Sunday, August 28, 2011

Betty McCollum Responds to a Marxist Question, Part 1

The articles written nationally about the August 9 Saint Catherine's Townhall have focused on two questions raised by the audience.  Both were from the liberal side of the aisle.  Not a huge surprise there.
In an article from the Pioneer Press, the author wrote:
"This time it was the liberals who were angry about what's happening in Washington.....
On Tuesday night, [Democratic House member Betty] McCollum's fellow Democrats packed a music recital hall at St. Catherine University to give the six-term congresswoman an earful about their disappointment with Obama and his economic and military policies.
The crowd of about 150 was largely friendly and civil, but they were passionate about their opposition to the conservative policies flowing from the Republican-controlled Congress and what they consider an all-too-conciliatory White House."
John from St. Paul wanted to know why Obama has moved to the right. "Whose side is he on?" he asked.

Other articles have commented on the interaction I will discuss below.  They also commented on it as little more than "liberal's getting angry".  However none of them analyzed the content of the question, or on the content of the answer from Rep Betty McCollum.

As you listen to the video, and you really need to experience the increasing crescendo of vehemence in the question, consider what is really being said.  There are two themes he raises.  And look for what is not said in Rep McCollum's response.

Full Text (transcribed as accurately as possible)
Questioner: I too want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your work and your vote against the debt deal.  I think it was a terrible bill.  I have a simple question, the rich and the corporations have tens of trillions of dollars. Corporations are not investing that money in jobs. The rich are not using it in the trickle down way that we hear from the other side from the right wing, from the radical right wing, is the only good way economically. I want to know, and I don't want any qualifications, I don't want any, uh uh you know, I want a very clear answer. When are we going to draw a line in the sand and not strike another deal without a tax increase on that money. Which by the way is mostly our money! Its not the money of the rich, and its not the money of the corporations!

Commenter: They made it, they earned it

Questioner:Its not the money,  its not

Betty: Ok he had the microphone, he has a right to his opinion,  I respect the right of someone who disagrees, but we are not going to have a shouting match in here, we are just not.  I will close it down, OK.  Everybody's opinion is valued everybody opinion is respected, we're not the United States Congress, we're our community.


Betty: So what disturbs me about the tax cuts.  Is all the tax cuts that are part of the Bush tax cut, every single one of them, even the ones that the middle class are getting, We're borrowing the money for the tax cuts.  We are borrowing the money for the tax cuts!  When you borrow money, you pay interest.  So now everybody gets a tax cut. And the discussion is, should some people even get an extra layer on the cake!  And when they do, we borrow that money too.  And there's interest due on it. And so that to me is why I think, and why President Obama, and why the economists and why the grand (Graham?) deal and yes why there are republicans in the senate, and some republicans in  the house even, who think that we need to have a discussion where everything is on the table honestly.  Including tax revenues. Why would we borrow money from China, for all of us to have tax cuts.  And pay the interest and our children will pay the interest on it.  It makes no sense to me.  And so that's where I am, on the, on the tax cuts.  And I think you heard some of that from the, the legislators here about borrowing on the tobacco endowment too.  Am I misspeaking for anybody?
There are several problems evident in this question and answer.  The factual issues and how his, and Rep McCollum's solution to the "problem" would affect jobs and the economy, will have to wait for a later discussion (hopefully the next article).

First lets look at what he says and how Rep McCollum responds.

The Questioner 
He has two themes that appear to be:
1) The money has not been "trickled down" to "the worker", and thus must have a "line drawn in the sand" to force it be taxed away.
2) The rich and corporations have no right to the money that they have earned, it is the property of the "worker".

Perfectly fitting the definition of Marxism:
Marxism views the emergence of a socialist system as a historical inevitability that arises from the obsolescence of capitalism and the corresponding social revolution, where private property in the means of production would be superseded by co-operative ownership. The hypothetical system of socialism would succeed capitalism as the dominant mode of production when the accumulation of capital can no longer sustain itself due to falling rates of profit in real production relative to increasing productivity. A socialist economy would not base production on the accumulation of capital, but would instead base production and economic activity on the criteria of satisfying human needs - that is, production would be carried out directly for use.

"Production for use" is the failed economic model of the Soviet Union, versus our "production for profit" model of capitalism.

Rep Betty McCollum's response
Rep Betty McCollum's response is essentially a completely valid viewpoint, in fact the consensus liberal viewpoint. It is also a viewpoint which many believe would have, and does have, a very chilling effect on our economy (more next time in Part 2).  However of interest here is that her response disappointed because it both completely ignored and failed to correct the unconstitutional theme of his outburst.   The right to property has always been a central theme of constitutional thought and jurisprudence. The founding fathers argued the theme through the federalist and anti-federalist papers, which resulted in the promised addition of the Bill of Rights.  Since this appears to be no longer really taught in schools it is easy to consider it as something abstract, having no more bearing on our modern lives.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Fifth amendment to the Constitution
"No person shall be... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

As John Adams stated it "Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist."  If they can take whatever they want to away from the currently despised minority of the rich, they can take everything away from anyone.

Less familiar, however, are these lines from the Declaration of Independence:
"He ( King George III ) has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance .... He has combined with others to subject us, ... imposing taxes on us without our consent."

James Madison wrote about this problem extensively in the Federalist Papers #51
It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.
"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."
This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other -- that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State.
Their solution was to depend on the tension between many different and divergent interest groups, who they hoped could never form stable majorities.  We have however formed such a majority. The fact that a constituency has been formed with nearly half (43-47%) the citizens who pay no federal tax, or in fact receive benefit from the federal government.  Join to that the more socialist wing of liberal ideology, exemplified by self described socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. This coalition is very willing to say "tax the other guy".

Federalist 10 
If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens

There are two quotes that seem a fitting summary for this
Thomas Jefferson "I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."
"But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government." -- Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837

We must pay attention to those statements that violate the spirit of our constitution, and correct those statements that violate the letter of our constitution.  Should we expect less of our constitutional representatives?

1 comment:

  1. "The democracy will cease to exist when you take from those who are willing to work, and give to those who would not." -- Thomas Jeffeson, Father of the Democratic Party