Friday, April 29, 2011

Socialism in the United States

Socialism is a strong word in our country.  It typically carries with it an aspect that places those accused of espousing it on the defensive.  Labeling people doesn't change what they believe.  Calling someone a "socialist" doesn't make them one.  Likewise, saying "I'm not a socialist" doesn't make you any less of one in-and-of itself.  What does make you (or not make you) a socialist are your opinions, views, beliefs, convictions, actions, voting record, and statements that YOU have control over.  Those aspects of your life can be analyzed and categorized to align with an ideology.  The fact that you align with socialism views and opinions will make you a socialist, just as your rejection of their ideals in your life will make you not a socialist.  Ultimately, it is your choice.

Just so everyone understands what it means to be a socialist, I'd like to run down some of the more "interesting" aspects of the political movement in our country:
  1. Immediate and unconditional withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. Immediate end to all U.S. aid to Israel.
  3. Abolition of the CIA and NSA
  4. Unconditional disarmament of the United States
  5. Disbanding NATO
  6. A constitutional amendment requiring a binding vote of the people on all issues of war or military intervention
  7. The rights of soldiers to form unions.
  8. The rights of all workers to form unions with no limit on their ability to strike
  9. Militant, united labor action
  10. Same benefits for part-time workers as full-time workers
  11. Increasing the size and enforcement power of OSHA
  12. Creation of a fund to pay full wages, health insurance, and education/retraining costs if a worker loses their job due to down-sizing or even going out of business.
  13. 30-hour work week at no loss of pay, with six weeks of annual paid vacation
  14. Immediate withdrawal from North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  15. Immediate withdrawal from Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)
  16. Oppose the creation of a widened Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
  17. Community ownership and control of corporations
  18. Minimum wage of $15/hr, indexed to cost of living
  19. Guaranteed annual income.
  20. Financial and Insurance institutions to be socially owned and operated.
  21. Steeply graduated income tax.
  22. Steeply graduated estate tax.
  23. Maximum income limits
  24. Progressive capital gains tax
  25. Progressive luxury tax
  26. Increased and expanded welfare assistance
  27. Increased and expanded unemployment compensation for the full period of unemployment.
  28. Massive federal investment in both urban and rural areas
  29. Elimination of tax breaks to corporations
  30. Legalization of same-sex marriage
  31. Recognize an intimate link between racism and capitalism
  32. Strongly support affirmative action
  33. Call for reparations from the federal government for slavery
  34. Oppose declaring English as an official language
  35. Demand all public and private institutions provide services and materials in the languages of anyone they serve.
  36. The inclusion of people with mental and developmental disabilities on all local and state governing boards and commissions
  37. Affirmative action quotas for hiring people with disabilities at union wages
  38. Oppose any effort to restrict the definition of who is considered a person with a disability
  39. Prohibition against the denial of credit based on disability.
  40. Demand that Social Security remain entirely within the public sector and funded by steeply graduated income tax on all income, earned and unearned.
  41. Retirement age of 55.
  42. Cap on Social Security benefits to ensure nobody receives more than three times the minimum regardless of how much they paid in.
  43. Increase in home services, including home-delivered meals, for all elderly.
  44. Public funded jobs and training for any senior that does not wish to retire
  45. Public funded senior centers for social and recreational activities
  46. Support for assisted suicide.
  47. Recognize that the struggle against habitual male dominance and patriarchy must go hand-in-hand with any struggle against capitalism.
  48. Free abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy.
  49. Decriminalization of prostitution and full health, social, and legal services for sex workers.
  50. Fully-funded child care facilities
  51. 16-months of paid leave for new parents.
  52. Affirmative action for women in education and employment
  53. Rotating gender requirements in leadership roles
  54. Federally financed education for all children
  55. Oppose increased penalties on youth to curb crime
  56. End of military recruiting in educational institutions
  57. Abolition of parental consent requirements in abortions and other reproductive health services
  58. Mandated sexual education in schools to include methods of birth control and about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.
  59. Lowering the voting at to 15.
  60. Guaranteed incomes and grants for artists and performers
  61. End to all public funding of private schools
  62. Public child care from infancy
  63. Public education starting at age three.
  64. Oppose paying teachers based on job performance
  65. Oppose standardized testing
  66. Oppose competition between schools.
