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I remember learning about the Tower of Babel in school as a story about failure that comes when people don’t work together.  It's a story about people who weren’t able to reconcile their differences which were so great they lost the ability to understand each other.  Instead of reaching their potential, they dispersed without ever looking back.  

I see elements of that story everywhere today in this land. Americans have turned into a people with differences that can’t be resolved.  We might as well be speaking different languages with the inability of people who have different opinions to communicate with each other.  Some are far gone into a world of their own.

A famous man who once made a living of some renown and acclaim by selling his words is now unable to use the English language without being misunderstood.

#1: I never said it was a threat.
#2: They got the impression from what you said that you felt you were being threatened.
#1: Come on. You are putting words in my mouth.
#2: It's your newspaper that said you said you were threatened.
#1: I've never said this was a threat.

MSNBC transcript

Recently, Chris Hedges wrote about neo-confederates in the South who practice a life of moral decay and lies in pursuit of their own cultural reality.  He recalls finding another Tower of Babel 20 years ago:
The rewriting of history in the South is a retreat by beleaguered whites into a mythical self-glorification. I witnessed a similar retreat during the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As Yugoslavia’s economy deteriorated, ethnic groups built fantasies of a glorious past that became a substitute for history. They sought to remove, through exclusion and finally violence, competing ethnicities to restore this mythological past. The embrace by nationalist groups of a nonreality-based belief system made communication with other ethnic groups impossible. They no longer spoke the same cultural language. There was no common historical narrative built around verifiable truth. A similar disconnect was illustrated last week in Memphis when the chairman of the city’s parks committee, William Boyd, informed the council that Forrest “promoted progress for black people in this country after the war.” Boyd argued that the KKK was “more of a social club” at its inception and didn’t begin carrying out “bad and horrific things” until it reconstituted itself with the rise of the modern civil rights movement.

Everything that once held Americans together is being chopped up and pulverized.  Everything in America that represents the collective power of the people, like our government and democracy, our schools and universities, our libraries, our labor unions, our history, our sense of a shared identity and a shared destiny, and even valuable infrastructure like the post office are systematically being destroyed.  Individuals disconnected from each other are powerless compared to what can be done by combining efforts.  

Like a malevolent unseen parasite operating through its conservative Republican host, unelected special interests steadily advance their agenda.  They insinuate their goals into public policy that has become more or less permanent.  The Democrats have ended up in the role of hapless victim to a series of extortions that forces it to choose between bad and worse, blurring any distinctions that exist between it and the GOP.  The unelected blurs the line further by blaming the Democrats for what it does.  

Current events and the news are chopped up and pulverized too by a media that acts like a propaganda tool for the unelected.  Some outlets deliver a steady stream of lies to their willing and receptive audience.  Others handle their material tentatively and with diffidence.  The information they present is often disconnected from any context, background, or history.  There's no exposition to demonstrate how one event might lead to another.  The public is left to ponder whatever meaning there might be in the unrelated, random, freakish events reported as news.

The series of manufactured crises that began after last November's election is as scripted as any other reality show created to sell advertising time.  

Have a look at one Babelite leader chopping up facts in pursuit of your Social Security and Medicare.  

"Think of it this way. We already have an agreement [capping] discretionary spending for 10 years [the sequester]. And we're already in our second year of it. This whole discussion on the budget over the next several months is going to be about these entitlements."  John Boehner, Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2013
Six weeks after his Wall Street Journal interview, Boehner decided that the sequester was a deal President Obama made with himself.  Here's a quick three second lie:

He says the President got his tax hikes on January 1st.  Just a few days before that the President spoke:  

The legislation passed on January 1st was analyzed by the CBO.  It said:  

we estimate that this legislation will reduce revenues and increase spending by a total of nearly $4.0 trillion over the 2013-2022 period.
That's life in Babel.  If the President got his tax hikes, they’d be the first in history to reduce revenues. Unless you believe in Voodoo.

Searching for some sense I land at the White House website where I see a long word that begins with the letter “S.”  I like the President and I expect a straight story from him so I click the link that  says “See the Plan.”  I see a $100 billion cut in Defense spending and then my attention is drawn to another long word that begins with the letter “S” at the bottom of the list.  “Superlative.”   The line says “Spending savings from superlative CPI with protections for vulnerable.” So that’s what they’re calling it now.

