The Fair Tax

I know you’ve all been spending this last day examing the Fair Tax idea. So what do you think?

I think it’s great. It’s simple and it’s transparent. These are two great angles. Simple means that everyone can understand it. Transparent means everyone can see exactly how it’s working. Between them, it means that everyone can see the worth of the idea, and how it’s being used at any time. Handouts to various consituents can’t be disguised. I think I am a big fan already.

However… one piece does stick in my craw. No purchase is taxed except actual consumption. Corporations are not taxed at all. The reasoning seems to be that their money is either going to people who use it to consume something and are taxed then, or is being reinvested in the business which is worthy of tax-free status. I don’t agree with either of those arguments. First, that people will eventually get the money and consume it. This line of thought gives companies a reason to never disperse profits. Much like non-profits today, they are incentive driven to put all the money in the company, whether or not that is a productive use of that money. I am reminded of Stanley Kaplan. They somehow got a non-profit status. They make huge huge amounts of money, but since they are technically a non-profit, they keep pouring that money into luxuries. Take a look here. Or here. Or here. Is there any reason any other company wouldn’t do the same?

Let’s imagine a hypothetical. Imagine you are the owner and manager of a company. You have $60,000 in corporate profits. You really want to get one of those sweet new C6 Corvettes. If you give yourself a salary of $60,000 and buy the car, you pay the tax (about $15,000). If you pay it to yourself in any form and then buy it, you pay taxes. But, if your company buys the car, you don’t pay anything. That’s a business transaction and isn’t covered. Now this happens in this example because the shareholder/owner (who would otherwise get the money) and the employees (who get the benefits of the money) are the same. Nevertheless, it illustrates that this creates a warped incentive to keep as much money in the business as possible.

It is also a double-standard. Why is the assumption that businesses keeping money is reinvestment, but not so for families? If I go down to Home Depot and buy a new gate, that is an investment in my house. The carpteting I am buying is also and investment in the value of my house, not to mention a safety feature form my toddler son when he falls down the stairs. But these are fully taxed, regardless of how it will be used.

The best analysis of double taxations I’ve ever seen is this brilliant cartoon.

This a gaping flaw, however I still would have to come out for The Fair Tax. Looking for comments on this one, please.

Movie Review: First Blood

In contrast to my other posts about movies that get worse every time I see them, this movie always delivers. Even Mrs Muttrox agreed, and she is not overly supportive of action movies.

Keys to success:
1) Stallone is ripped. Let’s face it, he looks cool, and not in a Rocky III oily kind of way
2) No love interest. Except guns maybe.
3) Morally ambiguous characters. The “bad guy” is not very bad, the “good guy” is not very good. They are both complex characters — the conflict is more of the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, and things get worse.
4) Realistic violence. One bullet does not blow up a Vietnamese village, Rambo does not free Afghanistan by himself or any craziness like that. Motorcycles swerve, rocks hurt, wounds need to heal, etc. That’s not to say it’s perfectly realistic, but it’s a good deal more than most action movies.
5) Very little actual violence. The conflict is not direct most of the time. There is suspense and tension most of the time. Desperation, chase scenes. That’s not to say there is no violence, just not as much as you would think.
6) Brian Denehy. He’s awesome. I don’t care if he lied about his military service*, he’s a great actor, and perfect for this role.

A lot of this comes because it’s based on a real novel, where it’s hard to get away with the same stuff action movies get away with.

There’s probably more too, but you get the point. First Blood rocks!!

* I just finished The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life. This is an excellent read, and deserving of it’s own post at some point. It cites the work of Burkett in debunking many of those who falsely claimed Vietnam military action, including Brian Denehy. I can’t find any other links to this research. On the one hand, it’s a book about truth, it’s hard to believe that it would be a hoax. On the other hand, Burkett was one of the folks who launched the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, which was itself so riddled with lies I have a hard time believing it’s core assertions.

…ok, I’m spelling Dennehy’s name wrong. Now I can search the web a bit.
Cite 1
Cite 2
It’s hard to tell if these are more links to Burkett’s work, but since they refernce specific events (an apology in 1999 after winning Best Actor), I’m going to say Burkett’s on the up and up.

And to think that I heard it on NPR

NPR is currently in their spring pledge drive. Today, I heard the sales spiel from Ira Glass, host of This American Life. It was appalling.

Ira explained to we listeners how normal TV and radio work: There are $42 billion spent every year on advertising in those media. Where does that money come from? From you and me, every time we buy a product. That works out to $208 per person, every single one of us, whether we like it or not. He then contrasted this to public radio where you have the choice to support the exact station you want, your money doesn’t go to places you don’t want it to go.

This has to be one of the most deceptive and plain stupid arguments ever promulgated on the airwaves. And I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh.

