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Taxes and Self-Ownership

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I’m glad discussions on policy are happening across the country. I had more than a little concern that policy would fall off the radar after the elections and during the holiday season. Fortunately, I have observed everything from concerns over the fate of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to quite a lot of discussion on taxation. Taxation is especially important to me.

I am an advocate for a fully voluntary society, free of governmental compulsion wherever possible. For instance, I support a completely draft-free, voluntary military. Those who want to serve and possibly go to war are free to do so. Those who do not wish to take on the possibility of fighting a war they might oppose are free to sit on the sidelines. I like US policy on military service.

I hold the ability to withhold participation in accordance with one’s conscience as the hallmark of freedom. The more a government allows you to choose to sit on the sidelines, the freer the society.

I oppose the use of force to achieve political goals. To use the same example’s flipside, I oppose impressment into military service. Aside from the practical considerations of the effectiveness of troops made to fight against their will, there is the more important consideration of the will of the individual citizen. Is this person merely a subject? A pawn to be used at the discretion of another human being?

No. Not in a truly free society.

The question of taxation can be a vexing one. I’m not an anarchist. I do believe that there are a good number of a society’s functions that are best managed collectively, and I do believe that these need to be paid for. At the same time, I hold that most of the functions of most of the governments in the United States (whether federal, state, or local) are outside of the parameters of those best managed collectively.

For the person who believes completely that all of the things your taxes pay for a justified and correct, keep on paying those taxes and wear that grin.

But, if you oppose having to pay for those things you do not believe in, shouldn’t you get to opt out? Must you be forced to pay, even though your conscience and your best judgment tell you the funding should be withheld?

In today’s political climate, we are told that those who wish to keep all of their income rather than to surrender it to taxation are greedy.

I cannot help but think of slaves, who are denied any measure of the fruits of their labor while another man appropriates that wealth. Of course, that’s a 100% proposition. What about the middle class family that suffers a 50% appropriation at the hands of the government?

Isn’t greed better described as wanting to take from man what he owns and to use it to achieve a political goal that the man suffering confiscation doesn’t even share?

To those who would use force to achieve their political goals- I’m talking about Progressives and Socialists especially here, but also the vast majority of Democrats and a slim majority of Republicans- answer me this:

What makes slavery wrong? What principle makes it abhorrent?

The principle is self-determination. Self-ownership.

Note to everyone: this means, you own your body.

Clarification for those on ‘The Right': This means, you can do what you want to do with your body, no matter how stupid it seems to someone else. You can pump drugs into it, sell it to be used sexually, take it to any country you wish it to visit- anything, so long as you do not initiate force or fraud on another human being.

Clarification for those on ‘The Left': This means, when you use the body to earn money, you earned it, it’s your money. By the way, the mind is part of the body.

It always has mystified me how people on ‘The Left’ can get that government has no place telling people how to use their minds and bodies in the home, but yet insist that government has a rightful place telling people how to use their minds and bodies in commerce. Similarly, ‘The Right’ can get that the mind and body should be free in commerce, so long as it isn’t commerce that may satisfy the mind or body for pleasure at home. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

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About Mike Kole

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    I am an advocate for a fully voluntary society, free of governmental compulsion wherever possible. For instance, I support a completely draft-free, voluntary military. Those who want to serve and possibly go to war are free to do so. Those who do not wish to take on the possibility of fighting a war they might oppose are free to sit on the sidelines. I like US policy on military service.

    This sounds fine at face value, but it doesn’t take much rationalization to see that it wouldn’t work, Mike. Using your opt-out philosophy, that you advocate later in your post, about opting out of paying for things you don’t approve of, it would be a certainty that those who would then volunteer to do military service would be doing so with far more substandard equipment and armor than they currently have. There apparently isn’t enough money NOW to equip our troops overseas with the appropriate armor. Imagine millions, or 10’s of millions of Americans opting out of sending their tax dollars to the military. I shudder to think of the consequences.

    I hold the ability to withhold participation in accordance with one’s conscience as the hallmark of freedom. The more a government allows you to choose to sit on the sidelines, the freer the society.

    Another thing that sounds good at face value. Let’s say big government goes against your conscience, Mike. Clearly it does. I’m NOT advocating big government, but am playing devil’s advocate to your ideology here. So you have the option to withhold taxes and you do so. As with millions of other Americans, you withhold everything. Now your house is burning. I don’t suppose it would be against your conscience to allow firefighters to put out the fire would it? Who’s going to pay their salary?

    Do you realize, do you even comprehend the nightmare of paperwork that would be involved to sort out who pays for what? X million Americans don’t want to pay for sex education. X million Americans don’t want to pay for Planned Parenthood. X million Americans don’t want to pay for the restoration of religious historical buildings. X million Americans don’t want to pay for the preservation of green frogs. The list is infinite. Can you propose a solution that would not take millions of dollars in labor, supplies, effort and resources to redirect what would be the largest ‘sorting of data’ in history? Of course, you have to propose a solution that is absolutely free, because everybody’s going to opt-out of paying for it.

    The question of taxation can be a vexing one. I’m not an anarchist. I do believe that there are a good number of a society’s functions that are best managed collectively, and I do believe that these need to be paid for. At the same time, I hold that most of the functions of most of the governments in the United States (whether federal, state, or local) are outside of the parameters of those best managed collectively.

    Give me 5 examples that are best managed collectively. Give me 5 examples that fall outside of the parameters you describe. I will probably agree with you on a few. Then explain to me, how it is that you OR I have the justification for ‘moral judgment’ to decide which falls in which parameter?

    But, if you oppose having to pay for those things you do not believe in, shouldn’t you get to opt out? Must you be forced to pay, even though your conscience and your best judgment tell you the funding should be withheld?

    A society, in seeking to better itself, decides collectively what methods it wants to support to better itself. Nobody knows more than I, Mike, what it is like to fall outside of that decision. You always speak in vagary. Speak specifics. What is it, that you don’t want to pay for? Abortions? How much would that save you in taxes yearly, Mike? 10 dollars? Or is it welfare and social security? Give specifics as to how you come to your ideology about what part, what specific parts, of the Institutions of American Democracy goes against your conscience, please.

    In today’s political climate, we are told that those who wish to keep all of their income rather than to surrender it to taxation are greedy.

    You want to keep ALL your income? Yet you acknowledge that there are aspects of government that are necessary? And you have no problem utilizing the resources of the government for your own gain, and in your specific case, Mike, YOUR CAREER IN POLITICS, without wanting to put anything in it? Yes, that is greedy.

    I cannot help but think of slaves, who are denied any measure of the fruits of their labor while another man appropriates that wealth.

    Neither can I. That is a consequences of allowing a free market to run itself. You told me earlier, on another thread, that you could not give me an example of the ‘utopia’ you seek, because it has never existed. The reason, Mike, it has never existed is because when you allow the free market to control itself, unchecked, oppression and tyranny have ALWAYS resulted. Without exception. You, yourself, conceded this fact and yet you still strive for it.

    Conservatism promotes (and so does liberalism, misguidedly) the idea that liberalism is about activist government where conservatism is not. This is absurd. It is unrelated to the history of conservative government. Conservatism promotes activist government that acts in the interests of the aristocracy. This has been true for thousands of years. What is distinctive about liberalism is not that it promotes activist government but that it promotes government that acts in the interests of the majority. Democratic government, however, is not simply majoritarian. It is, rather, one institutional expression of a democratic type of culture that is still very much in the process of being invented.

    For one thing, Mike, you need to quit using the word “government” in a way that does not distinguish between legitimate democracy and totalitarianism.

    What about the middle class family that suffers a 50% appropriation at the hands of the government?

    Government can go too far. We need checks and balances in place that prevent that. To use the example on the other thread, that got this conversation started between you and I; it is the conservatives who will not work to better the situation, while the progressives in government want very much to solve the problem to help the middle class. Should this scenario you quote here, bother you to no end, you need to go to conservative and ask them why they are stalling on the issue.

    To those who would use force to achieve their political goals- I’m talking about Progressives and Socialists especially here, but also the vast majority of Democrats and a slim majority of Republicans- answer me this: What makes slavery wrong? What principle makes it abhorrent?

    Mike, I don’t know what to say to a person who finds the principles of Democracy akin to slavery.

    Clarification for those on ‘The Left': This means, when you use the body to earn money, you earned it, it’s your money. By the way, the mind is part of the body.

    Clarification for you, Mike. A business is not part of your mind. Microsoft is not part of Bill Gate’s mind. There are not thousands of people living in his brain. It is an entity for commerce. Why do Libertarians feel the need to individualize a business? To give it soul and the rights of a human being? This is where your ideology hits a brick wall.

    Let me ask you this, Mike, picture a worst case scenario for me. Let’s say there were no anti-trust laws, no rules on business whatsoever. It was as free as you want it to be. Microsoft had the ability to crush Apple, Linux, Unix and everything else with impunity. Microsoft then had a 100% monopoly. Monopolies have happened before, they are not subject to ‘creative outside innovation’, they can squash such under the heel of their boot with ease. Technology is stifled. Meanwhile, because everybody needs computers, Bill Gates income hits several trillion dollars. The fees for software go through the roof, business, banks, etc. either have to raise prices to accommodate or go back to pen and paper. This affects the economy drastically, putting people out of work, the entire economy is impacted. Meanwhile, his salary now is close to 10 trillion dollars. Is there ANY point where you say ‘too much?’ or do you say this cannot happen, even though history has shown us time and time again that it does happen?

    A person making 40,000 a year, having to pay 50% in taxes is horrible. That gives them only 20k left to live on. A person who makes 600 million a year, having to pay 50% in taxes is left with 300 million. Where is the hardship, Mike? They could only buy 5 mansions instead of 6? I am all for a person being rewarded for their hard work but common sense tells us that a CEO who makes 1,000 times his employees is NOT 1,000 times smarter or works 1,000 times harder. There is a dividing line there, there is a balance, with too much oppression from the government on one end, and too much oppression from individuals/corporations at the other end of the spectrum. We need to work together to find that middle pivot point. Progressivism (liberalism) is the only ideology that seeks that.

    “Those seeking profits,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government.”

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Steve S. brings up a number of good points. If I may, I’d like to present a few theoretical questions, and see how they play against your (Mike) stated beliefs:

    – It’s 1940. Germany has run over and occupied most of Europe. The Luftwaffe is turning London into Swiss Cheese.

    You said you oppose war.

    * Do you fight back? Sue for peace and lose all freedoms?
    * Do you draft all of the servicemen and resources your need?
    * Would you modify your position for cases of dire emergency?

    – You gain the right, as a US citizen, to pay as much or as little of your taxes as you see fit, depending on your belief system.

    * If you choose not to pay taxes for transportation costs, do you lose the right to use highways, bridges, city streets, and on and on?
    * If you choose not to pay taxes for public safety, do you lose the right to call the police when your home is burglarized (or worse)?
    * And on and on.

    I’m not judging your positions, Mike. I’m just curious to see how you might match your belief system to the real world.

    I’m glad to join this discussion at any rate…

    Eric Berlin
    Dumpster Bust: Miracles from Mind Trash
    http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Whew. There’s a lot to respond to. I hope you’ll both cut me some slack and some time on it.

    Re: Utopia and the free market. Steve, name one situation in the world where there has been actual laissez faire capitalism. The only one I would venture is the United States around the Industrial Revolution. Just give me one.

    Re: Wars and the real world. One’s participation in war should be evaluated, like anything else in life. Me? I would have rushed to fight in WW2 against the Japanese; if I was English or Polish, against Hitler; etc. There are nearly endless cases for war that I can accept, most of those come in defense of country. I would *not* have rushed to enlist in VietNam or in this Iraqi war. I wouldn’t have joined Hitler’s army if I were German. Etc. Obviously, that latter would have been a dicey proposition. I probably would have fled the country.

