Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Tax Myth

I am sure you have or will see this chain letter at some point in your life. Its a dumbed down version of how the US tax system supposedly works. Here is the way most people saw it:

Understanding the Tax System:
This is a VERY simple way to understand the tax laws.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this.

The first four men -- the poorest -- would pay nothing;
The fifth would pay $1:
the sixth would pay $3;
the seventh $7;
the eighth $12;
The ninth $18. >
The tenth man -- the richest -- would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement -- until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20. "So dinner for the ten only cost $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six -- the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fairshare?" The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being *paid* to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing,
the sixth pitched in $2,
the seventh paid $5,
the eighth paid $9,
the ninth paid $12,
leaving the tenth Man with a of $52 instead of his earlier $59.

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!" "That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They're $52 short! And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Here are the problems with this low brow nonsense:

1.The top tax rate is now only 35%, not 59%

2. The guy who paid 59 % of the meal was eating lobster and drinking Chimay, the 4 guys who ate for free had PBR's and a burrito, I'm not saying that isn’t still a good deal but we all know that looking at what everyone paid, the free guys weren’t eating the same stuff as the guy paying $59.

3. The poor guys in this story still pay taxes; They pay sales taxes, gas taxes, cigarette taxes, liquor, real estate(if they own it), phone tax, utility taxes, etc.

4. During WW11 and through the Korean War and into the 60s, the top tax rate was over 90% and the economy didn't collapse (just the opposite), rich people didn't quit the work force and retire or move to Mexico. To say we can't tax rich people because they will stop working or leave the country is ridiculous. Of course, one of the reasons why personal income taxes are so high is because corporations, the ones the 10th guy works for, incorporates their businesses in the UAE and the Cayman Islands. These situations came about when we started taxing corporations less, not more and of course when Reagan made it easier to companies to exploit tax loop holes.

5. The guy who paid 59% also probably paid the owner off under the table, or "invested" in the restaurant (perhaps similar to donating to an election campaign) and therefore expected something in return when he ate at the restaurant which was one of the reasons he got the 20% discount in the first place. Sure other people benefited as well, but who benefited the most?

6. The restaurant who gave that discount probably had a good year and or had a decrease in price of expenses and therefore made a wise decision to reward faithful customers when they could afford to. Due to war and military contractors, no costs have gone down for the US. In fact we have one of the largest deficits in history. Last time we were spending money on a war that lasted for over 3 years that’s when the top 1% paid a 91% tax rate. We actually won those wars.

7. The aforementioned Deficit weakens the value of the US dollar thus making imports from Mexico and other countries more expensive. That expensive produce, the electronics, auto parts etc. don’t affect the bottom line of rich people who buy them (besides maybe French and Italian wines and Bently's) but add up to a family that is scraping by.

8. Tax cuts, or at least Republican tax cuts, don't work like they do in this story. There isn't a number out there which is then divided between us all. First of all, the story should have started with the owner saying I am going to give you a percentage discount, not a dollar amount discount. In that case, if he was using Bush's tax model the middle guys would get a 4% decline (as opposed to a 100% decline) in their price while the richest guy would get a 19% decline in his price instead of the 12% described in the story. That's how taxes really work, it's not an equal decline in everyone's taxes like the story would suggest. The ones who make and paid the most not only save the most money because its a larger number but they also get a bigger percentage discount than the person trying to figure out how to pay for their kids college. That is what isn't fair about the Bush tax cuts, not only is it not an equal dollar amount (which is fine) but it's not even an equal percentage decrease.

9. That being said, the Bush tax cuts don't really work like that either. The story would be more accurate by saying the guy who pays more gets more in tax cut savings but not only that, the owner would have also given the top payer (or anyone who drives a luxury car for instance) free valet parking and desert while the other 9 guys still had to pay for parking and then walk to the rest of the way to the restaurant and only received a mint at the end. Oh, and in order to give the rich guy free valet service, the owner had to take the forks and eating utensils from away from the 4 poorest guys and served their dinners on dirty plates and wouldn't give them a doggy bag for leftovers for their children.

