Sunday, October 21, 2012

On voting

Yes another piece from my commentary at Hot Air, and it is pretty well self-contained as part of a Quotes of the Day thread, which can meander hither and yon on topics this one post-debate on Biden and Ryan.  I'm good at that hithering and yonning stuff and this time I wandered back to voting.  Again, as with all my commentary, it is in the 'as-is' format:

Just remember all the triumphalism on the Left is because of Joe Biden.

They are happy about Joe Biden, the least serious man in politics, who was sent out to rile them up.

No matter how happy the Left is, remember they are happy about Joe Biden… it is all they have left to show for their support of Obama and ideals that are bankrupting the Nation not just fiscally but morally and spiritually as well.

As Eastwood said – Biden the man who is a smile with a body behind it.

And the best part is that as people begin to see that Obama & Co. are tanking, the economy will improve. Remember what happened in OCT 2008? Gun sales went through the roof and small businesses began to pull back expansion plans, curtail future investments and set down to weather the storm.

The Left will attempt to claim vindication. Yet it is the course of events that the PEOPLE are doing that will change the course of the Nation. Not our freaking government. This the Left will never, ever understand, and they will attack you for the very idea that people should be free, actually CAN be free to lead a better life without the interference of government. Once this course begins to change this time, with the memory of what happened by not backing it fully under Reagan, this time it will start to sweep away all our notions of politics, education, energy, and production like no other time in history. The PEOPLE are about to declare the 20th century over and the 19th century ideas of the Left as done with. The Left wants Americans to be ordinary plebes, yet we hold the eternal truths as self-evident and we will be extra-ordinary citizens creating a better Nation so that all mankind will have a beacon to look up to and a standard to flock to.

That means holding ALL your elected officials to account: from dog catcher to President. We slacked off as a people and let our parties try to run things. That era not only can end but it must end and it is ending NOW. A Romney win is not something to then walk away from, but a reason to hold to your ideals and to keep on pushing at all levels of government to recognize your rights and liberties to be free FROM government and that we, the people, will take care of the rest of the stuff that we specifically do NOT hand over to government: caring for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the young, and our society. That is my job, your job and the job of all our fellow citizens, and we dare not let government even try to do them.

Why? Look where we are NOW that we HAVE let government even try to do them. This is the result.

An election is not an end goal but a statement from you of re-dedication to the cause of liberty and accountable government. It is the start of the process, not the end of it, which means it re-starts with each and every election.

Remember Joe Biden is all the Left has: the laughing spirit of derision against you, against liberty, against freedom, and meant to belittle our fellow citizens and our Nation to say that we are too stupid to lead our own lives freely. The man is an insult to us all.

You can’t get rid of stupid as it is one of the two infinites of the natural universe that Einstein coupled with space, and he wasn’t too sure about space.

But you can, assuredly, vote stupid out of office.

That task STARTS with an election.

And re-starts with each and every election at each and every level thereafter.

I am happy to vote in every election. It is my way to help safeguard freedom and liberty and it is my duty and job to do so. That doesn’t mean I have a light mood at each election and it is usually just the opposite: I keep my eye on the target through all the maelstrom so the deed that must be done is accomplished. Elections are too serious to get emotionally involved in. A duty, a job, and your means to safeguard freedom and liberty… a happy task but an earnest job not taken lightly.

ajacksonian on October 13, 2012 at 9:47 AM

I can remember the few times that I didn't vote, even in an off-year non-federal election, and those times revolved around a few topics.

First is too sick to vote.  I didn't have 'good health' at any point in my adult life and an upper respiratory tract infection could spiral from swollen glands to the awful green things from inner space in about two days and then leave me laid up for weeks recovering under antibiotics.  Other than that, with the onset of my catalepsy I couldn't really claim to track reality all that well, so that gets a hit.

Second is out looking for work.  When you spend the better part of a couple of years not at home, not in your home voting district and way before the Internet and world wide web, there was no way to keep up with what the local issues actually were.  To vote responsibly one must keep up with at least the basics, and distance killed that for me.  Also in my working life, I was in a major project that had so much time spent outside of town that I also lost track of local events as the project consumed my attention and spent my energy.  I was happy to do that project and it was worthwhile.

Third was still learning the political landscape for a couple of years out of High School.  That also was coupled with the first problem, too, and those were not happy years. 

Thus with 30 opportunities to cast my ballot, I have missed 8 of them and for only 2 of those instances can I say I was actually too unfamiliar with the topics to vote, which perhaps isn't good but there it is.

There have been times when I absolutely had no one to vote for by my own criteria, yet I voted on purely local issues and left a blank ballot for those races where nothing was satisfactory and I knew of no one, even myself, who would fit the job to write-in.  If memory serves I have written names in twice on local elections when the ballot system is set up for those things.

On the flip-side there are races when I had no clear idea of which candidate would serve better, because they would both serve about equally in my opinion and I let inspiration guide my hand.  And in one race, only, did I cast a vote that I could not in conscience give to either candidate, but knew that a third-party candidate would harm one candidate over another, and there is no long-form for explaining votes, so the short ballot must serve as a reminder to both parties to get their act together. 

After that I have generally voted down or against local spending of all sorts, save for sewer and water main upgrades: we need those as a civil society and those deserve backing to keep things running.  I've voted against school Olympic sized swimming pools, firehouses where there is already adequate coverage, parks where they aren't demanded by anyone, light rail, and other bits of crony spending that I don't see as gaining anything for the community.  Roads, bridges, sewers, water mains, electrical distribution stations... all of those get approval due to necessity.  New schools due to passing demographics, do not and I've been in schools run out of trailers that have been on-site for decades and see no suffering in the ability to teach in such places.

