style plot, this 9/11 conspiracy theory was prompted by decidedly unsexy factors like plain old incompetence and the U.S. government's "cover-your-butt" mentality.

After all, as we now know, George W. Bush himself was real big on butt-covering himself. Exhibit A of the latter came on Aug. 6, 2001, when, in the middle of a 5-week vacation, Bush was handed a Presidential Daily Briefing that warned: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Bush's response that day was to tell his CIA briefers: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

However, unlike most of the elaborate, far-fetched 9/11 conspiracy theories out there, there is one conspiracy theory that actually makes sense.

My own 9/11 conspiracy theory is as follows. The Saudi government (or at least powerful, key elements of it) knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. And what's more, powerful key players in the U.S. government now know that the Saudis knew in advance.

Note that I'm not saying that the U.S. government knew about 9/11 in advance. But I do believe it's highly plausible that key players in our government did know, after the fact, that the Saudis knew in advance.

Personally, I think this conspiracy theory makes sense and it goes a long ways toward explaining a number of mysteries that linger from that day.

For example, Truthers have long (rightly) been skeptical about why the Bush White House long fought to cover any 9/11 investigations with a veil of secrecy.

Whether one believes in a conspiracy or not, one undeniable fact is that our government has long been working hard to cover up something.

I believe the 9/11 conspiracy theory I've presented would explain several other mysteries. One is why the Bush White House was so eager to fly various Saudis, including extended members of Bin Laden's own family, out of the country, in the days following 9/11.

Some commentators, including Michael Moore, raised this issue years ago. Now, a decade after 9/11, this mystery continues to be unexplained. In fact, at least one flight of a Saudi national took place during the period in which all flights were ordered grounded by the FAA. For three years, the White House denied the very existence of this Sept. 13, 2001, flight, from Tampa, Fla. to Lexington, Ky.---that is, until Tampa International Airport finally confirmed it, in 2004.

(Note that the site attempts to make the case that the Tampa, Fla. to Lexington, Ky. flight didn't actually occur before national airspace was open to general aviation. But in this case, it appears that is wrong).

It's clear, then the U.S. was giving the Saudis special treatment. But why? If the Saudis had damaging information about the U.S. government's 9/11 knowledge, this would make perfect sense.

It'd also explain why the U.S. always treated the Saudis with kid gloves after 9/11. It's odd when you consider that, at a time the Bush White House was already gearing up to go to war with Iraq (a nation that, of course, had nothing to do with 9/11), the Bush team was bending over backwards to accommodate the extraordinary demands of Saudi Arabia---the nation where 15 of the 19 hijackers came from.

The Saudis, in fact, rarely cooperated with the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11. They refused for years to allow U.S. investigators access to the financial trail of the hijackers, for one thing.

Why, exactly, didn't the Bush White House press the Saudis on this valuable data? Could it be that the Saudis had the Bush team by the balls?

The U.S.-knew-that-the-Saudis-knew conspiracy theory would also explain a major mystery that was uncovered by investigative author Gerald Posner, in his 2003 book, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11.

In the book, Posner related the amazing story of the CIA interrogation of Saudi citizen Abu Zubaydah, a man who has never been charged with a crime, but who was waterboarded during CIA interrogations. (The CIA later destroyed videos of the interrogations in 2005).

Posner writes that the CIA flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex painstakingly furnished to resemble a Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces, would play the role of his new inquisitors."

Posner continues:

"What transpired in the next hour took the American investigators completely by surprise. When Zubaydah was confronted with men passing themselves off as Saudi security officers, his reaction was not fear but instead relief. The prisoner, who had been reluctant even to confirm his identity to his American captors, suddenly started talking animatedly. He was happy to see them, he said, because he feared the Americans would torture and then kill him. Zabaydah asked his interrogators to call a senior member of the ruling Saudi royal family. He then provided a private home number and a cell phone number from memory. "He will tell you what do," Zubaydah promised them."

Posner notes that, during the interrogation, Zubaydah revealed the names of four powerful figures, from both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Not long afterward, all four people met untimely deaths, under mysterious circumstances.

What's notable about Posner's revelation is that he is an extremely skeptical writer who has built his career by debunking conspiracy theories. He is the author of two books that demolish many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassinations of JFK and MLK.

The more one reads about the Saudi government's behavior in the aftermath of 9/11, the more clear it becomes that the Saudis have long demanded (and received) extraordinary special treatment from the U.S. on all matters 9/11-related.

It's clear the U.S. government has been extremely reluctant to provoke the Saudis in any way. A reasonable explanation for this is that the Saudi have dirt on the U.S. government (or at least a number of powerful key players in our government). The U.S.-knew-that-the-Saudis-knew conspiracy theory would go a long ways toward explaining this mystery.

I'd expect that many conspiracy-weary readers will object to my theory on the grounds that President Obama would certainly have investigated and revealed this matter by now.

But if anything has been certain about Obama since he assumed the White House, it's that he simply isn't interested in investigating any of the crimes of the Bush administration. We've already seen clear evidence of that in other areas. After all, three years after the 2008 financial crash, not a single high-profile Wall Street player has faced criminal charges in the aftermath of what was the biggest financial fraud ever foisted upon the American people.