    Re: Usage. I’m in favor of the basics. Remember, I said that I am not an anarchist. I am in favor of collective management of infrastructure, safety forces, and defense. I’ll be paying for these very happily. It is interesting to me that whenever I initiate a discussion on taxation anywhere, invariably someone goes straight for the elimination of the police, which I NEVER would be in favor of. I know my position is very radical compared to most, but in the real world, I’ll be damn satisfied with a 10% reduction in spending.

    Re: 5 areas best managed by government. Defense. Safety forces. Storm and santiary sewers. Roads. The arts. Just kidding. The courts.

    Re: 5 areas best left to private management. Sports arenas. Gambling. Industry. Farming. The arts. Little galls me as much as socialized football.

    Re: opt-out paperwork nightmare. Is it a nightmare for you to shop at stores? There are millions of shops across the US that sell myriad products. They all do their own bookkeeping. An impossible task? Of course not. If the things that were governmentally managed shifted to the private sector, they would become businesses just like retail. On the whole, I beleive that those services would see vastly improved distribution in the same way that there were lines in the Soviet Union for bread and toilet paper, which is laughable here in the US where the marketplace manages these things.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Steve- there are many things I am happy to negotiate on. That government is force is one thing that I am not willing to negotiate.

    Force is the one thing that makes many people comply with payment. Sure, many people gladly pay and have no qualms. Great. If it were not for the use of force, or at least the threat of force (imprisonment, fines, garnishment of wages, stripping of professional licenses, etc.), I wouldn’t be paying nearly as much as I do. I’d chip in what I think is my fair share. 50% is way more than my fair share.

    The difference between government and Wal-Mart is that the latter has never threatened me with imprisonment, fines, garnishment of wages, stripping of professional licenses, etc. My government has.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    I received a harsh real-world lesson in taxation just the other day.

    I was looking at my annual bonus check, and the federal government took damn near 40% of it. 40%!

    I’m no big-shot CEO. I’m no multi-millionaire. I’m just some college kid who manages to work full-time while going to school full-time.

    And 40% of my bonus is *POOF* gone!

    And yet 48% of the American people voted for the “I’m going to raise taxes” candidate just 6 weeks ago.

    Scary…

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    He wasn’t going to raise taxes on the middle class. He was going to repeal the tax cuts that affected the wealthy.

    But the other half of the country voted for the guy that wants to keep cutting taxes while waging a war [whose cost not only keep increasing but have no end in sight] and increasing government programs. Borrow, borrow, borrow from the future. That’s what those people voted for.

    Go figure.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Re: Utopia and the free market. Steve, name one situation in the world where there has been actual laissez faire capitalism. The only one I would venture is the United States around the Industrial Revolution. Just give me one..

    Mike, Laissez-faire capitalism around the Industrial Revolution was a conservative pro-business ideology that attacked a middle class. A “laissez-faire” policy is not a hands-off goverment. It is simply pro-business policy, as with large subsidies for businesses to produce the railroads in the United States or the common use of tariffs by Republican presidents during that period. In this context, laissez-faire rhetoric was used to justify denial of similar subsidies to the poor and working classes. I’ve already gone over this with you. Laissez-faire philosophy, throughout human history, has not been lack of government intervention. It has simply been pro-business government to support an aristocracy, and the denial and oppression of a middle class.

    And let’s not forget the workers who toiled in the hot sun for hours on end, driving the spikes into the rails to create those railroads. Should we discuss them? Here’s a reminder, Mike, they weren’t part of an emerging middle class.

    Re: 5 areas best left to private management. Sports arenas. Gambling. Industry. Farming. The arts. Little galls me as much as socialized football.

    What’s interesting is that all 5 of those are some form of business/commerce/industry.

    Re: opt-out paperwork nightmare. Is it a nightmare for you to shop at stores? There are millions of shops across the US that sell myriad products. They all do their own bookkeeping. An impossible task? Of course not. If the things that were governmentally managed shifted to the private sector, they would become businesses just like retail.

    So you are suggesting that each taxpayer fill out his own forms as to where his money goes and personally keeps track of it? Or are you suggesting that a private enterprise/business handle the distribution of tax dollars? Perhaps we can see if Pat Robertson or the Heritage Foundation would like the responsibility? No thanks, Mike.

    On the whole, I beleive that those services would see vastly improved distribution in the same way that there were lines in the Soviet Union for bread and toilet paper, which is laughable here in the US where the marketplace manages these things.

    I don’t know what it’s like where you shop, and I CERTAINLY do NOT want to imply that shopping here in America is like the bread lines of the Soviet Union, BUT should I want to go get toilet paper here in this town of 400k, I pretty much need to go to Wal-Mart or Albertsons or some other national/multi-national chain, since they have driven all the mom and pop shops out of business. And having to deal with the traffic jams to get into the parking lot, to have to navigate through the behemoths waddling their carts through the aisles, and stand in the checkout line which rarely contains less than 15 people in line (because 80% of the checkout lanes are closed), and then navigate through the traffic jams to get out of the parking lot can very well take 2+ hours out of my day to get one single item. This forces us to have to go shopping for bulk and not for a single item. Yes, this is better than the lines of Soviet Union which took days, but IT’S HARDLY SOMETHING TO PRAISE. And now that stores like Albertson’s are no longer employing cashiers that much but allow you to check out your own items electronically and bag it yourself, not only does this put more people on the unemployment line, but the lines move sooooo much slower since the average American is not skilled at the profession. They don’t know what to do when the machine beeps ‘error, error’. Shopping at big business is as bad as trying to get customer support on the phone from big business, and daily you are left with less and less alternatives.

    Steve- there are many things I am happy to negotiate on. That government is force is one thing that I am not willing to negotiate.

    Taxation is a requirement. I do not deny that. Taxation is necessary for a government to function. I do not deny that. All I am saying is that in EVERY example in world history where it was left to the marketplace to run itself, tyranny, oppression and the creation of aristocracies have ALWAYS resulted, which is no different than the totalitarianism that you fear from the government. It’s just a different set of rulers. I still say, Mike, the answer is in working together to find that pivot point in the middle. There are no absolutes in a democracy.

    The difference between government and Wal-Mart is that the latter has never threatened me with imprisonment, fines, garnishment of wages, stripping of professional licenses, etc. My government has.

    Wal-Mart intimidates their workers to be anti-union, they harass their employees to accept substandard wages, thereby requiring most workers to supplement their income with subsidies from the government, which, guess what, Mike, the taxpayer picks up. What you do not pay the employee through salaries in the store, you end up paying for as a taxpayer anyway.

    Where we differ Mike, is that with you it is always an extreme. Either an extreme government or absolutely no government (in business) which history has shown us, always leads to the same extreme but from the other end of the spectrum. Just as tyrannical. Just different rulers. The answer is in the middle. Compromise. Should you be unable to compromise, then you will most likely not be part of the solution.

    RJ says:
    And yet 48% of the American people voted for the “I’m going to raise taxes” candidate just 6 weeks ago.

    Must be nice to work for a company, that in this economy can even give out a bonus holiday check. John Kerry was not going to raise taxes, he was going to roll back the tax cuts for those who make over 200,000 per year.

  • http://www.bigtimepatriot.com Big Time Patriot

    “The difference between government and Wal-Mart is that the latter has never threatened me with imprisonment, fines, garnishment of wages, stripping of professional licenses, etc. My government has.”

    Haven’t you ever signed an employee agreement? Try reading them sometimes. Wal-Mart habitually threatens legal action for crossing their policies. Many companies demand your pee before you can work for them. The government has never demanded my pee, some companies I’ve applied for have. I myself don’t see freedom as a strong point in a Corporation dominated society. But hey, if you don’t want to work you are perfectly free.

  • http://www.bigtimepatriot.com Big Time Patriot

    “I was looking at my annual bonus check, and the federal government took damn near 40% of it. 40%!”

    Uh, sorry, the government only borrowed the 40%, it’s called withholding, your actual taxes will be determined later. Bonuses are often taxed artificially high because they calculate the withholding as if it was your average paycheck. If your yearly income puts you in the 40% bracket, than your bonus will be taxed accordingly. If your annual income puts you in the 30% bracket you will recieve 10% of your withholding back.

  • http://www.templestark.com/blog Temple Stark

    Psst. RJ. If you’re a college kid not earning much – you’ll get that 40 percent back in your income tax refund.

    Just so you know.

    More generally, Taxation without representation. It wasn’t the taxation our Founding Fathers objected to – it was that none of it was helping where they lived.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “should I want to go get toilet paper here in this town of 400k, I pretty much need to go to Wal-Mart or Albertsons or some other national/multi-national chain, since they have driven all the mom and pop shops out of business.”

    NOT TRUE!

    Those “mom and pop shops” are still in business. The reason you don’t buy your TP there is because it is MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE to do so.

    Which is why Wal-Mart has been so successful in the first place: They are CHEAP!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “The government has never demanded my pee”

    Try applying for a federal/state job sometime…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “Psst. RJ. If you’re a college kid not earning much – you’ll get that 40 percent back in your income tax refund.”

    I’ve already calculated my refund. I’ll get a portion of it back, less than half.

    I never said I “don’t make much”… :-/

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Actually, RJ, I don’t buy my tp at Wal-Mart. We don’t go to WM, for the precise reasons I mentioned, it becomes a half-day event. I buy it at Albertsons, a national chain, because there isn’t a mom and pop shop in my town that sells groceries. It’s not much better than WM, but the only other real alternative. Of course there’s Safeway, etc. but same principle. I’m not against big business entirely, but there can be no disputing that the bigger the business gets, the more ineffective the service. I do prefer the smaller shops.

    Since you are convinced otherwise (about the shops in my hometown), if you will kindly give me their address, I will spend a few cents more to patronize them.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    You mentioned TP, and nothing else. Gas stations sell TP, and they are often family-owned.

    If you want a small-chain, how about an “organic” store? Or do you mean to tell me that in a town of 400,000 people, there is not a single one of those near you?

    I live in a town of 80,000 and there are multiple stores of that type near me…

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Steve- Well, yes, when waxing philosophical, I do often take the extreme, but I don’t just do so when it’s convenient. You’ll see what I mean later in this response.

    There is a difference between waxing philosophical- which is what this post was- and making policy recommendations.

    In a policy recommendation, I would never propose to reduce spending by more than 10%. The public would never stand for any more, because they cannot fathom radical change as anything but negatively disruptive. To suggest an immediate end to property taxes is to be branded a lunatic. But you can recommend a 10% reduction and still look downright reasonable, which, when I’m making a policy recommendation, I really need to maintain.

    I believe that the philosophical level is the correct place for extremism. It sets a kind of negotiation point. Of course, when policy comes, compromise follows, and you end up somewhere in the middle. But if you fail to start at the philosophical level at the extreme, you end up giving away too much of what you hope to gain over the course of the compromise.

    Beyond that, I like to think in extremes. They make for excellent points of reference. Slavery is an absolute, so it’s easy to chart and to categorize. Complete freedom is likewise. We have neither, of course. I want people to look at what we have, as best anyone can tell, and to evaluate which we are closer to.

    That might be an uncomfortable exercise if you conclude that we are closer to servitude than freedom in some areas of life.

    Also, most people hold some extremist, absolutist views in some areas of life, and accept this as okay. I have an interest in tapping into that and asking questions like:

    Why is it ok to have absolute personal freedom, to associate with whomever you like, and at the same time not ok to have absolute personal freedom to keep your income?

    Why is it ok to dictate to people that some of their income must be managed by others, and at the same time not ok to dictate to people that their love interests must be managed by others?

