Tag Archives: taxes

Where are the Hank Reardens?

25 Jul

I’ve read Atlas Shrugged. In the book the business owners are portrayed as hard working honest people who want to add value to the world through their labor. They create wealth through their labors. They raise up themselves and those around them through hard work.

Where are those honest good business leaders? I look around and all I see is unrestricted corporate greed at the expense of others for short term gain. The entire financial sector is built of white collar crime as a business model. Many fortune 500 companies get away with negative tax rates while taking advantage of publicly educated workers, publicly funded roads, firefighters, and police. Executive pay is through the roof and workers are getting shafted.

One of the latest and clearest examples is Catepillar corporation. Catepillar makes hydraulic construction equipment. Times are tough and Catepillar has decided to freeze all of their worker’s pay for six years, including their pensions. So for the next six years, worker’s wages will remain flat, regardless of the increase in gas/food/housing/education/you name it costs. Consequently, the amount workers will take home for their savings after living expenses are taken care off will plummet.

But times are tough, what are you going to do right? Except they’re not. Times are great! You know how much Catepillar made last year in profits? Not revenue, profits.

4.9 Billion dollars.

You know how much they’re on track to make this year in profits?

6 Billion dollars.

Catepillar is rolling in money. They have money up to their eyeballs, but no, the workers need to take a pay freeze for six years to help keep costs down. That includes the CEO too right? Hahahahahaha, you’re joking right? Pay freezes are only for little people like the workers that make the company run.

Douglas Oberhelman, the CEO of Catepillar was given a 60% pay increase over the course the year. He now makes $17 Million Dollars a year.

But I’m sorry, the little people need to tighten their belts during these great times.

Where are the Hank Reardens? Where are these virtuous business owners? Where are the CEOs that want to make the world a better place by enriching themselves AND those who help them create wealth?

Instead it seems that the current business model is to leech as much out of society as possible, to squeeze your workers for every possible ounce of productivity you can get out of them while paying them the absolute minimum you can get away with. When workers fight for an decent pay it’s class warfare, when corporations screw them out of every penny possible, it’s business.


Libertarians and conservatives…

24 Feb

Earlier today I got a nasty comment from someone bashing me and my blog without attempting to put forth and real ideas or counter arguments so I deleted it. What struck me afterwards was that the person called themselves a libertarian and in the post they were bashing me for I was decrying big government’s involvement in people’s personal lives. This really puzzled me because the supposed difference between libertarians and conservatives is that libertarians don’t want big government controlling what you do with your body, who you marry, and when you have children while conservatives will gleefully enforce their version of morality on the rest of the population through big government.

Politically I consider myself a liberal with libertarian leanings. As a general rule I do not like big government dictating what its citizens can do. I’m pro gun, pro choice, pro gay marriage, pro drugs, and against the death penalty. However, I do recognize that community is important and that there is a need for government to provide things that support the public good like schools, healthcare, a fire department, libraries, highways, food/water/building/car safety, etc. I recognize that the “free market” is not a perfect system for producing a happy, healthy society. The pure libertarian idea of a free market is too idealistic and makes various assumptions about the players in the market that are unrealistic. America was very libertarian at the turn of the 20th century and the problems we had with robber barons, monopolies, tycoons, tainted food, snake oil salesmen, etc led to the development of protective regulatory agencies.

I also recognize that big government is a tool for ensuring legal equality. Oppressed and disenfranchised minorities in a small community can appeal to bigger government for protection. A small town of racist white supremacists in the south cannot oppress and deny blacks the right to vote because such rights are on a bigger scale than the small southern town. Big government at a federal level incorporates so many diverse people from different parts of the country that it dilutes out discrimination that would be practiced on a smaller homogeneous scale.

So I guess you can call me libertarian lite.

What really puzzles me about the other libertarians I see is just how easily they associate with conservatives. Many of the libertarians I know you would not know they were libertarians and not conservative unless you asked them. They post very conservative posts up on facebook or their blogs, they like very conservative speakers and authors, and they watch Fox “news.”

Why do I never see them railing against anti-gay marriage laws, or abortion laws, the jailing of journalists, or bills like the Patriot Act that strip us of our personal liberties guaranteed in the Constitution? The only explaination I can think of is pretty sickening:

Money is more important than social equality.

If they were concerned with the social equality of all people they’d stay well away from conservatives. I’d see them hanging out with liberals but grumbling when economics came up. Instead they’re hanging out with conservatives and staying silent when social issues come up.

