Yes, Tax the Fat Cats
As someone implicated in a number of attacks made in "Obama vs. the Fiscal Fear-Mongers" [September 2008]-- I am one of the authors of the report, "Taking Back Our Fiscal Future"' -- I'd like to set the record straight.
Kuttner claims that concern over the many promises made by the government for the future is based upon a calculation of $53 trillion in unfunded promises that uses "worst-case assumptions." In fact, that figure excludes a number of promises for the future such as Medicaid, and is based on assumptions that the government's actuaries call intermediate and others believe to be optimistic.
The unfunded-promise calculation raises two questions. First, how much should be committed today? Second, is the growth rate in those future promises sustainable? The unfunded promises are scheduled to grow at rates faster than the economy. Hence, they tend also to threaten future growth and create large deficits -- even if taxes are raised substantially.
Kuttner says that in the report "Taking Back Our Fiscal Future," tax loopholes were taken off the table. The report actually says, "The budget includes other mandatory or entitlement programs and tax subsidies that grow automatically without review. Ultimately we would like to bring all parts of the budget into a disciplined, transparent review process that forces politicians and the public to consider priorities and tradeoffs." Peter G. Peterson has argued for more taxes on "fat cats like myself."
Finally, Kuttner says that concern over fiscal issues is "well-funded." Would that it were only so! The amount spent on drawing attention to these issues so far has been a drop in the bucket relative to past efforts of foundations, the dollars spent on the current presidential race, and the amount spent on lobbying.
If fiscal integrity does finally gain traction, it won't be because it has more resources on its side. What will carry the day will be simple arithmetic, honest accounting, and a recognition that no entity, including the U.S. government, can live beyond its means over the long term.
Eugene Steuerle, Vice President, Peter G. Peterson Foundation
The Three Gender Tiers
Ann Friedman asserts ["The Generation Trap," September 2008] that "young women on modern college campuses are unlikely to know someone who has had a back-alley abortion."
They're also unlikely to know any women whose job options are restricted by gender. Elite women now have equal access to careers in the professions, but most women, who don't have college degrees, are still locked into a narrow range of dead-end pink-collar jobs. Neither second-wave feminists nor the younger generation of not-feminists-but have done a damn thing to remedy this.
Second-wave feminism simply established a three-gender system: men, women, and us -- the unisex elite. Younger feminists don't show interest in the concerns of working-class women, either.
Access to abortion is a good thing for women. It simply isn't as important as access to good jobs, an end to sex segregation in the labor force, and affordable child care -- issues that affect far more women.
Dr. H. E. Baber, Department of Philosophy University of San Diego
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From the Executive Editor
"Facts are stubborn things," John Adams said, and yet they have seemed timid in the last decade, perhaps cowed by the Bush administration's contempt for the "reality-based community." Should we just mimic the shouting and disdain for evidence that characterizes right-wing talk radio? While some tried, our assistant Web editor Sam Boyd reports that the recent success of Rachel Maddow, whose new cable show premiered as we were finishing this issue, suggests that evidence and research might still win political debates -- and an audience.
Also in this issue, our writing fellows, Adam Serwer and Tim Fernholz, make their first appearances in the magazine: Adam with a skeptical take on the politics of hip-hop activism, and Tim with an examination of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which may be poised for a second consecutive cycle of success. Tim's article anchors a package covering aspects of this year's election that have received less attention than the top race, such as the themes employed by congressional candidates (a safe brand of populism, as Harold Meyerson shows) and the big questions about the electorate.
This will be the last issue of the magazine in which we'll be able to look ahead to the election, but from now through November, we'll continue to cover it on the Web at prospect.org, going beyond the horse race to look at other unnoticed races, themes, and unanswered questions, and following on our successful Web coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions. — Mark Schmitt