I am a member of a one-person party, who encourages each individual to be a one-person party and to reach out to all other parties (one and multi-person) so as to build a better way to run our republic by going across party lines.  If we must have parties, then it is best to have a fickle, non-partisan population willing to infest parties and then leave them when the louses show up, all the time stripping party structures of upper level power and prestige and putting power back down to the local and individual level.  Partisanship based on party will be the death of us yet.  I am devoted to my Nation and the liberty and freedom that we require our government to respect at all levels so that man can be free.  Good government has few things to do, short funding and is required to do the very, very few things it does in an exemplary way while staying within its budget which is what the taxpayers can afford... not what our government demands as tribute.  Government is the Punisher, that is its role, and only when that role is delimited to only that, can we keep government accountable to the people.  Anything else waters that down and is the basis for corruption giving the fertile ground of tyranny when it continues too long.

I am always happy to vote.

Yet, somehow, I never have a smile on my face when doing it.

It is a duty and an honor that my fellow citizens entrust this to me and I treat it with the solemnity it deserves because you have asked it of me via the means of Caesar.  If this is the form of which our Caesar takes, this republic with representative democracy to guide it, then I must render my judgment upon it to comply.  It is right and it is asked of me, and that rendering must take place.

I apologize for the times I didn't vote, I am not the best of all people to be sure.

I work hard to retain the recognition that we must self-govern and that your trust in me is not misplaced, even when I do not agree with you on the issues or candidates.

What happens inside that booth is between you and that which is all around us at all times.  Who and what you cast your vote for is only amenable to your conscience and, when all else fails, to inspiration in that solitude and let that be your guide.  You might be surprised that this does, actually, work if you but take the opportunity to listen to how you are spoken to alone with such a decision.

I urge everyone who is eligible to vote.

I ask it of you as a Citizen of the Republic of the United States of America.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Getting out of the fiscal hole

Our Nation has plied blithely past $16 trillion in debt, equal to our entire GDP, and barely rattled as it did so.  In truth the whole world is rattling and a bit more on our part isn't going to be quickly identified, although its longer term consequences will have a drastic impact on events at home and globally.  If the state of the federal level of government is unsustainable, a number of our States are as bad off if not worse off than the federal government.  CA is seeing an exodus of businesses and jobs as the tax rate, crony kick-backs to politicians, and bureaucracy seep into every area of life in an attempt to control it from the governmental level.  Like IL there is a huge debt problem of what is 'owed' to civil servants who have been lucky enough to get unionized and then enrich politicians via their unions so that they can have a say on both sides of the negotiating table.  Other States like NY, MA, PA, NJ and WI are not immune to this problem, as well, and each have similar problems of too much government promising and too little forethought as to what those promises actually mean.  WI is digging itself out the century-long hole of Leftist policies by simply cutting spending, requiring workers to put more into their own care and freeing up local counties and districts to be able to chart their own courses on fiscal needs.

The simple removal of bureaucratic overhead, spending mandates, and requirements to adhere to contracts that were done to reward the minority with the wealth of the majority in an unsustainable system are critical.  Sovereign governments are the source of contractual authority and, being that source, cannot be bound to the same laws that they pass for everyone else at all times.  That is a perilous thing to have sovereign government do, but it is essential to have a system of regular laws that are upheld for the benefit of all to the detriment of none, and that is part and parcel of the sovereign power, as well.  A sovereign government can, thusly, break promises and contracts for the survival of the sovereign entity.  Just as at the National level a sovereign government can break treaties with foreign Nations when they put the sovereign of the Nation at peril so, too, can lesser sovereigns exercise such authority in their domains of power.  Throughout history this is exercised only by the most corrupt of regimes or when a government is in dire peril of being liquidated for past problems it has caused: better to break the contracts, reform government and pursue the goals of the people as a whole than to be dissolved by that whole and start over.  Yet, as sovereign governments are the representation of the people who create the Nation, they can change or abolish the State (the government) when it no longer meets their needs and imposes unjustly upon them outrageous costs that no people should ever bear.

This part of the debt burden held by States is, then, amenable to State sovereign power which is recognized as distinct from the federal Nation State sovereign power.  The reason we have no laws for bankruptcy of States is that it is expected that this sovereign power will be used to address the localized problems and allow the people of a State to reform, amend, change, or abolish and create anew their government.  It is perilous to renounce debt as those depending on debt servicing get the shaft.  Russia learned this, to its dismay, when it renounced Czarist debt, Nationalized companies and then found that skilled management at home was absent and that no one abroad would invest in such a place that could not recognize its debt obligations.  When the USSR began to finally honor the Czarist debt and pay it off in the early 1980's, the end for their system was written in the need for outside help.  Socialist and Communist regimes are always born in debt and find it hard to do much of anything because they will not recognize this debt payment obligation. 

For the US, our States in the most dire of need will have to recognize the error of their ways, re-organize debt and stop accumulating new debt, which means breaking promises on retirement amounts (or even having any funds dedicated to such from government) so that the government can down-size and do its few basic functions and continue to pay its debt off.  Such debt can be re-negotiated, however, and offer pennies on the dollar but for those pennies it is expected that the debtor (the State) reform its ways and walk the straight and narrow and actually pay that amount.  If you want an example of what happens when that falls through, look at Greece, Italy, Spain and the rest of the EU that has huge debt and getting even pennies on the dollar is a pipedream.

To bring around States to the realization they can't finance their promises requires that those purchasing such debt recognize that it can't be reasonably repaid and stop purchasing it.  This has already happened at the Nation State level with the Federal Reserve now holding a massive portion of US debt.  That is to say that the ones running the printing presses get to call the shots in the very near term.  The flip side of easy lending to a government by a central bank is that the government becomes beholden to that central bank when spendthrift ideas are backed and paid for with debt obligation.  Once the Federal Reserve just acted as a for-profit pass-through of US debt (we paid for that service) but as our creditors have started to dump debt (read: China and Russia) the Federal Reserve holds such debt and can only balance it by creating new funds to pay in inflated dollars.  There are only two things the Federal Reserve knows how to do to deal with fiscal problems: inflate currency by printing more money or increase the interest rate to burn more money.  For all the window dressing on the Federal Reserve, that is what they do.

