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Re: Taxation and Freedom

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  • C. S. Wyatt
    ... A rambling response... Anti-discrimination? Not sure it always helps. Look at California -- anti-discrimination court rulings were met with an anti-gay
    Message 1 of 16 , Dec 30, 2008
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      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "jimstuart51" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
      > You may not benefit much from these laws yourself, but I suggest
      > there are many people who do benefit from such legislation.

      A rambling response...

      Anti-discrimination? Not sure it always helps. Look at California -- anti-discrimination
      court rulings were met with an anti-gay proposition. Disgusting. Remember, most states
      here have popular referendums and the feds have limited control. States do most "day-to-
      day" governing.

      I'm not a believer in a set minimum wage for one reason: S.F., California is not Urbana,
      Illinois. Remember, the U.S. has serious cost differences from state to state, and even
      region to region. A house is now $78K in Michigan. Even with the bust, a house is $400K
      in California. States should have the right, and responsibility, to set reasonable floors for
      compensation. I think California is $1 to $2 above the federal minimum, for example.

      Health care? Not sure... I have great health care that has been used nearly three dozen
      times in the last 90 days. I pay for some of it, but the state pays most of my costs. I use
      the university hospitals and clinics, which seem good to me. Service is slow and
      sometimes horrible, but it's cheap. They completely missed a major problem with internal
      bleeding two months ago... and my first eye surgery was botched, but it's cheap. Yippee.
      Cheap, hours in waiting rooms, and a new adventure with every appointment.

      As long as I'm allowed the option of paying for better care, that's probably okay. I know
      that once I am a full professor I won't be using any university / state health care.

      I am a public employee -- a lecturer at a state "land grant" university. I have no problem
      with a slightly progressive tax system. What I dislike is the American habit of giving
      "special tax breaks" to corporations on one end and on the other giving breaks to
      encourage various social behaviors.

      When I do taxes (actually Susan does them), there is form after form of special deductions.
      I think it would be more reasonable to tax me at a set rate or have a consumption (yes,
      VAT) tax nationally. You consume more (and more expensive items) you should pay more.

      Taxes should be basic: You earned / have X wealth. You owe this percent. You owe
      nothing if you earn 1.5 or maybe 2x the poverty level. Period. No separate Social Security
      tax, for example, and no cap on what people should pay. Simple percentages, no
      deductions.

      What I dislike is the notion that government does a good job regulating or managing
      anything. I'd argue we now see that even with regulatory authority, the SEC, Federal
      Reserve, and FDIC were asleep at the switch for the last four or even twelve years
      (depending on what you believe). The idiot who let the savings and loans collapse turns
      out to have been the auditor assigned to IndyMac -- a huge bank that failed. I find that
      absolutely disgusting. I don't trust the feds to protect me.

      Again, even libertarians believe in enforcing contracts, and that would include not lying to
      people when you issue a mortgage. I worked for a huge mortgage company as an
      executive, before returning to education, and quit in disgust. They lied on forms, cheated
      people... I do not tolerate harming people. Rules are necessary, namely contracts and
      financial agreements are key to capitalism. You lie, I should have every right to sue you
      and demand recompense.

      The regulator assigned to us knew what we were doing. The president of the mortgage
      company was a huge political donor to both parties. He wined and dined the regulators,
      playing golf with them and even going sailing. This was in 1996 or 97, I think. We bought
      the right to rob immigrants because they couldn't understand the paperwork. We robbed
      the poor, because they were desperate. And the regulators knew. (Someone *ahem* even
      printed the reports and highlighted the discrepancies for the auditors.)

      Government is not better. The people in power control the money -- often for their own
      interest at the worst of costs for the public.

      Just look at the great job Minnesota does with transportation spending and safety. They
      build a beautiful "bike bridge" costing nearly as much as the new 35W bridge -- while they
      should have been inspecting and fixing our roads. Why? Because James Oberstar wanted a
      bike path and he's in charge of the transportation committee in the House of Reps.

      And you want a "libertarian idea" -- just like Samuelson (sp?) and even Charles
      Krauthammer (sp?) I support a fuel tax of at least another $1/gallon or more. I am more
      than happy to pay for the roads I use and to help subsidize *some* (well-planned) public
      transit. If I drive a huge Hummer or Escalade, I should pay for the wear-and-tear I cause
      to roads.

      Government should be a safety net. Too often, it is largess. Universities in the U.S. are a
      great example of vast gaps between rich and poor. Why? Because when people like myself
      suggest unionizing the lecture staff, we're quickly told "How much do you like teaching
      here?" The government, of all things, deserves unions. What does that say about the
      government?

