Okay, so it’s 2012 and you can expect a regular rhythm of postings that are… well… political.
== THE GREAT FURY OVER TAXES ==
To listen to Republicans, you would think we have the most oppressive tax rates ever, with the federal government hogging ever larger portions of the national economy. Ever hear of Orwellian anti-truth? That is where you repeat the exact opposite of the truth and people start believing it.
But drop by and look at the actual facts. See this compilation of income tax rates.. Tax rates are at historic lows. And this is for earned income. Rates for dividends and capital gains are even lower – by half - than what you see in the figure!
In the 99 years that we have had the income tax, rates for top earners were lower than they are today only twice:
1) during the 5 years before the US entry into the First World War in 1917, and
2) during the brief stretch from 1925 through 1930… when a massive asset value bubble pumped the economy into the Great Depression.
Also note this. They are LOWER for the middle class, under Obama, than they were under Bush. The “Obama tax hikes” are purely mythical.
That’s it. Today’s top rates are currently lower than at any time since 1930… and ironically that includes half of the HOOVER Administration preceding FDR. In other words, the hiking upward was first done by the same 1930 Republican Congress that brought us the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs!
The other big fact is the fraction of U.S. national GDP taken by the federal government. Fox’s uncles swear that this is at an all-time high. In fact, the federal share of GDP is at its lowest since 1950.
Be entrepreneurial. Make Adam Smith proud and use all this to make money. Seriously. Lure your nearest Tea Partier to make grand declarations about the oppressiveness of recent tax rates and the growing federal share of the economy and then demand a wager! Only… get it in writing.
== Chilling Effects ==
What exactly are your online rights? What protections are offered under the First Amendment and intellectual property laws? Here are details expanding on last time: Chilling Effects offers an extensive database of info about copyright and trademark infringement, fan fiction, cease and desist notices, issues of anonymity and freedom of expression. A joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Law Schools at Harvard, Stanford, …Berkeley and the George Washington School of Law, Chilling Effects is a first stop to determine your legal rights in the on hot issues in the ever-evolving online world.
I’ve been known to differ over matters of emphasis with my friends at EFF. I am far less worried about what governments and the mighty “see” about me — and history shows little hope of stopping them — while I am more vexed and angry over government and the mighty hiding from citizen supervision. Still this is a good and important move and I am glad these folks are doing things like this!
Most civil servants… and even a lot of politicians… are sincere. They believe they are protecting us and/or defending freedom. The problem (for now) is that they can be counted on – via human nature – to have the inherent reflex of rationalizing how they must wield power for the greater good and must evade (some) accountability of the kind that might hamper them in doing their jobs.
1) They (and we) must be convinced that what’s important is to defend and promote… the secular trend toward a more open world. The reason is clear and it goes beyond mere “goodness” of openness. It is the simple fact that our type of society is invigorated by the effects of transparency (though individual leaders are often severely inconvenienced) while all the cultures that oppose our way suffer from severe-to-lethal damage when washed in light. That is too great an advantage to ignore, even if you are a realpolitik-cynic.
2) Given that this secular trend is essential… and that human nature works against it… are there forms of sousveillance – or shining light upward – that can be applied to our own elites that will still leave them unimpeded in the practical fulfilling of their duties? Short term tactical secrecy is still vital for the effectiveness of military, police and Homeland Security functions, among others.
In EARTH I portray the legal sequestration of information being limited to short, 5 year terms unless a longer term is purchased at considerable dollar cost. In other words, there is a built-in bite and disincentive to claiming longer periods of secrecy, and with most secrets kept at the shorter, 5 year term, you have a reflex to say “I’d better behave generally well… or at least well enough to be forgiven… since this will all come out.”
3) As it happens, there are some lovely potential innovations that could increase our confidence in supervision while ensuring minimal interference in day-to-day operations. I talk about some of them elsewhere.
== Clint Eastwood… Democrat? Or American? ==
Has there begun a jobs renaissance in America, especially in manufacturing? There are definite signs of “in-sourcing” taking place.
Oh but that segues into Clint Eastwood’s Superbowl Chrysler commercial… and the subsequent Republican fire storm against him, by Karl Rove and others, for daring to suggest that the “bailout” of Detroit was actually a resounding success.
Rove sniped “… Chicago-style politics, and the President of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best-wishes of the management which is benefited by getting a bunch of our money that they’ll never pay back.”
Say what? Except that we’re getting every single penny back. Plus many millions more in taxes on now-profitable American companies that Rove and his ilk wanted to let go belly up? (After they did urge much bigger bailouts for their Wall Street friends.) Refusal to admit that the automaker loans were anything other than a towering, spectacular, 200% success is the act of a deranged mind.
Oh… BTW. Clint has said “I don’t recall ever voting for a democrat.” If a man like that has switched sides, it is because he has sanely realized that the GOP has “left him.”
== Some Fascinating Political Miscellany ==
Here’s a fascinating one: “The lesson of the Great Crash was that unequal enrichment provokes asset bubbles, excessive demand for debt and, finally, economic failure. Now we are painfully learning that again.” Read the whole article by Stewart Lansley. But a key point. The massive wealth that has been redistributed upward to a thousand or so billionaires and top corporations is not generating jobs or economic activity at anywhere near the same pace as the same wealth would have, if it remained with the middle class. Those “job creators are mostly sitting on mountains of cash. Banks, flush with reserves, are lending very little. Cash-rich companies are neither building productive capital (supply-side’s justification) nor doing much hiring.
Sign the petition offered by Senator Bernie Sanders, for a Constitutional Amendment that declares that Corporations are not the same as people and can be regulated by Congress and the States. I also recommend Kent Pitman’s blog on this topic.
On the lighter side…. In New Hampshire there was an event carried on C-Span… the “lesser candidates’ forum” featuring 13 Democrats running against President Obama (all it takes is $1000 in NH) and 25 or so lesser known Fepublicans. See an article… but it pales next to the videos, including one of the “very silly party” candidate wearing a boot on his head, named “Vermin” who promises every American a pony.
Look at how a transparency (and tech-empowered) citizen hero caught villains with his flying drone. Snapping aerial photos of an illegal river of blood pouring from a slaughterhouse into a river. Exactly what I spoke of in The Transparent Society and especially the citizen action smart mobs I portray in my next novel!
Recall my earlier blog urging the establishment — or rather RE-establishment — of the 90 year old transaction fee for financial trades? At 0.1% per trade, this would scarcely be noticed by you or I, but would lessen the huge advantage grabbed by giant Wall Street houses through massive computerized trading systems. Well, things are moving fast. The French are now siding with the Germans in enacting such a fee. The British conservative government, protecting the “City” bankers who got western civilization into this fine mess, are balking hard.
An interesting – if biased in-favor – article about President Obama does clarify matters as to whether he has either been a “socialist” or “betrayed liberals.”
And again…. Nehemia Scudder supporters! Order your bumper sticker! Seriously, get people talking. It is a meme worth spreading.
==For more on the Economy: Past, Present and Future