10. Besides, if the 10th guy left, the bill wouldn't be the same for 9 guys eating burritos as it would for 10 guys. In fact, without his lobster, Valet parking, expectations, etc., the bill would be much lower.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Top Ten Signs You Are A Fundamentalist Christian

I didn't write this but found it rather amusing:

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Reagan Myth

If you, as I have over the past few months, watched any of the Republican debates or heard any of those candidates speeches, you are probably under the impression that former President Ronald Reagan must have been a 9 foot tall, floating Messiah with a 13" man pump who shit lumps of gold and single handedly took down the Soviet Union, eliminated taxes, forced our enemies into submission and led the US to it's economic pinnacle never to be matched again (until Clinton came into office). That is if you didn't actually live in the eighties and or you have a brain. All I keep hearing Romney and McCain talk about, and the only thing that puts more wood in the pants of the Republican base than water boarding people who don't pray in school, is how they are going to lead us back to the glory years of Reagan. WWRD (What Would Reagan DO), many of them say when they talk about Iraq, keeping the Bush tax cuts in place and national security. As many people have pointed out, Reagan wasn't really all that Reaganesque and where they are getting this load of monkey feces is beyond me.

Here are the issues and here was Reagan's stance:

Taxes: In 1982, the Reagan Whitehouse rescinded most of the Kemper Roth tax cuts of 1981 making it the largest peace time tax increase in America's history. That tax increase, TEFRA, raised taxes 37.5 billion dollars per year and included increases on Cigarette taxes, Federal Unemplyment Taxes on businesses and tripled telephone service taxes. In 1982 he also raised the gasoline tax. In 1983, Social Security taxes (an entitlement) were raised and there were more tax increases in 1984, 85, 86 and 1987.

On War and withdrawal of troops: In 1984,bowing to the demands of the Shi'a Muslim group Amal, Reagan withdrew the troops who had been stationed in Lebanon for over a year, approximately 4 months after the Marine barracks in Lebanon were bombed. That was the highest single day death toll for the American Military since the 1st day of the Tet Offensive in 1968.

On Illegal Immigration: In 1986, The Reagan Administration granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants.

On National Security and negotiating with the enemy/terrorists: In 1987, it was discovered that Reagan was selling and trading arms to Iran, a country who just 8 years prior, took 66 Americans hostage and held them for 2 years. This was also just 4 years after the Marine barrack bombing in Lebanon which Iran was suspected to be involved with.
Let's also not forget his funding of the mujahedeen/Taliban in Afghanistan and support of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and funding of the genocidal rebels in Nicaragua.

On The Federal Government overextending its powers: In 1981, Reagan fired over 11,000 air traffic controllers who were striking for safer and better working conditions.

During the 80s arrests for all crimes went up 28% but, arrests for drug offenses rose 126%. From 1980 to 1990 the number of people in American prisons doubled. That doesn't sound like the work of a smaller, less powerful, less intrusive government.

On small government: By the end of Reagans last term military spending was 43% HIGHER than it was at the height of the Vietnam War...That doesn't make for a smaller government that makes for a bigger, stronger central government.

On fiscal responsibility and the economy:
A. The national debt under Reagan tripled.
B. Deregulation of Savings and Loans led to the largest and costliest venture in public misfeasance and larceny of all time.
C. The S&L bailout was subsidized by the Federal Government to the tune of 124.6 Billion dollars and may have encouraged lenders to make high risk, sub-prime loans which affect the housing crisis of today thus exposing the dangers of unregulated capitalism.

On "Trickle Down" wealth: Under Reagan, the number of families living under the poverty line increased by 1/3

On Compassionate Conservatism: The AIDS epidimic started in 1981. Six years later, Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS in public for the first time while talking about how the government should not provide sex education information by saying: "How that information is used must be up to schools and parents, not government. But let's be honest with ourselves, AIDS information can not be what some call 'value neutral.' After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don't medicine and morality teach the same lessons." By 1989 there had been over 70,000 AIDS deaths. He was once quoted as saying: "Maybe the Lord brought down this plague," because "illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments."

Other Reagan quotes:
"Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders."
"...a faceless mass, waiting for handouts", when referring to Medicaid recipients.

From what I can tell, if Reagan were running for office today, he would be vilified even more than McCain. At least McCain wouldn't cut and run like Reagan did in Lebanon.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Conservatives Don't Like the Flavor of Their Own Medicine

From AOL: Liberal City Takes on Marines

As I am sure everyone has heard, the City of Berkeley California has allowed the organization Code Pink, to commandeer a parking spot once per week in front of a Marines Recruiting center in efforts to protest the Iraq war and keep locals from risking their life in the Marine Corps. The city counsel also sought legal advice on how to oust the recruiting center calling them "uninvited, unwelcome intruders".

