Perhaps it’s my present status as a college student that leads me to think of time in terms of semesters rather than seasons or holidays. But even beyond campus, where the nearing graduation ceremonies mean nothing, I think the country itself is entering an age of fruition. Even the two great inevitables – death and taxes – are coming to something of a head.
The Los Angeles Times reported that a nationwide flat tax, the fiscal fantasy of publishing baron and one-time presidential hopeful Steve Forbes, has more or less come to pass. This has happened in the sense that there is now only a miniscule difference in the income tax paid by the middle-most bracket (17.4 percent of $50,000-$75,000) and that paid by the richest (22 percent of more than $1 million). Forbes proposed a 17 percent flat tax on all income exceeding $36,000 a year – but sometimes you have to take what you can get.
So now, the richest fifth of America’s countrymen have what they’ve longed for since the days of FDR: low taxes, vanishing trade barriers, deregulated telecommunications, unions generally without leverage and a Democratic Party that plays ball like it’s trying out for the GOP junior varsity team.
Everybody can get behind low taxes. The rates are still vaguely progressive, if not quite proportional to the overall distribution of wealth. However, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that the federal government has a right to as much as half of the income earned by a person’s labor, as was the case prior to the Reagan era, let alone the seemingly unfathomable 94 percent tax rate foisted upon top earners during World War II.
There is one massive hitch, however, and the memory of WWII serves well to illuminate it: The United States is now tailbone-deep into the Middle East with no intention of leaving soon. Permanent U.S. bases are slated for construction in Iraq, American troops continually tango with a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, and President George W. Bush himself now declares that a military withdrawal will be the decision of “future presidents.”
When the United States entered WWII, President Roosevelt first secured the two principal fuels on which warfare runs: money and men. In addition to the massive war chest assembled through taxation, the U.S. military had drafted nearly 1 million men by the end of 1941. These measures spoke to both a sense of urgency and the intent to execute the mission as concisely as possible. Comparatively, Bush has managed to deplete the source of funding for this modern adventure through tax cuts, simultaneously allowing the military ranks to dwindle away as potential recruits defer to Support Our Troops car magnets over enlistment papers, the future history of the War on Terrorism yawning out before them into infinity.
And yet, Bush would not only have it both ways (a war run on the fumes of spent money, manned by the ghosts of spent soldiers), but he also is desirous of more. You can refer to military action as a “last resort” all you want, but come on: It’s “Iran or bust” at this point in the White House, and everybody can feel it in their gut.
Logistically, America isn’t in a position to employ weapons that aren’t already paid for, or to deploy fresh troops that simply don’t exist. As the nation’s leadership now preoccupies itself with daydreams of a new enemy – one of massive numbers and committed religiosity – the natural solution presents itself.
Ryan McGeeney is a senior majoring in political science.