  67. Vigorous affirmative action for teaching hiring.
  68. Vigorous affirmative action for students.
  69. Students on school boards.
  70. School boards fully accountable to students.
  71. Unrestricted sex education programs.
  72. Oppose any religious practice in public schools
  73. Oppose all efforts to limit the teaching of evolution
  74. Oppose teaching any other theory than evolution
  75. Full federal funding of AIDS research and treatment
  76. Socialized health care system for everyone
  77. Salaried doctors and health care workers, paid for by steeply graduated income tax
  78. Immediate abolition of all private health insurance companies
  79. Single-payer health care as only alternative, paid for my progressive taxation, and controlled by elected officials.  To replace Medicare and Medicaid
  80. Public ownership of pharmaceutical industry
  81. Taxpayer provided sterile needles for those that choose to use IV drugs
  82. Oppose all involuntary treatment for mental health patients; it must be voluntary and taxpayer funded
  83. The right of everyone to high-quality, low-cost housing
  84. Vast increase in taxpayer provided housing under Section 8
  85. Rent control and the rights of tenants to organize against the landlord
  86. An end to home foreclosures.
  87. Taxpayer funded high-speed national rail system with price controls on fares
  88. An end to further development of the interstate highway system
  89. Taxpayer funded foot and bicycle paths
  90. Exclusion of privately-owned vehicles from downtown area of cities and towns
  91. Taxpayer funded development of alternative fuels
  92. Taxpayer funded auto insurance
  93. Government ownership of the airline industry
  94. Condemn the War on Terrorism
  95. Immediate repeal of the Patriot Act
  96. Elimination of the Dept of Homeland Security
  97. Abolition of the FBI
  98. Open borders and full amnesty
  99. Full education, health care, and civil/legal rights for all illegal immigrants
  100. An end to law enforcement of immigration laws
  101. Elimination of the Electoral College
  102. Full representation of Guam, Puerto Rico, Indian Reservations, and D.C. in the federal government
  103. Restoration of the right to vote for everyone in jails and prisons
  104. Free attorneys of choice for everyone
  105. Immediate closure of all "Supermax" prisons and abolition of privately operated prisons
  106. Abolition of prisoner labor
  107. Prisoner's rights to unionize
  108. Immediate creation of elected police control and oversight councils to arrest, detain, and indict police officers.
  109. Replacement of police with community conflict resolution residents
  110. Taxpayer funded buyouts of guns
  111. Decriminalization of all drug use
  112. Elimination of any funding to stop the influx of drugs
  113. Federal law prohibiting the death penalty
  114. Forcing the breakup of large media companies
  115. Federal ownership of all satellite and cable companies
  116. Taxpayer funded newspapers and magazines
  117. Oppose copyright laws and digital rights management
  118. Government ownership of at least 50% of the available Internet bandwidth and domain naming system
  119. Immediate participation in the Kyoto Protocol, limiting carbon emission, and worldwide efforts to control global warming
  120. Oppose all nuclear power
  121. Price-fixing for utilities so that the rich pay more for electricity, gas, etc.
  122. Government regulations promoting organic food over non-organic
  123. Taxpayer-funded repayment of expenses to farmers
  124. Repudiation of all current farm debt for working farmers
  125. Any land or equipment that was taken in foreclosure be given back or paid for
  126. Complete ban on Genetically Engineered crops
  127. Oppose feedlots and industrial poultry production
  128. Eliminate the use of pesticides
  129. Taxpayer-subsidized low-interest loans to grow staple foods instead of non-essentials
  130. Encourage hemp farming
  131. Ban on animal experimentation for product development
This is just a partial list of the party platform for the United States' Socialist Party.  Next time you listen to political discussions, I want to you listen closely.  We already have at least 1% of our Senate that's controlled by this agenda - Bernie Sanders (VT) - and he's been a mayor of the state capital for 8 years, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years, and in the Senate for 5 years.  He has been involved in the following Congressional Subcommittees:
  1. Clean Air and Nuclear Safety
  2. Green Jobs and the New Economy (Chairman)
  3. Transportation and Infrastructure
  4. Energy
  5. National Parks
  6. Water and Power
  7. Children and Families
  8. Retirement and Aging
Additionally, he has been involved in the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on the Budget.  How can this be?  He's just the one that CLAIMS TO BE A SOCIALIST - how many don't?

Monday, April 25, 2011

What is the proposal?

Monty Python (to quote a well-established source) had a skit where a man wondered into a set of offices looking for an argument.  It was framed in such a way as to treat "an argument" as if it were something one could just purchase from a shop.  He found himself in a couple of other odd places, such as "getting hit over the head lessons" but I always found some truth to the discussion that took place during the actual "argument".

