Friday, June 25, 2004

Thoughts on taxes

I keep reading liberal pundits and columnists who toss off the throwaway phrase of "the massive Bush tax cuts", as if it is common, undisputed knowledge. I cannot possibly disagree more.

In 1992, the top tax rate was 31 percent. Clinton's first budget included a new top tax rate of 36 percent, with a "temporary" "millionaire's" surtax of 10 percent (of the taxes paid), for a top tax rate of 39.6 percent. I use the scare quotes because the surtax was neither temporary nor limited to millionaires. It ended only because Bush made tax cuts the single most important issue in his first year in office, and it affected everyone who made more than about $250,000/year.

So far, Bush's tax cuts have reduced the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 39.1 percent to 38.6 percent, and the next reduction is to 35 percent. By my calculation, that means the tax rate is still more than 4 percentage points higher than they were before the Clinton tax increases of 1993 (almost 12 percent higher). Further, while Clinton's tax increases (or any tax increase, for that matter) is indefinite, the Bush tax cuts are written to expire in 2011, at which point taxes will increase for every single person who pays taxes.

Additionally, the tax cut is mischaracterized as "for the rich". In absolute dollar terms, someone who pays $100,000 in taxes (the top 1 percent) is going to save a lot more with a tax break of 4.6 percentage points (an 11.6 percent reduction) than will someone who pays $1,200 in taxes will with a tax break of 5 percentage points (from 15 percent to 10 percent, a 33 percent reduction). However, as I pointed out, in percentage terms, the tax cuts are strongly biased in favor of the smaller brackets, especially the smallest. In addition, the Bush cuts dropped an additional four million taxpayers from the rolls, which resulted in a 100 percent reduction for them (15 percentage points). Over 30 million people already paid no taxes, so of course the tax cuts did not benefit them (you have to pay taxes to benefit from a tax cut). This chart, from the anti-tax Tax Foundation, has some interesting data on how much more than their fair share the top earners pay every year in taxes.

posted at 08:28 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

Now 55 percent of voters pay no income tax at all. This means Democrats can win elections with tax and spend policies. We would be much better off if the working poor paid the same rate as everyone else, even though the total dollars raised would be small.

posted by John Doe on June 30, 2004 05:05 PM

Reductio ad absurdum

Today's Seattle Times had an editorial in which I had a problem with their reasoning. The subject was on stem-cell research, and the president's splitting-the-difference approach to the controversy. While I agree with the paper's position (I am in favor of allowing research) the editors made a rather fatuous statement that I could not let pass:

Bush hoped his 2001 decision to allow federal funds to be used on existing stem-cell lines would end the debate. He attempted to carve an imaginary middle line in our country's politics. .

For people suffering a variety of ailments, there is no middle ground. Federal funding of research on a broader supply of stem cells should proceed in earnest.

Actually, he found a middle ground between those who favor unrestricted research and those who oppose any research at all. There's no "imaginary" about it. By tying it to those who are depending on research that may or may not cure them, the paper is assuming that only wholesale research will find cures.

By extension, the paper's argument could be extended to any controversy, with the only valid views to be the extremes. Think of abortion—one is either in favor of unrestricted abortion on demand, or one is opposed to abortion in any case. Gun control can be reduced to no laws versus no guns. By dismissing Bush's (perhaps overly) nuanced position, the Times' editorial staff misses the point that many people are ambivalent about research on living, human cells. One does not need to agree with his views to recognize that Bush has staked out a position that is internally consistent and defensible.

posted at 07:40 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

It's the classic fallicy that the media always preys upon. Rarely does the media acknowledge that there is middle-ground on anything. It's black or white, good or bad, all or none... I guess middle of the road ideas are too mundane, so why not cover the extremes. They're much more interesting anyway.
As far as stem-cell research, the country is not cut and dry. In fact the average citizen doesn't give a rat's ass about an all-or-none concept (just like abortion). President Bush was good to take the stance he did, and yet the media plays it against extremes. They can ping him against either side (all-or-none) and make his stance look bad, depending on what sort of picture they're looking to take. So I guess... Take it with a grain of salt. Today's media isn't much more than entertainment with some well manipulated facts tossed in anyway.

posted by arclightzero on June 27, 2004 09:30 AM

Actually, it wasn't a "cut down the middle" at all.

He never opposed stem cell research (and nor do I), he opposed growing human embryos to be harvested like guinea pigs.

So his position was perfectly logical and principled.

posted by Misha I on June 27, 2004 10:30 PM

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Anti-democratic Democrats

Once again proving that they are only after naked power, the Democratic Party has filed suit in Arizona over the signatures gathered by Ralph Nader, alleging that over 70% of the signatures are invalid. Not the signatures themselves, but rather the credentials of those who collected the signatures. (Due to a quirk of Arizona law, the party cannot file a suit itself, but the two activists who filed are receiving the full support of the state Democratic Party.) The Kerry campaign is not actively aiding the effort, but they have offered tacit approval.

A quote from a Kerry spokeswoman is entertaining:

"The Democratic Party has a right to make to sure that those rules are being followed and that the law is met," she said. "We're abiding by them and it's only fair that others abide by them, too."

See Toricelli, Robert; Wellstone, Paul; and Carnahan, Mel. See also military ballots in the 2000 Florida recount, as opposed to undercount ballots. See also the irregularities in South Dakota, which probably resulted in Tim Johnson's minuscule victory over John Thune. See also keeping precincts open late in Saint Louis and Kansas City. See also Loretta Sanchez's victory over Bob Dornan, aided by votes from illegal immigrants. Following the rules is important only when it benefits the Democratic Party.

