Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sanders' Ultimate Diss-qualification

I don't hate Bernie Sanders. He is principled and consistent, and he has been on the right side of history on some pretty important shit, often ahead of his time.

But as a Presidential candidate, with his far left positions, eccentric hands, and unkempt hair? Of the democratic party, which he has never been a member of until he announced his candidacy to lead it?

He now says Hillary Clinton - the most accomplished, prepared, and competent woman leader in America - is "unqualified" to be president. That he would go that far against such a champion of the progressive cause - who has received more than 2 million more votes than him in the primaries - has the ironic effect of calling his own qualifications and judgment into question.

This is a man who unconscionably voted against the bailout of 2008 - you may remember this as the thing that saved our economy from depression, prevented literally millions of jobs from being lost in every industry (including the "evil" banking sector that, ya know, every family in America relies on and that built and sustains America), and that ultimately made the government money on interest payments from the beneficiaries. It's made worse still by his motivations - he voted against it because he wanted to send a passive-aggressive, half-baked message to rich people - they broke America so they should somehow pay out of pocket or their companies should go down, never mind our national interest stake in the reality that our entire economy rested on their shoulders.

This is a man who thinks every trade agreement we've negotiated in the past 30 years should be revoked. Because we're losing so many jobs to China, as everyone knows. Except we don't have a trade agreement with China. I wonder how he would explain that. And then there's the fact that trade agreements help level the playing field for American workers and improve lives for millions of people by requiring our partners to raise their labor and environmental standards to meet the agreement, and opens markets for American companies and American made goods, and builds essential relationships with our neighbors and strengthens our alliances around the world.

This is a man who wants to repeal and replace Obamacare with an unprecedentedly massive expansion of the size and scope of government - not quite in line with the mood of the party, let alone the country. On the heels of the contentious, all-consuming health care battle President Obama and progressives in Congress have successfully waged these last 7 years - to great impact in real people's lives - it takes nothing short of willful obliviousness to make such an infuriatingly naive proposal. Democrats have learned time and again, including during the last health care fight in the early 90s, that waging impossible battles is not without consequence - it consumes political capital that could be used to actually accomplish something, it postpones progress instead of advancing it, it costs democrats seats in Congress that would otherwise belong to moderates who would help move us forward on the big issues.

This is a man who says the business model of Wall Street is "fraud," bases his entire campaign around reigning in Wall Street, and then proves he has very little idea what he's actually talking about - because his proposals are empty, his rhetoric is absurd, and his assertions are wrong, and when asked specifics, he has none. What authorities does our government have to split the banks? He doesn't know. How would he do it? He says he has no idea. He has spoken in generalities about this his entire career, his anger at the wealthy and the bankers subverting any real substantive conversation.

This is a man who demonizes the rich, he speaks about the wealthy with nothing but disdain. It reminds me of Cruz demonizing teachers or Trump going after Muslims. Oversimplifying a problem, pointing the finger at a stereotyped scapegoat, and hacking an un-thought out solution couched in angry, overstated rhetoric. Yes, we should raise the top tax rates on the wealthiest folks, no, they are not all white collar criminals or assholes trying to cheat and defraud their way to the top. "The greed of the billionaire class and corporate America is destroying this great country." Actual quote. That is such utter nonsense, it's such abuse of reality, it's so insulting to the businesses that in fact employ millions and make our country great, it's so twisting of the incredible legacy of capitalism in our country - it's just empty, populist demagoguery.

This is a man who thinks the democratic party is a party of sell outs. Forget the immense progress we have made over decades, let alone these last 7 years under Obama - he has written off every champion in Congress who has fought for health care for the poor, tax fairness, food stamps, unemployment insurance, minimum wage increases, renewable energy investments, the list goes on, because they received campaign donations from rich people, or people who work on Wall Street, or people who work in the fossil fuel industry (another major industry that powers America and employs literally tens of thousands of people that he has completely vilified and written off). Of course, he has the biggest PAC of all helping him out this election cycle - the PACs of every Republican who have wasted little time and many resources blasting Hillary Clinton and promoting Sanders (because he would be a terrible candidate, which is good for Republicans).