Liberal mentality vs Conservative mentality

6 Dec

So as the holiday season is upon us and millions of Americans are out of work, the debate about over extending tax cuts for the richest people in the country and slashing aid to the poorest rages on. Yes, the “reduce the deficit” conservatives are adamant that we must add trillions of dollars onto the deficit so the richest people can become even richer while at the same time stop the aid that helps put food on the table of millions of Americans. Yep, winter is coming and if you’re out of work with a family to feed, soon you’ll be forced to choose between the heating bill and putting food on the table. The “reduce the deficit” conservatives are adamant that the best way to shrink the deficit is to cut social services, especially those that help poor people.

I’ve talked about this before, but all those conservatives refuse to even bring up the fact that we spend over a trillion dollars on war. Defense spending is the largest part of our budget, yet it is the holy cow. It is obvious that conservatives feel every social program aimed at bettering people’s lives should be cut before anyone dare thinking about cutting defense.

I’m furious about this. Nobody ever brings up cutting defense. I wonder how much we could improve our country and the lives of the people living in it if we invested that money into us instead of war. But no, we can’t touch that trillion dollars because the thought of killing dark skinned foreigners with expensive gadgets gives conservatives such a massive erection.

I think this really speaks to the difference between liberal and conservative priorities. Liberals want their tax dollars to save lives, conservatives want them to take lives. Liberals want to increase education funding, education is the #1 thing conservatives love to cut (gee, I wonder why), liberals want to fight the root causes of crime, conservatives prefer just to lock more people up (and then privatize prisons so they can make a fortune doing so) , liberals want to let women choose when they have children, conservatives want to force them to have unwanted children just so they can grow up to commit crimes and get the death penalty later. I swear, it just makes me want to smash my head through the drywall.


Why Obama is a fool

20 Aug

Last presidential election I voted for Obama. During the the previous 8 years under Bush, the political pendulum of the United States swung far to the right. Here, I thought, was a chance to swing it back and correct for the damage done in those 8 years; it was hard not to drink the Obama “hope kool-aid”. Did the pendulum swing equally far to the left after the election as it had swung to the right? No. If anything, since his election, Obama has shown himself to be pragmatic to a fault. So far he has proved to be extreme only in his mediocrity. He keeps playing to the middle of every issue, and he’s an idiot for it. Why is this foolish? Simple: he’s neglecting his base and breaking promises he made in an attempt to appease and include his opposition.

Normally, trying to compromise with your opposition and reach an agreement would be a good thing, but that’s assuming your opposition also wants what’s best for the country. Here’s where Obama goes wrong when trying to work with the republican leadership: The republican game plan is to make everything as horrible as possible in the run up to elections. Since the democrats are in control, they take the blame for when things go wrong. The republicans see that Obama is a push over and so they suggest the most damaging and radical ideas they can think of. They know they won’t get all of it in, but they can count on Obama to try and compromise, thus bad ideas get pushed through. When everything goes to shit, the republicans then through up their hands and go “See! What did I tell you? Government can’t make anything better, especially when the democrats are in charge! Vote republican!”

It’s brilliant really; brilliant and extremely sadistic at the same time. The fact is, despite all the drum beating and flag waving, republican leadership doesn’t give a shit about the rest of the country. All that matters are the super rich, the poor guy can go to hell. Off the top of my head, look at the unemployment relief package that just passed. $30bn to give aid to people who can’t afford to feed their families because they lost their jobs because of  mismanagement of the economy by super-banks. The republicans flipped out! They started crying about the deficit, suddenly caring now, in the middle of the worst recession since the great depression. (Where were they when Bush sunk us after Clinton’s surpluses? Oh wait, we were killing foreigners with the money so it was ok) You don’t cut government spending in a recession. The government is the only one around with the credit rating and ability to pump money into the system to jump start economic activity. You pay down the deficit during an economic boom as Clinton (D) did. But while the republicans were howling at spending $30bn to help the hardest hit families in the country, they started to dig in their heels on the issue of Bush’s tax cuts. Reinstating Bush’s tax cuts would cost us around $607bn dollars. That’s more than if we passed the unemployment aid 20 times over. The republicans are now trying to get popular support for the tax cuts from their gullible base. The fools see “tax cut” and think it’s a tax cut for them. It’s not. The tax cuts were for the richest Americans in the country. The rank and file republican voter won’t get shit, but he doesn’t know that.

