Sunday, April 29, 2012

Your radio dial

In my little study of political definitions, I found out the French gave us three of them, from the French Revolution. They are "reactionary", "conservative", and "right".

"Conservateur" was one who opposed the French Revolution, was on the side of having a monarchy; wanted to "conserve" the present form of government. I didn't know that. I thought "conservative" meant a person who wanted to go back to the old ways of doing things. But one who wants to return to an earlier state is a "reactionary." Reactionary is on the far right of the political spectrum and the opposite is "Radical" or extreme far left of the spectrum. So I learned something. I still don't know the word that describes my own political views though, since none of the French ones fit. Maybe "apathetic." No, just because I don't vote that much doesn't mean I don't care. I would vote for someone if I wanted them to win. And I would support a "none of the above" position on the ballot.

"Right", short for right wing or rightist. This is the third one that comes from the French Revolution, "le droit" for "the right." Those of the "right wing" favored hierarchy, traditionalism, and clergyism. Obviously, if one believes in a social hierarchy, one doesn't believe all are equal. I didn't know about that. Not sure I believe Wikipedia on this. Don't care all that much right now about the French Revolution, anyway.

Here is how it seems to be developing in my own mind: starting on the far left of our radio dial and tuning to the right, you would have (a.) Radicalism: (b.) the various liberals, with Progressives next to radicals, then Liberals with a somewhat less Socialistic bent, then less evangelical Liberals; (c.) in the middle part of the scale you have Moderates or Centrists or Independents; (d.) you begin to fade into the home of the more traditionalist thinkers, beginning with "Conservative Light" and working deeper and deeper into hardcore right wing reactionaries where your radio dials stops on the right. Oddly, on my own AM radio dial, this is the bailiwick of Farm News and Crop Reports, Church programming, and extreme moldy oldie rock and roll. That, I repeat, is only a coincidence.

I can't say I have really learned anything of value so far by this gradual categorizing. I need to know what the people BELIEVE and what kind of government they want. I will start with Progressives in the next post.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Labels (again)

I was rereading a bit of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto the other night (one should read this from time to time, I think, especially at various ages and stages of your life - it is surprising how your views change over time. Even (especially?) after living for many years under the "good guys" of democracy.

In this post I am not really meaning to speak only of Marx's original labels, the bourgeoisie and proletariat, but more about some of our modern labels we like to  stick on each other here in the USA.

Marx was right (though it was hardly an original thought or earthshaking discovery) that the history of mankind, from earliest times, has been a history of class warfare (as the current crop of Republicans like to label it) - the poor and the rich, the exploiters and the exploitees, the haves and the have nots, the workers and the bosses, the... well, you know. Marx gives many more boring and redundant examples, long after you've gotten the point. He probably was afraid his little manifesto book would not be thick enough to be taken seriously. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe he was just naturally verbose and boring. It doesn't matter.

 Our labels today haven't really changed that much in the past several decades. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, progressives and Marxists. Greens, reds, whites, blacks, rainbows. And so many more - far too many to ridicule in this one post. Not that anyone's earnest beliefs should ever be ridiculed by such as me. All views are important to our colorful family, and deserve the appropriate consideration, I say.


Democrats and Republicans are POLITICAL PARTIES. Political parties are organizations whose goal is to manipulate our political system and put people (lackeys? Scumsuckers?) into positions of power who will best further the special financial interests of certain groups. "Special Interest Groups" we call these puppeteers. "Special Interest Groups versus the Downtrodden Masses" as Karl probably wished he'd thought of instead of me.

What is the difference between Democrats and Republicans? Read any of the donkey literature and you will soon learn that the Dems are for the working man, the downtrodden victims of the rich. Unions. The handicapped. GaysLesbiansTransgenderedsUndecideds. The elevation of African-Americans, preferably through Affirmative Action programs which will begin working just any day now. Unborn babies? Not so much. Republicans are "for" the rich, anti-union, anti gay, racist, workhouse-loving monsters who, to paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, want women to die from back-alley abortions and would have the elderly and infirm die in the gutters of starvation and lack of basic health care. Republicans hate blacks, of course. Mexicans? Forgedaboudit. Read the elephant literature and you will discover that Republics are grossly misunderstood and severely maligned. They are good decent salt-of-the-earth folk who just have different plans to reach Marx's shining Utiopia on a hill. Parity. But they gotta earn it, goddammit.

