Today, while not the actual anniversary of Martin Luther King Junior’s birth date, is the occasion on which we commemorate the man who reminded all of us of our greatness. Reverend King reflected; we are human beings. When we are united, we can, and will accomplish grand feats. We can overcome injustice, hatred, and abuses of a perceived power. As a country, we need not continue on the path of prejudice. A dream of opportunity for all can be realized if we work to right the wrongs of the past that, at the time of his speech, and today, still live. In front of hundreds of thousands, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior cried out for an ethical, economic, and emotional equity.
The revered Reverend recounted a history that in nineteen hundred and sixty three haunted humanity. In a nation founded on liberty and justice for all, for centuries, men, women, and children rose up on the back of slaves. He recalled the Emancipation Proclamation, that was intended to set Black people free. As Doctor King stood in the symbolic shadow of a President he characterized as a great American, Abraham Lincoln he reflected on the doctrine meant to end the discrimination that allows for such captivity. There in Washington District of Columbia, on that hot August day, Martin Luther King spoke of his dream, and a promise not yet fulfilled.
The pledge, a former President committed to, was then, five score years after it was avowed, not honored. Late in the twentieth century, Reverend King had seen in the streets of Alabama, understood, on the curvaceous slopes of California, on the red hills of Georgia, on every mound and molehill of Mississippi, in the Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, and on mighty mountains of New York, freedom had not rung for Black Americans.
Hence, this son, grandson of a Pastor knew; he, his Black brothers, sisters, and all people could no longer remain silent, Doctor King worked towards an end to segregation. He endeavored to achieve enactments of Civil Rights laws. He helped create a coalition of conscience. The Reverend inspired many. Yet, he felt a need to do more. He had a dream.
On this summer day, unexpectedly, and advised against such high-minded rhetoric Martin Luther King could not restrain himself. He felt “the fierce urgency of now.” Thus, he mounted the platform, built on the backs of his ancestors, slaves, and revealed a reality that for too long was not mentioned publicly. The Reverend stood strong and spoke for the sons of former slaves, and their son, all of whom were stationed, by virtue of their race in an invisible bondage. King proclaimed what these men, women, and children could not say; yet, what all knew to be true. Racial discrimination, in the land of the free and home of the brave, flourished.
On August 28, 1963, after years of nonviolent protest, ample requests for racial equality, a cessation to prejudice, “Martin,” as those close to him called him, addressed an audience of many colors. He acknowledged, the veracity, that we, as people, are one. Humans, every one, are joined to the other. As he looked out onto the Washington Mall, Civil Rights leader King recognized that some, whose skin was not dark, who may not have experienced the bigotry their brethren had, still understood the dream as he did.
We must work together. On that afternoon, many persons whose complexion was pink and pale, expressed they were willing. “(W)hite brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
Yet, now, two score and three years anon, as a nation, we have yet to fully honor the promissory note Abraham Lincoln bestowed upon our Black brothers and sisters. The check Martin Luther King Junior referred to as “bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds” is not secured.
Granted we have made progress, slight and slow. There is still much to be done. Tomorrow, we hope to see a beginning. The first Black President will be sworn into office. An African-American family will reside in the White House. The Obama’s inspired Americans who yearn to believe that “Yes we can!”
Yet, let us not forget, one Black man, and his relations cannot, and will not, fulfill Martin Luther King’s dream. If all men are to reach the Mountain Top, we must climb together, in every moment. Obstacles cannot be forded by the eloquent words of our founders. Nor could Doctor King conquer the invisible inequity that permeated a prejudice populace then. Today, Barack Obama will not have the power to prohibit intolerance; nor can he do more than advocate for acceptance.
Change does not come from external forces. Only we can choose to believe, as Doctor Martin Luther King did. “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope,” his, yours, and mine.
Let us make our dreams come true. Let freedom ring! “And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Please peruse the full text of this momentous, memorable speech. Let the words wash over you. Breathe them in. Let us begin to fulfill a dream too long denied.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check – a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
How do you stop a train that long ago left the station? How might you un-ring a bell that rang weeks months, or even years, before you knew the chord was struck? How can a countryman, or woman rewrite history? How might a Clinton, or two reclaim entrance into the White House? Perhaps, she [or he] has already done what, since Barack Obama secured the Democratic nomination, no one expected. The Clintons have found a way through the front door of the White House prior to 2012. Days ago, President-elect Obama met with Hillary Clinton to discuss her role, and her husband’s, in the Oval Office and in international affairs. Senator Clinton emerged as the candidate for Secretary of State.