    Some of the same people who insist that government must be in my wallet would gladly die to keep the same government out of my bedroom.

    If I should accept that 50% of my income is mine, shouldn’t you in turn accept that 50% of your personal life is yours?

    See the disconnect I’m trying to illustrate? What I see is a philosophical chasm wide enough to drive a galaxy through.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    You mentioned TP, and nothing else. Gas stations sell TP, and they are often family-owned.

    This conversation has taken a turn from taxes to shopping habits. Mike had brought up the bread/toilet paper lines of the Soviet Union which is how tp got brought up. I had mentioned that I buy everything in bulk, I don’t have time for purchasing single items, now there’s occasion where it’s unavoidable, but as a practice I buy in bulk, 2 weeks to a months worth of everything. I make my own bread, grow my own spices, etc. I’d grow my own produce too, but we live in the salad capital of the world, there are little markets all along the roadside that sell produce dirt cheap, I shop at those. No big retailer will sell you bananas at 10 cents a pound or 5 pounds of onions for 75 cents. The quality is much better than a retailer too, because the product didn’t have to go through the whole distribution chain.

    As for mom and pop shops, the only ones that are here are not ones that negotiate in English, and they are on the rougher side of town. Our hispanic friends tell us it is in our own best interest to avoid the areas so we do. We live in the suburbs and all that is out here is corporate run stuff. The only reason those mom and pop shops seem to survive is due to an ethnic culture….what’s the word I’m looking for…bond? support?

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Ah BHW, this is cute: “He [John Kerry] wasn’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.” You really believe that, don’t you? As if this pinko Democrat wouldn’t be jacking everyone in the country for every nickel he could gouge.

    Again, the usual disclaimer: Do NOT interpret this as a defense of Republicans, nor W. They’re marginally better at best.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Beyond that, I like to think in extremes. They make for excellent points of reference.

    The left gets torn apart for doing that. Comparing Bush to Hitler, Michael Moore’s tactics, etc. It doesn’t gain us any ground, and I can see why, it makes it hard to relate to what you are saying as well.

    Why is it ok to have absolute personal freedom, to associate with whomever you like, and at the same time not ok to have absolute personal freedom to keep your income?

    I can’t answer for society, Mike, you will get a myriad of answers to this, and I think it would be interesting if more people responded. It would make for a good discussion/debate. As for me personally, the same answer is going to apply to most of your questions here. I do not equate the value of money with my relationships. My family is priceless, there is no monetary equivalent.

    I do not want to live in the woods having to fend for myself, although we do far more than most people (making alot of our own food, etc.) but we are in the suburbs not remote. I want to be a part of society and I realize with that comes obligations, responsibilities. If I was unable to help support that society monetarily, then it would be my obligation to do so with labor, intellectual capability or in whatever other way possible. It’s just my responsibility to society, to make this world a better place for us all. That’s how I feel and the kind of world I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of society and that involves giving in some way. If I wanted to make no contribution to society, that, I suppose would be my right, but then it would also be my obligation to remove myself from that society and not benefit from it in any way, or partake in it in any way either.

    Why is it ok to dictate to people that some of their income must be managed by others, and at the same time not ok to dictate to people that their love interests must be managed by others?

    Again, Mike, I cannot correlate income with love.

    If I should accept that 50% of my income is mine, shouldn’t you in turn accept that 50% of your personal life is yours?

    If you equate your income with your personal life, then I guess for you, it would be that way. My love is part of my humanity, it is part of the core of my being. My income is due to work that I did to provide for myself and to fulfill my obligation to society. I just cannot correlate them, sorry.

    See the disconnect I’m trying to illustrate? What I see is a philosophical chasm wide enough to drive a galaxy through.

    No, Mike, I’m trying but I cannot see it. This isn’t even comparing apples and oranges. This is comparing human nature, humanity itself with a paper clip or something. They just aren’t even remotely comparable to me. Sorry.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    We owe an obligation, and that’s how you feel. So, what about those of us who feel differently? We’re just supposed to go along with how you feel, because you feel it?

    So much for diversity of thought, huh Steve.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    We owe an obligation, and that’s how you feel.

    That is how I feel. If you look at all cultures, except the most oppressive and tyrannical, that is a common theme. If you look at the cultures of Africa, for thousands of years, there is a community feel. The whole tribe raises the children, not just the parents. If you look at the slowly, but more and more rapidly, changing current governments of Europe, Australia, Japan, even to a large degree China, there is a sense of contribution. Since you prefer to see in extremes, you will probably see the extreme of socialism, but I should point out that I am always and forever advocating that pivot point in the middle, which Progressivism is the only ideology to seek. A community feel, an obligation to your fellow man is very much the teachings of Jesus. The ‘It Takes a Village’ ideology of Hillary Clinton falls in this category. It is an ideology that has been strived for, throughout the history of man, where we all work together to make our lives better. Two people can plow a field faster, more efficiently and more productively than one. Both people win. It’s a basic principle and the cornerstone of Progressivism and Democracy. Nobody should be forced to help plow the field, but they should not expect to enjoy in the fruits of the labor either.

    So, what about those of us who feel differently?

    Voice your opinion, promote your ideals, it’s a free society, try to convince people of your way, and let the chips fall where they may. I will continue to espouse the ideals of a society where humanity works together and where compassion reigns.

    We’re just supposed to go along with how you feel, because you feel it?

    No, Mike. It’s a democratic society, we go along with what the majority decides, not me. That is why right now, with the assaults on the middle class, we are teetering on the verge of an aristocracy, which we will probably achieve in the next 4 years, thanks to the reelection of Conservatism and the continued attacks on welfare, Social Security, educational grants, and with programs like NCLB, which are designed to stifle the education of the poor.

    We all have our ideals, I have mine, you have yours, conservatives have theirs, we continue to promote our ideals, either by adamantly promoting the truisms like I am doing, or by taking over the airwaves and promoting falsehood and rhetoric like conservatives, or by becoming politically active such as yourself. In a democracy, whichever the majority votes for will win. We will see how it goes, and may the better ideology wi… er, persevere.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com/ andy marsh

    and with programs like NCLB, which are designed to stifle the education of the poor.

    How is allowing a parent to pull a kid out of a failed school stifling education of the poor?

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Andy, I think you are confusing No Child Left Behind with faith-based school vouchers?

    The only common thread between the two is that they, in one way or another, seek to limit the amount of funding into the public (free) school system.

    Districts and schools that fail to make AYP-and that will be virtually all of them – are subject to increasingly severe, and unworkable, sanctions. Their staffs can be fired, their kids sent to another district, the district abolished. Using the original formulation, the White House’s own calculations revealed that had NCLB been in place for a few years, about 90% of the schools in North Carolina and Texas would have been labeled “failing schools.” These are states that have been singled out in recent years for their progress on a variety of tests. If they can’t meet the standards, what hope is there for the rest? None–that’s the purpose of the law.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com/ andy marsh

    This is from the NCLB web site.

    No child should be trapped in an underperforming school. Under No Child Left Behind, students who attend Title I schools that do not make adequate yearly progress, as defined by states, for two consecutive years have the option of transferring to a higher-performing public school or a charter school within their district.

    That says nothing about private schools or vouchers or anything. And it also says defined by states.

    I have 2 daughters, one graduated last year and one is in her 2nd year of HS. I tell you right now that some administrators and teachers DESERVE to be fired!

    Because of organizations like the NEA teachers have never been held to ANY standard! Now at least there is a bench mark.

    I spent most of my life in private school. Yeah, I was lucky. I spent my last 2 years in a public HS and I had already learned everything they were teaching 2 years earlier. Public schools have pretty much always sucked when it comes to quality education.

    Administrators make deep into 6 figures and for what? Hiring incapable teachers, promoting BS curricula. They take money away from students and teachers and for the most part perform no useful function other than buffer between the community and teachers that suck! Good teachers rarely have issues with parents, it’s the bad ones that need saving!

    Lastly, I’ll say this. If there was a voucher system in this country MOST public schools would die. You know why? Because something that diseased is incurable and should be put to death!

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Andy, we’re teaching children, we’re not teaching schools. You know, for the school to be making progress doesn’t tell us enough about what the individual children are doing. I’ll just give you an example, let’s take a school in a major city, it has 40 or 50 national merit scholars every year. It’s a school of the first order no matter how you measure it. But when you disaggregate the data, you find out that the Hispanic students in the school are not doing well. So they are, in effect, left behind. You won’t know this until you disaggregate the data, past the average.

    The public disenchantment with American schooling is profound. And many people are looking for alternative solutions, whether they’re charter schools or vouchers or something else. I believe in the public schools. And I believe those public schools can be made effective if they are not judged with the wrong assessment tools, and they’re given assessment tools that help them do a better job. I want to see our public schools persist. Free education is a requirement towards a middle class and the ability of the poor to better themselves. A middle class is a requirement for a Democracy. I think you have to start focusing on a different way of measuring their performance.

    We have to create tests that really do reflect how well teachers have been teaching. Those kinds of tests will allow public education to survive. The kind of tests that we’re using now is setting up public educators for absolute failure. Currently, in only 14 of our 50 states are teachers required to take a course in educational testing. And I think in only a couple of states are administrators required to take a course in educational testing. As a consequence, most educators know very little more about testing than what they remember when they were students themselves. Unfortunately, the public knows less about tests than even educators do. And that’s really unfortunate, because tests are becoming such a significant criterion by which to judge the quality of schooling.

    The biggest flaw with NCLB is this:
    There was a time when teachers worried chiefly about the extent to which they could educate knowledge and skills to youngsters. Now, that situation has been altered, because they’re being held accountable to produce high scores on tests. As a consequence, the preoccupation with raising test scores has become dominant throughout most parts of the country. Many teachers will tell you instances where they or their colleagues have to devote inordinate amounts of attention simply to raising test scores. The preoccupation now is with test-score raising, not necessary with teaching kids the things that children ought to be learning.

    Now let’s go back to what you put in bold. Should a school fail, the parent has an option of transferring the student to a higher performing public or charter school in the same district. By the Administration’s own analysis, over 90% of public schools in a state will fail. So the parent then has not the option, but the obligation to move the child out of the failing public school and put the child in a charter school. Because odds are, there will be no higher performing public school in the district. Charter schools are not free. This is the destruction of the free educational system.

    Should the public school system be as bad as you perceive it to be, then it needs an overhaul, not a death knell. I do support working to improve the public education system, I do not support destroying free education. That destroys Democracy.

    MOST public schools would die. You know why? Because something that diseased is incurable and should be put to death!

    This is precisely the conservative ideology. Public education cannot be fixed. Free education cannot be fixed. So education should only go to those who can afford it. And while we are at it, let’s do away with Social Security and Welfare, which give the poor in this country the chance to better themselves. Education and entitlement should only go to the aristocrats. It’s a shame that more people do not see what is happening with this country.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i love this argument about how public schools are so bad.

    normally, conservatives are big on things like personal responsibility.

    not so in the case of public schools. it’s ALL the school’s fault.

    really?

    read a book lately?

    how about your kid?

    how many hours have been spent on the playstation? web surfing? instant messaging? television?

    we as a society have fully embraced electronic mediation of all sorts, and our collective attention spans shrink away.

    the schools are certainly partially to blame for this…but we are our own worst enemy in some respects.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    The preoccupation now is with test-score raising, not necessary with teaching kids the things that children ought to be learning.

    Or, god forbid, what they might actually be interested in learning.

    There are many flaws in public schools. Most of those flaws exist because of public school design: teach a large number of kids with different abilities, learning styles, family situations, etc., etc., all at once. And do it well, for all of them.