Total debt obligation for the US government and all the States is in the range of $70 trillion with some estimates putting it over $80 trillion, and none of that can be paid off with the current economy.  Even a booming economy for a decade can't do it.  Or two.  Why?  The spending doesn't stop and always outstrips tax revenue.  I've gone over the so-called 'entitlements' (basically taxes paid in to pay to current beneficiaries with IOUs from the Treasury for future payment now coming due) and would be remiss to point out that the next largest growing portion of the federal budget is debt servicing.  At some point in the near future the question will be: you can have 'entitlements' with debt servicing and NO other government, or you can have government's necessary functions with debt servicing and NO entitlements.  That choice will be yours.  The folly of the USSR points out what happens when you reneg on debt and it isn't pretty.

If the theme of the 2010 Tea Party election was 'Stop The Spending' then this message must be reinforced in this election to put it as 'Stop The Spending Now Damn It'.  Politicians, generally lacking in spine, find saying 'no' to goody giveaways very hard.  These politicians must be replaced, and if their replacements fail then they must be replaced and so on in a process I call 'Fire Until Competence Is Found'.  It is what President Lincoln did with Union Generals, and it works quite well and is eminently suited to the electoral process at all levels.  As citizens our duty is to get this message across AT all levels of government, and I heartily endorse taking part in any election at the local, county, State and federal level to drive this message home.  If we can get just a few more States beyond TX and VA into solvency, then a real path out for the spendthrifts can be pointed out as good examples to follow.

Stopping the spending is the most important part of this equation, and can (indeed must) act in concert with other portions of it to bring home the true bankruptcy of the 'entitlement' system.  Most citizens when they hear of the insolvency of, say, Social Security will point to 'guarantees', which were made by politicians.  Remind them that believing in a politician is the surest way to get in the hole and that these politicians must be held to account for their ill-actions.  No matter how 'good' the cause, the actions, themselves, are ill and need to be rethought.  With that said there now needs to be trust garnered by the federal government (and the States as well) that they understand that things not given to them to do in the small realm must be lopped off to show that government understands dire fiscal times.  At the federal level this means antiquated departments like the EPA, Education, Energy, Agriculture, Labor and choice portions of Interior that is holding land in States that the State legislatures have not signed off on the federal government having to control per parcel.  Perks must go, including large Secret Service details, flying first class and huge staff sizes at all levels of government. 

Structural reforms to get the federal government out of the home lending market ENTIRELY and to remove the ability of commercial banks to operate in that realm are necessary: a local banking system offers depth and flexibility that a larger system cannot achieve while remaining profitable and requiring local judgment on who is worthy of getting a loan.  The only requirement is that loans are given out based on fiscal background, type of loan, and if said loan actually is not at risk for being lost or devalued for the customer once given all of which are local decisions and can be handed to different officers in a company to judge just those factors shorn of all other outside factors completely.  This entire concept goes for student loans, as well, as we are moving out of the 13th century bricks and mortar schooling realm and into a 21st century realm with on-demand courses and self-paced systems now coming out to allow the bright to excel as fast as they can and the less bright to realize just what their limits are quickly so as to adapt to a better suite of skills to meet their individual talents.  For we all have talents in different proportion and they are least well served by diploma mill physical education institutions with a 'One Size Fits All, Fits None Well' approach.  And this is at the Primary, Secondary and Post-Secondary levels of education, not delimited to Colleges and Universities, although the loan part is aimed at them.  As a society we will adapt to the changing understanding that education is life-long, that touchstones are what one can do not how many classes one has attended, and that the greatest drive for education is self-education.  This will mean that what we consider 'vocational' systems will revive as those not suited to book learning but can learning engineering, physics, and chemistry by hands-on application will require these venues to expand, not diminish and they do require physical structures as they deal directly with our physical reality.

Trust building is a two-way street and government is ill-served by seeking power to control those things it is not designed to do.  Reduction in federal regulation and putting that burden on the States means adaptable responsiveness to local and regional problems as States can work with each other without the requirement of federal oversight.  So long as they do not put bias in the internal trade system of the US, States can work together to solve regional problems via State to State agreements run by the States and held accountable by the people in them.  Handing back control of natural resources (i.e. having lands held by the federal government go back to State control) means that these localized system which are adaptable to local concerns can be put into play without a straightjacket of having to put in tropical screening in facilities above the arctic circle.  As ND has shown with some spillover to MT and SD is that State and regional resource exploitation can be done competently, within reasonable accommodation to the environment and still get one heck of a return.  CA has so much oil off its coast that it comes out in seeps, but because of regulations the pressure can't be relieved by drilling because of environmental fears... which are being realized by not drilling the oil pockets.  Not everyone will succeed equally and some States may never get a clue, but that should not be for lack of good examples by other States.  As the States have demonstrated good and responsible capability for near-shore drilling and exploration, they have a track record of success and the federal government should withdraw its regulatory schema for economic zone drilling and put that in the hands of the coastal States as well.  Pipelines that cross international borders only need Nation to Nation agreement on the crossing and the internal apparatus of each Nation in Provinces and States be allowed to find the best routing solution for them.  As the Nation needs refining capacity (we are now exporting crude oil for refining) the States should serve as the focus for this local concern, as well, and perhaps provide federal land that is too contaminated to be used for much of anything to the project.  In short the federal government really can demonstrate trust by removing regulations and supporting States and the people to figure it out for themselves.

