Friday, October 31, 2008

Shameless plug

Next Tuesday, Nov. 4, I will be liveblogging all day at my other weblog, Worldview. I am inviting anyone who reads this blog to feel free to come over there and comment. If I anything really good happens over there, I may post it here as well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Curiously, the left is always right

We're all independent voters trying to make an informed choice, blah, blah ,blah...

I'm always curious how the left side of the debate over Obama and his policies always seems to believe it is inherently correct because it disregards or dismisses evidence it disagrees with while the right side is constantly playing defense trying to convince people that Obama actually said what the left dismisses.

I'm always curious how the left side of the debate dismisses the fact that at least 44 percent of the people who plan to vote (53 million by my count based on the numbers for 2004) disagree with quite a bit of what left side says for principled and informed reasons, yet their disagreement is cast as being "Dangerously Misinformed: McCain Isn't the Only One Who Doesn't Understand".

Now, to defeat my own argument to an extent, I agree that Obama's tax plan sounds great on paper, at least for people who don't make a lot of money. Unfortunately for Obama, he's not the Congress, which actually passes taxation legislation that the president merely vetoes or signs and enforces. It turns out that Bush was not Congress in 2001--a Democrat Congress--and 2002--a Republican Congress--when the tax cuts were put into effect.

There's the rub with Obama's tax policy: it has to get through a Democrat leadership who will likely have solid, veto-proof margins in Congress who want the Bush tax cuts to go away altogether. If Obama wants to get his $1.5 trillion in new spending through Pelosi and Reid, he's probably going to have to do it by raising taxes on every last one of us.

Hence the reason that voting for a president based on domestic policy issues, inherently the domain of Congress, is dangerously misinformed. If we would stick to voting for presidents on issues they are constitutionally tasked to perform, like international relations, national security, and domestic enforcement, we would not have this dangerous misinformation floating around, nor would we be surprised by the fact that most presidents prove they deluded their voters after about a hundred days.

Dangerously Misinformed: McCain Isn't the Only One Who Doesn't Understand

A recent post here at AHOC declares that Barack Obama is a "danger" to and will be "harmful" to our country. The reason? Taxes!

Taxes are always a sore issue with Americans. Hey, we started a revolution because of taxes. Our whole country is based on an aversion to taxation. Reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements about the role of government and taxation in the running of our country and its economy. However, the assertion that Barack Obama's tax plan somehow constitutes a danger to this country is an overly dramatic scare tactic and the post in which this claim is made overstates the reasons for and misstates the facts regarding the assertion.

First, the author attacks Obama's common sense: "As usual, the flowery rhetoric of Obama is completely lacking in any economic common sense." Leaving aside the clearly personal distain with which the author treats Obama's rhetoric, he attacks as "lacking in any economic sense" a tax plan that Obama claims is essentially the same tax structure that existed in the 1990s -- a decade that saw us return a budget surplus and a decade in which we saw economic expansion far exceeding that which has occurred under the current "trickle down", "no oversight" government management. So you ask yourself which makes more common sense: spending more than you take in, or balancing the need for enough income to offset your spending?

The author then proceeds to "put aside the fact that the tax increases proposed by Obama essentially constitute a substantial hike in the taxes on small businesses, since this has been very well covered." I would put this aside too if my best source for this inaccurate statement is the Grover Norquist article to which the post links. Norquist's article sources virtually nothing. I must confess, I was unable to even locate the IRS document to which he refers in making his point. However, real common sense should do the trick.

If you didn't bother to read the article, Norquist posits that "Obama’s plan to raise taxes on households making more than $250,000 will raise taxes on most small-business profits in America." The data I did find at does tend to support this statement. Norquist also rightly points out the tax rate increase Obama proposes would raise the top rate for those making over $250,000 from 35% to 39.6%. He further indicates that sole proprietorships and general partners (a two-person partnership) would face an increase from 37.9% (higher than other S corporations because of the need to pay Medicare in addition to income tax) to 50.3%. He doesn't provide any links or justification for this number, and it is not discussed in Obama's fact sheet for his tax plan (and if Norquist is right, who could blame him?)

Where Norquist jumps the tracks, however, is to equate Obama's plan with the plan some other Democrats have put forth (he claims) to extend the 50% rate to all S corporations. Norquist then goes on to paint a bleak picture of what life would be like in THAT instance. But of course, that ISN'T the tax plan Obama is advocating, so for either Norquist or AHOC's poster to act as though Obama is advocating such a dire plan is erroneous. For what it's worth, I tried to find out what percentage of S corporations sole proprietorships and partnerships comprise with no luck. Even without that information, it is difficult to envision a meltdown of the economy due to stifled small business when it is the small businesses that actually employ people that most impact the economy in general (at least among the small business subset we're discussing).

