VOTE: None-of-the-Above

I finally opened my mail-in ballot today, not very happy with the choices, but committed to doing my civic duty and vote, even though I had not decided on most of the questions. The recent rash of campaign rhetoric and advertising convinced me only that I would most likely be voting for the lesser of evils no matter which choice I made.

I had read all of the voter pamphlets, the candidate bio’s and platforms, the newspaper endorsements, the information on all of the measures and propositions, but few clear choices emerged. I considered just sitting down in front of the TV for an hour or so, and when an ad came on for a particular measure or candidate I’d mark my ballot then. It didn’t matter if the ad was for or against, none of them discussed the issues anyway; if I liked the ad or believed its slant, I would vote that way, if not then I would vote the other way. This approach is what I call “the media method” – different variations of which are used by most voters, so I would probably vote in the majority – a comforting thought.

Of course, I could pull out those pamphlets and articles again, and spend a few hours reviewing each candidate and measure, and then make a rational decision based on that research. The “rational method” takes a great deal of time however, and I already knew that I didn’t agree much with any of the candidates, and few of the measures, and if history is any proof, the differences that could be distinguished between them now (aside from which crime, or indiscretion they may or may not have committed according to each other) would in practice just become more partisan bickering once the election was done.

Throwing darts was another choice. It would be the most fun, but it also would put holes in the ballot and most likely cause it to be declared void, and tossed out. I want my vote to count.

Finally I decided on a strategy. For the propositions, I would use a variation of the “rational method”. If the question would give more power to the politicians, or government, or any special interest group I would vote “NO”. If it would cost tax payers more money my vote would be “NO” (if it cost the government more money that’s fine, but they would have to get that money somewhere else – they seem to think that they have some unlimited source somewhere). That criteria eliminated a couple of propositions that I might have favored otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against all government powers or spending, I’m just fed up with the ineffective job they are doing now, and not willing to dole out more as if the lack of results were our fault and not theirs.

As for the candidates, that decision was simpler. The two main Parties have done little recently except strengthen an ever thickening gridlock and status quo, shifting the power base from one party to the other, enriching themselves and their special interests while diminishing every other aspect of the American Dream. The system is well designed to perpetuate their ineffectiveness through our ambivalence. I decided that I would not just elect another Party hack; I would not vote for the lesser-of-two-evils, and I would level a most critical eye on incumbents in particular. If I didn’t really like, or trust, or agree with any of the candidates, if one of them was not a “good” choice, I would vote for NONE OF THE ABOVE. Of course that option is not on the ballot, but there is a way none-the-less – vote for the candidate that is least likely to win.

 It’s time that we give up some of our media induced pragmatism and start looking for some real change; we’ll only be in jeopardy if we fall back into the trap again and give up our message that we won’t stand for the incompetence. There is an opportunity every two years to fire the people that won’t represent US. At the very worst we might get a few new ideas to debate in the interim, and the results couldn’t be any worse than we are living with now. In the end our political leaders might actually get the message, and we will get some real representation.

More insanity from The Edge… Thanks for your Input.

James McV     

George Orwell once wrote, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.

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The Argument for Tax Breaks…. Or Not

I am becoming more skeptical about the argument over higher taxes for the “rich”. While it is encouraging to see and hear our so-called leaders apparently debating anything in the open, rather than behind their typical closed doors, it is starting to look like another dead-end media driven diversion designed to accomplish nothing in the end except more pre-election posturing by our politicos. Partisan gridlock is alive and well!

The real issue for the average American, and the economy as a whole, is not whether the rich should pay more taxes on their income (above $200,000 / yr for a single payer), but the uncertainty around that ultimate decision, and any effect it might have on the economy. It is this uncertainty, created by both the debate and the gridlock that inhibits the investment and spending needed to turn our economy around. Ultimately such uncertainty has a much more deleterious effect on business than any incremental increase in income taxes at the high end might have. Unfortunately it is that very uncertainty that our political leaders depend on to foster their personal agendas of power and greed, and it is little wonder that the debate continues to rage.

