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Problem Solving 101 – Republicans

Some of the Members suggested we set up posts where we concentrate on coming up with solutions to our country's (and the World's problems), rather than just complain about them.

I love that idea but I still think we need to point out things that need to be solved.   I'll be honest, I'm not a Republican.  I know this may come as a shock to many of you as I hide it so well but – well, I just don't like those guys.  It's not the "Conservative Values" stuff, which is basically a joke anyway with Republican sex scandals outnumbering Democratic ones by 2 to 1 over the past decade (and with Democrats it's usually a MAN and a WOMAN, who is over 18 – with the Reps, it's ANYTHING GOES!) and it's not even a contest when you compare indictments for other evil activities

No, that doesn't bother me but, as Barry Ritholz so rightly put it: "I am not a Democrat, because I have NO IDEA what their economic policies are; and I am not a Republican, because I know PRECISELY what their economic policies are."  While I agree with Barry that BOTH parties are loathsome and corrupt and selling out our nation to the Corporate Kleptocracy that has taken over our once great nation (and Bloomberg had a nice report on the Koch Brothers this weekend) - I have simply decided to choose the lesser of two evils.  The Democrats are not quite beyond redemption but the soul of the Republican party was corrupted so long ago that I feel it is completely beyond redemption.  

Let's take Thursday night's Republican debate, for example.  There we were with eight "different" candidates, and, about 48 minutes into the debate, Bret Baier, asked the eight candidates on stage whether any of them would walk away from a “real spending cuts deal” that required one dollar in new tax revenue for every 10 dollars’ worth of reductions.

To put this in perspective, Mr. Baier’s hypothetical deal, if it entailed rescinding the Bush-era tax cuts only on Americans earning more than $1 million annually, would yield something like $6 trillion in spending cuts — a lot more than anyone is actually talking about.  

EVERY ONE of the Republican candidates INSTANTLY and emphatically raised his or her hand, as if Mr. Baier had just asked whether they liked puppies or whether they had voted for Ronald Reagan. Not a single candidate gave any hint that he or she would even entertain such a totally one-sided compromise.  In other words, ALL the candidates were essentially saying that they wouldn’t embrace fiscal reform if it included even a penny of additional taxation. No compromise could possibly be favorable enough to earn their support.

AND THEY GET APPLAUSE!  All eight possible Republican Presidents get applause for being COMPLETELY unwilling to compromise under any circumstances.  See, it's not just the Republican candidates I have a problem with, it's the people who are clapping for this lunacy…   

Take away $10Bn of tax breaks for Corporate Jets and the Dems are willing to give up $100Bn of entitlements – THEY WON'T DO IT!  Ask GE to pay $1Bn in taxes and the Dems will agree to $10Bn in cuts to Social Welfare Programs – THEY WON'T DO IT!  Raise Capital Gains taxes 2.5%, collect $20Bn of additional annual taxes and get $200Bn worth of annual concessions from the Dems – THEY WON'T DO IT!  You're not electing "leaders" here, you are electing NO stickers and giving them the Veto Pen to boot!  


We tried this low tax thing already – Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover kept the Republicans in power from 1921 through 1933 and this country was almost destroyed by the imbalance of wealth that arose and the carnage of the resulting collapse of the middle class, followed swiftly by the rest of the economy.  In fact, the damage was so severe in the 1930s that Communism was being considered as a viable alternative and LUCKILY for the Capitalists, we ONLY went a bit Socialist instead.  

Don't let the chart above fool you either.  Out of $2.3Tn of taxes collected by the Government last year, just $192Bn (8.3%) were Corporate taxes, the rest were taken from the people, who don't have armies of accountants and lawyers to fudge their figures.  Meanwhile, we already know cutting our military spending is as off the table as raising taxes to the Republican'ts so where is the necessary $1.4Tn annual spending cut (38% of the pie) going to come from?  

Administration?  Sure, who needs government telling us what to do and "organizing" things.  Just leave the guys who write the checks to the Defense Contractors and approve the war stuff and the rest can go back to being community organizers or whatever.  Housing?  That seems like a waste as no one is buying houses anyway – shut it down and let people fend for themselves.  Health?  That's my doctor's job – get your own. 

Education?   I wouldn't put my kids in "regualr" schools anyway so shut 'em down.  If the kids want to learn, that's what TV is for.  Transportation?  A Hummer can get around and over potholes just fine.  Environment?  Cut the red tape and this country will be a better place, right – just ask the people who live in the Gulf States or Love Canal.  Science and Energy?   God and the Koch Brothers will provide.  International Affairs?  We hate all those people anyway.  


There you go, problem solved – we just cut out that green stuff and we've got our 38%.  THAT'S WHAT THE REPUBLICAN'TS ARE SAYING WHEN THEY ALL RAISE THEIR HANDS!  It's not just irresponsible, it's not just irrational and it's not even just insane – it's a vote to destroy the United States of America and turn it into a Military Regime with an economy that resembles Darfur, Honduras or Burma.  Egypt IS a military dictatorship and they STILL have a more socially balanced budget than we do!  

Wake up people, this party was willing to – DID, in fact – allow the United States of America to lose their Triple-A credit status and sent the markets into a downward spiral that we have no way of knowing if we are going to recover from (as the effects are still rippling through our economy).   They have turned our government into a Global joke and they just had two hours of Q&A where they PROMISE more of the same and the problem isn't just with the Presidential Candidates – it's the WHOLE PARTY and it needs to go!

That's what I think the first problem we need to address is.  What do we replace it with?  I'm very open to throwing all the bums out on both sides and start from scratch but I simply don't think it's realistic in the short-term so, logically, I'm going to choose to keep the party that there is at least the POSSIBILITY of compromising with.  The Republican way is nothing more than a Thelma and Louise suicide run over the cliff and THEY MUST BE STOPPED!  

That's my opinion – now what's yours?  


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  1. Phil – Oh boy, you’re gonna get some nastygrams for this one.  But they’ll still love you anyway.  OK, maybe just your trading advice.  ;-)

  2. ".  The Democrats are not quite beyond redemption but the soul of the Republican party was corrupted so long ago that I feel it is completely beyond redemption…"
    What a total crock of you-know-what.
    You’re earlier comment, "I just don’t like those guys",  speaks volumes about how you come to your decision to support the ‘lesser of two evils’.
    The souls of  nearly all politicians, dem or repub, are rotten to the core, if not upon their first term then very soon after.  
    I won’t bore you with all the venality of the democrats because it would be a complete waste of my time. 
    The record of the last 60 years will show the contempt that democrats and repbulicans have for the process of government and the impossibility of EVER getting a fair government in this country. 
    Barry is right.  Neither a democrat nor a republican be.   They will both swipe the football away at the last second and put you on your behind.

  3. Bill Maher had it right last week. We need a batshit crazy extreme liberal group to balance out the extreme right.

    Political funding and lobbying are the root of all evil. Take away the golden handcuffs and lawmakers may vote their conscience and start to work collectively. But leave the corporations in control and you get sociopathic govt paid for by sociopathic Corporate “citizens”.

  4. Very good Flips, they all suck.  So how is that going to fix this country in the next 4 years?   

    I hope we can do better on this post than just finger-pointing and name calling.  We need a VIABLE political solution that will make a difference in this country by November 2012, so we can begin to put this country back on track.  If you feel that the 8 Republican candidates and Republican control of the House and Senate will save us – then we don’t really need to hear from you because there’s nothing to fix – except the next election – and the Supreme Court has already paved the way for that!

    HOW can we achieve change in this country?  Can we reform the political system in 15 months and elect someone other than Democrats that will give us something other than gridlock in 2013?   

    If you think Reps are the solution.  Feel free to weigh in and state why you think no new taxes under any circumstances will be the way to fix our economy but don’t say "because the democrats suck" or "because Obama broke a promise" or whatever.  Tearing down is not building – although, from the way politics works in this country, I can see where people may get confused on that concept.  

    This is our first problem to solve.  We have a Democratic President who wanted to mix tax increases with spending cuts in a 1:4 ratio for $400Bn a year in reductions (too little but a start) but had to settle for $200Bn or less.  We have 8 Presidential Candidates who want his job and say they will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes.

    Again, if you believe in trickle down economics and think tax cuts are the answer – then you don’t need to fix anything.  All the Reps have to do is maintain a majority in Congress and taxes remain low and the Dems will be forced to cut or the lights go out on America.  

    If you think things have to change – then how?  

  5. Oh by the way TOS called me (I guess I should be honored) to tell me they will be down until tomorrow afternoon as they decided to do the big fix this week.