Obama keeps giving in to these people while swatting away the very people who elected him. If he actually grew a pair and pushed the political pendulum back to the left, then things would start to get better, but he keeps trudging through this lukewarm crap. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m starting to think I should have voted for McCain. “Whoa! How the hell would that make things better?” Simple. Obama winning the election was the best thing that happened to the republicans. During the 8 years under Bush, republicans had fucked things up so badly, that they knew it was all going to come crashing down on the next president. (They really started to see this when the economy first started coughing up blood right before the election) It was like this looming tsunami that would inevitably crash on the next president, who would undoubtedly take the blame for all of it. Had McCain won, the entire house of cards, the effects of 8+ years of solid republican rule, would have come crashing down on him. It would have been the death of the republican party. But no, we elected Obama out of desperation and “the audacity to hope”. Predictably the shit hits the fan, and this gives the republicans the perfect fear filled fuel to fire up their base and regroup.

“Look what happens when you elect a liberal! The country goes to hell!” (Even though Obama is a really conservative liberal, and what’s happening now was set in motion long before he was elected; but the American electorate are stupid children with Attention Deficit Disorder) So now the republican base is frothing at the mouth and can see blood in the water. Elections are fast approaching and the democrats are going to lose BIG. With a yet again a republican controlled congress, Obama will quickly become the conservative’s bitch in his desperate bid for approval from the people who despise him. A dark time for progressives indeed.

Liberal states vs conservative states, which are better?

10 Aug

EDIT: I just want to point out to everyone that while I will continue to approve comments for this post, I no longer reply to it. Feel free to continue to comment, but I won’t be taking part. ALSO, this post is from 2010. Some people seem to be unable to read dates and thus believe that somehow invalidates the information below. It doesn’t.

Further Edit. The New Republic did a great piece comparing and contrasting red states and blue states with updated information for 2012. You can find that article here.

Here is the 2008 election map of red states and blue states:

What I would like to do is go down a list of things like poverty, crime, education, religiosity, suicide rates, obesity, etc.. to see what the top ten states are in each category, then see if those states are conservative or liberal. This should paint a picture of the difference between conservative states and liberal states. A lot of these statisics will be coming from State Master, a neat little site that has all these statistics in one place. So let’s begin, shall we?

Richest states (per capita)

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Delaware
  3. Connecticut
  4. Alaska
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Wyoming
  7. New Jersey
  8. New York
  9. Minnesota
  10. Virginia

Highest percent bellow poverty line (per capita)

  1. Mississippi
  2. Louisiana
  3. New Mexico
  4. District of Columbia
  5. Arkansas
  6. West Virginia
  7. Kentucky
  8. Texas
  9. Alabama
  10. South Carolina

Looks like on average liberal states are better at economics and keeping poverty down that conservatives states.

Most Educated

  1. Vermont
  2. Connecticut
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New Jersy
  5. Maine
  6. Minnesota
  7. Virginia
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Montana
  10. New York

Least Educated

  1. Arizona
  2. Mississippi
  3. New Mexico
  4. Nevada
  5. California
  6. Lousiana
  7. Alaska
  8. Alabama
  9. Hawaii
  10. Tennessee

Liberals also seem to be on average more educated that conservatives.

Most Unemployment

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alaska
  3. Michigan
  4. South Carolina
  5. Kentucky
  6. Oregon
  7. District of Columbia
  8. Illinois
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Tennessee

Fewest Unemployed

  1. Hawaii
  2. Wyomming
  3. Virginia
  4. Florida
  5. North Dakota
  6. Idaho
  7. Nebraska
  8. Alabama
  9. Vermont
  10. South Dakota

Looks like unemployment is a problem for everybody, regardless.


  1. Vermont
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Massachussettes
  4. Minnesota
  5. Maine
  6. Iowa
  7. Utah
  8. Hawaii
  9. Nebraska
  10. Connecticut

Least Healthy

  1. Louisiana
  2. Mississippi
  3. New Mexico
  4. Nevada
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Texas
  7. Florida
  8. South Carolina
  9. Georgia
  10. Alabama

People in liberals states are on average healthier than people in conservative states.

Highest Taxes

  1. Hawaii
  2. Wyomming
  3. Connecticut
  4. Minnesota
  5. Delaware
  6. Vermont
  7. Massachusetts
  8. New Jersey
  9. California
  10. Michigan

Lowest Taxes

  1. Texas
  2. South Dakota
  3. Colorado
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Alabama
  6. Missouri
  7. Tennessee
  8. South Carolina
  9. Georgia
  10. Arizona

Liberals pay more taxes than conservatives.