The author of the post in question then goes on to play on our misguided love of all things simple. He's a simple man, you see, so he's going to simplify the situation for us. And he does so quite effectively:

"I can't think of a single middle-class or low-income American who employs a a single worker. It is irrefutable that the responsibility of employing America's workers and creating new jobs is solely the station of those who control the companies, corporations and businesses that make up the U.S. economy. Raising taxes on high-income Americans can only have one effect, and that is to hurt job growth in an economy already struggling with rising unemployment."

The problem here is that we've simplified the facts right out of that statement. The author is now mixing up the discussion of corporate taxes with individual taxes. Individual income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year -- people who run these companies, corporations, and businesses, is not going to hurt job growth in the least. These people don't pay their employees out of their own pockets. We're talking about taxing these people's income, their pay.

Even when we get back to talking about small businesses whose owners pass through their business income to their personal income tax (a benefit that allows them to skirt additional income taxes for their employees that bigger C corporations have to pay), we're still talking about taxing the business owner's income after the employees have been paid. For most of these people, then, we're talking about the difference between taking home $65 per $100 of profit and taking home $60.30 per $100 of profit. I don't know anybody who would decide not to start or continue a business over a mere $4.70. Oh, and it isn't even that bad. The 39.7% tax rate only applies to profit over $250,000. The rates up to that point are less, and only the penultimate tier is also being raised (to 36% from 33%). The other brackets leading up to those that are being raised, are staying the same.

The author then proposes to attack the myth of corporate taxes, arguing that those additional costs to the business will be passed on to us. That argument makes a modicum of sense, to be sure. But it doesn't address the converse assumption that somehow a lesser tax rate is passed on to us. Do we really believe that if taxes were lowered, prices would somehow be lowered? Will there really be more wages? More benefits? More jobs? Or will it continue to be a matter of the rich getting richer? Hey, I don't have a problem with someone --even a rich someone -- making a buck, but let's not pretend that if we somehow lower taxes that the wealth will really trickle down. It never has, and it never will and for the very same reason you don't want to pay taxes in the first place -- you want to keep what you consider to be yours.

The author further contends (without attribution) that "Obama is advocating a tax plan that will raise the capital gains tax rate to as high as 28%." According to the fact sheet on Obama's web site,

"Families with incomes below $250,000 will continue to pay the capital gains rates that they pay today. For those in the top two income tax brackets – likewise adjusted to affect only families over $250,000 – Obama will create a new top capital gains rate of 20 percent. Obama’s 20% rate is equal is the lowest rate that existed in the 1990s and the rate that President Bush proposed in 2001. It is almost a third lower than the rate that President Reagan signed into law in 1986."

In short, the author's contention that Obama's tax plan is somehow dangerous to America is overstated at best, and flat out wrong at worst. Like Obama, don't like Obama. Vote for Obama, don't vote for Obama. I don't care. But you needn't fear that Obama's tax plan is somehow going to make your life any worse than it's been for the last eight years. I dare say, there is reason to think it just might get better.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Danger of Obama: Taxes

As promised, I'd like to go into more detail about why I believe the election of Barack Hussein Obama (yeah, I said it) would be dangerous and harmful to our country.

Obama (despite his oft-repeated assertion that he is something new and different) has put forth the same old tax plan that those on the left in this country have been pushing for years. In a typical play on the class envy of the average American, Obama claims that he will be taxing only the "rich", and that Joe Schmoe will not see a a tax increase, but instead will enjoy a tax cut.

As usual, the flowery rhetoric of Obama is completely lacking in any economic common sense. I will put aside the fact that the tax increases proposed by Obama essentially constitute a substantial hike in the taxes on small businesses, since this has been very well covered. But since I am something of a simple man, I will present the matter simply. I can't think of a single middle-class or low-income American who employs a a single worker. It is irrefutable that the responsibility of employing America's workers and creating new jobs is solely the station of those who control the companies, corporations and businesses that make up the U.S. economy. Raising taxes on high-income Americans can only have one effect, and that is to hurt job growth in an economy already struggling with rising unemployment.

[As an aside and speaking of jobs, the most recent Obama propaganda I've seen on TV features a downtrodden auto worker talking about how his friends are losing their jobs, and he's concerned about the future for his grandchildren. The ad goes further to assert that John McCain simply "doesn't get it" and that McCain's friends are getting rich while the speaker's friends are losing their jobs. This is blatant class warfare, untrue, and absolute rubbish. I wish I could speak briefly with the person in the commercial (though I'm sure he's a paid actor), because I would tell him in no uncertain terms that it is his fault alone, and that of their friends, that they aspired no higher than the manufacturing jobs that they are now losing. Manufacturing is a dying industry in America, and has been for decades. If you really, truly want the same crappy jobs for your kids and grandkids that you and your father were able to get as high school dropouts or worse, I would tend to question your benevolence towards your progeny.]