    This kind of design is bound to fail in many instances. It tends not to fail in wealthier school districts. That’s not a coincidence. Children in wealthier school districts tend to have parents who are better educated and more engaged in their children’s schooling. They have more resources available to them if their children struggle in school, and they tend to intervene earlier when their kids do struggle. The schools alone are not responsible for their own success. Much of that comes from the larger community in which the schools exist. To a great extent, the schools ride the successful coattails of the community.

    Just as schools alone are not responsible for their own success, they are not responsible alone for their failures. Again, they reflect the struggles and challenges of the communities they’re in. The schools in poor neighborhoods have to contend with an entire population of students who go home to troubled families, poverty, and often abuse. How can a school in this kind of community keep up with one in an upper-middle-class suburban one? It can’t — it has so much more to deal with than basic literacy, while the suburban schools have far fewer distractions.

    Aside from the socio-economic influences on school success, there are other pedagogical problems. Children are not all the same, don’t learn the same way, aren’t interested in the same things, and don’t have the same abilities. But they’re all expected to do the same school work at the same time [and in the same amount of time] and at the same level of achievment, or else the school is considered failing.

    We need to radically change what we think of as a) education in general and b) the structure of public schools. Starving the beast, as NCLB is designed to do, won’t solve the problem of education in our country. It will simply penalize already struggling schools, and thereby penalize the children in those communities. Good luck transfering to a “successful” school in a district that is doing poorly overall. You and everyone else will want your kid in the good school, but there will only be so many seats to go around.

    My belief is that NCLB is just step one in destroying the public school system. The next step will be to give taxpayer money to move children out of public schools into for-profit schools or religious schools. That will be a sad day, indeed.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    Mark – My kid does quite well in school. My daughter takes AP and honors classes. This is in spite of the disruptions from kids in school that DON’T want to learn.

    Last year, when my oldest was a senior, she took what was supposed to be an oceanography class. Her teacher spentthe entire year working on a Chesapeake Bay Oyster replenishment program that was sponsored by the state! I mean, granted, the Chesapeake Bay is salt water, but oyster replenishment isn’t oceanography! In another class she had one ofthose teachers that attempts to use the words she has no clue how to use. All I kept thinking when I met her was about the Bowery Boys and the character Satch who used to make up his own words, sorta like Norm Crosby does!

    Steve – there’s NOTHING free about public education! Public schools in this country receive anywhere from $3000 to $6000 per student per year! And that’s just on a state level. Maybe if administrators were sucking up all the money teachers could do a better job!

    YOu say teachers have to worry about test scores now. This would be a problem if they worried about anything else before that. I’m not saying all teachers are bad. I’ve met some in the past 14 years while my daughters have been going to school that are outstanding! I’d even say that I’ve met more good ones than bad ones. But I have met some awful teachers. I’ve met teachers that didn’t have any command of the english language and wondered how they could possible be teachers!

    And lastly, all welfare does is keep people from getting off their asses and getting a job! I might agree with training programs, but giving people money just for the sake of giving them money, MY MONEY, is total BS! I’m so tired of going to the grocery store and seeing someone using food stamps and also seeing a couple of 6-packs on the conveyer as well. Get a Freaking job!

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    So much for the thread on self-ownership, huh Mike?

    To put the education subtrhead into that context, I think that public schools should stop trying the one-size-fits-all model and go with smaller schools, smaller classrooms, and more student choice. It might cost more in the short run, but many small private schools survive on a per-pupil tuition cost that is lower than public school per-pupil costs. Of course, private school teachers don’t have the same salary/benefits package that public school teachers do.

    I personally think you’ll have better schools when they are places kids actually want to go. When you have compulsory learning, you’re going to have disinterested kids, if not rebellious ones.

    So I’m all for injecting more self-determination in public schools and letting kids direct mroe of their learning.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    Isn’t this part of self-ownership?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Andy, in my town, there are more than 7000 public school sudents in five schools. How much should an administrator make, if s/he is responsible not only for all those kids but also for the teachers and other employees?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Isn’t what?

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    bhw – I would say that depends on the job s/he is doing!

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    this public school discussion.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Andy, lots of people who work and work hard are still poor enough to qualify for food stamps and other assistance.

    Welfare does not *only* keep people from getting jobs. The vast majority of people who receive welfare do so only temporarily. You’re talking in stereotypes now.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    that may be the case now. After the BJ king changed the rules a while back. And exactly how do stereotypes become stereotypes?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Last year, when my oldest was a senior, she took what was supposed to be an oceanography class. Her teacher spentthe entire year working on a Chesapeake Bay Oyster replenishment program that was sponsored by the state! I mean, granted, the Chesapeake Bay is salt water, but oyster replenishment isn’t oceanography!

    It sounds like a good class to me, Andy. To each his own.

    But without that state funding, there would be no classes on oceanography or oyster replenishment at all. I think variety is a good thing. And with NCLB, those electives will soon disappear, along with recess [this is actually happening to some schools in MA — no recess]. If it can’t directly prepare students for questions on the standardized state test, the class won’t exist.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    that may be the case now. After the BJ king changed the rules a while back.

    No, this has always been true. It’s always been that the majority go on welfare temporarily –most people DON’T like being on it and WANT to work — and that a minority stay on it for a long time.

    And exactly how do stereotypes become stereotypes?

    When other people erroneously assign the behavior or characteristics of a small number of people to the entire group to which they belong.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    bhw – I would say that depends on the job s/he is doing!

    Do you have any idea what public school administrators really do? Or what they’re responsible for? The number of people and size of the budgets they’re responsible for overseeing tell me that their salaries are justified.

    Perhaps you have some incompetent administrators where you live. The ones by me seem to be competent and qualified, and I don’t begrudge them their salaries.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    Actually, the administrators here in Va. Beach, for the most part, are a pretty good group of people . I’ve been back here for a year and a half now. I was so impressed with this school system when I lived here before that I settled for a smaller house to live in this particular district. Virginia, Hampton Roads in particular, is a very affordable place compared to the northeast. I know what my folks pay in property taxes in NJ (3X what I pay)and it’s ridiculous in comparison.

    Out in AZ, the cost of living was about the same, but the schools were terrible!
    I don’t believe it was a money thing though. I believe it was primarily a lack of interest on most of the parents!

    I have been very involved with my children’s education over the years, so yes, I do know what administrators do, or what they’re supposed to do. I also know the difference between good ones and bad ones and I’ve seen both.

    I’d say that the town you live in, bhw, is the exception to the rule…here’s some more stereotyping for you…you have no incompetence in your government run school system! I’m impressed.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    bhw – the oyster replenishment class would be a good class…for someone that wanted to learn about oyster replenishment. My daughter wanted an oceanography class. Didn’t you just say earlier that the kids should direct more of their own learning?

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Andy, you said yourself that there are good administrators and good teachers. There are actually more good ones than not. Your own words. So why would you advocate their death knell? Why would you parrot the ideology of the Right when it contradicts your own philosophy?

    Are you middle class? (answer to yourself, you don’t have to answer publicly). Should public education not exist, how would you have educated your own daughters? In spite of some issues you might have with the school system, like your oceanography example, wouldn’t you say your family benefitted from the public education system? Didn’t it do more good than harm to your family? So why do you call for it’s death now? Cuz you’re told to, right?

    What happens to a democracy, Andy, when all education comes at a cost? Right now, the public education does cost taxpayers, yes. But it is a fundamental institution required to enable the impoverished equal opportunity in this country and the ability to create a better life and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t think you truly comprehend what you are calling for when you say that public education should be shut down, when you, yourself admit that it benefitted your own family. Think about what you are saying and who is telling you to say it.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    I never said it should be shut down!

    The deal is, just like with anything else. A little competition for the dollars and the teachers! Right now the public school system has no reason to succeed! If they, just like you and me, thought that they had to actually do something for their dollars I think it would change things.

    The accountability that you Steve, seem to have a problem with! The federal govt took action because states weren’t holding schools accountable. They mandated achievement testing and put ultimatums on administrators. Bring the level of education up or lose your job. But YOU take the glass half empty line. Districts and schools that fail to make AYP-and that will be virtually all of them – are subject to increasingly severe, and unworkable, sanctions. Then I guess they better pull their heads out of their asses and teach kids to read and write! and plenty of schools ALREADY meet the standards. The ones that don’t, who’s fault is that? That kids get promoted when they don’t meet the minimum requirements to pass a grade. I put it on the liberals that whine about how it might affect a kids self esteem if he gets left back a grade. I bet it hurts their self esteem a lot more when they get to HS and STILL CAN’T READ! But by then, they probably don’t give a shit anyway! And I put it on teachers that “couldn’t be bothered”. And yeah, I put it on parents that can’t see that their own freaking kid can’t read!

    The Superintendent of the school system I lived in when I was in AZ came from the Va school system. She should have known the things that needed to be done after having worked in a good school system. But she didn’t fix the problems!

    You bitch that the schools can’t make the grade, I say you’re not getting your monies worth! When I’m not getting my money’s worth, first I bitch, then I go somewhere else! That’s one of the reasons I DON’T live in AZ anymore.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    In comment 24, Andy says:
    MOST public schools would die. You know why? Because something that diseased is incurable and should be put to death!

    In comment 43, Andy says:
    I never said it should be shut down!

    The federal govt took action because states weren’t holding schools accountable.

    Whatever happened to the conservative ideology of state’s rights?

    plenty of schools ALREADY meet the standards.

    This directly contradicts your theory that the public education system sucks. According to the White House’s own commission, most schools will not meet the standards of NCLB, in spite of the fact that the school system does put out more children who can read and write, than cannot.

    I bet it hurts their self esteem a lot more when they get to HS and STILL CAN’T READ!

    This is an issue that needs to be addressed. But NCLB is not correcting the problem. NCLB is making sure that kid can pass a test. A specific test. That’s all. This issue is not ‘rampant’ either, the majority do learn how to read and write. This society is not primarily illiterate.

    I put it on teachers that “couldn’t be bothered”. And yeah, I put it on parents that can’t see that their own freaking kid can’t read!

    I do too. It’s unfortunate that the solution offered by the government does not address either of those situations though. Teachers now have less time to devote to teaching reading and writing. Bhw has offered some good solutions as to the overhaul of the educational system, via smaller classrooms, etc. Many similiar concepts would go far to better education. It’s unfortunate that the solution we have decided upon also fits the definition of extortion.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    It looks like we are back to italics hell.

    Almost everybody hit on the thing about schools that I think is most important- parental involvement. It doesn’t matter how good the teacher, or how much money is spent per pupil, if the parents are merely warehousing the kids, and fail to insist that their children behave in the classroom.

    I think the school debate is worthy of its’ own post and thread. I’d kinda like to steer this back to taxes, if everyone would be so kind.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw
  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Okay, Mike, I hear you about getting back on track. But I can’t do that until I at least respond to a coupla quick things.

    My daughter wanted an oceanography class. Didn’t you just say earlier that the kids should direct more of their own learning?

    Yes, but they can’t do it in any typical h.s. classes right now. If it had been the course she was expecting, she still wouldn’t have directed her own learning. The teacher would have done it for her. But it does sound like your daughter got caught in a bait and switch, which is a shame. I don’t think that’s really a big problem in today’s public schools in general, though, particularly when most schools couldn’t dream of offering a course that strays from the standard SAT prep courses.

    Then I guess they better pull their heads out of their asses and teach kids to read and write! and plenty of schools ALREADY meet the standards. The ones that don’t, who’s fault is that?

    Andy, why do you assume that every poor person is lazy or every school district with severe problems results from bad teachers and administrators? Couldn’t it be that life is a little more complicated than that? Couldn’t it be that some poor people work very hard but never get ahead? And couldn’t it be that teachers and administrators in failing schoold districts are hard-working and good at what they do, but that they face problems that reach well beyond how to teach reading, writing, and math? Again, it’s not a coincidence that the wealthiest school districts perform well and the poorest perform poorly.

