November 29, 2017
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U.S. Senator “for” Pennsylvania
I realize that, as a Philadelphian paid (substantially) less than $100,000 a year, I am not one of those you normally think of as your constituents. Nonetheless, I must implore you to consider the plight of the great majority of Pennsylvanians as you consider the proposal currently pending in the Senate to increase our taxes so that the government can redistribute our money to those your colleagues consider truly deserving: the corporations and the rich.
The proposal passed by the Finance Committee would leave my base tax rate the same (although people paid far more than I would see significant savings, as their tax brackets are eliminated and their rates fall), while eliminating the dependent deduction for my daughter, eliminating or significantly limiting my deductions for local and state income and real estate taxes, further limiting my ability to deduct thousands of dollars in work-related expenses, and eliminating the childcare tax credit. So under this legislation my taxes would increase significantly next year, and apparently might go up even more in few years’ time when provisions sunset.
It would be one thing to raise my taxes in order to fund some worthy goal, such as universal health care or accelerating the conversion to a green economy and so averting the worst consequences of global warming. But to raise my taxes (and those of the vast majority, who must work for a living) in order to hand the money over to the wealthiest among us strikes me as quite outrageous. The United States already suffers economic inequality unparalleled since the eve of the Great Depression. I would hope that the prospect of exacerbating this problem through regressive changes to the tax code would disturb even someone such as yourself, who has built his entire political career around advocating for the interests of the rich and powerful.
November 3, 2017
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In a lengthy review of James Scott’s new book, Against the Grain (The Nation, Oct. 23, pp 27-32), Samuel Moyn makes a rather startling assertion (I do not call it an argument as he presents no evidence to support it, though he does repeat himself):
Both anarchists and neoliberals have combined in our time to obscure the fact that, to date, the state has been the most successful technology known to history for imagining and institutionalizing liberty and equality, even though it has often failed… (do tell) Scott only rarely mentions the forms of social justice that only modernity and its states have permitted and put into practice…
And he calls on us to recognize “the fact that modern states could strive not simply for civilizational splendor, but also for the freedom of equality of all.” He tempers (but I’m not sure he realizes that’s what he’s doing) this claim in the very next paragraph, where he asserts that “modern (and not only modern, jb) humans have attempted to make [the state] serve their emancipation rather than their oppression.”
And indeed they have, from the guillotine to the Marxists and their ilk who imagined a people’s state, to the Civil Rights Movement who demanded equal rights and an end to oppression, and now the Black Lives Matter movement which asks mainly that the state just stop killing them. But an unsuccessful history of trying to make the state serve as an instrument of emancipation is quite a different matter from establishing that the state is capable of, let alone ever has, serving to imagine and institutionalize liberty and equality.
I have not read Scott’s book, and so can not judge whether the criticisms raised against it are fair. But the reviewer clearly suffers from a very advanced stage of state worship – one that has progressed to the point where he is suffering visions of philosopher kings and benevolent dictatorships.