And along those lines, and perhaps most damaging, to my mind, this is a man who is the Ted Cruz of the left - a naive purist who condemns any politician who doesn't promote the most extreme position, insults his own party (like President Obama) for daring to compromise to accomplish progress instead of holding out for some ideal at the country's expense, and shouts self righteous indignation at a party and at people who have done so much good for this country. He will, just like Cruz, divide his party by promising unrealistic policies and shooting down any politician who dares to be pragmatic, or patient, or responsive to more conservative minded constituents and to build progress strategically instead of demanding everything all at once and expecting results. That's not how democracy works, that's not how a political party survives and actually accomplishes positive things for real people, and it's not reflective of his country.

Sanders is a good man, with good intentions. But he is no President, he is no nominee of the great democratic party, and in a battle of ideologies between the ultimate whack-job capitalist vs an angry socialist, with immense amounts of money thrown around to expose and destroy each other, I don't want to find out where America would ultimately side... particularly when there's the chance to make history and send a message to girls in America and oppressed women around the world with a supremely qualified, progressive fighter named Hillary.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hey, Republican - reconcile this...

With the elections just two years away, campaign season will soon be in full swing. Dems should be armed with questions that cut through the muddled, nonsensical thangs that are so much of the R philosophy and that will separate the women from the girls. Or, in the R's case, the old white men from the other old white men. And the young beauty queen. Is it just me, or does the Republican party sound like your typical strip joint? (I don't intend to insinuate that Sarah Palin is a stripper, or any other degrading sex object. I respect her as a woman and former Governor, who quit halfway through her first term. On second thought... that's worse.) Some ideas:

Stem Cell Research

Scientists generally agree that embryonic stem cell research poses the greatest promise for uncovering a new way to heal people from diseases like cancer and injuries, including spinal injuries that result in paralysis. If your daughter / son was in a car accident and they became paralyzed from the neck down due to a spinal injury, would you still oppose embryonic stem cell research that could one day allow your child to walk once again and to play with your grandchildren? Would you oppose this research that could allow your own child to lead a normal life, out of the confines of a wheelchair?


1) You are vehemently opposed to abortion on the grounds that it is the taking of a human life. If your daughter became pregnant as a teenager, would you demand she have an abortion or would you just talk with her about this choice? If you wouldn’t demand it, why do you seek to demand it for every daughter in the country?

2) I understand that you are someone who believes that abortions are the murder of a fellow human. Given that abortions are occurring everyday across America, do you believe there is a genocide going on in your own country? And would you intervene militarily, if need be, to save these human lives? Would you intervene militarily in foreign nations that allow for abortions, since you truly believe these are human lives being lost?


1) If US forces captured a high level al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan with potentially valuable information on future planned attacks, what if water-boarding doesn’t yield results? Would you allow our forces to pull their fingernails off or surgically remove limbs if conventional interrogation techniques did not work? And if not, why would you put American lives at risk just to uphold the human rights of a single terrorist?

2) Would you permit water-boarding or other forms of torture to be employed on American criminal suspects in local police stations across the country if the suspect had information that could save lives? If not, why not?

Sexual Orientation

1) So much of politics is considering the world from someone else's shoes. If your son or daughter were gay, would you be disappointed? And would you sit them down and explain to them why you don’t believe they should ever have the right to get married?

2) As a gay man, I am telling you that I never chose to be gay. I grew up in a normal two parent household in the suburbs, went to public schools, and played with toy trucks as a kid. My father was a journalist who loves basketball and my mother a preschool teacher and small business entrepreneur. Like many gay people, I spent many years wishing I weren’t gay, trying not to be gay, because people in society like you told me it wasn’t normal, that it wasn’t natural, and that I had a choice. Do you still think being gay is a choice and do you think that message coming from many national leaders is harmful to children and encourages prejudice at all levels of society?

3) If you are open to the idea that being gay is a choice, when did you choose to be straight? And could you choose to be gay right now? If so, my number is 555-658-5326.

4) Do you believe there is rampant homophobia in America, and if so, do you see it as a problem?


1) Due to the estate tax, when someone dies, all of their money over the $5 million mark will be taxed at 35% once it is inherited by their heirs, and I understand you are opposed to this tax. At a time of record deficits, why do you believe a person should not pay any taxes on the money they inherit above $5 million, while a working mother making $35,000 each year who doesn’t come from a wealthy family should pay taxes on her hard earned income?

2) You seem to believe that taxing wealthy Americans to pay for programs for the poor is a destructive redistribution of wealth. At a time when the financial divide between rich and poor in America is setting records - with the wealthiest 1% owning more than the bottom 50% of Americans combined - do you believe that taxes should be raised on the poor so they can finance their own social programs?

