The Universal Notebook: A few of my favorite myths

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Recently, a handful of my persistent critics have suggested that I am intolerant of other people’s opinions because I dispute them.

That’s a strange notion of intolerance. It seems to suggest that if one disagrees, one must remain silent in the name of tolerance.

I’m not buying it, just like I’m not buying any of these prevalent myths (for the sake of tolerance, I will not ascribe these bogus ideas to any persons, parties or political perspectives):

• “Cutting taxes stimulates the economy.” If that were true, how did Ronald Reagan manage to stimulate the economy by repeatedly raising taxes? Some studies have suggested that the opposite may in fact be true. The Bush tax cuts, for instance, helped send the country into recession.

• “The wealthy create jobs, so we shouldn’t tax them heavily.” All indications, however, are that the wealthy horde their money, they do not re-invest it in the economy. If this myth were true, since taxes on the rich are at historic lows, we ought to have zero unemployment by now.

• “Raising the minimum wage kills jobs.” It may kill a few minimum-wage jobs, but it also provides more of the spending power that drives our consumer economy.

• “Welfare fraud is rampant.” As we have seen recently in the EBT card witch hunt in Maine, welfare fraud is the least of our worries. Go after the giant corporations that pay no taxes. That’s where the fraud is.

• “Labor unions are a drag on the economy.” In fact, the decline of the middle class coincides exactly with the decline of labor unions. Collective bargaining is good for workers and good for the economy.

• “What’s good for business is good for everyone.” That’s the myth that Corporate America has perpetrated and actually persuaded a lot of gullible working-class people is true. Trickle-down economics is morally and intellectually bankrupt; just ask the Pope.

• “Government assistance destroys individual initiative.” Nonsense. Most of the people who require public assistance are the elderly, children, ill or injured. When working people need help it is usually temporary. Ambition and initiative is not motivated solely by monetary gain.

• “The Affordable Care Act is a failure and an assault on individual freedom.” In fact, Obamacare is helping millions of uninsured Americans find health insurance. The Affordable Care Act joins Social Security and Medicare to form the kind of social safety net most developed nations provide for their citizens.

• “The national debt will destroy America.” The national debt is a problem, but we are nowhere near a crisis. Other countries, England most notably, have functioned quite nicely with much higher debt levels. We are not burdening our children and grandchildren with debt any more than we were burdened with the debt our parents and grandparents ran up for World War II.

• “People only act out of self interest.” You will hear a certain kind of person scoff at the very notion of the common good, but experience and psychology suggests that good people often behave in self-sacrificing ways in order to benefit their family or their country. Does the “Greatest Generation” mean anything to you?

• “Climate change is not caused by human activity.” Yes, you can find a few apostates, but it is a matter of settled scientific consensus as well as common sense. We are destroying the environment and we have to do everything possible to change our behavior in order for a future to exist.

• “Majority rule is a form of tyranny.” I guess if you hold unpopular, minority opinions, the only way you might prevail is by making this Orwellian argument.

• “Voter fraud is rampant.” The voter suppression movement in this country is predicated on trying to make it as difficult as possible for minorities and students to vote. As we found out in Maine in 2011, there is no voter fraud, just some people who don’t want people with whom they disagree to vote. That’s what I call intolerance.

• “The individual is almighty in America.” If so, why are the founding principles enshrined in the Constitution all collective values? “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Imagine that, the Founding Fathers actually wanted to provide for the “general Welfare.”

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.