Monday, January 30, 2012
The Green Thing
When the older woman was checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."
The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."
She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.
We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed our babies' diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn't have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?
Friday, January 27, 2012
Obama, in his 2012 State of the Union speech, called for tax fairness. I also call for tax fairness, but my understanding of fairness is far different from his. For example, half of Americans pay no income tax. They think that’s fair. Politicians think that’s fair. I don’t.
There are some proposals to make taxation fair:
• A flat tax. Everybody pays a fixed percentage of his income above some income level to avoid overtaxing the poor.
• A “fair tax.” Everybody pays a fixed percentage of his spending – a sales tax – above some spending level to avoid overtaxing the poor.
• A Value-added Tax (VAT). A tax is imposed on every level of production of goods.
• Higher income taxes on the wealthy (based on some arbitrary income level to define the wealthy – a level which will inevitably be adjusted downward to extract ever more revenue).
• Higher capital gains taxes. (Capital gains are the increase in face value of capital – assets which produce jobs. Much of the increase in the face value of capital is nothing more than inflation. Therefore, a substantial portion of a capital gains tax is a tax on inflation – not a tax on new wealth.)
• Higher taxes on businesses. (This scheme is flawed. Businesses don’t really pay taxes. They only write the check to the IRS. Businesses always pass their costs, including taxes, on to the consumer.)
• Elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was initially focused on the wealthy. However, because of inflation, it now affects millions who are not wealthy. A few in Congress occasionally suggest elimination of the AMT or at least some inflation protection, but the congressional thirst for revenue always overrides the suggestion of overhaul.
Here is what I think.
Taxes must be fair – I cannot challenge that objective. What few are saying, however, is that taxes must also be visible – taxpayers and non-taxpayers alike must see and be intellectually and emotionally impacted by the total cost of government.
Most of our taxes are buried in the cost of goods and services – we have no idea what portion of the cost of that Big Mac can be attributed to multiple layers of corporate income taxes, excise taxes, import duties, payroll taxes, fees, regulatory costs, etc. It would be helpful if the wrapper on that Big Mac said something like, “This BigMac cost you $3.95 plus sales tax. $1.87 (47.3%) of your cost of this sandwich constitutes various forms of taxes paid by McDonalds and by the chain of our suppliers. Add to that your sales tax. If you don’t like paying these hidden taxes through higher costs of goods and services, contact your elected representatives.”
The closest we can come to each person paying his fair share would be for each person to pay the cost of the services and benefits he personally receives from the government. For example:
• Everyone benefits from police, fire, and military protection. Divide the total cost of those services by the total population and the result is each person’s fair share.
• Those who travel on streets and highways benefit from them. Taxes on fuel are already in place to pay for those roads. Since the users of the roads are paying the road taxes, it’s fair -- so long as no portion of that revenue is used for anything else.
• Mass transit, such as trains and city busses, is in place to move people and goods where they want or need to go. Because they are not buying fuel for their own vehicles, they don’t pay the cost of building and maintaining highways. But, they should be paying the full cost of their choice of transportation. The total cost of providing mass transit must be divided among the users according to how much they use the service. To be fair, they should not expect non-mass-transit users to help pay their transportation bill through taxpayer subsidies.
• Society, individuals and families benefit from education and training. Determine the value of society’s benefit from an educated workforce and electorate. Let’s assume that the value to society in general is 50% of the total cost of education Divide that portion of total cost of education by the total population and the result is each person’s fair share. The remaining 50% of the cost of education is the fair financial obligation of the individual and the family they should not expect someone else to pay that bill for them (although charitable persons may voluntarily do so).
• Everyone benefits from having shelter and food to eat. There are many government programs that ensure even the most poverty stricken in America live better than did kings 200-300 years ago. To be fair, those who benefit from these social programs should pay the cost of the benefits they receive plus the bureaucratic overhead. It is not fair to tax their neighbors to pay for these benefits. I acknowledge that there is a small portion of those who depend on the aid of others because, due to disability or temporary conditions, need help. It is a God-given duty and blessing for individuals to help those in need and there are countless charities in place to help us do so. Government is not the answer!
Now consider the global financial crisis. Some blame it on Obama. Some blame it on Bush. But, the real cause of the crisis is fairness.
Most developed nations have put in place very expensive social programs that are supposed to eliminate or reduce poverty. Yet, the portion of people in poverty continues to be stagnant or even rise. All these social programs do is to reward dependency. The producers of the world are forced to subsidize generations of dependent societal parasites. That's not fair to the taxpayer nor to those who are dependent!
Some believe that the bankers of the world have created the financial crisis by hoarding money and controlling nations. The truth is, the dependent class, with the encouragement of the political class, has consumed the wealth of the world, replacing it with national debt, and have produced nothing in return. As Bill Whittle says, "It's all gone."
If we really made taxes fair, those who are dependent on government (and we all are, to some extent) would pay the cost of that dependency. When people discover the true cost of their dependency, they will find ways to become more independent where feasible and possible. They will learn to do for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, what they should be doing anyway.
The cost of government will plummet -- probably to about 5-10% of what it is now, leaving more money in everyone’s wallet at the end of each month. That newly liberated money will be used to improve each person’s way of life and more people will find resources to donate to charity to help those who truly are dependent on others.
I think that’s fair. Does anyone have the courage to make it fair?
Our huge public debt ultimately reflects our lack of individual restraint. But we can do better. — Lawrence W. ReedAnother idea: I propose a flat tax of 500% of all income and of all assets of anyone who thinks the government needs more revenue.