Higher taxes in a recession are not a good idea; most if not all economists would tend to agree. But the argument that higher income taxes on the highest marginal income brackets of small business owners will take capital away from them that would otherwise be invested to create jobs is unrealistic.

In the first place, “income” taxes are paid by individual owners of companies (and some corporations) who have been successful in creating profits, generally from the activities of employees and machinery. Small companies that invest capital to buy equipment or facilities do so with the intent that doing so will increase revenue and profits. Companies that hire new workers also do so only with the intent that each new worker will add incrementally to their net profits. If there is no profit to be gained from investing or hiring another employee no amount of tax savings will encourage such activity. If either action provides a reward in the form of increased profits, it seems unlikely that the thought of paying another five to ten cents on an additional dollar of profits really serves as a deterrent to prudent investment or hiring. In the worst case scenario the cost of ill-conceived hiring and investment serves as a deduction, and in effect, an income tax reducer, and very few entrepreneurs or small companies pay taxes at the higher income tax brackets if they are struggling to make ends meet.

A successful business owner that I know reminds me on occasion, “I love to pay taxes. It means I’m making lots of money”. While that may be a slightly frivolous statement, since no one really likes paying taxes (especially to a government that wastes them), it is indicative of the fact that “income” taxes are probably the least detrimental of all the many taxes to small and even BIG business activity and investment. Rather than reducing “income” taxes we need to reduce the impediments to making money, and develop incentives (tax credits or otherwise) to encourage investment and hiring that will in effect increase profits and income tax revenues.

This is not to say that higher “income” taxes on the wealthy should be encouraged in general, since at some point “high” marginal tax rates will encourage investors and business to go elsewhere to earn money. But that said, “income” tax has probably the least effect on business investment and hiring decisions of all taxes imposed by our government. If our politicos want to create a more favorable environment for business growth and hiring they should focus on reducing those taxes and bureaucratic expenses that have a more direct and deleterious effect on the cost of doing business and generating profits.

It wouldn’t hurt to get a grip on our inefficient and ineffective government spending as well to reduce the voracious appetite for our tax dollars in general, and more importantly reduce our increasing government debt with its arguably, though increasingly, more apparent negative effect on our economy and GDP.

It’s time for our political pundits to get off their special interest asses and stop their ineffectual partisan posturing, of which this dead-locked income tax debate is only one example.

More insanity from The Edge….. Thanks for your input.

James McV

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Bill O’Reilly: Stirring the Pot for His Own Benefit

Bill O’Reilly’s statement last week on the morning show The View that “Muslims killed us on 9/11”, was just another example of inflammatory rhetoric thrown at us to create more diversionary media hype and promotion on a slow news day. The topic is important and timely, but there was certainly no constructive purpose in stirring-the-pot with such an inane statement. Mr. O’Reilly is not dumb, and he certainly knew full-well the type of reaction his comment would garner. It is unfortunate that the rest  of the media fell into his trap and gave him yet another opportunity to promote his slant on the world, and of course his new book.

While factually true that the terrorists responsible for “killing us on 9/11” were Muslims, twenty-seven of “us” who died there were also Muslims (not including the nineteen terrorists), Mr. O’Reilly’s statement did nothing to promote our healing or understanding of moderate Islam, and was somewhat akin to saying that Christians were responsible for killing the Jews in the Holocaust, since Hitler and many of his henchmen were so baptized. (www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1699/was-hitler-a-christian) .

The women of The View unfortunately proved their insecurity and unwillingness to discuss another view, and O’Reilly came out on top of the media spin again.

It is interesting that we Americans, who are, and have been, so involved in trying to bring the Palestinian (many of whom are Christian) and Jewish people together, can’t understand why the two sides can’t sit down and talk rationally about their differences, and yet here in our own country we can’t get a group of liberals to sit down rationally with a conservative hack to discuss two sides of a similar argument. It appears that sensible debate is not only dead in the Near-East, and our own Congress, but also in the rest of our society as well, and that we are incapable or uninterested in understanding the other side of an argument, much less finding any common ground to agree on.

