Archive for the Fairness Category

The Case for Free Enterprise

Posted in Argumentation, Capitalism, Economics, Fairness, Free Enterprise, Libertarianism, Morality, Philosophy, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by Xajow

No, no, no, this is not a post about the television show Star Trek: Enterprise. And no, this post is not about an obscure film called “Free Enterprise.” This is a post about some short films promoting the concept known as free enterprise, also sometimes called capitalism. Yes, I like capitalism. I believe it to be good for society. Why? Well, I will let the short films explain. Continue reading

More Annoying Political Comments

Posted in Deregulation, Economics, Fairness, Government, In the News, Patriotism, Politics, Propaganda, Running for President, Taxes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by Xajow

I really should be leaving this stuff alone, but certain things just irk me. This time, it is a quote from the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker. Continue reading

Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs

Posted in Fairness, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2012 by Xajow

You may have heard that the United States Anti-Doping Agency has stripped Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France wins not because he has actually been proven to have used performance enhancing drugs, but because Armstrong basically got tired of fighting the bastards USADA over the issue. The question no one else seems to be asking is this: Why do we have a USADA in the first place? Continue reading

Political Arrogance Masked as Compassion

Posted in Economics, Fairness, Government, Philosophy, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2012 by Xajow

Among the links on my Google News page the other day, was a link to a column at philly.com. It was written by Jeff Gelles, a business columnist. In this particular entry to his regular Consumer 12.0 column, Mr. Gells says some quite ridiculous things. Not the least of which is suggesting that Tyler Cowen claimed Obamacare would deliver “health care egalitarianism.” Tyler Cowen did object to “health care egalitarianism” but he made no claim Obama care would deliver it.

But worse than that, Mr. Gelles assumed a pious, arrogant attitude, for which he does not hesitate to pat himself on the back.

Like the Democrats in Congress who ultimately passed Obamacare without a single GOP vote, I’ve long believed our health-care system was broken and needed fixing. Sadly, I seem to have believed so more urgently than Republicans who’d voiced similar concerns in response, say, to Census Bureau data showing 45 million people uninsured even before the Great Recession, or stories of sick people denied lifesaving treatment, or of families bankrupted by costly care.

Well, that does not seem so bad, perhaps you are saying. Maybe you are right. The part of Mr. Gelles column that annoyed me most is the end of it.

There’s a price for all this. The Congressional Budget Office puts the net expense at $110 billion in 2015. And the numbers are wrapped up in the larger necessity — partly addressed by innovations built into Obamacare — of having to “bend the cost curve” for medical care.

But doesn’t a humane society have value, too?

A humane society? Oh yeah, putting our children deeper and deeper into trillions of dollars worth of debt is so humane. Yeah, I am being sarcastic. I have a hard time not being sarcastic when presented with the kind of arrogance Mr. Gelles is showing.

Why arrogance? Because Mr. Gelles is oh-so-politely saying that being opposed to Obamacare is inhumane. This is just more of the typical “if you really cared you would agree with me” arrogance that is very much what is wrong with political discourse in this country.

(This is not to say I agree with Tyler Cowan’s article. I do not. But Mr. Cowan’s article made no hubristic claims about what is humane.)

I bristle when people try to tell me what is humane or compassionate in a manner that is intended to shame anyone who disagrees with them. And in this instance, I think Mr. Gelles’s assertion that Obamacare is humane happens to be incorrect. I do not believe makes people more dependent on government is humane. I do not believe incurring ever more public debt is humane. It might be inspired by humane intentions, but the acts themselves are neither compassionate nor beneficial to society. They are short-sighted and serve to make some folks feel better about themselves, but that is not compassion. It is not humane. And it does not create a humane society.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe the health care system in the U.S. is a mess in many ways. But a large part of that mess stems from too much top-down government control. We are not going to fix it with more top-down control. Health insurance needs to be decoupled from employment (which was an innovation we got back during the New Deal when the government tried to control how much businesses could pay people for work), and we need to eliminate the laws the prevent people from getting health care from companies in other states. We need to put an end to government, via the Medicare and Medicaid programs, effectively setting price controls on health care. Price controls do not work. We have hobbled the health care market, and we bitch about how it does not do what we need it to do. It is kind of like tethering a horse’s hind legs together and then complaining that the horse does not walk fast enough.

(Am I arguing for no regulations in health care? No. At another time, I may argue for a more open market in health care, but that is not the topic of this post.)

