Archive for February, 2010

One Woman’s “Gaffe” is Another Man’s Lie

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by nick

In an article by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, he states:

Sarah Palin has a suggestion for how Barack Obama can save his Presidency. “Say he decided to declare war on Iran,” she said on Fox News this month. “I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he’s tougher than we think he is today.” Such talk is in the air again. Palin was picking up the idea from Daniel Pipes, a neoconservative Middle East expert who suggested a strike would reverse Obama’s political fortunes. (Actually, Palin attributed the idea to Patrick Buchanan, but she obviously entirely misread Buchanan’s column, which opposed Pipes’s suggestion. It’s getting tiresome to keep pointing out her serial gaffes, but Palin does appear to be running for President.)

Having actually read Pat Buchanan’s column, it is clear that he is against going to war with Iran, which Sarah Palin never denied. It is equally clear that he believes that it would indeed, as Sarah Palin averrs, raise Obama’s standing with the public. Here is a quote from Buchanan’s column:

And should war come, that would be the end of GOP dreams of adding three-dozen seats in the House and half a dozen in the Senate.

Harry Reid is surely aware a U.S. clash with Iran, with him at the President’s side, could assure his re-election. Last week, Reid whistled through the Senate, by voice vote, a bill to put us on that escalator.

Read the whole thing, as apparently Fareed Zakaria has not.

You may believe that Buchanan’s assertion about the prospective increase in Obama’s popularity, due to war with Iran, is dubious. You may agree with Buchanan that war with Iran is inadvisable. You may not like Sarah Palin. Regardless of all of that, it is clear that Governor Palin did not misunderstand or misrepresent Pat’s column, or confuse Buchanan with Daniel Pipes.

It is Fareed Zakaria that has committed a gaffe, not Sarah Palin.

Not Bad Enough Yet, Part II

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 by nick

We are besieged with domestic crises. The health care crisis, the deficit crisis, the Social Security and Medicare crises, last, but far from least, the unemployment crisis. If we keep going on as we are, the consequences will be dire.

We are told that these crises are insoluble, the U.S. has become ungovernable, Washington is broken. Actually though, it wouldn’t take all that much to fix them, and Washington is quite capable, theoretically, of doing so. Things just haven’t gotten bad enough yet.

Here are a few modest proposals. The first five of them are currently being proposed in the United States Congress by Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan.

1. Make Medicare and Social Security solvent by doing some means testing and gradually raising the age of eligibility for Social Security.

2. Give taxpayers the option of a simple 10% flat tax with no deductions.

3. Medical savings accounts, tort reform, allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines, and the same health insurance tax treatment for individuals as for employees.

4. Make U.S. corporations competitive with the rest of the world by bringing their taxes in line with other countries. Currently, the average combined federal and state corporate tax rate in the U.S. is 39.3 percent, second among OECD countries to Japan’s combined rate of 39.5 percent. Lowering the federal rate to 30.5 percent would only lower the U.S.’s ranking to fifth highest among industrialized countries.

5. Eliminate taxes on interest, capital gains, dividends, and death.

6. Eliminate unnecessary federal government departments and programs.
    a. Farm subsidies
    b. Department of Education
    c. National Endowment for the Arts
    d. support for NPR and public television
    e. etc., etc., etc. – this is a long list

7. Finally (and this is the real kicker) abolish public employee unions.

For the first time in American history, a majority of union members are government workers rather than private-sector employees. 7.2 percent of private-sector workers are union members. 37.4 percent of government workers are union members.

Union membership in the private sector has been declining for a long time, because it makes companies less competitive and workers don’t want unions anymore. The reforms that unions came into being to institute, have been instituted.

Private sector unions are adverserial. The union negotiates with management and they hammer out a deal. Public sector unions and management are collusive. The union facilitates the election of management. Management becomes an advocate for the union. This makes no sense whatsoever.

Public employee union benefits, pensions, and salaries are bankrupting government at the local, state, and federal levels, as is the extreme difficulty of firing or laying off government employees.

None of these proposals would be difficult to implement procedurally, and they just seem like common sense to me. All of the crises mentioned above, except, maybe, unemployment, would be solved. I believe that these measures would be such a relief to the real economy, the entrepreneurs and professionals and workers, that we would see a turn-around that would greatly lower the rate of unemployment as well, but that is speculation. Others may demur.

The difficulty is not procedural but political, except for eliminating public employee unions. That would take some doing. But none of these ideas are even being considered by the current Congress and President. That’s why there is a tea party movement.

These are the things that need to be done. Whether or not they will be done will be determined by the elections in November of 2010 and 2012. And by whether or not it has gotten bad enough yet.

Poor California

Thursday, February 4th, 2010 by nick

I was the Technical Director of sfgate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle’s website, pretty much from its inception, from 1997 until 2003. I still have sfgate.com as my home page even though I moved from San Francisco to Tennessee over five years ago. I’m still interested in what’s going on in San Francisco and I check it out daily.

Reading articles and comments on SFgate I often see the argument that California only gets back 80 cents on the dollar from its contributions to the federal government, and that therefore it’s everybody else’s fault that the state is bankrupt. The implication being that the federal government, i.e., all of us non-Californians, owe the California government billions of dollars.

Well, yeah, there are a lot of rich people in California. If you want to live in the beautiful parts of California, you pretty much have to be rich. Because they are rich, they pay a lot of taxes. Rich people pay most of the taxes in the U.S. And they don’t get a lot of money back from the federal government. They’re not on welfare. They’re not in jail. They don’t need food stamps or medicaid. They’re rich.

When people talk about this unfair deal that California is getting from the rest of us, they imply that somehow the state government of California is sending all this money to Washington and only getting some of it back. But it is not the California state government that is sending money to D.C., it’s individual taxpayers in California.

Not only are they sending lots of money to Washington, they are also sending lots of money to Sacramento. California is one of the very highest tax states in the union, and these taxes mostly come from rich people, income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and various exorbitant fees.

So if anyone deserves a better shake from the federal government, it is not the state government of California, it is the individual tax payers of California, primarily the rich individual tax payers of California.

Once the bankrupt state of California succeeds in driving out enough businesses and prosperous people, they will then begin to receive more money from Washington than is sent, just like Mississippi and Louisiana. Then all will be well.