      (And yes, I believe places that treat employees like dirt end up with unions for a reason.
      I'm a member of one union and resigned from another, so I'm not a blind union supporter
      or anti-union. Situations differ.)

      The president of our university will receive just under $740,000 next year. Nearly 100
      "administrators" receive over $100K per year, according to the local paper. Basketball
      coach? $500,000 to $1 million, depending on our success. The football coach will receive
      $1.38 million. Our new American football stadium is $300 million, to be used six times a
      year. (It isn't set for other sports -- not even "real" football -- because it is an open-air
      stadium in a place with lots of snow and ice.) The university even spent $2 million on
      various "trivia panels" they glued to sidewalks. Of course, with the snow you can't read the
      trivia six months of the year.

      No, I don't trust the government. Tuition at the university, which I believe should always
      be free for those qualified and without means, is now $12,000 / year. It increased nearly
      20 percent in the last two years.

      I see my students struggling, working two and three jobs. Then I see the new football
      stadium and want to scream. (We have a perfectly good stadium 10 minutes away -- the
      Metrodome -- where we play sports currently.) My students graduate with $20K to $30K
      in debt, if not more. That's just not right.

      I actually calculated how much my class, as a whole, pays per hour to be in class. I teach a
      4-unit course, with 22 students. Class is held twice a week, for 70 minutes (give or take),
      so close to 2.5 hours. There are 14 weeks of class (spring break and other events remove
      two sessions of class and we don't give a final in a writing course), for a total time of 35
      hours. Assuming my math is correct, a single class collects: $26,908 in tuition. That's
      $768 per hour of class time!

      If education is a government-run scam, I can't imagine what the government would do
      with any other services.

      Bluntly, I think the gap between rich and poor does have to be addressed. I don't think
      government in the U.S. is good at that for several reasons. Example: only "income" and
      "property" is taxed, so the richest can collect money one year and then stash it away.
      Without a consumption tax, the rich can avoid all manner of taxes while the rest of us
      must have "income" every year.

      I'm definitely a libertarian, but I have never questioned the basic historical roles of
      government in the United States. Universal education, for example, has long been an
      American ideal, at least K-12. I believe in public transportation projects, basic public
      works, and (of course) the military.

      I believe in our courts enforcing contracts and I even believe in tort law. (If a medication
      harms you, darn right you should be allowed to sue.)

      I just want government to limit itself, because it can and does abuse power and money. If
      regulators and educators, two groups supposed to be responsible to the public, cannot be
      trusted to regulate or manage money, who can be trusted?

      Yes, it is a uniquely American distrust of power. I heard Paul Krugman say it was in the
      "DNA of Americans" to distrust government, even when we might need it. That's why
      Californians have passed so many limits on government that the state can't do anything. I
      read that only 12% of the California budget is controlled by elected officials -- the rest is
      mandated spending passed by popular referendum. Heck, we don't let our leaders do their
      jobs -- we trust them so little.

      Maybe the current economic mess will result in more federal power. I doubt it would be
      used well. I fear setting up national programs only to have the next president be as
      incompetent fiscally as Bush. Would you really want a Bush (FEMA!!!) administration
      "helping" the people? If FEMA is our example, I definitely fear the government.

      Sorry for the ramblings.... brain is in slo-mo anyway. Just random thoughts.

      - CSW
    • C. S. Wyatt
      ... Without completely free speech, we don t have some of our best social commentators. I cannot imagine what life would have been like without Carlin, Denis
      Message 2 of 16 , Dec 30, 2008
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        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eupraxis@... wrote:
        > I am in general agreement with your position, but I have to make an exception
        > when it comes to infringements on free speech. Except in cases of fraud, or
        > the proverbial yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, I would have to side with
        > full speech protection, including the use of epithets and all kinds of
        > foulness. That may strike you as odd, but it has been my experience that the light of
        > day quashes such attitudes quite well enough, whereas the repression of ideas
        > gives those ideas a false sense of importance and actually fosters them. I
        > think most Americans would agree.

        Without completely free speech, we don't have some of our best social commentators. I
        cannot imagine what life would have been like without Carlin, Denis Leary (I was given his
        new book to read while resting), Sam Kinison (a really great guy, seriously), and Kat
        Williams. I can't imagine Chris Rock or even Dennis Miller being regulated.

        I am all for "Darwin" fish, certainly.

