Ron Paul on being old and running for President:
Paul,75, rejected the idea that he’s too old to be president. “It’s the ideas that count,” he says. “I endorse young ideas.”
I wrote a post about this that was kind of interesting, but after re-reading it, it doesn’t apply nearly as well to this quote as I had originally intended. The point is, basically, that I don’t think a President’s ideas are his/her most important or relevant quality, given the actual legal powers of the President.
Obviously it’s not good if they have lots of bad ideas, but even that doesn’t necessarily matter if the other branches of the government do their jobs.
I didn’t grow up in a traditionally religious household, but I did grow up in what I always felt was a fairly spiritual one, in so much as that “balance” and “harmony” were pretty core concepts. It wasn’t explicitly stated or anything (no crystals, no auras, nothing like that), but when I look back on it, it seems obvious. My parents loved a different thing about each season, each part of the day, and each part of their lives. They didn’t complain about being old, and they ignore what I thought because I was young. My dad read books about taoism and eastern religions, and my mom preached moderation so strongly, that once, after tirelessly nagging me to read a book for about two weeks one summer, actually made me stop and go outside when I got hooked on this as a little kid. It was all about moderation.
Uh oh — it happened again. This time it’s 15th century Italy. “AAAAAYYEE, HOW MUCHA DO YOU EXPECTA ME TO PAY FORRA HORSE-A?”
I should never work for the State Department.
The auto industry. This has been the Obama administration’s clearest example of success. General Motors (GM, Fortune 500), Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) and Chrysler Group all are back on their feet and regaining some of the market share they lost.
All three made money in the first quarter, the first time all were in the black at the same time since 2004. And employment at auto plants and dealerships is up 100,000 since hitting a low point during the government-funded bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler in 2009.
So, basically the exact opposite of what I predicted. Oops. I didn’t think I was being especially ideological when I decided bailing out GM (and especially Chrysler) was a bad idea, and maybe I wasn’t — maybe, like a lot of people, I just don’t know what I’m talking about. I dunno, what’s the better excuse, that I was blinded by my almost religious belief in moral hazard, or that I’m just ig’nant?
Then again, it’s not like we ended up just cutting them a check and walking away; management got swept out, labor relationships were changed, etc., etc., and so forth — can I turn this into me somehow being right yet? No? How about now?
Well, the economy still blows. That means the door is wide open for some fresh ideas from potential Presidential candidates. Tim Pawlenty — WHADAYA GOT?
“Pawlenty’s plan for economic recovery stands largely on modifying the tax code. He proposes a three-tiered individual income tax. Those who currently pay no income tax would continue to pay nothing. After that, he suggests the first $50,000 of income – or $100,000 for married couples – would be taxed at 10 percent. Everything above that would be taxed at 25 percent. Pawlenty says he would also eliminate the capital gains tax, interest income tax, dividends tax and the estate tax.”
I’m not an economist, or even an accountant, but that sounds really, really expensive.
“Calling regulations a “hidden tax,” Pawlenty suggests requiring the sunsetting of all federal regulations, unless specifically sustained by a vote of Congress. He also calls for capping and block-granting Medicaid to the states, raising the Social Security retirement age for the next generation, and passing a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.”
Hmm, massive income tax cuts for everyone that disproportionately benefit the upper middle class, elimination of the capital gains tax which disproportionately benefits the UPPER upper class, but no reduction in payroll taxes, which disproportionately affects the vast, vast majority of people. So we’re going to go way, way deeper into debt, in order to massively cut taxes on people who have more money than they know what to do with — but we’re going to freeze Medicaid, which is used by poor people to pay for medical treatment. This sounds like a plan Jesus could really get behind.
Hmmm… but the cost. Oh well, I’m sure there’s a plan to pay for this. Here’s that communist rag, the Wall Street Journal:
In order to offset any lost tax revenue — and to tackle the deficit — Mr. Pawlenty calls for something called “The Google Test” to determine whether the government should be involved in a program.
“If you can find a good or service on the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn’t need to be doing it,” Mr. Pawlenty says. “The post office, the government printing office, Amtrak, Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac], were all built in a time in our country when the private sector did not adequately provide those products. That’s no longer the case.”
He calls on Congress to freeze spending at current levels and impound 5% of spending until the budget is balanced. “If they won’t do it … I will,” he plans to say.