I am sure Mr. Gelles means well. I am sure his intentions are good. But I do not buy that Obamacare is humane. And I find ridiculous Mr. Gelles’s suggestion that we ought to overlook the cost of Obamacare to have a humane society. Also the implication that opposing Obamacare is inhumane is something I believe to be an insult. I have heard a number of complaints during my life about how Christians claim theirs is the only true religion. Well, I am tired of people talking as if their ideology was the only way for those with intentions compassionate or humane or helpful or kind. ’Cause here is a clue: I believe most of the top-down “government will fix it” solutions are neither compassionate nor helpful. I believe they are largely short-sighted and deleterious. So when someone smugly suggests their top-down government “government will fix it” solution is necessary to be humane, it is an insult.

I oppose Obamacare exactly because I want society to be humane. No, I do not want the poor to suffer and die without care. I also do not want the poor and the middle class perpetually dependent on government for health care. I believe that would be detrimental to society. I am not saying someone cannot be compassionate and support Obama care. Of course that can happen. But we are not going to get far in public debate over health care if people start from the arrogant assumption that their preferred option is the only one for people with compassion and anything else must therefore stem from something other than compassion. Or, put another way, our compassion needs to include not just sympathy for those in need, but also some empathy for those who disagree with us.

Politicians in Paternalistic Fit over Eduardo Saverin

Posted in Fairness, Government, In the News, Politics, Taxes with tags , , , , , , , on May 17, 2012 by Xajow

As best I can tell, the story goes something like this: Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of that Facebook thingie everyone is always talking about, moved to the Republic of Singapore sometime in A.D. 2009. And then in January 2011, Eduardo Saverin filled out and sent in the paperwork for renouncing his U.S. citizenship. And then sometime in September of 2011, Eduardo Saverin’s official request was granted. And now that, in the May of A.D. 2012, the Facebook thing is about to get its initial public offering (IPO) of stock, which could make for Mr. Saverin several truckloads of dollars, some people have decided to throw a hissy fit.

ABC News Blog The Note:

“This guy just thinks he can rip us off by engaging in this scheme,” [Senator Bob] Casey, D-Pa., said at a Capitol Hill news conference this morning. “We’ve got troops overseas that are sacrificing on our behalf every day, all the values that we hold dear. And Mr. Saverin spits in their eye, he spits in the eye of the American people. It’s an insult. He should be held accountable.”

Saverin, 30, relinquished his U.S. citizenship in September 2011 before the company announced its planned initial public offering of stock, which will debut this week. The move was likely a financial one because he owns an estimated 4 percent of Facebook and stands to make $4 billion when the company goes public.

“Saverin has turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire,” [Senator Chuck] Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong.”

[…]

But Schumer was unrelenting this morning.  “It just so happens the country where he has chosen to reside, Singapore, has no capital gains tax,” Schumer added. “This tax-avoidance scheme is outrageous. Eduardo Saverin wants to ‘defriend’ the United States of America just to avoid taxes we aren’t going to let him get away with it.”

So to stop Saverin, and others who have relinquished their citizenship for tax avoidance, Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey, D-Pa., unveiled the “Ex-PATRIOT” – “Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy” – Act today.

The act is intended to respond directly to Saverin’s move, which they call a “scheme” that would “help him duck up to $67 million in taxes.”

The plan would re-impose taxes on expatriates like Saverin even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country.

If the Internal Revenue Service determines that people renounce their citizenship to avoid taxes, according to the proposal, they would then be subject to a 30 percent capital gains tax on future investment gains in the United States, regardless of where they live.

But most notably, the plan would bar individuals like Saverin from ever re-entering the United States again.

I was unaware that Senators Schumer and Casey were six years old. Which is my sarcastic way of saying they are being childish.

Which is odd, because while they are whining like little children they are also being paternalistic. They are almost acting like abusive parents. They complain that Mr. Saverin spits in the eye of the U.S. troops, and “he spits in the eye of the American people” and he “has turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire.” Whine, whine, whine. And indignantly they proclaim they “aren’t going to let him get away with it.” How? By punishing him with more taxes than he will already be paying (yes, expatriates still get taxed by the U.S. government) and by barring him from ever returning to the United States.

“You wanna leave?” I can almost hear them shouting. “You wanna leave? We’ll show you what we do to ungrateful brats!”

