January 28, 2008

Huckabee Tax Plan Would be a Disaster

While it looks like Mike Huckabee is going to fade into the background and wind up without the Republican primary nomination (such a shame, I was hoping the evangelicals would come through – he’s obviously the most defeatable candidate in a general election), his “solution” to “fix” American taxes lingers on in the nonsense that other candidates who haven’t given up the ghost (like Ron Paul) spew forth. This whole notion of abolishing the IRS, returning taxes to the people, and establishing a so-called “fair tax,” where people pay tax on what they consume only (a national sales tax, essentially) is irritating to say the least.

We’ve been down this road before folks, it doesn’t work. It won’t work. But saying things like “abolish the IRS” turns on the libertarians and the far-right fiscal conservatives who believe that any dollar in government coffers is a wasted dollar that should be spent at your local McDonalds.

On Marketplace, from American Public Media a while back, Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute, had his say on the not-at-all-“fair tax” plan, and he had some choice words for it:

Mike Hucakebee is right that our tax system badly needs reform. But his proposed plan, the FairTax, would be a disaster.

Sure, the FairTax sounds great. Dump all current federal taxes. Abolish the IRS! And replace them with a simple 23 percent national sales tax. Every household would get an annual “prebate” — Free money! — to help them handle the tax.

Only problem is that it really is just too good to be true.

First, there’s fuzzy math: Say you buy something for $10 and $3 is added to the price. That sounds like a 30 percent sales tax, but FairTax promoters say that $3 is only 23 percent of the final price of $13. Yeah, sure.

And the 30 percent tax rate wouldn’t come close to paying for current government services. Fairtaxers assume the government will pay sales tax on everything it buys. But unless Lockheed Martin just eats the $9 million tax on a $30 million fighter jet, the extra cost will just be passed on to the taxpayers. In fact, everything government buys would cost more. And states certainly wouldn’t just roll over and let the federal government tack 30 percent onto all their purchases.

Tax rates this high invite cheating. A whole new underground economy would appear overnight. Why pay 30 percent tax on an item that you can get on the black market tax-free?

And the tax would hammer the middle class. Think about it. The prebate protects those with low incomes. People with high incomes only spend a fraction of their income, so they get a huge tax cut. But middle-class people end up holding the bag. The president’s tax reform panel estimated that replacing just the federal income tax with a national sales tax would boost middle-income tax bills by $5,000– and that’s after the prebate!

The FairTax isn’t fair. It isn’t even feasible. Let’s move on to real tax-reform ideas.

Agreed. The American tax system needs work, no doubt about it, and yes, it could even be scrapped and replaced with something new. But this, this isn’t it. Taxes like this appeal to the middle class by claiming it’ll return their money to them, when in reality most of the middle class will see a serious tax hike and won’t be able to pay for it. Lower income Americans get off because they don’t consume as much, and are more likely to participate in the underground economy to which taxes aren’t levied. And the upper crust? They could care less – the taxes won’t be so much as a blip on their radar, or they’ll just get around them.

[ Huckabee Tax Plan Would be a Disaster ]
Source: Marketplace (American Public Media)

The Ronulan Menace

Ah, Ron Paul. One of my favorite topics: every time I’ve seen someone dare to mention Ron Paul, his supporters descend in droves to attack anyone who says anything possibly or remotely negative about him. Like any good sideshow, the furor surrounding his campaign is entertaining like nothing else, and the passion his libertarian-in-republican’s-clothing fans show for him is impressive to say the least. For that – and likely for nothing else – you have to respect him. He certainly does seem like a breath of fresh air in American politics, as his proponents like to say – a breath of fresh air blown straight out of a cow’s behind.

Let’s get one thing out of the way that the Ronulans will hate, but it’s important to know out of the gate:

Ron Paul will not win a single state. Ron Paul will not win the Republican primary. Ron Paul will not win an inevitable write-in campaign. Ron Paul will not be President of the United States, not now, not in 2008, and not ever.

There. We said it.

Paul is financed by xenophobes and white supremacists, and that’s enough to send up warning flags. Paul managed to do one notable thing: break campaign finance records by raising the most money of any candidate in the race in a single day – congrats to him, but in reality it shows how many misinformed and maladjusted Americans are out there scrabbling for those “good old days” that were only good if you were white Christian male.

