Tim McMullen's Missives and Tomes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guns, Taxes and Government Failure: A Response

A Facebook "friend" added this brief post to his page: "am I the only one who is seriously considering spearheading a revolution to take this country back to basics? I'm specifically talking about taxation...."

To this, one of his friends, A.S., replied in a light-hearted, spoofing tone,
"if i do will I be reported for legally carrying my pistol concealed to one of these meetings?"

He followed quickly with,
"It's much more than enjoying the right to carry my piece. It's the fact that the state government of Utah understands that it's my right to do so and respects it. They understand that the government does not give any of the rights named in the constitution. They are given by the All Mighty not some fool in the state capitol, and they are like that with taxation and government spending as well. Jason Chaffetz is someone that you should look up. He is our congressmen here, and the dude is awesome. He sleeps on a cot in his office rather than using taxpayer money to get himself an apartment."

I felt compelled to respond thusly:

"Seriously? The God given right to own guns? I don't recall a single gun in the Bible-not in either testament—nor the Book of Mormon. There are plenty of references to weapons, but in nearly all they are specifically identified as "weapons of war," and quite often they are being destroyed (beaten into plowshares).

"Does your congressman give back his salary, so he cannot afford a home? Does he receive less than the other legislators? Do they 'tax more' to get better apartments? Taxes have been around since way before Jesus—'Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's.'

"We have been cutting taxes, for 30 years, while our infrastructures erode. We have created a system, through term limits and supermajorities, through corporate lobbying and deregulation, and through an anti-government propaganda campaign so that the "higher taxes" we really pay are to corporate CEO's and boards (through inflated salaries) while they use our money to buy protection from the workers and the government."

"You are right Mr. McMullen, God did not give me the direct right to own a gun. He has, however, given me the right to defend my home and my family. If the means to do that are a legally concealed handgun or a 12 gauge under my bed, then in a way God has indeed given me a right to own a gun. No one can defend what's mine, as in my home and family, better than me. It is also my responsibility to do so and no one else's. Not even the police, Sir.

"If you read further in the Book of Mormon you would also read that many times weapons were taken up in defense to protect their homes, family and way of life.

"If your home was broken into and your only option was to call 911 and hide, what do you think the police would find after arriving there 10 minutes after the call was made by you? Probably your dead body with the aggressor way long gone. Why not give yourself the opportunity to even the odds and not let someone else decide whether you live or not?

"About taxation, you are right again. I expect to be taxed. But why should I pay taxes into government programs that don't work. Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, the Stimulus, the Post Office, Amtrak. Can you please tell me which one of these great programs full of good intentions has worked. I am paying into the first 2 and those 2 will probably not be available for me to use because they will be broke by the time I reach the age to use them. Now you want the government to run health care. Seriously?! You would give someone with a bad track record more of your money?"

"About corporations, I agree with you to a certain extent. There are corporations that are abusive and have bad people running them. Just like in government. But just like government, these people can be voted out by their shareholders since most of these companies are public companies. If you don't like the way they do business, don't buy their product and tell others to do the same. If you do like what they do than I hope you don't have a problem with them paying their CEO's whatever they feel they have to pay him. Even if it seems absurd to you.
Sir, all I have to do is look to California and see that what you believe in does not work. Unfortunately, that is the direction that this President is taking this country full steam ahead.

Rather than putting any more of this on someone else's Facebook page, I decided to post the rest of my answer to A.S. here.

As for guns in the home, I honestly think that they serve very little purpose, but they can be very dangerous. I have lived sixty years, and I have never had my house broken into. Neither have my parents or either of my brothers. My great aunt (who was a hundred and two when she died two years ago) was burglarized three times before putting bars on her doors and windows (a sad commentary on the area—twice it was someone in the neighborhood). She lived just around the corner from where I lived for thirty years, just off of Norwalk Blvd. in the little strip of county between Whittier and Pico Rivera. She was never home when they broke in. One of her (five) husbands had been a policeman, so she had his guns, and every single time, besides her jewelry, they stole a handgun. The result? Three handguns in the hands of criminals.

