Archive for January 17th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

I just followed the links from a Piece of Mind post about Iraq, which claims the Democratic party is as invested in the war as the GOP was (to which accusations I responded in the Ts comments), and I came upon this bit of dreck from TPM Cafe blogger, Max Sawicky:

The “Internet Left” is a mostly brainless vacuum cleaner of donations for the Democratic Party.

The post also makes the following claims:

— The Internet left is not “left.”

— The Internet left was not, and is not, against the Iraq war enough.

— The Internet left has no economic ideology and will kowtow to the Democratic party over economic issues.

— Meanwhile “direct action forces” are the true heroes, and are the only ones who really care about populist, progressive economic issues.

— “Direct action” folks read good books, Internet lefties don’t.

— The Internet left doesn’t govern, they “only” influence.

— Internet lefties don’t understand history, economics, or much of anything.

Oh, boy. Here we go again. The battle for “purity,” to see who represents the “real” left.

Of course, stereotyping the entire left spectrum of the netroots is a pretty thankless task. For every attack blogger there’s an academic, for every activist there’s a former state senator.

And I admit, the “left blogosphere” is hardly comprised of rabid fire-eating leftys. Matt Singer initially supported the Iraq War. (Surprised?) We are, as a whole, not radical.

By the way, I should mention I was one of those “direct action” folks before the Iraq War. I marched. I protested. In San Francisco, millions of marchers took to the street. And achieved…nothing. This is, one assumes, Mr. Sawicky’s “huge anti-war movement.”

One of the obvious failures of the “direct action” against the Iraq War was the protest leadership. This is what we got for warm-up speeches: Palestinians are great, free Mumia, and let’s hear it for Maoism! Pure ideological bullsh*t, of interest only to a handful of musty, balding activists. We heard nothing about the President bypassing the Constitution. Nothing about health care, child care, rising energy prices, rising education costs. In short, nothing relating to the bulk of people who showed up to protest.

On the other hand, blogs do advocate issues that pertain to everyday concerns. This blog and others want major health-care reform. This blog and others want campaign finance reform. This blog and others want fair trade agreements. This blog and others create a centrist, populist, and democratic ideology piece by piece. We talk about real issues that matter to us and our neighbors. We’re not the ideologically pure vanguard of committed revolutionaries that Sawicky wants us to be. And I’m okay with that.

It seems that Sawicky suffers from a condition that has beset many all across the political spectrum: Blog envy. It goes something like this: after all the work I’ve done in politics over the years, why do they get all the attention?

While I think our prominence and influence is criminally overrated – especially in our own minds – let’s face facts: times change. This is a new medium, a tool, that allows anybody and everybody to be heard. Some of us are good writers, some of us have good ideas, some of us are a good read. That’s why we get attention.

A clever politico, dedicated revolutionary, or “direct action” activist would adapt, not grumble. Otherwise they will be left behind. Not by the force of bloggers’ words or our personality, but by the simple and inevitable progress of technology. Hell, a day will come when blogs are irrelevant, and it’s likely a number of left-behind bloggers will be grumbling about those snooty, know-it-all kids who Yetzer-fratz, or whatever.

You can write your own blog and see if people are attracted to your ideas. You can find bloggers sympathetic to your cause and let them promote your ideas. In short, by reading this post, you are participating in one of our culture’s most egalitarian media. If you don’t like what you see or read here, you can get your own damn blog.

by Jay Stevens 

Yesterday the Missoulian commented on Max Baucus’ battle against the Alternative Minimum Tax:

The purpose of the AMT, as it’s called for short, was to make sure the middle class wouldn’t have to shoulder part of the wealthy’s tax obligations – to make sure every taxpayer paid his or her fair share. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Unfortunately, the AMT’s reach has spread alarmingly over the years, gobbling up the paychecks of millions of people who never were intended targets. That’s because the tax brackets that trigger the AMT aren’t “indexed” or automatically adjusted for inflation. People who aren’t wealthy today but have incomes that would have qualified as upper-income 1969 – $50,000 to $100,000 – find themselves paying the AMT. The AMT is so complex that it makes completion of the standard 1040 seem child’s play. And because of its the bracket-creeping nature, the tax nails more and more middle-income families every year – often taking them by surprise. According to the Washington-based Tax Policy Center, 23 million Americans face AMT this year. That number is projected to grow to 39 million over the coming decade, as incomes rise. All of these people face significantly higher effective tax rates than people paying regular income tax.

The Missoulian also correctly notes – IMHO – that the problem isn’t the AMT, it’s the complex federal tax code that creates the loopholes that the AMT was created to close.

But Baucus isn’t simultaneously suggesting reforming the tax code to close out the loopholes. Sebastian Mallaby:

[Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley] don’t want to reform the AMT or link its repeal to wider tax changes; they just want to abolish it. This would destroy the chance to say to voters: Look, we’re not going to extend all the tax cuts we gave you in 2001 and 2003, and while we’re at it we’re going to reduce the mortgage-interest deduction and other egregious loopholes so that we can collect more revenue without discouraging work by raising your tax rates. But wait, don’t get too mad; at least we’re going to kill the AMT for you.

Repealing the AMT would preempt that sort of bargain; but it would also be bad on its own terms. For all its administrative clunkiness, the AMT is wonderfully progressive: 90 percent of its revenue comes from those earning more than $100,000 a year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Last week Baucus denounced the AMT as a “monster in the tax code” — a “Frankenstein,” no less. But in an era of rising inequality, you don’t slay progressive monsters casually.

In effect, repealing the AMT without reforming the tax code would, in effect, throw open the code’s loopholes to our nation’s most wealthy – the only segment of the population whose financial worth is sky-rocketing, thanks to the Bush administration’s reactionary fiscal policies that have thrown working- and middle-class families under the bus.

The last thing this country needs is more legislation that benefits only the richest people in the country at the expense of our national budget and economic future.

Repealing the AMT should happen only if the tax code and tax policy are reformed.

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