In my latest column for Salon, I examine the life of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan — whose own story of success doesn’t quite match up to his anti-government politics:
When Paul Ryan took to the stage in Mooresville, North Carolina, as Mitt Romney’s running mate, he attacked President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark about the role of government in supporting private innovation. But while Republicans have been clamoring to make this election a false dichotomy between the private sector and the public sector, Paul Ryan — heir to a private fortune made by building public highways — is a gaping pothole in that plan. Paul Ryan is a living, breathing GOP example of how public infrastructure and private entrepreneurship work hand-in-hand.
Want to know about how Ryan’s family got rich off government contracts? Read the full piece here. And please use the buttons on Salon’s page to spread the story around.
UPDATE: My piece got a nice mention in a Mediaite story here.
In my latest column for Fox News, I address attacks on President Obama’s taken-out-of-context remarks about the role of public infrastructure alongside individual effort in creating private sector success in America. I tell the story of my grandfather, a small business owner, and how he worked hard and also relied on public schools and roads and laws to build his business.
By grandfather was not rich, certainly not by today’s standards. But when Ronald Reagan was president, my grandfather paid almost 50% of his income in taxes to help make sure that good public schools and safe streets and the things we all need to succeed in America would be available for the next generation. Today, hedge fund managers and big business CEOs pay lower tax rates than middle class families. In fact, the tax rate for the very wealthy is the lowest it’s been in over 60 years.
That’s what this debate is about. Everyone agrees that hard work and entrepreneurship are key to business success. But government also plays a vital, supporting role. A generation ago, those who did well in America did their part, paying even more than the rest of us to ensure that infrastructure was available to the next generation. But today, those who are succeeding the most in our country are paying the least. It’s not right.
I hope you’ll read the rest of the essay here and share it widely.
Just in time for Tax Day, I wrote a piece for Time Magazine online about why conservatives are absolutely nuts to say Warren Buffett should voluntarily pay higher taxes — instead of passing the Buffett Rule to raise taxes on all millionaires and billionaires. I write:
If we relied on voluntary taxes, donors would begin insisting that they could earmark their donations—say, to the military or to Medicaid and food stamps. But the reality is that national defense helps all of us, so those not contributing to the military would become “free riders” in economic terms. Voluntary taxation is also a slippery slope—if, instead of raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires we just decided to make it optional for them to give more, then why would we ever raise taxes or close corporate loopholes?
I also explore the core America values and founder’s philosophy around taxation — and why even Adam Smith supported redistribution.
Read the essay here and please share it around!
How do you solve a problem like the EU…? Here’s my latest opinion piece for CNN. An excerpt:
It’s as though profligate countries such as Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States went on a decades-long bender and are just now being reined in by the moral fiscal authority. Never mind that in most civilized societies, we’ve long decided that spanking our children is an unacceptable form of punishment, not to mention ineffective. Spanking nation-states is becoming a global fad.
Click here to read the full piece and comment: http://bit.ly/tGmdPY
During a recent Republican presidential debate, the conservative audience cheered the fact that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has presided over 234 executions, the “vast majority” of which he assured involved guilty offenders. Meanwhile, conservatives are up in arms that the federal government, through a loan initiated by the Bush Administration, backed Solyndra, a clean energy company that just filed for bankruptcy.
On the one hand, conservatives are attacking the role of government in stimulating jobs and new industry. On the other hand, conservatives are praising the role of government in executing its citizens. WTF?
Yes, people, government can make mistakes. I’m a liberal and even I can admit that. But let’s compare…
In 2009, the Department of Energy made a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra. In 2010, analysts suggested Solyndra might be losing its competitive edge in the market, but subsequently the company still raised an additional $175 million from private investors. Incidentally, Solyndra’s backers include George Kaiser, a donor and bundler for Obama, but also the Walton family behind Wal-Mart, big-time Republican donors. Solyndra’s CEO is a Republican as well.
The Solyndra investment is 1.3% of the $38 billion to be disbursed through this particular loan program, which in turn is only a fraction of government stimulus investments. Moreover, when the dust settles, the federal government will recoup at least a portion of its investment. About 1,100 Solyndra workers lost their jobs.
Still, the DOE loan program has created or saved over 65,000 American jobs. The government will get some of our money back after the claims of employees and certain investors are settled. Is it possible that, in the case of this one loan, the Obama Administration rushed to judgment for the sake of a photo op? Sure, it’s possible. But what’s certain is that China’s government invests 30 times more funding in new energy technology and jobs than we do — which is why Solyndra couldn’t compete. The path to a robust 21st century American economy isn’t exactly laid out on a stone tablet somewhere. In trying to get there, the public sector and private sector will both make mistakes. Using the misstep of Solyndra as an excuse to cut all government investment in the green jobs of the future will not only kill the jobs that have been created but will kill the chance of American competitiveness going forward.
Conservatives, however, seem quite comfortable killing things — whether jobs or people.
According to the Innocence Project, an organization that uses new DNA technology to re-examine the cases of death row inmates:
Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 209 years in prison – including 187 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit.
In 2004, Texas — under Governor Rick Perry — executed Cameron Todd Willingham who was accused of setting a fire that killed his three children. Willingham consistently plead his innocence and independent analysts agree there were extraordinary flaws in the evidence used to convict him. After Willingham was executed, a state forensics commission on the verge of examining the case and surfacing evidence of Willingham’s innocence was gutted by Gov. Perry and replaced by partisan cronies.
Compelling evidence now suggests that the state of Texas wrongly executed a grieving father. Do we put a price on that mistake? Is Cameron Todd Willingham worth more or less than $535 million? Maybe Willingham counts a bit more because he’s white while many conservatives accept the fact that the government executes innocent people believing most of them are black and must have done something wrong. Here I could point out that most death row inmates are, in fact, white — or I could point out that it really shouldn’t matter.
Of course this is a racialized debate. We have a black president who finalized a loan to support green jobs, a concept pioneered by underemployed communities of color and famously championed by Obama’s black green jobs czar Van Jones. Last night, a popular conservative provocateur on Twitter unfortunately had his home broken into. He tweeted:
This is a more explicit version of implicit conservative logic that “rationalizes” attacking government investment while endorsing state-sponsored execution: If government is wasteful and black people are dangerous, than black people running government is dangerously wasteful — but government wasting black people is A-OK.
Just once, I’d like conservatives to be skeptical of government abuse of power where it really matters — not just dollars and political scandals but the loss of innocent human life.
“I can’t imagine a single American whose dream for our economy entails a few Wall Street billionaires amidst a swelling underclass of millions and millions of low-wage workers with the middle class rapidly joining the ranks of the latter.”
“The American people will support the president’s plan — they know, like it or not, that the private sector isn’t hiring and robust government spending on jobs is what got us out of the Great Depression and what will kickstart economic growth once again.”
My first opinion piece for CNN.com — on how Republicans tried to slash the FEMA budget before criticizing President Obama for not spending enough on disaster relief. Please check it out and share it with your networks — show me some love on CNN.com!!
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