A Patriotic Epiphany

I was driving home from a client’s today, when I heard a man on the radio making an analogy about the stimulus plan. He said it was like a man holding a gun to our head, forcing us to give money to the poor. And enforced redistribution of wealth.

Now stepping aside, for just a moment, that ANY tax system is a redistribution of wealth I was struck by the selfishness of his attitude … the lack of understanding of society, but I couldn’t quite place my hand on the philosophical reasoning for why I should feel thus. But the light went on and I was moved to do something I have not done in a while, and it gave me what I was looking for. I re-read one of my favorite pieces of literature – it’s a nobility play, lush with stirring notions and even a happy ending. Today I re-read the U. S. Constitution.

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Wow. I mean, wow. How much I had fallen into simple arguments of faith, philosophical difference, the notions of selfishness and right/wrong, when the answer we have all been looking for was written in the boldest prose I’ve ever seen a couple hundred years ago.

We, the people of the United States, have an obligation. This is not one we signed on the dotted line for, it was borne by us the moment we were born. The obligation is to our Union … our country, our Constitution. You see, you can’t just have the parts of our Constitution that you really like… like “provide for the common defense” – you must also address two other, vitally important parts, of that sentence: insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare. And how do you do such things? Well, you need revenue to create a standing government that can do those things. If you think that fulfilling your obligation to America by paying taxes is equivalent to having a gun put to your head, then perhaps you need to find another country. Immediately.

I dislike paying taxes every bit as much as the next person. But I use the law to legally make sure that I am paying only my fair share – what I am required to pay and no more (thanks, Ben Franklin for that advice). But what I like even less is the thought of people who have profited in this country, people who have a helluva life and are monumentally successful and healthy that want to pay less and less ie., take the gifts of our forefathers and the tax payers before them and run. That is where the definition of selfish comes in. We have an obligation to our country, the essence of why we are a country and our countrymen. We have an obligation to carry forth the vision and brilliance of the framers and founders, and continue this Grand Experiment.

This is how, philosophically, I can stand strong when right-wing boneheads want to talk all their crap about how bad the stimulus is, how wrong it is to have a single payer health care system, wrong to nationalize the banks – all of the so-called “Socialist” programs are actually one way of insuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare. Our country was founded on these very Liberal notions. We were built by Federalists that were not only fine with a strong central government, but had clear ideas for how that central government would promote the ideals of the enlightened age. It is time for us to get back to the essential thoughts of how and why our country IS, not what Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, or Billo don’tt want to spend their money on.

Our government needs careful and vigilant oversite. We should not spend or waste any more money than we absolutely have to … but we need to get back to the essence of why we have a government in the first place.

Get back to reading the classics. The prequel, The Declaration of Independence” is a page turner, and the sequel, The Bill of Rights is also an excellent, if wonky, read. But my favorite, hands down is our Constitution. I am pleased, that before there were able to shred the very last copy, the Republicans were kicked to the curb.

Let’s hope they stay in Time Out for a reasonably long time.


  1. WillyP says:

    Absolute political poetry, Perkiset. I too am sickened by the absolute lack of responsibility to the commons that is reflected in our fat, lazy and in many ways, cheating society. Most of the folks who write to you are very young, at least so in comparison to my own accumulation of age. It is interesting how much they seem to culturally forget about the struggles we have gone through to create the country of opportunities we have today.

    I remember the second world war. I remember how young men and women committed and in a very large sense, gave their lives to our country. The war we fought then was not a volunteer war that one could easily avoid, it was a draft war, in which every citizen gave what was asked and usually did not complain if the cost was great. Hundreds of thousands of young men purposefully marched into withering fire on beaches, in forests, and into deserts, giving their lives for the idea that our country was worth protecting.

    In the 50′s, thousands of people of all races, went to the south and faced dogs, water hoses, and the Klan’s nooses to finally free the black population in our society. The fight was real and deeply painful, but people committed to it with eagerness, because it did truly help the common good.

    In the 60′s, a much maligned period in our history, thousands of young people, students, workers, artists, and parents, stepped up to face the incursion of a government that had, under Nixon, decided that an imperial presidency was a good thing, regardless of the pain it inflicted upon the body politic.

    During the 70′s and 80′s, we saw a time when the purveyors of greed and self interest promoted the concept of “me first and all others be damned.” Reagan was the prime mover of this philosophy, pushing for the destruction of unions, support systems, and other social programs that assisted people in getting ahead. The carnivorous among us had begun to feed on the weak and our country began to drastically change.

    Today, we are at a crucial point in our nation’s history. The world as we know it could easily collapse into chaos, bloodshed and violence. Most of us are almost totally unaware of how deep the morass we have created is. It will be generations before we clearly understand just how toxic the last eight years have been for our country. The fools on the right think it is simply a contest, like the super bowl, and the object is winning and getting the spoils, and not working for the common good. They spew slogans of support for America, the troops, and “family values,” but really they only want to make their buck and get out, leaving the rest to clean up the mess.

    Barack Obama is not perfect. I worry at times about his policies and view points, but I will say this: he has committed to our regaining as a nation, the sense of the common good. He is determined to drag us all into a new awareness of America as it was originally conceived. I am with him.

  2. perkiset says:

    Most kind WP, and at least as eloquent and penetrating. It is our doom that we will forget the recent past, and people like you will not be with us forever to assist us in remembering.

    In all of your points, I se the 70s/80s influence the most because that’s when the current middle-aged generation was born. They were raised with that sense of greed – brought up with a sense of me first and damn the rest of you. And oh, BTW: the church backs this all up, so I’m good. (Referencing the linkage between the so-called evangelicals and their political comrades in that unholy partnership … I think we must start looking to see which of the current televangelists are new Cardinal Richelieu… could it be he gave our national benediction at the inauguration ceremony…?)