This of course has sparked outrage among conservatives and conservative bloggers saying this action prohibits the Marines right of free speech. Of course the Berkeley protesters accuse Marine recruiters of lying to prospects and saying anything to get them to sign on the line which is dotted. Code Pink states they are merely exercising their 1st amendment rights and trying to save the lives of local men and women. Michelle Malkin, Stop The ACLU and every other insignificant blogger with a "support the troops" or bald eagle banner on their site have all started petitions to get the City to allow the Marine's their 1st amendment right to conduct business where they please.

What I am wondering, now that everyone is convinced that the Marine's 1st amendment rights have been violated and a community has no say in which types of organizations can conduct business in that community, is when they will realize what one liberal city is trying to do to a conservative cause, conservatives have been doing to everyone else for years. Is Michelle Malkin now going to sign a petition to get all the protesters spitting on women trying to get a pap smear at Planned Parenthoods to stop protesting and give up their 1st amendment rights? (not that spitting is a first amendment right) Is Michelle Malkin also going to contact the local governments of every dry county in the United States to force them to allow the sell of alcoholic beverages in their communities and allow liquor stores and other establishments to sell liquor or do communities have a right to establish their own standards? Are they also going to fight for the rights of strip clubs to open near elementary schools in any affluent suburban community they wish and operate on Sunday mornings until 8am because hey, anyone can run any type of business anywhere they please, right? Are they also going to petition to allow sex shops, adult bookstores, and porn retailers to do business in places like Mississippi and South Carolina and exercise their 1st amendment rights? Are they also going to petition the protesters of these establishments to not exercise their 1st amendment rights in protesting and create hate filled blogs calling them traitors?

The God-bobs outside of Planned Parenthood (when they aren't bombing them) say they are there to save lives which is exactly what Code Pink and the city of Berkeley would say when they protest a Marines recruiting station. It's not like the city or the protesters wouldn't allow a Marine to set foot in their town, they are just protesting the recruitment and recruitment methods which sends so many bay area residents to their death in a useless, endless war and it's also a way for them to tell the military what they think about it's involvement in Iraq. Sure, their time would be better spent protesting the people who lied and made the decision to send those Marine's to Iraq but after all, why have the Marine's at all if there's no freedom of speech and expression for which to fight?

In otherwords, if you think that a business like a Marines recruitment center has the right to do business where ever they please, no matter the consequences, then you have to also be behind every strip club, porn shop and liquor store who decides to do business in conservative, religious communities. If you say that local communities are free to set their own standards of the type of businesses which will operate in their town then shut the fuck up about Berkeley.

Your morals tell you that granny can't make up her own mind about whether or not to buy a dildo or have a have a glass of wine and their morals tell them that we shouldn't be sending 18 year old kids to their deaths in Iraq. There's no difference!

More Sins Committed by Christians Who Think Homosexuality is Wrong

In the book of Leviticus in the old testament of the Bible, Christians have found a passage they believe proves that God forbids homosexuality. I have talked about this before and the same book which condemns homosexuality condones slavery, selling your children, sequestering women on their period, but forbids working on Saturday, men shaving their beards, eating pork, etc. but I have recently found a passage that also makes it a sin to eat shrimp and other shell fish:

Leviticus 11:
10: And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.11: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.

Deuteronomy 14:
9: These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat. 10: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.

Later in Deuteronomy it also says that eating eagles are a sin. That's because God knew that the eagle is the symbol of America and God loves America and capitalism but hates all the other countries. That's why we were allowed to kill all the Indians and take their land, it was like the whole "chosen people" and the land of grapes and honey was happening all over again except this time, for Protestants instead of Jews. We were the new chosen people, God made a mistake the first time. Good thing the all perfect being has learned his lesson.

I am sure there will be people protesting Heath Ledgers death and saying that it was God's wrath for making out with Jake Gyllenhaal but wouldn't their time be better spent protesting a Red Lobster? There are far more sinners out there who eat shellfish than there are people who bone other dudes. The law of God must not be violated.