Voting 2008...

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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby Boss Out of Town » January 31st, 2009, 10:54 pm

Sareth wrote:As to fairness... The idea that one person is expected to pay out 40% of their income, while another pays 0%, based exclusively off of the size of their paycheck violates my idea that all people are equal. It says it's right and proper to burden one person heavily with the bill of state, while the other person has no such obligation, even though both recieve the protection of the police, the courts, the military...

Firstly, the people who are paying a "0%" income tax rate are a separate question. These are a lot of people who are paying no income tax, but that is because they have no income to speak of or so little that they don't make enough money for food, shelter, and medical services. The "negative income tax" is a cheap way of keeping them from starving while we avoid the larger issues of economic inequality: if low-income workers had enough economic and political clout to negotiate a living wage, they could pay some income tax. The new pro-union administration in Washington will be working on that, along with a more plausible minimum wage law.

(There are right-wing pundits and commentators I know of who ramble on about the poor as parasites constantly, the standard line being "half the country is working to support the half that isn't." This is some sort of expansion of an old conservative belief (last voiced to me by my mother a few months ago) that a huge chunk of their hard earned tax money is going to "welfare queens" who have babies just to collect more free money from the government. Out in the real world, the federal government spends a small fraction of 1% of its revenues on anything that might be considered "welfare." It's largest budget items are the military, Medicare, and the interest payments on our national debt. It is state governments who actually handle most traditional "welfare" programs. The amount of money they spend on it is not trivial, but still a very small part of their yearly budget, most of which goes to education, police, road construction, and the other basic services you describe.)

Getting back to the original point, about someone paying a higher percentage rate on their income tax than others, why should the concept of "fairness" even come into the discussion in this context? Taxes are the price we pay for having a civilized government. The money has to come from somewhere, and, as long as the burden isn't directly and deliberately destructive of some element of society or culture, the primary issues are how much money is needed and what is the most efficient way to gather the revenue.

When the federal government was first organized under the constitution, its sole source of revenue for its administration and duties was a small federal tariff. Was it unfair for people importing goods to bear the sole burden of supporting the government? Did the fact they provided the revenue for the maintenance of the government entitle them to any preferential treaty under the law? Neither of these two concepts was even part of the debate back then. Money was needed to run the government: tariffs were a traditional source of revenue for governments and the collection of tariffs was easy to administrate.

(Also, Alexander Hamilton needed to establish the federal government's right to tax the citizens to support itself. Without a revenue source, the constitutional government would have been dependent on the charitable whims of the state governments. It would have failed as miserably as the Articles of Confederation government did before it and the Confederate States of America government did later.)

As conceived by the Founding Fathers, citizenship in the United States of America is not a financial transaction. It is a moral, political, and legal agreement of joint tolerance, responsibility, and decision-making. There isn't any philosophical basis there for the concept that various government services should be provided favorably for those who pay more taxes. Taxes are collected under a set of practical rules to generate revenue efficiently and with the minimal amount of unwanted effect on the overall economic, political, and personal cultural infrastructure of our society. The benefits of citizenship are allocated based on moral and legal traditions. The two issues are not supposed to be connected.
History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive; it knows the names of kings’ bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly. --- Henry Fabre
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby Boss Out of Town » January 31st, 2009, 11:30 pm

Along with everything else, our new president only makes jokes when he wants to, not because he is incapable of framing a coherent English sentence . . .

Obama at the Alfalfa dinner

I am seriously glad to be here tonight at the annual Alfalfa dinner. I know that many you are aware that this dinner began almost one hundred years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the General would be 202 years old. And very confused.

. . .

But these are the kind of negotiations you have to deal with as President. In just the first few weeks, I've had to engage in some of the toughest diplomacy of my life. And that was just to keep my Blackberry. I finally agreed to limit the number of people who could email me. It's a very exclusive list. How exclusive?

Everyone look at the person sitting on your left. Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my email address.
History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive; it knows the names of kings’ bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly. --- Henry Fabre
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby mindstalk » February 1st, 2009, 1:35 am

Sareth wrote:Here, I'll give an example of what I mean. The numbers are made up and simplified (because dredging through the real tax code and my W2s sounds about as fun as pancreatic cancer) but it should demonstrate the principle.

Let's say at $1,000 some get's taxed 10%. Then when he hit $2,000 the rate jumps to 15%.

Now let's say a person received $1,990 one year. He's in the 10% bracket. He ends up paying $199 in taxes. He takes home $1,791.

Next year, he got a raise, Now he's receiving $2,050. He gets bumped up to the 15% bracket He ends up paying $307.50 in taxes. He takes home $1,742.50.

Because of his raise, this person ended up with $48.50 LESS than if he hadn't gotten the raise.

That's what happened to me this year.

Simple 'nuff?


No. He pays 10% on the first $2000, or $200, and 15% on the next $50, or $7.50, for $207.50, taking home $1842.50; his $60 raise turns into $49.50 more take-home dollars. That's what tax brackets are. If you got a raise and less take-home income, something else much have changed -- higher withholdings, maybe? A mistake somewhere? Or of course if the tax rates got raised, though that seems unlikely (state or local?)


