Sunday, May 03, 2009

American of the Year

It's always a rush when you stumble upon an ideological kindred spirit. It doesn't happen that often -- OK, almost never -- in my Favogian universe.

But it just happened. I present to you a great American -- former New York Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, expounding upon how the Reagan Revolution ushered in profoundly radical, unjust and unbiblical economic policy and passed it off as somehow "conservative."

TO THAT I say, "Amen, brother!"

The interview is in Vermont's independent weekly, Seven Days:

SD: Given that you’ve been doing investigative work for newspapers for many years, what do you think will happen now that newspapers are in danger of going extinct?

Most serious journalism is still done by newspapers. What people see on TV at night typically begins with the work newspapers have done. The decline in print journalism is very bad in terms of protecting the public purse. Those who want to pick your pocket and enrich their friends are having a field day.

But if newspapers do die, that won’t necessarily mean we won’t have good journalism. Ninety percent of blogs read like drunks talking in a bar, but a few of them are very, very good. I’ve long warned that the collapse of serious news could be a precursor to a revolution in this country. And in a country as complex and as contentious as ours, a revolution could make Pol Pot’s Cambodia look tame by comparison.

How could there possibly be a revolution in a country as apathetic as this one? There’s not much activism despite the economic crisis.

Revolutions do arise from economic collapse. We’ve had a decade of faux economics that has left large numbers of people with no jobs and no prospects. We’re destroying social stability, and we’ve lost sight of fundamental principles.

Such as?

Where do you think democracy comes from? We got it from progressive taxation. It came about when Athens separated political power from economic power and gave ordinary people an equal voice. The only reason Athenians could get rich was because Athens made it possible for them to get rich. Civilization establishes necessary conditions, so the richer you are, the greater your burden to sustain civilization and democracy with your taxes.

That’s not what’s happening now. Americans making $26,000 a year have a tax burden about one-quarter greater than a person making $260,000. If you make $50,000 to $75,000, you pay roughly the same rate as someone making $100 million. My books show how all these devices take from the many and give to the few. America did all right for many decades because we got the rules right — until the rise of Reaganism. We then abandoned conservative, time-tested ideas for radical ideas that were sold as conservative. All throughout the Bible, taking from the poor and giving to the rich is denounced as evil. Almost everybody who runs for Congress and certainly for the White House makes at least a show of going to church. So how can it be that people who profess to believe in the Bible have enacted hundreds of laws that prescribe what’s described in the Bible as one of the most fundamental evils? We’ve just been through an era when it was argued that the only duty of a corporate executive is to push up share prices. But you can manipulate numbers, and a corporation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has customers, vendors, employees — and all the infrastructure of a democracy. You can’t have a healthy company in a sick society.
THAT'S A LINE all the "business firsters" ought to learn, live and learn to love, because it's true and getting truer: "You can’t have a healthy company in a sick society."

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