Writing about government and politics is an anathema to me. I'm not smart enough to understand the ramifications of any position I might take or idea I might have. This is an area where I might have an absolutely clear idea of what is right, but when expressed I start to doubt myself when those pesky 'what if' questions start creeping in.
I have pretty much conservative in my thinking most of my life. This was pretty much a general notion rather than a specific position. By that I mean that the idea of government being only a small part of our lives seemed to give me a freedom of not being a character in the book 1984 or Brave New World. But when a specific issues came up like 'gun control' or 'right to life' or 'health care', I would waffle. The last few years I have found myself leaning more toward many liberal notions. But there I waffle a bit too. I think I see some European countries, which have bought in to strong liberal policies, almost collapsing with the high debt of those policies.
There is so much that I don't know. I know that we could save a bunch of money by withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it sounds like we may be cutting back significantly in Iraq. The idea of getting out of expensive wars and saving a lot of money seems so simple and obvious and straight forward, I wonder why it is not happening. I can only suspect that a President who I thought was interested in doing just that instead is doing the opposite -- he has to know something that I don't. I suspect that when someone assumes the presidency he finds out that there is a true and frightening threat of nuclear terrorism in our country, so much so that he is forced to go to extreme means to protect us. So we see scary surveillance of ourselves and intrusion into our private lives and expensive fighting in other countries. And he can't tell us that if he didn't do that we would be blown up. Perhaps those are things that a President learns when he takes office that we just aren't privy to. That is my guess.
And there is another conundrum. That is the problem, every political subject is a conundrum. There seems to be a huge disparity in my income and the income of the really wealthy. And there is the notion that I pay a higher percentage of my income in taxes than wealthy people do. Those are two separate issues.
I am sure that many will be quick to correct me if I misunderstand something. I think that the tax rate for millionaires is pretty significant right now....higher than my tax rate. When the 2012 tax booklets come out I am going to check that. But I am able to sneak in under my tax rate because I am allowed some deductions and exemptions -- so I actually pay a bit less then what the booklet says my rate is. The wealthier have more deductions and exemptions and tax shelters than I do. I think this was an evolving thing. The reason I can deduct the interest rate on my house is that the government wanted to encourage housing investment. Well, the government over the years wanted to encourage investment in all kinds of area over the years. The idea is that it was good for the economy if money was poured into certain areas.
Our tax structure, as gobbled up as it is, is a progressive one. If every one were to pay the same rate, then the poorer would pay less (in real money) than rich people. Ten percent of a million dollars comes out to significantly more than ten percent of thirty thousand dollars. Our progressive tax rate ensures that the wealthy pay even more than that. The more money you make, the higher your tax rate is. If I pay ten percent in taxes (and I am making these numbers up), my rich friends might be paying thirty percent. So the rich get a double whammy.
Do you see the conundrum? Should the rich get double penalized for being rich? On the other side of the equation is how much money do you have left after your pay taxes. Whereas I might have thirty thousand dollars left over (again, I am just making stuff up for illustration), my wealthy friend may have fourteen million five hundred thousand dollars left over. Aha! This is where that original disparity question between the rich and poor raises its ugly head.
First of all, the rich don't actually get a double whammy. Remember those deductions and exemptions and tax shelters? They get to reduce their taxes more than I get to. In my simple beleaguered brain I think that we should get rid of those deductions and exemptions and tax shelters for everyone. Then everyone would pay what the tax booklet says they should pay.
A powerful argument against this is that it is our wealthy friends keep the economy going. They buy more, which means that someone has to make and sell what they buy and that requires people to make those goods and therefore jobs are created. Yep, I figure that is pretty much true. The second argument strenuously shouted from the rooftops is that rich people own companies and corporations which employ millions all of who buy things that create even more jobs -- and to top it off, all of those employed people pay taxes which helps with that deficit thing. I think that second argument might have had some merit many years ago. The wealth of our nation was in fact with the owners of large companies. But who are the rich today? I think it is people who do not employ millions. I think that for every Bill Gates there are hundreds of stock traders and actors and singers who are multi-millionaires that employ a tiny few people. These days, where everyone is a millionaire but me, my rich friends got that way without contributing to the economy. Today, the most of the wealthy are not drivers of the economy.
So I don't place much credence in that 'shouted from the roof top' notion.
Energy. Oh God, another conundrum. I truly want to see our energy needs met by non-pollution generated power. But it ain't going to happen for a long time. Wind Power: You can have hundreds of wind turbines covering miles and miles, but they will only provide a small percentage of power of a power plant covering only a quarter mile. And all of those wind turbines are unreliable power. They only spit out electricity when the wind is blowing, and that unreliability is so disrupting that a back-up power generating station is required to keep the electrons flowing at a steady rate. That kinda' defeats the purpose. Sun powered solar cells is pretty nifty, except the power they generate is so minuscule they simple don't count for powering our massive energy needs. Solar powered generating, where highly reflective mirrors direct sunlight onto a boiler to make steam which can be used to power generation. Same story. The power output of such a large facility is tiny. Hydro-electric requires damming up our water ways. We simply haven't figured out a way to provide non-polluting power. So we are left with gas and oil and coal and nuclear. We can pretty much drop coal from the equation because coal plants are phasing out because the pollution controls are so expensive that they are becoming uneconomical to operate. Oil is pretty much utilized for manufacturing of plastics and other oil derivatives and less and less for power generation. We are left with nuclear and gas. Gas has become remarkably dependable and clean for power generation. The pollution controls for gas are smart and not-that-expensive and safe. Nuclear works pretty damn good if designed right and the proper redundant systems are in place. France generates most of their power from nuclear with no pollution.
But? I mean, we can't just keep subtracting stuff from the ground. We have to until we figure something better out. So what is left? Conservation. Not using so much power. That is what will buy us the time we need to figure stuff out. I think we are getting better at this, and we need to get a whole, whole lot better. We require less fuel than in the past and hopefully less and less fuel through conservation. And we need to supply our own fuel from our own continent rather than through the middle east and South America. We need to be fuel independent. That is my take on the whole thing.
I wish I knew what to say about the conundrum of health care. This is of particular interest to me especially since I have to work well beyond my retirement age until my wife reaches sixty-five which makes her eligible for Medicare. Otherwise we would have to purchase prohibitively expensive health insurance. I simply don't know how the country can afford to provide health care for it's citizens. At the same time, I do believe everyone has the right to affordable health. I wish someone would figure this out...and pretty quick, so I can retire.
There are so many conundrums out there. The problem is that every approach you take has consequences so you have to be careful what you wish for. There is one thing that I know though -- taking a no-holds-barred adamant position on issues does everyone a disservice. I am especially disdainful of the stance of the Tea Party, simply because they refuse to look at consequences. I am especially disdainful of our conservative friends in congress because they are more concerned with policy rather than the country.
This blog has no particular theme -- just sort of thinking out loud. I am a bit Liberal, a bit Conservative, a bit Independent. And that is my conundrum.