Long live Babel.

An angry citizen of Babel is cursing the President.  He says the President promised that the low tax rate on income over $250,000 would finally expire after 12 years in effect.   But the low tax rate will only expire on income over $450,000, a deal the President made to get a two month delay on the sequestration budget cuts, says the angry citizen.  The gist of the citizen’s rant is that the President could have delivered what he promised if he had held firm.  His conclusion is that no deal with Republicans would have been preferable to the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA, aka the fiscal cliff deal) that became law on January 2.  It would have been better to allow expiration on all of the low tax rates in effect for the last 12 years.  

Since I resist Babelization, I have to add up the comparative analysis.  Is anyone better off with ATRA? Let's look at its provisions:

•  It preserved the 12 year-old low tax rates on income under $400,000 for single individuals and $450,000 for joint filers. Above the threshold, the rate rises from 35% to 39.6%.
•  For income in the top bracket, the capital gains tax is increased from 15% to 20%.
•  Personal exemptions and itemized deductions phase out on a scale that starts at $250,000 for individuals and $300,000 for joint filers.  Above the thresholds, the loopholes get smaller as income increases.
•  The Child Tax Credit, a “gift” worth as much as $2,000, for parents of children under age 17, becomes permanent.  It phases out on a scale that starts at $110,000 for joint filers.
•  The tax credit worth as much as $2,500 for student expenses is extended. The deduction for student loan interest becomes permanent.

There’s a long list of other provisions in the bill, too.  And it also postponed the sequestration for 60 days.  

How do the tax rates work out for everyday Babelites?


Single Filer
No Deductions



Joint Filer
Two Children


Adjusted Gross Income

ATRA Tax Reduction

Adjusted Gross Income

ATRA Tax Reduction
$ 10,000
$ 0
$14,200
$     1,695
$ 20,000
$ 446
$24,200
$     3,125
$ 30,000
$ 446
$34,200
$     3,125
$ 40,000
$ 446
$44,200
$     2,986
$ 50,000
$ 559
$54,200
$     2,200
$ 75,000
$ 1,309
$79,200
$     3,007
$ 100,000
$ 2,059
$104,200
$     5,367
$ 250,000
$ 7,373
$254,000
$     8,871

These figures were compiled from the Tax Policy Center using its American Taxpayer Relief Act calculator.  The Tax Policy Center calculator can be used to run a hypothetical comparison between the higher taxes that would have been paid if all of the old tax rates had expired versus the tax liability expected from the provisions of ATRA.  There's also a macro effect from making the graduated scale of marginal rates more progressive.  Those who are keeping the lower tax rates are much more likely to spend the extra cash they'll have which creates demand.  There are many more possible hypotheticals than what's shown here, depending on income and situation. ( Note: there was no advantage in the hypothetical for a single individual earning $10,000 because there was no federal income tax liability on either side of the comparison.  An individual in this category would still be subject to payroll taxes.)

There's real money is the lower tax rates.  The unelected is already working to snatch it away from you.  Fight for what's yours.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Love, DaNang65, Louisiana 1976

    There is no existence without doubt.

    by Mark Lippman on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 05:22:04 PM PST

  •  At least now I know what to call political (0+ / 0-)

    clap trap that twists istelf into a knot of ugly deception but sounds benign on the surface:  Babel Speak.

  •  Actually the Babel story (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Lippman

    is about the Great and Powerful monkey wrenching the efforts of the lower classes to claim equality with them.

    A story that has played out several times in the past and will likely continue to do so in the future.

    You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

    by Johnny Q on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 09:55:33 PM PST

    •  Here I thought I was the only one who had been (0+ / 0-)

      taught a Socialist version or interpretation.  You're right.  What's happening isn't grass roots or spontaneous.  It's sponsored and financed by special interests with an agenda.  They gain an advantage when people are divided and demoralized.

      In France there's an increasingly assertive rightwing that seems to mimick the American right.  But the left in France is not to be messed with.  They respond with a hard edge and intelligence.  Forget taking the high road when you're dealing with fascists.

      There is no existence without doubt.

      by Mark Lippman on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 11:13:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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