In short removal of regulations for labor, environment and agriculture, along with a host of others for education, energy and land use, puts the most capable and local of government in control of their own destiny.  Yes there will be those who don't do so well, better a few fail and we garner good examples from others, than to fail everyone by doing nothing or doing a little poorly or not well by fiat from the federal government.  Getting prosperity back requires these things and a comprehensible tax code.  As I pointed out previously to this article, exemptions must be eliminated as tax rates are lowered to get a net tax rate that is lower than the purported rate, but is closer to the rate already paid with exemptions and other write-offs.  The entire set of write-offs can be eliminated to get a flat tax, payable by all who earn income of any sort, with only some lowering of rates below the poverty line so as to lessen the impact on the poor so that their amount steps up towards the norm for those above the poverty line as they make more.  This is equality of the tax code and puts citizens into the drivers seat by not collecting taxes by having businesses do it, but by those who vote understanding the direct cost of what they vote for once per year.  This would also mean rolling in separate taxation for 'entitlements' (like FICA for Social Security) and removing them as separate line items, which simplifies the tax code.  Former Soviet States like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Albania, Russia and others have all concentrated on this as it eliminates tax avoidance and puts a stronger assurance on compliance and a better feel for revenue over time.  An assured revenue stream is mandatory for paying down debt obligations.

Now as I am not a set-size pie person, the way to remove debt is to make more in hard currency: produce more wealth.  Remove the wealth reducers in regulation, tax policy and other bureaucratic overhead is necessary and often results in economic expansion with diminished boom and bust cycle depth as artificial causes of bubbles from government disappear.  You still get such cycles, but that is because of increased technical capability removing older industries and that takes a hard change-over as expectations for existing industries go down and new ones arise.  Creative destruction is for the betterment of all mankind, to produce more worthwhile goods at a lower cost so that more people can afford them to lead better lives.  Luckily, this is a very profitable endeavor and can't be done without the profit motive to do more and gain more for any given produced unit of an item or service.  Thus the future must be examined for what it brings.

Until we get to quantum computing we will see an expansion and filling-in of the now old cyber structure of the digital age.  With hard physical limits for silicon and reduction in circuit size now being reached the realms of nanotech, quantum tech and biotech will all serve as future platforms for expansion and they are in their most nascent stages of development at this time.  Even awaiting those areas (and the new companies and industries that will make them) the older technology for personalizing computing and laboratories will create labs on a chip for home medical diagnostics when, coupled with expert systems, will expand and reduce the cost of everyday medical care.  Put robotics in with that and you get Larry Niven's autodoc, where you step into a booth or lay down on a bed with automatic scanners and medical tools to do everything from examine your daily health to stabilizing the condition of someone who has been in a horrific accident, perhaps with some surgical needs addressed immediately and specialists on-line to deal with the worst that can happen to an individual.  This will remove Medicare, Medicaid, and even medical insurance once done and the technology is starting to be integrated today to put scanners together with expert system software.  Autonomous robotics is also advancing and when applied to medicine and surgery, the cost of everyday care and even minor surgical procedures will drop as they become mass-customizable by technology.

I have already addressed schooling and the manual arts, and these, too, will be augmented by low cost computing platforms that are autonomous or semi-autonomous.  Because our structures are not designed for automated maintenance, there will always be a requirement for manual labor to repair existing infrastructure until we can adapt technology to it or supersede it with better ways of doing things.  If you do construction in New York City you must deal not only with modern pipes, power cables, conduit, etc. but those left by previous utilities dating back to the 1840's if not earlier, and that is not something that robotics or autonomous systems will handle well for some decades yet.

Returning to space for commercial activity is already on the drawing board, and going back to the moon to exploit its resources (mostly for space use and for those items that can only be made in micro or zero gravity) may start out with remotely operated vehicles or semi-autonomous vehicles, but will require some amount of direct human oversight at some point in time.  A minor asteroid brought into Earth orbit (or Lunar orbit come to that) can be easily rendered into separate elements by the process of solar mirror melting.  Put a bore hole into the interior, deploy a few square kilometers of thin film reflector to concentrate sunlight into the center of an asteroid and perhaps a thin film enclosure to capture escaping gasses and just let nature take its course.  When thoroughly melted the micro gravity will separate out the elements and then when it cools you get concentric shells of denser and denser elements presorted by atomic mass.  Other methods can be used to remove hot melt by layer and re-melt layers so that they are more easily dealt with when solid removal can't be done quickly or efficiently.  An asteroid of just a few hundred tons might yield a ton of gold or silver, and many more tons of iron, cobalt, nickel and copper.  Essentially the same can be done on the moon, as well.  In all, expansion of an economy when done on this scale is no longer that of a Nation State as we now know it, yet the basic economics never changes and no matter how much money comes into a government, it always seems to expand to absorb more and more of it.

For all the good news to come about, it is up to the citizen to put government on the strictest of diets and boil our social questions out for open and frank discussion.  The morality of taxing the unborn to pay for the current elderly and sick is one that does need to be in the open as the deceitful discussion led over the prior century has attempted to sugar coat something that no one in their right mind would agree to.  It is up to each of us to learn how to deal with the things life hands us for good and ill.  I've made no plans based on: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other 'entitlement'.  They will not last forever no matter HOW MUCH MONEY the government gets because any government that sees fit to remove liberty for this cause will do so for ANYTHING and then use its removal as a club against free men.  That money is gone and overspent many-fold, and isn't coming back, isn't in a 'lockbox' and treats our children and grandchildren as our ATMs.  We have garnered much material wealth and a bit of better health with that, and if we must do without we now have that as a cushion to fall back on when we realize that government is not a guarantor of retirement, health care or any other thing. 

We are.

As individuals and in our cooperation with each other to create accountable systems that meet our needs outside of government.

That is why we seek to have a just government that can uphold contracts amongst us, and understand that it must guarantee that system while we understand that often our best impulses come to the worst ends via government.  Our essential duty is to learn this and teach it to our children: free men take their lives into their own hands for good and ill and we also must create the means to catch those who fail in this.  That is not the task nor role of our government, to be positive to us, but to simply uphold the just means so that we can achieve the good things that create a strong society and a free population.  When we do wrong, even for the best of reasons, we admit to it, mend our ways and pay off our debts and NEVER burden others with this especially those who have NO SAY IN IT.  Which is our children and grand-children.  If we are far on the side of lax morals now, we can always straighten up, take our lumps, admit our humility and uphold our duty and right to pay off our debts and stop doing the asinine things we currently do with such good words that belie such ill outcomes.