While Americans voted for change in 2008, and millions cast aside even the politics of past Democrats, the Clintons included, Barack Obama calculated his choice for this most senior position would be his former antagonist, Hillary Clinton. Some reports say the New York Senator requested time to think. Other accounts suggest the Obama Administration asked only for her thoughts. What might Hillary Clinton wish to pursue. As the hours pass there is one certainty. “Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has engaged three prominent lawyers to help President-elect Barack Obama vet her candidacy for Secretary of State.”
Several within the President Elects inner circle were critical of the possible appointment. Advisers to the former First Lady said nothing is definite. Senator Clinton will weigh whether to take the job if President-elect Obama offers it. Yet, it seems the die has been cast. Senator Clinton and her spouse have secured the powerful position of Secretary of State.
Breathless with consternation, numerous inquire; is there a way for one small individual to sway a gargantuan group who controls what was and will be our government? Countless fear not. It seems the Clintons will once again control policy, people, and alter the political landscape planet wide.
Momentum builds. A rolling stone, or a rumor, gathers no moss. When a report is not immediately rescinded, we must accept, as frequently occurs, gossip grows into reality. Hence, scores conclude, Hillary Clinton will be the next Secretary of State.
The way is cleared. Only the justifications need to be formalized. Qualms need to be calmed. One cabinet job would put focus on “Two Clintons.” That circumstance cannot be corrected, and perhaps, the President-elect would not wish to alter what is. Some say the status of a former Commander, well-connected would benefit the soon-to-be current.
“He’s a former President of the United States. He’s been traveling around the world, and he’s got his foundation and a lot of foreign policy efforts going on,” proclaims Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton’s former Chief of Staff. The current Professor of public policy, Mister Panetta pronounces, “What they will have to obviously be careful of are the potential conflicts that might appear.”
Conflicts may extend to interests, investments, and the invisible hand of another American widely considered a world leader. In the past, the President may call upon another former United States Chief Executive for advice. He, or she might ask for counsel, or invite the previous President to serve as an envoy. However, if, as proposed, the once Head of State sleeps with and sings sweet nothings in the ear of the current Secretary of State, it may be a challenge for Premiers and Prime Ministers to determine which President presides. A nation in negotiations must be confident; the person they speak with communicates the preferences that take precedence in policy decisions.
Rogues often rise from rolls in the hay. “You want to be able to determine when you are going to make use of a former president in terms of foreign policy or trying to help on particular issues. That can be a very powerful tool if it’s used well,” Professor Panetta advised. “It has to be used with discretion. Delicate details in an intimate relationship cannot be ignored, particularly when more than passion is at stake. Lives can be lost on the turn of a phrase. A United States President, be his name Bill or Barack, must not forget how much influence he has in and out of the bedroom.
Charles Hill, a Professor at Yale, perceives a possible peril if Hillary Clinton is appointed Secretary of State. The scholar, Hill explained, the former President’s constant presence could lead some world leaders to question the authority of the new Commander-In-Chief. As he attempted to digest the dynamics, Charles Hill asserted, “He’s got to maintain his stature. He should not want Bill Clinton getting all the ink or Hillary Clinton.”
The ink may have already been put to paper and dried. Deeds may be done and decisions made. Hence, Professor Hill’s concern for supposed sins may only be academic. Nevertheless, he states, the selection would violate “one of the cardinal rules of foreign policy: “Secretaries of State don’t deal with ex-presidents. And if they do, the White House raps their knuckles.””
A slap of the hand, a slight blow to the wrist, a reprimand, or a retort will not change what has been a constant in the life of Hillary Clinton. Bill will not be removed; her resolve will also remain.