Holy %#@&, that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life. Let’s privatize anything that exists on the internet! National security? Blackwater. Libraries? Barnes and Noble. Police? Mall cops. Elections? American Idol. Plus, contracting government needs through private vendors is, by definition, more efficient — can you imagine fraud or price inflation ever occurring in federal procurement? Egads, that’d be unpatriotic. Seriously, though — you’re going to get rid of stuff like freaking Amtrak and the Post Office and somehow that’s going to offset getting rid of the capital gains tax, the estate tax, plus a huge rate cut for the people who currently pay the 70% of income taxes? Are you high?
There’s no way Pawlenty is this dumb, which means I honestly wonder what his actual plan is. He’s gotta have one, right? I mean, it doesn’t have to necessarily work, but it’s gotta exist. I know Obama’s plan (at least I think I know it); he’s basically going to try to ring some savings out of centralizing the health insurance industry (good luck with that), and then, eventually, raise tax rates back up to where they were in the 1990s. I have no idea if that will be beneficial to the economy, or if it’s even politically feasible, but I get the logic, and more importantly, I get the math.
But Pawlenty can’t seriously be thinking that with the biggest fiscal crunch we’ve faced in maybe half a century, that simply blowing out the floor on the tax system and privatizing a few costly, well known, but basically irrelevant government services is going to somehow balance the budget. “UH OH, WE ARE OUT OF MONEY AND WE HATE OUR JOBS. LET’S QUIT OUR JOBS!”
Man, this is a bummer and a half.
A U.S. Marine who died in a flurry of bullets during a drug raid near Tucson never fired on the SWAT team that stormed his house, a report by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department shows.
Officers fired more than 70 shots, the investigation showed. Deputies said they opened fire after Guerena, 26, gestured at them with an AR-15 — a semiautomatic rifle.
Some of the officers said they believed that Guerena fired on them, but the investigation showed that no shots were fired from the weapon and it was never taken off the safety position.
A search of the home after the shooting revealed nothing illegal, although officers found weapons and body armor.
So sad. Apparently, two of the marine’s relatives were murdered in a home invasion recently, so frankly, it’s hard to blame him for busting out his rifle; I’m surprised he had the safety on, to be honest.
I think the biggest problem here is society’s failure to reconcile two things we insist are absolute; our right to bear arms and defend ourselves, and our deference to law and order, in this case via the police. We want (and demand) our law enforcement to do whatever’s necessary to enforce things like drug trafficking laws and such, but we also tell people that they have a right to have a gun in their home. However, if the police raid your home (possibly by accident, it definitely happens), and you take that gun out, there’s a distinct possibility that you’re going to get shot 22 times, whether you have any idea it’s the police or not, and that it’s going to be lawful. To me, that kind of sounds like a lose-lose for everyone.
I guess that’s my real position on guns; not really against them, not really a staunch defender of them… I just think the combination of aggressive law enforcement and the modern day ability of regular people to resist said enforcement with military-grade force is bad, bad combination that too often ends, inevitably, with either this poor guy or a cop getting killed. Something in the social contract (either what we demand for ourselves or our expectations for effective law enforcement) has to give if that’s ever going to change.
Matt Yglesias sez:
“The genius of the real private economy is that firms that are really poorly run go out of business. It’s not that some magic private sector fairy dust makes the firms all be runs soundly. Lots of bad businesses are out there. But they tend to lose money and close. Meanwhile, well-run firms tend to earn profits and expand. The public sector doesn’t have this feature. Just because a public agency is inept is no guarantee that it will go out of business. Resources are allocating according to political clout rather than any criteria of merit. It’s a problem. But it’s not a problem that “privatizing” public services actually solves. There’s no magic private sector fairy dust.”
You’d think this would be obvious, but to a lot of people, it’s not. I don’t know whether this is because people think especially little of the government, or simply don’t have enough private business experience to realize how badly a lot of them are actually run (and how many of them fail).
(via Andrew Sullivan.)
These days, it feels like there’s a fine line between extremely American things that are depressing, and extremely American things that are totally awesome. Nonetheless, this is absolutely one of the latter.
Take it from me, rest of the world — you’d love us, if you just got to know us.
There are too many numbers for me to really go through this, so I can’t really make many empirical criticisms. But I live in exactly the kind of “high-tax, high cost of living” areas this article refers to (I mean, literally, one of the places they list), and this flies completely in the face of my everyday reality. My household makes well under half the threshold they’re discussing here, and we feel much, much better about our finances than we probably ever have before.