    I also would love to see Obama swing harder left and dig deeper into issues that pissed us off for so long, but politically, he got elected and I did not ;) so clearly he knows a thing or two about what he needs to do in the future. I think we’re going to have to trust that we’ll all get a little bit of what we want, and a bit of what we don’t to get back on track.

  3. daviator says:

    I could have written that myself, though perhaps not so eloquently. I am so tired of the selfishness that has become the cornerstone of today’s culture, the attitude that it’s somehow patriotic to believe in greed, and that taxes (and what the money collected can accomplish) are evil, except perhaps when I, personally, benefit directly from government spending.

    I had the opportunity to live in a couple different parts of Europe during the 90′s. In one country in which I lived, the income tax system was set up so that the highest tax bracket was something like 60%. However, you didn’t get into this tax bracket until you were making boatloads of money – something like $500,000 per year. Folks at lower incomes paid little to nothing in taxes.

    There was virtually no grumbling about this like you hear in the U.S. Folks completely accepted that there was an upper limit to what anybody needed to earn to live a comfortable life, and that above that limit, it is perfectly appropriate that much – maybe even most – of the excess earnings should flow back to the government to help those less fortunate and pay for infrastructure, etc. The high tax rate didn’t serve to discourage entrepreneurship, hard work, or innovation — in fact, this country is one of the most successful economies in Europe. But folks recognize that great success is accompanied by great obligations to one’s country.

    Now I’m not proposing a 60% tax bracket here. But I am proposing that Americans need an attitude adjustment when it comes to our obligation to our country and each other. Nobody NEEDS to make $10 million dollars a year – but if you are fortunate enough to do so, you should be willing to contribute a chunk of that back to the country that gave you the ability to earn it in the first place. You might even think about feeling proud of your ability to do that, instead of grumbling.

  4. perkiset says:

    Spot on Daviator – and welcome to my blog.

    You know another point you bring up indirectly, but which always seems to baffle the majority of the population, is tax brackets. People get it in their head that if you make $249,000 you pay 32%. but at 250,000 you suddenly pay 36% or whatever the bracket is today – rather than the fact that you only pay the upper-bracketed rate on the amount above the line in the bracket. Nutballs and I try hard to explain this to people as well because they just don’t get it. People do not understand how a graduated tax system works, and how the obligation works.

    Going back to the original point, of which you and I seem to agree quite perfectly, the obligation of taxes is attached to the benefit you receive by living in this country. Consider:

    If you are making 1MM/year, then the odds are that you have a bunch of people working for you. Let’s say you have 10 people making 50K/year. The 50K per year people are driving on roads, used our public education system, use health system(s), are protected by fire, police etc etc … and you (the 1MM/year earner) are making money off of their efforts. In effect, the 1MM/year earner has placed a larger burden and is making greater profit from the public infrastructure, so it is completely fair that they then put more back into the till. The 50K earners use the roads and such for themselves, so they also contribute an amount to the public coffers, but not to the same extent because they have not made as much from it.

    IMO this is another form of the obligation, but is just as valid and important as the simple, yet elegant wording of the Constitution. In the free-marketeer’s (or more precisely, the Libertarian) notion of the world, if (the collective I) can make money off (the collective you) then I deserve the spoils. Period. If I can get you to work for me at 25c per hour creating chairs that I will sell at a 10,000% profit, then I deserve it because I am smart and you are dumb. Capitalism at it’s essence. There will be some that read this and say, “Yeah. What’s the problem with that?”

    I submit that if you have to ask, you’ve just demonstrated the answer ;)

  5. vsloathe says:

    It becomes evident once you press people in earnest and serious conversation, that very few of them have any idea at all of the function of government, let alone economies of scale, markets – the sort of icky things on which most economists have historically failed to reach a consensus of “good” or “bad”. I submit that this is not because of the unimportance of such things, but merely the inability for the average citizen to cope with the fact that he or she has no idea about the basis upon which his opinion rests.

    Humans love to assign value judgements to things, especially humans whose worldviews are rooted in modern (post-enlightenment, pre-20th century) thought. Communism is “bad”, and capitalism is “good”. Many people become very uncomfortable when you begin to insinuate that amoral, inherently ethic-less, and staggeringly complex entities like markets should not have arbitrary values of the superlative applied to them.

    I started going somewhere with this that I very much want to explore, but then I realized that I’m contributing an awful lot of content to Perk’s blog for free, so I think I will write an essay about it and put it on my own blog. roflmao:

  6. vsloathe says:

    Oh Perks, I thought you might like this quote:

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
    ~ John K. Galbraith

  7. perkiset says:

    NICE – you’re right, I love it. And it’s SPOT ON.

  8. isthisthingon says:

    Fantastic thread Politicet! It’s great to see such thoughtful and well crafted replies as well. Your intro regarding the constitution was a rather emotional experience for me. After eight years of such ruthless leadership and the viral plague of manufactured, fear-based consent that America has allowed to flourish, it’s truly refreshing to experience hope.

    I can’t believe I let myself go so long without reading more of your various blogs. From technology to Tuna Helper tips, you’ve done an amazing job presenting the world with this information exchange.

    Thank’s for the contribution and inspiration.


  9. perkiset says:

    Most kind, Adam, and most appreciated. As you can see from the date, I have not posted now for over a month and am long remiss. Your compliments give me incentive to get back to it.

    Thanks again for stopping by, taking the time to read, and mostly for caring enough to comment.