Elijah asks Grandpa about taxes

taxreformGrandpa, do we like taxes?

Why are you asking about taxes, Elijah?

‘Cause they’re all over the news. I don’t get it. Are taxes bad or are they good, Grandpa?

It all depends, Elijah.

You always say stuff like that! Depends on what? I wear Huggies!

We’ve already talked about that. I don’t mean that kind of Depends. I mean it depends on what kind of taxes.

Yeah, like the tax of Caesar Augustus that made Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem. Mom’s been getting me ready for my first Christmas. Look at this picture of Caesar Augustus, Grandpa. He did the same thing with his hand president You-Know-Who does! And he didn’t care about that little baby. Maybe that little baby is Jesus!


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. – Gospel According to Luke 2:1-6 KJV.

Yes, Elijah, it was because of a Roman census for purposes of levying Roman taxes on the country they occupied. The tax system wasn’t fair.

Hmmm. So taxes are bad!

No, they’re not. Like I said, Elijah, it all depends.

On what?

On whether the taxes are fair. Taxes are good so long as they fairly distribute the financial burden for maintaining life together in a good society: things like health care, roads, fire-fighters like the ones battling the fires in California, and economic assistance for the disabled, children, the poor, and retired people like Grandma and Grandpa who depend like Social Security.

So fair taxes are good? Unfair taxes are bad?

Yes, sort of. Tax systems that don’t require the wealthy to pay their fair share are like Roman taxes and like the British taxes that caused the American Revolution. The tax wasn’t fair. And tax systems measure what a country values. So even if the tax burden is fairly distributed, they can be bad if the money is used badly.

Yeah, just like Mary said, “He lifted up the lowly, and the rich he has sent empty away!” Liddle Bob Corker is lowly but he just voted for tax reform that Marissa says isn’t fair.

Yes, he did, Elijah. Senator Corker was a hold-out who agreed to vote for the tax bill after it was amended in a way that favored his real estate interests so he wouldn’t be so little anymore.

You own real estate, right? Are you going to vote for the tax bill, Grandpa?

No, Elijah, I really don’t own any real estate. The bank owns Grandma and Grandpa’s condo. We still make mortgage payments. And I don’t get to vote on it. Members of the House of Representatives and Senate represent us in Congress. Only they get to vote, and the president can then sign it or veto it.

Hmm. So you’re going to be liddler than liddle Bob Corker. But in my eyes, you’ll always be big, Grandpa. Remember Joseph and Mary and Jesus in liddle old Bethlehem.

I will, Elijah. Here’s a more hopeful picture for you to remember. Mary and the baby Jesus are at the top. At the bottom are prophetess named Sybil and Caesar Augustus, but it doesn’t look anything Caesar. It’s the Byzantine emperor Manuel II from the 15 Century that the artist viewed as the new Caesar. Every empire has its emperor, and every one of them is soon forgotten, but the story of Christmas is eternal.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

— Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, Dec. 20, 2017.


America’s Future

This morning Robert Perschmann wrote this in reply to “Next Up: IRAN” (posted here yesterday) and “The House We Live In” (posted on Monday). He gave permission to publish it here. Robert is a student of history. His reflection is thoughtfully provocative.

Gordon, I visualize the reading of the riot act to new American presidents. I can hear the part about how dependent the economy is on war. I can hear the argument about needing decades to prepare the economy for no war. What a serious view of the future is needed if we hope to change this. I think that Obama is closer to visualizing the change than any previous president. A few things that come to mind:


It is natural to want to forget what we have been through… the massive financial devastation by white collar pirates and the unspeakable suffering, death, destruction, and black-hole waste, caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We must understand, in detail, exactly what happened so that we can be sure that we will never again be led blindly into the dark cave of the extreme right wing. No threat has ever done more harm to us and to the whole world than these fanatic American citizens who now smirk and wish failure upon us.

No we are not dealing with a crisis… it is a catastrophe. I like a president who wants to look ahead, rather than back. No one will interfere with that. However, it is not a one person government. We must and will have hearings to document and publicize what caused the catastrophe.