Paul’s supporters are the same type that always seem to rise from the bile of the internet – young white men in their mother’s basements who have lived a life of privilege, don’t know anything about the world outside their windows and computer screens, believe everything the people in forums they carefully choose tell them as truth, are willing to fight to keep their privilege from a perceived social threat (Oh no! Negroes! Mexicans! Oh my!), who think that they’ve somehow worked hard to achieve the life they live and everyone else either a: be damned or b: do it themselves; when in reality it’s all been handed to them on a silver platter and they wouldn’t know real struggle if it bit them in the ass.

It’s the “starting the game on third base but convincing yourself you’ve hit a triple” mindset I’ve heard described elsewhere.

I think it’s time for another interesting crank from one of my favorite progressive bloggers, Uppityliberal, where she examines Paul and his supporters in much the same entertaining but wary light as I do, complete with her links:

I’ve been following the insane cult that is the Ron Paul machine with a mixture of horror and train-wreck fascination. His supporters have ranged from white supremacists to potheads to quasi-Libertarians who ignore his stances on abortion and gay rights (because freedom only counts for straight white males, y’know.) And all of them, to a person, have been batshit crazy enough to ignore the guy’s history of racism, conspiracy theories and, perhaps most interesting, his dismal showing in every single poll (another conspiracy, apparently.)

However, I think they’re going to have a hard time with this bit.

The funniest comment I saw on this: That’s very Libertarian. “No scientist’s going to dictate to ME the laws of the universe. I’ll find them out for myself!”

Heh. Yep.

If they’re deluded enough to believe that their guy has any chance whatsoever of winning then I’m not surprised they’d question scientific fact, too. I can just see them, now: “But how do you KNOW reality is real? I mean, are you a Nazi or something, trying to make people believe in this reality thing? Ron Paul is for FREEDOM, MAN. The freedom to completely ignore reality even when it’s staring you in the face.”

Honestly, the Paulites are living proof that pot will pickle your brain.

Huckabee is nuts, but he’s garden-variety, old-fashioned, steeped-in-religion nuts. He comes by his detachment from reality honestly. Paul, though, is his own unique flavor of nuttitude, and his supporters even more so. He has just enough of the “yeah, that sounds about right” to much of his platform that he suckers people in, and then apparently hands out lobotomies in return for every donation, so they don’t actually get beyond the surface to see what a crackpot the guy really is.

Hint, folks: There’s more to a candidate than being in favor of legalizing pot and ending the war. And all the scrambling (He didn’t really say that racist stuff! It was just printed in a newsletter he had full editorial control over!) and rationalization won’t gloss over the fact that this guy is seriously, completely batshit. I’m sure even the craziest of the crazy occasionally have a good idea or two. Mussolini made the trains run on time. But that doesn’t make up for the bulk of their crazy.

I’m not afraid of the guy, nor his supporters–he has no chance whatsoever and therefore who really terrifies me is someone like Romney or Giuliani–but the fact that they’re spamming the daylights out of every online political discussion these days is getting really annoying. Gods help us if the guy breaks off and runs as a third-party candidate (which I suspect he will; I think he’s been using the GOP machine as free publicity for his eventual Perot run.) because the bleating will get downright out of hand.

ETA: OK, one more funny comment:
Here come the RonDroids, all shouting “He’s fer the Kawn-sti-two-shun!”. Seriously, if Doktor Paul had his way you would be able to buy an African slave down at WalMart, with gold bullion no less.

Heh. Though I suppose that’s what many of the e-Paulettes would like.

Yet again, she says it better than I possibly could, but hits all the points that make the sides of my mouth curl up in delight. That’s Paul in a nutshell: he’s on the fringe, not the mainstream, and that’s why no one’s voting for him. He’s a radical, an extremist, not a “future for America.” The only “freedom” he believes in is “freedom” for the people who look like him and believe what he does. The only “constitution” he’s willing to uphold is the one that favors his favorite people. Let’s be absolutely clear.

Frankly, it’s going to be the best thing in a while to watch Paul crash and burn in the court of public opinion while his fans rant and rave about a “conspiracy” and the “mainstream media sabotaging his campaign” and how he’s being “ignored” and how his eventual loss will be everyone’s fault but Paul and his supporters’. But in the end, let’s hope the Paul campaign is less a harbinger of future radicals running for President and more another nail in the coffin of Libertarianism.