Hillary Rodham Clinton the oft-perceived to be a hawk, will deliver dictums if or when she chooses. As she told Barack Obama in a recent debate when he remarked, it was difficult for him to know who he was running against, Bill or Hill, she replied, “Well, I am here, he is not.” To that then Senator Obama said as Heads of States may say tomorrow, should Hillary Clinton become Secretary of State, “It is hard to tell who I am running against [or working with] sometimes.”
The sensibility expressed by Barack Obama in earlier times is not singular. It has been stated and said again. When an individual associates with the Clintons, direct dialogues are reported to be other than those involved thought the circumstances to be. Some might say, for the Clintons, the shortest distance between an ambition and an accomplishment is often an indistinguishable path.
As an assistant to the Senator, a former 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue aide stated, when First Lady, Hillary Clinton learned how to be effective as a “backdoor diplomat,” Now, through her characteristically tough talk, the once Presidential aspirant intends to acquire what might arguably be considered the keys to the second most powerful position in the world.
A few prominent persons at home and abroad may muse Senator Clinton is not the best choice. Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former First Minister of the province might say as he had in March when Senator Clinton and her supporters exaggerated her foreign experience record, this is a “wee bit silly.” Nonetheless, Barack Obama never asked the man who truly brought tranquility to his homeland of Hillary Clinton’s talents. Had he, he might have heard the tale,
“I don’t know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around,” Lord Trimble reflected. In the Spring of this election year, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient pondered then recent statements about Hillary Clinton being deeply involved. His conclusion was, the rhetoric was “the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets” during elections. “She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don’t want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player.”
Perhaps, David Trimble is correct. However, Hillary and her adept assistant have capably adopted a different perspective; Senator Clinton mastered “a lot of the intricacies of these issues before ever joining the Senate’s Armed Services committee. She’s tough; she had meetings with some Prime Ministers and Presidents where she had to deliver some blunt messages for us.” Perchance, in the past, the world leader who received most of her brusque communications was her husband Bill.
This appointment would provide her far greater opportunities to be brash with world leaders. As benevolent as Barack Obama may wish to be in his appointments, as Lincolnesque as he longs to be, it may be wise to consider the wars Hillary Clinton welcomes, her words, and President Elect Obama’s own experiences of the dynamic duo of Bill and Hill. The actual person, the personality, and the prospect of what Senator Clinton brings to the world stage, may not be as magnificent as the former President-elect Obama, First couple, or their supporters would wish us to believe.
While granted, a team of rivals who work together may be reminiscent of the illustrious words of President Lincoln, “We are not enemies, but friends … Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection,” human emotions may not evoke “the better angels of our nature.” People, personas, and the power they seek may have wings, and wants more fragile than a seraph.
Confident in his current role, perhaps, the President Elect forgets. In May 2008, he bellowed, Hillary Clinton has the “bluster” of President Bush. It is she who was ready to obliterate Iran if provoked, or Senator Obama, if he stood in her way.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Hillary Clinton, not Bill, offered the statement “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran [if it attacked Israel].” The former Presidential challenger, when she thought she had a chance to sit in the Oval Office and commands said, “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.” Given the opportunity to retract her words, the potential Secretary of State did not.
“Massive retaliation” is the message Hillary Clinton chose to cling to. The then Presidential hopeful did not waver. Hillary Clinton confirmed her truth, reprisals are needed. Talk of diplomacy was for Senator Clinton naive.
Then, the candidate the people chose to govern expressed a divergent thought. Barack Obama emphatically stated, “We have had a foreign policy of bluster and saber-rattling and tough talk, and in the meantime have made a series of strategic decisions that have actually strengthened Iran.” Being more sensitive to slights, Mister Obama offered, “[I]t is important that we use language that sends a signal to the world community that we’re shifting from the sort of cowboy diplomacy, or lack of diplomacy, that we’ve seen out of George Bush.” In what now appears to be ancient wisdom, the one, or that one that Americans elected to act with restraint affirmed, “[T]his kind of language is not helpful.” Tis true!
Barack Obama may wish to recall the rants and rage expressed by Senator Clinton not so long ago. The President-elect might ponder beyond Bill. Hillary Clinton, on her own, now wishes to serve in an alternative capacity. However, as she attested to through words and actions, she is her own master. She will posit her own positions, irregardless of who might be her President, Bill or Barack. Might it be mused, Hillary Rodham Clinton will officiate, cooperate, or obliterate, whatever she may choose.