So where’s the disconnect? I can only think of a few things :
1. We don’t have any kids, which leads me to suspect this model assumes you are spending a crapload of money on two kids. Now, I’m not under the impression that kids are cheap, but I’m also well aware of the tendency for rich people to describe luxuries for their kids as absolute necessities. I mean, it’s a small line-item, but four thousand bucks for “after school activites/camp”? After school activity = pour yourself a bowl of cereal and watch cartoons. Done, and I just saved your four grand.
2. This implies that everyone has to own a home, and from these numbers, an expensive one. The people in this model are paying over forty thousand dollars a year, total, on their mortgage, mortgage insurance, and “maintenance”, which comes out to about $3473 a month. But for just $2,300 a month, you could live in this awesome three bedroom, two bathroom townhouse in one of the nicest parts of one of the richest counties on planet earth. “BUT WHERE WILL CASSIUS, OUR GOLDEN LABRADOODLE, BE ABLE TO CHASE WILD RABBITS????” No, you won’t get the crazy mortgage interest deduction (which probably shouldn’t exist in the first place), but you will save thirteen grand a year. Again, is this BETTER than owning your own McMansion? Not necessarily, but it certainly doesn’t push anyone’s lifestyle into an area where I feel like they desperately need tax relief.
3. These people pay $7600 a year in car loans for two cars. My brand new car costs me $3,120 a year, which means you could get two of them for less than what these people are paying. Or you could get a used car (or at least not two brand new ones), and probably pay significantly less than this. Or, once you pay off a car, you could maybe not go out and immediately buy a new one. You know, like the middle class people you aspire to be.
4. To the guy in this model paying $5,000 a year in parking — it’s called a park & ride, good Lord. Learn it and love it.
There are probably other quibbles in here, but it’s hard for me to quickly break down $13,000 a year in “staples” and know if that’s realistic. But even if all that stuff is fine, what’s the lesson here — the good life is expensive? The kind of security most Americans don’t have, and will never have, costs a lot of money? That’s not news to anybody living in a house that brings home anything closer to the $50k-ish median income, and you’re not going to generate a lot of sympathy from the salt of the earth because two brand new Toyota Camrys and a place to park them so you don’t have to take the dirty, dirty bus is expensive when you live in Huntington, NY.
Plus, for the twenty billionth time, if you increase the marginal tax rate for a house earning over $250k a year, you’re only increasing the taxes paid on every dollar over 250k. It’s still much better to make more money. Likewise, if you cut it, your tax bill barely changes unless you’re making more like 350-400k, in which case you’ve obviously got a lot more to work with.
Finally, the idea that living in Fairfax County or Greenwich, CT, or any other beautiful, high-tax, high-service suburban enclave within earshot of a huge city has some unbearable cost attached to it that makes every dollar worth a quarter is just the latest load of crap from rich people to try to justify their totally awesome lifestyles, which I don’t begrudge them at all, because I am totally trying to get in on it. Seriously, I don’t think I could possibly be a better example — I moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Fairfax County,VA in 2008. My rent immediately doubled, yeah, but I also started making WAY MORE MONEY, and living in a place with amazing services, good schools, low crime, amazing parks that have swimming pools instead of crackheads, freaking subways that actually go useful places, and other stuff funded by all those pesky taxes that make this a “high tax area”. My life is twenty gabillion times better here than it was in Ohio, and it’d take me years to make $250k. And yet, since I moved here, I’ve watched people tell me over and over again that not buying a home is “stupid” because I’m missing out on the mortgage interest deduction, while simultaneously complaining about how impossibly high their property taxes are, and how it’s unsustainable for them to maintain their standard of living. Well, which is it? Are you living beyond your means or not?
If the only point being made here is that making a quarter million dollars a year doesn’t necessarily give you the ability to spend recklessly, or to get whatever you want, then fine. But that’s not much of a point, since that’s true of pretty much anyone who didn’t negotiate syndication royalties for “Two and a Half Men”.
American dogs are the best dogs:
In August 2010, The Register, a British online tech publication, reported that “top-secret, super-elite U.S. Navy SEAL special forces are to deploy heavily armoured bulletproof dogs equipped with infrared nightsight cameras and an ‘intruder communication system’ able to penetrate concrete walls.”
Holy $#@&… can you imagine how scared you’d be if you were some third world terrorist, and an ARMORED DOG with night vision and an American flag on it burst into your house? “RUN!!! THE CAPITALIST ROBOT HOUNDS ARE HERE!!!”