Thursday, May 5, 2011

The FairTax

New feature...I'm dedicating the next few months of my blog, a desperately needed return to writing, to the FairTax. Herein, I'll explain components of the FairTax, and what I hope are easy to understand examples of the implications it would have on the microeconomic level (you, me, families, and individual businesses within the United States), as well as the macroeconomic level (business and government interaction as well as global economic interaction).

So, what is the FairTax?

First, ignore the name. It's a philosophical argument, and one I'll address later. My definition of fair may be different than yours, depending on what we're talking about. That's not superfluous, by the way, nor unimportant.

1) FairTax is a national sales tax on new goods and services.
2) It would replace all forms of income taxes, corporate taxes, and payroll taxes.
3) It includes a "prebate," a monthly stipend to offset the estimated taxes spent on necessities such as food and medicine, up to the Federally-defined poverty level, based on family size.

Comments and questions are welcome, and encouraged. That said, be specific about your misgivings and criticisms. Additionally, bear in mind that the FairTax bill is about 200 pages long, and really only because of the format necessitated by legal language: it's really very simple. By contrast, our tax code is nearly 17,000 pages long, not including ancillary regulations on goods, services, and economic sectors. Finally, economics is a big subject, so crafting responses requires specificity, not blanket statements such as, "It sucks," or, "Everybody will be screwed!" Why do you think it sucks, and how so will everyone (and just who IS everyone?) be screwed?

Lastly, the title links to the Senate Version of the bill, via the awesome

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things I worry about...

1) If all of this were to fall apart, I don't think there are enough resources available to do this again. All the easy resources have been used up, and it takes some heavy industry and high technology to recover what we're using now.

2) We are extremely vulnerable to sudden extinction from a variety of sources, yet it's on almost no one's radar.

3) That conspiracy-theory nuts are even a tiny bit right.

4) The growing reach and intrusion of the Federal government, most especially the unnerving growth of power in the Executive branch. Things are OK for the moment, but all that power is just accruing, and waiting for a nutbag to slip into office. Remember, Hitler was elected.

5) The appalling growth in pseudo-scientific beliefs, unto hostility towards the hard-won knowledge and methods of human scientific endeavor. Science delivers the goods. Woo merely picks your pocket.

6) Disturbing degradation in political and interpersonal communications among Americans. Perhaps it actually has always been this way, but both the scale and vehemence, due to technology, is very worrying.

7) The Earth's climate is not a stable thing. It has changed, and it's undeniable. What shivers me is the sheer unpredictability of it one really could be far worse than our worst guesses. Then again, might not be much of anything.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Haiku 3

A transformation:

Bacon, eggs, and toast became

my friends' new baby.

Food Lion chicken lunch.

Where to eat privately? Ah!

Where one returns carts.

Everything we buy

we don't buy with money, but

we buy with our time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quick and Dirties...

1) It appears we went into Iraq A) to secure the 2nd-largest oil reserves in the world for American companies to control, and B) to continue petroleum being denominated in dollars. In this light, I don't think the invasion was such a bad idea. However, I don't sleep all that well when I think about how many Iraqi civilians this is costing.

2) Daily, I grow more convinced that perpetuation of belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, et al, isn't just silly, but culturally destructive. I understand wanting to keep children innocent, but I don't agree with it.

3) There is no forbidden knowledge. There is evil in the world, and parents have 2 choices: 1) sacrifice your child's innocence and impart the truth of evil to your children, or 2) let them find out by suffering reality. Note: this isn't aimed at specific readers I know who are parents; this is a culture-level thought.

4) Politicians portray themselves (increasingly) as moral and upright, of late touting their faith. The electorate eats it up. There are two problems with this: 1) It appears that faith doesn't offer protection of any kind against fallibility and immorality in the political population. 2) If one thinks about the job of politician and the nature of the decisions involved, especially if weighted against the interests of non-Americans, it's actually ludicrous to insist on the most moral candidate. What we really want is the most ruthless candidate to protect American interests, someone who will do the evil we would find difficult. I think that's actually what we get, but I no longer see the point in playing the image game. It wastes time and is dishonest.

5) Incidentally, I couldn't care less how any public figure wets their privates, or with whom if it's consenting. I fail to see how someone's sexual appetites impact economic or military decisions, neither of which require the kind of morality the nation at large elects people because of.

6) Far too many Americans believe that because they were born in the United States, their shit doesn't stink: that they are inherently superior to other nationalities and human beings. This attitude disgusts me beyond conveyance. There is some slight understandability to the attitude of racial superiority, or of a bias due to heredity, even if they are bogus. An accident of birth, however, in which someone is born into a particular political construct, boggles the mind how folk blunder into justification for radical nationalism.