I want President Obama to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. If those countries must have foreign interference… let it be the United Nations, with the support of the US. I want the US out of the greatest and grandest, largest and most expensive embassy building in the world… the one constructed at US taxpayer expense in Bagdad. Let that building be whatever Iraqis want it to be.

Get out of Afghanistan. It ruined the Russians and we can not help. If interference is in order… it must be the UN. While we are withdrawing… let’s get out of Germany and generally recall the outposts of our empire. We can not afford it. Those days should be as over as the British empire is over.

No I don’t suggest that the US is the number one  international villain of all time. Most countries have their own list of misdeeds. But we who think that we are so above it all… do have a list… and we have really, really blown it this time. And, yes we citizens are responsible for the actions of our presidents and our government. We probably can not help other countries very much right now. We have to  pull out of our nose dive and begin a recovery that can serve as the beginning of a world wide recovery. I think that the People’s Republic of China has gained the most from massive world wide blunders. They should, and I think that they will… try to contribute to worldwide recovery.

Part of the US recovery will be the understanding that we can never rely on foreign nations to to make everything that we use. We will understand that from pharmaceuticals to electronics, from cars to appliances, from food to clothing… the US and every country that hopes for success… must produce things. I suggest that every American check the country of origin for every dollar spent. It takes extra time, but I want to attract attention to the issue. Look at the eye glass frames that you think are expensive. Ask where the lenses are made. Ask your pharmacist where the medicine comes from. Check the labels on the produce. Ask about the seafood. To save you a little effort… I can tell you that China makes most of what you buy and they aim to make more and more. I feel better when I can buy a product from Mexico, or Canada, or

Madagascar, or Italy. I think it is better to send money somewhere in addition to China.

I think that the People’s Republic of China is headed to become the new American-style success that we have imagined ourselves to be. I am hoping that they will avoid many of our blunders… but am sure they will not avoid them all. I have smiled at the thought of the red flag flying over the land of the manufacturer to the world. That happened thanks to the quest for the cheapest labor. We gave away the store. But… enough. I think that we should tax the pants off of imports, including those of American companies thought to be all-American… like Apple Computer. Do this until it pays off to make things here again. I think that offshore customer support should be taxed, as well as foreign airlines and shippers that transport to our country. After we have established some American production and restored our economy, …at that point we can study trade agreements with other countries. Yes products will cost more. The answer to that problem is higher pay for American workers. So, why does this issue remain anyway? It is because of the belief that unhindered wealth is okay. It’s not okay. I think that the president’s definition of wealth is generous. A quarter of a million dollars is wealth. It is appropriate for people who exceed that income to pay a great premium in tax. There is no point in having wealth if there is not a society to be wealthy in. American workers made this country possible. If we want less socialism, the wealthy must be happy to pay more taxes to support our society. And the rest of us should be more conscious of what a great privilege it is to be an American tax payer.


Thanks for visiting,



Plato on Wealth and Poverty

“The form of law which I propose would be as follows: In a state which is desirous of being saved from the greatest of all plagues—not faction, but rather distraction—there should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor, again, excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil . . . Now the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth.”

Sound like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)? Karl Marx maybe? Bill Maher?

It’s not. It was , Greek philosopher (427-347 B.C.) and “father of Western philosophy” who said it.
But it could have been Chuck Collins, grandson of Oscar Meyer, co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good. On their website, watch Chuck speaking on wealth inequality. I met Chuck three years ago at the home of a wealthy couple in Minneapolis.
I chimed in on the discussion in December, 2010 with a guest commentary on MPR, “Fear ‘redistribution of wealth’? Don’t look now”, arguing that the redistribution had already taken place – from the middle to the top of the economic ladder in America.
Let me know what you think? Do you agree/disagree with Plato: “Now the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth”? Or with Chuck? Should the distribution of wealth (a ceiling and a floor) be on the table or off the table of a democratic republic? If economics is not on the table, what does democracy mean?

