Archive for September, 2011

Intellectuals and Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan: no analysis.

30 Sep

I’ve been reading Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell.

A few characteristics of intellectuals stood out to me from this article in the Christian Science Monitor by Diane Lim Rogers, an economics professor:

A reporter called me about it, which was the only reason I went to the Cain website to check it out for a few seconds, which was all it took to “get” what his proposal is basically about…

I don’t know if I’ll feel compelled to say anymore about the Cain tax plan unless the candidate actually seems to have a decent chance of getting the Republican nomination, but on the way to seeing if that happens I hope people recognize how insane his tax plan is without needing any detailed analysis. This is one plan where my biggest reaction to the plan is not that it doesn’t raise enough revenue. Like I said, theoretically it could, but why would we ever want to do it that way?

It’s sort of an example of what I called “Neanderthal tax policy” in my Tax Notes column.

via Cains 999 plan: Not sane tax policy –

  1. Intellectuals have an over-developed sense of arrogance in their intellect. This columnist writes that she only took a few seconds to read up on the tax plan of republican candidate Herman Cain. It’s a simple admission that she has written an article to dispense ideas when she’s only put a “few seconds” into research.
  2. Intellectuals tend to bypass real argument and real facts with name calling and other distractions. This columnist really hopes that everyone will call the simplified tax proposal “insane” all “without needing any detailed analysis.”
  3. The refusal to do any detailed analysis is another pattern Sowell points out in his book. When an idea isn’t the idea of the intellectual, they ignore the data, and refuse to look into the facts behind the proposal. This columnist isn’t opposed to the tax structure because it’s bad; he’s not opposed because it wouldn’t work; he’s opposed to it because, as she writes, “why would we ever want to do it that way?” In fact, she had previously written an article about tax policies and proudly declares here here that she feels no need to read about alternative tax policies.
  4. She ends the article by calling Herman Cain a Neanderthal. While this would instantly be called racism if spoken against our President, it’s simply another example of an intellectual-style argument: dismissing  any opposing argument as simply out-dated. In the mindset of the columnist, simply calling something ancient (or more insultingly “Neanderthal”) is supposed to cue everyone to never consider the idea.
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Posted in Books, Politics


Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell

23 Sep


I’m only 70 100 pages into this 317+ page book by the author of Basic Economics, but I can’t wait to talk about this with others.

Sowell writes about the trends among intellectuals ( those whose occupations – professors, authors, columnists, many politicians – are in dealing with ideas rather than the mundane things of business or the application if ideas) and how they influence society.

I highly recommend this book. It is supremely helpful in understanding the truth obscured by politicians, professors and the media, and also contains enough to be formed into the prescription for how to combat bad ideas ( like the Obama job killing jobs act that was just advertised in Pandora through my ear buds).


Tax Cuts for the Rich

10 Sep

political satire cartoon about tax cuts for the rich

Cutting taxes for the richest citizens is only a bad thing if you believe it is the government’s job to punish people for being successful.

Those who want to raise taxes on some and lower them for others do so because they believe it’s the government’s job to use the power of the federal government to pick winners and losers – to punish people arbitrarily for what they like and don’t like.

My kids get paid for doing chores. If son 1 does more work more efficiently and earns $4 but son 2 only earns $2, is it my job to forcibly take away money from the one who earned more and give it to the one who earned less?

No. It’s immoral.

Political cartoon of redistribution of candy at Halloween

On the other hand, those who want to lower taxes do so because they believe that money in the private sector is more productive for the economy and freedom than government confiscation, waste, and redistribution

The private citizen has no vested interest in wasting money. The citizen (and corporations run by citizens) are interested in investing the money to get something of greater value, whether that’s goods or more money. So if the rich keep more of their own money, they invest more in the market – that’s putting money into businesses, who add value to the economy and create jobs.

This pursuit to get more value drives the market and also drives corruption, where someone will want to use their ability to impede the ability of others’ liberty for their own gain. This is where the government steps in, protecting the citizens’ liberty from being infringed on by others.