Receive the most federal tax dollars

  1. District of Columbia
  2. New Mexico
  3. Mississippi
  4. Alaska
  5. Louisiana
  6. West Virginia
  7. North Dakota
  8. Alabama
  9. South Dakota
  10. Kentucky

Receive the least federal tax dollars

  1. New Jersey
  2. Nevada
  3. Connecticut
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Minnesota
  6. Illinois
  7. Delaware
  8. California
  9. New York
  10. Colorado

Despite the liberals paying the majority of the taxes, the conservatives are the ones taking the most out of the tax pool. This phenomenon is called “Red State Welfare”. Conservatives decry the evils of government and taxes, and then turn around and take the biggest fist full from the cookie jar….way to go hypocrites.

Most Suicides (per capita)

  1. Wyoming
  2. Montana
  3. Alaska
  4. Nevada
  5. New Mexico
  6. Oregon
  7. Colorado
  8. Idaho
  9. West Virginia
  10. Arizona

Fewest Suicides (per capita)

  1. New York
  2. District of Columbia
  3. New Jersey
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Connecticut
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Illinois
  8. Maryland
  9. California
  10. Ohio

Looks like you’re less likely to kill yourself in a liberal state than in a conservative one. I wonder if the general liberal attitude of acceptance and tolerance over the conservative tendency to be repressive and controlling has anything to do with this…

Most Teen Pregnancies

  1. Texas
  2. New Mexico
  3. Mississippi
  4. Arizona
  5. District of Columbia
  6. Arkansas
  7. Lousiana
  8. Oklahomoa
  9. Tennessee
  10. Georgia

Fewest Teen Pregnancies

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Vermont
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Connecticut
  5. Maine
  6. New Jersey
  7. Minnesota
  8. North Dakota
  9. New York
  10. Pennsylvania

In a liberal state you’re less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Maybe the fact that liberals are better educated and promote the teaching and use of contraception has something to do with this. How’s that abstinence only sex education working out for ya conservatives?

Highest Firearm Death rate

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Alaska
  3. Louisiana
  4. Wyoming
  5. Arizona
  6. Nevada
  7. Mississippi
  8. New Mexico
  9. Arkansas
  10. Alabama

Lowest Firearm Death Rate

  1. Hawaii
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Connecticut
  4. New Jersey
  5. New York
  6. Rhode Island
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Minnesota
  9. Maine
  10. Iowa

Looks like you’re more likely to die in a gun crime in a conservative state than a liberal state.

Most binge drinkers

  1. Wisconsin
  2. North Dakota
  3. Minnesota
  4. Iowa
  5. Rhode Island
  6. Nevada
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Nebraska
  9. Illinois
  10. Deleware

Fewest binge drinkers

  1. Tennessee
  2. Utah
  3. North Carolina
  4. Kentucky
  5. West Virginia
  6. Mississippi
  7. Arkansas
  8. Georgia
  9. Florida
  10. Idaho

Conservatives win here. It looks like liberals might have a drinking problem…

Most religious states

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alabama
  3. Arkansas
  4. Louisiana
  5. Tennessee
  6. South Carolina
  7. Oklahoma
  8. North Carolina
  9. Georgia
  10. Kentucky

Least religious states

  1. Vermont
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Alaska
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Maine
  6. Connecticut
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Colorado
  9. Oregon
  10. New York

No surprise here, conservative states are also the most religious, yet despite this they have the highest teen pregnancies, higher gun crimes, lower education, more suicides, more poverty, take the most in federal money, and are the most unhealthy states. Guess that kinda kills the whole “putting our god into government is good”. Looks like the more godless a state is, the better it is to live in. Except for binge drinking, looks like liberal states do a lot of things better than conservative states. No wonder these people want to take the country “back” and not forward.

PS EDIT: found this chart, backs up pretty much the same conclusions. (I can’t seem to get it to format right, but the original pic link is here.

Just watched “Capitalism: A love story”

7 Jun

I will state up front that I consider myself a socialist. Not the “Zomg! Obama’s a fascist/socialist/communist/racist/muslim!!!11” kind that the people with tinfoil hats seem to think is socialism, but the one of the actual kinds of socialism.

