GUY: Where are the progressives?

John Guy
April 9, 2011
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John GuyA peculiar feature of contemporary American political thought is the absence of progressive ideas. Today, a political leader who proposes a higher appropriation to clean streets would be criticized. If he proposed going to the moon, he would be impeached.

In the 1950s, like today, public diatribes were common—against communists, blacks, socialists, gays, rock-and-roll and Hollywood. Despite that negative environment, President Eisenhower was able to successfully promote the most massive highway construction program in the history of any nation, and he did not shy from publicly imagining universal health care.

In contrast, everything is negative today, and nothing from the mouths of leaders is positive. Here are the negatives:

• Anti-tax, even though federal taxes are historically low. From property-tax caps to estate-tax exemptions, every viable source of revenue is under attack, and every tax deduction and credit is sacrosanct.

• Anti-health-care reform, with no proposed alternative.

• Anti-government. No domestic program is immune. The declared ideal is “limited government,” although no nation with a growing population and, perhaps more significant, increasing concentrations of people, can reduce government services. The anti-tax/anti-government mood is causing reduced library services, larger class sizes and even elimination of half a police force in Camden, N.J.

• Anti-big-projects, such as highways, rapid-rail service and tunnels.

• Anti-public-broadcasting. The only traditional national American news medium gaining attention by the public (higher ratings) is National Public Radio. All others, especially newspapers, are losing ground to the bite-size transmissions on the Internet. In Germany, England, and here, public broadcasters are respected, perhaps best demonstrated by the choice of moderators in our recent presidential debates.

• Anti-Islam, or perhaps equally accurate, fear of Islam, expressed in public, and in an increasing volume of unsolicited e-mails. For more than nine months, friends have forwarded me anti-Islamic e-mails, never expressed by their own words but, instead, by attaching or copying diatribes of others, always unknown authors with no proven credibility.

• Anti-right-to-choose, which, in effect, is asking government to enforce personal moral decisions. One can only wonder what penalties would be for individuals, couples and providers who make “wrong” choices.

• Anti-teachers, articulated in criticism of their compensation and in proposals to publicly rank performance based on standardized tests. The only activity in which people are publicly ranked is athletics. We do not print rankings of public leaders, business executives, doctors, lawyers, airline and ship captains, soldiers, firefighters and hard-working laborers, for what should be an obvious reason: People in the lower half of any ranking, tens of millions of them, people for whom replacements do not exist, will be insulted, and their self-esteem will suffer. People are not consumer products.

• Anti-civil-rights-of-homosexuals. How anyone can be hurt by allowing others to marry is simply beyond me.

• Anti-immigrants. As beautifully documented by the movie “A Day Without a Mexican,” where would we be without Latinos and all the other wonderful people who have built this nation, from Irish to Hispanics, from Christians to Jews and Muslims, as well as atheists, Moonies and Buddhists? The American experience is rich because it is diverse. Immigrants work hard, pay taxes and provide meaningful services.

With time, and understanding, I believe America will return to its optimistic roots.•


Guy is a local certified financial planner and author of “Middle Man, A Broker’s Tale.”


  • Thanks
    Great essay! We are a diverse nation. That makes things a bit complicated. But approaching others from a standpoint of understanding makes it so much easier to navigate. Fear is for the lazy who don't want to learn and then fail to comprehend how our differences make us a greater nation, not worse.
    As for taxes, it is in corporations' interest for us peasants to fight each other over our scraps. That way, we're too distracted to march on DC to protest the fact that GE paid no income tax on 11 billion in profits. A quick look at history will show that income taxes are actually historically low right now.

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  1. Apologies for the wall of text. I promise I had this nicely formatted in paragraphs in Notepad before pasting here.

  2. I believe that is incorrect Sir, the people's tax-dollars are NOT paying for the companies investment. Without the tax-break the company would be paying an ADDITIONAL $11.1 million in taxes ON TOP of their $22.5 Million investment (Building + IT), for a total of $33.6M or a 50% tax rate. Also, the article does not specify what the total taxes were BEFORE the break. Usually such a corporate tax-break is a 'discount' not a 100% wavier of tax obligations. For sake of example lets say the original taxes added up to $30M over 10 years. $12.5M, New Building $10.0M, IT infrastructure $30.0M, Total Taxes (Example Number) == $52.5M ININ's Cost - $1.8M /10 years, Tax Break (Building) - $0.75M /10 years, Tax Break (IT Infrastructure) - $8.6M /2 years, Tax Breaks (against Hiring Commitment: 430 new jobs /2 years) == 11.5M Possible tax breaks. ININ TOTAL COST: $41M Even if you assume a 100% break, change the '30.0M' to '11.5M' and you can see the Company will be paying a minimum of $22.5, out-of-pocket for their capital-investment - NOT the tax-payers. Also note, much of this money is being spent locally in Indiana and it is creating 430 jobs in your city. I admit I'm a little unclear which tax-breaks are allocated to exactly which expenses. Clearly this is all oversimplified but I think we have both made our points! :) Sorry for the long post.

  3. Clearly, there is a lack of a basic understanding of economics. It is not up to the company to decide what to pay its workers. If companies were able to decide how much to pay their workers then why wouldn't they pay everyone minimum wage? Why choose to pay $10 or $14 when they could pay $7? The answer is that companies DO NOT decide how much to pay workers. It is the market that dictates what a worker is worth and how much they should get paid. If Lowe's chooses to pay a call center worker $7 an hour it will not be able to hire anyone for the job, because all those people will work for someone else paying the market rate of $10-$14 an hour. This forces Lowes to pay its workers that much. Not because it wants to pay them that much out of the goodness of their heart, but because it has to pay them that much in order to stay competitive and attract good workers.

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  5. It is sad to see these races not have a full attendance. The Indy Car races are so much more exciting than Nascar. It seems to me the commenters here are still a little upset with Tony George from a move he made 20 years ago. It was his decision to make, not yours. He lost his position over it. But I believe the problem in all pro sports is the escalating price of admission. In todays economy, people have to pay much more for food and gas. The average fan cannot attend many events anymore. It's gotten priced out of most peoples budgets.