The Therapy Sessions
Friday, May 12, 2006
Tax the rich more!
Everything you need to know about the US tax system:
I remember tables like this whenever I hear anyone blather on about "tax cuts for the rich..."
But I will make two points:
1. The graph describes income tax, not the payroll tax. Congress does not count the payroll tax in regular revenue, in order to give people - particulary misinformed people in lower tax brackets - the happy impression that they are socking money away for retirement.
If you believe that, the joke will be on you. Ha ha! Congress spent the money long ago! Have fun rubbing nickels together in your Golden Years, gramps!
When Enron did it, it was illegal. But Congress makes laws, so they can get away with it....
2. How can you cut taxes for the bottom 50%? The payroll tax is regressive certainly, but it is off limits (by the order of Congress).
Shouldn't this demographic pay something ?
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Time for Republican smackdown
(Republican) Party leaders say they're aware they're in trouble, aware of a sense of stasis in the country. They are going to solve the problem, they say, by passing legislation. They're going to pass a budget. And they're going to pass an immigration bill, too. People will like that.
But no they won't. The American people are not going to say, 'I am relieved and delighted our Congress passed a budget.' They will be relieved and delighted if Congress cuts spending. They would be relieved and delighted if Congress finally took responsibility for the nation's borders. They won't be impressed if you just pass bills and call it progress.
Party leaders are showing a belief in process as opposed to a belief in, say, belief. But belief drives politics. It certainly drives each party's base.
One gets the impression party leaders, deep in their hearts, believe the base is . . . base. Unsophisticated. Primitive. Obsessed with its little issues. They're trying to educate the base. But if history is a guide, the base is about to teach them a lesson instead.
Republicans: When you've lost Peggy Noonan, you've lost your base. And you about to lose in November. Big time.
Here's at least one - usually Republican - voter who sees no reason to go to the polls this election.
Of course, the Democrats will take 2006 as a sign that America is becoming more liberal.
Wrong again. But if they didn't make a habit of being wrong, they wouldn't be Democrats.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Arms: not just for hugging
In the LA Times (of all places), I read this comforting thought:
There has never been an age without war, not ever. Mass violence is a continual aspect of the human condition. Peace, like good weather, is always local and temporary and what is peace anyway but the result of past victories in war and the effective threat of future war against would-be aggressors?
We play with our children, read books, go to work and enjoy recreations only because people with guns stand ready, willing and able to kill other people with guns who would kill us if they could.
It is comforting not because I love war, but because it is both blunt and undeniably true.
But I would go one step further: civilization owes its very existence to the gun. Without the gun, we would scarcely be better off than we were in the 1300's.
Until the gun made its appearence, warfare was fought by professionals. Learning to throw a spear accurately or use a sword required years of training and conditioning.
And the strong were naturally better at it than the weak.
Being a warrior in the Dark Ages was a career, and it was often a lucrative one. In times of "peace," soldiers turned to crime to feed themselves. They lived outside villages in bands - blocking roads, taking tolls and robbing at will. People were foced to live in villages because there was safety in numbers. Travel between population centers was very dangerous.
But people in power had uses for these thugs: they were murderers for hire, and when a king needed soldiers for warfare, they were paid to ply their trade on enemy soil.
And so it had been for thousands of years.
Then came the gun.
For the first time in history, the weak had a weapon. With only a few minutes of instruction, a grandmother could learn to operate a weapon that could kill an attacker. Farmers could defend themselves and their stores of food, and they expanded into the fertile fields far from towns. Travel became safer.
The caloric intake of people increased as the amount of available farmland exploded. Food could be more easily transported and this lowered prices. Cheaper food meant that people could do other things besides farming. People made careers out of things like medicine, law, teaching and science. Horizons were widened as people were able to trade and travel freely.
Thus, the specialization of trades that allowed civilization to grow came into being, and it came into being because people who were physically weak became strong - with the gun.
Growth followed security.
Now, society is so specialized that we forget about the people that hold the guns. In fact, more often than not, they are demonized - especially if they are not from the army or the police (and many times when they are).
It is not that most of us need to have guns. Most of us still live close enough to help, should we need it. But we need to insure that good people have access to guns.
When only the army and police have guns, their power is unchecked. It can lead to corruption.
I've seen it. Firsthand.
In Sierra Leone in the eighties, the police and the army were the strong arms of a corrupt government. They stole and bullied the population, imprisoning anyone who spoke out against them or their political friends. They had the only guns and their power was unchallenged.
And those were the good days.
An unarmed populace is tempting target, and so it was in 1991 when Charles Taylor sent bands of drug-addled teenagers into Sierra Leone to steal diamonds and wreak hovoc. They went from village to defenseless village, raping, stealing, killing and hacking off limbs. Some called it a "civil war," but that it is not what it was. It was merely anarchy unleashed on the world.
What did the army do? They hid in Freetown, complaining that they didn't have the trucks to drive West to confront the attackers. When they got the trucks - from the US - they complained that they didn't have fuel for them. When they got fuel, they needed money to pay the soldiers...and so on.
The best lacked all conviction, and the worst were full of a passionate intensity.
Sierra Leone burned and bled.
How could it happen? How could a dozen kids take over a village after village, each filled with hundreds of people?
Regular citizens were not allowed to own guns. That's how.
During my time there, I often thought of Salone as the Wild West. Many things were similar. Dusty towns, rusty houses, poor communication, slow travel, evil men who were brash and proud, and good people who feared them....
But there was one thing that was not the same.
In the Wild West, the good people had guns just like the bad guys did, and the rule of law won in the end. In Sierra Leone, the bad guys took over the country and now help rule it.