3) Much has been made of the statistic that 50% of Americans are too poor to pay federal income taxes. Does this statistic outrage you? If so, which part is outrageous - that 50% of Americans are that poor, or that the wealthier 50% of the country has to pay federal income taxes? Would you suggest raising taxes on the poorest Americans to rectify this divide?

4) Do you support the flat tax? If so, wouldn’t that be the largest tax increase in history on the middle class and an enormous tax break for the wealthiest? If not, what do you say to Republicans who would accuse you of punishing the rich by making them pay a higher tax rate than the poor pay on some of their income?

5) Most economists agree that unemployment insurance is an exponentially greater economic stimulator than tax cuts for wealthy people. In the name of stimulating the economy, why do you support debt financed tax cuts for the rich but insist on paying for unemployment benefits with cuts in federal programs?

6) Since President Bush lowered taxes and then initiated two wars, do you believe we should ever raise taxes again in order to pay for those wars or should we always just cut spending on domestic priorities when we are forced into foreign conflicts?

Gun Rights

Do you believe Americans should be allowed to own pistols, machine guns, bazookas, and grenades since the Second Amendment guarantees the people “the right to keep and bear arms”? It does not specify which arms, so what information informed your activist interpretation of where the Constitution draws the line? At the time our nation adopted that amendment, with the blessing of our Founding Fathers, “arms” were quite different than they are now.

Climate Change

We all learned in elementary school about CFC’s from manmade products damaging the ozone layer. Did you believe the experts at the National Academy of Sciences when they came forward with this research? And if so, why do you not believe the National Academy of Sciences and NASA when they say that strong evidence from countless sources of research suggests that manmade greenhouse gas emissions are significantly contributing to climate change

Racism and Civil Rights

It wasn’t but half a generation ago in the 1970s that “Whites Only” signs really came down in the South. Do you believe racism is still a significant problem in America, and do you believe there is any lasting fallout from the very recent days of impoverished segregation that lingered for over a century after slavery was abolished? If so, is there anything the government can do about it, seeing as the hangover poverty among this community is largely considered to be a product of systemic policies and mainstream racism that disadvantaged black Americans for generations?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What Democrats Got Wrong: 2008-2010

If Democrats wish to win coming elections, and I know I, for one, do, it would be productive to examine what we got wrong during these past two years in power so that we can practice what we preached to President Bush and learn from our mistakes. Here's my shot.

We need to 1) perfect the art of compromise, 2) offer more effective soundbites, 3) take better credit for our accomplishments, 4) focus our agenda more concisely, 5) assign blame where it belongs more frequently, and, finally, 6) we need to pick our heads up ‘cause we ain’t doing so bad.

1) If a compromise is made in Congress but no one knows it's a compromise, does it make a sound?

Dems, and President Obama in particular, made a bad habit of proposing moderate legislation riddled with good Republican ideas. Why is that a problem? Because the Republicans wouldn't support those ideas unless they were publicly able to take credit for them. Negotiation 101: come to the table with your ideal offer knowing it will be whittled down through negotiations. The stimulus, Wall Street reform, even health care reform were largely composed of moderate ideas that Republicans previously supported. When one third of the stimulus was devoted to tax cuts at its inception, what was President Obama expecting the Republicans to do? Be thankful that the President came out with such a moderate proposal?

When compromises were publicly made, Democrats did not highlight them, even when they were major. The public option was far and away the most controversial component of the Democratic health care proposal. Liberals held it up as a holy grail, conservatives pointed to it as a communist government takeover of the health care system. Wouldn't you know it, the public option was not in the final health care bill, but liberal Democrats neglected to even claim credit for conceding this high priority component in the name of bipartisanship. In fact, just about every provision in the health care bill that ultimately passed has been supported by Republicans in the past - even the mandate for Americans to purchase insurance was proposed by Republicans in the Senate in 1993 as an alternative to the Clinton proposal. That is the only provision in the Obama bill that receives less than 50 percent public support in polls, and it was previously proposed by Republicans.

2) Soundbites have cooties.

President Obama and Democrats seem loathe to resort to concise, persuasive statements that can be easily echoed by members across the spectrum in support of their policies. Why? Perhaps they feel that they are above this alleged dumbing down of complex issues, or perhaps they are just disorganized. Either way, the message does not always get out.