        While I am bothered by the "My kid can beat up your honor student" tone of many stickers
        and posters, I wouldn't ban them. I find the "Coexist" stickers offensive, mainly because
        they support the major religions -- and I think religion sucks. I hate the Confederate flag,
        any Nazi-like symbols, and many other things...

        But, I would never ban anything. Let idiots be idiots. At least I can avoid shopping where
        they shop or going where they go...

        I guess I think you should be free to be stupid / ignorant / hateful as long as you do no
        physical harm to anyone else.

        - CSW
      • louise
        ... to the weak, ... own ... programme. ... to ... Jim wrote (#46170): First, I write as a European, and I think generally us Europeans are less distrustful
        Message 3 of 16 , Dec 30, 2008
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          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eupraxis@... wrote:
          >
          > Louise,
          >
          > You write: "Jesus! Yes, I mean the one who preached good news
          to 'the weak,
          > the poor, the sick and the uneducated'. I cannot take any more of
          > this corporate philosophical mildness. Why don't we all just fire
          > off a personal manifesto, of 'what I would do if elected to power?'
          > I'm quite poorly at present, still mindful, though, that hurtful
          > words are not acceptable. It is in a simple spirit that I seek to
          > communicate my immense frustration, at how unexistential the list
          > seems to have gotten ... Yes, I have political views too, and my
          own
          > liberalism has
          > proved too radical to find any home with an existing party
          programme.
          > I consider myself British, English, European. I wish to dissociate
          > myself from Jim's comments, which are too general to be meaningful
          to
          > me."
          >
          > Response: What on earth has Jim said to earn him such a rant?
          > ---

          Jim wrote (#46170):
          "First, I write as a European, and I think generally us Europeans are
          less distrustful of government that you Americans."

          One of these days, Wil, I might treat you to a rant, just so you know
          what that would sound like from me. The sober comment here concerned
          the vital and centuries-old distinction between, for instance, the
          cultural, legal and religious variations that characterise the UK by
          comparison with, say, France or Germany. Every European nation is
          unique. I wish to see these differences preserved and enhanced, in
          amity. How this may be achieved is still matter of lively debate on
          this side of the Atlantic, though the subject-matter often sinks
          beneath a mass of cliche and misinformation. To come to the point, I
          am a British citizen who wishes for the full restoration of British
          sovereignty. So there are some forms of government that I do indeed
          distrust.

          > "... I want all my prejudices back, all my freedom to be pleasantly
          rude."
          >
          > Response: But they never left thee, surely.

          Really pleased to know you think so. It is a recurring fear of mine,
          that my phrasing or lack of understanding might lead to an effect of
          rudeness that is far from pleasant.

          > ---
          > "The recognitions of difference and of the fact of strong aversions
          are,
          > or ought to be, part of the human condition."
          >
          > Response: Go right ahead. Let it all out. But I warn you that you
          will feel
          > all the worse for the effort.

          All I can do is laugh. The kindliness of your intentions is
          abundantly evident, whilst your interpretations of my political and
          ethical viewpoints seem nebulous and bizarre. My strong aversions
          are chiefly toward cruelty, calculated dishonesty, intolerance,
          callous greed, and so on. I have no motive whatever for letting out
          my passions in this regard in an exchange with yourself.

          > ---
          > "Suppression of the liberty to speak one's mind in a way deemed
          reasonable by
          > ordinary, well-informed, mature people, brings incalculable harm."
          >
          > Response: In times past this was accomplished on a couch with one's
          analyst.

          American parochialism. How many shrinks do you have to the square
          mile over there?

          > ---
          > "By 'well- informed', I mean not unduly hampered by regulations and
          other
          > methods of seeking to alter established custom from exercising
          natural curiosity,
          > including intellectual curiosity, and social instincts that are not
          violent."
          >
          > Response: I'll bet we all know precisely what you mean by well-
          informed.

          Another recourse to the first person plural (in a slightly different
          style than occurred in Herman's recent post) - not sure what you
          mean. To be well-informed involves critical awareness, and a wish to
          hear about what one does not yet know. This is somewhat Nietzschean
          territory again.

          > ---
          > "... Respect can only be earned if there is the chance to hear, to
          see, to
          > interact with, those one might otherwise distrust, dislike, or
          worse."
          >
          > Response: Unless they have dark skin or speak with an accent? Or
          by "those"
          > do you just mean yourself?

          Not aware I have any difficulty relating to people with dark skins.
          My experience is admittedly limited. I speak with an accent myself,
          and it is only very rarely that a regional accent of some kind
          prevents my understanding what is said. Or are you referring to
          people whose origins are from other continents? Oh well, eventually
          I might be able to make intelligible why I believe race is
          significant.

