ça Change, Plus C'est la Même Chose
–Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (January,
CR Lawn, 2010
Two years ago here I likened our economic malaise
to a violent swift storm, hoping it would disperse excess humidity,
clear the air and bring fresh breezes. Now, it looks more like the
aftermath of a lengthy nor’easter, with angry clouds and overcast
skies persisting unbroken from here to the horizon. Nor has it cleared
the air, leaving us at risk for a more virulent sequel, the dreaded
back-to-back storm scenario that we’re quite familiar with
in New England. Our nation has barely acknowledged, let alone addressed,
the real causes of our economic woes.
Instead, we’ve bailed out the banks, rewarding
the very financial institutions whose unchecked greed precipitated
the crisis, mandated health care “reform” that will
strengthen the bloated insurance industry at the expense of our
shrinking middle class, and may enact food “safety”
legislation or rule-making that will jeopardize the continued momentum
of our sustainable local food initiatives by burdening small farmers
and processors with expensive regulations without adequately addressing
the real safety problems built into our overly centralized industrial
As we have learned to our sorrow, the word “change”
is neutral. Karr (1808–1890), French journalist and floriculturalist,
founder of the cut flower trade on the French Riviera, was right.
Without clear social objectives, good directions and sufficient
courage, “change” will simultaneously create better
conditions in some areas and worse in others.
Even if we wished, we can’t go back to an
economy based on unsustainable levels of credit. We lack the means
and we lack the confidence. On our farms, trickle-down may be a
good way to irrigate, but in our economy it is only a good way to
irritate. No wonder our political discourse leads us to one sullen
ill-mannered impasse after another!
Do you know that from 1954–1963 the marginal
income tax rate for individuals in the top bracket was 91% and from
1965–1981 70%? These rates didn’t prevent our nation
from enjoying its longest period of relative prosperity, in fact
they aided and abetted that outcome. Now we hear dire forecasts
from the Tea Party that President Obama’s modest proposal
to restore the rate to a whopping 38.5% from its present 35% will
cripple the economy even though it affects only our wealthiest 2%.
He ought to raise it to 60%!
Change I can believe in?
• Redistribute our income through fair progressive taxation.
• Revamp global trade agreements to bring back our jobs.
• Rebuild our infrastructure to manufacture real goods.
• Revitalize our food system to de-centralize, re-localize