One of the little statistics I caught today on TV was two-thirds of Americans rely on television for their news coverage. So what, you might add! The problem, in my view, is that television news currently is presented like slick drama, with embellished, almost fictionalized accounts more designed to entertain and catch peoples' interest and increase the viewing audience than to state facts. If the figure is correct, that means at least two-thirds of us are badly informed, and there is no guarantee the other third knows much more from reading newspapers, magazines, surfing the Internet or, for all I know, gazing into some crystal ball.

Our country may or may not have been intentionally dumbed down, but we certainly have been entertained to death. Six or eight second sound bites would never have cut it when I was studying for an exam on quantum mechanics or electron transport theory. Neither will they permit the American public to make the wise decisions necessary to nourish a vibrant democracy. To put it another way, our voting is based on the chimerical whimsies of personality, news spin, and charisma. People know, and perhaps care little about the substance of events. That requires much time and thought, and people are just too busy to provide it. Only the old, a group I recently and reluctantly joined, and the independently wealthy, a group to which I will never belong, have that kind of time.

Fully aware of this incontrovertible fact, many of our most successful politicians base their agendas on sample polls, elevating what is popular over what they think is right, if indeed they are at all concerned with what is right. Today's prevalent moral relativism easily allows our leaders to evade any concerns of right or wrong. They do whatever is expedient, those things that will make them popular. They buy votes-- without standing on the street outside the voting booths and paying five bucks to people as they did in the precincts of Chicago when I was a boy-but they buy them just the same.

The most damning indictment I can make of this devilish, insidious procedure is that it works. Human nature is as dependable as death and taxes.

After this lengthy, somewhat irrelevant prologue, if I have any readers left, I'll try to make my point. To do it I'll have to use a few other statistics that recently lodged in my mind. The upper 10% of those who file income tax returns pay 62.4% of federal income taxes. The lower 50% of filing wage earners pay only 5% of them. In all, the top 20% of those filing pay almost 80% of all federal taxes. In fact, over half of America's workers pay more in payroll taxes than they do in federal income taxes which, among other things, indicates payroll taxes are very high. Let me make clear my background is not that of a Steve Forbes or Nelson Rockefeller. I worked as a physicist and engineer, my friends did not inherit wealth nor are they wealthy, and any frogmen or SEAL comrades I know except just a few have been wage-earners all their lives. My dad, a man I greatly loved and respected, never made more than $6,000 a year his entire life. When he died, I paid his funeral expenses. I have no bias toward plutocrats, the rich, and people who have not worked for a living, but when I grew up fair was fair. The group that has paid most of the money to our government has shouldered far more than its share of the burden. Now that America finally appears to have a budget surplus, one which the economists anticipate will continue if we hold to our present spending rates, it is very hard for me to say a portion of that surplus should not be returned to those who paid it.

In recent talk show discussions, I've heard the liberal point of view that the proposed tax cut isn't fair. It generally goes this way, "Not everyone will share equally in the proposed tax cut, since the richest 10% of the people will get half of it." Pointing out the fact poorer Americans will also get 10% of what they paid back, and asking how can anyone expect a return on something he or she didn't pay, seems to have little effect on the liberal position. They reply, "We want a tax cut in which poorer Americans get a larger share back. They're the ones who really need it."

I'll grant you their statement is accurate, socially desirable, and that those who need help often don't get it. But it belongs in the realm of philosophy, and is income redistribution, not economics. The world should not forget a famous quotation, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." It was written by Karl Marx, and is a part of the communist manifesto.


Sam Orr
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)