    She should have known the things that needed to be done after having worked in a good school system. But she didn’t fix the problems!

    I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone who came from a “good” school system to know how to fix problems in a “bad” one. Those two communities could be entirely different; if so, their students would bring entirely different problems from home into the schools.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    you have no incompetence in your government run school system! I’m impressed.

    I wouldn’t say that, necessarily. I said that the administrators — in particular, the ones who make a six-figure salary, which is who you were painting with your broad brush — seem to be competent at their jobs. There could be incompetence at lower levels, though. In fact, I know of one person in particular who I think should be gone from the school she’s in. But I don’t judge the whole school district on that one person’s performance. I try to see the big picture, and overall, the picture I see is of hard-working, dedicated professionals who not only enjoy what they do but who believe in it.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    end italics, thanks

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Hey, you didn’t start the italics. How did you end them? I tried a couple of posts up and it didn’t work.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    sorry about the italics. I am a product of the public school system. Just kidding.

    My daughter put peanut butter on my keyboard awhile back and the shift key can stick. I try to keep an eye out for html tag errors.

    The fact that the italics continue on, must be a browser/operating system issue because, while my entire post (where the problem started) is in italics, the very next comment is not, which is why I didn’t bother to correct it (not that I really could anyway).

    Anyway, my fault and sorry.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “I believe in the public schools.”

    Well, some people believe in Santa too… 😉

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “So education should only go to those who can afford it.”

    This is Bush’s policy?

    No?

    Didn’t think so…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “The vast majority of people who receive welfare do so only temporarily.”

    Yes, thanks to “heartless Republicans” and their Welfare Reform…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    I attended public schools my entire life. And, with a few exceptions (higher-level math courses, foreign-language courses, etc.) there was little “learning” involved.

    We’s spend a week or two on a subject, say, in a social science class, and then take a test on the material. But it was mostly stuff I already knew, or could have learned in a few hours of simply reading a textbook in a public library!

    Home-schooling is probably the best way to go, as long as both student and parent are motivated. Of course, those who home-school still have to pay taxes into the failed public school system…

    And also, not every child has the option of home-schooling, because both parents often work full-time jobs during the day. So this remains only an option for some (but a very good option, IMO).

    Maybe my personal experience with incompetent teachers who offer misinformation and “learning” material that is embarrassingly basic and outdated is rare. But I doubt it.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    I believe in the public schools.
    Well, some people believe in Santa too

    And some people believe in Jesus, too.

    So education should only go to those who can afford it.
    This is Bush’s policy?
    No?
    Didn’t think so..

    Reports from dozens of different sources say it will be the end result though. If there’s one thing the war in Iraq has shown us, is that the policies of Bush and the results of Bush don’t always equate.

    The vast majority of people who receive welfare do so only temporarily.
    Yes, thanks to “heartless Republicans” and their Welfare Reform…

    Clinton was the one who signed the Welfare Reform created by heartless Republicans. I’ve done a lot of googling on ‘welfare reform and Clinton’, and all I can find are negative story after negative story of statistics where only about 17-20% of those kicked off welfare have been able to find employment. The number of homeless has shot up to 35 million. Depends on the story you track down.

    The only assumption one can conclude from this, is that the welfare reform created by ‘heartless Republicans’ have put millions on the streets. Can’t find any report that says otherwise.

    Maybe my personal experience with incompetent teachers

    Biting my tongue.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    The number of homeless has shot up to 35 million…

    34.4 million of whom vanish like smoke when the census comes ’round. Really, such amazing claims require PROOF.

    Unless you’re including homeless cats and dogs in that number.

  • http://adamansun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Dr. Pat, I wish I had saved the link. I did come across so many different numbers, how is it even possible to count the homeless on a census?

    I’ve seen reports where the homeless are only considered homeless if they live on the streets. I’ve seen reports where people who cannot afford their own homes and so live on the living room floor of a relative are considered homeless, so it all depends. Of course, I did point out in my post, that there are varying numbers and data, there can be no way to accurately count such a nomadic group.

    I did think that number was rather high. Here might be what I was googling at the time, I just googled 35 million and homeless:

    “With nearly 35 million Americans living in poverty, more than 14 million people paying over half of their income on housing, and over 5 million renter households living in “worst case” housing situations, the cuts approved by the House Appropriations Committee will only exacerbate these trends and increase the number of our neighbors with nowhere to turn but shelters and the streets.”

    source: pdf file.

    I must have misread. I should have said that in our current population of 292 million, well over 10% of the population is living in destitution and poverty under the Bush economy. Apparently that would have been more accurate. Thanks for allowing me the clarification.

    Your ‘census’ that says there are 600,000 homeless, apparently doesn’t even count all the children, let alone the grown-ups, since it seems there are currently 1 million homeless kids in the inner cities alone. source.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Hmmm… It’s considered polite to preface statements like “Frosty Wooldrige”‘s with “IMHO”. These are opinions, and you know what they say about opinions.

    …how is it even possible to count the homeless on a census?

    I can answer that question definitively, thanks to my checkered career. The US Census hires able-bodied men to clamber down riverbanks, up under freeways, through shrubbery and around alleys and railyards. All the places where the homeless make their temporary domiciles are counted. The “uncounted” error from this effort may be larger than for the count of those living under roofs, but it is not 99 in 100!

    Please note that the census does also count homeless children, as well as people living under a relative’s roof.

    Having been involved in this effort in two census counts, I feel quite comfortable in dismissing inflated numbers as uninformed opinion (at best), or big lie/propaganda (at worst).

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Hmmm… It’s considered polite to preface statements like “Frosty Wooldrige”‘s with “IMHO”. These are opinions, and you know what they say about opinions.

    Just learning here. The Right touts opinion as fact all the time. The Left should go by a different standard, a higher standard, you are correct. My mistake. I was unfamiliar with ole Frosty.

    Having been involved in this effort in two census counts

    I can tell you this, and yes, it is IMHO. I am 40 years old. I was homeless for 2 years when I was a minor. And this last census was the first census EVER, in which I was counted.

    Anyway, From the National Homeless Foundation, which IMHO, I haven’t a clue as to if it is opinion or fact, just a non-profit that people and the government get their facts from:

    In most cases, homelessness is a temporary circumstance — not a permanent condition. A more appropriate measure of the magnitude of homelessness is therefore the number of people who experience homelessness over time, not the number of “homeless people.”

    For instance, a national study of formerly homeless people found that the most common places people who had been literally homeless stayed were vehicles (59.2%) and makeshift housing, such as tents, boxes, caves, or boxcars (24.6%) (Link et al., 1995). This suggests that homeless counts may miss significant numbers of people who are homeless, including those living in doubled-up situations.

    The found that, on a given night in October, 444,000 people (in 346,000 households) experienced homelessness – which translates to 6.3% of the population of people living in poverty. On a given night in February, 842,000 (in 637,000 households) experienced homelessness – which translates to almost 10% of the population of people living in poverty. Converting these estimates into an annual projection, the numbers that emerge are 2.3 million people (based on the October estimate) and 3.5 million people (based on the February estimate). This translates to approximately 1% of the U.S. population experiencing homelessness each year, 38 percent (October) to 39 percent (February) of them being children (Urban Institute 2000).

    You can try to dissect my references all you want, but I do know one thing, if there are only 600,000 homeless in this country as you claim, then a full 30% of all the nations homeless must live in my small town.

    Dr Pat, you cannot find an apartment complex out here that does not have 10 or more people sharing a one bedroom apartment, with most of them going from apartment to apartment like they are on holiday travel.

    The report then goes on to state:

    It is also important to note that this study was based on a national survey of service providers. Since not all people experiencing homelessness utilize service providers, the actual numbers of people experiencing homelessness are likely higher than those found in the study, Thus, we are estimating on the high end of the study’s numbers: 3.5 million people, 39% of which are children.

    This is where I got 35 million. I left out a period.

    source

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I see. I don’t agree with the numbers, but I see the contention. To evaluate statistics, I often use the yardstick, “whose ox is gored?” In other words, who benefits by the acceptance of the statistic as fact?

    The bar for acceptance of inflated homeless numbers (anyone who has “ever experienced homelessness”) from an organization which benefits directly from the perception of vast uncounted armies of homeless “out there” is therefore much higher.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    So conversely, we could say one who has a vested interest in shutting a program down, or cutting back on funding for a program, whether it may or may not be able to sustain such a cut, will also skew the data to their own benefit, thereby negating the relevance of what they promote, just as you insist on negating ALL the perceptions of the homeless out there, except when it reinforces what you, yourself believe and what you have seen when you went looking in the bushes.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Okay, this argument just went off the rails. To insist that statistics are not quite the same as facts, and require evaluation is not the same as rejecting them outright. To ask for proof rather than statement of opinion when a claim is contrary to my own experience is hardly the same as “negating the perceptions of the the homeless out there”.

    So – once more only – anecdote is not proof, and since they are your claims, the onus is on you to supply proof.

    I reserve the right to evaluate your claims, as I do everything I read.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Okay, this argument just went off the rails.

    Yet again. It was originally about taxes, but nobody seems to be offering input on that.

    since they are your claims, the onus is on you to supply proof

    Well, we are at an impasse. My comment about the homeless was in reference to welfare reform, as evidenced above. I was quoting from memory and said 35 million. Upon tracking down my source, it appears to be 3.5 million. I corrected myself.

    It is your choice to disregard a non-profit charity as being motivated by financial greed if you wish. It is also my choice to disregard census data on the homeless as being accurate, since as I have pointed out, I have only been counted once in my life and I’m not even homeless. I know a great many hispanic people in my town who live in their cars, who live 10 or more to an apartment, or who move from friend to friend. None have ever been counted. It’s my perception that what I have witnessed is not an anomaly. So we both reject each other’s data. We should drop it then and let the topic go back to taxes.

    Since many federal programs and financial aid is determined by census numbers, it would be a severe oversight to say that census numbers are above being co-opted for the purposes of greed, and solely apply that ideal to charitable non-profits anyway.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “The number of homeless has shot up to 35 million.”

    Oh, yeah. That’s credible…

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    RJ, six weeks or eight months down the road, some other wight will be quoting Steve S as the definite “I read it somewhere on the Internet” source for his contention that 35 Million children in America are homeless.

    It’s like playing Radio – every repetition inflates the numbers as desired, until there is neither fact nor sense involved.

    When I said the argument had gone off the rails, I meant this triumphant ace Steve S played, which turned out to be a blank card with a smudge of chocolate on it. Whereupon, Steve S said that, well, the fact wasn’t one, but the essence of his argument was still true!

    Didn’t work for Dan Rather either…

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    DrPat, you are assuming that liberals will be copying right wing tactics. Comment 66 sounds like a bio for Drudge.

  • http://jadedreality.blogspot.com spiderleaf

    Jumping into the fray with even more statistics in defense of Steve’s position (and, please let’s remember that he did indeed provide a source for his claim, after revising the figure, that is really all one can do isn’t it? What type of empirical evidence is acceptable? Is it only the US Census, which most reputable agencies and NGO’s agree is not comprehensive?)

    From 2002 HUD report (via PBS):

    The Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency in charge of housing issues, released the most complete report on homelessness in the U.S. The report, “The Forgotten Americans – Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve,” revealed that some 11 million Americans have “worst case” housing needs, putting them at a high risk of homelessness. Many are either spending over half of their paycheck on housing — often doubled up with others in overcrowded conditions — or live in houses that are falling apart.

    Now add this to the recent report regarding affordability of housing in US urban centers from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (I suppose they have an agenda because the people who work there only stay employed if housing is unaffordable?)

    In only four of the nation’s 3,066 counties can someone working full-time and earning federal minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment.

