America's decade of reverse-nation-building at home

In Sunday's NYT, EL Doctorow (no relation) with a remarkable polemic on how the USA has spent the past 12 years dismantling any justification for "American Execptionalism" with a series of domestic and international foolishnesses, evils, and crimes.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

Unexceptionalism: A Primer

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  1. He says, “Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class.” Now that is just plain silly. The federal tax system is one of the most progressive in the world. Those who receive dividends from corporate profits are actually double-taxed.

    1. Those who receive dividends from corporate profits are actually double-taxed.

      Oh, OK, hang on. Let me get out the tiniest violin in the world…

      Fuck, I lost it

    2.  Ah, the double-taxing meme!  I love that one!  It’s even better than the “Death Tax” meme for shutting down all rational thought.

      Think ye:  all assets have been taxed, and shall be taxed, over and over and over again.    Why does someone want you to be shocked that some particular asset has been taxed more than once?  Look quick – is there a hand in your pocket?  It’s not the taxman’s hand!

    3. Those who receive interest from savings accounts or pay sales tax are also double-taxed.  What’s your point?

    4. Er, the most progressive as a percentage of total tax collected? 

      That’s because the US has one of the highest income disparities in the OECD countries.  And despite having a poverty rate that is only ‘bested’ by Mexico and Turkey, the USA spending little of that tax on social spending.

      See here:
      http://www.oecd.org/document/4/0,3343,en_2649_33933_41460917_1_1_1_1,00.html

      Click on the interactive graph near the bottom of the page.

      Oh yeah: Why not say that the people buying a company’s products are triple taxed: the ‘cost’ of paying corporate tax is borne by the retail customers, who use salary that is income-taxed to pay for the item AND then pay sales’ tax on the purchase.

      Actually, you could say that they being duodecuply taxed, because…

        1.  Well, he’s got all those tusked, quadruple-breasted Martian women to attend to.  It takes a lot of time!

    5. According to your logic, since companies pay sales tax on materials used to make their products, consumers shouldn’t have to pay sales tax when they purchase those finished products.

  2. The saddest thing about the last decade is how so many of the measures taken to “defend” our nation have curtailed the things that make it WORTH defending.

      1. Sometimes you have to sacrifice liberty to preserve freedom. Or maybe it’s the other way around, I keep forgetting.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking that this list reads like the list of the crimes of King George III and parliament in the declaration of independence…

  3. I’m not sure where ELD gets the idea that “That humans can act against their own interest, whereas corporations cannot act otherwise than in their own interest”. I agree fully with him that it is silly to consider corporations as people, but *plenty* of corporations act against their own interest. In this sense at least, they resemble people. Just like people, they may mistake what their own interest is.

    1. I’m not sure where ELD gets the idea that “That humans can act against their own interest, whereas corporations cannot act otherwise than in their own interest”.

      I think he means that you or I can make decisions intended to serve the greater society even if they hurt us personally (say, by voting for a tax increase in order to help the poor). By contrast, a corporation is beholden solely to its shareholders. In many cases the law actively inhibits corporate responsibility.

  4. What took centuries to build has been torn down in little over a decade. Well played, neocons. Well played.

    Under President Romney, Canada may have a refugee crisis on its hands. At least until the US invades.

    1.  It’s taken a lot longer than a decade to get us to this point.  We’re only now starting to lose the villains engaged during Nixon’s tenure.

  5.  “Under President Romney, Canada may have a refugee crisis on its hands. At least until the US invades.”  I’m from Canada, and I have some bad news for you….

  6. It’s typically pernicious (esp. of the increasingly Pravda-like NYT) that the rise of the security state is consolidated into a pseudo-chronological position implying that responsibility for it ends with the Bush administration, after which it becomes essentially a self-maintaining brute fact. Which, of course, it is – but in that sense, it had already been so long before 9/11 or the Bush administration, and has much less to do with ‘conservative’ ideology or partisan electioneering than with the economic logic of power.

    One finds no real ‘who’ or ‘why’ here. The ‘why’ is foreclosed by the framing ‘what,’ the (still bullshit!) narrative of a fall from exception: clearly, evil arises so that the good may be tested, and tested, we have been found wanting. The intimately related ‘who’ is left to partisan hints and nods, a conveniently dangling pointer to siphon attention back to the shadowboxing game of elections and ideology.

    I would have expected better of (E.L.) Doctorow.

  7. It occurs to me that I’ve just always assumed Everett Doctorow was your dad, Cory.  Thanks for the correction!

  8. “Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.”

    Er, wasn’t that Clinton? Not that Bush did anything to correct the problem in eight years.

  9. Oh good lord the distortions and hyperbole in in this article are epic. I think it is wrong when the right-wing does it and I sure as heck won’t put up with it when the left-wing does it.

    If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

    Did I miss something or did the Electoral College not elect Bush? I mean literally, the actual electoral college delegates. Because as far as I know, they always have the power to override the Supreme Court and elect whoever the hell they want.

    The fact is, even if it was Gore, we’re still stuck with a guy 50% of the districts dislike. Though one could hope that at least Gore would have read memos.

    Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

    I had no idea we moved to a flat tax system! Goodness! And the gap widened exponentially too! That’s awful. At this point, the rich must now have 30000% of all wealth if it widened exponentially.

    By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.

    The majority of the deficit is caused by being in a recession. The tax cuts made things worse, but shrinking the tax base by 15 million while increasing spending to cover people who are out of work, bankrupt, without insurance and hungry. But that’s what is *supposed* to happen. If you’re deficits don’t go up in a recession, you’re doing it wrong. The war, as expensive as it was, still doesn’t compare to the effects of the recession.

    I can’t even continue. The sad thing is that there are plenty of good points here, but the author has completely discredited himself by playing fast and loose with the truth.

    1. Did I miss something or did the Electoral College not elect Bush?

      Apparently you missed quite a bit. The Electoral College elected Bush because he got Florida’s votes. He got Florida’s votes because the Supreme Court actively prevented Florida from doing an appropriate recount as per Florida’s own electoral rules.

      1. AFAIK, the Supreme Court cannot force the actual delegates to vote any particular way. They can call a race however they like, but that only controls how the states direct the electors to vote, not how they actually vote. The electors could have easily ignored the Supreme Court and voted for anyone.

        In fact, in 2000, the elector from DC refused to vote for Al Gore even though she was pledged to do so.

        1. The electors’ autonomy was never a factor in the 2000 election.

          And are you seriously maintaining that we have a progressive tax system in the US?

          And you’d better look up “exponential.”

        2. AFAIK, the Supreme Court cannot force the actual delegates to vote any particular way.

          They forced a recount to be stopped.  Florida then followed its own law regarding delegates.

        3. I think the point is that the Supreme Court ruled the way they did because they knew what Florida electors would do afterward.

          If the Florida electors had stated in advance – similar to your example of the one from DC – that they would vote for Gore no matter what, the Supreme Court would probably have done things differently.

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