Sunday, June 29, 2008

Of Guns and the 2nd Amendment; Coming Soon to a Chicago Neighborhood Near You

As you well know, the Supreme Court has recently struck down Washington D.C.'s hand gun ban. Mayor Daley of Chicago, who also has a handgun ban, flipped his shit knowing that this essentially means Chicago's hand gun ban is also unconstitutional.

Although I do personally own a gun, I am not saying that I agree with the decision. The Constitution never says a word about hand guns as hand guns weren't all that prevalent in 1791 when the 2nd Amendment was ratified. The Constitution also never mentions anything about guns, military weapons or military weapons which can fire 1200 armor piercing rounds per minute. Therefore, by Chicago and D.C. allowing their citizens to own registered shotguns, they are allowing their citizens to bear arms in my opinion as the right to free speech doesn't mean you can yell fire in a crowded theater and all of our other rights come with limits. What scares me is that apparently the Supreme Court has now determined that anything and everything which is designed to shoot and kill people is now protected under the second amendment. If you want an anti-aircraft battery in your back yard, no problem. If you want a 155mm howitzer in your front yard, the second amendment has got your back.

There is one thing I like about the decision and one thing that doesn't necessarily bother me. First, I like the fact that they acknowledge that the 2nd Amendment was written at a time where we had a very limited standing army and depended on citizens and militias to protect us against the British, French or those savage little Indians who, for no reason at all, wanted to kill us. The 2nd Amendment even starts off by saying why we were being given this freedom: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...". Scalia had the following things to say: "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited". "Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem," "That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."

Clearly the Supreme Court is not saying that the 2nd Amendment is untouchable by regulation and that reasonable laws should apply, they just don't agree with bans and on a local level, neither do I. I think my girlfriend was a bit appalled when I said that I don't mind the hand gun ban being lifted. Do I think a handgun ban where you are allowed to have shotguns is unconstitutional? No, but I don't think a ban in a city which is surrounded by gun loving Indiana and Wisconsin is going to help anything. If somehow you could eliminate 90% of all handguns, all military weapons, all fully automatic weapons in this country and keep them out of the hands of road ragers, gang bangers, 4 year olds, mental patients and High School kids I would support that ban. However, when there is a gun shop in Hammond, IN which borders Chicago, those guns are going to get into Chicago and it's not going to be the law abiding citizens who are bringing them in and using them. In fact, lifting the hand gun ban doesn't mean that now every gang banger in the city is now going to be able to find a gun when he wants one...he can already do that. And guess what, the gun isn't legal and even after the ban is lifted these people aren't going to be using legal guns. Why would a gang banger wait 10 days for a registered handgun which can be traced back to him after he shoots up a school bus or public park?? He wouldn't. Gang bangers are still going to be carrying and concealing illegal weapons, lifting the ban will not change this. Now, that being said, more guns will and always will equate to more gun deaths. With the handgun ban being lifted, there will be more guns in Chicago and D.C. and more opportunities for those to be used against the families which own them but if that is a risk they are willing to take, it's not my kids who live in that house with them. There will also be more opportunities for thieves to break into you home, knowing you have a gun, so they can steal it and use that gun for illegal activities which won't get traced back to them, it will be traced back to the person who legally purchased it.

So as for local hand gun bans such as what they have in Chicago and had in D.C., I am not too worried about a wave of sweeping hand gun violence when these bans are lifted; we have that now with the ban as these two cities already have some of the highest gun murder rates in the western world. I am a little concerned over the lack of definitions as to what kind of weapons the SCOTUS thinks the vaguely written 2nd amendment applies to. But I would also like to point out that lifting this ban doesn't make anyone safer, not even the people who now can own a hand gun for self defense as owning a gun increases you and your family members chance of being killed by a gun and that gun is far more likely to be used on you or a family member than an intruder.

