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EMILY'S POST: Thoughtful commentary on politics, current events and culture in Madison

EMILY'S POST

Emily's Post: The end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Paul Ryan's taxing hypocrisy, and a big announcement


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Do ask, do tell

As of today the policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" officially enters history's dustbin.

I've always had deeply conflicted feelings about the campaign to establish full equality for LGBT members of society who wish to, or already do, serve in our military. It's not that I think gay service members should be subject to the ridiculous, heart-wrenching witch-hunts that have already cost our nation so much (hundreds of millions of dollars in the period from 2004-2009 alone). It's not that I think gay service members should have to fear for their very safety in simply wishing to do what they believe is right for their country. It's not even that I think a career in the armed forces can't be a noble calling.

It's simply that I believe our armed forces have been co-opted over the last several decades to be the fighting pawns of a few powerful interests, sent to engage in illegal wars, occupations, and other covert operations that fly in the face of our country's ideals of freedom and self-determination.

There are many, many good men and women who serve -- and they have given so much while too many of us sit at home and armchair quarterback, one way or another, about their jobs. I recognize that for what it is, because I'm doing it right now.

So why, then, fight for the full integration of LGBT Americans into an institution that has been tainted so thoroughly by the very forces of discrimination busy attacking our rights on all fronts?

Because it takes all kinds. Because it's not my job to tell someone what they can or cannot do to serve their community. Because every victory in the battle for equality is worth celebrating. Because these good people are the ones to change the institution from the inside, little by little, and hopefully put it more on the path of defense and security, not offense and occupation.

My sincere gratitude and congratulations to everyone who fought for fairness for so long, who suffered and even died for what they believed in and who they loved.

Paul Ryan is pro-tax cut, but only when he's not against it

Hey non-millionaires: Congressman Paul Ryan would like you to look deep into his big, blue eyes and believe him when he tells you he's against tax increases -- ignoring, all the while, the fact that his fingers are rooting around in your pockets, looking for your wallet.

You see, Ryan wants desperately for the U.S. to address its current economic mess by slashing $1.5 trillion in spending and not raising revenue at all. When President Obama on Monday called for a new "millionaire" tax, then, Ryan and his fellow Republicans came down with an immediate case of the vapors.

While Ryan's reaction to that particular part of Obama's proposal hardly came as a surprise, his take on another part of the plan was puzzling: In response to the president calling for an extension of a payroll tax cut for both employers and employees (something that, if allowed to expire, would amount to a 50 percent tax hike on workers making less than $106,000 a year), Ryan declared that he and fellow House Republicans would oppose such a move.

Such a stance is especially hypocritical when taken alongside Ryan and the GOP's stalwart defense of the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy, which they forced Obama into extending another two years, until 2013. Letting the Bush cuts for the top two percent of income earners expire would have raised $120 billion over two years.

Ryan's apparently far less interested in seeing real job creation and a return to some semblance of economic stability than he is in making sure the only people not actually sharing in the sacrifice are the wealthiest members of society.

While the payroll tax cut and millionaire tax certainly aren't silver bullets, they can definitely be positive additions to the overall strategy for dealing with the recession -- far more than can, say, destroying the social safety net per the most popular Republican plans.

Henry Blodget, writing for Business Insider, lays out a compelling case for why the Obama plan can be a force for good, and why too many of the GOP talking points against it are bull, including the one that says taxing these top earners would somehow discourage their investing in their businesses:

...if Obama's millionaire's tax is aimed at income and not capital gains or dividends, these $1+ million earners will NOT be "discouraged from investing."On the contrary, they will be encouraged to invest. Why?

Because they will be encouraged to take less in salary and reinvest more in their companies. If a small business earns $1+ million a year, and the owner "passes through" all this income and pays taxes on it, Obama's "millionaire's tax" will encourage this owner to do the following:

  • Pay him or herself less
  • Hire more people or otherwise reinvest the money in the business (so it won't be taxed)

These moves, in turn, should do two things:

  • Help create new jobs (which will help the overall economy
  • Help grow the owner's business, thus increasing his or her net worth

Eventually, the owner can sell the business. And assuming the capital gains tax is still less than the income tax, this will actually have been a smarter and more tax-efficient way for the owner to get rich than paying him or herself a huge salary every year.

Getting businesses to invest more in their operations -- and therefore to add jobs -- is one of the major problems faced by our country today. As a result of the (still ongoing) banking crisis -- a catastrophe brought on almost entirely by irresponsible bankers who have yet to be held accountable, not the average citizens now paying for it -- both worker and business confidence is low. So those who can afford to do so save their money instead of putting it back into the economy: Currently, non-financial corporations are sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash. Those holdings make up 7.1 percent of all company assets -- the highest level since 1963.

Perhaps, implemented intelligently, the Obama plan would encourage that money to be moved back into the economy -- creating jobs and spurring growth -- instead of sat on and swam in, like a certain duck in a certain money bin.

Transitions

Some of you may have already read this bit of news, but now it's official: My "Emily's Post" of Thursday, September 29 will be my last. I've had a great, two-year run here at The Daily Page and am incredibly grateful for the time and the platform I've been given. I'll have more to say about the transition in that last post, including what I'll be up to next in Madison (writing, always writing), but I wanted to give the heads up now. My sincere gratitude to everyone who's ever bothered to read and/or comment on these pieces -- it's been excellent.

Worth watching

We don't pay enough attention to county government. That's kind of the secondary lesson of this Capital Times article by Paul Fanlund about the terrible budget choices facing Dane County this fall. It's a good read, and an important reminder of the crucial, but often overlooked work, done for our most vulnerable and marginalized citizens by the county.

An interesting read: "Grading Our Teachers: Job evaluation reform gains traction" in the Wausau Daily Herald.

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