We are can create that future and get out of this fiscal hole by forcing our government to stop trying to provide an easy life that none can afford.

Life isn't worth living because it is easy.  No it is death, death is equal to all and easily found at all times across all classes of society and respects none.

No, life is hard to fight for, hard to keep, hard to maintain and must be all those things so that we can create a better world for all mankind to enjoy the fruits of their life.  And not have it picked from them by government to go begging for the rind of the fruit while government sucks the succulent flesh from it.

It is for these reasons I vote.

I am happy to vote, but it is too important a task to not take as an earnest duty and obligation to my fellow citizens so we may all be free from government's tender mercies.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The clothes have no emperor

In watching the first Presidential debate I came away with a few basic ideas and wrote those up at Hot Air, which appears to be my initial post point for ideas.  I slept on the ideas, and posted them the day after and will now put that out with all my standard provisos on WYSIWYG, no corrections for anything, just simple copy and past and then concentrate on one area:

So much good from last night it is hard to know where to begin.

Just in overview I noticed that Romney was transitioning between topics to keep up with the debate outlines, so that when Lehrer had to go to the next area it had been softened up by Romney ahead of time. Giving Obama the lead position meant a lot in that Romney could get the last word in which shifted Obama from offense to defense at a few points throughout the night. Together this effect was devastating.

On the major plus side Romney put out how an executive deals with problems in government: you lay out a policy and then have to adapt it to the legislative branch and what it is willing to do. This is what an executive DOES – lay out policy which then drives the argument and direction of legislation. You don’t need miniscule, point by point things to do if you give the overall direction and theme of what you want to accomplish. Those were laid out quite well in multiple instances.

Taxes would go down but exemptions would be eliminated meaning that the end marginal rate is a goal and it is a rate with few exemptions to it. This reduces overhead and makes understanding the code easier, not harder. It also is an aim to remove all the loopholes put in by the letter street cronies that the Left used to complain about. In the end more people pay taxes, but the rate is lower so that there is less taken out of the paycheck, meaning more take home pay. This was not lost on me and seems like a good way to start repealing the crony tax system to get to a flatter tax. A good start.

Thematically Romney laid out that all government expenditures must be balanced by asking: ‘Do we want to pay China for this by having them bankroll our deficit spending that our children and grandchildren MUST pay off for us?’ This is killer. If he really and for true means this, then the morality of spending has just been put into play in a big, big way and everyone wanting ‘entitlements’ is now on the defensive having to justify putting future generations in debt for current spending. That is a game changer if pressed home and to the hilt. Putting the spenders in the position of immorality (instead of the cloak of doing good) is killer: put the red letter D for DEBT around their necks and point out how wicked their spending is to future generations and how lacking we are in wanting to do that.

Just so many good points… Mitt Romney did the startling thing of knowing Obamacare AND Dodd-Frank better than Obama, inside and out, which is no mean feat. Dancing through the problems of the legislation and making it sensible was stunning as NO ONE on the Left or Right has done that to-date in such a thorough way going point-by-point. And that point-by-point way of addressing concerns is yet another executive trait, meaning that problems are assessed and prioritized before-hand. Just amazing.

In one night Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he at least gets the fundamentals of the Constitution and Declaration and why they are intertwined and what that means for policy. Giving an overview of the 10th Amendment, while short, means that he has another area to flesh out beyond just block granting stuff to the States. Combined with the morality, or lack thereof, of spending, he has a potent arsenal that can only be utilized if it is backed as POLICY. Not programmatics but that thing that drives programmatics. If done as POLICY then this is the beginning of a sea-change in politics.

His job would not be one of reaching across the aisle, however, as the Tea Party begins to dominate the Republican Party… if 1/3 or more of Congress is held by Tea Party members, then they become the drivers of legislation because of the two parties and the fights become one of the establishment against the Tea Party which is a whole other fight and unlike anything seen for over a century in America. If we put in the hard work, then we will give Romney a very, very hard job to do and require him to live up to what he has laid out for us tonight. It isn’t about an election, but changing the course of the Nation away from its current disastrous path. I do disagree with some programmatics from Romney, yes, but it is up to him to show that he really does understand his policy direction… and if he doesn’t live up to those themes, I will have no problem in 4 years voting for someone else. As of last night, however, it can be said that the direction of not just this race but the entire dialogue of what is moral and just in government has been put into play. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder and that loses out to equality for all and upholding a moral standard and good so that our children will have the chance to prosper without our debt loading them down.

Prepare for weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Left over this as the basis for politics is now changing beneath their feet.

ajacksonian on October 4, 2012 at 6:19 AM

Here I would like to concentrate not on the morality of debt or spending, although morality does come into play, but of taxes.  I know the morality of taxes is a dry subject that the Left figures it won somewhere around President Wilson, but lets start with the can opener and look at taxes, deductions and marginal tax rates.

For this exercise I will use totally made up numbers for a highly simplified tax system with some embedded carrots to get you, the taxpayer, to do what the government wants you to do.

In this case there will be two families, they will have definite similarities in that they will be a 4 person household with two parents and two children.  In this tax code they will each get 'benefits' of deducting $100 per person and an additional $500 per child per year.  Each family gets a 15% write-off on their home mortgage interest payments and a general write-off on all income of 5% which I'm tagging for medical expenses.

Family 1 has an aggregate income of $30,000 per year, a 25% tax rate, a home mortgage payment of $1000 per month and 95 percent of that is interest as they haven't been in the home long.

Family 2 has an aggregate income of $55,000 per year, a 30% tax rate, a home mortgage payment of $1500 per month and 90 percent of that is interest as they have been in a somewhat better home for just a bit longer.

Now let me break down the numbers a bit so you can get an idea of how this 'removing deductions and lowering rates' works.  These numbers just reflect this made-up tax code system with just a few simple parts to it, so no griping about how they don't reflect 'reality' or real numbers – they are just math.