Statements like "[a]n argument isn't just contradiction" and "[c]ontradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes" always seemed relevant to me and, to be honest, logical.  The point of debate for me was never just trying to demonstrate that you could argue, contradict, or disagree.  To me, debate was always about actually believing what you were saying and trying to convince others that you were right.  As I grew older, I found that as long as you approached the debate with an understanding that you would occasionally find yourself wrong, you would come out of a good debate with a better sense of what you believed and why - maybe even changing your mind as a result of a well-presented case.

"An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition"
"Argument is an intellectual process"

I don't care if people disagree with me.  I don't care why you believe something is true or false.  I just care that YOU know why you believe something and that YOU care.  My only expectation of you is that you approach a debate (or even an argument) accepting the possibility that you could be wrong.  If you are only debating to convince someone else to agree with you, no matter what, instead of searching for the truth of the matter (or at least the most realistic possibility), then don't waste the energy.

If your argument is impossible, it doesn't matter how good it "feels".  I am constantly amazed by politicians that seem to only exist to "shoot down" every proposal that someone comes up with to solve a real problem.  A toddler can say "[n]o it isn't" to every "[y]es it is", we don't need highly-paid, elected officials to do that.


I'm not a fan of either political party in this country right now but at least I see one of them trying to do something.  If we wait for a "perfect" solution that everyone is going to agree to, we're going to lose our entire country.  When the car is rolling down the hill with the baby inside, don't argue about who didn't put on the emergency brake, GO GET THE CAR STOPPED BEFORE IT'S GOING FASTER THAN YOU CAN RUN!  I will say one thing, it was the job of the Democrats to pass a budget 7 months ago and they had all of the control to do so.

Stop talking about red herrings . . . you can't raise enough money in taxes to balance the budget.  Besides, taxes are not any lower now then they were during a time when our deficit was 7% of what it is now.  That's an increase in spending of 15X . . . and stop blaming "the war", it was going on then too.  You know what's really changed?  The size, scope, and power of the federal government.  That's where your tax money is going.  Stop believing the liars in Washington D.C. that couldn't find middle America on a map if it was highlighted and circled.  They are mouthpieces for their 1000-person cadres of career staffers.

Did people not get cared for before the federal government got involved in health care?

Did children not get educated before The Department of Education - isn't it strange how our level of education has declined since it was "invented"?  The people that are taught IN the books were not educated under a federal authority.  I wonder if Einstein and Newton would have been even more intelligent if they'd have had the benefit of a good 'ole tax-payer-funded public education that ensured they were taught at the same pace as the slowest person in the room.

If I promise you a new car every day for a month but always have an excuse or blame someone else for not delivering, how long would you believe me?  What if I promised to give you $1,000,000,000.00 from my next paycheck but you knew I only worked for $10.50 an hour?  Would you take me seriously at all?  Why don't we laugh out loud at these tax-and-spend approaches to our actual safety and well-being.  Why do we continue to let a bunch of out-of-touch politicians lie to us while passing on insurmountable debt to our children and grandchildren (if we're lucky)?

Why can't people see the huge gaping abyss?  I think it's because they still believe the politicians that are standing on the other side and telling them there's an invisible bridge, "trust me" . . .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Quick Note on the Budget

So, I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't complain about something unless you offer a better solution.  To do so typically makes things worse and never really promotes any change.  That being said, I also believe that we rarely settle on the "best" solution, therefore, there are usually better solutions out there to be provided by the responsible complainers.
I just wish that those people that feel it necessary to tear apart every budget proposal that gets presented would offer their own.  Wouldn't it be nice if someone could explain how not making any cuts would balance the budget?  Our current deficit is around $1.5 Trillion . . . that's $1,500 Billion . . . that's $1,500,000 Million ($1.5 Million Million) . . . or $1,500,000,000,000 . . . or roughly $5000 for every man, woman, and child  that currently lives in the entire United States . . . that's just the amount that we're spending MORE than the amount that we're bringing in.
In addition to that, even if we were to balance the budget, we still owe over $14 Trillion . . . or roughly $45,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country.  Let us assume we get a great deal on the interest rate of only 4%.  That's over $500 Billion per year in interest alone.  So even if we were to balance our budget 100% right now, this instant, we'd still have to come up with $500 Billion per year just to maintain the debt.  So our realistic budget shortfall right now is around $2 Trillion . . . or around $6500 per person in the country.  Again, that's just to keep the debt from growing any larger.
The entire budget for the Department of Defense is substantial.  How much would you cut?  What would you defund?  Let's say we shut the entire thing down.  Just get rid of it.  We wouldn't be fighting any wars, we wouldn't be funding the evil "Military Industrial Complex", we wouldn't be "slaughtering innocent women and children", and we'd be completely defenseless.  In addition to that "wonderful" situation, we'd still need to cut billions of dollars from this year's budget just to keep from growing the debt any more.  What would be your next cut?
It's time to wake up and realize that this ridiculous dialog needs to end.  We need to stop spending money like we have it and start making the cuts now, this instant, in all of the unconstitutional programs that are destroying our country.
All of your social programs are going to end one way or another.  You can either choose how it happens and still have a country to call home, or you can watch them end, without warning and without any control, when our economy collapses.  WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Corporate Taxes