          > ---
          > "... To heal oneself sure is difficult when there are so many
          morally
          > comfortable agitators for the State, or other institutions, to keep
          the innocent and
          > the adventurous safely stifled."
          >
          > Response: But Jim seems so nice!
          >

          I wouldn't describe Jim as 'morally comfortable'. He is not in the
          habit of making condemnatory pronouncements, and writes with
          courtesy, in a pleasant spirit, whatever the tone of surrounding
          argument. Geez (as you say over there), I am finding all this
          explanation hard going. Need to get some sleep again.

          > Wil
          >
          >
          >
          > **************
          > Don't be the last to know - click here for the latest news that
          > will have people talking. (http://www.aol.com/?
          ncid=emlcntaolcom00000021)
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
        • jimstuart51
          CSW, Thank you for your detailed and informative reply to my (general) post about taxation and freedom. Your specific arguments about anti-discrimination, the
          Message 4 of 16 , Dec 31, 2008
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            CSW,

            Thank you for your detailed and informative reply to my (general) post
            about taxation and freedom.

            Your specific arguments about anti-discrimination, the minimum wage,
            health care, tax on salary and on consumption, enforcing contracts,
            transportation spending, tax on fuel, unionization, the gap between the
            rich and poor, and tuition fees put your general distrust of government
            into an understandable context. When you get down to specifics I find
            myself agreeing with most of your thoughts.

            Thanks for going to the trouble of detailing your views. And all the
            best for the new year - I hope you are able to recover your health in
            the forthcoming months.

            Jim
          • Exist List Moderator
            ... The greatest challenge for explaining U.S. American politics to anyone is explaining that nearly 70 percent of government spending and regulation is
            Message 5 of 16 , Dec 31, 2008
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              On Dec 31, 2008, at 9:38, jimstuart51 wrote:

              > CSW,

              > Your specific arguments about anti-discrimination, the minimum wage,
              > health care, tax on salary and on consumption, enforcing contracts,
              > transportation spending, tax on fuel, unionization, the gap between
              > the
              > rich and poor, and tuition fees put your general distrust of
              > government
              > into an understandable context. When you get down to specifics I find
              > myself agreeing with most of your thoughts.

              The greatest challenge for explaining "U.S. American" politics to
              anyone is explaining that nearly 70 percent of government spending and
              regulation is still at the local and state level. While we do have a
              federal government, it's actually rather weak. It only accounts for 4
              to 6 percent of educational spending, for example. That would be
              unimaginable in Europe.

              In California, it isn't uncommon for us to have a three or four page
              ballot, littered with social and fiscal "propositions" that when
              passed limit what the state can or cannot do. The state constitution
              is now a mess. The book form I have includes the sections with
              "strikethrough" lines and the additions... many of which get scratched
              by voters the very next year.

              Imagine the U.K. operating that way -- every legal voter deciding on
              property tax limits (Prop 13, immigration issues (long list), gay
              marriage (Prop 8), chemical warnings (Prop 65) and more. There are now
              111 to 115 pages in the printed version of the California
              Constitution. Neither the governor nor the legislative bodies can
              violate this incredible tangle of limits and requirements. Ironically,
              some conflict -- especially when you add up the mandated percentages
              of spending passed by voters: 50 percent on K-12 education, by law, 20
              percent on transit, 10 to 20 percent on green energy, and on and on...
              until you reach nearly 200% of the budget regulated by voters.

              We have too much "Direct Democracy" at the state level in California.
              I'm finding the same here in Minnesota. We passed amendments dictating
              percentages of spending on roads, clean water, the arts, education,
              and more. Then, we gripe that the legislatures cannot balance the
              budgets or spend money wisely. (Well, duh, we told them how they must
              spend... regardless of current fiscal realities.)

              Wish I could say I have faith in voters or government, but I don't.
              Heck, we just passed a $600 million bond for schools, and then cut
              property taxes that fund the bonds. I just scratch my head and wonder
              why we have elected officials.

              > Thanks for going to the trouble of detailing your views. And all the
              > best for the new year - I hope you are able to recover your health in
              > the forthcoming months.


              A few minor events are already on the calendars and some will soon be.
              Minor things... just incredibly bad timing. I'm expected to be closer
              to "normal" by summer. Just a few quarts low on that red fluid, but
              working on it.


              - C. S. Wyatt
              I am what I am at this moment, not what I was and certainly not all
              that I shall be.
              http://www.tameri.com - Tameri Guide for Writers
              http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist - The Existential Primer
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