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Nashua;33.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nbkn.png;2014-12-19 05:44:34
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crazy stocks are full

June Lemen

I was in Starbucks in Lexington, Mass., last week, having a cup of coffee before attending the calling hours for a friend’s ex-husband. He had died unexpectedly and tragically. They were closer than most other no-longer-married couples that I know, and they raised an absolutely marvelous daughter who is now a sophomore at Georgetown University.

I had to gear myself up for this event. I don’t have a lot of issues with death (except, of course, for my own and those of anyone I love), but the calling hour experience is more social and supportive than sad. I was feeling draggy. I knew I would see people I had not seen in a long time. I needed to be perky, so I got a large cup of strong coffee to jump-start my charm.

The table I managed to grab at Starbucks had the day’s New York Times on it, which I perused avidly. I cannot say which I enjoyed more: the column by Maureen Dowd about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis or the column by Thomas Friedman. OK, it was the column by Thomas Friedman, titled, “Is It Weird Enough Yet?”

He starts the column by quoting a scene from the movie “As Good As It Gets,” when Jack Nicholson is greeted by a neighbor and he answers him by saying, “Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

We are all stocked up here. Thomas Friedman’s column was about climate change, and how weird it is to have Rick Perry deny its existence while his state is burning in the middle of the worst recorded drought in Texas history, but I took his point to be larger than just climate change.

We seem to be in a phase right now where truth and fact have no relevance. I was trained, with painstaking, thoughtful teaching, by the professors of the Wheaton College Department of Philosophy to dissect and create rational arguments. I am not logical by nature, so it was difficult for me. But now, all I see around me is irrational, thoughtless pandering.

I am losing faith in our government – well, our politicians, anyway.

How can I not?

I am a profoundly middle-class person. I am descended from immigrants and millworkers – people who believed that if you worked hard and got an education, you would succeed. They never asked for a free ride: neither did they expect one.

And one of the great principles of the middle class – something that was drummed into my head constantly as a child – was that nobody was better than me, and that I was no better than anyone else. My parents told me over and over again: This is the beauty of the United States. We are all (supposedly) equal under the law.

So, why should wealthy people get breaks that middle-class people are not entitled to?

For example, I do not see why you should stop paying Social Security taxes once your income has exceeded $106,800 in a year. How is that fair under any tax system? As fair as not paying additional taxes on property once it exceeds $106,800 in value?

Warren Buffett, a rich man by any standard, recently noted in a New York Times Op-Ed piece that he pays a lower rate on his income (17.4 percent) than any other worker at his company, especially the middle-class workers. And he believes this is the wrong way to go about making this country’s economy strong again.

Tax rates are much lower now than during the boom years of the 1960s and the 1990s when the economy was growing and companies were investing in workers. The “no new taxes” malarkey is just that. It’s time to pay for what we did and have and want.

My logic is indisputable.

June Lemen is a freelance writer from Nashua. Contact her at june@junelemen.com. Her column runs the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.