Tax Increases or Books: A Library Fights Back

This video tells the tale of how Troy, Michigan’s public library cleverly and successfully fought back (with the help of an ad agency) against a Tea Party effort to shut it down in lieu of authorizing a 0.7% tax increase to keep it open. This story is probably a common one in the age of austerity. Although the election was almost two months ago, this is the first I heard of the campaign.

I’d like to believe that the Tea Partiers are sincere in their chagrin over the sense that they’ve lost control of their government. We on the left certainly can understand that. But they repeatedly show poor value judgment, as in this instance in Michigan. They can often seem to embody Oscar Wilde’s quip about a cynic knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. But they’re witless cynics if they don’t know that 0.7% added to a yearly tax bill is a very small price to pay for a library.

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Does the Left Have a Patriotism Problem?

[I]t should not be lost on anyone that it is conservatives who typically carry around copies of our Constitution in their pockets. It is the Tea Party that refers relentlessly to the nation’s Founders. The movement’s very name invokes a key event in Revolutionary Era history to imply that there is a kind of illegitimacy to the current government in Washington akin to that of a king who once ruled the American colonies far from our shores. Representative Mike Pence of Indiana perfectly captured conservatives’ inclination to believe that their entire program is a recapitulation of the nation’s founding documents. “There’s nothing that ails this country,” Pence told a 2010 meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, “that couldn’t be fixed by paying more careful attention to the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.”

While the right was talking about history, liberals were talking about—well, health-care coverage, insurance mandates, cap-and-trade, financial reforms, and a lot of other practical stuff. One can offer a sympathetic argument here that progressives were trying to govern in a rather difficult moment and didn’t have time to go back to the books. But the left’s default was costly, and it was noticed by an editor of this journal in the spring of last year. “Beyond the circumscribed world of academic journals and conferences,” Elbert Ventura wrote in these pages, “history is being taught—on TV and talk radio, in blogs and grassroots seminars, in high school textbooks and on Barnes & Noble bookshelves. In all those forums, conservatives have been conspicuous by their activity—and progressives by their absence.” Ventura ended with this alarming coda: “If we don’t fight for history, progressivism itself will be history.”

E.J. Dionne, “Why History Matters to Liberalism

It’s almost accepted as a truism that people on the right in the US are more patriotic–or, at least, more comfortable with expressing patriotic sentiment–than people on the left. This is not too controversial a notion on left or right, though you will certainly find many in the Democratic Party full-throatedly denying that it’s based on fact. Liberal Democrats, they say, can get just as teary-eyed over “The Star Spangled Banner” as the most politically constipated Bircher. You will also hear among a certain kind of Democrat the sort of argument you hear among liberal Christians comparing themselves to fundamentalists, about the ersatz nature of right-wing patriotism compared to “real” liberal patriotism.

But I think most people would agree that those on the right are far more comfortable wrapping themselves in the flag than those on the left. To test that, ask yourself how you think the fellow in the photo below would feel about corporate tax rates, government regulation of companies’ CO2 emissions, federal investment in renewable energy sources or subsidization of early childhood education in the barrios of our Southwestern cities.

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