    A two-bedroom rental is even more of a burden — the typical worker must earn at least $15.37 an hour to pay rent and utilities… That’s nearly three times the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.

    About 36 million homes in the United States are rented. Roughly 80 percent of renter homes are located in nearly 1,000 counties in which a family must work over 80 hours a week — or more than two full-time jobs — at minimum wage to afford the typical two-bedroom apartment, the coalition said.

    The coalition’s “housing wage” assumes that a family spends no more than 30 percent of its gross income on rent and utilities, since anything more is generally considered unaffordable by the government.

    This would suggest that the figures from 2002 HUD released are still valid, if not increased.

    And then we have the whole other group of homeless, Vets… consider this:

    A 2003 Department of Veterans Affairs report estimates 313,000 homeless Vets.
    CHALENG report

    Now add that to the increasing numbers of homeless Vets coming back from Iraq in 2004 as well as all the other sources (gov’t and NGO) that report similarly high numbers and we get awfully far away from the 600k in the census.

  • http://jadedreality.blogspot.com spiderleaf

    There is also the question of runaways and street kids. They are also homeless (or live many to a single unit)…
    The most comprehensive study done in 1989 by the Government Accounting Office indicates 1.3 million kids are on the street each year. The Children’s Defense Fund cites approximately 1200 youth run away each day. An estimated 2.8 million youth living in the United States reported a runaway experience during the prior year (Research Triangle Institute 1995).

    I could find many more examples, but I think it’s your turn to refute the discussion with something other than just the Census figure.

    (now back to taxes…)

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Thank you spiderleaf.

    I have to give credit to DrPat for one thing. He’s made me look more into how the census counts poverty.

    Here is how the census considers who is in poverty. They have 48 ‘thresholds of poverty’. If someone falls within the threshold, then they are considered poor.

    A couple of paragraphs down, they give an example to illustrate their process. They define a family of THREE adults and TWO children, and show how to track down their threshold. It happens to be about 25,000. So if those 5 people live on more than 25k, they aren’t counted as being in poverty. This does NOT fluctuate by geography. It’s the same in California as it is in Wyoming.

    What a freaking hoot. How can 5 people live on 25k and not be in poverty? If rent is 1,000 a month, that’s practically 50% of their years pay right there. 13k left for food, transportation, clothing, health care, etc. for 5 people and they aren’t counted as being in poverty.

    This information isn’t from a non-profit with ‘ulterior motives’. This information is from the census itself. I can’t believe it.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    addendum – I realize that’s about poverty and not homelessness, but I’m learning quite a bit about the census. It’s pretty horribly wrong on a lot of things. I know it’s used to determine how much aid goes to issues like homelessness, welfare, and it’s used for economic indicators, etc. and the more I’m learning about it, the more problems I see with it. By keeping the numbers of the poor so unrealistically low, it makes the middle class look larger than it really is. Whether intentional or not, this can conceal a serious erosion in the middle class. Nobody’d know. (IMHO).

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    A couple of times now we have come back to taxes and how the one-size-fits-all manner of dealing with it doesn’t work. Incomes are vastly different from Wyoming to Manhattan, as you point out Steve.

    The thing that is never considered is that each expenditure is a matter of personal choice. Put two families of four in identical situations- same incomes, same houses, same schools, etc.- and you will still come out with one family having a stronger bottom line than the other, simply because of different decision making. That’s one of the reasons I am opposed to outcome-based attempts at making level playing fields such as the progressive income tax. Everybody has different objectives and desires that lead to these choices.

    The only thing I have no doubts about regarding statistics is that either side can make the stats say whatever they want them to.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    In fiction, the concept of outcome-based efforts at achieving equality was brilliantly addressed in Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron. The video is an adequate adaptation of the story, which, reductio ad absurdum, asks why, if we are determined to make everyone equal financially, we do not take the next step and level the physical and mental playing fields as well? After all, if my neighbor is smarter or more financially savvy (or more abstemious) than I, all the redistribution you care to institute will still not leave me equal to him in the long run.

    In the slave-owner’s mentality that informs the equalization effort of the graduated tax (as well as the welfare transfer payments that have derailed this discussion), no argument gets past that sense of entitlement to the mind, body and efforts of another.

    I believe the reason for the drive “level the economic playing field” has much less to do with the poor and star-crossed victims of disaster than it has to do with percentages and power. As a bureaucrat, I take a certain percentage of the transferred funds to fuel the bureaucracy. Power comes from directing who shall keep what amount of money they have earned, and which equates to your life and freedom (as you pointed out in your original essay, Mike):

    This means, when you use the body to earn money, you earned it, it’s your money. By the way, the mind is part of the body.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    All I can say to that, DrPat, is that it is entirely based on a completely erroneous assumption as to what liberalism/progressivism is.

    The video…..asks why, if we are determined to make everyone equal financially

    Nobody is seeking that though. That is NOT the ideal of Progressivism.

    no argument gets past that sense of entitlement

    One thing that is wrong here, is that you are attempting to imply that the ideal of equality for all, is a form of entitlement. Progressivism is about equal opportunity for all. But that doesn’t mean everybody needs the same dollar amount in the bank account.

    level the economic playing field

    It’s called “Equal Opportunity For All”, you are trying to twist these words and their meaning around. Someone who lives in a one bedroom apartment is entitled to the same quality of education as a person who lives in a 2 story house. There is nothing in the concept that says they both have to have the same salary.

    Leveling what economic playing field? What ideology is promoting making everyone equal financially, and specifically how?

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Come on, Steve. You can’t pull of naivete on the graduated income tax. It doesn’t do the job of making everyone income equal directly, but, if Jones makes $100k/yr and is taxed at a rate of 50%, while Smith makes $66k/yr and is taxed at a rate of 33%, how much difference is there in the outcome?

    It may not be the ideal of Progressivism According to Steve, but it sure is the real life result.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    You can’t pull of naivete on the graduated income tax

    I’m not. I’m willing to discuss the graduated income tax. But I don’t need to defend an ideology that doesn’t exist.

    determined to make everyone equal financially

    But that’s not the intent. There is no determination to do that, from any ideology that I know of. I am being expected to debate the determination of making everyone financially the same here, but that’s not an ideology of Progressivism, so I don’t need to defend that.

    Spiderleaf and I provided multiple sources to substantiate the Left’s position on the number of homeless and poor in this thread. The only counter to that was the usage of the census, and I pointed out a problem with that. A pretty big one. Rather than come up with more data to substantiate a significantly weakened claim, the topic was swung around to where Progressivism has to now defend itself against a charge based on non-existant ideology.

    That’s what I mean by the Right defines the narrative. When more facts and data came up, change the topic to something ‘Orwellian’. (or Vonneguttian).

    A government can’t exist without taxes. And with a flat tax of 10,000 per year, a person making 20k would have to forfeit half his income. A person making 30 million per year would pay 1/3 of 1% of his income in taxes, and you want me to be on the defensive as to why a progressive tax isn’t ‘fair’, and this way is.

    It seems to me, you should be on the defensive, trying to explain why a flat tax is fair. Because it isn’t.

    A flat tax shifts the tax burden off the upper class onto the middle class. We shouldn’t raise tax rates on the middle classes to pay for tax reduction for the rich. You can get almost all of the benefits of these flat tax proposals—in terms of simplicity, economic efficiency, and the fairness of the tax base—without abandoning America’s longstanding and sensible commitment to at least moderate progressivity in tax burdens.

    It may not be the ideal of Progressivism According to Steve

    I don’t claim to hold a lock on ideologies as you imply, but when President Bush gave a tax cut awhile back:

    “At a time when income disparities in the United States are the widest on record, the Administration’s proposal and the House-passed bill would enlarge the income gulf. An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, using the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy model, finds that the top one percent of taxpayers would receive 44 percent of the tax cut benefits under the House-passed bill to create a new 10-percent bracket and reduce marginal rates. This 44 percent share of the benefits is more than two and one-half times the share of after-tax income these individuals receive.” source

    So we should be asking Smith and Jones in your example why Bush isn’t helping them with tax cuts like he did the top 1%. Bush is promoting a flat tax that would burden the middle class even more. We should drop things like the death tax, or instances where you are taxed twice or more on something, etc. but it’s my obligation to speak out about a recommended proposal that would throw the burden of the system onto the backs of the struggling working class.

    And correcting a mistaken use of progressive ideology doesn’t make it “Progressivism According to Steve”. Ask any progressivist if they want to make everybody earn the same dollar amount and they will tell you no. It’s about setting the record straight.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Forgot to say – A flat tax that is a percentage of income has the same effect. Most of the rich get their money from interest, savings, stocks, principle, etc. not things that are considered wages or income. So it’d be possible for someone to make 30 million and pay no taxes.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Let’s see… Taking more from Guy A to fund Guy B in Guy B’s quest to provide a Guy-A-level education without first working for/acquiring/lucking into the funds to do that any other way is not viewed as confiscatory to Guy A’s life, efforts and abilities. (Forget whether it is progressive or not, please! No one else here has labeled it progressive, but Mike contends [and I agree] that it is neither fair nor moral – that it is, in fact, graduated slavery.)

    There are some things that we all use or have access to, that are in the appropriate purview of government to manage and all of us to fund via taxes: the courts and contracts systems, definitely; federal police, perhaps; local and state police, certainly.

    But when the goal is equality of outcome (“Someone who lives in a one bedroom apartment is entitled to the same quality of education as a person who lives in a 2 story house…”), and the method is to penalize Guy A to fund Guy B whether or not Guy A actually uses LESS of the resource, that’s graduated slavery. It espresses exactly the sense of entitlement that I pointed out.

    And I don’t expect the thought to get past that wall with you this time either.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    when the goal is equality of outcome

    well, the thought that this isn’t what progressivism is about, didn’t get past you.

    Equal Opportunity is a path, not a final outcome. It’s one of the main foundations of our Democracy. Some people may choose to not utilize that opportunity though. It’s at their loss though, few miss the opportunity. Most are not given access to it, whether they are homeless, illiterate, handicapped, or unable to communicate with most people in their new country, etc. Most are denied equal opportunity, instead of refusing it.

    As far as your reference to slavery, all I can say is that I won’t be able to see it. Slavery is against your will and imposing upon you by you being unable to get away. The government isn’t forcing you to stay. Taxes are a requirement as being a part of the community, of partaking of all it’s resources, whether it is the electricity to light your 7 mansions, or to get the benefit of prescription medications, many of which were funded by governmental loans to scientists, etc. If you think a tax is a penalty akin to slavery, then you need to get away from all governments. Of course in such a place, how much is the dollar worth?

    With all the advancements made possible by our government, should Guy A have the wealth to pay a little bit more than Guy B, by pooling their money and working together, they both can get it farther than going it alone. And that includes Guy A.

    A Democracy is NOT slavery.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Nope, didn’t make it through that solid sense of entitlement. Well, that’s the benefit of pessimism. I’m never disappointed.

    Blather on, Steve S. I’m going to bed in one of my seven mansions, with the excellent education (screwed out of eight poor guys who lived down the street) to enliven my dreams.

    End sarcasm. End conversation.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    with the excellent education (screwed out of eight poor guys who lived down the street)

    But now actually, because of public education held in place to sustain a middle class, that didn’t happen.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Steve- While you said, “A Democracy is NOT slavery,” it would have been more accurate to have said that it is not *necessarily* slavery… but it can be.

    Recall the Ben Franklin quote, “Democracy must be more than two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner”.

    Democracy is merely majority rule. If the majority votes to strip one of one’s income, you bet it’s slavery. If the majority votes to enforce Jim Crow, you bet it’s slavery. It isn’t dignified in any way whatsoever just because a vote took place.

    So, as I said earlier, government *is* force.