Of course there are many more POLITICAL PARTIES, all espousing their own mish-mash of descriptions of equally cockamamie paths to proletariat salvation. You have your Greens (the tree huggers who want clean energy, but don't have any actual workable or affordable alternatives available just yet, and who haven't even THOUGHT about Iran) and you have your reds (commies) and you have your Libertarians (do your own thing, man, and keep the government the hell out of everything) and you have your Socialist Workers and your American Independents. Probably the Prohibition Party is still running candidates in Mississippi and northern Wisconsin, and maybe California Dreamers (they dream that by spending more money on health care for illegal aliens they will eventually get out of debt.) No, I made that last one up.

Heavens, but there is SO much more ground to cover! I just HAVE to tell you my opinions and definitions of those who are labeled liberals and conservatives and progressives and such. And I am not even CLOSE to sharing my thoughts on Reverend Al and Trayvon. However, I fear those tidbits (and more) will have to wait for a future post. That pesky artery in my temple is starting to pulse again, signaling time for a blood-pressure pill and a brief lie-down.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Taxes and Fairness

Today is Friday the 13th and I have just finished my tax return and mailed it in, 2 or 3 days early, or whatever. The deadline is not Titanic Day this year, but the 17th for some reason.

It occurs to me that I may have paid more taxes than a few multimillionaires might have paid. As long as they didn't cheat or break the law, why should I care? I KNOW I paid more federal taxes than about 50% of Americans, because about 50% of Americans pay no federal taxes at all.

This is not about somebody's idea of what "fair" means. It is about following the tax code and getting on with your life for the rest of the year. If it is not fair, then it is not the fault of the rich but of our congressional tax code authors and President Obama's tax code enforcers.

Some people speak of "tax avoidance" as if it were a dirty cheating thing; that people who pay a lot of taxes should pay even more. There's nothing illegal or wrong about avoiding taxes. All Americans have the legal right to arrange their financial affairs in such a manner as will allow them to pay the least tax. The government uses, and has always used, the federal tax code to direct its social agenda. No problem. If the government wants low-income housing built, it gives tax breaks to those willing to build low-income housing. If it wants to promote green energy, then it gives tax breaks to people who put those odd solar panels on their roof. If the government wants investors to search for natural gas deposits, it gives tax breaks for those who take those risks. If the government wants to subsidize mortgages for low-income people who shouldn't have mortgages at all, then it gives tax breaks to rich folks who invest (put their capital at risk) in mortgages and derivatives and bonds and maybe let them play the hedge fund game or artificially inflate the spot-price of crude oil. Cool. Always has it been thus. Those who don't do it, angrily call these things "tax loopholes." But they are angry at the wrong people.

"Tax evasion" on the other hand is a crime and should land the evader in prison. Tax evasion is cheating and lying. Tax evasion includes such things as saying you earned $12 last year when you really earned $2 million.

A lot of the non-wealthy in the USA (those who take in a lot of welfare money and other entitlement monies, but who don't pay any income taxes at all, per the above) think that the rich should pay even more taxes so (I assume) the non-producers and actual needy can receive a higher dole. I mean "entitlement". Of course. Beats the hell out of actually paying some taxes yourself, right? President Obama has made a political career out of playing the two against each other, taking donations from fat cat corporations while telling the tax recipients, his political base, that he is fighting for the "working man" (meaning them, even though they don't work) and promoting class warfare against the rich. Cool. That's the American way. At least it seems to be the NEW American way. Occupy Wall Street, right? After all, it is the fault of the people who educated themselves, worked hard, played by the government's tax rules, and got rich, who are at fault for YOU not educating yourself, working hard, following the tax rules, and getting rich. Who could argue with that logic?

In the U.S., the tax code (rules) for the federal income tax rates are written by Congress. It is possible that this is true in other countries as well; perhaps their Parliaments write the tax laws rather than, say, their Chancellor of the Exchequer.

If you don't like what rich people pay in taxes, or if you don't like the way the government directs the economy (by offering tax deductions in the tax code for for various things) then it seems to me the thing for you to do would be to attack Congress and the President to make tax code changes and enforcement standards, and stop bitching at the people who follow the legal tax code. Do YOU want to volunteer to pay taxes you don't owe? Neither do the rich.

If you think the rich should pay 60% off the top of everything they take in, then you should force Congress to change the tax code so that's what the law says. Don't bitch at the producers or go occupy some little park near Wall Street. Personally, I don't get offended when I see some investor pay 15% capital gains tax instead of 100%. I get offended when I see the unemployed wink on camera and say, "I've never worked in my life, and I don't intend to start working now."

How offended would you be if someone suggested you get down off the wagon and maybe helped the rest of us pull it?


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