And this may be a bit off the subject but I would also like to point out that the general public carrying guns isn't necessarily deter someone else from going on shooting rampages such as what happened at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, etc. What, do you think they are afraid of, being shot? Not likely, almost all school gunman types end up shooting themselves so they are obviously not afraid of being shot and killed so I don't see how carrying a gun is going to prevent someone from shooting up a school or fast food restaurant.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Terrorists Attacks Would Mean We Are Less Safe

Adviser sorry he said terror attack would help McCain

Ok, so he is sorry that he is an idiot but here's what I don't get: McCain has supported Iraq from day one. Iraq has diverted our military from Afghanistan allowing the most dangerous terrorist leader and organizer of all time to get away. By Bin Laden getting away, this means we are at a greater risk of getting attacked again. By us simply being in Iraq in the first place has been one of the biggest recruitment tools for these terrorist groups and terrorist activity has been at a world wide all time high since Bush has come into office. Bush incites terrorism, he doesn't defeat it.

What I am saying is that if we get hit hard again like we did on 9/11 under Republican protection yet again, doesn't that mean they are doing it wrong? Doesn't that mean they ignored too many security briefings titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US"? Wouldn't a new attack mean we are less safe with the Bush / McCain policies? I mean sure, they will somehow blame this new attack on Bill Clinton or tell us we didn't fork over enough of our civil liberties and that is why it happened but we know that's about as much bullshit as the price of gas being high only because we aren't drilling in ANWR, not because we elected an ex oil man from Texas with ties to the Saudi Royal Family as President.

A vote for McCain is a vote for 100 more years in Iraq and taking our eye off the Bin Laden ball and doing things which inspire people to join the side of the terrorists.

I also fail to see how a guy who lived in Indonesia, whose father was Kenyan and was on US Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Richard Lugar, has less foreign relations experience than what a governor of Texas would have? I guess he isn't running against Bush and is actually running against a guy who was born in Panama so maybe Obama doesn't have the edge there. But wait, isn't it a law that Presidents have been born in the United States?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Problems With the "Fair" Tax

Anyone who is familiar with Mike Huckabee's 2008 campaign can probably remember his call for the elimination of the IRS in favor of a simpler, fair tax. It is the same plan championed in Neal Boortz's, The Fair Tax Book and I can assure you that anything designed by rich people and incorporates the term "fair", is going to be about as far from fair as the camera's on the New England Patriots sideline. Such as with the Estate Tax, the Fair Tax is a cause rich people have somehow convinced poor people to fight for on behalf of rich people. The Fair Tax claims it will initiate a 23% flat tax on consumption, eliminate the IRS and all federal income taxes, social security, gift, Medicare, capital gains, estate, payroll and corporate taxes; the last three I mentioned generate around two and a half trillion dollars every year. The Fair Tax claims it will only tax consumption (items sold) and not production and will generate as much revenue as is currently generated under the current tax system, lower prices and simplify the tax system whilst collecting taxes on illegal immigrants and illegal activity....but not really.

First off, it's not nor would it be 23%; that's a simple sales trick like making you think 9.99 is 9 dollars as opposed to 10 dollars or when gas is 4.40 9/10 your brain thinks you are paying $4.40 when you are really paying $4.41. The real tax exclusive rate is 30%. They tell you its 23% because the $30 is 23% $130 when really you are paying $30 extra in taxes on a $100 item. What they are doing is making the retailer add the $30 on top of their usually $100 item, which by the way is 30%. If the Fair Tax was 23% the $100 item would cost you $123 but any Fair Tax advocate will tell you that a $100 item will cost you $130. They call it 23% tax inclusive but normal people call it 30% tax exclusive. Even on the Fair Tax website they describe the sales receipt retailers must provide consumers and it shows the original price without the tax, the 30% fair tax and then the tax inclusive rate. This to me almost sounds like they are admitting that items aren't really being sold at a tax inclusive rate and I don't think there are any provisions stating that a retailer couldn't break all of that down on their price tags. That's problem number one with their fuzzy math. Another problem with the concept and fuzzy math itself is that George Bush's bi-partisan Tax Reform Advisory Panel concluded that in "balancing our budget" the included the income that the federal government would collect on its own purchases but left out the tax the Federal Government would have to pay on its purchases. It doesn't stop there, the Brookings Institute estimates for a fair tax to work; it would really need to be more like 44%, not accounting for tax evasion and the black market. Currently the IRS estimates about a 13% tax evasion rate of legal incomes which is about 300 billion dollars.

