I've been meaning to ask this for a while now:
What's so scary about Barack Obama?
Really, I've got to know. What is it about him - other, of course, than his race - that has a small but significant minority of Americans absolutely losing their minds?
The most credible non-racist answer I've heard is that his tax policies amount to a quasi-socialist redistribution of wealth. For some people, as a matter of principle, income tax levels should never be raised. I have no interest in having that debate at the moment, though I will say that a certain amount of taxation is the price we all pay for living in a civil society that helps protect our interests. Exactly who should pay how much of the taxes that provide our social and yes fiscal security is a fair and open question.
However, I fail to see exactly what's so scary about raising to income taxes of the wealthiest 1% of Americans to the pre-Bush levels. What that amounts to is an increase in the tax rate for highest tax bracket from 36% to 39%. Of course for those people (including, I might add, most likely my parents, though they've never told me exactly how much they make from year to year) this amounts to a pretty good chunk of change. But it doesn't exactly leave them penniless.
Brian Beech - our regular conservative commenter, and all-around-good-guy - has argued passionately that such increases place a disincentive on work, writing here that president-elect Obama's tax policy stems from a "Robin Hood" mentality that, carried to its logical conclusion, would "reward people for not working" (Brian, please do let me know if my selective edit of your comment somehow misrepresents your point).
This, I think, is a pretty clear articulation of the point that many conservatives are trying to make, that the accumulation of wealth should be rewarded, not penalized, in a capitalist society, and that the system of progressive taxation that has long been the staple of the modern American tax code penalizes that which should be rewarded. Of course I strongly disagree with this point. It overlooks the extent to which the social fabric bought by the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans actually secures their wealth by providing for them a stable society in which that wealth may be preserved. Thus the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans is not so much a punishment as it is an investment. And that investment is, in any democracy, not altogether involuntary.
I could also make a fair number of ethical points. I, after all, don't have a great deal of sympathy for the person who can't buy an extra yacht because their taxes got raised, when people all around have little idea where there next meal is coming from. But independent of those considerations, the fact remains, whatever one thinks of Barack Obama's tax plan, that progressive taxation has long been the way we do things in America. Notwithstanding the occasional lead balloon that is some right-wing plan for a flat-tax, the fight over progressive taxation was won or lost a long, long time ago.
Barack Obama's tax plan does not do something new or unprecedented. It simply bumps the highest tax bracket up a little, to where it was before the Bush tax cuts. If this is the best that those who are deathly afraid of Obama's upcoming presidency can come up with, I don't know what to say.
But that's not why I'm writing today. I'm writing because, once again, I'm simply in shock. I've noted here before that nut-jobs like Hal Lindesy, famous author of The Late, Great Planet Earth, (for those of you unfamiliar with contemporary evangelical eschatology, think Tim LaHaye before there was a Tim LaHaye) have declared that Barack Obama is a precursor to the anti-Christ.
Well now Newsweek has an article asking if Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. Yes, that Newsweek!
I don't know what to say. I really don't.
I could start with how the whole anti-Christ thing is misunderstood. Despite thousands upon thousands of assertions through history that the biblical book of Revelation (not Revelations!) forecasts such a figure, the word "anti-Christ" does not appear in it even once. Either it or its plural are found in the Bible only in 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3, and 2 John 7. There the anti-Christ is not some apocalyptic future being, but rather persons present at the time of the writing (probably sometime in the early 2nd century CE). See, for example, 1 John 2:18b: "So now many antichrists have come," (NRSV, italics mine). This and the other references to antichrists in the epistles of John refer to a group present within the church at that time, who in John's view had a bad ("deceitful") Christology.
Thus anyone using the Bible as some sort of prophetic code telling when some supernatural enemy called the anti-Christ is coming should probably go back and read their Bible - especially those parts of it that actually mention antichrists!
But, of course, there has been a long tradition of Christians speculating about the anti-Christ. That doesn't begin with Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye. And while that word is not used in the Bible the way that those who profit (literally! These people make millions of dollars selling books, making movies and giving lectures!) from it use it, there are still Biblical images that give rise to this mad speculation about the anti-Christ. But since when is Newsweek in the contemporary evangelical eschatology business?!?
And, since when is it OK for Newsweek to give space to speculations that our president elect may be this anti-Christ?!?
I'm not advocating censorship of the press. Newsweek is of course legally free to print just about whatever the hell it wants. But whatever happened to journalistic standards? Anyone seen those around?
Since posting, I've seen posts on this at Political Base and Daily Kos. And, Political Base notes that CNN has been down this road, too.
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