Check the statistics; the chances of people breaking into your home and threatening you with violence is almost non-existent, and unless you carry your loaded gun with you around the house while cooking, while watching TV, while going to the bathroom, etc., you will not be able to use your gun if your home is ever assaulted. Most criminals are cowards; they want to sneak around and steal your stuff; they don’t want to confront you. If, in fact, it is a hit or a true home invasion, the likelihood of your being prepared to repel that onslaught is basically nil. They count on the element of surprise. So, the fantasy of “defending your wife and kids with a gun” is extremely thin. Guns, however, do kill many thousands of little kids, spouses, parents or boy/girlfriends for every crook they stop. There are much better ways to protect your family. I think both Jesus and Joseph Smith would agree.

As for your point about taxes and government programs: This litany is particularly frustrating because it shows how successful the right has been in mischaracterizing reality. Since Ronald Reagan said, “It’s not the government’s money, it’s yours,” and “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem,” we have been bent on trying to prove these specious and meaningless non-sequiturs. During his administration, he attempted to distort the purposes of government: he and his supporters in Congress took away the rights of individuals and heaped them onto corporations; he attempted to dismantle basic protections for the environment, to destroy public education, to turn back civil rights, to undermine or destroy unions (the people's way of fighting against corporate abuse), to reduce restrictions on media ownership, to deregulate industry, and to remove all restraints on corporate mergers, while building the biggest deficit in the history of the United States up to that time. Suddenly, corporations were given boondoggle tax-write-offs and government subsidies, grotesquely lowering the tax burden on the wealthiest while putting it directly on the shoulders of the middle- and lower-income working class.

His beliefs were based on two things: rabid anti-communism and a rabid faith in the “free market” as envisioned by Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer (author of “trickle-down" economics). Friedman actually said that anyone who believed that corporations had any moral or social duty were socialists—which, in his world-view, was tantamount to being a witch, and for which crime burning at the stake was too good. These two ideologues sold an entire generation (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and their advisors as well) on the fantasy of the ultimate efficiency and righteousness of “the market.” Look up Friedman and read him. His attitudes are absolutely appalling, but they explain perfectly the continual failures and fallacies of his illusions as perpetrated on the American public and the world. The Savings and Loan crisis, the Exxon-Valdez, Bhopal, Three-Mile Island, media consolidation, Enron, Bernie Madoff, the banking crisis, the housing crisis, the education crisis, the healthcare crisis, or the turning of a budget surplus under Clinton into the biggest deficit in our history under Bush—these were all the direct result of lowering taxes and deregulating industries (not to mention an ill-advised, unwarranted and unnecessary war—a war that was clearly intended to promote the business interests of certain American industries). These are not isolated incidents or examples of a few rogue CEO's or corrupt politicians. These are simply the application of Friedman's claim that corporations have no moral responsibility except to make a profit for their shareholders. As a result of Bush going far beyond even what Reagan could have imagined, we now have the widest disparity in our history between the tiny 2 to 5% of the wealthiest vs. the entire working class who has seen its salaries, its real-dollar buying power, and its life savings, and even its actual jobs in free-fall, all as a direct result of the flagrant failure of the ironically named “free market.” It was never “free”; it just redistributed the protections. It took them away from the American people and gave them to the market.

Yet, despite the concerted effort of "in-the-pocket" politicians doing the dirty-work for industry by trying to dismantle social-programs and eliminate government regulation (on the grounds that they are too costly for business), many of our social programs have survived. Social Security, Medicare, the US Postal Service, the DMV, unemployment insurance, even welfare: these are not failures; they are absolutely incredible successes. It is truly astonishing that people can hold these systems up as evidence of government failure. Are Medicare and Social Security under-funded? Yes, because corporations and free-market politicians were able to exempt corporations and the wealthy from paying a fair share of their profits into the system. Is there waste and corruption in Medicare? Sure. Most of it is due to deeply under-funding the enforcement of the system because it is the private sector that perpetrates and benefits from the fraud. Nevertheless, it is nothing like the fraud, waste and life-threatening corruption in the private, for-profit sector. Who would you trust to protect the country’s interests, the American Military or the mercenaries of Blackwater Worldwide, Inc.? Safety regulation, police protection, fire protection, education: we constantly cut these services and make them do more with less. Do you really think that an unregulated free market would do a better job than the government? I find no basis in reality for this assumption. None whatsoever. It is simply an illusion—a falsehood.