  Family 1 Family 2
Federal Taxes $7,500 $16,500
Standard deductions -$400 -$400
Child tax credit -$1,000 -$1,000
Mortgage interest deduction -$1,710 -$2,754
Standard medical deduction -$1,500 -$2,750
Net Taxes $2,890 $9,596
Net tax rate 9.6% 17.4%


When it is pointed out that NO ONE pays the tax rate for their bracket, this is a truism as NO ONE  actually pays that load due to the loopholes, give-aways and write-offs in the tax code.

Is a tax code that rewards behavior by the power of government a moral one?

On the positive sides it does things that government in the form of Congress and bureaucrats want to see happen in the economy.  It is, in other words an enticement to you to do certain things even if they don't make any sense at all for you to do them.

Taking the deductions line by line:

1) Why should you have a deduction for being yourself?  And why do those who live with you who depend on you get a deduction?  You are a citizen, after all, and so (with a bit of luck) are the members of your family.  What is the earthly reason that you should be able to deduct anything on taxes for these people just as citizens?  And, really, isn't that a bit denigrating to say that you 'deserve' to write-off such individuals who are, after all, part of the whole of the people?  Why not lower the tax rate and just do away with that? If this is meant for 'the poor' then set a point of minimal, subsistence living under which no taxes can be paid and be done with it.  Be generous and peg that at 4x this deduction and you now have the ability of a family of 4 to earn just enough to feed themselves.  Putting this loophole in is condescending from government and treats you as a dependent of government... yet YOU are the one earning the income which government is trying to take away from you.

2) The child tax credit is a simple loophole to make children more 'affordable', sort of like that new home you wanted to buy at inflated prices, but with a higher cost of consumables over time.  This is treating children as a 'burden' to adults, not as new life to be cherished. It is also a very recent addition to the tax code (with the income tax, itself, being only 100 years old in the US) and much fought over for a few years until it got inserted due to 'family values'... of which are included kick-backs from the US government, apparently.  Isn't that a lovely 'conservative family value'?  Call it what it is, not what it is sold as, and that changes the entire view of the deductions and their purpose.  Plus it is small ball, stuff, meaning that you can be easily bribed to have a larger family.  Yet another 'family value' apparently.  Even better if you make so little in taxes that your marginal rate drops below zero, you get a bonus gift from the US government: a pay-off.  Kick-backs, pay-offs and bribes: all 'family values' via the tax code.  Just what you want children to learn about growing up, isn't it?  How to become a nice, subservient crony to the system taught right there at home with the tax code.  With the tax code as it is, why do we need a Dept. of Education?

3) Next up is the vaunted, much lusted after mortgage interest deduction, one of the two main ways to reduce your tax obligation!  Yes, say that you want to touch that and you get roasted over an open flame.  Yet what, exactly, is it?  You take out a mortgage based on a few things: you need a home, you seek to limit tax liability, you believe that you will make more in the future, you think the home will appreciate in value.   These are not the traditional things that people have thought about prior to Ginnie Mae and the 'securitizing' of debt vehicles in the home mortgage market by the federal government (done under the Nixon Administration at the suggestion of the Dept. of Labor, of all places), at least some of the latter – the need for a home and reducing tax liability were key before that era starting in 1970, and prior to the 1930's only the ability to actually pay for a home mattered due to lack of write-offs before then and the FHA.

What is this yet another side of kick-backs, pay-offs and bribes by the US federal government via the tax code?  Unfortunately, yes.

When the banks were left to their own devices they required some things of people purchasing a home: 20% down, a work history, a known business you worked for or (as an owner) a steady ownership record, and the ability to actually afford maintenance on your home (about 1% of its cost per year).  Back in that era the bank was local, the person who managed mortgages knew the area and neighborhoods, and your mortgage was kept locally as a part of a portfolio held by the bank.  You, as the lendee, were known and probably had a working relationship with that bank to start with, meaning they knew your family's situation and could give some leeway on paying back during hard times.  To achieve all of that you had to demonstrate the ability to work, to save, lead a thrifty life, manage your household expenses, be reliable and understand just what the burden of owning a home was.

Today we have the enticement to banks to lend to NINJAs, people with No Income, No Job or Assets.  Your mortgage interest deduction started as a way to 'ease the burden' of home ownership and to entice more people to purchase homes.  All well and good if you still had to place 20% down, I suppose, but it is a kick-back just the same.  Still the larger banks saw that there was an 'opportunity' in the mortgage market if only the pesky regulations could be changed to stop them from entering it and if they could get some assurance on the value of the debts in far off parts of the country.  Aren't you glad the US federal government got that done to destroy the Savings & Loan industry and press local banks out of the market and out of business?  Because of the S&L crash the opportunity to change regulations further to open up the spigots for the larger commercial banks was done through the crisis of that crash: never let a good crisis go to waste.  Through activists at the bottom, local banks were pressed into giving loans in bad neighborhoods where home values were at threat from local conditions, and then made to give loans to those with lesser work histories and less down on the mortgage.  Home values, with the entry of the commercial banks, started to rise far faster than their 1-2% appreciation that was historical to the late 1960's, and the idea of a home being an 'investment' safe from most of the problems of normal affairs took root.  Once a final safe haven of IRA's were put in, then homes just became another investment vehicle with an expectation of appreciation over much shorter periods of time.

That was achieved by the home mortgage interest deduction, the lowering of lending standards for commercial banks, and the forcing of loans into areas that were marginal and required some civic renewal (read: redevelopment and investment) to be worthy of having loans floated to them.  These conditions created a bubble in the home mortgage sector of the economy and it popped circa 2007-2008.  The regulations pushing all of this are still, to this day, in place.  Including the vaunted home mortgage interest deduction which makes it 'affordable' to own far too much home for a given income (because those restrictions were 'loosened' as part of all of this, too).