The way it would work is that yes, they would eliminate an entity titled the IRS and replace it with The Office of Revenue which is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. And in practice everyone would only pay a set rate of taxes on what they purchase and not what they earn. These taxes are on retail items and services any individual, corporation or the government (education spending would be exempt) would buy including your doctor bill, co pays, new automobiles, porn, legal fees, credit card interest, home purchases, utilities, bread, diapers, etc. Companies would pay tax on their freight bills, janitorial services, legal counsel, accountants, utilities, insurance premiums, etc. but would apparently not pay taxes on raw materials and of course their payroll and income taxes would be eliminated. Although, I suppose one could argue over the definition of a raw material. Every company which sold goods or services would now be responsible for collecting taxes for the federal government. They would have to hire someone to file monthly taxes and credits with the federal government. Clearly illegal underground items such as drugs would still evade taxation.

Obviously poor people spend a greater portion of their income on general living expenses and typically poor people spend every penny they make as opposed to rich people who only spend a portion of their incomes. With that being said, the Fair Tax would essentially be a regressive tax. The fair tax people, to be fair to not only poor people but to everyone, wants to fix that by having the government issue monthly living expense prebate checks to cover the cost of everyone’s everyday items on which the poor spend a high percentage of their income. This prebate check would cover the taxes paid to retailers for essentials such as bread, milk, diapers etc., that every one needs in order to survive. But not only the poor would get this check, multi-billionaires would get the same amount as someone who makes $15,000 per year. And what's even crazier is that for some reason, a married couple with no children would get a bigger prebate check than a single mom with two kids. Aside from Alaska and Hawaii, there is no adjustment for the cost of living for people living in New York as opposed to Mississippi. This prebate would become one of the biggest federal expenditures at about 500 Billion annually. This would bring a whole new meaning to income redistribution and welfare handouts as the more kids you have, the bigger your prebate check would be. This isn't exactly small government we are talking about.

I can assure you that with his two airplanes, his winter home in Naples, FL and his radio talk show with 3.75 million listeners a week, Neal Boortz is a rich guy who would benefit, along with anyone else making over $200,000 per year, by having a national flat tax. He wouldn't be writing books about it and preaching it on his radio show if it didn't benefit him and other rich people like him. Otherwise, It would be like a cop arguing that cops should have to buy their own patrol cars. In the Fair Tax scheme, what would happen is that poor people who make under $15,000 per year would pay no taxes, the rich people, since they don't spend all their income would pay fewer taxes, the middle class would bear the largest burden and the United States would go bankrupt... I mean, even more bankrupt than we are now.

Let's look at a few of the most obvious points:

A. we would all still pay the same in taxes. By their own claim, they say their plan is revenue neutral and the federal government would still collect the same amount which means we would pay the same amount. If "we" still have to pay the same amount of Federal Taxes, why would he go through the trouble of writing a book and promoting the flat tax? It seems like a lot of work for nothing until you see who would benefit; the rich and the dirt poor. They claim that due to the hidden costs businesses incur such as payroll and income taxes being eliminated that they no longer have to pass those costs on to us when we buy their products. You can say that all businesses pass all those costs on to the consumer or you can say those costs are divided up between the consumer but also the employees of that company in the form of lower wages, the profits and the shareholders so it's hard to say for sure how much the consumer will save especially since he is paying an extra 30% for that item. Of course they don't tell you that the cost of insurance premiums, accounting and all other services the business pays for just went up 30% under the fair tax. If the fair tax is revenue neutral, which it isn't, those taxes are still going to come from somewhere. Sure, businesses may pay less in taxes but middle class individuals would pick up that tab, assuming they have to buy shoes, cleaning products, etc. Would you rather pay those taxes or would you rather have Nike and their shareholders pay those taxes? I know which side of that fence I am on.