7) Few Americans have any knowledge of American history beyond our mythology. Pointing out the following is considered revisionist: we committed genocide on the indigenous Americans; held slaves, then oppressed an entire population solely on the base of race; were intolerant to the point of violence to even white people who weren't born speaking English; have involved ourselves in more than one war for purely economic reasons, yet lied about it (to this day). Etc., etc. To this day, as a nation, we make bad decisions that future generations will regret. I'm a huge fan of the United States, but I'm not kidding myself that we aren't as well off as we are because of some bloody, sinister history. The take-home is that we don't do these things, and we're creating a civilization in which it's easier to be a good person. With that, I wish people would listen a little bit harder to people who currently have grievances with society: we've been on the wrong side of history before, so upholding the status quo may not be the best idea ever. We aren't where we are because Americans are a more moral people than anyone else. History proves that nauseatingly arrogant assertion a bald-faced lie. If we stop resting on the laurels of winning World War 2, we'd discover that the best our nation has done has been when we embraced compassion. I'm just saying we should do more of that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Some Haiku

Twenty-year old car.
Rust fore to aft. Chemistry
is the enemy.

Push. Pull. Grunt and groan.
Physics versus chemistry.
Force wins over time.

An ocean of voice,
We drown in Internet, yet
Screens full of empty.

Grocery store carts
are only full when children
are in the baskets.

Empty bank account:
Financial amusement park
without any rides.

The world is pieces.
I don't know geography.
Where depends on there.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Maybe we should all get therapy...

I have a friend (no, really, it's not me) who is seeing a therapist. S/he has only been a couple of times, but is already looking forward to her/his next session. While s/he and I debated the merits of dream interpretation (we both agree it's little better than astrology. S/he and I were able to list a few truly universal archtypes for humans, but even so, culture diversifies how we relate to those archetypes far to radically for anyone to be able to compile a book with universal symbols and their meanings in dreams.
For example, everyone has a mother, a father, everyone is born, and everyone dies. Now, it might seem obvious, but think about how you view those universals, then start thinking about how other people you know relate to those, if indeed you know. I am close to my mother, not very close to my father, but don't have a deep, overt emotinal relationship with either. None of us talk about fears, hopes, etc: emotional stuff. I'm pretty hip on humans, so I'm pretty wild about birth, but I neither have a vagina, nor see one as a sexual object, so my views on birth are fairly clinical. I don't for an instant believe in a soul, so I think death is oblivion, the same as before I was born. Thus, I don't worry about reward or punishment, but nor do I really have a terror of death, as I really can't do anything about it, yet I've no idea when, so why worry about it. Compare my views on those archetypes and contrast them with yours. There will be differences which would make any universal symbolism problematic to explain and justify. S/he and I both agree that those who advocate dream interpretation as something beyond a personal, subjective interpretation, as a science even, are not only jumping the gun, but may be running in a race that doesn't even exist), we both agreed that psycho therapy is...theraputic.
I asked if it is because when explaining one's situation to a stranger, one has to rethink the issue at hand in order to get the relevant points across. This has the effect of forcing the teller to KNOW what the issues at hand are, which is invaluable in self-reflection. I also wondered if having an objective stranger made her/him more likely to tell the therapist things s/he hasn't and/or wouldn't tell her/his friends. The answer to both was yes.
Interestingly, my friend told me those deep, dark secrets. After testing them outloud, s/he found that they really weren't all that earth-shattering, and it was easy to put them into context and perspective. Additionally, it appears that therapy such as this is all about the afflicted discovering the answer for themselves, via some savvy questioning to be sure. It's an exercise in assigning meaning to the events and feelings in one's life, without all the baggage (which is often, but not always desirable) that comes with friends and lovers.
It all sounded pretty healthy, and it made me wonder if everyone wouldn't benefit from, at the least, having the option of therapy. I thought about this because of the monstrous health care debate in Washington. There is a bit of merit to the idea of "increasing access" to healthcare, but what's really meant, I think, is advanced testing, and prophylactic medical care. In truth, anyone in the country can get emergency care, so access to immediate medical care isn't an issue. What I wonder is if a little mental health access wouldn't do worlds of good more for everyone than complicated, expensive (we'll pay the same for our health care one way or the other: either up front or in taxes) insurance plans for physical care.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bitter Much?

