24 December 2010

A Very Few Words

This being Christmas Eve, which (despite the spleen of evangelical Christians) is about way more than Jesus, I have just a few things to share before appropriately focusing on family and faith.

1. Read this passage by C. Joshua Villines from the "Religion Dispatches" website. Excellent splenectomy for those mentioned above.

2. Read A Christmas Carol, which for me is still the best theology of the day there is. Note I said "read." It is short, excellent, and far better than any filmed version.

3. Browse the resources I have compiled via my church website. I even recommend my own volume of short stories.

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good night!"

15 December 2010

Just Resting My Eyes

Yep, it's been a while since I dropped you a line. The holiday thing is a lot of work, good work, but a lot nonetheless. And our stocking was made even fuller this week as we now have three memorial services to prepare before Christmas Eve.

Now, I want to stomp around about the new tax bill, but Bernie Sanders did that far better than I ever could. He is a senator after all. But then I ran into this thoughtful piece by David Leonhardt, which picks up on a theme I articulated in the UUWorld back in 2006. I felt better, more expansive.

This law should it pass, thought I today, is but the next law in a series of laws that will come and go. There is no last word on taxes or jobs.

It is not right to protect the very rich, especially in the despicable way it wraps the uber-rich in the mantle of being really just middle class 'plus.' And because it is unfair to single out one group to carry more of a burden, the rich being somewhat afflicted you see, and therefore not unlike slaves or immigrants who were made to do more work than the others. All Americans are equal, right? And in these difficult times we need a sense of unity, and so everyone should be treated the same when it comes to taxes. Shoulder to shoulder, right?

(Breath in, breathe out. Aum.)

I'm enjoying my equanimity this evening so let me take the high ground instead.

Unquestionably, the immense disparity of the have-a-whole-lots and have-a-lot-lesses is not only morally perilous it is probably socially dangerous, as we now have a greater gulf between the wealthy and the poor than those backward central American nations with their semi annual coups and rotating juntas.

There will be another law, a better one perhaps. As one who feels deeply the tragic algebra of power, back to fabled Oedipus and Croesus, I have absolute faith in the law of Compensation, as Emerson called it (although I do not share his view of it). We will push back to the monied interests eventually. But like a spring being coiled, the longer it takes the more intense the eventual reaction.

That, to me, is what government is for. It governs the steam engine of society, if you will. When it gets too hot, it lets off steam before the whole thing blow up. When it is too cool it adds energy to make sure the engine does not come to a halt. And the art is keeping it from going from one extreme to another. Who would use a train that went from 0 t0 60 and back again, over and over?

So be of good heart, friends. The law is bad, but there will be another. If we are wise, that is. If not, 'fasten your seat belts. We're in for a bumpy ride.'

(Apologies to Bette Davis, and sorry for the mixed metaphor.)

07 December 2010

Try This, Warren

So Mr. Buffet, you say you should pay more taxes. I agree.

Sadly, our Solons and sages in DC think not. They believe more taxes is wrong, forever and ever. Amen. (This principle amounts to a theology, you see)

But I have an idea. As a sensible Midwestern fellow (with gobs of money) you are the best person to share this with. And the best part is that its easy.

Send in more money.

When you write that year end check to the Lords of Misrule (the IRS, get it. Congress is better described as a Confederacy of Dunces) add in what they would not. As I recall, it was 4%. I have no idea what your income was, but I am guessing it was above $250,000, so just figure another 4% and send it along with whatever you owe at the lower 35%

Write a separate check, and put a little note on the memo line about where it should go. If you don't they will think it's an overpayment or a prepayment for 2012. So make sure you write a separate check.

But that's only the first step. Tell your fellow rich friends. Start with Bill Gates - he knows you and owes you - and round up your fellow tycoons to pledge to send in the extra money. Get a few hundred lined up, enough to make a really big dent in the $60 billion that would have been collected if Congress had actual courage.

Now buy a full page ad in every daily paper in the US (they could use the ad revenue anyway) and say something like this:

"We are asking our fellow rich Americans to join us in doing for the country what our elected leaders would not do. Send in 4% more than you owe in taxes. Perhaps Congress feared us or wanted to please us, but we think the money can do more good for the country than it can do for us. After all, we have all the houses, cars, boats, and power we need or should have. But $60 billion could -

- triple federal funding for medical research.
- provide Universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, with relatively small class sizes.
- fund much larger troop surge in Afghanistan, raising spending by 60 percent from current levels.
- create a national infrastructure program to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, mass transit, water systems and levees.
- allow a 15 percent cut in corporate taxes.
- provide twice as much money for clean-energy research as suggested by a recent bipartisan plan.
- provide free college, including room and board, for about half of all full-time students, at both four- and two-year colleges.
create a $500 tax cut for all households.

(from the NYTimes, "Week In Review," December 5, 2010)

Publish the names of those who have promised to do this, AND the names of all the others you know you could.

And run this ad every day until people know you and Gates friends will not stop until you reach $60 billion. Add in new folks, like signing a petition, but this one everybody can see every day as it grows. Let America know which ultrarich think they need and deserve their wealth.
Call them out. You have enormous power, but not over Congress. Your power is over friends and fellow rich folks. Use it.