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Letter: Discussion of political traditions, destiny


I appreciate Mr. John Clauer's effort in the July 21 Enterprise to enter into a discussion concerning our political traditions and destiny. At the same time, I encourage him to read both my letter and U.S. history more carefully. The statement that I used from Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 speech is consistent with the text, which Mr. Clausen quotes, Theodore Roosevelt believed in regulation of corporations, "rather than in strangulation." President Obama's record toward corporations, e.g., auto or financial, is consistent with that position. President Lincoln did indeed facilitate economic growth but through the positive role of government. Far from "trickle down," the Homestead Act and the Morrill Act establishing land grant universities represented the use of public assets to provide opportunity to those with few if any resources.

President Reagan's policies were more akin to "trickle down," i.e., use public policy [tax breaks, public subsidies] to facilitate the concentration of wealth, but their legacy has been to increase the inequality in our society. As shown most recently and persuasively by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, those policies led to a stagnation or decline in the circumstances of the majority of Americans (The Price of Inequality 2012), that, as he concludes, "endangers our future."

As to my position on the "personhood of unions," they have no more claim to personhood than do corporations. On that, perhaps, Mr. Clauson and I agree. The emergence of so-called Superpacs of any sort represent a serious threat to our democratic order. At the same time, we must recognize an extraordinary difference in resources available to corporations vs. unions.

The most generous estimate of total union dues per year is $5.5 billion, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profit for a single corporation, Walmart, in 2010 was $14.3 billion.

Bert Ahern