    Also – an this is going to blow your minds! – As of tomorrow night, you will no longer have a funded futures account because, for the next 30 days – it will no longer be linked to your trading account and you must SPECIFICALLY fund you futures account separately from options.   

    The system will go back to where it was in 30 days (they say) but, if you want to allocate money for futures trading, it has to get funded separately which is, of course, ridiculous because of margin issues as it’s the unused margin from the stock and options account that makes futures trading viable in the first place.  

    They said they will be sending out an Email but they wanted me to know as we apparently have their attention with our futures activity.  

  6. You asked.
    BOTH parties have bought votes from people, corporate, union, environmental, military,- you name it special interest groups all with their hands out. There is no lesser of two evils, and so your rants against Republicans won’t get us anywhere. Admiting that is the first step in a very long process of finding a PROCESS to fix this country. The Dems sold you a bill of goods that their bribery was for a good cause, because it was unions and environmental groups, and OH, HOW DID THE INVESTMENT BANKS GET IN THAT CROWD? The Tea Party is an interesting mix. Many are uneducated and easily made fun of. Most have no idea of the economic destruction that a rapic decrease in the size of government would create, but they do have a point that the line must be drawn somewhere. They do understand one thing. This is a fight for the soul of America. Many of these people are working poor, and what’s left of the middle class in rural America. The "safety net" is not a good thing to them. In fact, in many rural parts of this country people live off the safety net at very close to or ABOVE the standard of living of those who work. AT THE SAME TIME there is no reason whatsoever that we shouldn’t tax the hell out of all of the wusses hiding out in the bond market taking a negative yeild, because they are too scared to lend to people with guts to start businesses and actually hire people. If you look at those Tea Party members, many of them ARE small business owners. They actually put bread on the table for folks besides themselves AND THOSE ARE THE KIND OF PEOPLE WE NEED IN CONGRESS. Did you read the VF article by Michael Lewis? Along with his unnecessary s — slinging  against the Germans was a not so subtle indightment of what US investment banks have become, and if we want to fix the country that’s a good place for a plan to start.

  7. First and foremost, get rid of the PACs, super-PACs and special interests in elections.  Give them all $1M or 500K and debates every weekend on the issues.  That will get them going.  Colbert has made a mockery of the system, and vote for Rick PArry…..if that was not funny enough.
    Term limits would be fine by me as well.  That way the ‘good ol’ boy network goes down the crapper.
    Balance the budget period.  Make defense spending a % of income etc., that way it stays under control.
    Legalize drugs and tax the crap out of them, as it saves money from fighting them and put it into education.  Tax alcohol a bit more as well.  A nickle or dime should do it.
    Tax gas more, by forcing people to buy cars that get good gas mileage.  Also, get rid of the ethanol subsidy.  That was a load of crap, and I am from the mid-west….!!
    Increase retirement by 2 yrs.  We live longer now, so extend it out by a few years. 

  8. Whooosh, I dunno Phil – I’m to the point where I’m agreeing with Flips and the other conservatives on this one, and I’m a flaming radical! There is no chance for any third party because of the electoral college and the lack of proportional or runoff voting. A further impediment is the whole primary system. An even further impediment is the idea that candidates need to run, starting yesterday, with lots of tv exposure and campaign consultants, for just about any office. The result of that is the whole campaign funding industry, which buys our politicians for big business (including unions, you capitalist guys). We all know the ways around that problem, and we all know why it hasn’t happened – you can’t fight that kind of money and influence. Sparky talks about some of the sensible Tea Party types, but both Tea Party and the Libertarians have heavy help from people like the Kochs. If you’re happy with the Kochs’ political agenda, fine, but if not, you’re beaten before you start and you may not even know by whom you’ve been beaten, since people like the Kochs tend to be less than forthcoming.
    I’m almost to the point where I feel like the old (and really philosophically bankrupt) 70s radicals who espoused letting the worst happen, figuring we would finally get a revolution out of it. The problem is we might get ourselves Oliver Cromwell instead….or someone considerably stupider.
    There’s a reason, clearly, that we used to have banking regulations, anti-trust laws, security regulations, and the like. Bringing those back, along with major campaign reform and a much shorter campaign season would help. I have no idea how to accomplish this, though…so while I’m at it, what I would really like to see would be a parliamentary system. Maybe add a house of lords, so that American aristocracy would have a place to go and feel exalted, and they wouldn’t feel compelled to run for president. Give noble titles to the Rockefellers, Hunts, Kennedys, Bushes, Harrimans, and let the gossip tabloids go on about them. It’d keep them out of trouble very effectively. Ah, well.
    I’ll try and think some more, though, about your main point – i.e. what practical can be done to change things.

  9. If we quit playing zero sum games with our wealth and invented futures instead of trading them we would all be better off. 

  10. Pharm, the problem with taxing gas more is you’re now taking an even larger chunk of that $100/week from people who do drive that rust bucket (literally in mid-michigan) because that’s all they can afford. You can’t make them buy a new car when they’re already stopping the pump at $10.00 even.

  11. @Felipe
    Unlike everyone here —-who cares enough to weigh in—-I have already, and several times said that I have reached the conclusion that this country CANNOT, WILL NOT be governed but for the beneifts of a few thousand Elite.
    The other 310,000,000 have no power, it has been subsumed by 42,000 Lobbyists.  Good luck trying to get our Supreme Court, even the liberals on it, to take away their omnipotence.
    It is nearly impossible to govern a single county when it is diverisified, multi-cultural, and poly-lingual.  It is beyond the strength, intelligence, and talents ot mortal men and women to govern something as monstrous as the United States. And now we tolerate men marrying men, have outlawed Dodge-ball on the playgrounds, lowered or dispensed with grading standards in our schools, have turned our children into tweeting twits, must pass laws to penalize our children from texting while driving!! as if they have lost every ounce of common sense they ever possessed. Our nation is one of Adolescents, with so few adults, particklelerly among the political class, that maturation is now delayed indefinitely. I hold out little hope of changing anything.
    My solution—-at least as impossible to pass CONgress as any that might be laid out here—-Break up the United States into at least as many countries as Europe has. There is little to no commonality to denizens of San Francisco and Mobile as there is between Spaniards, and Flemish. Nor do New Yorkers have much in common with Texans, New Mexicans, and Looosianians. Unless it is broken up into manageable pieces, these kinds of discussions are just heated conversation.
    Every proposal already listed with even a moment’s thought will find an opposite to vote against it.  Any changes if made at all will be ineffectually marginal, such as increasing retirement by 1 year or 2 years,  taxing gasoline even more, etc. all well meaning but titular in a country this vast, with problems as humongous as we face.  
    Do I want things to change?  Of course. Every progressive proposal to make this a fairer country for everyone has undeniable merits. But we need a revolution, not an amendment to the Constitution making a balanced budget mandatory. And the likelihood of a revolution in this country is as likely as it would be for us to fly by waving our arms.
    I only have a possible 100 years of life to live.  I could spend every day of it trying to implement even one of the changes listed here and get positively nowhere. Does that mean I give up?  No, it doesn’t, It means I won’t play a game wherein my opponents are Goliath  and I am David.  That only works in fiction, no more real than Eve being made from a rib.
    I admire your personal dedication to changing things and have no argument with your nostrums and solutions. But personally I think it is an enormous waste of your talents, abilities, and wizardry demonstrated hourly, every day in the options markets.
    I have stopped writing letters to the editor (published in the NYX,Esquire,various newspapers and magazines) CONgresscreeps, and Presidents. My last missive was written when Pittsburgh voters were alllowed to vote on a non-binding resolution to oppose passing a tax to build two new Stadiums for Football and baseball.  2/3 of the people voted against it, but the powers that  be did it anyway. My letter opposing this giveaway to the well-off was met by phone calls to my house by neighbors who were irate about my negative vote.  These people could all afford to pay thousands of dollars each for their tickets, but they wanted the millions to build the stadium, taxing everyone for their benefit.
    Wish you good luck in your constancy about affecting change, but my experience tells me it is all for nothing.