Senators Schumer and Casey are trying to control people. They are reacting like angry, abusive parents in public because they think they can get away with it. And they probably will, sadly. I am sure the “punish Eduardo Saverin” bandwagon is already loading up.

Mr. Saverin has not done anything wrong. He should not be punished so that a couple of Senators can score political points. If anyone should be punished in this, it is the senators. They are acting like a couple of immature and abusive parents and should be reprimanded for their bad public behavior.

(And yes, I used “A.D.” And yes, the “A.D.” goes before the year number. Not after.)

Some Comments About Leadership

Posted in Christianity, Fairness, Government, Morality, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by Xajow

A lot of people try to use the Bible as an excuse for promoting authoritarian policy in government. Moralists from the left and right promote their political agenda to control other people because it is supposedly what the Bible tells us to do. As you might guess, I have a problem with that. Not because I do not believe in the Bible, but because I do. Many people argue that we need government to feed the poor or tax the wealthy or protect marriage or keep prostitution illegal or any number of other things because the Bible in some way says we should. I do not agree.

What sort of government did God establish for Israel in the Old Testament? Was it one with a strong, central government that planned and controlled people’s lives? No, it was not. It was largely decentralized. When Israel demanded to have a king, God gave them a warning against it, and still they wanted a king. Getting one did not make them better in the long run.

Jesus taught that to be great and even to be a leader, is to be a servant first. One of several places in the Gospels where Jesus answers His disciples arguments about who among them would be the greatest, is Luke 22:24-27.

Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (NKJV)

Back then, rulers and leaders often gave themselves titles like ‘benefactor’ as a way of promoting the idea their leadership and control was necessary for the nation. Today politicians do the same kind of thing. They proclaim themselves champions of the people and insist their political ideas are the only way to help people. Jesus contrasts those who want to be in control, i.e.  those who would sit at the table and command the servants, with those who serve. Jesus mentions those who exercise authoritarian control and then tells His disciples, “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.”

Keep this in mind when you look as Jesus’ admonitions to help those in need. Did Jesus teach that we are to tax (i.e. forcibly take money from) other people to feed the poor? No. He told individuals to give of themselves. Of whom was Jesus most critical? The Pharisees because they served their own interest in power and had made Jewish laws into a tool of oppression and control.

Matthew 5:20
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (NKJV)

Matthew 23:1-7
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ (NKJV)

Matthew 23:23-28
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (NKJV)

These are just a few examples of Jesus’ about the Pharisees. And there is one often overlooked passage I would like to add to this discussion.

Matthew 17:24-26
When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”

25 He said, “Yes.”

And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”

26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.”

Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.”

My point is that while many people try to use the Bible to justify their support for various political policies they want to be enshrined in law, they are wrong. I believe Jesus makes clear that morality is about individuals making moral choices as individuals, not about forcing other people to obey laws.

If you want the government to have more of your money, then your responsibility is not to demand higher taxes, but to give your money to the government.

If you want to help the poor, then your responsibility is not to see that other people pay for a government run program, but for you to help the poor.

If you want more wealthy people contributing to programs that aid the poor and needy, then your responsibility is not to demand the government take more of the money from the wealthy, but to convince the wealthy to voluntarily give their money to help the poor and needy.

Your responsibility is not to use authority to take by force, which is what taxation does. You responsibility is to serve. Not to have the government make other people serve. Rather, for you to serve.

Yes, I know. No individual can do it alone. No one is arguing otherwise. No one is saying you cannot or should not get people to help you. What I am saying is that voluntary cooperation is moral and coerced action is not. There is no morality in paying taxes to help those in need because I have not made a choice to give or to help, only to obey the law. 

Lead not by ordering people to submit and comply, but by you engaging in the act of serving. If you want to see good done, then do it.

So when political leaders speak of making other people “pay their fair share” because we have an obligation to help the poor, the sick and the needy, they have missed the point. And when political leaders have opportunity to give more and they refuse to do so, it calls into question their fitness to lead.

Tax “Avoidance” by Apple Computers and President Obama

Posted in Economics, Fairness, Government, In the News, Philosophy, Politics, Taxes with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by Xajow

A few days ago, The New York Times ran a lengthy article about, according to the headline, “How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes”. There is some predictable whining in there about how Apple Computer is avoiding paying taxes. Where was the whining about President Obama avoiding paying taxes?