1) The money comes from corporations, not people. If you’re going to follow the chain back from where the companies got the money to the people who gave it, it’s only fair to see where the people got the money. Hey, they got it from companies (either in the form wages or investments)! Gee, it’s like we got ourselves some kind of Economy boys and girls! Can you say Economy?

2) Sure, when I buy a rotisserie chicken, I’m funneling a couple cents of profit to Kroger or Costco, who can then, if they choose, spend some of that on advertising to me on TV and radio in the hopes I’ll buy more chickens from them. I chose to buy the chicken, the company chose to pay for advertising, the media choose to view it, I chose to watch it, and then I choose whether to respond to it or not. What’s so anti-choice about that?

3) The math is based on a figure of 200 million people. No idea where that came from, current US Population is at 300 million or so. Ira’s show is called This American Life, but these companies are mostly multi-nationals, so you can’t make any kind of per person estimate without figuring in the world population, where companies spend money, what percentage of revenues Americans contribute, etc.

4) Worse than the math is the warped conclusion he draws from it. If we accept the specious claim that the average citizen spent $208 on advertising last year, this does not mean that each person actually spent $208! C’mon Ira! If this thinking made any sense, the problems of poverty and iniquity would have been long since solved. After all, every person in America made over $37,000 in 2003, that’s plenty! On the other hand, the average American family has over $9,000 of credit card debt, so by Ira’s logic I should be worried although the Muttrox family lives debt-free.

5) Lastly, the element of who I support. I loathe Clear Channel and Sinclair Broadcasting, and I’m sure some of my money is going to them. On the other hand, Car Talk is one of the most annoying shows ever created. If you edited out all the laughter and rambling stories, you are left with a five minute show. It could be stuck in between other shows, like the excellent Moment of Science. But Ira, if I give my money to NPR, some of it goes to Car Talk. How anti-choice! The horror, Ira, the horror!!

(But I’ll give money anyhow. It is my hope that NPR [really the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in this context] will get enough money to eliminate government funding so the Republicans can finally quit their whining. $60 million dollars a year. Whoopee. That’s about two hours worth of the Iraq war. Or take a look at the Porker of the Month archives to see what else the feds decide to spend $60 million on.)

Bush & Clinton: Their gang

Just curious — I’ve read books by/about a few people who served in the Clinton administration (for example Robert Reich, Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan). Without fail, they are always complimentary of Clinton. In contrast, I haven’t read anybody from the Bush side with much complimentary to say. Part of this is because I’m not interested in books whose only purpose to is smooch Bush’s bottom. (Likewise, I wouldn’t count “My Life” as a remotely objective viewpoint.) So maybe I’m missing some there. But I think it’s because:

a) Bush’s team is so ideological, it’s hard to find those who have a relatively neutral viewpoint
b) Anyone who was relatively independent have long ago realized what they were working for and got out (for example O’ Neill, Richard Clarke).

So is there anybody from a non-partisan background who’s written a complimentary book about Bush? I mean, does anyone really admire this guy?

Voting

Here in Georgia, the state congress just passed legislation requiring voters to have photo ID. Seven forms of ID are allowed. This is causing a great stir, with opponents walking out of sessions, singing protest songs, strident editorials, etc. I don’t get it.

There are so many problems with our voting system. The black box voting machines, the partisan officials who oversee the process, the lack of a national voting day, etc. Fairly low down on the list is fraud, but it’s there. Requiring photo ID should not be a substitute for real reform, but it stands well on it’s own merits. Both here and in my home state of Massachusetts, I could have easily voted multiple times. All I had to do was say I was someone else, someone else I knew who wasn’t voting. Done.

The reasons that opponents give never have to do with the basic idea, they all have to do with implementation. They fear a return to minority persecution. In Georgia, there are hardly and DMVs, and they are so inefficient that you must take off at least a full day of work to get anything done. But the answer to these problems is not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, it’s to have the law be implemented correctly.

Photo ID is a good idea. Maybe it’s being brought up for bad reasons, but it’s still good.

Bill Bradley speaks

Today, the New York Times published a terrific editorial in which Bill Bradley examines the difference between the Republican and Democratic infrastructure. It’s a great piece, and it lays out explicitly many of the connections on the Republican side that you normally only see in left-wing blogs. I was particularly heartened that he analyzed the role of the media.

Anyone who thinks the media is impartial is fooling themselves. Jabley has a great list of keys to democratic victory, but I think there is only one. Get the media to report on facts and do real journalism. I firmly believe the Democrats have a vastly superior message, one that will easily win elections. On virtually every topic, those who are familiar with the facts of the topic side with the Democratic position. It is those who are not familiar with the topic, or have swallowed the lies that have been fed, that tend towards the GOP. Call the lies out, and you have an ex-Republican. I am convinced this is the absolute truth for the center of the political spectrum. If I can ever get around to digging up the links, I’ll post my 2004 election analysis, which is really only two paragraphs long.