Post Script . . .
I know not what to do with my frustration. Do I merely restate what others have said before I put pen to paper? I tried to, many times. In frustration, I have walked away from a composition that expounds upon futile arguments. I relent. Barack Obama offered Hillary Clinton a position in his Cabinet. He proposed she might be our next Secretary of State. Now he and his transition team vet the New York Senator and her spouse. However, in truth, as I assess recent history and recall that Hillary Rodham did not wish to be considered for Vice President unless . . . thus, I presume the mere consideration is a confirmation.
For days, the White House transition team told no tales. They did not confirm hearsay. Nor did they deny the talk. Hillary Clinton was offered a Cabinet position in the Obama Administration. Ultimately, after much speculation, word came down from senior sources unknown. The former First Lady is “under consideration.” Hillary Clinton will have to decide whether she wishes to abandon her Senate career and pursue another path.
The signs say she is interested. The smile at a Press Conference as she discussed the possibility, the saucy statements, the legal assistance she provided the transition team, all say ‘Sure, I would love to be Secretary of State.’. Hence, countless conclude. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the one, the person who will serve at the pleasure of President-elect Obama, and I can do nothing, but voice my apprehension aloud.
Should Senator Clinton become Secretary of State, America and the world will have to weigh each day what perchance, Barack Obama did not wish to, or thought would not be a problem. Bill and Hillary Clinton are forces not to be underestimated. Negotiations are not their forte. The two favor force and power. Peace is not the prospect they pursue. If this train leaves the station, and the bell rings, no one will be able to look back. The damage will be done. Perhaps, we will live the truth of the words oft cast, “Past is prologue.” Woe is me or we.
Sources of Scorn from the possible Secretary of State . . .
The chap was well-dressed as was his wife. She expressed her distain with her husband’s choice. He would cast his ballot for John McCain in this election year. Taxes were his only concern. This lovely lady declared herself an active Democrat. She had been a Clinton supporter, Hillary that is. Now, she was decisively behind Barack Obama, and proud of it. I might not have known this or much else about the couple of strangers; however, in the year 2008, everyone seems anxious to share political concerns.
Times, as the adage states, are “tough.” Yet, life goes on. Families still celebrate birth dates, nuptials, and anniversaries. People continue to purchase gifts, although most do not feel they can afford to shop. Persons do not purchase until they drop. Instead, individuals in stores stop and chat of the financial crisis. They speak of fears and folly. Countless recount tales of pink slips received. Others anxiously await what they cannot predict. Will they soon be among the 6.1 percent unemployed Americans?
Those in malls understand the woes and are apprehensive they might be next. With more citizens out of work, millions find they cannot pay the mortgage. Ruthless subprime rates raked many United States residents over the proverbial coals. Home loan representatives, who indulged in illicit although not illegal, practices, have helped cause an abundance of foreclosures. Many Americans are out on the streets.
Rage, resentments, and calls for a revolution, are rampant. However, on the issue of tax policies those who benefited under the Bush plan want no change. Dollars held tightly in the palm of an individuals’ hand make sense to those such as this stylish gentleman I met more than a month ago.
For me, the discussion of government assessments began long before America became acquainted with “Joe the Plumber.” It commenced when, I met a couple, whose names I do not know. Perchance, as I tell this tale, I will call them John and Jane Doe. The man, woman, and I did not exchange names, although we had an extensive conversation. The three of us were in a second-hand store. Still, we all wondered whether we could afford to buy even one item.
Today prices are high. The cost of living soars. Incomes are depressed; dollars are too. Small businesses suffer. Workers employed in large and little companies fear they will not be able to survive. In September 2008, 159,000 jobs were lost. This monthly calculation is the worst seen in five years. Americans are not surprised. This computation confirms what most have felt. The economic downturn is severe. Hence, the trepidation for higher taxes.