For example, the recession could easily have been dubbed "the Bush recession" to lay the blame where it belongs with every mention of the struggling economy, yet Republicans claimed Obama owned the economy after month three in office and Democrats never responded with a consistent message. As for the economic recovery, Clinton adviser James Carville, who coined the phrase "It's the economy, stupid," widely regarded as the most effective message of Clinton's campaign, rightly pointed out that Obama had the wrong message on the economy. Instead of saying, as President Obama does, "What we are doing is working," which could understandably anger the millions of Americans who haven't felt the "working" piece of that statement, Carville rightly suggests the message should be, "We are standing up to the Wall Street CEO's who got us into this mess, and we are fighting for you every day to make this economy better." The unprecedented 24/7 news cycle is having an untold effect on the public debate, and seems to make messaging on complex matters that much more difficult. President Bush was the first President to really be confronted with the ups and downs of that cycle, and President Obama is still experimenting with governing techniques that work in that environment.

3) We won! Unfortunately.

There are a whole host of Democrats in Congress who have decided upon the worst political strategy ever - support legislation, but only after letting it be known far and wide how absolutely terrible they believe that legislation is. Perhaps if Democrats learned to withhold some of their most aggressively angry whining about their fellow Democrats and proposals that they will ultimately end up supporting, they would be better off. Every individual member of the party is stronger when the party as a whole has a unified and clear message. By all means, air concerns and offer critiques, but maybe try to avoid damning legislation to hell before casting a vote for it. I'm looking at you, Mary Landrieu (and tons of House members) during health care reform. And Barney Frank with the Senate Wall Street reform bill. And Mary Landrieu again during the latest tax cut deal between President Obama and top Republicans. If you hadn't heard, she called the deal "almost morally corrupt," before adding, "If I end up voting for this bill..." I'm sorry, after calling it morally corrupt, voting for the deal is still an option?! Great way to build the public's confidence for a vote you are going to have to defend when you're up for reelection.

Keep the infighting to a toned-down minimum as much as possible, and try to stay positive while looking out for the interests of the home district.

4) Lack of focu... oh, oh, oh, something shiny!

A common criticism of the Democrats' recent performance is that the Dems were not focused on the priorities of the American people. In the midst of a fragile recovery, Democrats took on the broken health care system. I understand this concern, but I don't believe that tackling health care was the wrong decision for President Obama to make. Given that health care reform was his most ambitious, and perhaps most important, campaign promise, it would have been nothing short of criminally disastrous were he to avoid this issue while he had historic Democratic majorities in Congress and enough political capital to actually get it accomplished. That being said, politically speaking, there may well be a lesson to be learned here. Following 9/11, George W. Bush devoted several of the ensuing years in office almost exclusively to fighting terrorism, and, for a time, his singular focus worked for him because it was similarly the highest priority on the minds of the American people. There is always something to be said for simplicity and focus.

5) The other guy filibustered and it's all your fault.

One problem is the mindset of some citizen Democrats – we may forget how difficult governing can be in a Democracy, and too often, we have ended up blaming other Democrats for the obstruction by Republicans. This is in part a result of the failure of effective messaging from the Democratic party, but it's also a problem in its own right. We have little patience and at times seem to forget that, when change ultimately does happen in the form of legislation passing through Congress, it is the product of hours, days, months, or years of negotiations and consensus building - and ultimately, agreement.

Case in point, Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. President Obama is President, not dictator, and there are 60 Senators and 218 House members who also must support any given bill for it to pass. As for DADT, Republicans in the Senate have so far been intent on filibustering the repeal, going so far as to delay funding our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent this repeal from taking effect. All of this after President Obama has spoken forcefully in favor of repeal during his campaign, at public rallies, and in his State of the Union address earlier this year, worked with the military leadership to come up with a path to repeal, ordered the largest survey of the military ever to build support, instructed his Republican Secretary of Defense to rally support for the legislation in Congress and in the military, requested hearings be held on the issue, and asked repeatedly that Congress pass the repeal bill. Yet, the frustration among Democrats appears to be aimed at President Obama, of all people, and not at Senator McCain and his fellow filibustering friends.

It is important that we direct our anger at our opposition, our advice and advocacy toward our allies, and try to understand the positions of both. As Middle East envoy George Mitchell said of his experience with the Northern Ireland peace accord he helped broker years ago, "if the objective is to achieve a peace agreement, until you do achieve one, you have failed to do so. In a sense, in Northern Ireland, we had about 700 days of failure and one day of success." Wise words, Mr. Mitchell. Wise words. Let us not call ourselves failures every day we don’t succeed.