But I digress. What sense does it make to increase the taxes on corporations, investments and the wealthy, in an economy that is already ailing? One mantra of the Obama campaign is that they're going to aid job growth in this country by "ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas." That's sounds great, but then why would you increase taxes for companies who do business here? Somehow, I just can't see how a tax policy even more punitive than our current one is going to spur economic growth.

Allow me to address one other myth: Corporate Taxes. I've got news for all the mindless drones on the left: Corporations don't pay taxes. I know, I know, just when you thought they couldn't get any more evil, now I'm going to tell you they don't even pay taxes?! But it's true, and I'll explain it to you. Unlike private individuals, companies in business to make money don't have discretionary income. They only have two categories of money, which are costs and profits. Taxes are costs, and like any other costs, must be rolled into the price of their products. If taxes on corporations are raised, they must roll that increased cost into the price of their products. This raises the cost of living for everyone else, but has little direct effect on the company, particularly if what they are producing is a staple (read: oil companies). If the price increase required by the tax increase would cause the company to not be competitive in their market, their only other choice is to try and cut other costs, like employee salaries, entire positions, or decrease the quality of their product. Any way you slice it, the average American is still getting hosed by corporate taxes.

Every day for the last several weeks on the news, the lead story has been what the stock market is doing. Record falls in the market indices were used to push for an economic bailout plan that the public didn't want, and if you listened to most of the major news services, you'd have though that the sky was not only falling, but that it was covered in sharp objects laced with anthrax. But in the midst of all this, Obama is advocating a tax plan that will raise the capital gains tax rate to as high as 28%. Investors are already wary of buying anything, fearful of a further market downturn and uncertain what is going to happen, with large domestic companies failing, and an ambiguous bailout plan having just been pushed through Congress. Now Obama's going to tell them that even if they do invest, and are somehow able to make money, the government is going to take nearly a third of their profit. What possible positive effect is that going to have on the stock markets? Further removing any incentive to invest in America's economy, at a time that it is already weakened, is a certain recipe for disaster.

So there you have it. Obama's tax plan is far more than ill-advised, it is dangerous and harmful to our country. It cannot and will not result in any economic growth, but will instead gravely harm the very people it is purported to aid. A vote for Obama this November is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a vote against our country.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Wavering Enthusiasm vs. Diehard Resolve

[Cross-posted from The Free Radical]

Like many conservatives in this election cycle, I have found myself riding alternating waves of excitement and disappointment over the prospects of the Republican nominee for President, John McCain. He is an admitted centrist, a moderate Republican whose bragging about reaching across the aisle may endear him to voters on the fence, but simultaneously raises the eyebrow (and sometimes plants forehead in palm) of true conservatives. On the one hand, his military service and leadership experience is remarkable, and certainly unrivaled in the current election, but on the other he has advocated and espoused policies on immigration and the environment that are sharply at odds with my own.

Allow me to whine for a moment. It almost seems unfair! Election after election (since I started paying attention to politics at age 7), conservatives are seemingly forced to settle for a candidate that is seemingly reluctant to carry the conservative mantle. Meanwhile, liberals are so fortunate as to have their pick of rock-solid leftists, and are usually also given a heaping helping of charisma as well (the obvious exception being FrankenKerry).

The young idealist in me is inclined to agree and side with those conservative friends of mine who have thrown in the towel in this election, or worse, decided to vote for Obama out of some sort of reverse-psychology protest. And I acknowledge that the last time we had a president as inept as I believe Obama will be, he was followed by one Ronald Reagan, so that ended up pretty well for the country, right?

But when I consider these courses of action, I keep running back up on one giant problem with their reasoning. I love my country. And I don't mean that in the pop-culture, politically expedient manner that most celebrities and politicians say that they love it. I mean I love my country. I go to work every day in her service. I love our history, what we've overcome, what we've stood for, and what we offer to the common man. I love our national compassion, our work ethic, our innovation, and our attitude.

Because I love my country the way that I do, I want nothing but the best for it. I cannot stomach the thought of handing her over to someone who does not have her best interests in mind, or else has ideas that I believe would be harmful to her. And I believe wholeheartedly that Barack Obama fits that description in nearly every aspect.

