The tea party mantra, "I want my country back," resonates with many. The racial undertones can be ugly (as well as pointless). But the longing for an economically secure America centered on a strong middle class is on point and widely shared.
Older and mostly white members of the far right tend to see themselves as model Americans who worked hard, saved up and played by the rules. They may have done all the above, but many also have no idea of how easy they had it.
After World War II, Americans with no college could walk into a factory and obtain a job paying middle-class wages. Global competition was a future threat. Today's retirees are among the last Americans to enjoy the most golden of benefits, including a defined pension check, guaranteed for the rest of their lives.
More troubling than the tunnel vision, though, is the right's program for restoring the country it purports to miss. The ideological obsession with slashing taxes, shrinking government and keeping labor as cheap as possible is downright destructive.
The America of yore did not build its middle class that way.
When President Dwight Eisenhower backed the construction of the interstate highway system in 1956, the top marginal rate for individual income taxes was 91 percent. Older taxpayers bore their burdens more or less stoically (and there wasn't Medicare to pay their parents' doctor bills). Building America was the public-spirited thing to do.
Fast-forward to the economic crash of 2008. The infrastructure was in shambles and unemployment high. Robust stimulus spending was the ticket out of both dilemmas. But even though the top marginal rate was only 35 percent, fringe conservatives controlling the Republican Party fought against government intervention every inch of the way — lest Congress raise taxes one dime.
Kansas has become the patient on which to conduct this experiment at its most extreme, and the results are disastrous. Gov. Sam Brownback pushed through wild tax cuts, mainly benefiting the well-to-do, while placing Kansas classrooms, libraries and other public services on a starvation diet.
And what do Kansans have to show for it? The tax cuts drained their state of $300 million in expected revenues for the recent fiscal year. (Where's that explosion of economic activity that the theorists said would make up the difference?) Meanwhile, earnings are falling faster and jobs growing more slowly than the national average.
The bond rating agencies remain unimpressed. Moody's and Standard & Poor's have lowered Kansas' credit rating, making it more expensive for the state to borrow.
Study after economic study shows the 21st-century spoils going to the educated. And here we have Kansas cannibalizing its schools just as competing states are restoring their education spending.
One wishes older conservatives opposed to raising the minimum wage, now $7.25 an hour, took an honest look at the wages government guaranteed them back when. The minimum wage in 1968 was the equivalent of $10.90 in today's dollars.
A new study of the 20 major economies finds the U.S. minimum wage among the lowest relative to the country's average wage. China, Brazil and Turkey did better.
The minimum wage helps less skilled workers but also influences the pay levels higher up the scale. Putting more money in the pockets of those likeliest to spend it fuels economic demand.
Tax policy does matter, and there is such a thing as government waste. But in the end, a middle class is nurtured on good schools, roads and other public services. They cost money.
Americans who want their middle-class country back should follow their elders' example. A little gratitude would be nice, too.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 06:55
To The Daily Sun,
I would like to publicly thank a couple who paid for my lunch at Pizza Hut on Friday, September 12. I'm an elderly woman who went out to lunch on my own. A couple at a adjoining booth chose to "pay it forward".
I am so appreciative for the kindness and surprise that this couple paid for my lunch, as well as a tip. It is nice to know that there are still caring and kind people in a world that has gone crazy.
Betty Ann Mayer
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:29
To The Daily Sun,
An open letter to 2nd District U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster:
I am a fresh face to the democratic process, having just turned 18. Born and raised in New Hampshire, I know a little about tradition. From county fairs and old home days, to the cutting of Christmas trees and sleigh rides. Though New Hampshire is moving into a new world, tradition remains important.
Politics has always been important to the New England region, and many traditions exist to deal with it. One tradition New Hampshire embraced was the town hall. Even in the beginning, people knew that politicians could be highly suspect characters, quick to turn a blind eye to the blights of their neighbors.
To keep politicians in line, we have town hall meetings. Any and all are invited to inquire the whys and why-nots of a politician's positions. The town hall puts politician and constituent in the same room, face-to-face, forcing politicians to account for themselves while looking straight in the eyes of their neighbors. That is how we keep politicians honest.
So why are you unwilling to participate in this tradition. If you won't even look me in the eyes, should I trust you?
I am more than a vote. I am your neighbor.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:27
To The Daily Sun,
Gilford's Old Home Day was certainly a day to remember — the floats, the faces, and great activities for all.
The Friends of Gilford Library, along with library staff held their annual pie, ice cream and book sale on Friday evening and Saturday. This event is an important fund raising activity for the Friends, who provide support for Library programs throughout the year.
There are countless hours spent organizing, planning and selling — all of it done with a smile and greeting for our neighbors. I want to thank everyone who donated their time and energy toward making the day work.
Tent set up crew: Bruce Jackson, Ned Therrien, and Karl Roenke. Special thanks to the Gilford boys soccer team for their help with moving boxes of books from storage to the tent.
Book Sale: Phyllis Corrigan, Blandine Shallow, Pam Horvath, Kate Hamel, Janet Moriarty, Benjamin Poirer, Brenda and Clare Foley, Bev Fortson, Sue Goulet, Jean Therrien, Don Clarke, Dan Brown, Sandy McLaughlin, Maria and Tom Cunningham, Molly Harper, Sandy Coutermarsh, Gary Brauns, and Nancy Page.
Pie Sale: Thelma Phillips, Sue and Bob Gunther, Brenda O'Brien, Gina Miller, Miriam York, Sarah Anderson, Karel Mikulis, Mary Collins, John Piquado, and David Osman.
Special thanks to all of the wonderful people that donated a pie for the sale. We couldn't do it without you.
Thanks to all who stopped by to purchase a book and enjoy the pie. See you next year.
Friends of Gilford Public Library
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:24
To The Daily Sun,
A letter writer last week scornfully referred to the facilities manager for Belknap County as the "head janitor." The facilities manager does, in fact, sometimes have a broom or a shovel in his hands. He also wields a screwdriver or plunger as needed. That's the kind of person he is; he will do whatever is necessary to help the county. However, that is not his job.
The facilities manager is a professional manager of buildings and grounds and he is very well qualified for his job. He has a BA from the Whittemore School of Business at UNH. He was the purchasing agent in Laconia for five years and the Operations Manager of DPW in Gilford for eight years. He's been working for Belknap County for three years developing preventive maintenance schedules, managing the the 6 1/2-person maintenance staff, planning projects, supervising contractors, helping with capital project planning, handling purchasing, etc. He has also used the last three years to catch up on a huge backlog of broken and malfunctioning equipment and fixtures.
And, after meeting with him I can say that he is a really nice fellow with the commitment and energy that we need in our staff. He doesn't deserve to have to hide the paper so his kids don't read gratuitous insults about him.
Everyone I have spoken to about this feels the same way. We ought to be able to disagree with one another without name calling, rudeness, and personal attacks. I've expressed this sentiment to the commissioners and am calling publicly for a moratorium on this behavior. We can disagree without being nasty or personal. Let's be civil and work together for the good of the county. If we do this we will accomplish more, come up with better solutions, and take care of more problems.
Candidate for County Commission
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:19