A lot of people have been talking about whether taxes on "the rich" and corporations should go up or down.  The problem I have with these discussions is that it's not a matter of opinion, it's simply economics and logic.  My favorite statements are things like "why do we keep rewarding these corporations that are moving jobs overseas with tax breaks?!?"  Are you kidding me?  How many of you have ever seen a cart pull a horse?

There are basically two types of businesses:  those that provide "vital" goods and services and those that provide "luxury" goods and services.  People may disagree about where to draw the line between the two but the beauty of this discussion is that IT DOESN'T MATTER!  Let's discuss . . .

Luxury Goods
I will define this type of business as one that people spend money on when they have "extra" money to spend . . . or excess resources.  For this type of purchase, as money gets tight, sales tend to decline.  This should not cause too many of you to have a question mark above your head, it seems pretty obvious.  If you don't "need" it, and you can't afford it, you won't buy it - at least not as much.

If you run a business that provides this type of product, how can you hope to survive during tough economic times?  The only way to stay in business at any time is to have a profit.  The only way to have a profit is for your sales to exceed your expenses.  That leaves two options:

  1. Lower Expenses - difficult to do while maintaining income because most savvy business personnel don't tend to be wasteful for no reason.  They tend to be as efficient as possible as a rule.
  2. Increase Income - increase sales or increase price while maintaining sales.  Hard to increase the price without seeing a decrease in sales for a product that people don't need to buy.
So, if you're trying to compete in this market, it's important that you maintain your prices low enough to convince people that they should spend their limited resources on your product.  What if you could replace your entire staff with people that worked for 50% of the money you're paying now?  What if you could cut your taxes to 50% of what you're paying now?  What if you could do both?  That would allow you to maintain (possibly even lower) your prices to make you more competitive in the marketplace for limited sales. SCORE!!!  But how do you do that?  Move your business to another country.

Vital Goods
I will define this type of business as one that people will spend money on as a priority because it's something that they feel must be purchased.  For this type of purchase, as money gets tight, sales will be fairly steady but could decline.  In the face of a large disaster or warnings of a wide-spread problem, sales may actually increase in the beginning (possibly even exceeding supply) as people stock up.  These businesses have no real reason to lower their prices and may even need to raise their prices to re-balance supply and demand.  During tough economic times, this makes things harder for those that are already struggling.

If you run a business that provides this type of product, there are two things that will force you to maintain lower prices to stay in business.  Competition and larger supply than demand will always serve to maintain lower prices and higher quality because the consumer, especially when they have limited resources, will vote with their dollars.  That means that if your prices are higher than your competitor or your quality is lower (or both), you will go out of business.

That last statement is true for all types of goods, but with "vital" goods, the strong demand is much more stable than the weakening demand associated with luxury goods.  In these cases, maintaining profit is still a matter of ensuring your income exceeds your costs . . . so if you can lower the cost of running your business, you can lower your prices.  If you can't get the cost down, you keep the prices high - it's all normal.

The Point

The key concept that you must, must, must understand is this:  IN A FREE MARKET, A BUSINESS WILL ALWAYS MAKE A PROFIT.  Seems obvious, right?  Then why is it so hard for socialists/liberals to understand?  If you increase the costs on a business, THE CONSUMER IS THE PERSON YOU HURT!

High corporate taxes will always drive luxury businesses out of the country and increase the price charged by vital businesses.  This increases unemployment, eliminates all tax income to this country from that business (50% of $0 is still less than 20% of anything), and increases the price of every vital good for the consumer.  Let me recap . . . raising taxes on corporations has the following effect on the "middle class" that we're always trying to "protect":
  • Causes some to lose their jobs - increases unemployment (and without jobs, they don't pay taxes either - in fact, the opposite occurs . . . they become consumers instead of providers and increase the costs to the rest of society)
  • Income from taxes goes down - fewer taxpayers due to loss of businesses and jobs
  • Increased price for vital goods - the people that still have to provide for their families will pay more for the products that they need.
So, when you hear someone talking about evil corporations and raising their taxes, ask them to explain how things work in their universe.  If they convince you, I only ask that you both move there and stop screwing up my country.