Talk of tariffs adds to the daily stress people experience in hard economic times. John Doe expressed, for him, the only issue of import is levees. His spouse Jane sighed. Restless, she pleaded to her husband, “There is more to consider.” However, her husband remained resolute. This genteel gent was concerned with his own fortune, not with societal failures. The proposal presented before the public by Barack Obama, says persons such as “Joe the Plumber” and the fine fellow who stood before me, are reminiscent of Socialism. Republicans and Independents who see themselves as rugged individualist react strongly to the idea of wealth redistribution. Democrats attempt to remind all Americans of history.
A prominent Republican, Abraham Lincoln, first introduced the strategy that would rearrange the division of riches. During the Civil War, as costs to run a nation and sustain a war effort could no longer cover expenses, President Lincoln imposed an income tax, a progressive rate of return applied to revenue. Responsibly in 1862, the then President of the United States, choose to seek and preserve fiscal common sense. Unlike the current Commander-In-Chief, the former Chief Executive believed budgets must be balanced. Thus, citizens were charged a fee on income in order to pay for the conflict between the States.
The Civil War Commander also grasped an awful truth; if war is profitable, people will prefer the fight, President Lincoln hoped to ensure economic gain would not be an incentive for bloody battles. While his plan worked, the prosperous protested, just as they did during the Persian Gulf conflict.
Commander-In-Chief Lincoln struggled in his efforts to find a way to pay for the Civil War. Initially, President Lincoln turned to bankers to pay for the battles. After all, the citizens called barons of capitalism, in a derogatory fashion, had the money and the means. Yet, then, just as now, financiers would not fund what they thought an uncertain future.
In the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, lenders groused; loans are liens. Repayment is required. The individuals of yesteryear who wished to secure and retain personal profits were more than reluctant to part with cash. Indeed, they refused. The stranger who stood before me and “Joe he Plumber’ might relate. They too do not want to contribute a penny more of their cash to assist the country. Miserly might best describe the early proprietors of principal. The term may also apply to the gracious gentleman in my presence, the person I refer to as John, or to “Joe,” the man who fits pipes for his wages.
President Lincoln, may too have been as these fellows are, early in his career. However, wartime realities transformed him. As Chief Executive of a country divided, Abraham Lincoln realized the toll discordance takes. Lincoln learned to consider Thomas Paine a prophet. He acknowledged, as the astute author penned in Common Sense, as the population increases, individuals and small clusters of people can no longer care for themselves, friends, and family. Nor can a modest collective control the chaos that comes when people are overwhelmed by a desire to be the one and only.
John may wish to ponder the wisdom his wife expressed. Plumber Joe may want to join him. What the two thoughtful men might define as Socialism is, what Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln would classify as a society where government is of, by, and for the people.
Perchance, the truth of what became self-evident after the Republican experiment of 1862 had a profound effect on what occurred decades later. The excise became permanent with the adoption of the Constitution’s 16th amendment in 1913. Earlier the Supreme Court had rejected the duty; however, Congress, members of the Grand Old Party and Democrats together, overturned the decision.
Income tax has allowed America to civically function and build communities that flourish for near a century and one half. For the last one hundred years, citizens of this country have endured, enabled by a tax system that secures education for all. The current tax structure redistributes wealth so that we all might travel on paved roads, feel safe on secure bridges, and enjoy the creature comforts of cheap electricity, and access to ample water. John McCain, Sarah Palin, “Joe the Plumber,” persons of their ilk, and perhaps John Doe may prefer to be without the luxuries Americans take for granted. Fear of what they characterize as Communism or Socialism, could cause our society to crumble further.
That is exactly what the person I refer to as Jane, John’s life-long partner had endeavored to communicate as the three of us exchanged philosophies on the floor of A Consignment Shoppe. Jane attempted to assert the Bush Administration engaged in redistribution. George W. Bush gave to the super-rich and took from the poor and Middle Class. The trickle-down theory was in truth a splash up. The abundantly affluent were doused in dollars. Common citizens crumbled under the weight of the wealthiest gains.
Jane hoped she could explain, as did I. Our efforts proved futile. Neither of us had, close at hand, the evaluation of experts. Perhaps, had John been able to see the charts and graphs, had he read the terms of an agreement with Barack Obama or with John McCain, he would have recognized as Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and we did.