6) Last, and most importantly...

Put it all in perspective. Everything listed here as something Democrats at times got wrong is also something we often got right. And governing decisions are made after careful analysis of the realities of the moment – the future is unpredictable, so good decisions of the moment may prove to have been terrible decisions down the road, but what more can we do? These are also issues that every President and Congress wrestle with, some more successfully than others. None of these problems is unique to Democrats, or to President Obama.

The Democrats, led by President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid, have accomplished great things for the American people at a pace unmatched in perhaps seven decades. Without reviewing all of the details of our accomplishments, it is safe to say that the economic stimulus plan, health care reform plan, and the Wall Street reform plan enacted by the Democrats (with the help of a few straggling Republicans) were each historic in their own right, and together are... ultra-historic. After fighting each of these massive battles in the midst of a faltering economy with unprecedented economic anxiety and a national unemployment rate of around 9.8 percent, President Obama maintains an approval rating of 45 percent or higher, depending on the poll - a rating greater than either Clinton or Reagan enjoyed following their first midterm losses in Congress. So chin up! We must be doing something right.

Tax Cuts for All! My 4 cents on why the latest Obama tax cut deal is all good

1) From my liberal standpoint, the worst part of the deal is our ideological opposition to lower tax rates on the wealthy at a time when America needs to be as fiscally responsible as possible without damaging the economy. However, the tax rates are only extended for two years (not five or ten) at a cost of about $160 billion (including the lower estate tax rate), and in return, we got a host of needed middle class tax cuts, funding for unemployment insurance for a full year, hopefully avoided deadlock on the New START treaty and Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, and a major symbolic compromise with Republicans to follow up the disastrous midterms, giving moderates (if not liberals) a little more confidence in government, and in Obama.

2) Additionally, three other potential benefits of this deal: 1) the tax cuts for the wealthy are estimated to help create jobs to some degree, just not as high a degree as other stimulative measures would, including the unemployment insurance that is part of this deal. 2) Obama has disarmed the potentially effective Republican talking point that the recovery was not as robust as it could have been because Obama raised taxes. 3) The two year extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy ensures the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans will be an issue during the next election, just as it was heavily debated in 2008 - and look who won that argument.

3) Down side - for the next two years, the richest Americans, who have more money in a society facing a greater class divide than ever before, will not be paying their fair share to our country at a time when our deficits are historically high and our economy is struggling to gain steam. The harm that comes with $160 billion over two years, however, in the grand scheme of things, is more in the form of psychological/ideological repugnance than actual long-term economic damage.

4) The alternative to this deal is NOT a better deal - other options likely would have been worse for the economy, psychologically abusive to the country, and politically damaging to the Democrats. This was (pathetically) the single most important item to Republicans in the last two years, and they were not about to let it go. Obama could have turned down any deal that extended tax cuts for the wealthiest people, which would have continued Republicans on the path of obstruction for the next two years and sent a message to the public that Obama is unwilling to compromise. The tax rates for the middle class may have expired, at least temporarily, if we couldn't get a vote to extend them, putting the country on a bit of a roller coaster ride in the middle of our fragile economic recovery, and START, DADT, and every other priority of the Democrats would have immediately gone by the wayside. With Republicans set to take the House come January 1, Democrats have very little leverage to work with and a limited time frame. Perhaps Obama ultimately could have gotten slightly more concessions from Republicans, but it is no sure thing, and it would have taken time and cost valuable capital better spent on other priorities, all for very little policy gain.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sweet Links

Illegal Immigration:
Undocumented Dreams
Boston Globe Opinion
April 28, 2010
By Steve Almond
Most of all, I’d suggest to those who trumpet the alleged evils of undocumented workers to spend some time in cities like El Paso and Juarez. What they’d discover is an ancient and enduring truth: immigration is not about spreading evil. It’s about poor people seeking to become less poor. It is about the very human beings whose honest labors built our nation, and whose dreams honor its most sacred tenets.

Crime and Punishment:

Norway Builds World's Most Humane Prison

May 10, 2010
By William Lee Adams
It embodies the guiding principles of the country's penal system: that repressive prisons do not work and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society.