The American Dream on the Ropes

Gordon C. Stewart | MinnPost.com, Wednesday, March 16, 2011

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.” The homeland I mourn is the world I once thought I knew. It was far from a perfect world, by any measure, but its ideals seemed intact. There was set of shared expectations of fairness, some measure of equality, the vision of a more just and peaceful world freed from poverty, oppression and war.

Today that world is as much of a memory as my boyhood home. Something has died. The American dream is rising in Egypt, in Tunisia, and across the Arab world, but it is on the ropes here in America. The cry for democracy, basic human rights, and an end to Mubarak’s self-serving economy has its echo in Madison, Wis., where workers have stood tall for the right of collective bargaining. But not tall enough to stop the turning back of the clock. Nor are they bold enough to strike, as unions would have in my youth.

All across America the hard-earned gains of the labor movement are being painted as evil, yet not a single person on Wall Street has gone to jail for the fraudulent, greedy schemes that brought the American economy to its knees in September-October, 2008. Not one. The idea of democratic rule — the rule of ordinary, hard-working people — has been high-jacked by a ruling class that has no shame while it takes home most of the cookies. It pays little or no taxes, cries foul about spending, raids the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for its wars, blames the deficit on liberal social programs, and leaves the crumbs from its budget-cutting for the rest of us to fight over.

The Soviet Union was feared

My generation’s formative years during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations had us ducking under our school desks in preparation for a nuclear bomb that was sure to drop on my little town outside of Philadelphia. The U.S.S.R. was the enemy and was out to get us. “Getting us” would mean, we thought, an end to democracy, an end to freedom.

Never did it occur to us that the end of democracy and freedom would come from what President Dwight Eisenhower later warned of: the American military-industrial complex that would usurp the people’s right to rule themselves. Never would it have occurred to us that a U.S. Supreme Court would rule that corporations are “persons” when it comes to the electoral process — people just like us free to spend the money none of the rest of us “persons” has to buy an election.

Sunday mornings after church I remember turning on the religious show that featured Oral Roberts ranting and raving and waving and “healing” his bizarre church in Oklahoma City — thinking that this must be some kind of joke. What was bizarre then has become mainstream today. Michele Bachmann, whose law degree comes from Oral Roberts University Bible-based O.W. Coburn School of Law (now defunct) and Sarah Palin, whose church makes Oral Roberts look temperate, would have been laughed off the stage when I was a kid. Today they own the stage, and their Annie Oakley, winner-take-all politics and economics set the agenda — not only in Minnesota and Alaska, but in Wisconsin and in Washington, D.C. Patriotism has become a white fundamentalist Christian packing a semi-automatic on the lookout for the same people Sen. Joseph McCarthy hunted down in the early ’50s.

I remember Joe McCarthy. I didn’t like him then. I don’t like him now. And I don’t like those who imitate him wearing lipstick on their beauty-queen faces and have the gall to call the president of the United States “un-American.”  We no longer need a House Un-American Activities Committee to conduct our witch hunts. The verdicts are rendered ad hoc by demagogic politicians with law degrees from a law school founded by Oral Roberts that lasted only seven years before closing its doors.

Americans want ‘real’ people as leaders

Who needs Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan or Notre Dame?  We want our elected leaders to be “real” people untainted by elitist educations. And we want them to tell us that “taxes” — the word that once upon a time stood for my share of personal responsibility for America’s infrastructures, values, financial security and national defense — are greedy government conspiracies to rob our us of what is rightfully ours.

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home,” sang the African-American slaves picking cotton out in the fields. Some who sang the songs were children who had been separated from their mothers and families as prize chattel on the slave blocks. Others sang it mourning their African homeland. Sometimes “home” stood for heavenly release from the terror of the plantation. The mournful tones from the cotton fields echoed off the walls of the plantation owners’ mansions. The owners considered their work force part of their plantation American Way of Life, while the enslaved workers sang of a different homeland right under their masters’ noses.

I have not been stolen away. But the sense of grief, anger and sadness could not be more real. My mother has died. My country has been stolen. “Come, my brother, come my sister, a long way from home.”