Doesn't that 'old fashioned', local and largely unregulated but highly protected banking system with stable neighborhoods and firms sound nice today?  Wouldn't it be nice to have people who actually were thrifty, were able to understand the value of a home as a place to live, and who didn't look for kick-backs and bribes (if not outright coercion) to banks to give loans?  The large commercial banks are only a part of this problem, albeit a large one with enormous long-term impact and structural degradation to local communities. Every individual who bought more than they could afford, purchased without income or assets, or who could only swing purchasing a home with the deduction or because of the deduction is part of the  problem.

Is this deduction a moral one?

Are the regulations that followed on to it, that inflated expectations, reduced valuations and were in search of more money flowing through the system to cause a large-scale systemic collapse moral?  For these regulations are the problem, not the solution.  In this imaginary system this line item accounts for 1/5 to 1/7 of the reduction in liability, but in the actual world people searching the quick flips, the quick turnarounds, the easy sale, the inflated home value up to as much as 10% per year allows for the exploitation of this write-off to reduce liability even further.  It was a tax dodge put in by cronyism with the willing assent of the bought off citizen who purchased a home.  It is the money-grubbing that was exploited by government and banks to utilize the home owner via pay-offs to inflate the system artificially to cause temporary 'prosperity' that then crashed hard and deep, and has a major crater still lingering  in the financial structure of the Nation that neither Democrats nor Republicans want to remove.

Are these the values you want to teach to your children: that pay-offs and kick-backs, cronyism and the expectation of getting ripped off are the norm for government regulations and that one should take part to make a quick buck while they can?  Is that the basis for a moral family arrangement when your children see YOU in that light?  And when you happily slap that bumper sticker on your RV that you are spending your children's inheritance then what, exactly, is the message that you are sending?  That you got yours?  Hurray for me and fuck you?  Because that is the message we get from such regulations and they do not bring about a stable nor just society, but just the opposite.

4) A standard deduction for medical expenses.  This, in various formulations, is currently in the modern tax code and became embedded in it during WWII as part of the enticement to get retirees, the unfit and those who were marginal in the workforce to join in the industrial war effort.  Women, midgets, the blind, those stricken with polio, the elderly... all of these people had to be enticed to work and the one easy way to do that was via what had been for decades, an executive 'perk': health care 'insurance'.  Prior to the war effort the idea of having health care 'insurance' was limited to the very upper class of society.  Why?  Because it is uneconomical to provide it, save as an enticement to a high experience, highly capable executive as part of a package of goodies to get them to work for a company.  To put it bluntly, that sort of coverage is too expensive to afford.  In fact companies couldn't afford it for their workers prior to WWII.  Luckily the crisis of necessary wartime production meant that businesses lobbied Congress to get a tax write-off put into the tax code so that a percentage of the cost wouldn't be taxed, which was about 40% if memory serves.  Why is this uneconomical?  And is it moral to have this in the tax code at all?

Health 'insurance' isn't real insurance where you are betting you will get sick and the insurance company is betting you won't.  The expansion to regular health visits, check-ups, tests, hospitalization and all of that has many features that are recurring on an annual basis, and often more frequently.  Covering medications also has a recurring and regular cost to it, and this is not a feature of any other type of 'insurance'.   Prior to this write-off individuals could get true insurance for forms of catastrophic care, accidental death and dismemberment, and even such things as investing in long-term care while young by having a stable family.  Thus this form of 'insurance' must have a high premium to it, because it is covering so many expenses for so many people that there is an overhead cost to it that is far beyond any other insurance around.  Instead of a secretary and a couple of actuarial people, these companies must employ a raft of experts, forms processors and other individuals that has grown larger over time.  Further they have taken on negotiating with hospitals, physicians and groups of same for reduced prices for the insurance members.  What used to be something that you paid directly and negotiated with the physician or hospital now had an intermediary involved, and whenever you get a middle-man, you get the cost of the middle-man as part of the system.  Without a write-off businesses could never afford that additional overhead cost for their workforce.  Period.  It costs too much.

When insurance companies put the screws on providers, by promising volume to make up for lower cost, any shortfall is passed on to other customers.  All well and good until you get to the Johnson Administration and the start of Medicare and Medicaid.  When the US federal government starts to tell what it will pay for procedures, and they are not the going market rates but below them, then the cost differential must be made up by physicians and hospitals to stay in business.  That is cost shifted to other patients, which means that insurance companies both inside and outside the M&Ms see the cost of care rising, which they must pass along via higher premiums only a portion of which can get a write-off.  Your cost of care rises.  The federal government only exacerbated a pre-existing problem that it caused in the first place, and neither Democrats nor Republicans removed the uneconomical tax write-off after WWII.  The very vocal minority that told of the problems of the 'Great Society' medical programs proved not only prescient but having too limited a vision of the actual rate of increase of costs involved.

Why is overhead cost important?

Overhead cost is a burden to whatever the transaction is that is going on: stores have square footage, personnel, record keeping, liability insurance, lighting, heating, janitorial work all of which are just part of overhead cost.  Insurance companies have this, as well, so that when a transaction takes place the cost of their negotiations is added into the fray, as well as the cost of making sure that charges passing through the system are not fraudulent: it is their money they are handing out, dues and such are only payments to them to do this job.  Thus whatever the actual cost of an item is, it must have the burden of overhead added on to it and medical care is no different from any other transactional service be it getting served dinner at a restaurant or purchasing a computer from an online store.  To put it simply, the cost of the system is increased with middle-men and their burden added to the system as a whole and YOU pay for it either directly or via cost shifting to others.  As with all other transactional systems, the fewer intermediaries that there are, the lower the end-user cost will be in the aggregate and often for each individual summed up for their entire usage of the system in their lives.