Welfare's bigger than that, Boss. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... ral_budget SS and Medicare/aid are big -- to first order, the US government is a pension plan with an army attached. But the 11% "Mandatory" category covers a lot of welfare programs, like food stamps.
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby Sareth » February 1st, 2009, 1:37 am

Hmm... Given your explanation of things I'm going to have to take a look, Graybeard, see what's going on.

I think I've managed to thoroughly prove I'm no economist. Heh.
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby Boss Out of Town » February 8th, 2009, 9:40 pm

From Afghanistan, a shocking change from traditional American diplomacy . . .
A foretaste of what would be in store for President Hamid Karzai after the election of a new American administration came last February, when Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a senator, sat down to a formal dinner at the palace during a visit here.

Between platters of lamb and rice, Mr. Biden and two other American senators questioned Mr. Karzai about corruption in his government, which, by many estimates, is among the worst in the world. Mr. Karzai assured Mr. Biden and the other senators that there was no corruption at all and that, in any case, it was not his fault.

The senators gaped in astonishment. After 45 minutes, Mr. Biden threw down his napkin and stood up.

“This dinner is over,” Mr. Biden announced, according to one of the people in the room at the time. And the three senators walked out, long before the appointed time.

It can said that the last half-century of American diplomatic policy in contested areas of the world can be summed up by the aphorism, "Against stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in vain." We keep repeating the same obvious mistakes over and over again:

1) US cozies up to corrupt, incompetent local despotism in distant country.

2) Nationalist populism in distant country leads to varied kinds of resistance to CILD.*

3) If CILD collapses quickly, US flagrantly assists in overthrow of populist government** in favor of a slightly different CILD.

4) If CILD administration and and economy rot away slowly and miserably, US senior diplomats respond by talking populist but praising CILD for virtues it obviously does not have (being a CILD), thus losing any credibility gained by helpful American junior diplomats, soldiers, honest businessmen, peace corps, etc. The only people fooled by American praise for CILD are Americans, who stubbornly refuse to believe that their government would lie to them, or support CILDs, or tht foriegners could possibly see them as anything but the Good Guys, or our assistance as anything but a God-given opportunity for freedom, wealth, and peace.

4) Flagrant outside assistance in creation and/or support of CILD makes US the focus of nationalist and/or populist *** resistance.

5) US decides to support CILD with military and monetary aid without attacking the source of CILD's problem, namely that it is a CILD.

6) US military, instead of applying a comprehensive political-military security policy using techniques known to every successful empire since the rise of ancient Sumer, tries to re-fight World War II and bombs and shells everything and everyone in the distant country who gets in the line of fire.

7) US government, afraid of American popular opinion, fails to mobilize and move overseas sufficient military forces to completely defeat local resistance in distant country regardless of what policy it might be following.

8) US government, because it is unwilling or unable to (a) risk nuclear confrontation, (b) risk American corporate interests, (c) gain regional diplomatic support for dubious foreign policy, or (d) admit to American popular opinion that it needs foreign assistance, cannot seal off populist insurgency from outside support.

8) US troops, still trying to battle the armies of imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, cannot secure countryside or cities against populist insurgency, as the insurgents decline to fight from identifiable fortified positions or engage in massive military engagements involving thousands of tanks, trucks, planes, and big guns.

9) Nationalist insurgents engage CILD and Americans by using dispersed forces and fighting small, politically aimed actions, which can only be countered by small, highly trained special forces units, which are despised by most American generals, who also fail to use knowledgable local supporters, which racist American generals refuse to cultivate, or CILD forces, which Americans hold in contempt because CILD is incapable of building quality armies.

10) Populace of distant nation turns more and more against CILD and Americans, providing nominal support for or tolerating populist insurgents because, no matter how brutal they are, they are not the hopeless CILD or contemptuous foreigners who bomb and shell them every other day.

11) Massive American military aid fails to prevent collapse or weakening of CILD. American government puts blame everywhere except on the CILD being a CILD and time-tested inadequate American policies. Attempts are made to resolve situation by putting in even more military aid, resulting in more bombing and shelling and no change in the CILD.

12) Americans give up and go home, CILD falls, nationalist despotism takes over, populace tolerates their brutality and cruelty because they are not foreigners who bomb and shell them every other day.

13) American diplomatic and military officials blame entire fiasco on political enemies at home who correctly predicted that the entire adventure would fail, based on knowledge of past endeavors that failed for the same reasons.

14) American egos heal as failure fades into past, so new American leaders who were junior officials in failed attempt to support old CILD pick another CILD to support, thinking they can make it work this time using same policies that failed last time.

Yup.

* Corrupt, Incompetent Local Despotism.
*Whatever variety, be it democratic, communist, fascist, religious, tribal, military, good, evil, corrupt, virtuous, godly or satanic.
*** Note that "populist" is not the same as "popular." Radical movements, of whatever ideology, seldom have a broad base of support until they trick the CILD and its foreign supporters into playing the bad guys in the local uprising.
History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive; it knows the names of kings’ bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly. --- Henry Fabre
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby Graybeard » February 8th, 2009, 10:07 pm

Got a reference for that, Boss? It might be interesting reading.

