"Do you think a millionaire should pay more taxes than a bus driver?" says... Reagan

New pro-Obama ad attacks Republican tax cuts for the wealthy by quoting an unexpected source.

What do Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have in common? You might not think that much -- but a new ad by a pro-Obama group uses the Republican icon's words to hammer home a point about the GOP's dedication to tax cuts for the wealthy.

The 30-second Youtube video by Super PAC, Priorities USA features Reagan stating that taxing a bus driver 10 per cent of his salary, while not taxing the "truly wealthy" is "crazy".

The video opens with a man as a news anchor. "So far the Republicans support taxing the middle class instead of the wealthy; one Republican disagrees."

Video footage of Ronald Reagan giving a June 6, 1985 speech at Northside High School in Atlanta, Georgia follows. Reagan says in the speech:

We are going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. They sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing when a bus driver was paying 10 per cent of his salary and that's crazy. Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more taxes than the bus driver?

Priorites USA and Priorities USA Action were formed by Bill Burton, Barack Obama's former deputy press secretary and Sean Sweeney, a senior adviser to Rahm Emanuel, Obama's first chief of staff. The SuperPAC which started airing television ads in early July as a response to $20 million SuperPAC Crossroads GPS ads, has fervently criticised GOP candidates on issues such as tax cuts and deregulation.

A statement on their website reads: "At Priorities USA Action, we believe the stakes for protecting our country's core values have never been higher as the far right pursues an agenda that rewards only the wealthiest few at the expense of middle class families."

The SuperPAC's favourite target seems to be Mitt Romney. They have a released a series of ads criticising his policies including: "Mitt Romney's America", where they paint a picture of what would happen, in their opinion, if Romney got elected president, and "Portraits", that criticises the Republican GOP candidates' ads blaming President Obama for the economy as "politics at its worst".

The latest video appears to be taking a shot at a recent Romney campaign ad titled "The right answer", in which he says: "I'm in favour of cutting spending capping federal spending as a percentage of GDP at 20 per cent or less and having a balanced budget, amendment. The right answer for America is to stop the growth of the federal government and to start the growth of the private sector."

 

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Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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