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War Didn’t Help

In today’s NYT, Paul Krugman talks about how World War II pulled the US out of the Depression, although people back then also said that stimulus would not work.

It reminded me of the difference between World War II and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  First Roosevelt in WW II called on all of America to pay for the war, although it still ran up enormous deficits.  Bush said, “Go shopping,” to support the Iraq war; you don’t need to pay taxes.  If Bush had attempted to pay for the Iraq war, we probably would have had fairer, more equitable taxes, which would have done something to mitigate the perception that the current US tax system is seriously unjust.  We grew up hearing about the merits of the American progressive tax system that taxed the rich more than the poor, and now we find that we have a regressive tax system that taxes the poor more than the rich.  The Republicans argue that the rich still pay the bulk of the taxes, which is true, but only because they earn the bulk of the income.  Also, defenders of the current system seldom bring payroll taxes into the discussion, because if they did, the disparity would be even worse.  It’s true that many very poor people don’t pay income tax, but many more of them pay payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare.

The other disparity between the rich and the poor that the war widened is between those who defend America and those who stay home and make money while the soldiers fight.  In the old days, especially when there was a draft, the stay-at-homes were shamed as “war profiteers,” but today they are hailed as “entrepreneurs.”  In WW II almost everybody who was healthy fought; today almost all soldiers come from the lower classes, and disproportionately from small towns and rural areas, where there is still some feeling of patriotism.  Ironically, the 9/11 attack on the twin towers was directed at America’s richest 1%, but the 1% by and large didn’t fight back, it hired the 99% to fight and die for them.  Now when those soldiers come home seeking jobs, the 1% that owns everything usually turns its back on them.

The US has regressed so far back toward the old feudal system that we don’t need new laws or an updated Constitution, we need a new Magna Carta.  Welcome to the 13th century!

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