Obama Rules:

Obama Q&A with House Republicans. Awesome.
January 29, 2010
First two minutes are muffled. Def worth watching.

The death of the RSVP
New York Times Opinion
March 14, 2010
By Rand Richards Cooper
What’s clear is how hard the R.S.V.P. rubs against the grain of contemporary life. In requesting people to anchor a plan in the distant future of a month hence, you are demanding a kind of navigation that Americans increasingly do not practice. We prefer to remain flexy, solidifying our plans incrementally as the date approaches. Let’s talk tomorrow. I’ll call you when I’m on the road. Cellphones in hand, we microadjust our schedules as they unfold around us. We’re like the air traffic controllers of our own lives.

Founding Fathers:
Immaculate misconception and the Supreme Court
Washington Post Opinion
May 7, 2010
By Joseph J. Ellis
the constitutional doctrine of original intent has always struck most historians of the founding era as rather bizarre. For they, more than most, know that the original framers of the Constitution harbored deep disagreements over the document's core provisions, that the debates in the state ratifying conventions further exposed the divisions of opinion on such seminal issues as federal vs. state jurisdiction, the powers of the executive branch, even whether there was -- or should be -- an ultimate arbiter of the purposefully ambiguous language of the document. Moreover, several of the most prominent Founders changed their minds in the ensuing years.

Stevens's Real Legacy: Why Empathy Matters
April 9, 2010
By Dahlia Lithwick
If John Paul Stevens's career stood for anything, it's the proposition that walking a few miles in the other guy's moccasins will always make you a better judge. As Americans now begin the ritual clamor for a court that looks more like them—for more racial, gender, and ethnic diversity at the court—it's worth taking a moment to recognize that often more than anyone else at the court, it was an 89-year-old white Protestant guy who devoted his judicial career to standing in the shoes of teenage schoolgirls, pregnant women, gay Boy Scout leaders, and poor African-Americans.

Citizens United: What is the First Amendment For?
New York Times Opinion
February 1, 2010
By Stanley Fish
The Majority believe that free trade in ideas with as many trading partners as wish to join in will inevitability produce benign results for a democratic society. And since their confidence in these results is a matter of theoretical faith and not of empirical or historical observation — free speech is for them a religion with long-term rewards awaiting us down the road — they feel no obligation to concern themselves with short-term calculations and predictions. Stevens also values robust intellectual commerce, but he believes that allowing corporate voices to have their full and unregulated say “can distort the ‘free trade in ideas’ crucial to candidate elections.” In his view free trade doesn’t take care of itself, but must be engineered by the kind of restrictions the majority strikes down. The marketplace of ideas can become congealed and frozen; the free flow can be impeded, and when that happens the only way to preserve free speech values is to curtail or restrict some forms of speech, just as you might remove noxious weeds so that your garden can begin to grow again. Prohibitions on speech, Stevens says, can operate “to facilitate First Amendment values.”

Why the Obama Economic Plan is Working
Business Week
April 8, 2010
Michael Dorning
Little more than a year ago, financial markets were in turmoil, major auto companies were on the verge of collapse and economists such as Paul Krugman were worried about the U.S. slumbering through a Japan-like Lost Decade. While no one would claim that all the pain is past or the danger gone, the economy is growing again, jumping to a 5.6% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2009 as businesses finally restocked their inventories. The consensus view now calls for 3% growth this year, significantly higher than the 2.1 % estimate for 2010 that economists surveyed by Bloomberg News saw coming when Obama first moved into the Oval Office. The U.S. manufacturing sector has expanded for eight straight months, the Business Roundtable's measure of CEO optimism reached its highest level since early 2006, and in March the economy added 162,000 jobs—more than it had during any month in the past three years. "There is more business confidence out there," says Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. "This Administration deserves significant credit."

Pursuit of Happiness:

What Makes Us Happy?

The Atlantic
June 2009
By Joshua Wolf Shenk
Last fall, I spent about a month in the file room of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, hoping to learn the secrets of the good life. The project is one of the longest-running—and probably the most exhaustive—longitudinal studies of mental and physical well-being in history. Begun in 1937 as a study of healthy, well-adjusted Harvard sophomores (all male), it has followed its subjects for more than 70 years.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

common misunderstanding

Progressive taxes in America do NOT mean that all income for wealthier people is taxed higher. We have a bracketed system, which means that people in the top tax bracket are only taxed at the top rate on their income that falls above the top bracket minimum. For example, no matter how rich they are, a married couple would be taxed at the 10% rate on the first $16,700 they make. Any income they earn between $16,700 and $67,900 is taxed at 15%. Any income they have in the next bracket will be taxed at 25%, followed by 28%, 33%, and 35% for any income over $372,500.