There has never been an age without war, not ever. Mass violence is a continual aspect of the human condition.
The world is slowly relearning this painful lesson, as good people have - time and time again - throughout history.
Our enemies have never forgotten it.
That is why they are our enemies.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
MLB Pinch Runner for Midget Dies
CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — A former Major League Baseball player who is best-known for serving once as a pinch runner for a midget has died.
Jim Delsing played outfield for the St. Louis Browns, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees in his career.
He entered the spotlight on August 19, 1951. That's when the Browns' owner, Bill Veeck, sent a midget named Eddie Gaedel to the plate in the second game of a doubleheader. The Tigers' pitcher walked the midget on four pitches and Delsing took Gaedel's place on first base.
Delsing died of cancer last week at his home in Chesterfield, Missouri. He was 80.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
A while ago, I received several letters from a reader who wanted me to believe that LBJ and FDR were socialists. It is unclear whether the writer himself is a socialist, wanting me to believe that socialism has been part of the American fabric for decades, or whether he himself thinks socialism is a quiet threat to the American way of life.
I find the argument tedious, because it is like arguing about whether somebody was a little stupid or a full-fledged moron.
Socialism (and its close cousin communism) has been one of the most unquestionably disastrous experiments in human history. Its death toll is well into the hundreds of millions by now, and it is climbing (way to go, North Korea!). Wherever it is tried there are political prisoners and privileged elites. The more socialist characteristics an economy exhibits, the poorer it will be. It invariably leads to widespread corruption, and amazingly, it has failed on every continent and in every culture.
Yet, hundreds of failed experiments later, socialists endure. They are ridiculous figures, like people who want to wear clown outfits in public and forbid anyone from laughing at them. They tend to populate our universities, where ivory towers can protect them from the sound of giggling.
When this letter writer declared that these presidents were, in fact, socialists, I replied with the dictionary definition of socialism and said that they didn't fit the bill: socialism is the "public collective ownership or control of the means of production ,distribution and exchange, with the avowed aim of operating them for use and not profit." The difference between socialism and communism is slight: substitute "state ownership" for "public collective ownership."
This definition is so stark, and so clearly a failure, that socialists have been retreating from it for the last two decades. Now, they believe, socialism is any vestige of the nanny state in a CAPITALIST economy.
So naturally, they point to the glowing cities of Europe as the "future." They see caring governments and happy people (they don't see privately-owned businesses, making things that people actually want).
I look at Europe and I see the past: sluggish growth, stagnant economies and high unemployment. I see a continent whose entrepreneurial spirit is choked by union work rules and dumb laws, and a numbed populace that looks on passively while a huge bureaucracy puts on jackboots.
I also see a way of life that is unsustainable, one that will be washed away by a demographic tidal wave in the next twenty years.
In America, our future, while by no means secure, is also threatened. It is threatened by our own government's "socialist" obligations.LBJ and FDR did, in fact, create huge governmental programs that will haunt us for the next fifty years.
These programs remove incentives for people to take care of themselves.
Social Security, FDR's darling, is a demographic nightmare. By telling people that they were under no obligation to save for retirement, this program enabled baby boomers to spend thoughtlessly and save little: the average baby boomer is in his late fifties and has less than $80,000 to retire on. I'm in my thirties and I have a lot more than that. I know there will be no social security for me, but I am painfully aware of the fact that I (and my children) will be paying for this program regardless.
Likewise, Medicare told people that your drug costs are someone else's responsibility (mine again...you're welcome). Naturally, those costs have skyrocketed. Everybody wants to go first class when the government is picking up the tab.
And of course, LBJ's welfare programs told the poor that poverty had nothing with them and everything to do with society. And over the last fifty years, we have watched teenage birth rates, drug use and dropout rates go up. We have watched poor families erode (and the black family disintegrate). Poverty has gotten worse, more entrenched and more helpless, and now it is almost impossible to "cure:" single moms beget single moms, and single moms almost always have lower household incomes than two parent families.
Of course, if you were to let the Left go, things would only get worse: health care would become the sole responsibility of the state. So would housing. And food. And fuel...etc. And pretty soon the US would be as big a shithole as Cuba is.
No, LBJ and FDR were not socialists because they made these dumb programs. They just made stupid mistakes, mistakes that have ended up costing much more than they were supposed to.
But the modern Left is as red - and as stupid - as you can get.....And the conservatives have turned a deep shade of pink.
George Will does an excellent job of describing the evolution of modern liberalism (and describing how modern conservatism has just become another flavor of liberalism):
Although Galbraith coined the phrase ``conventional wisdom,'' and thought of himself as the scourge of groupthink, ``The Affluent Society'' was the distilled essence of the conventional wisdom on campuses. In the 1960s, that liberalism became a stance of disdain, describing Americans not only as Galbraith had, as vulgar, but also as sick, racist, sexist, imperialist, etc. Again, and not amazingly, voters were not amused when told that their desires -- for big cars, neighborhood schools and other things -- did not deserve respect.
But for liberals that was precisely the beauty of Galbraith's theory. If advertising could manufacture demands for whatever corporations wanted to supply, there was no need to respect markets, which bring supply and demand into equilibrium.
``The Affluent Society'' was the canonical text of modern liberalism's disparagement of the competence of the average American. This liberalism -- the belief that people are manipulable dolts who need to be protected by their liberal betters from exposure to ``too much'' advertising -- is one rationale for McCain-Feingold. That law regulating campaigns embodies the political class' belief that it knows just the right amount of permissible political speech.
I don't always agree with Will, but he really hit the nail on the head there.