B. The government would no longer be able to encourage certain activities and stimulate job growth, specific technologies, business investment, home ownership, hybrids, children, etc. Investment tax credits which are a dollar for dollar tax credit on business expansions and business investments such as new machinery which are used to stimulate the economy and encourage employment would be a think of the past. The depreciation write off of machinery a company purchased, which stimulates the economy, as well as business expense write offs would also be a thing of the past. The interest deduction write off on your home mortgage gone as well. Libertarians, who want a smaller government, say its a good thing that the government would lose the power to help manipulate the economy but forgive me for thinking that perhaps Greenspan knows a little more about how the economy works than Neal Boortz.

C. Not only do you not get the write off for your home, but your home would now come with a 30% sales tax. So not only do you not get any tax incentives to buy a home but your home would now cost over 30% more. For someone like myself, I would pay 3 times the amount in taxes the day I bought a house than I would have paid in an entire year under our current system. Your $16,000 surgery would now cost $20,800, your $20,000 car would now cost $26,000 plus local tax which in my case the $20,000 car would cost $28,275 since my county tax is based on the price tag which would be tax inclusive. The government would also lose the ability to tax things such as gas guzzler vehicles and tobacco which raise the prices of health care and gasoline for the rest of the country.

D. Mike Huckabee claimed you could eliminate illegal alien and black market tax evasion by implementing a fair tax as drug dealers who typically don't report their drug profits would now be paying their taxes when they buy their baking soda, vinegar, baggies and Sudafed. While that is true, the sale of those drugs would still not be taxed. It's not like a drug dealer is going to charge a 30% sales tax on his eight ball and then forward that on to the government. In fact, I think you create a completely new black market, one not of illegal items but legal items that people are willing to steal or willing to sell out the back door. How many people would be willing to save 30% on a $3000 wedding ring by buying it on the black market? The demand for hijacked loads of liquor, cigarettes and electronics would increase and when there is a demand, someone will figure out a way to fill that demand. Look at Chicago and the liquor trade during prohibition. So, I think the taxes you would collect on the illegal aliens and drug dealers would be nullified by the people selling stolen goods on street corners. Let's be realistic, illegal aliens and drug dealers are already breaking the law; do you really think they are now going to obey our tax laws?

I also wonder how we would collect taxes on companies who outsource their work and set up factories in Mexico for instance. If we are no longer taxing their profits then wouldn't they have a bigger incentive to move their manufacturing facilities to other countries where they could buy local raw materials which didn't come with a "fair tax"? Do we really need to give more incentives for companies to outsource and export jobs? They have shown they are willing to sell out American jobs to avoid local tax laws, health insurance benefits required by most American workers, safety laws, environmental laws, labor laws and most importantly, fair wages so now we are going to give them yet another reason to circumvent the system and send jobs overseas.

Let's face it, taxes and taxation is why The Colonies declared independence from Great Britain so it is a big issue. Specifically, taxation without representation is what pushed us over the edge. Who knows, if we had representation in British Parliament would we have ever rebelled? I guess the Whiskey rebellion would tell us the answer may be yes but probably in much smaller numbers and without the same conviction we had in rebelling against the stamp and tea taxes. In the past, America supported itself on excise taxes and the sale of land. In the time of war, we have always levied taxes against our citizens in one way or another. After the wars however, those taxes would typically be repealed, that is until 1913, not coincidentally, the same year as the creation of the Federal Reserve, when Congress passed the 16th Amendment. Again, with WWI, taxes increased from the original amount in 1913. Again, in 1941 taxes were increased once again due to defense spending. Even in 1990, when Iraq Invaded Kuwait and we invaded Iraq, George Bush Sr. raised the taxes he promised not to raise. In fact, Bush W is the only President to cut taxes during war time. Clearly we are not living in a time where our tax code works well for our country; I am not saying we are. I realize that even though it only taxes me fifteen minutes to file my yearly taxes that the tax code is a lot more complicated for some people and could use some simplification. I, as probably most people, am not opposed to making some changes and hopefully finding a way to lower our taxes. The problem is that people are so convinced that Republicans are going to lower our taxes and that the Democrats are tax and spend liberals who want to take your hard earned money and give it to fat black women in the projects. The reality is that when Democrats spend, they do it responsibly and keep our budget and debt in line. Republicans spend just as much but lower taxes to get your vote and then leave it for your children or to a Democrat to balance the budget which means they have to raise taxes because of the irresponsible spending of the Republicans. Democrats may end up looking like the bad guys but they merely react to situations created by Republicans. Sure, you can go with the Republican philosophy and pass your tax burden to your kids, allow the debt to get out of control, devalue the dollar, increase inflation, etc. but that isn't responsible. Do you want your children to be burdened with your debt? Maybe that's why Republicans are always opposed to the Estate Taxes; they know their children will need millions of dollars to pay off their tax bills.