  12. Pharm, great start, here are some more ideas.
    Agree term limits, end congressional retirement benefits for the job, and also limit healthcare benefits to the time in office.
    Get the debt back to a reasonable level over time. I don’t think balanced will work now without crashing the economy, but each department of govt can reduce spending by a small percent across the board each year by prioritizing what is done in defense, education, etc. If we have a cabinet member who can’t find 1% to cut from his/her department we need better executives. End earmarks.  
    Agree legalize marajuana and tax the crap out of it.
    End agricultural subsidies to major corporations and wealthy individuals. Not just ethanol which is one of the dumbest ideas, but also timber subsidies etc. 
    Quit providing flood insurance to repeatedly rebuild in floodplains.
    Means test social security and move the retirement age to 67..
    Abolish medicaid, and build free clinics to provide basic free and/or low cost preventative healthcare eliminating costly emergency care prices for indigent healthcare.  Pay for medical school for anyone qualified who will agree to work in free clinics for a certain lenth of time.
    The federal govt needs to quit buying parks, and charge admission to the ones they already own.
    One of the biggest special interest groups is the education lobby. Teachers should work 12 months like everyone else, and our kids need to be in school year round as well.
    Elect fewer lawyers and more business majors. And most of all. elect people who CAN"T BE BOUGHT, and let them know you are watching. 

  13.  Create "Rebuild America Bonds" with the sole purpose of building & re-building our infrastructure. Bridges, Highways, Airports, Electrical Grids, Pipelines, Energy Distribution, ect.
    01. Hire the most competent Madison Avenue "Hoopla" Marketing Firm to equate these with war bonds since we are at war with poverty and the future of America hangs in the balance.  Have them recruit all the country music types, TV personalities & rock stars to help sell this project on the basis of patriotism.
    02. Restrict the sale of the bonds to only US registered tax payers so that we do not owe more money to foreigners but only owe money to ourselves to avoid external influence.
    03. Make a deal with all the Corporations that have 2 Trillion plus dollars sitting overseas to bring those funds home by buying these bonds with the carrot that 10% of the bonds can be redeemed yearly without income tax.

  14. Okay, lets talk some policy prinicples. I am for a flat tax. I think its fair 20% of $50,000 is $10,000 and 20% of $10,000,000 is $2,000,000. So the average person is paying $10,000 and the bond trader GS is paying $2,000,000. So you see they is a difference in the amount they are paying. Sorry to be obvious but I think the point is an important one. We need to flatten the tax code and eliminate loop holes and its that simple. There is no need to "punish" anyone but ther is a need to get rid of loopholes, including for example most rich people making their money at a capilal gains tax rate (which may include a few on PSW, including our dear Phil). I have heard ideas of taxing only revenue which seem extreme. But we need reform and loopholes need to be elimated.
    As far as dems and republicans, they are both bad, sorry. The political system needs reform, which will be even harder than stuff like tax reform. And I have to say I am a little with Flips on his views too. And I dont see his opinion as being too conservative either. Everyone is always saying America is so great. Well I am a little sick of that, how about proving it!

  15. The flat tax idea isn´t really fair if it means the family with 5 children to feed,  educate, and keep healthy  is paying the same tax as a single person.
    I would favor a tax code more like the Australian system which starts at a  fairly low level and progresses thorugh several levels. No problem though with eliminating deductions and mortgage interest.
    Social security contributions could be increased a little and extended to all income.
    I too would like to see a third party, and an end to political TV commercials, swiftboating etc.
    Incidentally, I think that John Kerry ignored the swiftboating commercials because he grossly overestimated the intelligence of voters. Had he found out who was responsible for the ads, confronted him, and punched him in the mouth, he probably would have won every single veteran vote and the White House.

  16. Pharmboy, I’m going to call you on the term limits suggestion, especially since you, like me, live in California. We have ‘em here, and what it means is a bunch of rookies show up in Sacramento and get led around by the noses by the lobbyists, while doing their best to do enough favors that they’ll be either wealthy or lined up with something that will get them there by the time they’re termed out.
    And Flips, the breakup idea I confess is interesting. It’s something many Russians I know are fully confident will happen soon. Given that I have several good and sensible friends who are deep in the Hawaii nationhood movements (of which there are a number), I tend to agree with them. Sometimes I question why Lincoln was so bound on preserving the union.

  17. Anybody that wants the job should not have it.  But then we have no govt.
    Any good idea unfortunately has to get through congress.  And if it is a good idea they will not like it.
    I favor no parties.  Just some form of heirarchical system to weed out the chaff early to a manageable number and some form of popular vote.  There are several viable suggestions I have read. Having to vote the way everyone in your party votes is insanity.
    All campaign spending has to be from public money.
    Serious tax reform.   Simplification would probably allow lower rates as the collection level would increase.  Maybe even a consumption tax on anything beyond basic necessities of living.
    We need long range planning.  It is amazing to me how the elite seem to overlook that their descendants will have to live here which means we still have to be here.  Everything does not have to be in big jumps.  Consistent little improvement compount just like interest over time whether for auto mileage level, infrastructure repair, R&D, theoretical research, space exploration whatever.   Just keep it moving.
    Stop fighting all the time.  We can not fix the planet and we can not make them want our idea of democracy which we are showing is just as corruptable as any other system anyway.  If all the money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan had been spent locally we could have rebuilt every school, bridge, waterworks, transmission network etc that really needed it in the US with money leftover to put fleets of inspectors in every port, airport, etc and still have money left over.  That would make us much more secure than our so called protective wars have.  Sooner or later something bad is going to happen no matter what.  Be prepared for that concept.
    I think Israel has the right to exist.  I do not think they should get away with all they think they should have though.  Continued settlement building should be penalized somehow.  Jeruselem should be like the Vatican.  Its own sovereign state not part of Israel or Palestein or any other state.  Its governing body should be composed of a parliment of all those with interests.
    Plenty more but none of these ideas will ever see the light of day.  I am hopeful the current twenty somethings and younger will grow up with a better entitlement mindset but if France is any indication that ain’t gonna happen.  But there are some small indications they feel less entitled than their parents.

  18. compount should have been compound of course

  19. Also I would like to see a sunset law for all govt funded programs but I am not sure this can even be done.  I have no idea how many federally funded programs there are.  It could very well be that all legislative time would be taken up just on vote of whether to keep funding programs or not.  Probably depending on how long a program lives before it has to be re-justified.  But any program that fails renewal has to have a phaseout of some amount of time relative to its size or impact or something pertinent, not just lock the doors the next day.

  20. don’t forget that when Social security was established live expectancy was under 70. so it was supposed to feed you just several years. It was way to provide people who are UNABLE to work anymore. Now it become like 15 years. My parents over 70, still working and OK. We have to raise the age upto 70 at least.

  21. Interesting ideas but complicated and simple rules win in the end. 
    I think we only need five things passed.
    1)     Campaign Reform.  The government funds each candidates campaign to a fixed amount and that is all the money they get to spend.  How they use it gives us the voter a chance to see how good an executive they are. 
    2)     Anti trust:  Break up all the mega corporations.  I guarantee if you remove the monopolies and oligopolies the small business man will re-appear.
    3)     Regulation:  bring back all the old regulations.  They were made for reasons which we now know why.
    4)   Lobby Reform:  It is obviously out of control.
    5)     Companies that leave the US should not be allowed to sell in this country.
    I know….. I know……… what I ask is not easy to accomplish but take any of the economic problems with this country and one of the first four can be seen as the collar that kept  the problem under control.  At the very least the first two will go a long way to turning us in the right direction.
    It seems that we all agree that there is a problem and that it involves Mega corporations but the solution needs a plan of action.  Talk has been going on for two years it is time to act. 

  22. jmm1951
    So you think I as a single man should pay to fund your wife and kids? 
    To me what is fair is everyone plays by the same rules the decision to have a family is an individual choice.  I pay for govt funding for families and hungry children and police that have to deal with delinquent kids and battered wives.  All programs that I will never use.  How is that fair?
    Here is the difference I know I live in a society that has wives and kids and I accept that it needs to be funded even if I don’t have kids but don’t tell me that you who choose to have a wife and kids should not have to pay a fair share.

  23. So let me understand…….if I’m a farmer and I work ten times harder and grown ten times as much food as the person that doesn’t work as hard… is fair that I should be forced to give away more of the food I grow simply because I have more of it? And it is fair that the people that grew less should be the onse that make that decision.

    In my view…..this is just class warfare.

  24. This was featured on Colbert Report. A pretty cool idea to work around the current political BS to get a candidate on the ballot in all 50 states with theoretically enough populous backing to potentially pull off a victory (or a Ross Parot steal).

    Americans Select

    You similar to this board vocalize the issues!

    Then you nominate candidates…

    And the site picks the top person to be listed on the ballot in all 50 states for the next President!

    I like the thought… Just hope we get some change motivated by this since they do take pack money, cant align with lobbyist or other special interest groups.

    1) Tax – 15% for everyone! All those making less than poverty get refunds quarterly via their employers W2.