UPDATE/24June2004—Jim Miller links to an article that notes that the Kerry campaign is using convicted felons to register voters. Can you say "double standards"? Of course you can.

posted at 04:41 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

Here in California, the ACLU sued to block last year's recall election, which over a million signatures had put on the ballot in accordance with state law. The ACLU argued that the voting machines were faulty and thus would disenfranchise some voters. Oddly, these same faulty voting machines were just fine a year earlier when Grey Davis was elected...

posted by jeff on June 28, 2004 11:33 AM

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

He has it right.

Hawspipe has a handy round-up of justifications for action in Iraq. It's loaded with links, and is more of the more thorough of the reactions to the whole 9/11 commission staff report. Have a look.

posted at 05:27 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

More Kennedy bloviation

Once again, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry's self-appointed hatchet man, goes after Bush without really thinking about his own record on the subject about which he is pontificating:

America is at greater risk of a nuclear attack from terrorists because of the Bush administration's "single-minded focus on Iraq," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said.

In remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday, Kennedy, D-Mass., said North Korea and Iran have continued unchecked with their nuclear buildups while the United States preoccupies itself with Iraq.

And Kennedy proposes dealing with them...HOW? (crickets chirping)

I suppose that he believes that the UN will be able to help, given their stellar record on non-proliferation issues in the past. Or perhaps he believes that all we need to do is a Clinton-redux, where we throw money at the Koreans so they will pretend to stop their program. That was a runaway success, too.

Maybe he believes the answer is to invade them and depose their leaders. After all, he was all for taking troops into Kosovo in 1999, despite the lack of a UN mandate. Saint Ted would never allow politics to prevent him from voting the right way on an issue, despite the fact that the Iraq War's closest analogue is Clinton's intervention in Kosovo.

He said the administration's efforts to rid Iraq of a nuclear program it didn't have not only has destroyed U.S. credibility around the world, but has made al-Qaida terrorists more determined to launch a nuclear attack on America.

Why would that be? After all, Al Qaeda and Iraq are not tied together in any way; Kennedy's cohorts have reminded us time and again of this fact. It's not like Al Qaeda declared war on us in 1998 or anything. Oh, wait...

Kennedy said the United States would be better off under the leadership of Democrat John Kerry, who "has pledged to make preventing nuclear terrorism an absolute priority."

John Kerry's plan to prevent nuclear terrorism is to "appoint a high-level envoy to lead the effort" and to "create a new international protocol to track and account for existing nuclear weapons and deter the development of chemical and biological arsenals", because as we all know, the countries that we need to worry about the most are absolutely certain to be a signatory to such a protocol.

President Bush, who recently indicated a willingness to work more closely with France and Germany on nonproliferation issues, has labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq.

But Kennedy said the administration's unilateralism has caused a serious setback in nonproliferation policies. And he said Bush has compounded that neglect by pursuing research into a new type of nuclear weapon, called "bunker busters." The Senate last week rejected an effort to strip funding for the administration's research into mini-nukes.

I don't recall hearing anything from Kennedy when France performed nuclear tests in the South Pacific in 1995 and 1996. He's uttered nary a word about Pakistan's acquisition of nukes, and the ongoing tests in both India and Pakistan. As to Bush's policies causing "a serious setback in nonproliferation policies", I would like to hear specifics. Simply a statement from Mr. Kennedy does not make it so. In fact, despite the outright hostility from the Chirac and Schöder regimes, we are working with France and Germany to reduce proliferation. And our relations with the United Kingdom are exceptionally strong and warm. Even Russia's Putin has exhibited a willingness to work with Bush, so the "unilateralism" slur is unwarranted and irresponsible. Kennedy is so concerned about Kerry winning that he is willing to trash Bush in the eyes of the international community. At least, unike Kerry, Bush is not willing to allow other countries to dictate foreign policy to us.

Kennedy has always been long on rhetoric and short on solutions when it comes to foreign policy. Unlike his oldest brother, he has no clue about standing up to foreign nations when their interests collide with ours. Can you imagine Ted's reaction to the Cuban Missile crisis, or to 9/11? He is one of the few senators who can make Kerry look like a hawk, because he is so thoroughly dovish. If his policies were as sharp as his rhetoric against the Bush administration, he'd have some credibility. As it is, he just comes across as a pompous windbag.

posted at 03:30 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 21, 2004

Another google bomb

Incompetent DNC hack

See this entry at Balloon Juice for details.

posted at 04:46 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

It's the little things...

One of the guys at work made a "food run" to Burger King, and I ordered a burger, with extra pickles.

Upon his return, we looked at the receipt, and discovered Burger King charged me 40 cents for those extra pickles.

The burger had six pickle slices. You do the math.

Thieving creeps.

posted at 09:01 AM | permalink | Comments (2)

You in CONUS or overseas? I've never heard of that stateside....

In Europe they charge for ketchup, but extra for pickles..... bastards.

posted by Kevin on June 20, 2004 08:58 PM

It was here in the US, at the Burger King here in Oak Harbor.

I was floored; I've seen charges for extra tomato (which is expensive), but never for pickles.

posted by timekeeper on June 21, 2004 02:56 PM

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