Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My date with Dom

I just had a very interesting experience. I appeared as a guest on the Lou Dobbs radio show (with Dom Giordano pinch-hitting for Lou) to talk about my being a signatory to a letter to president Obama from an organization called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength asking him to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on people making over a million dollars a year, a group which at one time I was a member of and hope to join again some day. I was told that the interview would last about eight minutes, but Dom shut it down after about two or three, I guess because he thought I was winning the argument. It wasn't hard to do. All he had were the usual conservative talking points, all of which are easily refuted. I did learn a few things though.

1. Conservative talk radio hosts really are not at all interested in hearing conflicting views. They are especially not interested in hearing conflicting views backed up by actual facts. The last point I was able to make before Dom cut me off was that if you look at history, in the forties and fifties, a time period when the United States was arguably at the peak of its strength, the marginal tax rates on top income earners was 91%. If you look at the period immediately preceding the Great Depression, those rates were 25%. A clearer demonstration of the long-term folly of lowering taxes on rich people is hard to imagine.

2. A good way to make conservatives squirm is to adopt their rhetorical devices. For example, conservatives love to bring up the specter of communism. I was able to turn the tables on Dom by talking instead about how running a country is a "team sport," and how everyone has to contribute to the team. I was even able to sneak in a passage from Marx himself without Dom noticing by talking about how everyone had to contribute to the team "according to their abilities": You don't take the little guy and make him a linebacker. (My favorite part of the interview was when Dom, sensing that I was not going to give him an opening to play the communist card, decided to play it anyway by saying, "I'm not one to bring up communism, but..." I interrupted him saying, "But you just did." He didn't seem to like me much after that.

3. I'm pretty happy with the answer I gave to the question of why I don't just donate more money to the government. It's a no-brainer: because the government should not be run like a charity. Running a country is a team sport. There are rules. We have a process called democracy by which we make the rules. Right now the rules are not working and we need to change them.

4. The one point I wish I'd been a little better prepared for was the bit about "punishing" rich people for being successful. It's my fault because I knew it was in their playbook, but I didn't really have a quick comeback prepared for it. But if I had, it would have been something like, "Why do you call it punishment? There are some parts of being a grown up that are not fun but that you have to do anyway, like paying your taxes so that we can have good infrastructure and a strong military."

I don't know if there's audio of the interview available or not. I've asked the Lou Dobbs show to give me a copy, but I'd be surprised if they grant the request. They probably don't want audio of Dom getting his butt kicked making the rounds. Next time I'll have to remember to record it myself.

No comments: