The old year is going, going, gone. . . and not exactly in style, but with that good old "can't do" spirit.
Our senator guys and gals in Washington managed only a mid-December compromise that does little or nothing to address the national deficit and debt.
A major sticking point was a 3.5 percent increase for the wealthiest tax bracket. They couldn't muster enough resolve to do this.
Some additional tax cuts and some needed benefits were enacted, like an extension of employment compensation. Yet temporary tax cuts on the wealthiest were also extended.
When will they get back to reality? When will they find the "can do" spirit of the Greatest Generation?
Now that was some generation and that was some taxation. For 20 years, from the early 1940s to the early 1960s, the wealthiest were taxed at 90 percent.
The Greatest Generation didn't whine. They rose to the task: paid off our World War II debts and those of some other countries, built the freeways, and financed the G.I. Bill which was the best investment we ever made, creating the middle class we now seem unable and unwilling to keep going.
Instead, we whine over a measly 3.5 percent increase. Is there any hope for us?
One thing you hear when you mention this is that there were more deductions back then. Yes there were, like one for incorporating and starting a business, as Johnny Carson did.
For years he resisted doing so, feeling it was his patriotic duty to pay all he could. He had survived the war, as many had not, and he was fortunate to have just the right skills for late night TV. He pitched in to help the nation out of a financial hole.
But he eventually listened to his attorney/advisor, Henry "Bombastic" Bushkin, and started a clothing line. This earned him a major deduction and it also gave people jobs. A lot of people started businesses this way and created many jobs. Such a deal.
We could use such a deal now, when we are losing more than just the middle class. We are losing benefits for those below the middle class, those without the necessities of human living. Medicaid benefits particularly are being cut by many states.
When it comes to charity, there are two major outlooks: all charity should be private; some or most charity should be public.
The latter approach is more realistic and humane. We need private charity, but it isn't sufficient, consistent or reliable enough, especially in large societies. The homeless and starving can't wait for when the wealthy choose to be charitable. And think of the Ebenezer Scrooges out there.
Throughout human history, the tendency of societies has been for most money to end up in the hands of a few, often one person, a king, queen, or other ruler. That is why we formed our country, to counteract this tendency.
And the goals of our founders were nobler than starting a new government so that they could be the ones amassing all the wealth. No. One of their main goals was to "promote the general Welfare," as clearly stated in the Preamble to the Constitution.
These days we have subverted this goal. We strongly resist promoting the general welfare, not even by another 3.5 percent contribution from the wealthiest (whose parents or grandparents contributed at 90 percent).
We see all we have as entirely ours, even if it is interest income, even if we produced no goods or provided no services to earn it, even if we tricked or swindled people to acquire it, even if we were part of the large wealth redistribution scheme, from Main Street to Wall Street.
This in a nation called Christian by many who say they believe in God and who say prayers, as in the Lutheran Book of Worship: "Merciful God, everything in heaven and earth belongs to you. We joyfully release what you have entrusted to us." Yes, joyfully. That's Christianity.
A common way around doing this, however, is by demonizing government, so that it is almost a sin to pay taxes. Thus we deny the reality of a large complex society where individual charity is insufficient to help all those in need.
Ask the private charities. They appreciate your help, but they recognize the reality. They can't do it alone. A structured safety net is required, one that can be provided only by government, especially a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
End of sermon.
Happy New Year.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily?News)