    I’ve often made this thread personal, not in order to hurt or insult you Steve, but to try to have you see a principle at work. Mainly, the same majority rule that takes the income tax is the same majority rule that denies equality to gay partnerships.

    I am very interested in the consistent application of principle. My greatest struggle is always just to get people to see that the application is very inconsistent in our society, and is in any true democracy. This is why I am an advocate of the democratic republic, and not of the mere democracy. In the latter, we could cook up a scheme whereby the tax burden is shifted to men named George. All in favor? Instead, what we have is a system where the tax burden is shifted to the wealthiest 5%. All in favor?

    No one really cares to defend the rich, because… well, they’re rich! They’ve got it made! We’ll call it them doing their fair share, and call it a day. But as we’ve seen, there is such things as bracket creep and relative wealth in incomes, so in fact, the middle class often gets pounded in the name of soaking the rich. Oops.

    I like taxes that are fair and that achieve the limited goals they are intended to serve. For instance, a gasoline tax is an excellent tax. It serves to fund highway repair and management, and is only paid by those who use gasoline, thus highways, and at a level that is directly proportional to usage.

    The worst part about being middle class is that you tend to carry a high tax burden without much in the way of direct return. For instance, each person gets the same amount of incidental benefit from the fire department when there are no fires, but each pays a different rate based on the value of property. Fair? Each American gets the same relative return on the military that defends our country, but each pays differently based on income. Fair?

    No. I do not propose a flat tax. That’s still a sliding scale. In the same way that one person gets one vote, I believe that one person should get a flat tax bill. No loopholes, no sliding scales. One person, one fee.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    In the same way that one person gets one vote, I believe that one person should get a flat tax bill. No loopholes, no sliding scales. One person, one fee.

    Mike, can you elaborate? How would this system work? Does a child count as a person in the tax system; in other words, does a family with 4 kids pay a fee for each kid? I’m thinking that they should, since those kids use the common services that taxes go toward. Are the kid fees lower than the adult fees?

    Also, how high/low would you set this fee, say, for federal taxes? Would anyone qualify for an exemption based on income? If not, how could a single person who earns, say, $15K/year afford the same fee as Ted Kennedy? Would the fee be so low that literally anyone could afford it?

    Also, we would obviously have to cut back on a TON of spending. Instead of trying to list all of those cuts, it’s probably easier to list what you think tax spending should be limited to. Could you draw up a quick, fairly complete list? [Or is that another post?]

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    “A Democracy is NOT slavery,” it would have been more accurate to have said that it is not *necessarily* slavery… but it can be.

    Apparently, this is the ‘wall’ that I cannot see over, Mike. Slavery is involuntary, from which you cannot escape. If slaves in the past, ran from the farm, they got shot. Slaves in Africa lived in chains. There was no freedom. If you don’t like the cost of citizenship, then you are free to go away. THAT is NOT slavery. You join a country by becoming a citizen, like you join a club by becoming a member. It takes dues, you pay for your membership. But you are free to go at any time, to no longer be a member, to no longer get any benefit out of the club, etc. That is more like citizenship than slavery is, sorry.

    You go back to the analogy of gay marriage, hoping I will connect on some base emotional level that way. But I cannot, Mike. The equality of my family is being denied, but no, I never for a moment see the lack of recognition of my family as remotely equivalent to slavery. Being denied a Social Security payment or denied the automatic transfer of property upon certain events, etc. is wrong, but it’s not slavery.

    But as we’ve seen, there is such things as bracket creep and relative wealth in incomes, so in fact, the middle class often gets pounded in the name of soaking the rich

    The tax system needs a major overhaul, and could be dramatically simplified. I’d never dispute that. The proposals currently put forth from the Republicans and the Libertarians both harm the middle class and shift more of the tax burden onto them, so I don’t support them. Sorry. When you consider wiping out deductions to put on an ‘absolute’ flat tax, as you propose, and people lose their deductions for health care, their mortgage, etc. because everything is flat, then a drop from a current percentage to a new one could still end up making the middle class pay more than they did before. Because it will be a percentage of a higher amount. I just see a lot of problems with the proposed solutions put forth right now.

  • http://www.bigtimepatriot.com Big Time Patriot

    “I believe that one person should get a flat tax bill. No loopholes, no sliding scales. One person, one fee.”

    Now, that sounds interesting, except that of course, Ken Lay got a lot more out of the government than I did. Ken got governement to change laws to “de-regulate” his favorite con game in the field of energy. Government isn’t likely to change any laws to help my business directly. So if me and Kenny Boy paid the same taxes, I’d be subsidizing his huge gains due to Republican influence on his behalf. Don’t know, doesn’t seem to pass the “smell test” to me…

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    I vote for a national sales tax…as long as I can keep shopping at the tax free commissary and the Navy Exchange!

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Steve said, “If you don’t like the cost of citizenship, then you are free to go away.”

    Wow. My way or the highway. Weren’t you recently criticizing RJ or Andy Marsh for using exactly that kind of reasoning, right after the elections?

    Steve said, “Slavery is involuntary, from which you cannot escape. If slaves in the past, ran from the farm, they got shot.”

    How is that different from taxes, which are also not voluntary, from which I cannot escape? If I run from the IRS, I will be arrested, tried, and imprisoned?

    The more you go on, the less respectable the positions become.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Patriot, I’m accused of going to extremes to make my points, but you go straight for Ken Lay, a criminal who had his company’s books cooked so that he could fleece his shareholders and give himself huge bonuses. Don’t make me out to be his defender.

    Men like Ken Lay go to government in search of corporate welfare precisely because they pay so much in taxes. They believe that they pay in, so they should get some return. If Ken Lay paid the same in tax as Mike Kole, he wouldn’t have ever gotten 15 seconds with a legislator.

    But as for Ken Lay getting more out of government than you, that’s true: He gets his three squares and an hour of exercise every day.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Mike, are you saying that nepotism will go away if everyone pays a flat tax fee? Because I don’t think Ken Lay got special attention for his industry because of how much he personally pays in taxes. He got it because of his relationship with the people in power in our government.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Mike, let’s look at your proposal.

    You might not want to be Ken Lay’s defender, but you’ve got to realize that depending on who’s in power, determines who benefits. I would say it’s safe to venture that Haliburton stockholders and CEO’s do better in a Bush administration, than they did in a Clinton administration.

    So if we want to adhere to the principle that everybody puts the same amount into the government, should we not adhere to the same principle that everybody gets the same out of the government? Let’s say that the government passes a ruling that retirement needs to be privatized. So people need to go invest their own money. Investment firms stand to make billions, which is why they are a big proponent of privatization. Or the government, on the advice of the CDC determines that there is a virulent strain of flu and more vaccines are needed. A government ruling on imports favors one company over another and someone makes millions off of the vaccine decision. But that person put in the same percentage amount as a person on the poverty line. So where’s the millions for the person on the poverty line? Let’s be fair. If a student gets a 30k loan, does that allow a homeless person to get 30k for rent? If two citizens do not get EXACTLY the same FROM the government, then is that not slavery by your definition?

    Here’s some rough numbers, 300 million citizens, assuming 40k average salary. 300mil x 40k x .05% = 600 million dollars income for the government for a year. There’s something like 1,000 billionaires, so while they might pay more, there are far more than 1,000 people who wouldn’t make enough to contribute to taxes at all. And children are in that 300mil too. What’s the final tally?

    Since it’s your proposal, can you refine the numbers? How much do you project your tax structure to bring into the government? What is your methodology to determine your numbers? If the number really is under 1 billion, can you elaborate on how you expect that to cover everything from the salaries of law enforcement, public school teachers AND the national defense of the country?

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    bhw- No, nepotism will probably not go away. Humans are still humans, and humans still like to show favoritisms where they can.

    Of course, that’s exactly one of the major underpinnings to and problems inherent in any redistribution of wealth.

    Steve, you’re partially right on Ken Lay. It isn’t because Lay personally paid a load in taxes that he had the ear of legislators. It’s because the company that he was CEO for paid a mega-load in taxes. Same principle at work, though: I pay a load of tax (either personally or via my corporation, and I want a return on it; after all, it isn’t fair that I just pay.

    Does it not seem reasonable to expect that if one class of person or corporation is subject to high taxes, that they will have a deep interest in lobbying for a break? Likewise, does it not seem reasonable to expect that since there is a pool of largesse available, those who have contributed largely to it will have a great sense of having a stake in determining the distribution of that largesse? I think that this is very reasonable thinking, and if you don’t like the results of this very reasonable thinking, then something has to be changed to not create these outcomes.

    Since people always chase what they believe to be their best interests; and since corporations exist for the purpose of drawing in money, until the premise of an available pool of largesse is eradicated, corporate behavior will not change. In other words, as long as there are political goodies to be handed out, people will line up to get them.

    I do not want government to merely be a game of determining which special interest gets the goodies in this four-year cycle. That merely perpetuates the system we have, whereby corporate interests spend huge sums of money backing both sides in the hopes that they can draw back on their investments later. Steve, I recall you bemoaning this kind of influence on the election, but in the comments above, you’ve very much argued for this system.

    I know that you have a distrust of corporate power. I respect that very much. But at the same time, I get that corporations would become imminently less powerful if there was no power available to them via government. This is why I distrust government power so much: it can and will be corrupted all the more by corporate power. Corporatations really cannot coerce on their own in the way that government can.

    Again, I like government models like the gasoline tax. I pay for the gas I use, thereby paying for my fair share of the maintenance of the roads. Likewise public utilities like water. I use 9 yards of water, the meter spins, and I pay for 9 yards of water.

    Steve brought up retirement, so I will address that.

    I don’t like privatization of social security, as many Republicans do. Your reaction against the Bush proposal is one that I agree with to a point. There can be no doubt that Wall Street wants the plan that would compel contributions into a plan that would result in commissions to their brokerages. It’s just so much more cronyism. So, I don’t support either the current system or the proposed ‘reform’. Either way, it’s compulsion. I think that it is smart and correct to prepare for retirement, I just don’t believe that it’s right to force it by law.

    Interestingly, all of the examples you offered involved government cronyism or compulsion, all of which I oppose. I can’t help but get the impression that you don’t see many places for the market to deliver the goods and services that people want and need.

    On a one person, one bill plan, I would see a government draw up a budget, as it does now, and mete out the bills. I don’t ever see it happening, since it’s way too honest. Everybody would see what the real cost is and who shoulders the burden and who sucks up the benefit, and that would be very dangerous because then the middle class would see how badly they’ve been played the sucker.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    So, Steve- what about that ‘if you don’t like it you can leave’ argument you made previously? Are you standing by that?

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Damn! Steve, I can’t believe I glossed over this question of yours! It’s excellent.

    “So if we want to adhere to the principle that everybody puts the same amount into the government, should we not adhere to the same principle that everybody gets the same out of the government?”

    Yes we should! That’s equality and justice!

    I don’t think it is just at all that my tax dollars get redistributed to corporations, any more than I find it just that they get redistibuted to anybody else. Governing is supposed to be the management of a society’s truly common needs, and those that cannot be privately managed, and nothing more.

    The courts, police, and military cannot be privately managed. They might easily be used wrongly against another if they were. (We see that they can still be wrongly used when publicly managed, but it is less likely.) Roads and infrastructure can be privately managed, but it is less efficient to have toll booths at every intersection than to have gas taxes.

    But managing sports arenas and convention centers? Producing the arts? Producing media? Paying farmers to produce food only to store it in a warehouse? Where does it stop?

    As long as tax money is taken from all and thrown into one hopper, there won’t ever be accountability. It’s too much to look at. Most people never think about it at all. It’s just the price of being a citizen, so I’ll just pay it.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    I don’t think Steve gave you the “love it or leave it” treatment. He was explaining why he didn’t think mandatory taxation was the same thing as slavery. One of the many things slaves didn’t have was the freedom to leave. We all can leave if we want to; we seem to be staying by choice.