These two views are diametrically opposed on what the purpose of the government is. The first “liberal” view is that the government’s job is to solve all of society’s problems and through arbitrarily deciding what is “fair,” pick winners and losers by force (like taxing some at different rates than others). In this view, government is the solution to everything and should be always getting bigger and more invasive in citizen’s lives.

The second “conservative” view is that government’s role is ONLY to do things that the market cannot practically do – protect people’s inalienable right to liberty from being invaded by others in or outside of the country, and a few other things that private citizens or corporations can’t do. In this view, government intervention into people’s lives is a problem, and government should be strictly limited with enumerated powers.

The second view is how the founders set up America, and is the view that lead to America’s greatness from the start.

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The Rich Need to Pay Their Fair Share

09 Sep
Photo of Obama at his Job Speech to the joint session of congress on September 8, 2011
Obama speaks to congress about the rich needing to pay their fair share.

As expected by many, Obama’s job speech last night consisted of recycled rhetoric and finger pointing. One of the key phrases he uses is:

The rich need to pay their fair share.

The ambiguity of this statement is astounding. Clarity is needed, not Ambiguity. As G. K. Chesterton said, “Evil always takes advantage of ambiguity.”

So the questions are:

Who are “the rich”?

“Rich” and “Poor” are arbitrarily defined by the government. President Obama picked a number $250,000. If you make that much or more in a given calendar year, you’re rich.

“Poor” is also arbitrarily defined.  I recently heard a reporter say that one out of seven Americans is “poor.” I don’t think the reporter was lying, but they are speaking according to whatever income dollar amount the federal government picked to define the poverty level.

There’s nothing to stop the government from saying that the “rich” are those who make a million dollars per year or those who make more than $40,000 per year. Likewise, there’s nothing to stop the government to adjust the numbers to show that 50% of Americans live in poverty.

The terms are meaningless. They are only used in order to create angst between American citizens and to create a class warfare of classes that the government arbitrarily picks to pit against each other for the benefit of the politicians in power.

What is a person’s “fair share”?

The consequence of falling into the group that Obama calls “the rich” is that you are to be despised by all other Americans. You are wronging all Americans by not paying your “fair share.” The problems that citizens experience are your fault.

What is the fair share of the rich? Let’s take a look at some numbers

The richest half of tax payers have 100% of the taxes. The less wealthy 50% pay nothing – in fact, they have  net gain from the government, usually through social programs where the taxes paid by the 50% that pay is paid to them through welfare, social security, etc. Is it fair that only half of the country pays taxes?

The richest 5%, those who made over $160,000, paid 59% of the taxes. 5% of people paid more than half the taxes in America.

It’s startling to look at the numbers and and realize the president thinks the top 5% paying about 60% of the total tax revenue is not their fair share. If they have to pay more to pay their fair share, how much would the top 5% have to pay?

Tomorrow: Tax Cuts for the Rich.

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GOP Primary Debates

08 Sep

FoxNews’ management of the first GOP debate was shameful. From the questions they asked to where they placed the contenders on the stage, everything was geared toward pitting the candidates against each other rather than inquiring what each candidate would do as president.

What I felt was missing was a candidate speaking up in a unifying tone to step above the fray, aside from the traps laid by the moderators and what communicated as petty fights between each other. A candidate to step up and say that all of the candidates would be better than a second term of President Obama, and that all the candidates were in favor of a lower tax burden, less federal regulation, etc. A candidate to speak that they respect the other people on stage, while they think their own distinctives make them better for the position.

Newt had the right tone with the Fox News’ moderators, telling them to stop asking “gotcha” questions, but no one stepped up to elevate all of the candidates.

Last night’s debate was worse as far as moderation. The moderators again pitted candidates against each other. Like Fox News, MSNBC focused on a few candidates where as others (most notably Herman Cain) were essentially ignored. The liberal bias was stronger. For example, Brian Williams asked Perry how he could sleep at night supporting the death penalty, and Williams pointed out that he taken aback that people applauded his mention of Texas executing murderers.

Governors Perry and Romney started with the bickering (and Huntsman tried to join the bickering) which was as unpresidential as when Bachmann and Pawlenty fell into that trap last time. Newt again had the right tone and this time emphasized that any of the candidates would be an improvement and all were united in the majority of policies.  After his comment and the overwhelming applause, the level of discussion was raised up most notably by Perry and Romney.