    2) eliminate 2/3rds of the IRS… Stick the remaining 1/3 to hound dog attack those attempting to evade taxes! Make the penalty of not paying ridiculous…. 50% of all the persons net worth!

    3) balance budget… If every adult needs to do this we should expect the same from the government.

    4) banking system reform… Much like that tv guys rant last week about extraction! Investing should be about creating wealth for the long term! Stability and realistic growth should be rewarded. No computer bots or gaming the system stuff.

    5) political accountability… The candidates should be on the record for their voting preferences on major legislation.

  25. Crazy Ultra-Left/Strat – The problem is that "Liberals" don’t support extremism.  It does put them at a huge disadvantage but you’re not going to get Bill Gates to give $100M to the Communist Party or even something to the left of Obama, who’s essentially what used to be called a Conservative in the 60s.  This country has moved so far to the right I think the Earth curves before you can see past the middle.

    Good points Pharm.  I would add to that a bill that says any changes to retirement plans or health care must equally affect Congress as well as state and local government officials.   That seems like a simple enough thing to get a "pledge" on.  

    Main point/Snow, Sparky – Yes, the idea is to come up with things that can ACTUALLY be accomplished in short order, preferably without a violent revolution.  

    All for nothing/Flips – Well, like you, I feel at least we should try.  

    Good clinic idea Sparky but where does the equipment etc. come from?  

    Great bond idea CSL!

    Flat tax/Jack – That’s my own favorite as this WHOLE budget thing is ridiculous when our entire government budget is 22% of GDP.  So knock it down to 20%, put a 20% flat tax on all transactions and we’re done!  Then all they have to do is work the budget down to 15% of GDP over time by, oh I don’t know, ENDING THE WAR! and PRESTO!, we’re paying the debt down at a rate of $750Bn a year.   Who doesn’t want a 20% flat tax – only people who pay less than that…

    Families/JMM – You can have a modified flat tax that goes 25% over $250K, 20% from $250K to $30K and 10% below $30K so a person making $60K averages 15% and a person making $250M averages 25%.  People making less than $30K pay over 10% in SS, Medicare etc anyway.  

    Raising retirement/Lol – That’s another 20M jobs lost (or need to be created) if you raise it 5 years.  We’re already getting some of that pressure as well as over 1M kids who can’t afford college needing to enter the workforce on the other end – a lot of these "savings" ideas will only make matters worse for the people who are working.  

    Good list Willie.  

    On fairness:  That’s an interesting concept as to what is "fair".  Clearly some of us are able to make much more money (or grow more corn or whatever) than others.   While Exec may feel he can grow 10 times more food than another person (I assume with the same land and tools, etc) by simply working harder, I’ll bet if you asked Exec to sit at a lab station and map out genomes that a better-trained person would be 10 times more productive than him.  My Mom has a friend who is an artist and he makes tens of thousands for a painting that takes him a week at most – I could paint all year and no one’s going to give me any money for it. 

    Then there are teachers and day care workers and street sweepers and garbage men and shoe salesmen – don’t we, as a society, need those people?  Should they not be able to earn enough money to have a home and get married and send two children to college and look forward to retiring when they are older or is that a privilege only reserved for those of us who choose to do things that make a lot of money?  

    I’m not even talking about singers and dancers and musicians and lesser paid artists – all of whom contribute to our overall lives but I am talking about the guy who mows the lawn in the park and the guy who sells beer at the stadium and the people who work behind the counter at McDonalds – they are all part of our society and some people CHOOSE to pursue money above all else and some people CHOOSE to have more relaxing lives (although they are not all that relaxing when you can’t afford to live anyway).  

    It is sensible, proper and FAIR that there be some form of wealth redistribution in a healthy society.  Overall, there are roles that need to be filled and if you, as a person of means, are going to automatically pass judgment on people who accept NECESSARY jobs and condemn them to a life of essentially poverty – then what kind of society is that?  Even accepting that premise – how do the people at the bottom get to "choose" to have your job?  By just working hard?

    Here’s the CEO of the Cubs getting fired for incompetence on "Undercover Boss":

    It’s an interesting show but the running theme is that most of these executives can’t cut it working at ground level in their own companies.  And yes, I know people are going to chime in and tell us what kind of superhuman beings they are – well, I am too.  I’ve never been in a job in my life where I can’t do the work of any two people and it’s led me to great success but I also recognize that I can’t expect that from other people.  I’m LUCKY that I can do these things and there are people who are not as lucky as I am.

    Also, I have an overall issue with wealth concentration.  People don’t NEED to have multiple Billions of Dollars.  The more wealth is concentrated in then hands of a few at the top, the less there is available to, not only those at the bottom but others who aspire to the top.  I’ve used a poker tournament model before so I’m not going to get into it now but if there is $1Tn in the US and Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have $50Bn each and the Forbes 400 have $300Bn – That’s just $70Bn left for the other 309,999,600 people.  If one of those people works their way up to being a Billionaire too, where’s that money likely to come from – the top 400 or the bottom 309.9M?  

    That money is out of circulation and in the hands of a very few people and it’s invested in things that earn interest and dividends that pulls even more money out of circulation towards it – like so many black holes of wealth.  That’s what this country (and the World) is littered with – massive pockets of wealth that have gotten so large, that they are damaging the things around them, sucking up money and resources and crowding out economic opportunity so there is no more room for ordinary people to climb up the ladder.  

    If we allow it to continue, the system will eventually break anyway because, for all their wealth, the Forbes 400 are just 400 people and they can hire a million-man army to protect them but it won’t be enough when the wage slaves wake up and revolt.  I’m looking for solutions to prevent that from happening because maintaining the status quo may last for years or decades but probably not the whole Century.  This country was founded by people who rebelled against exactly that kind of elitist system and they left a country where lack of noble birth condemned you to a life of hard labor and little reward and look what we’ve built in it’s place. 

    It’s a disgrace!  

  26. Well, I don´t think it is all that simple regarding the wife and 5 kids. Clearly it is in the interest of society that all children should have the opportunity to grow up healthy and have good educational opportunities so they don´t become criminals or potential revolutionaries.
    The single man who opts out of reproductive and child raising chores so that he can enjoy himself ought to pay for the privilege.
    In a simple village economy it would be unfair to take away food from the farmer who worked harder, but in today´s economy he is probably leveraging the use of the public roads to get his crops to market, so he ought to pay more for that and for the law enforcement that stops his neighbors from raiding his fields.
    Religions like Christianity and Judaism have traditionally taught that each human being is equal in the eyes of God. Now, you can argue, if you like, that God does not exist, so this is BS and all subpar humans ought to be exterminated, but this notion has been tried and found wanting.
    Ultimately these questions come down to what you see as the purpose of life, and what you see as your personal contribution to society. I don´t have any children, consume very little, and give about 25% of my income to my wife´s family, who are very poor. They don´t live in the US and they have no food stamps or benefits.  I don´t know who the fathers of some of the children are, but I still like to see the children happy and healthy.

  27. The solution is right in front of us………..
    Every day President Obama is freeing toiling masses from the bonds of wage slavery. An ever growing number of former oil rig, construction, and retail workers, who once toiled under the yoke of capitalist oppression, have now heroically joined with liberated multitudes whose daily wants and needs are provided by the government.
    Or , we can try this again….solution to the jobs / income disparity issue:
    When asked to clarify how exactly this plan was going to work, Obama, who is currently ahead in the polls, explained that it was "quite simple: everyone will be contributing according to his abilities and consuming according to his needs, while special observers will be making sure that a worker’s contribution does not go above or below the approved list of his abilities. Special distributors will also be making sure that a worker’s needs do not exceed the quota based on the availability of the WealthSpread™ formula."
    "And, of course, there will also be watchers who will watch these watchers, and the watchers who will watch those watchers, and so on – leading to a full guaranteed employment for everybody."

  28. PHIL
    The flat tax schedule you propose seems similar in outline to the Australian income tax schedule. Link is here
    I don´t know why US politicians can´t look more at other countries when it comes to issues like taxation and health insurance, because there are so many systems out there that have their pros and cons, but American ingenuity should be able to adapt, cut and paste, improve, tweak, and generally improve what others already have in beta development.

  29.  pstas/snap – The annual budget for food stamps (SNAP) for 2011 is about $77B, certainly not pocket change. What do you propose we do with this program? Your sarcastic post seems to suggest a moral hazard issue. Since the average benefit is $133/mo, and the average income among recipient families is about $650/mo, do you really think it’s programs like this one that prevent otherwise able-bodied men and women from being productive and working their way out of poverty? Is your assessment of moral hazard impacted at all by the fact that 50% of beneficiaries are children? 