Today the system is so rigged, so encrusted with tax changes, with so many kick-backs at the federal and State level, with so many cronies and lobbyists seeking line items in the budget for themselves that NO ONE knows the true cost of medical care in America save that without all of this burdened overhead it would cost FAR LESS than it does now.  Coming from the federal government and seeing industrial and governmental non-productive time and generic overhead cost burdening that delta could be as small as 15% and as high as 65%: what you pay, overall, for all medical treatment and medications in your lifetime could drop by 15% to 65% overall, in aggregate without trying to make the damned system 'fair' to treat 'special cases' with high cost and even higher overhead differently from everyone else.  That delta is picked up by this thing known as 'charity' run by religious institutions, citizens dedicated to the cause of helping others, and special interest charities dedicated to single diseases and their medical costs.  By depending on insurance and government this charitable system is on the rocks and slowly being eroded away in its entirety as it doesn't have the lobbyists or the capability to write-off as much as larger institutions because they lack the scale to do so.  Once they are gone the lowest cost anchor of the system will go with it and the costs that had been merely way too expensive will go to impossible to pay because there is no way for charity to compete in a crony system dedicated to undercutting charity to the benefit of the cronies and politicians.

That is not only immoral it is reprehensible.  Yet you sustain it via tax write-offs for yourself in the tax code.

And all in search of the objective: lower taxes.

5) That bottom line is what we are all seeking via this system, and yet we achieve it in the very worst of all possible ways.  The income tax was promised as never going beyond 7% and that only for the fat cats, yet in 7 years its highest rate was 70%.  One of the interesting drivers for the tax code, beyond 'soaking the rich' was in the quest to get the US federal government another source of revenue beyond its main one: liquor taxes.  The hard drinking US had problems, which first brought about individual organizations seeking to reform drunkards (like the Washington Society) so that the familial problems of drinking could be alleviated by reforming those who drank too much liquor.  Yet most of the US government's income was on liquor and it sustained the Nation up to the Progressive era.  Temperance, sobriety and using government to enforce these things was a Progressive agenda item, backed by powerful lobbying organizations like the Anti-Saloon League.  Getting dry counties and dry States was not enough as people could go elsewhere to bring drink back home.  The idea was that if the US Constitution represented the moral fabric of the Nation, then amending the Constitution would change the people to a more sober and moral people.  Yet the only way to do this was to find an alternate revenue stream as liquor was very much the life-blood of government.  Thus the income tax, warned against and written against in the Constitution, had to be put into place before the political power of the Temperance Movement could come into play.  With an alternative revenue stream, Prohibition quickly passed and proved that human nature is stronger than the US Constitution.

We are left with the artifacts of a directly elected Senate system and an income tax system, both prohibited by the original Constitution of the Framers.  That system had everyone being assessed equally for the cost of the US government and then apportioning that to the States for getting the revenue.  The States figured out how to get the revenue: sales taxes, property taxes, direct levies, bake sales, it was left up to the more local to figure this out, not the National system.  That is both a moral system and a 'fair' system in that it adapts to local situations as dictated by the people at a much easier level to control.  Everyone gets a stake in the system.

Today the idea is to avoid taxes, have the rich pay the way of the poor and do everything in one's power to pay as little as possible to a government that must stand for all of the people.  Instead of passing the burden to States, we now have the problems of the States at the federal level and we are left with only the people as the means to address the ills of this system.  The failure of our government, our businesses and ourselves via human nature have now put us into a desperate situation.  To gain earthly goods we have accepted pay-offs to avoid questioning the moral cost of them.  For the pursuit of having someone else pay, we now pay in the dearest coin of all: our own self worth.

When Gov. Romney puts forward the morality test in spending, it must be something that is far beyond spending because spending requires a source of that revenue, and that can only be taken from the people of the Nation or borrowed from others.  We put ourselves and our future in the hands of others when we do that, and it matters not if it is other Nations or 'the rich': you dance to the tune of the piper and when you pay nothing you are obligated to dance to their tune.  It isn't immoral to hand our children and grandchildren our debt, it is immoral of us to incur it in the first place and shows our own lack of self worth and valuation to accept that cheating pays, that avoidance of paying taxes pays, and that instead of expecting all citizens to take up our common burden, we seek to shift it only in one direction: ever upwards to others.  To be a free people we must all pay our way, even the destitute as I am sure that we, as moral people, will form charities to help them pay for some small citizen so they can learn the value of being a citizen.  That is also an obligation to actually be productive, of course, and to care for not just oneself but one's fellow man.  If we do not expect it of ourselves, the non-rich but not destitute, either, then how can we expect it either of the rich or the destitute?

Once morality of government in its size, scope, power and cost are all brought into question, the very tax code we have then comes in for scrutiny.  In my fictional one for people of moderate means I get something between 10 and 17% as a net tax rate.  If we shear out the immorality of the system, get a flat tax of a given amount, and then say 'we must live within that', then we are on the path of being moral and righteous in our actions because we sustain ourselves and our society by swearing to pick up the burden for those who fare less well and to pay our own way to sustain us all.  No matter how much you may like the special treatment, the kick-backs, the pay-offs... they get you the cronyism, the complexity and the resulting immorality of treating people differently when we are all citizens and created equal.  To claim ownership of yourself you must be able to deny government the right to control you via economics and its own petite tyranny, which soon grows fat and becomes a true tyrant in its own right.  The tyrant of the bureaucrat.  The tyrant of the rules.  The tyrant of the cronies who seek to escape scrutiny by buying off government to get paid-off by you.

I am sure Gov. Romney hasn't gotten down this far in his thinking.  But that he has taken a step in this direction is not just unexpected but refreshing.  Because once you start to question the morality of borrowing and expecting your children to pay it off for you, then you must begin to question the taxation and just what it is you are seeking from it in the long run.  A Nation of free men must be able to admit the burden they bring, carry their own and help others less able and to do so openly, honestly, and not via subterfuge of collection via the shopkeeper or the ease of the transaction stealthily burdened by the politicians in the back room.  Force it into the open, force it to be discussed, and then come to an agreement in common and cement that baby down and make it toxic for any power hungry ideologue to even think of touching it.  You don't win your freedom and keep it by paying stealth taxes, but by putting the tax man out in front of all to see and saying: do your damn job and stop trying to steal us blind behind our backs.  For what they rob is far dearer than mere coin, and far harder to win back once lost.