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Reality Matters

Apr 20, 2009

People should remember that while they have the right to their opinion, they are not entitled to be taken seriously.
Bruce Bartlett, economist and former Reagan administration official (read his terrific take on today’s subject—tax tea parties—at Forbes.com, Apr 17, 2009, accessed Apr 18, 2009)


Last week, on Tax Day, a few thousand Americans answered the clarion call of their right-wing cable channels, bankrolled by some well-heeled ideologues posing as Republicans1 (we won’t call them Republicans. If these people are Republicans, then Lincoln, T.R., and Eisenhower are spinning in their graves.)

The demonstrations went on despite the findings of a new Gallup poll: For pretty much the first time in over 50 years, a solid majority of Americans—61 percent—consider their tax burden to be fair, and three percent think it is too low.2

In reality, if we may introduce such an alien concept among the rants and half-baked opinions upon which our actions and much of our media coverage is based, all but the very wealthiest Americans are enjoying an historic low in their federal tax burden, now hovering near its lowest level in three decades.3

And that’s a fact. That is reality. And reality matters. Neither Times story we noted above saw fit to mention this fact, although it is inarguably pertinent to both. We don’t care much about facts in this country. We care about our fuzzy feelings and our borrowed opinions. We don’t care for facts, are not in command of many, and are eager to forget the ones of which we are inconveniently aware when they collide with those feelings or opinions.

And this is more than a problem. This is what is going to bring us down. Oscar Wilde said “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without a period of civilization in between.” And it is the anti-intellectual streak in America that has made us this way—our unwillingness to discover, acknowledge, or confront facts before adopting a viewpoint which often is in complete and dangerous ignorance of reality.

Getting our facts straight is the first of All Together Now’s three missions. Although we have attempted to do that for almost eleven months, when we witness such acts as the tea parties of last week, we despair of success. Though reality may matter to you and to me, it matters not at all to close to half the American electorate. And should the Obama administration stumble as it attempts to return America to a rational equilibrium, those who would deny or ignore reality will be back calling the shots, in 2012 if not before.
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1 Tax Day Is Met with Tea Parties, by Liz Robbins, from the New York Times, Apr 15, 2009, accessed Apr 16, 2009
2 Hold the Tea: Americans Fine with Taxes, by Robert Mackey, from the New York Times, Apr 14, 2009, accessed Apr 16, 2009.
3 Americans’ Tax Burden Near Historic Low, by Lori Montgomery, from the Washington Post, Apr 16, 2009, accessed Apr 16, 2009.
tags: Politics

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