  30.  exec/farming – I think Phil’s point (among many) was that you benefit from social and economic stability, but that comes at a cost that you ought to be willing to bear. Perhaps having been blessed with the ability to farm 10x as productively as your fellow man, you should be willing to share some of your bounty to the degree necessary to maintain a safe and secure society. Isn’t that the whole idea of taxation in the first place? 

  31.  Republicans- I find that most educated, successful people I know lean right due to a deep-seated hatred for freeloaders. They usually bring up the straw man image of the poor, black, welfare mom with 8+ kids intentionally having even more to maximize government assistance. They are utterly repulsed by any of their money ending up being used this way, and for that reason "throw the baby out with the bathwater" when it comes to social programs. In my opinion this is short sighted, and will ultimately lead to violent revolt, taken far enough. I can’t support the Republican party because I know this is EXACTLY what they stand for. They allow no room for compromise or even intelligent discussion on these issues. 

  32. Phil/Fair

    Let’s not confuse what society needs or thinks it needs verses fairness. 

    In most instances, the market dictates the value of a service. Generally, the more desirable the position or less risk associated with an occupation, the less of a return. For example, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a rock star. What I learned was that everyone wanted to be a rock star and thus if you wanted to be in the business you would do ridiculous things like lug tons of equipment around the city, working all hours of the night, for next to nothing or in some cases for nothing. 

    By contrast, my current occupation requires us to take on huge risks, invest enormous capital, and be subjected to tremendous liability that most people would never consider. On top of that we spend a lot of time in live sewers, wading through raw sewage because that’s what we do. For this service we can charge what the market will bear and since it’s such a shitty job that nobody wants to do, we can charge more than the average rock star, or charter captain, or teacher, or soccer coach, or care worker etc.  That’s not to say that these jobs aren’t necessary or important, only that the market dictates what these services are worth. 

    The problem I have with the raise taxes on the rich crowd is that it is immediately assumed that anyone that has money must have aquired it from the lotto or some other simple means and thus it is justifiable that a portion of that money should be taken from them and given to the wannabe rock star or whoever because they are less successful than the wealthier person. Yet there is zero emphasis placed on the fact that the wealthier person may have more risk or be in a less desirable occupation than the recipient of the taxes who chose their careers.  Even more irritating is the fact that there is HUGE waste in government on all levels. I could go on at length about all the waste I see on a day to day basis but what’s the point. If you’re not even going to acknowledge that government is plagued with waste then this conversation is pointless and futile.   The fact remains that their is never any serious effort to cut government waste and in my view it is growing exponentially.  What’s laughable is every time they talk about budget cuts, they immediately start with cutting teachers, or garbage collectors, or police, but never approach the gobs of wasteful positions, policies, programs, or pet projects. 

    Say what you want about the Republicans and Democrats. In my view both parties are F’d up because they both have the same fundamental goal…..getting re-elected and staying in power.   They’re both cut from the same cloth, the only difference being how they achieve that goal.   

    In the end I think the Democrats will ultimately prevail.   Unless of course the entire fiscal house of cards implodes.  Their strategy to pander to the entitlement crowd is a failsafe policy because it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance and therefore that crowd continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Additionally, the class warfare card is an equally failsafe policy because everyone loves to take from the successful and the number of people that rationalize themselves as being in the less fortunate crowd that is entitle to more of something  also grows everyday.   

    What is sad about the entire affair is that taxing hard work only serves to demotivate hard work.  If there is no benefit to working hard then the USA as we have known it is doomed. 

    In the end I see a society of the political elite that exempt themselves from everything we are subjected to,  and a bunch of lemmings that march to the drum of the political elite. 

    I’m done posting anymore political views in this forum because it’s counterproductive and depressing. 

  33. Many of you are lucky to live in a coastal region. Your vote still matters. You could be like me and be born and raised in a Republican state like Kansas. Do you know what it is like to be a Democrat in a state such as this? Check this out from the last midterm election. Not one Democrat won a Statewide office, none, zilch. Don’t even get me started on the Koch’s. I know their work well. Not only do I live in Kansas, but I live in Wichita, which is the proud home of the Koch’s corporate headquarters.
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are looking to the Midwest for help you are probably out of luck. I work in a Union represented work environment (private sector). You would think that if there were a Democratic leaning body of citizens in this state I would know them. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I know few Democrats, even though I know many Union members. I know that many of our Republican friends here on this site will be thrilled to know that Union membership does not automatically equal a Democratic vote at the polls (though I do suspect they will not believe it). Most of what I hear is taxes, taxes and taxes. I find it ironic that this state has income, property, sales and many other types of taxes and has been controlled by a Republican legislature for as long as I can remember, yet we are over budget with Democrats somehow getting the blame.
    To make things more personal, there were 6 kids in my family. We were all raised on a farm. Two of my brothers still live in the rural area in which we were raised. Both of these brothers have spent the last 25 years in the construction industry. One brother had his own business and the other worked for a competitor. Both brothers quit the construction business because their families grew fairly large and they could not afford to pay for health care (their own admission) and they both came to the realization that their bodies were not going to hold up forever when taxed so physically every day (the brother that had the business felt he could not hire anyone that would be capable of producing the quality he demanded and therefore never could hire crews to work without his direct oversight). They both work as truck drivers now. One Union represented and one not. Guess how they each vote. They both vote a straight Republican ticket. Why? They feel that their plight in life will not change. Because of that, the only things that matter are voting for someone who will promise lower taxes on the income they earn and voting for someone that promises not to touch their guns.
    Remember when Obama made the statement about guns and religion. Having been raised in that environment, I had quite the chuckle when I heard it. I knew it was true, but I also knew it would cause quite the firestorm. The fact of the matter is that most Americans do not have the luxury of deciding what they are going to invest in this week; they are concerned with how they are going to pay their bills that are due when payday is still a week away. The real issues facing this country are simply foreign to many Americans. I think many Americans care, but their own problems are so pressing that the big picture is simply too overwhelming. People know things must change, but are unwilling to change themselves. It is much easier to just ignore our nation’s problems, pray to God that everything will work out alright and spend the weekend blasting the piss out of everything in sight (which reminds me that my brothers are also very concerned with what Obama has done to the price of ammo).
    Until the average American believes that they are an important enough part of our society to actually matter, they will have no interest in changing anything.
    On the subject of working hard, several members on this site have made a direct correlation between the money they have and how much harder they work than the individual who has less money. I could try to explain the difference between doing physical labor and commanding others to do it for you, but it would probably be a waste of time. Just keep in mind that it is much easier to work 16 hours per day in an office than in the field.
    One of my brothers I spoke of previously is the hardest working individual I have ever met. He currently commutes one hour to work and then drives a truck for a dairy from 11:00 pm until 7:00 am. He then commutes the hour back home, where he tends to his cattle (150 head). He has about 240 acres where he raises hay and a few crops. Each day after work he checks on his cattle, does vaccinations, feeds and then does whatever tractor work he can work in (he usually has to fix the equipment before he can use it). He tries to get to bed by 2:00 in the afternoon because at 6:00 pm he has to be at the small town bar that he owns. He works there for a few hours making sure inventory is checked and stocked, etc. He can’t work at the bar for more than a few hours because he must get back to his driving job by 11:00. Thankfully he does not have to work at the dairy on Sunday, this enables him to catch up on work at home that we was not able to finish during the workweek. I ask why he puts himself through such a routine. He says he will sell the bar after his remaining two kids get through college, that the bar makes enough profit to pay for college (we are not talking Ivy League, we are talking the least expensive State University). This guy has never had a vacation and has only been out of state to hunt. He will continue to work like this until the day he dies, but will never be wealthy.
    Hard work does not always equal wealth. Instead of assuming that all people that are not wealthy are inherently lazy, please come to grips with the luck you have had in life. If you were raised in a family where your parents or grandparents talked to you about stocks as Phil has stated, be aware that you had an advantage over those who knew stock to be either Herford or Angus. If your family ever talked to you about owning your own business, feel grateful, many of us were taught that we would be successful in life if we were able to get steady employment at the local factory. If your family had conversations with you on what great University you were going to choose, feel lucky, many of us were the first in our families to attend any University (and that required going into debt). It is not all about hard work. Hard work is very important, but don’t overlook the advantage you may have had.

  34. Craig

    There’s a difference between being “blessed” to farm better verses having the desire or heart or fortitude, or will, determination.