So, it's done. It's over. It's behind me for another 364 days.
But whatever could I be relieved over? What's passing prompts passion enough to pedantically post? Why, Valentine's Day, of course.
No sooner has the gleam and glitter of Christmas had even a moment to dull than the creep of corporate-clad candy bleeds its morbid red across stores large and small. Like plague boils, stuffed bears of every size, color and shape erupt amid heart-shaped sappiness, each with its own nauseating scribble of devotion, be it poems that no doubt put acres of the mentally challenged to work, or prose declarations having the emotional sincerity of an inmate attending court-ordered rehab. Like buckshot, the day after Christmas the seeping of next quarter's earnings pricks the shelves of stores nationwide, then, like an unattended wound, floods every nook and cranny conceivable to the eye. From warehouse displays making profitable use of lawn and garden centers, to blooming like mold around convenience-store displays (where you can find a card just as big as your love right next to BootyMasters Monthly).
Yes, I am how the other half lives. Either you're single in the United States, or you're not. Perhaps a small percentage lives in a brief period of deliciously angst-ridden ambiguity about their realationships, not having a clear idea of their intents and desires until the next Sandra Bullock or Meg Ryan romantic comedy provides direction, but otherwise it's one or the other.
So I see the ensuing hemmoraging of guilt as a cultural reminder for couples to assure their others they don't take them for granted, or purchase a brief stay of reprimand and consequence if they do. That's how I see it for couples. For singles, Valentine's Day is a delightful reminder to not take your lonliness for granted. You earned it.
Long gone are the days of gradeschool, wherein everyone received a valentine. Everyone was indocrinated to believe they and everyone else deserved one just for being. What that really was, was an introduction to kinderpity. As the years wore on, and the cupcakes went from homemade, to store-bought, to fresh from the mark-down bin; as the bags of lacy lollipops and confection hearts (stamped with come-on lines so awful only the most socially inept of first-graders ever put any of them to the test) went from carefully-counted and wrapped assorted foils and tissues of internal bleeding reds and blood-in-your-unrine pinks, tagged with personalized to's and from's, to brown paper grab-bags of dollar-tree cheap, sugary and remotely heart-related; as the years wore on and the polygamous orgy of grade-wide valentines whittled down to callous monogamy, the expectations of youth were stones piled high around ones heart, that collapsed in the hormonal seas of adolescence. Raised to believe you deserved a valentine, one day the reality that someone has to want to give you a valentine arrives just in time hasten the evisceration of your self-worth.
Every Valentine's day is saturated with the color of a freshly-fought battlefield, and don't think for a second that's an accident. For us singles, every rejection, a valentine that might-have-been, is stuffed with caramel, or almond nouget, or peanut butter, a Whitman's sampler of failures of worth. No one will give us the pleasures we never will have. Every failed relationship is the bouqet given to someone else. Every word of recrimination from an ex masquerades as the soft, fuzzy representation of a viscious, carnivorous mammal. Like your ex, it's best to play dead and hope they'll lose interest. Even break-up sex is no better than the gold-colored plating on a gas-station trinket hastily snatched up in a moment of relational horror at forgetting to soothe one's partner that one doesn't take one for granted: one turns your skin green, the other your soul.
Every Valentine's day is carefully crafted to refresh the wounds that might've (silly you) grown into twisted scars over your self-esteem. Aisle upon aisle of crimson regret, of gold-trimmed failure. This Valentine's day, your own breaking wind is the only sweet nothing that might whisper in your ear.
Don't take your lonliness for granted, singles! You earned it. Somewhere in a heart-shaped universe is everyone who chose to leave you. They reside amid the countless who never thought you worth the bother to begin with, as countless as the hairs on an insipid bear. Perhaps, in the days to come, you can court tooth decay with that discounted candy. Like your long-gone lovers, plague will leave a delightful hole behind. Don't try to kid yourself, if you're sad enough to buy yourself a card. That message wasn't crafted for you by some lonely, if possibly feeble, sloganeer hoping agaisnt hope to make contact, but for those so emotionally out of touch thinking that some smarmy phrase best captures what they feel, perhaps because it captures that same feeling for 30 million other people.
You've earned your distance from the rest of humanity, so enjoy it. Your lack of interpersonal skills set you apart, literally. Jesus may have come to save all humankind, but saints don't have to be so generous. They're allowed to be picky, and it would not do to offend St. Valentine. Thus for one night a year your satin sheets will turn into sackcloth, every stuffed bear you touch will shed handfuls of hair in the presence of your emotional Hiroshima, and champagne will turn to bitter herbs in your mouth when you toast your singlehood. It would be best if you simply slit your wrist on those roses' thorns.
But then February will offer up the 15th. Vanlentine's day will be tossed into bins at half-off, about as much as your self-worth a mere 24 hours ago. The bright nosebleed of commercial romance will cease, and slowly scab over, and fade like a crime scene, or Shannon Doherty's career. You'll be allowed 364 days to forget, barring holidays, which would be so much richer if you had someone to share your memory blacking-out drunk with, that every bit of your measure in our society is dependant upon how much another values you. You'll see nary a bear as they wander off to hibernate, curled up around their noxious prose. The mentally challenged will go back to packaging light bulbs, and doing a real day's work. You won't have to worry about seeing roses, as they rarify to anniversaries and apologies. Tossing your socks anywhere, and leaving your laundry unfolded will once-again become an enviable mark of freedom, instead of a cotton pile of shame.
You've made it through another Valentine's day, and next year you'll have grown into another person, one who can face the Valentine's next knowing you're older and less unattractive than you are right now. Perhaps we'll all luck out, us singles, and a liberal administration will start a new entitlement program, one wherein the government sends everyone in America a valentine's card. If they can subsidize corn, and sugar, I see no reason why romance can't be covered under Medicare, and self-worth get a matching contribution from employers. 364 days to go!