It's nice to see some principled "diplomacy" there, but what fraction of the population of Afghanistan do you think noticed?...
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby Boss Out of Town » February 8th, 2009, 10:51 pm

Graybeard wrote:Got a reference for that, Boss? It might be interesting reading.

It's nice to see some principled "diplomacy" there, but what fraction of the population of Afghanistan do you think noticed?...

The Asia Pacific section of the New York Times . . .
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/world ... &ref=world
How many Afghans notice will depend on how persistent the change in policy is. The Bush program for outreach to the Islamic world, led at one point by Republican uber-speech-writer Karen Hughes, foundered because the administrations complete lack of credibility. The only large groups of people left who believe anything those people say are (a) American conservatives and (b) their earnest followers in the Beltway social circle.

Obama has made a good start in trying to convince people in the Middle-east that we have more on our minds than mindlessly supporting Israel, taking their oil, and bombing their villages. His "I've got muslims in my family" line is probably going to do more for our position in that part of the world than anything we've done since the Camp David accords. However, he's undercut that small start towads credibility by having Leon Panetta announce publicly that we won't prosecute torturers working for our government.

Note that that statement isn't true, and cannot possibly be true. Whatever policy the president might state, ultimately the Attorney General has to make the call, based on evidence and law, not policy. Panetta, like most of the President's senate-approved appointees, had to go through a an elaborate song and dance routine to get past the Republican thugs control the senate committees that have to approve them: Kit Bond, in this case.

Personally, if I were running a section of the State Department, or CIA, or JAG, the minimum I would do with someone who had tortured would be to put him or her through psychiatric evaluation and counseling. Whatever else might happen, you cannot claim to be following American law or traditional ethics if you treat torture as normal policy or behavior. There must be consequences. People who didn't have the courage or the moral sense to opt out of the program are not people I have much sympathy for. If you felt you had to do it, and knew it was cruel and illegal, you should also be courageous and honorable enough to accept responsibility and punishment.

No, I am not saying it would be an obvious or easy decision. Just a necessary one if you claim to be a patriotic and decent American.
History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive; it knows the names of kings’ bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly. --- Henry Fabre
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby Graybeard » September 22nd, 2012, 11:45 pm

So: bump. It's been almost exactly four years now since this thread was originally opened by Impy, and we in the US of A are only about six weeks from repeating the whole fantastic exercise -- with, I personally feel, an electoral situation at least as dangerous and lunatic as it was back then.

Are there still enough people around here for a serious discussion of the way the process is shaping up this time around? Because I must say, it scares the bejeepers out of me.

Incidentally, it is very interesting to go back and look at the stuff written in this thread back then, and think about it in the light of what has happened in the four years since.
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby mindstalk » October 1st, 2012, 2:17 pm

I wish there were some way to easily view the whole thread at once, without making that my default. Other forums have that. (Well, RPG.net.) I like it more than paging through pages.

I'm happy with things so far, but then I thought Obama vs. McCain was an obvious choice. Obama's continued the alarming trend on civil liberties, needs to listen to Krugman more on the economy but has been better than nothing, and Obamacare will be a big step forward for the country, though far from perfect.

Going in, Obama's biggest flaw was lack of 'experience', though McCain's experience as a Senator was longer but not necessarily better. He's held up pretty well on that front; my complaints about Obama don't boil down to "he was an inexperienced noob".

More worried about Congress. Especially with all the 2010 gerrymandering, seems likely the GOP could hold a majority of House seats even if the Democrats get more votes. And we've seen the current Republicans have no intention of acting like grownups.

Past comments: "I'm particularly displeased about Obama's tax plan's, notably increasing taxes on people above the 200,000 income mark" -- pretty sure that didn't happen, though it will happen if the Bush tax cuts expire. (Where 'increase' means "go back to Clinton levels".)

" I do have hope that he would actually bring back some respect into the dealings with other states" -- Yep, Obama did that. Even without the Peace Prize weirdness, he's done well on the international scene. Usually in ways invisible to the nightly news.
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Re: Voting 2008...

Postby mindstalk » October 1st, 2012, 2:32 pm

"Ah! That’s the simple part of the question. We’re going to borrow it from the Chinese and Japanese, same as we’ve been doing for the rest of the 5 trillion dollars in debt we’ve run up over the last 8 years. The Chinese federal bank decides to stop buying our paper, our currency collapses and we get hyper-inflation. "

Nope, we mostly borrowed it from ourselves. The rise in public borrowing partially absorbed the fall in private borrowing. And most of the public debt is held by the American public, not foreigners.

"I instinctively dislike politicians who promise to cut taxes: if they don't also tell you how they're balancing the budget, it's basically a scam." -- like Romney and Ryan! Closing loopholes they refuse to specify will balance the budget! Like Nixon's secret plan for peace in Vietnam.

"These are a lot of people who are paying no income tax, but that is because they have no income to speak of or so little that they don't make enough money for food, shelter, and medical services." -- or because they're retired, or students, or benefiting from child tax credits that the Republicans helped expand. "We'll cut your taxes, then blame you for not paying taxes."
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