    There are thousands of athletes that are blessed with extraordinary talent that never make a dime because they don’t have the drive that it takes to push them over the top. Granted, some don’t get the opportunity for one reason or the other, however, most athletes that make it do by training harder then the rest.

    I just have a hard time agreeing that an athelete or any person who works harder to be successful should be villianized for being successful.

  35. Phil,
    As you point out we’re headed toward a cliff anyway, and yet you rant about the TPR’s trying to put on the breaks before we vault over it. Our AAA rating had to be downgraded. Would we be having this discussion if it hadn’t been? Europe will have to be downgraded as well. The trick will be keeping the sluggish growth going while we all continue to deleverage. Bernanke is doing his best to get unproductive capital off of the side lines, and as I said in the other post- terror can only last so long. My personal opinion is that those of us sitting on piles of cash playing zero sum games should be ashamed enough to get out there and start businesses, and that goes for me as well. We need to raise the level of discourse in this country, and you have made a stab at that with this post. But raising the level of discourse also means we show respect for others who may have a different view out their window. I am certainly not a Tea Party member, and frankly the fundamentalist Christians in that movement are pretty scary, but it’s a grass roots movement, and it’s growing. During the debt ceiling debate the rest of Congress was incredibly frustrated with them because "there’s nothing they want".   They are there to play a new game, and the old game of "I’ll support your stupid idea if you suport mine.." must end.  We have made more promises than we can keep. We don’t need free parks if we can’t afford free clinics.  Twenty years ago if you mentioned a two tier healthcare system, the Democrats would bite your head off, but the truth is that in everything in life people with means can afford the luxury models. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to provide basic care and doing it in the emergency rooms like we are now is just foolish. If either party took on abolishing MEDICAID for a clinic system, even if they left social security for later. It would be a start. Social Security will be means tested, and all our taxes will be higher, so don’t waste time arguing about those issues now. Maybe people who paid into social security can get a tax break on their income in lieu of contributions. If you need a tax break you probably can do without a government handout. It’s not a perfect world. Obamacare was a logical place to start, but Obama is a community organizer, not a seasoned executive and it shows.

  36. ¨I just have a hard time agreeing that an athelete or any person who works harder to be successful should be villianized for being successful.¨
    I don´t think Tiger Woods should be villainized, but he can afford to pay more taxes. Paying taxes is a privilege not a punishment, and anyway, very wealthy individuals can, if they wish avoid paying taxes by donating funds to charitable foundations and using the money for the general welfare. In the days of the Roman empire the wealthiest men often spent their surplus income to contruct fine public buildings, churches, temples,  marketplaces, water supplies, stadia, baths, parks etc. so as to glorify the cities where they lived and enhance their own reputation.
    I earn only a millifraction of what Woods earns, but I already have everything that I need and want,and am better off than nearly everyone on the planet, and I can afford to give a lot of it away. I pay very little in income taxes, because I only withdraw from retirement accounts what I need.
    Woods would  not suffer in any way, shape, or form if he had to pay 50% or even 75% of his earnings in taxes.
    Stop feeling sorry for the rich. They do not need your sympathy and they probably don´t feel sorry for you.

  37. ¨¨Twenty years ago if you mentioned a two tier healthcare system, the Democrats would bite your head off, but the truth is that in everything in life people with means can afford the luxury models.¨
    Of course! Even in the UK where every citizen and a lot of visitors get health care that is 100% free at the point of service, about 7% of the population has private health insurance, and about 14% of health expenditure is in the private sector.
    There is nothing wrong with this. There is no reason why the public option and private insurance companies cannot compete to offer the best value to customers. Since everyone needs health care at some point in their life, the market is big enough to have different competing entities to meet different needs.

  38.  exec – jmm said it well. It’s not "villianization" to have your tax rates raised, it’s a recognition that you are doing well and can afford to pay more, with the implicit notion that by redistributing your excess wealth the tide rises for all. How do you feel about the ever widening differential between CEO and average employee pay? Is the CEO really worth that much more, and conversely, are the average employees really worth that much less? I would guess your answer will be "sure, if that’s what the market will bear." Just don’t expect them to be happy about it, and don’t be surprised if they come after you with pitchforks one day! I think Phil’s point is that in a democratic society, this widening differential is fundamentally unjust, and harmful to the sustainability of our way of life. That doesn’t mean everyone shares equally, just that the differential is not extreme. 

  39. ¨What is sad about the entire affair is that taxing hard work only serves to demotivate hard work.  If there is no benefit to working hard then the USA as we have known it is doomed.¨
    Not really.
    I remember when I was in the UK around 1970, if I worked a shift of overtime for 20 pounds, then I lost more than 8 pounds in tax, retirement pension deductions, etc.,  but I still appreciated the extra money. Anyway, if people just say 40 hours and I am out, then that just creates job opportunities for others. In the US mandatory overtime is common, but it doesn´t have to be that way, because in the UK it is unknown.
    If the government really wanted to encourage hard work, it would say no income tax on time  worked above 40 hours per week, and no income tax on a second job if the first job is 40 hours, but they don´t and hard work is ridiculously overrated. People should be encouraged to work less and job share.

  40. Main point/Phil – ok, what can be accomplished and how, without the revolution (despite my liking for it, even with the possibility of Cromwell). I’m going to ramble a bit to get to my point. There will shortly be a photo exhibit, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps and the 20th anniversary of KOICA (the Korean Peace Corps), made up of snapshots by former Peace Corps and KOICA volunteers. This will happen at 5 sites around the country, and I stuck my hand up to coordinate the Los Angeles site (opening on Jan 13 at the Korean Cultural Center, if you’re in the neighborhood). For the opening, I thought we should invite dignitaries including local and national politicians. A colleague who is helping me, a former diplomat and last Peace Corps Korea director, informed me that said politicians would send a staffer – maybe – unless we contribute to their campaigns, in which case they might show up. Whack! A cold dose of reality.
    The point that I wandered up to is that since the politicians do not represent us, going to them with ideas is useless. We need to speak to those who do run the country, who have the power and interest and willingness to change things, and who might listen to us if they can be impressed by a bunch of guys from Phil’s Stock World. Who that might be beyond the obvious dynamic duo of Buffet and Gates, I do not know, but that’s the direction I would suggest taking our ideas. As for policy, williex and itrade’s lists – simple, to the point bullets that one could nitpick over, but these would sure make a good start. And having lived through Reagan, I shudder when I hear "simple solution", but in this instance I think those two lists are workable.

  41. Very thoughtful stuff. If a random bunch of option traders (self-selected, to be sure) can come up with so many good ideas over morning coffee, maybe there is room for hope.

    I have beaten the drum on the overwhelming concentration of both economic power and laser-like focus within large “U.S.” corporations because I do not see them as simply the cat’s paws of American “rich people. They are an entirely new phenomenon, brought into being by the enormous expansion in global trade since the fall of the Berlin Wall. I think they are not recognized as such because they have existed for over a century, as a group, and the tremendous expansion in their political clout at the expense of less organized and focused individual voters has passed relatively unnoticed – as has the large expansion in their share of foreign ownership. As Stalin was known to have commented, quantity has a quality all it’s own.

    Staying with the Soviet reference for a moment, the Bolsheviks ran roughshod over the Mensheviksv during the Russian revolution, not by force of numbers but through their tighter organization, merciless focus, and willingness to entirely ignore the welfare of the greater Russian people.

    Large Corporations behave no differently. They don’t worry about the broad range of political issues that rightly concern individual citizens. They know exactly what tax breaks, tax holidays, exemptions, regulations, and policies they need to push, and are both tireless and highly
    professional in their pursuits. I don’t see how American politics or policies can be transformed in the creative ways set forth in today’s forum with these monoliths in position.

    I conclude with a defense of America’s craven and corrupt political class. Throwing the bums out will solve nothing. In the real world, virtually anyone can be bought, it’s just a question of price. I think many politicians start out with genuine idealism, but end up pushing through legislative amendments that confer huge economic advantages on multinationals that flood the Congress with money on highly targeted issues often too technical for your average Congressperson to even understand — it’s an art form, you see.

    Need proof? Just look at the increase in average congressional net worth over the last few decades. Does anyone really believe that swapping out the entire population of the Congress would change anything? American voters are being outmaneuvered and outgunning by a collection of transnational entities to whom the welfare of the American people is their very least concern.

  42. Zero it takes time to be corrupted. Which is why term limits may be the best idea of all.

  43. Apparently, even big investors are worried about the "reverse" wealth distribution effects:
    Jeremy Grantham successfully runs a very large mutual fund and is well respected. And is no commie!

