Rational spending: it’s a matter of (dis)trust

What assurance can you offer me that, if I go along with a robust governmental stimulus financed by debt and inflation now, then the Congress and the President will follow through with austerity programs to resolve that debt and inflation later?

Because, unless you (or someone) can provide such assurances, can convince me that our politicians and government bureaucrats will suddenly change their approach to fiscal policy and behave in the rational way that economists would advise them to do, I and many like me cannot support such stimulative policies.

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Bias in reporting about the Tea Party?

Thank you so much for putting this all in “perspective”! What did we learn from this, even before any actual issues were discussed?

  1. If you want to find the “Tea Party”, you go to the “Bible Belt”; and you do not merely go to the Bible Belt, but you look for the Moral Majority; and you do not merely look for the Moral Majority, you seek out “Jerry Falwell’s” Liberty University, the central asylum for the misogynist, evolution-denying, gay-hating, xenophobic, flat-earth Christian Right.
  2. Tea Partiers are inherently untrustworthy. They can’t even be expected to be honest about whether or not the Tea Party has leaders. Of course it has leaders: we found them, at Liberty University! Well, technically it wasn’t Liberty University but Lynchburg, VA — but that’s the same thing, right? And, since these are the “leaders” of the Tea Party (we told you so!), what they say naturally reflects what the Tea Party stands for. In its entirety.
  3. Tea Partiers all speak in funny rural accents that good, sophisticated, intellectual NPR listeners automatically associate with ignorance, racism, parochialism, and lunatic faith. They are rustic.
  4. Tea Partiers are all fundamentally ignorant people with empty heads and no curiosity, just primed to be brainwashed by the manipulations of the right-wing media machine.
  5. Tea Partiers learned everything they know about politics and government from FOX news. Which means the Tea Party is really directed by Glenn Beck.

So, of course, having already gotten all that background, we can safely, sanctimoniously, and in good conscience, ignore everything else that is said by anyone interviewed because, well, it’s all the product of ignorance and superstition….

Do you think that maybe your pre-judgement — dare we call it “bias”? — about what the Tea Party is, what it stands for, and who supports it, might have skewed your reporting on it just a bit?

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Citizens United

“No taxation without representation” was the rallying cry of the American revolution, an explicit acknowledgement that the role of taxpayer — the role of providing financial support to government — is an overtly political one. If corporations are not individuals for political purposes, then they should not be taxed as individual entities. If corporations are really no more than aggregates of their stakeholders, and have no right to political participation other than through those stakeholders, then political duties, including the paying of taxes, should also apply strictly and purely through those stakeholders.

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Estate taxes and other tax oddities

I actually think the Estate Tax has a beneficial consequence in preventing the establishment of multi-generational economic dynasties. Apart from the potential detrimental effects of such dynasties on society and the economy, they do spiritual damage to those who inherit them: handing someone “success” without any need for effort or sacrifice is almost always a recipe for intellectual, psychological, and moral dissipation.

My objections to the estate tax — and to other tax policies — are based more on basic ideas of economic fairness and on the cultural ideals of “family”.

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Breaking News: People want to get things and make other people pay for them!

Suppose you want me to pay for your health care — or for your mortgage, or for your car, or for your iPod, or for anything else you feel you really need but can’t afford — and I don’t want to do so. If you point a gun at me and tell me to give you the money, it would be armed robbery. Everyone knows you don’t take what isn’t yours by force just because you want it. That would be wrong.

So, instead, you convince your Congressman to take the money from me, as a “tax”, and to give it to you. Why does that suddenly make it right?

What if I still don’t want to pay? What if I refuse — what do you think is going to happen? Federal agents will point guns at me and tell me to give them the money. Is taking my money by force suddenly righteous, rather than outrageous, because you outsourced the job? Is that what democracy is supposed to be about — lending moral authority to what would otherwise be morally reprehensible?

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Home is where the deed is

It has been said that a man’s home is his castle. That is, in our increasingly interconnected and regulated society, home is still the one refuge from social demands, is still the one place where your own preference truly determines how you live your life.

But, apparently, “home” is no longer home unless you own it yourself. So far, at least, no government has dared to cross that barrier.

Then again, given the trends, it’s probably only a matter of time….

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The ethics of “instant” news reporting

Instant reporting serves the business needs of news outlets — it attracts viewers — and the entertainment needs of the general public — it is titillating.

But instant reporting serves no journalistic purpose. And, therefore, journalistic purpose cannot be used as an excuse for getting the news wrong in the interest of getting it quickly.

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Reporting on Ambiguity

One of the main problems is that so much of the outcome hinges not on what is explicitly stated in some bloated and arcane piece of legislation but on what the unstated incentives are that get built into it and in how people react to those….

…Unfortunately, such results are based on predictions about human behavior rather than on observable facts and statements written into legislation. Hence, it is very hard to report “objectively” or, perhaps, even “accurately”. People disagree on the likelihood of such results occurring, and often the conception of that likelihood depends as much on what people want to believe as it does on observation and experience.

Here is my question to you: How do we create a process for reporting on these kinds of issues — for informing the public so they can make intelligent decisions — in the face of such ambiguity?

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