Thursday, January 22, 2009

Attax on Free Enterprise

As the NY Times reported yesterday, the campaign to raise taxes on New Yorkers is gaining some momentum-with our state senator, Eric Schneiderman, leading the way: "There are a lot of us who feel that for the last 30 years we’ve been shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to middle-class families,” Mr. Schneiderman said on Tuesday. “Our conference is operating through consultation and discussion, and I expect we’ll be talking about restoring some additional tax brackets for upper-income New Yorkers as well as a lot of other options.”

With NY having the ignominious distinction as one of the country's highest taxed environs, it hard to see how there has been any great shift; but in proposing this measure, Schneiderman is echoing the calls of the Working Families Party (as far as euphemisms go, this party label is one of the best): "“We are going to be running a full-throated campaign to make the case that it would be wiser to tax the very wealthiest New Yorkers rather than cut spending on the elderly, children and the disabled,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party."

In our view, "working families," are those who own homes and pay a great deal of taxes already; and although the WFP will start with some of the highest income New Yorkers, it's just a matter of time before that threshold gives way to the reality of even larger budget gaps. We eagerly await the WFP proposals to reduce the size of government, so that all New Yorkers aren't forced to pony up for worthless public sector boondoggles that, by their very taxing presence, drain the vitality from private sector innovation and vitality.

Thankfully, it appears that Majority Leader Smith is reluctant to follow the Schneiderman path: "Malcolm A. Smith, the new Senate majority leader, said he was not enthusiastic about the idea but looked forward to a vigorous debate in his caucus. “I know that recent surveys have come back and shown that it is very popular among the people of the city and state, but I’m not sure at this present time it’s the right course of action,” he said, referring to polls showing support for increased taxes on the wealthy. “The conference members are split on the issue and are discussing it, but it’s my belief that it’s the last course of action we should take.”

And btw, isn't it no accident that the WFP is using Pete Seeger to raise money for its activities? As Liz B reports: "WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor sent out an e-mail fundraising appeal earlier this week entitled "Mr. Springsteen, Mr. Seeger, Mr. Lincoln" that included a clip of the "This Land Is You Land" performance that kicked off President Obama's inauguration celebration...This isn't the first time the WFP has employed Seeger to rally its backers. Last year, he recorded a Web video in honor of the labor-backed party's 10th anniversary that urged voters to pull the lever for Barack Obama on Row E, the WFP's line, adding: "If enough of us do just that, then Barack will know that he people of New York expect him to take on the big boys of the health care industry, that he stand up against the Wall Street Gang and that he end this stupid war; nothing less."

Now we have always been big fans of Seeger's music, so much so that we often overlooked is atrocious political judgment. After all, for the better part of four decades, Seeger enthusiastically parroted the Stalinist part line: "Seeger was a prominent campaigner in the struggle for African-American civil rights, and his legacy there ought be applauded. But racial equality was not the only cause to which Seeger committed himself. International communism, and in particular its Stalinist variant, was an equal, if not more, significant cause in Seeger’s public life. He was “Stalin’s songbird,” as David Boaz describes, writing about how Seeger zigged and zagged, with the rest of American communists in the 1930’s and 1940’s, in blind obedience to orders from Moscow."

Seeger was so smitten that he apparently suspended all independent thought while trashing FDR's war preparations. As Ron Radosh has pointed out: "In the “John Doe” album, Mr. Seeger accused FDR of being a warmongering fascist working for J.P. Morgan. He sang, “I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won’t be safe till everybody’s dead.” Another song, to the tune of “Cripple Creek” and the sound of Mr. Seeger’s galloping banjo, said, “Franklin D., Franklin D., You ain’t a-gonna send us across the sea,” and “Wendell Willkie and Franklin D., both agree on killing me.”

So it appears to us, that Seeger isn't the icon that any party should be using to trumpet its poitical-especially one that, suspiciously in our view, wants to take on that "Wall Street gang." The use of Seeger dramatizes the extent to which the WFP proposals run counter to those principles that makes America that great productive place that it is.

It's a good thing that Smith isn't buying in to this ideological pap-and, given Republican opposition, we don't think there are 32 senate votes for this measure. As the Times tells us: "Democrats would have to largely unite behind the proposal, because there are probably not many Republicans who would support a budget with income tax increases. Pending the outcome of a contested Queens race, Democrats are expected to have a 32-30 majority in the Senate. “We are not going to support increases in income taxes,” said John McArdle, a spokesman for the Senate minority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican. “We aren’t going to support increases in business taxes, we aren’t going to support raising taxes on people’s insurance policies, their soda, their cable television, their satellite television, you name it,” he added, referring to some of the 137 individual new or increased taxes the governor proposed in his budget last month."