Although the Times article itself is interesting, there are some spots of sad cluelessness in it. For example:

A mile and a half from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters is De Anza College, a community college that Steve Wozniak, one of Apple’s founders, attended from 1969 to 1974. Because of California’s state budget crisis, De Anza has cut more than a thousand courses and 8 percent of its faculty since 2008.

Now, De Anza faces a budget gap so large that it is confronting a “death spiral,” the school’s president, Brian Murphy, wrote to the faculty in January. Apple, of course, is not responsible for the state’s financial shortfall, which has numerous causes. But the company’s tax policies are seen by officials like Mr. Murphy as symptomatic of why the crisis exists.

“I just don’t understand it,” he said in an interview. “I’ll bet every person at Apple has a connection to De Anza. Their kids swim in our pool. Their cousins take classes here. They drive past it every day, for Pete’s sake.

“But then they do everything they can to pay as few taxes as possible.”

Yeah. Of course Apple tries to pay as few taxes as possible. Anybody with a modicum of income and sense does. (And, oddly but not surprisingly, that includes President Obama.) The California budget crisis has pretty much nothing to do with what Apple pays in taxes and everything to do with massive California government spending. But once again we see this odd attitude that if people and/or businesses cared about their city/state/country, they would pay more taxes. The question I want answered, and which the article does not address, is: does De Anza College president Brian Murphy claim deductions on his personal income taxes? In other words, does he do everything he can to pay as few taxes as possible? If so, he is a hypocrite to then complain about Apple.

Some days back, President Barack Obama’s tax records were released, and apparently he paid about 20.5% of his income in taxes, which was, we were assured, slightly higher than the rate paid by his secretary. Somehow this proves we need to raise taxes on the wealthy. I suggest that this proves first that the taxes the secretary pays is probably too high, and second that Obama is choosing to claim deductions on his taxes. The reason his tax rate was so low, we were told, is because he donated lots of money to charity. But those deductions are voluntary. No one forced him to claim those deductions on his tax return. So if, as we were told, Obama believes he should pay more in taxes, then why did he not do so? Even if he had someone else prepare his tax return, he could very easily tell that person to claim no deductions. Apparently he did not do this.

So what about Obama contributing money to the U.S. Treasury? As I pointed out the other day, President Obama is not going to do that because, according to David Axelrod anyway, that is not the way things are done. Yet Obama says the wealthy, including himself, ought to pay more taxes to the government. Why they must be forced to do so rather than choosing voluntarily to do so, no one has yet explained.

Back to the Times article and Mr. Murphy’s whining:

“When it comes time for all these companies — Google and Apple and Facebook and the rest — to pay their fair share, there’s a knee-jerk resistance,” Mr. Murphy said. “They’re philosophically antitax, and it’s decimating the state.”

Again we come to the “fair share” argument. Fair is entirely subjective. Apple does actually pay billions in taxes and contributes millions of dollars to various organizations and charities. Were I a betting man, I would bet Google and Facebook and Intel and Cisco do the same. The idea that somehow the financial crisis is all their fault because they’re just not paying enough in taxes is silly. That is sort of like a person who makes a $50,000 per year salary spending $70,000 and then blaming his massive debt on his employer for not paying him more.

In any case, again and again and again I have to come back to the idea that if you want government have more of your money, then you should give the government more of your money. Take responsibility for yourself. If Obama and Warren Buffet want the government to have more of their money, why are they not writing checks to the U.S. Treasury? I’m not sure what Buffet’s problem is, but I can guess at Obama’s motivation. He is, after all, a politician.

In Obama’s case, the obvious answer is that what he wants is for government to have more control. He probably also wants to be able to claim he cares about middle-class voters by sticking to the wealthy. He does seem to like his class warfare rhetoric. But mostly, in my opinion, he believes the government needs more control. His intentions may well be entirely good. But good intentions are not enough. Good intentions do not mitigate bad and unintended consequences. The problem, in general terms, is that Obama and people like him believe the solution to everything is more government control. And all the evidence that more government control does not help in the long run (and often not in the short run either) is simply ignored.

If you think this is somehow not about controlling other people, then I will point again to Obama not choosing to take zero deductions on his taxes and his choosing not to give more money to the U.S. Treasury. If he genuinely believed the government needed to have more of his money, he would have given it to the government. People act on what they believe. When they say one thing and do another, they indicate a lack of belief in what they say. There is a word for this. I’ll give you a hint. It starts with an h and ends with ypocrisy.