Friday, September 28, 2012

JFK, the 47%, and the Common Good

Guest columnist: 47% should contribute to common good
By Geoffrey G. Fisher, Guest Columnist
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 at 6:56 p.m.
Page 1 of 3
Today, the democratic ethos of our nation is under attack. No longer do policymakers in Washington speak to the need for all to contribute to the common good. Rather, they speak in patronizing platitudes of the constant duty to insulate the "working poor" from any civic responsibility. This patronizing policy would have been rebuked by the working man just 50 years ago, but now many welcome it. Former participants in the body politic are now self-serving observers.
The most blatant example of this loss of self-respect is embodied in the Occupy movements around the country. The protesters saunter out of their L.L. Bean pup tents and reach for the closest placard embossed with the motto "We Are The 99%" -- the implication being that a nefarious 1 percent is scheming to control the lives of the average American.
A disinterested review of Tax Year 2008 from the IRS might provide a much-needed cold shower for these latter-day hippies.
The top 1 percent paid more than 38 percent of the federal personal income tax for the nation.
The top 5 percent paid more than 58 percent of the federal income tax. And what of the bottom 47 percent? They paid nothing. In short, nearly half of the people of the United States paid no federal income tax at all.
Just 50 years ago this past January, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to resist the self-indulgent whining that was in its infancy in the nation. On that freezing morning in 1961 he proclaimed: "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."
Either this proclamation is just another platitude destined for the trash heap of political rhetoric, or it is a national motto written and lived by the young president himself -- a man who sought front-line duty during the Pacific theater of World War II and suffered dearly from his experiences.
From Gen. George Washington leading his men across the Delaware River to rout the Hessians at Trenton in 1776, to the first responders entering the towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, real Americans have always carried their fair share.
Pandering to the poor
In 1961, a laborer might have stepped into his neighborhood pub to enjoy a hard-earned beer. While the hops filtered through his taste buds and into his nostrils, he would have looked at his hands -- hands swollen from eight hours of manual labor. This working man, most likely a Democrat, would have thought of his wife and children and felt a broad smile coming over his face, a smile of pride and belonging to the national fabric of the USA.
Today, the injustice is not with the 1 percent, but rather with the 47 percent who contribute nothing to the federal coffers. Unfortunately, in a grand strategy of national pandering to today's working poor, our current president would increase the number of people who contribute nothing to their country's national bank account. A skeptic would wonder if the president realizes that his actions are building a permanent majority to vote for him and his Democratic cohorts of the future.
In his groundbreaking social critique of the United States, Australian author Robert Hughes railed against a people he saw as professional whiners. Hughes used his pen in 1993's "Culture of Complaint" to hone in on the central problem of the new American psyche: complete and utter selfishness. Hughes was correct, at least for 47 percent of our population.

Fifteen years earlier, Russian dissentient Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn reached the same conclusion. He delivered the Harvard Class Day Speech ("A World Split Apart") in 1978, focusing on the onslaught of modernization vis-à-vis consumerism and selfishness. The speech was both intemperate, given his status as a political exile enjoying asylum, and brilliant, since Solzhenitsyn identified a serious fissure in our national character.
This highlights the main problem with the Occupy members: They look and act like children. It's time for all adults to grow up and help this great country of ours to recover. One way to do this is for every adult, even if poor, to pay something for the greater good.
To the pampered 47 percent, joining the legions of taxpayers would be one way "... you can do (something) for your country."
Geoffrey G. Fisher is a state-certified history and government teacher working in Southwest Florida. Email:

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