  44. St Jean,
    Grantham is right and before the housing bubble added productivity and debt added demand you had a generation of working families that went from one worker to two. We can’t pull either of those rabbits out of the hat again. 

  45. RJ Jarboe
    Speaking of Republicans, Democrats and taxes.    Did you know that Kansas is a net collector of money from the federal gov’t ?  Kansas receives 1.12 for every dollar sent to the federal gov’t?  I have followed this tax data for over 15 years and have noticed a definite correlation.  15 to 5 years ago you could easily see that solid Repub states were net collectors of federal money collecting 1.20 for 1.00 sent and solid Dem states were net payors collecting .80 for 1.00 sent to the fed gov’t.  Filp flopping states were collecting between .80 and 1.20 for every 1.00 sent.   over the last 5 years the amount the republican states have been getting has been shrinking while the democratic states have stayed about the same.  Remember when contmplating this these are ratios based on an income stream where the main fluctuating number comes from the revenues from the democratic states. 
    I remember thinking that the Repubs and Dems are stupid because they argue for the exact thing that will hurt them.  If the Repubs get their way they will be getting a lot less money and the Dems are arguing to fund the majority of the moneys for the whole county.   Well it seems the Repubs are seeing the consequences as the moneies they get from the fed have been shrinking over the last 10 years and particularly fast in the last 5 years.  (Bush tax cuts followed by weak economy)
    The truly stupid thing is that the Repubs are arguing even harder for more budget cuts and less taxes that are only going to hurt their states more.   It would be funny in a fraternal way like "thank you sir may I have another" if it was a movie but this is real life with real suffering. 
    You’re right RJ, but it is Human nature, something is wrong and there must be someone or some thing to blame but it can’t be me.

  46. zeroXzero
    I disagree the really wealthy are the mega corporations.  remember the the top tier won 80% of the stock market.

  47. And so it begins:  Faltering Rhode Island City Tests Vows to Pensioners

    When the small, beleaguered city of Central Falls, R.I., filed for bankruptcy this month, it sought to cut the pension checks it has been sending its retired police officers, firefighters and other workers by as much as half. All the city promises now is that its retirees, many of whom do not get Social Security, will not have their benefits cut to less than $10,000 a year.


    But investors who bought the city’s bonds could do much better: Rhode Island recently passed a law intended to make sure that they would be paid in full, even in bankruptcy.

    Retirees are wondering how the city can cut what they believed was a guaranteed benefit. “We put our time in, we put our money in,” said Walter Trembley, 74, a retired Central Falls police officer. “And the city, through their callousness and everything else, just blew it. They were supposed to put money in and they didn’t.”

    Cities and local governments make lots of promises: to their citizens, workers, vendors and investors. But when the money starts to run out, as it has in Central Falls, some promises prove more binding than others. Bond lawyers have known for decades that it is possible, at least in theory, to put bondholders ahead of pensioners, but no one wanted to try it and risk a backlash on Election Day. Now the poor, taxed-out city of Central Falls is mounting a test case, which other struggling governments may follow if it succeeds.

    If Central Falls, a city of about 19,000, is able to reduce the benefits its retirees now get — something they will fight — it would not only unsettle the millions of public workers and retirees across the country, but also reshape the compact between governments and their workers. Most public workers now pay a portion of their salaries toward their pensions, but they may balk if they see those pensions can be cut when they retire. And governments that, like Central Falls, have not enrolled all their workers in Social Security as a money-saving measure may have to rethink that strategy.

    Millions of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government workers have long believed that their pensions were untouchable, thanks to provisions in state laws and constitutions. But some of those promises are unclear or untested, said Amy B. Monahan, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota law school who has studied the myriad laws protecting public pensions in different states.


    Just how those promises would stack up against promises made to others, like bondholders, is unclear. It is also unclear how those state laws would hold up in federal bankruptcy court, which has its own ranking of creditors.

    “This will all be up to a court to decide,” Professor Monahan said.

    But many cities and states have already signaled that their bondholders take priority.

    The article cites several samples but the theme is clear – "THEY" are coming after the pensions and we already know they are coming after SS and medicare so you young Republicans out there better make sure your parents don’t count on any of that money to live or all you are doing is simply shifting the burden from the state onto yourself as an individual in order to protect the bondholders.  Bill Gross does thank you, though…

  48. I think that Rj_jarboe made a good point in his post – as long as we don’t recognize how much luck has played into our situation, it will be hard to admit that we need to help those who have not been so lucky and if we cannot do it directly, let the government do it because no private entity has the same reach. There is still space for private investment – when Bill Gates donates his fortune to help fight sicknesses for example, he might fill a a void. Yes, hard work is a factor as well, but try working hard is you don’t have the intellectual faculties to advance yourself, or the ambition or drive. Try working hard if you have been raised in a tough neighborhood and had to drop out of high school to help you single mother make ends meet! Hard work is one factor among many but each one of us has had luck along the way – would that be a supportive family, a valuable education, good intellectual skills or the drive to better ourselves. Or a combination of all these factors! 
    So I don’t see programs such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid as a waste – I see them as protection for the ones that have not had the luck that I have had in my life! Yes, I might have planned better but I have written posts in the past explaining how the average family can never hope to be able to save enough for retirement, college and healthcare at the same time. It’s impossible! I don’t enjoy paying taxes as much as anyone else, but when I look at what I have and what I have done, I certainly don’t look at is as a burden as much as a recognition of my success! And we need to stop looking at taxes as zero-sum game, a prosperous middle class is beneficiary to the entire country, including the top 1%!
    Many of the proposal listed above actually make sense and it goes to prove that when adults are communicating, solutions can be found. The problem as Flip mentioned is that we are now governed by children who would rather destroy the country than find a compromise! Well, Reagan and Tip O’Neil compromised, G. Bush Sr compromised with Democrats in Congress, Bill Clinton founds ways to work with Newt Gingrich. Neither of these guys got all of what they wanted. But Reagan and Bush Sr. raised taxes and Clinton made welfare reforms. I am afraid that this is no longer possible! As Phil pointed out, when all 10 GOP candidates (I guess 9  now since T-Paw is out) agree that they would never agree on 10/1 cuts to taxes, there is no shot at compromise. Revenues will need to be raised no matter how you do it – raise rates, cut loopholes. Revenues are at 15% of GDP and even the Ryan GOP plan anticipates government spending at 18% of GDP. Just there is a disconnect with reality. And yes, entitlements will also be reformed. And defense will be cuts. But we will also need to make investments in other fields. The reality is that our world is changing, people live longer, there are more of us, we live in a much "smaller" world with globalization and we face different existential threats that not simply military ones! All that will require compromises – negotiated ones or in some cases, forced ones!

  49. In other fun news:  British leader seeks public housing evictions for rioters and their families.  Poor people are not allowed to protest.  And yes, I know rioting is not protesting but what if a protest turns into a riot and you’re there and your family loses their home – best not to protest, right?

    States have been cutting frantically for the last four years because of declining tax revenues, but the 2012 budget year will have the deepest cuts to education, health care and other services since the recession began. A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that nearly all states will spend less on vital services in 2012 than they did in 2008, after inflation, even though there are more children in public schools and more poor people on the Medicaid rolls.

    That means that 100,000 low-income people will be kept out of Medicaid in Arizona, which has frozen enrollment. New Jersey plans to cancel Medicaid coverage for 23,000 parents. Texas eliminated prekindergarten money for 100,000 children. Ohio and Pennsylvania are each cutting school aid by more than 7 percent this year, which in Ohio is equivalent to more than 14,000 teachers’ salaries.

    More layoffs are also likely in many states, on top of the 577,000 jobs eliminated by state and local governments since 2008. (More than a dozen states facing shortfalls have inexcusably cut taxes, or, as in New York, plan to let tax surcharges expire.)

    And now comes the Budget Control Act of 2011, the deal reached in Congress to cut $2.4 trillion over the next decade in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Although the deal could have been worse and was structured by White House negotiators to reduce the impact on safety-net programs like Medicare and Medicaid, it will do real damage at the state and local level.

    The act will cut $917 billion out of domestic discretionary programs, about 60 percent of which will come from nondefense spending. That will inevitably reduce transportation, education and environmental aid sent to the states.


    Magical Unrealism

    Published: August 12, 2011

    There was nothing particularly surprising about the shrill skirmishing at the ideological edges of Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa. What was shocking were the antics in the center.