New Tax Cuts
Refundable “Making Work Pay Credit” of 6.2 percent of earnings up to a maximum earnings of $8,100 per worker
Refundable “Universal Mortgage Credit” of 10 percent of mortgage interest for nonitemizers up to $800
Eliminate income tax for seniors making less than $50,000 per year
Make Research and Development and renewable energy production tax credit (wind, solar) permanent
Extend childless Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) phase-in range and increase phase-out threshold; increase EITC phase-in rate to 45 percent for families with three or more children; increase add-on to EITC phase-out threshold for married filers to $5,000
Make Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable and equal to 50 percent of child care expenses less than $6,000
Make saver’s credit refundable and change to a 50 percent match of the first $1,000 of contributions
Rename the Hope Credit the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” and expand it to a refundable credit of 100% of the first $4,000 of college expenses
Mandate automatic 401(k)s and automatic IRAs
Allow first-year deduction of 3 and 5-year equipment, deny interest deduction (expires after 2013)
Reduce maximum corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent (phased in by 2015)
Increase the dependent exemption by two-thirds (phased in by 2016)
Convert Research and Development credit to 10 percent of wages incurred for Research and Development, make permanent
Increase maximum capital gains rate to 20 percent for those earning more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples)
Require information reporting of basis for gains
Make permanent current rates on capital gains and dividends, (0 and 15 percent)
2001/2003 Tax Cuts
Permanently extend child credit expansions, 10, 15, 25, and 28 percent rates, and changes to tax implications of marriage
Restore 36 and 39.6 percent statutory income tax rates in 2009
Restore phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions (PEP and Pease) for households making more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples), increase the PEP and Pease threshold
Make permanent all provisions other than the estate tax repeal
Alternative Minimum Tax
Extend and index 2007 AMT patch
Extend and index 2007 AMT patch, further increase exemption by additional 5 percent per year after 2013 (temporarily)
Make permanent estate tax with $3.5 million exemption and 45 percent rate
Make permanent estate tax with $5 million exemption and 15 percent rate
Provide taxpayers with simple returns the option of pre -filled tax forms to verify, sign, return to IRS
Create optional alternative tax with two rates and larger standard deduction and personal exemption
Revenue Raisers and Tax Havens
Eliminate oil and gas loopholes
Close loopholes in the corporate tax deductibility of CEO pay
Tax carried interest as ordinary income
Reallocate multinational tax deductions
Impose a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies
Require publicly traded financial partnerships to pay corporate income tax
Codify economic substance doctrine (requires transactions that qualify for tax benefits have economic justification beyond those benefits)
Create an international tax haven watch list of countries who do not share information with the U.S. and require greater financial disclosure to decrease tax shelters
Repeal domestic production activities deduction
Eliminate oil and gas loopholes
Unspecified corporate base broadeners
Income-related federal tax subsidies for health insurance purchased through new health insurance exchange
Require employers to provide insurance or pay a percentage of payroll to support the national plan
Small business healthcare tax credit of 50 percent of employer paid premiums
Replace exclusion from income for employer sponsored health insurance with refundable credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families who purchase qualifying health insurance
As economic experts evaluate the numbers, calculate the computations, and consider how the Presidential challengers will pay for public works and raise revenues, the conclusion the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center professionals reach is a resolute reminder from the past. If John McCain is elected, American wealth will be redistributed as it was under George W. Bush. The smallest percentage of the population, the select few who qualify as super-rich will prosper. Should voters place Barack Obama in the Oval Office, we the poorer Middle Class will survive, perchance, even thrive.
The two candidates’ tax plans would have sharply different distributional effects. Senator McCain’s tax cuts would primarily benefit those with very high incomes, almost all of whom would receive large tax cuts that would, on average, raise their after-tax incomes by more than twice the average for all households. Many fewer households at the bottom of the income distribution would get tax cuts and those tax cuts would be small as a share of after-tax income. In marked contrast, Senator Obama offers much larger tax breaks to low- and middle-income taxpayers and would increase taxes on high-income taxpayers. The largest tax cuts, as a share of income, would go to those at the bottom of the income distribution . . .