For 2008, the Federal tax brackets for a single (unmarried) person are:

1) 10%: from $0 to $8,025
2) 15%: from $8,026 to $32,550
3) 25%: from $32,551 to $78,850
4) 28%: from $78,851 to $164,550
5) 33%: from $164,551 to $357,700
6) 35%: $357,701 and above

And here is the breakdown of American wages by household (not individual):

28.22% earn less than $25,000 per year
26.65% earn between $25,000 and $50,000
18.27% earn between $50,000 and $75,000
10.93% earn between $75,000 and $100,000
15.73% earn over $100,000
Just a small fraction earn millions

Monday, March 16, 2009

bar stool economics

Here is an interesting conservative story that's being forwarded around the internet. Below this one is my progressive rebuttal. The battle of the philosophies, made easy.

Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.

But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a dollar out of the $20,'declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!' 'Yeah, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics, University of Georgia
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.


Progressive version:

Suppose that every day, ten people go out for beer. A lot of beer. If they paid their bill the way fiscal Conservatives WANT us to pay our taxes (21% rate for everyone, which would amount to an enormous tax reduction for the richest and the largest tax increase in history for the poorest), it would go something like this:

The first four people (the poorest) make $50 a day and would pay $11.50, leaving them with $38.50 to survive.
The fifth makes $200 a day and would pay $42, leaving her with just $158.
The sixth makes $300 and would pay $63.
The seventh makes $400 and would pay $84.
The eighth makes $500 and would pay $105.
The ninth makes $1,000 and would pay $210, leaving her with $790.
The tenth man (the richest) makes $10,000 and would pay $2,100, leaving him with $7,900.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten people drank in the bar every day under this arrangement. The poor had to sacrifice birthday gifts for their children and healthcare for one member of their family in order to buy that beer. The wealthy still enjoyed their healthcare, college, 401k retirement savings, their gated home and clean and healthy organic lifestyle, and their yacht, but they couldn’t afford a second yacht because of that beer!

One day, the bar owner threw them a curve. Instead of paying 21% of their income each for the beer, they could each pay 15%! The bar owner proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The first four people (the poorest, most strapped for cash) save $3 (6% savings).
The fifth saves $12 (6% savings).
The sixth saves $18 (6% savings).
The seventh saves $24 (6% savings).
The eighth saves $30 (6% savings).
The ninth saves $60 (6% savings).
The tenth saves $600 (6% savings).

Each of the people had more expendable income than before. But while the poorest struggled to buy just one additional teddy bear for the new baby with the savings, the rich saved enough that they actually could afford that second yacht after all! In fact, they saved many times the sum of the poor people’s income, and that was just their savings!

However, despite the additional income, not everyone was better off. Even though the beer was cheaper, the healthcare assistance for the poor disappeared, the public transportation system in America deteriorated, the country could no longer invest in medical research or fund job training centers or police stations around the country. So, in actuality, the poor, who were the financially worst off to begin with, became even worse off, despite the extra $3 bucks a day they saved. Working class people also happen to represent the majority of America. Despite the crumbling surrounding community, the small rich minority were astronomically better off! Their healthcare rates didn’t change, they kept their Lexus, they could still afford college, and although they decided against buying the second yacht, because, why would you need two?, they were able to throw even more money into derivatives!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our fiscal conservatives want our tax system to work. Everyone pays the exact same percentage of their income in taxes, the people who pay the highest taxes are the only ones to benefit from a tax reduction, while the poor, struggling to get by to begin with, struggle even more regardless of whether taxes go up or down.

No one is attacking anyone for “being wealthy,” as some assert. (I wish I were rich, and I certainly wouldn't complain about my taxes if I were.) But the rich got rich in America, on the shoulders of their working class employees and using the infrastructure the working class have built and the security and structure America provides. Numerically equal tax rates do not amount to equal burden. It does not amount to "fairness." It utterly ignores the common good, and it is the antithesis of equal opportunity. The world just don’t work that way.

Nobody Special
University of New Hampshire alumnus
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, just think about it. You’ll get there. Doesn’t take a PhD, just some perspective.