Mr. O’Reilly claims that his statement was not “hateful”, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt, though it certainly seemed thoughtless. It was certainly intentional however, and his intention was not to develop some constructive dialog on an important topic, but to add fuel to an uncomfortable status quo, and promote his own self-interests.

More insanity from The Edge….. thanks for your input.

James McV

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Hello World! Welcome to “Writing from the Edge”

This is my Introductory Blog Posting. The first in what I plan to be a series of commentary and query on the nature of our society and politics today.

It’s interesting, in fact somewhat arresting to me, how the center of our society, those of us who are neither particularly liberal nor particularly conservation, has been marginalized now by the special interests, and how we now are seemingly on some insignificant edge of contemporary thought. My hope is that this silent edge of our society will gain a voice here; perhaps common sense will re-emerge from the current façade of diversion and political correctness that has created a certain “insanity” that we live in today (see Einstein’s definition).

As my “About the Author” section describes, I spent the last two years sailing on the Sea of Cortez, on a sabbatical from the media hyped world of manufactured reality that I came to recognize from my relative isolation there. On occasion I drifted into a port or a village, and feeling somewhat home-sick, re-exposed myself to that distant reality that lived on the internet, or some familiar TV broadcast, but as my time away increased I found that the siren’s song had lost its grip. I found myself on the edge looking in with a new and seemingly clearer view. Not being so acclimated to the everyday gibberish that is being fed and devoured by us in this “real” world, I returned home with a changed perspective. I have been sometimes bemused, and at times aghast, at what passes for “news” and truth in this world; the hypocrisy and ignorance that seems to be lost, or at least ignored in the daily hype, and so I have created this BLOG as an exercise in thought; mine at least, and for others who may agree or not if you choose to participate in my observations.  

So here I am “Writing from the Edge”, and this is how I see things. Sometimes I will keep it light and fun, and sometimes I will rant, and scream, and holler. Some of you will no doubt disagree, and some of you will probably think that we don’t even have a problem and why am I so concerned, and that’s OK; money and antidepressants are wonderful antidotes for the perceived inequities of the world, and certainly for any uncomfortable “insanity”.

Am I an anarchist, a communist, a theologian? Sometimes, but mostly I am a conservative liberal republican democrat peace & freedom libertarian environmentalist tea-drinking (kool-ade hating) independent who is fed up with the hypocritical pretentious self-serving manipulations of our so-called governing representatives, their oligarcigal demi-gods, and the media machine that serves them both to our detriment. Now…. Wasn’t that fun?

Here’s a short story to ponder……. When I was in Mexico, I found myself sitting at a bar one night talking with a drug dealer. He was a young Mexican Indian man whose customers were typically American (US) or Canadian tourists. In the course of our conversation he said something to me that I found startling: I disagreed with his thoughts at first, but later, from a different perspective they seemed to hold some truth. I had asked him why he sold drugs, and he answered me saying: “Because I want to buy the things that all of you gringos have, and in Mexico it is the only way that I can make enough money. You Americans want to sell us your cars and TV’s and other things that we make for you. Your advertising makes us feel poor, but you don’t want to pay us enough to buy these things, or buy other things from us, and so we sell you drugs that you want. Your government doesn’t care, and our government doesn’t care; it’s just like foreign aid”, he said. “What about all the killing?” I asked. “The killing is the only way we have to resolve our differences. In your country you are very rich and smart and you use lawyers to kill each other. Here we use guns; it is all the same”, he said. “When the drugs are legal there will be no reason for killing. The laws and the courts will decide, the lawyers will get rich, the government will get their taxes, and everyone will be happy.” “But drugs are still bad things”,  I said. “I don’t do drugs”, he claimed. “I can’t afford them. I’m just like the bartender, nobody must buy them from me. It’s just my job.”

I don’t do drugs either, and so I could not be his customer. But I did buy him a drink as we talked, and I had one or two too many tequilas that night myself, and so the government got their taxes and the owner of the tequila company made its profit, and paid more taxes probably, and I had a hangover in the morning of course.

Thanks for your input,

James McV

For those of you who may not be aware, Einstein’s definition of “insanity” was…. Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

 

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