The infrastructure [the supply of power and water, public transportation, telecommunications, roads and schools,] the luxuries that make life in America lovely will not exist without taxes. The discreet dude, John Doe, who spoke of his stocks, bonds, and levees imposed on income could have come to the conclusion that if we hold on tightly to what we, as individuals have, our hands are not open and free to build a greater communal wealth. The Oracle who resides in Nebraska understands this.
The “Sage of Omaha” thinks the strategy Barack Obama wishes to exercise is wise. The multi-billionaire investor states Barack Obama “is going to bring outstanding ideas” to the White House. Warren Buffett worries that America, under John McCain might stay the course that has not served us well. As the nation’s economy free falls into a downward spiral, Warren Buffett reasons.
“I think that the US has followed and is following policies which will cause the US dollar to weaken over a long period,” he said.
After voicing support for Obama, Buffett nonetheless noted the US economy had managed to do “awfully well” despite a depression, two world wars, and many financial crises.
“They say in the stock market … buy stock in a business that’s so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later one will,” he added.
“Well, the United States is a little like that. We can take a little mis-management from time to time,” Buffett said.
The Presidential candidate, McCain understands that Mister Buffett may muse of more than his personal pocketbook. However, John McCain grieves not for one vote lost. Senator McCain and his handlers trust in human nature. Common people disregard the good sense of one who is unaffected by the financial crisis.
The Arizona Senator has faith; if he devotes his attention to everyday Americans, he can still win the presidency. The people’s choice is a reflection of how the public feels about the economy. If John McCain can convince John Doe, the man who might be an Investor, and Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, the self-described soon-to-be owner of a profitable small plumbing business, that Barack Obama, like Abraham Lincoln before him, is a Socialist, Senator McCain will be successful in his bid for the White House.
Granted, if McCain become President, John Doe may not be provided for. Jane, his spouse, and I are sure Senator McCain will not care for our needs, but then Commander-In-Chief aspirant and Arizona affluent, McCain does not want the vote of those who recognize the rich reaped greater treasures from the Bush redistribution of wealth plan. Senator John McCain does not desire the vote of Obama supporters, such as billionaire Warren Buffett, who he cannot sway with slams of Socialism.
John McCain’s only wish is to seize a commitment from constituents who have not learned from history. The abundantly affluent Arizona Senator desires to hold on to those voters who are apprehensive. He seeks support from citizens who declare, as the Republican candidate does, the proposed tax plan of Presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, is as Abraham Lincoln’s redistribution of wealth strategy was, “Socialism”
The main explanation for the origins of the American Civil War was slavery, especially the issue of the expansion of slavery into the territories. States’ rights and the tariff became entangled in the slavery issue, and were intensified by it. Other important factors were party politics, expansionism, sectionalism, economics and modernization in the Antebellum Period.
The United States was a nation divided into two distinct regions separated by the Mason-Dixon line. New England, the Northeast and the Midwest had a rapidly growing economy based on family farms, industry, mining, commerce and transportation, with a large and rapidly growing urban population and no slavery outside the border states. Its growth was fed by a high birth rate and large numbers of European immigrants, especially Irish, British, German, Polish and Scandinavian.
The South was dominated by a settled plantation system based on slavery, with rapid growth taking place in the Southwest, such as Texas, based on high birth rates and low immigration from Europe. There were few cities or towns, and little manufacturing except in border areas. Slave owners controlled politics and economics. Two-thirds of the Southern whites owned no slaves and usually were engaged in subsistence agriculture, but support for slavery came from all segments of southern society.
Overall, the Northern population was growing much more quickly than the Southern population, which made it increasingly difficult for the South to continue to control the national government. Southerners were worried about the relative political decline of their region because the North was growing much faster in terms of population and industrial output.
In the interest of maintaining unity, politicians had mostly moderated opposition to slavery, resulting in numerous compromises such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After the Mexican-American War, the issue of slavery in the new territories led to the Compromise of 1850. While the compromise averted an immediate political crisis, it did not permanently resolve the issue of the Slave power (the power of slaveholders to control the national government).
Amid the emergence of increasingly virulent and hostile sectional ideologies in national politics, the collapse of the old Second Party System in the 1850s hampered efforts of the politicians to reach yet one more compromise. The compromise that was reached (the Kansas-Nebraska Act) outraged too many northerners. In the 1850s, with the rise of the Republican Party, the first major party with no appeal in the South, the industrializing North and agrarian Midwest became committed to the economic ethos of free-labor industrial capitalism.