His stated plans for taxes, health care, defense spending, social security reform and others seem to be looking out not for the best interests of us as a nation, or of the citizens as individuals, but instead for the perpetuation of government. His proposals stand to weaken our security, take more money from the people, hurt our economy, and lay the foundations of a truly socialist state. My posts over the next few weeks until the election will go into these aspects in greater detail.

And so, despite my enthusiasm over the McCain campaign wavering from time to time, my resolve to do what is best for my country remains. Sometimes, doing what is best does not include doing what is perfect, or what you would prefer in an ideal world, but doing what is least bad, in some ways. I retain hope that in a future election cycle, a candidate will arise that will represent what I and millions of other conservatives believe more closely. But in the mean time, we are only given the choices we currently have, and must choose what is best for our country from those choices.

At the end of the day, it seems no matter how much frustration and disagreement I have with John McCain over domestic issues, the alternative presented by the DNC is exponentially worse. And while it may not assuage the idealism of the conservative base to vote for yet another moderate Republican candidate, it is still what is best for the country. I cannot, and will not, vote for someone who I know will harm my country in myriad ways. I ask my fellow conservatives to put aside their idealism for another day, and do what is right and pragmatic, and join me in voting for John McCain this November.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Center Holds?

Interesting speculation about what might be termed a “shadow third-party” in the US. I’m not sure how likely (or even accurate) any of this is, but it seems like food for thought.

At least a snack, anyway.

Hope everyone enjoys the debate tonight!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Myth of Corporate Greed

I heard it again today. With the so-called "financial crisis" making hot and heavy headlines, the phrase has been running rampant: corporate greed. "We must fight corporate greed." "We must not reward corporate greed." The problem with these understandably emotional verbal skewers of corporate greed is that corporate greed is a myth. It doesn't exist.

Surely that is a ludicrous statement to make, that corporate greed doesn't exist. Corporations are well known for shipping jobs off shore, fixing books, lobbying for corporate-friendly legislation, and now, taking tax-payer dollars to bail them out of financial crisis. Only an idiot would say that corporate greed does not exist, right? Maybe. I mean, I could be an idiot, but that assessment is a separate issue from the myth of corporate greed.

Here's the thing: a corporation is just a legal classification and grouping of assets and people. A corporation is inanimate. It cannot be greedy. You want a villain? Here they are: people. People are greedy. Is this a distinction without a difference? I don't think so.

When we make a monolith of something we bascially create a black box around the facts. The black box effect is one that I observed in my time as a technical writer. Software developers would refer to any system or part thereof that we had to interact with, but didn't need to understand, as a black box. In other words, we didn't need to understand the inner workings of the thing, we just need to know what input or output was necessary from our system to interact with the black box. Our whiteboards were full of drawings of black boxes.

When we make a black box of corporations we fail to understand that people and, in many cases, individuals make the decisions for a corporation. A person or group of people can be greedy and often times are. These are the people who may well deserve our wrath and certainly deserve our scrutiny. These are the people that we must seek to remove to ensure that our corporations are healthy and can serve their higher purpose.

When we allow ourselves to believe that corporations are bad, we miss out on all that they do and can do for us. When ethical people run corporations, or a business of any size, they provide jobs for us and our neighbors. They pump not only money, but products and services into our economy. They solve problems. A business under ethical leadership that pursues its goal of profit with a broad definition of that term -- one that encompasses not only CEO and stockholder profits, but also profit to the employees and community in which it is situated -- is a boon to all it comes in contact with. It is, in a very real way, the key to the American dream.

The things that plague us in our time and every time -- evil, greed, hate -- are individual sins, if you will. To attack the vehicle by which individuals or groups of individuals commit their acts of evil is to miss the target. Corporations, competition, the search for profit, these are not inherently bad things. In fact, they can be quite beneficial when they are run or pursued with ethical energy.

You want to attack greed? Attack greed in individuals -- including yourself. That is where the problem lies. When individuals pursue more than what they need or just more than what they can reasonably use, bad things are sure to result for those left in the wake.

I don't know if that is compelling to you. It may still seem to be a pedantic difference. It matters to me because for a long time I believed business was bad. I didn't want to have any part of it. But this irrational view kept me from being able to improve both my economic condition and my life in a broader sense as well. Taking an active role in an ethical business is one of the most rewarding experiences, not only on a financial level, but from the sense of accomplishment that comes from solving a problem or actually creating something.

I know too many good young people who want nothing to do with business because they view it as a greedy blight on the world. The problem is, that attitude robs business of truly talented and ethical people who could actually make a difference by contributing to a well-run business, thereby making not only their own lives, but the lives of others better. That's a difference worth making and that's the difference that results from making the distinction between corporations and the greedy people who sometimes run them.