Americans have been spoiled by a generation of extravagant federal spending made possible by an orgy of irresponsible borrowing. Now the party is over and the pain of long-lasting and unpopular austerity must come. — Zach Bogue, US Army veteran
The budget should be balanced; the treasury should be refilled; public debt should be reduced; and the arrogance of public officials should be controlled. — Cicero (106-43 BC)
Government is the only enterprise in the world which expands in size when its failures increase. — Janice Rogers Brown, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. — Thomas Jefferson
The primary reason for government growth (and the "incumbent advantage") is that we've yet to convince people to refuse to be bribed with their own money. — Boyd K.
Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone. — Frederic Bastiat
The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife. — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Spencer Roane, 9 Mar 1821
Any plan to reduce our deficit substantially must reflect American values of fairness and shared sacrifice. — Barrack Obama
Would you be willing to give up your favorite federal program if it meant never having to pay the income tax again? — Harry Browne
Check out a more detailed version of the US Debt Clock.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Senate Bill 34 is a very good piece of legislation being considered in Utah this year. This bill prohibits the central government from regulating an agricultural product that remains in Utah after it is made, grown, or produced in Utah.
If is not interstate commerce, it is no business of the central government whatsoever. (According to the US Constitution, counterfeiting of currency, treason, slavery, and certain infringements on the right to vote are, and should continue to be, the only federal crimes -- not counting the countless violations of the Constitution committed by the central government).
I urge everyone in Utah to study and aggressively support SB.34 and all other legislation that pushes the central government back to its limits defined by the US Constitution. All other States should follow our lead.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Obama reportedly is about to ask for yet another increase to the debt ceiling in a "matter of days."
Didn't we just do that a few short weeks ago?
Solve a debt problem with more debt? Yeah, that oughta work!
The national debt is now as big as the entire US economy! And nobody in Washington seems to care! Few voters seem to even know about the problem. Of those voters who do, most don't seem to care so long as they get their government cheese.
Washington clearly is out of control.
The lack of restraint is so severe that I am convinced that a "Balanced Budget Amendment" will not help. Congress, the Whitehouse, and the federal courts will ignore the amendment just like they ignore everything else in the Constitution unless it's convenient.
An 18-percent-of-GDP limit, as proposed in at least one Balanced Budget proposal is essentially a guarantee to spend 18% -- regardless of whether that level of spending is legal or justified! This is not a limited-government policy! I don't want it etched in Constitutional stone that the Federal State will be 18% of the national economy!
Dr. Walter Williams calls the proposed balance budget amendment a "cop out". I agree. It does not require Congress to eliminate unconstitutional, unnecessary, or unwise programs. It only caps that spending at an arbitrary level. That spending will continue to fund activities that are not the constitutional purview of the central government (education, health care, social services, intrastate commerce, running car companies, gun control, war on drugs, energy, funding state and local projects, etc.).
Sad history shows that politicians have little regard for the Constitution. There must be immediate and extremely unpleasant consequences for any congressman or president who ignores any limits imposed by a balanced budget amendment or anything else in the Constitution. We already have legislation that requires a balanced budget. A balanced budget law enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 requires that "Beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government shall not exceed its receipts." How's that working out? Without teeth, the law is worthless.
Because of its out-of-control spending, the United States of America is long overdue a USSR-style collapse. Nevertheless, power-hungry politicians are either in pathological denial, desire the collapse, or simply don't care.
The vast majority of federal spending is unconstitutional and immoral! The primary cause of this crisis is the complete and utter disregard of the US Constitution, particularly the 9th and 10th Amendments. I also say the bulk of federal spending is immoral because it necessitates and justifies theft of property (earnings of taxpayers) for redistribution to persons (including and especially federal bureaucrats) who have not earned, and do not deserve, that stolen wealth. It is also immoral because recipients of that stolen loot are deprived of incentive and necessity to achieve and only grow bitter because they don't get enough stolen wealth.
The central government only cost 2-3% of GDP up until about 100 years ago except for periods of war. (For example, in 1910, GDP was $33,400 million and total federal spending was $839.9 million or 2.5% of GDP!) Yet, it provided all the services the people needed and asked for! Why, then, must government hog 20% of GDP to provide services that are best handled by a free market and by the people themselves -- if they are needed at all?
Obama said, "We don't need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs. The Constitution already tells us to do our jobs and to make sure the government is living within its means and making responsible choices....We don't need more studies. We don't need a balanced budget amendment. We simply need to make these tough choices." While he was actually asking for more debt to fund unconstitutional spending, those words are exactly correct. Obama clearly did not really mean that the nation's leadership should follow the Constitution as written and intended. What he meant was that Congress do his will and follow the Constitution as he wants it to be twisted.
The solution is simple:
1 - Baseline budgeting must be abolished.
2 - The entire central government must immediately be audited to identify and permanently eliminate all agencies, programs, laws, rules, regulations, policies, judicial rulings, executive orders, etc. which violate the original intent of the Constitution.
3 - All politicians who propose, or vote for, anything which violates the original intent of the Constitution must promptly and permanently be removed from office and forfeit any and all retirement compensation or benefits.
4 - All judges who make ruling that are inconsistent with the original intent of the Constitution must promptly and permanently be removed from the bench and forfeit any and all retirement compensation or benefits.
5 - All further attempts to increase the debt limit must be soundly rejected.
Check out a more detailed version of the US Debt Clock.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Congress passed, and the President signed, legislation that expands the powers of the so-called Patriot Act to authorize the indefinite detention -- without trial -- of Americans on American soil.
I am ashamed to say that my own senior senator (Republican Orin Hatch) voted for this monstrosity as did my Representative (Democrat Jim Matheson).
This is what Americans get when people vote for candidates based on party label and race (you know who you are). In fact, Democrat politicians have such a low confidence in Democrat voter judgment and intelligence that they demand that ballots include party labels so that Democrat voters can vote correctly.
We desperately need smarter voters -- voters who understand that government exists to secure our rights -- not to cradle us.