To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure exactly where I fit on the socialist spectrum. I think I land somewhere between “progressive” and “democratic socialist“.  (At least those were my top too according to this test)

I’m of the position that a government, formed by the people, should be charged with conducting itself in a manner that best protects the interests of the people as a whole. In other words, the government should work to make sure the greatest number of people possible have the best standard of living possible. (Yet the rights/views of minorities should be protected, hence why I don’t believe in direct democracies that lead to mob rule, but I digress)

I feel that hard work should be rewarded, and that people should benefit from their labor. But then this is where my views get confusing, even to me. I do not feel that the wealthiest people in America are necessarily “hard workers”. I feel they cynically game the system much the same way welfare freebooters game the system.

My view that the wealthiest people unfairly manipulate the system was really confirmed by this movie. Now before you make the assumption that I am some Michael Moore fan boy, there was a lot about this movie that did not sit well with me. I felt the lion share of this movie was an appeal to emotion, which makes sense, Moore is trying to outrage you into action, yet I would have preferred he focus more on facts rather than sensationalist teary-eyed families being forced out of their homes.

The facts that are in this movie should speak for themselves. The most compelling part of the film is when Moore weaves together the story of how America became a plutonomy starting with the recession of the Carter years and the capturing of the government by Wall Street during Reagan’s presidency. The scene where Don Regan tells president Ronald Reagan to “speed it [his speech to the NY stock exchange] up” is amazing.

The whole tale of a calculated and organized hijacking of the nation by Wall Street’s CEOs seemed to smack of conspiracy theory. It’s an amazing, and infuriating, story, but I would like to find some evidence outside of Moore’s documentary in order to decide for myself if it’s true. There is one thing, however, that this conspiracy story has going for it that others don’t:

In most conspiracies, the actors are the government. The problem with this is that the government is notoriously incompetent.* The “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy is extremely improbable merely because of the high level of planning and competency required to pull off such and act and then cover it up. A government is just not capable of that level of finesse. (Especially under Bush’s incompetent reign) In this conspiracy story, however, the actors are not some clumsy government, but a small collection of some of the smartest, most brilliant people in America, the CEOs on Wall Street.

“But wouldn’t market competition dictate that different CEOs be working against each other?” Yes and no. While they most assuredly were in competition with one another, it makes more sense for them to work together on something that would benefit them all greatly. (Like no regulations) However, the ultimate “winner” was Goldman Sachs. Under Clinton and Bush, Goldman Sachs managed to fill top Treasury Department positions with its “former” employees, including even the position of Secretary of Treasury with Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs. (His net worth was $700 million when he left to become Sec. of Treas.) With this superior posturing, Goldman Sachs was in prime position to pressure its will on the government.

(Goldman Sachs also had their CEO in the Sec. of Treas. position with Robert Rubin. (Who also served as CEO of Citigroup) The current Sec. of Treas., Timothy Geithner, is a protegee of Rubin’s)

The most shocking and outrageous part of the film for me came when Moore discussed the recent bailouts of the super banks.  Two months before elections, Sec. Paulson drew up a 3 page plan to bail out Wall Street. (Keep in mind, usually legislation passed by congress is hundreds, if not thousands, of pages long) In that plan Paulson stipulated that all laws, including court review, would be waived:

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Checks and balances anyone? The American people were rightfully outraged, but Paulson and his goons ramped up the fear factor, hoping to cram through the bill with a little debate as possible, just as Bush had done for the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq. Amazingly, for once, the American people fought back and the bill was defeated, by 12 votes. Congress then went home to prepare for elections.

Here is where I become really furious: Enter the democratic party leadership. Paulson and company rush back to DC and enter in backroom deals with the democrats. Promises are made, futures are sealed, and then congress does a complete 180, the American people be damned. Paulson gets the key to our pockets and makes off with 700 Billion; proof Wall Street has muscles to flex over our government.

The film is very thought provoking to say the least. It’s clear that our “free market” system is being manipulated to the benefit of a very select few. Employment near 10%, thousands of people being evicted from their homes, corporations making millions off of “dead peasant” policies, meanwhile banks take billions in our money, only to send their executives on luxurious vacations and the CEOs retire with unholy amounts of money. This isn’t working, but what’s the answer?

