: A shared fate

>>> Last evening I attended a forum on campus where the Yes Brookhaven and the No Brookhaven proponents gathered to debate the idea of creating a new city in my local community. For the most part, the conversation remained civil, although I left a few minutes before the official end and things were starting to disintegrate a bit. The audience getting restless and that’s rarely a good thing. I was feeling restless myself, but I decided to leave rather than pile on. >>>
>>> I am a no new city fellow, but I will acknowledge that there were reasonable points brought up by the yes gang. Not enough to convince me of changing my mind, but I was at least assured that there are some well meaning people on the other side. The reality is that we have no idea whether any of the promises made by the new city proponents will materialize. I am generally suspicious of such claims, but if this comes to fruition, maybe I will be proved wrong. >>>
>>> There is, however, a larger issue underlying the city vote. A neighbor of mine who is a city yes person cannot fathom why the rest of us are not chomping at the bit to leave the non-Brookhaven residents of the county behind. Our job, he suggested, is to take care of ourselves. That, in a nutshell, is why I care about this issue and as I think about it more, why I care so much about the state of politics today across our country. Take the tax rate issue. The president has once again proposed raising the taxes on Americans who make more than a half million dollars back to where they were when Bill Clinton was in charge. The Republican leadership, not surprisingly, is outraged, or at least pretending outrage. Taking away a greater percent of the wealthy’s hard-earned money will be the nail in the coffin of our economy, removing all incentive of the rich to work harder. Wow. I don’t know where to begin. The data I have seen show that no such thing has ever happened. Simple common sense would tell you that having to pay a few more thousand dollars in taxes for someone making hundreds of thousands won’t change a damn thing about their behavior. Well, maybe one less large screen TV or a smaller boat, but please, strip away the incentive to work and make even more money? No one thinks that way. Sure, it is always nice to have more rather than less even if one already has plenty, but turning this natural human trait into an economic policy argument is just disingenuous. >>>
>>> The real issue, I believe, that divides the country right now is not the precise tax rate but whether we as a people share a common fate or not. If one doesn’t believe that to be the case, then it is not unreasonable to build prisons for the poor rather than improve schools, to remove environmental government regulation designed to protect us from the over zealousness of corporate America, or to allow the urban infrastructure to collapse from lack of investment. If one does truly not believe that in the long run, the fate of our children and “their children” are intertwined, then why spend our money to ensure a better future for all Americans. The very wealthy in America have gathered so much money these days that they can pretty much avoid the “real world”. They can send their kids to private schools, they can live in gated neighborhoods, they can even own their own planes and fly out of their own private airports. I certainly don’t begrudge personal wealth if it has been gathered with integrity, but I do believe that with that good fortune comes responsibility. And more than that, I believe that in many ways, like it or not, we all do share a common fate. Eventually, the deterioration in the quality of life of other people will impact my life. If not mine, then certainly the lives of my children. >>
>>> So that’s one reason why on this small issue of city hood that I will vote no. Dividing our community further for shaky promises of lower taxes and better services is just not worth it. >>>

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4 Responses to : A shared fate

  1. Ginger O'Neill says:

    Greetings from Ireland as the students are preparing for the big Ireland Roundtable this coming Tuesday!

    Amen, amen, I say to you! It is hard to imagine that there could be any other point of view, especially in your closing remarks/argument. If one can not see the big picture for themselves, hopefully they can for the children and grandchildren.



  2. Bill Aitken OU '64 says:

    Re your larger topic, the arguments I have heard (national media) against having the wealthy pay the same tax rates as the rest of us, is that it would dis-incentivise them to create jobs. But there is absolutely no empirical evidence for that argument, nor the one that lowering their taxes makes them work harder in a way that would advance our economy. In fact ample empirical evidence indicates exactly the opposite. (But since when do politicians base any viewpoint on empirical evidence?) And isn’t it interesting how so many thump their chests about how government should have no role in business (wealth, etc.), and in the same breath blame government for not creating jobs?! Can you explain the logic there? Anyone?
    I believe your analysis of what divides the county now being in terms of common fates is exactly spot-on. It seems obvious that many of those with ‘good fortune’ have completely lost sight of the relationship between it and the responsibility that goes along with it–they seem to feel that it all belongs to them and they bear no responsibility to anyone else.
    Back to your original Brookhaven issue, in an increasingly globalized world, dividing communities makes absolutely no sense. It is a view rooted in the past and not forward-looking. I congratulate your campus Brookhaven debate on it’s mostly civil discourse, but at the end it seems to have veered in the direction of the country at large. Our system of government is based upon reasoned debate, and few seem to remember how to do that any more. People now simply shout out their position (reasoned or evidenced or not) as loud as possible, and ignore any other statement of position.
    Quite a country we live in at this time. Never a dull moment.

  3. Amen … I just cannot believe that in Atlanta, in Brookhaven — that people have somehow managed to parse the issue and figure that they STILL need to “get away” from the Other and protect their own. Good grief … how small do they want to make their universe? What would it take to make them see that their fear is holding them back and seeing what is really possible .. and in fact, unavoidable in the future?

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