Here’s the video of the entire debate followed by my take on how everyone did.

YouTube Preview Image

Michele Bachmann – She did not raise above the questions asked of her. When she was asked about whether the president could make gas $2/gallon she focused on the two-dollar price tag rather than talking about what the president can practically do to help energy prices. When asked about drilling in the everglades, she said that we would do it responsibly. A better case would be to say that Americans have proven we are more responsible with the environment but instead we’re paying countries in the middle east but we should bring the business to America to create jobs and have more control over the environmental impact of drilling.

The candidates should be using the questions as a platform to speak directly to the viewer for a few minutes rather than interacting with the moderator. Unfortunately, while her comments are accurate, “$2 gas” and “narco-terrorism” sound extreme and are sound byte fodder. Bachmann was my favored top-tier candidate before the first debate, but has failed to rise up and show presidential control over situations like this debate.

Herman Cain – Cain continues to speak with honesty and clarity, setting him apart from the majority of politicians. He advocated a 9-9-9 tax reform: 9% business flat tax, 9% individual flat tax, and 9% national sales “fair” tax. Combining the flat tax and fair tax is an innovative idea that keeps all the numbers low. Can they really be single-digit rates? I don’t know. Would it stay at 9%? That’s unlikely as politicians always want more money, so it would need to be more difficult to change the tax rates.

I’ve always liked Cain, but his ignorance on foreign policy early in his campaign was refreshingly honest, but not helpful. New contenders entering the race continue to push him lower in the polls, and he has been very good but not stellar enough to rise above.

Ron Paul – Paul again spent some of his allotted time whining about how he wasn’t asked every question. It may not be fair, but whining is a bad cornerstone for a presidential platform. He was a bit conspiratorial, arguing that a border fence would be used to keep American citizens from traveling abroad. Overall Paul looked angry and condescending toward the other candidates, the moderators, and even the audience. He attacked Perry for a positive letter Perry sent to Hillary Clinton before the details HillaryCare were known, at which point Perry pointed out Paul’s letter to Reagan saying he was leaving the Republican party because of him.

Ron Paul’s economic and conservative ideas are great. Unfortunately his let-the-dictators-win and conspiracy views weren’t helping. One of the greatest factors against Paul is the non-thinking aura exuding from his devotees.

Rick “Swagger” Perry – As the newest contender, Perry seemed very comfortable on stage and controlled his own time well. He speaks with more clarity than most politicians, which I respect. He gave Obama credit for ordering the Osama take-out while also calling him a Keynesian. He effectively touted how Texas has created jobs and reduced greenhouse gases.

Mitt Romney – Mitt was better than the first debate where he avoided answering anything specific. He was still very professionally political: vague and non-committal. He advocated things like loving America, creating jobs, changing how we’re economically structured, etc.

Jon “Eyebrows” Huntsman – Huntsman continues to come across as snooty and condescending. He looks great when he smiles, an image which occupied about 2.5 seconds of his time. I was constantly distracted by his eyebrow movements. He declared that evolution and global warming are sciences that are never to be questioned – whether the public-school promoted ideas on these issues are accurate or not, it is the exalting of these things to unquestionable gospel that is most off-putting.

Rick “Grumpy” Santorum – Perhaps he looked like he was constantly scowling because of the lights, or maybe because he was upset that he allowed his campaign manager to put him in a pink tie. His body language was very grump. While he didn’t shoot himself in the foot, Santorum didn’t stand out positively either.

Newt Gingrich – Newt consistently rose above the fray and had the most authoritative presidential tone. He answered questions quickly and announced how he would use the remainder of his time, which he did concisely and professionally. He was far and away the most presidential of the candidates and wasn’t pushed around by the moderators.

Unfortunately, Newt has a number of factors against him from his history of broken marriages to his apparent age and and earlier near-collapse of his campaign staff.

While it may not realistic, this debate left me hoping for a ticket combining two names from: Gingrich, Perry, Cain.