Despite the film being directed by Michael Moore, a person people on the right hate as strongly as they love Reagan, I feel a large portion of the movie would appeal to the right as well, especially the Tea Party movement. The fact that we’re being universally fucked by our leaders is something we can all rally behind, and I think this is one of the great points the movie tries to make. Moore references a Citigroup memo that was leaked where Citigroup explained to it’s top investors that they [Wall Street] had successfully turned America into a plutonomy, and that it was no longer a democracy. (Seriously, go read it, it’s scary) The memos explained that the top 1% of America now had more wealth than the bottom 95% COMBINED. Here’s the real kicker: Citigroup states in the memos that the biggest threat to their “gravy train” (yes, that is a direct quote) would be if society demanded a more equitable share of the wealth. The biggest problem was that despite having more money, a rich person can only cast as many votes as a poor person, 1. In other words, if the peasants realized that they were never going to get that carrot, the “American dream” of wealth, that they would revolt and vote the puppet government out of office. (Seriously, go read the memos)

I certainly feel communism is just as evil as American style unregulated capitalism. While we have vast economic inequity, communism, as practiced as a political system, is totalitarian and oppressive. I want there to be a middle ground, that’s why I call my self a progressive socialist. But do my views work? I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not sure how closely my views fall to those in Europe. I’ve always dreamed about moving to Europe because there they work to live, whereas here we live to work. Unfortunately, Europe is going through a financial crisis right now because Greece took that to the extreme, completely unbalancing their budget. I’m interested to see how European style socialism weathers this crisis.

*unless you work for the Coast Guard

If only money mattered

25 May

Natural selection is the engine that drives evolution, but it is not restricted to just living organisms. In nature, natural selection’s goal is the production of more offspring. The more babies an organism can have, the more successful it is. It’s beautiful and simple.

Yet this engine can be used to drive other things besides making robins redder or deer run faster. Natural selection is at work in capitalism as well. Here the goal is to make more money instead of more babies. Businesses that do well, or make more money, prosper while businesses that don’t make money flounder and die. The whole process works to make businesses more efficient. It cuts off the fat and makes everything leaner.

Yet in a system where only money matters, what about entities whose goal is something other than making money? Museums, libraries, parks, etc. I guess these would fall under “public goods”, or services that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. In order to survive in a system where only revenue counts, these entities would have to be given protection, usually in the form of subsidies and tax exemption. Though I feel there are some who would have a problem with this, like the developer who wants to plow down a park to build another mall.

I guess what I’m trying to say is there are things that are very important to me that don’t make money. I and other patrons of these entities are too few in number when compared to the masses to financially support these institutions. Normally, under the rules of natural selection, that means they should wither and die. What is to be done? Is it right to tax other people to support things that I cherish?

In the US we have a constitutional republic. People vote, but it is not a pure democracy. Our founding fathers knew the dangers of a pure democracy, that it would lead to mob rule, and instituted a republic where, although the majority would rule, the rights of the minority were respected. Can the same thing be applied economically? Should it be applied?

What would an unregulated system where only money mattered look like? I think it’d be a world where museums, libraries, and theaters would die off. Maybe not entirely, but there would be drastically fewer of them than we have now. Educational programs of all kinds would wither and die, unable to compete with “American Idol” or “Dancing with the stars”. Everything would be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, for that’s where the most money is.

Proof Tea Party not in touch with reality

17 Apr

Ok, just the other day was tax day. Obama and those damn liberals raised your taxes again didn’t they! Golly gee willikers! Turn off Fox “news” for two seconds and take a moment to actually look at the check you’re signing to the IRS. I’ll give you a moment to recover from your shock.

Ok, breathing again? Yep. You got a tax CUT!  That’s right. The damn “tax and spend” liberals CUT your taxes. Yet despite this, most Americans have no idea this happened. I blame 2 things. Poor PR on the part of the liberals, and the boundless stupidity of the American people. Apparently many believe that by hoping and prayin and wishin and willin hard enough you can actually change the fabric of reality.

It’s really scary that now-a-days people are more willing to believe whatever bullshit Fox shovels them instead of actually looking at the check they’re signing.

Why get dressed up for church?

11 Apr

Growing up I hated having to get dressed nice early every Sunday morning for church. I would ask my mom why we had to get so fancy just for church and she would reply with something along the lines of “we have to look nice for god.”

At the time that made sense to me, but now, looking back, it’s not very convincing. Why does it matter to god if we get dressed up all fancy? He already knows how pious or impious we are in our hearts; fancy clothes aren’t going to fool him.