    I agree that taxation is not like slavery. The comparisons don’t add up. We *are* free to stay or go, as we choose. We are not owned by other individiuals, as if we were livestock or other property. Most of us can marry who we want, and we can all be assured that we won’t be sold away from our families. We can all go to school, church, and to the mall. Hell, we can even choose NOT to work.

    I understand where you’re coming from, that we’re forced to pay taxes — under threat of a prison sentence — even for services/programs we’re opposed to. That’s true. But it’s not slavery.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    bhw is correct in 94. My comments about loving it or leaving it, wasn’t from me, but what is considered proper behavior in a social environment, in all human interactions. When you look at all cultures, even the ‘communal’ ones, where all members of the tribe raise the children equally, or a harsher one where you are forced to contribute at the end of a whip, in some how, in some way, everyone is expected to contribute to a society. Most societies have adopted the taxation way of contribution as money can be collectively distributed where it needs to go, for the common good of the populace. Note that this can mean from time to time a distribution of the money towards a common good of the populace, that an individual within that populace might not agree with.

    It’s not MY invention, it’s the way the world works. Taxation can be imperfect, and I agree that what we have now needs an overhaul, I’m not defending ‘more taxes’ and I’m not defending leaving things as they currently are.

    But, Mike, if your question in comment 92, is asking me if I have changed my opinion on anything, the answer is no.

    Progressivism isn’t about ‘keeping things as they are’, we’re open to refining things. We acknowledge that Democracy is still young, in terms of world history. It’s still being invented practically. Taxes could undergo a lot of work and we all can benefit, I don’t think a progressive would deny that. But if you look at most of my argument, it is about the protection of the middle class. There are certain factors that are required to have a middle class. Free education is one, because that is the only way that a person can move from the poor end of the spectrum up to the rich end. A middle class enables this type of movement. If you just have rich and poor, there is no way (short of a lottery win) that one person can move on the spectrum. So there is no democracy without a middle class.

    So I do not support any ideological change that hampers, hinders, decays, destroys, etc. the middle class. Flat taxes have consistently been shown to do so. Nobody so far, has shown me a plan that does otherwise. In terms of your own plan, other than the number 5%, I haven’t seen any more specifics. We need to know how much revenue is projected for the government so we can have a better understanding of what kinds of social institutions will be staying and going. Some institutions, I believe are vital to the maintenance of the middle class.

    Steve, I recall you bemoaning this kind of influence on the election, but in the comments above, you’ve very much argued for this system.

    There are things wrong with our current system. But no new ideas that I have seen, make the situation better. An ideology might improve ‘this’ or ‘that’ fact, but usually comes at a higher cost in regards to something else. Yeah, I bemoan a lot of things the way they currently are, I have not been convinced that a flat tax is an improvement.

    One of the things I don’t like with the current system is how Repubs use the tax laws for their own personal gain. I just heard from someone who had bought an SUV that he can write half of it off as a business expense. The Repubs had passed a law allowing all large SUVs to be written off as business expsense, now that they all have SUVs, they are closing off the exemption at the end of the year. It was his own words. I bemoan this type of stuff, but am not willing to change it to a situation that makes things worse on the middle class.

    But managing sports arenas and convention centers? Producing the arts? Producing media? Paying farmers to produce food only to store it in a warehouse? Where does it stop?

    It needs refinement, agreed. As far as the farmer situation goes, it doesn’t seem to make much sense when you look at it solely like that, but agri-subsidies are in place for a reason. If you advocate doing away with them, you need to address the problems they have solved, and how you will insure that those problems don’t arise again.

    In terms of the arts, we will just have to differ. A culturally enriched middle class is given access to museums, literature, etc. and is enhanced/educated in ways the elite take for granted. Arts are closely aligned with education to me, knowledge doesn’t always have to come from a book. Also, I view giving an artist money more closely aligned with giving someone money to start up their business, rather than the conservative ideology that you’re giving them money to create a piece of art that you find morally objectionable.

    My point about making sure that everybody gets the exact same amount ‘out of’ the government was the fact that that cannot be achieved. Nor should it. A person who can only live on the health care provided socially, because he can’t afford it personally, should not be limited because he’s ‘matched’ another person’s school loan.
    Also, removing the concept of lobbying and money in politics does not remove nepotism.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    It sure read like the love it or leave it treatment. Didn’t like the results of the vote? You can leave. Don’t like being taxed? You can leave… Sure seems the same to me, and every bit as callous.

    I would say that taxes aren’t slavery, but they are *like* it in the premise that the first claim to the fruit of your labor goes to someone other than
    you.

    This whole exercise has been merely a consideration of one’s economic tolerances. I want people to place our system on a scale of 1 to 100, with
    absolute slavery being a 1, and absolute economic freedom being a 100. I
    think we’re somewhere between 60-65. Our other freedoms, such as freedom of
    movement especially, help mask that it isn’t a 95. The point of it is that
    it isn’t a 95, and that furthermore, many people would rather that it was a
    30.

    When I was in Europe, I was astounded at how the Danes would actually brag
    about how they were taxed at an average rate of 78%. An average! But, if you
    consider that the Danes and most people throughout the world are coming from
    a tradition of serfdom or slavery, getting to keep 22% all while getting
    universal health care, education, pension, and other cradle-to-grave service does seem like a huge step forward, and to me kind of justified the brag.

    However, most Americans (no need to point out the obvious exceptions) come
    from the tradition (whether or not the reality) of near-absolute economic
    freedom. They certainly labor under the mistaken belief that there is 90-95%
    economic freedom.

    It’s something, Steve. Your orientation to life is so very much government oriented. There is no shortage of art without government sponsorship. Ever been to Soho? You can’t go to all of the galleries in that one part of Manhattan in a month and meaningfully look at everything. But more than that, I’m not looking at the funding the arts as an either/or proposition with funding businesses. I’m saying that *neither* should be funded.

    There are two ways to level the playing field- by taxing and redistributing to everybody… and taxing and redistributing to nobody. Either way. Which one costs less? Which one causes less dispute?

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    It sure read like the love it or leave it treatment

    Isn’t there some southern conservative statement – America, love it or leave it? I’m not advocating you leave, Mike. I’m saying the basic premise of most any societal grouping involves a contribution. Nobody likes a freeloader. This is where the concept of taxes come in.

    You said yourself, some things are necessary via taxation, like sanitation and defense. So if someone is against your tax plan, does that mean they are subject to slavery still?

    You know, there is an ideology that is absolute in it’s fairness from the government. Everybody puts in and takes out the exact same thing. It’s called communism.

    Your scale puts slavery on one end and economic freedom on the other. For there to be true slavery , Mike, you have to lose a lot more than your paycheck. I still think this whole line of thought is wrong. But to go along with your scale, I would put it at about the same amount 65-70, higher for the richer people, maybe up to an 80, and lower for the poor.

    Your orientation to life is so very much government oriented.

    Well, Mike, that’s one way of looking at it, however my perception of an ideal government isn’t solely for ‘my life’. That’s a key difference in ideologies.

    Yes, SoHo might have a lot of art. I’ve never been. I’ve never been able to afford to fly across country for a tour of art galleries. I would say probably 95% of America can’t do that either. By putting a museum in Little Rock, or in Cheyenne, a lot more people have their lives enriched and they learn a lot more about history, culture, etc. than just SoHo-ites. This is one institution out of many that helps them to enrich and better their life so they are more capable of achieving the American dream.

    I truly believe a Democracy is best for us all Mike, it’s the basis for my ideologies just like you have an economic basis for yours. In order for a democracy to thrive, there has to be the opportunity to better youself. History has shown us, in EVERY example of government, that when there is no middle class, there is no equal opportunity for all. The poor cannot then educate themselves, they cannot learn and accomplish the pursuit of happiness when all they can do is struggle to come up with a days meal. We, as Americans, decided we wanted a perfect ideal of a society, a democracy. So for 200 years, we have put in place the means for that to be accessible to all. Since democracy is so new to the world, it is always undergoing refinement. It will always need to, to accommodate changing cultures, to capitalize on immerging technologies (the internet could be a great way for the poor to learn for example). WIth such development, there are going to be rough edges that we work together to resolve. But we always need to keep in mind what kinds of societies there are, and what methods are needed to achieve those societies. For a democracy, one of the key components is a middle class. So while I dispute any analogy with the word ‘entitlement’ which conservatives love to bandy about when talking about American Democracy, if I HAD to prioritize, Mike? I’d have to say that a middle class is a requirement of democracy, but a class of elite is not.

    If I had 100 million dollars, I would be absolutely happy to give more in taxes than a person who made 50k. I would consider it a privilege to be able to give back so much, to the societal ideology that enabled me to capture the American dream of having such a good life.

    I have to say that it’s MHO, that it’s not a ‘tolerance level for government’ that is a key component in ideological differences. It is a difference based on Good Samaritanism, community spirit, wanting to ‘make the world a better place for us all, not just myself’, selfishness vs. unselfishness, etc,

    Mike, do you mean to tell me that if you made 100 million dollars, and (picking a random number out) if you only got to keep 45 million of it, and the rest went thru taxes back into the community, you’d feel shortchanged? You’d feel like you were subject to slavery? It’s incomprehensible to me. Just differing viewpoints.

    Also, Mike, to get back to your tax proposal, anybody would really have to have the numbers before they could jump onboard, right? When we vote on tax increases, we’re told that it will raise X amount of dollars over X amount of years, etc. and what the money is going for.

    Should someone advocate a 5% flat tax across the board, we should know exactly how much revenue that will be for the government, over how long a period of time it should be phased in (because let’s face it, you do it in one year and utter pandemonium sets in. Millions of federal workers alone would suddenly be unemployed). How will the remaining money be redistributed? How much would you propose national defense get?

    People should know these answers before they should jump on an ideology. I’m not trying to ‘assault’ or ‘scream’ at you, but that should just be a given.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    I guess it’s ok when a liberal, I mean progressive, says love it or leave it?

    I do remember getting a serious ration for saying that a while back…and some of it was from you Steve, you were Boom back then, but you still chimed in with the evil one and attacked the hell out of me for saying it!

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    But Andy, please look at the context. I’m not saying that Progressivism is saying ‘love it or leave it’.

    Consider a communal tribe. If somebody doesn’t contribute, they are exiled. Consider a purely capitalistic society. If someone doesn’t contribute, they end up on the street holding onto all they’ve achieved, right?

    I’m saying ‘humanity’ says that, not just one ideology. This is in the context of contributing to society. When the phrase is used against me, it is used in regards to a violation of civil rights. A significant difference.

    And again, it’s not ME saying it. I already said I don’t want Mike to leave. Okay people? Let’s not latch onto key phrases and ignore the meat of the argument. So Andy, yes, I did get on you for saying it, but I forget the context of it, however, I’m not telling MIke to leave the country!

    One of the main reasons we founded this country was to get away from oppressive taxation without representation. Yes, taxes can go too far and there is room for improvement with our current system. but I do not think that 100% economic freedom was the thought of our Founding Fathers. We have our civil liberties, and we hold them dear and constantly fight for them, but we don’t have 100% freedom in regards to civil liberties either. There is no such thing in regards to ANY form of government, as 100% freedom in everything.

    Another thing that should be addressed in scaling back on the government so much is a return of landlordism. Buying a home and/or a car is very much a situation where you have to prove to the business you are a worthy customer. Unlike shopping for food or paper towels. The government through a variety of means, makes it possible for millions to get a home or car when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Should the government be scaled back so it no longer can afford to be in that business, not only will millions have no means to get a home anymore, but it will be the return of landlordism.