Feds OK Mississippi’s Katrina Grant Diversion

Okay, this is just sad. My sister in arms, Uppityliberal pointed this out to me, and just reading it – although I can’t expect much else from Mississippi, makes me ill. Money that the federal government had allocated to rebuilding homes and neighborhoods destroyed or damaged by hurricane Katrina is now being shifted around to support who else but the patron saints of conservative government, businesses.

I understand the point that the developers here are trying to hammer home – they somehow think that the best stimulus for the economy is to dump taxpayer dollars into the casino and tourism industries in the area with the belief that the tourism dollars that will come and the jobs that will come with the rebuilding of the casinos and hotels will provide long term benefits to the economy in that area. But like Uppityliberal points out here, people need homes before they need jobs. Otherwise you’ll just hire people who can’t afford to find a place to live.

Because she’s absolutely unparaphrasable:

They claim that diverting this money is important to rebuild the business community to create jobs (the same claim they use to excuse cutting taxes for the rich.) But when the people don’t even have HOUSES, having a shittastic job sweeping floors in a casino isn’t exactly important.

How anyone can in good conscience vote for Republicans when they pull this shit as a matter of their core platform is beyond me.

I see all these arguments about how “handouts” are creating people who are dependent on the government (which is bullshit, but…) So if that’s true, why are we giving handouts to businesses?

If the bootstrapping individualists in the GOP think that a man ought to sink or swim based on his own effort and ability, why do they not think the same of businesses? Why is a business owner more entitled to government handouts (in the form of direct money or tax cuts or cutting the minimum wage or regulations, etc.) than an individual worker?

What makes business owners so much more special that they deserve to have their failing businesses propped up with government money?

Why does social Darwinism apply only to individuals and not to businesses?

If a business owner has to pay slave wages and cut benefits, cut workplace and product safety measures and buy from third-world child labor manufacturers to make a profit, he or she is a crappy entrepreneur. We shouldn’t be rewarding people who are too stupid to make a profit without fucking over workers and consumers.

Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. It NEVER has. Ever. Because the rich bastards to whom you give more money don’t immediately put it back into circulation the way the working and middle class does. They hoard it instead, or send it out of the country to build factories where they can pay little kids a quarter a day to make toxic plastic toys. Ultimately, this supply-side top loading benefits no one except the rich bastards who get the money.

Now that’s the damned truth. The Libertarians and the free-marketeers claim that the best way to benefit society is to dump money into businesses, and anything short of that essentially equates socialism and should be shunned. But they never explain why it’s completely okay for the federal government to essentially subsidize businesses and industries as a whole instead of provide basic services to the populace. The best part beyond that is that they think those federal tax dollars – money out of the pockets of Americans – shouldn’t come with any strings to those businesses to make sure the American people see any return on their own investment in the corporate infrastructure. They don’t think that those dollars should come with the assurances that regulation provides, or with the social safeguards that anti discrimination laws ensure.

For some reason, the Libertarians have allowed themselves to be fooled into this notion that the corporate entity is far more important than both the government by and for the common good and the individual. I can hear them now: “but corporations and businesses put more back into the society than individuals do!” Smoke and mirors: certainly businesses provide for the society in which they reside, mostly in the form of training, job opportunities, and sometimes in the form of community outreach and improvement.

But more often than not, those businesses – especially as they grow larger and more distant from their relationship with the society in which they reside – lose touch with the symbiotic relationship with their communities and the people around and who work for them. Instead they try to get by on giving as little back as possible, whether it’s by paying their employees as little as possible, trying to influence government to reduce regulation, pollute the environment or try to influence government against environmental protection, they essentially spend more money in making sure the public sees nothing for its investment and they can’t be held accountable to anyone but their shareholders, even when they get money from outside sources.

If that’s going to be the case, they shouldn’t get federal funds at all – no tax breaks, no benefits, nothing. Like Uppityliberal says; we should reward companies that truly benefit the society as a whole and the communities in which they live, not send tons of money propping up businesses who grovel for public funds one moment and then campaign against the public good the next.

When the right and the Libertarians whine about tax breaks or refunds for the middle and lower classes and how that money should instead go to businesses, which-according to them-would really help the economy, they would do well to remember how selective their application of individual rights are. They seem to have no issues allowing corporations and business entities to be treated like individuals as long as it benefits them (and by extension, the business owners and the wealthy support the right and the Libertarians), but when they’re challenged with the notion of letting businesses fare for themselves the same way they’re willing to let individuals fare, suddenly it’s an unacceptable proposition.