One of the biggest problems with the Fair Tax is that it will still leave us with the largest budget deficit in our nations history. Why would we scrap a system which doesn't generate enough revenue and replace with one with the same shortcomings? I mean, I guess we could stop starting wars and awarding Halliburton and Blackwater no bid contracts but that means we would be putting people in office who would let gay people get married. The point is that our system isn't perfect but the "Fair Tax" is not the answer. The fair tax would only give the people waging the war on the middle class another weapon in their arsenal. The rich people would still continue to get richer, the government would still continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars over seas every year and we would be in even greater debt than we are now and just may see a big resurgence in the Mob and other underground illegal black market activities.


Monday, June 02, 2008

McCain Campaigning to Become the Next President of Israel

In a speech today, John McCain was trying to criticize Obama for being naive on the Middle East. What's naive is that John McCain apparently thinks he his running to become the President of Israel as opposed to the United States.

Here is what he said:

"The threats to Israel's security are large and growing, and America's commitment must grow as well," McCain said. "I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative military edge." "Iran is the principle threat to Israel"

That's great and everything but I want to know is who is the principle threat to the United States, not Israel. This is a speech an Israeli candidate should be making. I think what he means is that our lopsided support of Israel, a rich nation in its own right, is the biggest threat facing the United States.

Currently Israel is the largest recipient of foreign aid and apparently that isn't enough. They are now in the process of trying to extort an additional 600 Million dollars from the United States bringing their aid package up to 3 Billion dollars next year. I guess the weak dollar is taking a toll on Israel as well. To put that into perspective, the impoverished Palestinian territory receives about 75 Million dollars per year and their neighbor Lebanon receives 142 Million in aid.

So, who would you rather vote for, a guy who thinks protecting Israel is more important than protecting America or the guy who wants to persuade Iran to leave Israel alone? McCain can try to ignore and threaten Iran as much as he wants but a lot of good that did Bush. When Bush came into office Iran was not developing Nuclear weapons, it wasn't until after he threatened Iran and N. Korea did both of those countries start up or renew their nuclear programs. Does he really think that Iran is afraid of the U.S. or afraid of an attack by the U.S.? We couldn't invade Iran if we wanted to. Our forces are spread too think and Iran is twice the size of Iraq. If we can't win in Iraq, how can we be expected to win in both Iran and Iraq? Any tough talk or threats made by the Bush, McCain or the U.S. would be laughed at by Iran as they know we simply couldn’t deliver. No one here or in the Security Council will authorize war with Iran after our credibility is in question after crying wolf in Iraq. That's why Obama voted against labeling Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization; he wasn't going to give the administration ammunition to invade yet another country which had not attacked us. I'm not saying that Ahmadinejad isn't a little cookey, he is, that's why threatening him won't work, he isn't afraid of dying and thinks that when he does it will be God's will and he will get 72 virgins in heaven. In other words, threatening him isn't a way to keep us out of a war or to get him to stop calling Jews names.

But I guess money talks, imagine how much Exxon could make if we went to war with Iran?