The reason everyone gets all dressed up for church is simple. It’s a display of wealth. For the longest time, church has not only been about religion, but it was the main social gathering. In ye olden days, people would go there to socialize, gossip, and meet potential spouses. Church was where you were most public, where you wanted to show your status in the community.

Religious leaders are no exception. The most obvious example of ridiculous wealth being used as a display of status is the Catholic Church.

Need I say more? (And yeah, that’s the extreme end of the spectrum, but there still is a lot of gold in regular catholic churches)

Now,  a big part of the protestant reformation was aimed against exactly this kind of opulence and shameless display of wealth. While most protestant churches are definitely much simpler and plain than catholic ones, they don’t get off the hook completely.

Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God

Social Responsibility

5 Mar

So recently I read an article by Milton Friedman, written in 1970, titled “The social responsibility of business is to increase profits”. The article addresses the idea that businesses have an obligation to act socially responsibly.  I found the article really interesting and had some thoughts on it. (I will try to represent Friedman accurately and not cut up quotes out of context. The full article was published in The New York Times Magazine on September 13, 1970, you can find it here)

“The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit, but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers.”

“Presumably the individuals who are to be responsible are businessmen, which means individual proprietors or corporate executives…In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.”

(He then makes an exception for corporations that run hospitals or charitable organizations)

“What does it mean to say that the corporate executive has a “social responsibility” in his capacity as a businessman? If this statement is not pure rhetoric, it must mean that he is to act in some way that is not in the interest of his employers. For example, that he is to refrain from increasing the price of the product in order to contribute to the social objective of preventing inflation, even though a price increase would be in the best interests of the corporation. Or that he is to make expenditures on reducing pollution beyond the amount that is in the best interests of the corporation or that is required by law in order to contribute to the social objective of improving the environment.”

“In each of these cases, the corporate executive would be spending someone else’s money for a general social interest. Insofar as his actions in accord with his “social responsibility” reduce returns to stockholders, he is spending their money. Insofar as his actions raise the price to customers, he is spending the customers’ money. Insofar as his actions lower the wages of some employees, he is spending their money…But if he does this, he is in effect imposing taxes, on the one hand, and deciding how the tax proceeds shall be spent, on the other.

(He then goes on to say that this is taxation without representation without any checks and balances, that he “is to be simultaneously legislator, executive, and jurist.”)

“Many a reader who has followed the argument this far may be tempted to remonstrate that it is all well and good to speak of Government’s having the responsibility to impose taxes and determine expenditures for such “social” purposes as controlling pollution or training the hard-core unemployed, but that the problems are too urgent to wait on the slow course of political processes, that the exercise of social responsibility by businessmen is a quicker and surer way to solve pressing social problems.”

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can begin discussing it. I agree that a business exists to make money, and that is its primary responsibility. I also agree with Friedman’s assertion that it is not business’s place to try and cure social ills, that’s government’s place. In the preface to the article in my book US. Secretary of labor in 1996 Robert Reich says “If we want companies to do things which do not necessarily improve the returns to shareholders but which are beneficial for the economy and society as a whole…we have to give businesses and economic reason to do so.”

I think Reich has it right. Take the environment for example. It would be wrong to meddle in businesses and force them to acting way X, but it would be fine to give them economic incentives to act way X, say tax breaks for switching over to less polluting procedures.

One point that I disagree with Friedman on is the idea that the executive is “taxing” either the shareholders, customers, or workers, and that this is taxation without representation. He points out later in the article that a free market society is created by relationships and contracts people voluntarily enter into. The shareholders can fire the CEO if they do not like how he is conducting a business, or they can sell their share and invest elsewhere. The customers can take their money elsewhere, and the workers can leave and seek employment elsewhere. All are forms of voting on this “taxation”.

Yet what I find most interesting is that business will increase prices on the customer as much as possible, and lower wages for the worker as much as possible, regardless if they are acting “socially responsible” or not. They are after all trying to make money.

Lastly, Friedman talks about how it is business’ only responsibility to make money as long as they operate within the laws of society.  The reason I support government regulation on some matters is that in a completely free-market system, profit is the only thing that matters. It is more important than people and the environment. There are no mechanisms to protect either. If there we no repercussions keeping a company from dumping toxic waste in a lake they would do it, because it’s cheaper than processing the waste. Yet we as a society recognize that we don’t want businesses dumping waste in our lakes, and so we elect a government that then creates the laws Friedman says businesses must play by.