Arguments that slavery was undesirable for the nation had long existed. After 1840 abolitionists denounced slavery as more than a social evil – it was a moral wrong. Many Northerners, especially leaders of the new Republican Party, considered slavery a great national evil and believed that a small number of Southern owners of large plantations controlled the national government with the goal of spreading that evil.
In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln, who won the national election without receiving a single electoral vote from any of the Southern states, triggered the secession of the cotton states of the Deep South from the union.
Ambition is a passion, at once strong and insidious, and is very apt to cheet (sic) a man out of his happiness and his true respectability of character.~ Edward Bates
Bates who went on to become Abraham Lincoln’s attorney general was speaking of his personal perspective at a time when he and others including Lincoln were being considered for nomination to the Presidency. We all today might find a measure of wisdom in the thought.
We see increasing amounts of this apparent desire among so many in the political ranks today. There is much to be said for having ambition if one is able to direct that feeling to productive efforts. Lacking the drive to be successful in any endeavor will often lead to failure and collapse of the effort instead of success.
Ambition is like unto a team of horses pulling a fine carriage in my mind. The team needs a firm hand on the reins. A good driver knows each member of the team and recognizes their strong points as well as their weaknesses. With a firm idea of the trip ahead a driver can make the trek so much better for all concerned. Letting go of the reins or letting that team take more control may lead to one bumpy ride for the passengers and the driver, too.
In the world of American politics today there are many driving forces with which to be reckoned. Money is always an issue. No campaign ever has too much money. Trust me on that one. And people are another big concern. No politician wishing to be successful ever turned away the people who volunteer time and energy to be helpful. Experience in the community and in the ranks of the local political establishment is also helpful to the success of a campaign.
For many today the final piece of qualification for political campaigning is that personal ambition that drives a person to strive for new heights of public recognition. In too many instances the individual then finds him/herself losing whatever measure of personal integrity may have been in place at the onset of the political process. Too many find themselves in the position of bending principles in order to placate one group or another and therefore gain support. In the end one is in danger of losing personal integrity altogether if the hand on the reins is not firm and steady.
How can one guard against ambition that drives the wrong ways? Can one do so at all? I suggest that all of us have measures of ambition that keep us moving toward our goals in life. How do we assure ourselves that we are making a positive difference in the world and not moving toward personal reward that helps no one but ourselves?
We can start by examining our motives. We can move to a hard look at the reality of our life as it stands today. For myself there are a few questions I find helpful. Is my goal going to further life for any other person? Is my success going to mean any person outside my immediate family finds their life improved in some way? Or is the entire issue about me and personal rewards that benefit no one else? If I can answer the questions in a manner that means society benefits and be honest in my thinking I know the process is a good one and is outside personal ambition. Then the process of keeping to the straight and narrow must begin.
Ambition is not only a powerful driving force, but as Judge Bates suggested the effect can be insidious. A person may not recognize the losses in one’s self until too late unless the safeguards are set in place early on in life. One needs trustworthy and reliable friends who are willing to point out any deviation from the established course. With enough careful attention paid to the entire process ambition can be the driving force that puts real fire in the belly of any course in life. Ambition drives each of us to heights in life which may otherwise not be attained. The trick for every one is to keep that ambition under control and directed to the overall good of society.
Together we can stand for a new tomorrow. If we all direct our personal ambition toward the good of society in general a tidal wave of glorious redirection may result. If we continue to allow personal ambition to drive toward goals of any individual we are bound to continue our downward trend of the past several years.
How many politicians today do we see progress through the ranks of local and state government to end in Congress or some other high ranking political position? Did any one of the begin the process by thinking only of themselves? I believe most people who enter the political arena today do so with good intentions. It is the ambition that sneaks in and takes over for far too many.
And what are we the voters to do about all this? Can we effect a change in the system to insure we have the best candidates with our interests in mind in office? Or is the process too heavy with its own inertia to provide the opportunity for people with new ideas to be successful? Or is the system already populated with people whose ambition is for the good of the people so no change is really needed in the first place?