Again, read Milton Friedman or his friends, Mr. “I do NOT believe in PUBLIC education” Howard Jarvis or Mr. Deregulator, Phil Gramm. Our problems are not the result of a few criminal CEO’s. They are the direct result of a carefully orchestrated snow job. We now have a thoroughly debased media system that actively prevents citizens from easily finding the truth. Do we have the greatest healthcare system in the world as the pundits and the politicians constantly claim? Absolutely not. We do have by far the most expensive, the most inefficient, and the most ruthless private health insurance system of any of the industrialized nations. To claim otherwise is to simply perpetrate and perpetuate a lie. Yet a corps of frightened and misinformed citizens can be whipped into a frenzy about “socialism” and protecting their “freedoms” while being convinced to shout down and disrupt any “free” discussion of an incredibly important national topic.

We have a private, for-profit corporate system that takes billions of our dollars in profits, then spends millions of those dollars to actively deny the care for which we have paid; we have a system that has, in fact, created “death panels.” I am not talking about the simple authorization to pay the fees for patients who seek advice on various end-of-life choices, as the proposed legislation does (a suggestion that originated with a Republican lawmaker but that was scurrilously and falsely distorted by Sarah Palin and others in their "do anything/say anything to prevent meaningful change" mode). I am talking about the real, for-profit insurance company bureaucrats who are currently and actively denying care or medication to millions who have already paid for those services. The pharmaceutical industry spent millions successfully lobbying the Bush administration and congress to prevent the government from negotiating fair prices on pharmaceuticals while the industry pocketed billions. If we look honestly at the government’s ability to tackle really important things, they have a much better record than those motivated only by profit. If we debunked the Supreme Court's patently absurd claim that "money is speech" and moved to end the stranglehold of corporations on the political process, we could restore the government's ability to do things remarkably well in a very short time. And there would still be plenty of profit left over for the market.

Thanks for reading. These are really important topics, and they will affect the lives of Americans for many generations to come. We should be trying to hash the issues out rationally and earnestly, speaking to our families, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, and not with the mindless name-calling, profanity, and gratuitous vitriol that passes for discussion on all of the political blogs and most of the mindless media, but with the most honest, sincere, forthright and informed dialogue of which we are capable.

The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!
Tim McMullen


  1. Thank you for debunking this myth that gun ownership saves lives. Statistics readily show that states with more guns in the population suffer more violent crime (http://www.vpc.org/press/0905gundeath.htm). Sportsmen need hunting rifles, not automatic weapons and hand guns. Kids need neither and use both.

    As for Reagan and Friedman- few seem to see the connection between the power given to corporations under the "It's Morning In America" administration and our current crisis. The corporation without conscience is totalitarianism in disguise. We are ruled by wealth, not politicians. Every representative in Washington is bought and paid for by the Corporatocracy.

    Taxes and big government- what is war if not big government? Why are wars always exempted from Republican complaints about spending? It's absurd to say that programs which are beneficial to tens of millions of peaceful citizens are bad while war is acceptable. If we want to complain about one, we should complain about both so at least there's no hypocrisy in the argument.

  2. Hi, Craig—
    Welcome to the overtly political rant. Your insights about music and the "business of music" have offered many social criticisms and lots of subtle implications about politics, but because your blog, Ninety-Mile Wind, is so focused, it doesn't really give you a chance to go off on the more explicitly political. I try not to interject politics too much in my comments on other people's pages (occasionally I can't restrain myself), but here I can cut loose. I welcome you, as well, to "act out" here as often as you like. Thanks for reading and commenting.