Sorry Libs, you can’t have it both ways.

[ Feds OK Mississippi’s Katrina Grant Diversion ]
Source: MSNBC

January 13, 2008

Lynching: Good Old Fashioned Family Racism

I can’t even believe we’re having this discussion. It burns me up, more than I can describe.

Yet again, the view of the world through the stark eyes of reality and history are completely different than the view of the world through the rose-colored glasses of privilege, and it’s absolutely maddening how appallingly different the two sights can be.

Since when did the very notion of treating people with respect, and being called to stand for one’s words become tainted and brushed with the evil “political correctness” label? When did being told to think before you speak ill of someone, especially of someone’s race, become something so many of us are unwilling to do?

Maybe we’re desensitized. Or maybe, just maybe, I smell what’s cooking; I see what’s getting laid out now. It’s the same message that’s been subtly clear for the past 15 or so years, give or take:
“This problem only exists in your head. It’s better now. Get over yourself and move on. Honestly, it’d all go away tomorrow if you people weren’t so damned sensitive, if you people didn’t beat us with the diversity stick, if you people weren’t forcing us all to be -and here it comes- so ‘PC.’” (I can’t laugh at how utterly evil people think the phrase “PC” is enough. It’s like thunder should crackle behind me when I say it. “PeeeeeeCeeeeee!” ::thunder booms and shadows fall:: These are the same folks who say things like “I don’t mean this to sound racist, but…” and the more entertaining predecessor “I can’t be -blank-, lots of my friends are -blank-!!”)

I mean, these are the same people who would say that just because there’s hundreds of years of historical precedent to back up the notion that their statement comes from a place of racially inflammatory language doesn’t mean it is. History be damned, it was just an off-color comment! Pat ’em on the back and send em along to play. Boys’ll be boys and all that! This guy? Made a big deal out of nothing – just an office prank!

Like hell it is.

It’s funny. As I flip through my old glue bound hardcover of Malcolm X’s biography, I think back to what possibly could have made him feel the way he did before he went on his pilgrimage to Mecca. Hopelessness, helplessness, not being heard, not being respected. Check – we’ve got that – except now we’re lied to and told that if there’s a problem, we made it up. It’s enough to make his old brand of militancy, the one so maligned, so looked down on, so historically remembered as inferior to the righteous path of peace and assimilation, sound almost attractive.

The whole debate makes me feel nauseated and alone. So many people are willing to give it a pass, forgetting that good people are capable of doing bad things – and just like when we were children, and we were good children who happened to break a glass or throw a ball through a window, we should be held accountable for the bad things we do. Hear that, America? Good people can do bad things. Fair and kind people can make racist, sexist, and homophobic comments. But we should all be held accountable for what we say and do.

So are these people racists? Probably not. Was their statement racist? Absolutely. Should they be punished? Sure, within whatever appropriate degree is necessary. For all I know, they may be sorry enough, but given the nature of the discussion and the people rushing to their defense, I doubt it. Are Al Sharpton and the rest right? Probably not – Sharpton and Jackson haven’t done anything right in years. (they’re so damned busy riding on the coattails of the next “Let’s blame the white man for all our problems” bandwagon without once looking inwards to see how they can serve our community from within as well as defend it from without, but that’s another long long story)

But what drives me screaming to the hills is the sheer audacity of so many people to sit comfortably swaddled in the fluffy blanket of privilege who dare to tell me that, like always, I should just “get over it,” and fail to hold people accountable for what they say. I’m not demanding anyone’s head, hell, I’m not even demanding an apology. But one day we’re going to have to have a frank discussion about privilege in America, and doing it while it’s at least somewhat healthy and before that privilege is all gone would probably be a good idea. Seems like some people are still totally incapable of checking their privilege at the door before they enter, though, so that’ll make that discussion very difficult. As long as people still view “equal rights” as “special rights,” we’re going to have a problem.

Something tells me that the next time there’s an off-color comment like “nothing short of a Taco Bell on the last lap will keep Rodriguez from finishing this race,” some groups may not take the “oh it’s all in your head” sentiment lying down like apparently we will. Until then, the whole situation – one I didn’t care about until I started hearing people’s defensive reactions in support of the people who least need defense – makes me sick to my stomach, and wonder how Tiger’s handling it. He’s been through far worse, especially back when he was the first Black man to play in, much less win the Master’s, but still. I hope he’s doing well.