    In full public view, the party’s mainstream jumped the tracks of reality on issues of spending and taxes, brightly illustrating the ruinous magical thinking that has led to a downgrade of the nation’s credit and invited a double-dip recession. When asked if they would reject a deal to cut the deficit that had 10 times the amount of spending cuts as it had tax increases, the hands of all eight candidates went up. Even a tincture of new revenue, though mixed with huge cuts in government spending, would be too much for the modern Republican Party.

    The raised hands included those of Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, two former governors who have proved that they know better. Mr. Huntsman was the only one on the stage who said he would have accepted last week’s budget deal and the only one to point out that Washington should never even consider defaulting.

    Saying as much is already Tea Party heresy, so why not take the next logical step and admit that the nation’s finances are unsustainable in the long term without some tax increases? Even Mr. Huntsman was unwilling to take the slightest risk of offending the rigid and unforgiving Republican Party primary electorate.

    Mr. Romney derided the budget deal as “Mr. Obama’s dog food” and said he would not eat it, perhaps hoping the public has already forgotten that it was really the deal demanded by the Congressional leaders of his party. (Speaker John Boehner said last week the deal was “98 percent of what I wanted.” We’d love to know what the remaining 2 percent is.)

    Rejecting compromise was not the way Mr. Romney governed. He balanced the Massachusetts budget with new income from $269 million in closed tax loopholes, and $271 million in increased fees. He has claimed unconvincingly that those were not taxes, but it turns out that his administration boasted about them to the bond rating agencies in 2004 and 2005, and his state won an upgrade by demonstrating fiscal prudence. Now he is repudiating that approach at the federal level.

    That has been the nature of every Republican debate this cycle: deny the truth or tell an outrageous lie with such bellicosity that no one dares to challenge it.

    Representative Michele Bachmann, for example, said the credit downgrade was because the government could not pay its debt. Standard and Poor’s actually said it was because lawmakers like her did not take a default seriously. Representative Ron Paul ridiculously claimed that the United States is bankrupt. Tim Pawlenty said President Obama had no plan to reduce social insurance spending, conveniently forgetting that Mr. Boehner walked away from the president’s overly generous offer to reduce that spending in exchange for revenue increases.

    The Republican Party has been led into its current cul-de-sac by manipulative officials who would not tell voters the truth about the government’s finances. It will remain there if even its “moderate” leaders refuse to break the pattern.

  51. Phil
     Rhode Island was voted last year as Americas most liberal state.

  52. Exec/taxes vs hard work.
    Exec, I am having a hard time getting my head around what you mean when you say paying taxes demotivates people from working hard. 
    I would agree that it would be of no value of working harder if I lost 100% of that gain to taxes but, as far as I know, no one is suggesting that.   What is being kicked around is raising taxes several percentage points akin to what we had in the Clinton years. 

  53. Williex,
    Thanks for the information, very interesting.

  54. Another odd part of the influence game in this country is the huge amount a few lobbyists wield, and the fashion in which what they espouse becomes common accepted wisdom – the best example I can think of is Grover Norquist ( It’s not obvious whether he’s funded by other groups or corporations or is a true believer, but his influence is amazing. The business with the republican candidates raising their hands referred to above is pure Norquist.

  55.  After awakening from my Sunday nap after preaching, it has been a delight to read all these posts.  In fact, much of the quality is better than the NY Times this morning, though Friedman has a good article on wealth inequality and the IT revolution.  While it will take hundreds of ideas, especially local innovations implemented on the ground, to make a difference, I believe only two really matter in the short-term for the 2012 elections.  Given the numbers on the budget that Phil posted at the beginning, there are only two places real change can happen that won’t provoke potentially revolutionary inequality within our society.  We have to reform the tax code and make it more progress to increase revenue and we have to reduce military spending and stop trying to impose our will on the world through brute force.  I agree that Republicans will not move the nation in a positive direction because of the supply-side fantasies that  are no more based on hard data than an ancient belief that the world was flat.  This dogma has less proof than the virgin birth of Jesus, because at least you can argue Jesus did great things that perhaps came from a divine spark.  
    I think the Democrats need to get their house in order and come up with a tax reform package they can all agree upon and then keep some discipline and get it done.   There 2012 campaign theme should be "Do the Math."  They need to be willing to endure the taunts of "class warfare" (which is what the status quo always says when threatened with terrible concepts like fairness and equality) and stand up again for what is good for the majority of Americans.  Every campaign and every race should make Republican candidates face Phil’s charts and analysis of the budget, and the vast evidence of society’s inequality in wealth distribution and stay laser focused on the tax code.  Otherwise there will be no resources for anything else.  The Republican austerity plans will just lead to a downward spiral.  
    This is still and wealthy and innovative nation, with tons of talent and drive that is not being allocated to the national projects that really matter.  We have unemployed people who need work and tons of stuff that needs to be done with our national infrastructure.  Once the tax battle is over, then we need to stop debating about entitlements and start debating about investments.  I think Friedman has made the drumbeat that we need to keep investing in our people, through education and research and start to drive innovation.  I really believe in capitalist solutions and not just more and more handouts.  I run homeless programs and what most people need is the dignity of a job.  
    There is enough wealth in our country for each persons need, but not their greed.  Yes, there should be greater rewards for greater effort, but the reward system has become distorted beyond belief and it totally inefficient.  We are starving the wrong beast.  When we starve government and Grover Norquist has famously been doing, we are really starving our collective ability to solve problems.  Why feed the financial industry and the wealthy few, who have more than enough to get what they need and leave the middle class without hope (let alone the poor who gave up long ago.)  
    I haven’t even started on the military spending, so I guess I would have to say if there is one idea Democrats need to focus on it this "Its the tax code-stupid."  Force Republicans to do the math and expose the magical thinking of supply side dogma.

  56. "THEY" have purposely hidden from us the true and accurate costs of running government sponsored contracts.
    For 60 years politicians have back loaded juicy employment contracts —--ostensibly ‘negotiated’ with unions—-that do state sponsored work, and they borrowed money short and long term to do so, raised piddling amount in taxes,  disguising the real costs associated with them,  fearing for their political careers if they dared raise the taxes sufficiently to fund the deelightful pensions, health care, and other non-current cash outlays that any student with more than a first grade education could easily calculate would put us into the predicament states, cities and towns all over the country.
    Pretty cagey of them to relieve those receiving the compensation in the  midddle classes of the taxes they should have paid to assist in funding their retirement. And now that the piper has sent his invoice, the politicians that enshrined these debts are either dead or close to it, having lived a velvet life for their part in saddling the states with trillions in unfunded liabilities. On a larger scale the Federal government is guilty of the same irresponsible, feckless behavior.  There are no clawbacks for the smegma that committed these fiscal crimes. The only alternatives are to now raise the taxes that would in no way ever be enough to pay off the contracts the additional trillions the politcians agreed and are still agreeing to.
    Can you imagine for a minute when the next contract that comes up for negotiation, that the politicos announce-- at the very beginning—- that taxes will have to be raised precisely to X dollars on each citizen, on the state (borough, city, village, town)  to pay for any raises and detailing where it will be spent specifically in salaries, pension contributions, or health care costs for the retiree, 25 years from now?  Can you imagine the outcry if every citizen knew 25 years ago that the teachers each will receive a million dollars, plus ’free’ health care for life,  at retirement, and the entire amount would be funded by new, higher taxes on all the citizens? 
    Ditto with all government spending on the Offense Department, Highways, and

  57. …medical care for the elderly.

  58. So many of our problems could be solved by making the national commitment to leading the world in the replacement of oil and coal as our primary energy sources.   Amory Lovin at the Rocky Mountain Institute  has written a very comprehensive and grounded 20 year plan to do just that called
    Winning the Oil Endgame.
    Very Much worth a read.     Imagine the US economy without the 700B annual outflow for oil purchases and the Trillions spent "policing" the oil patch………. 

  59. It occurs to me that we may be overlooking something.  Something that is a very unique American skill that we should be able to turn to our advantage – Consuming.  No Nation on earth consumes half as much per capita as we do.  If it wasn’t for our consumption – the Global Economy would grind to a halt.  Our trade imbalance causes our deficit but that’s because we’re just GIVING AWAY our consumption.  

    To some extent, China pays us to consume their stuff by buying our debt, but they are paying the wrong people!  What if they gave that $300Bn a year they spend buying TBills directly to shoppers?  Those shoppers would turn around and buy Chinese goods and their factories would be humming and our balance of trade would not get worse because we’d be selling our gluttony on the open market!  

    I mean, you can give an African family $1,000 but if they went to Chili’s and just tried to eat the appetizers, they’d be throwing up for a week.  They might got to Wal-Mart and buy a refrigerator but, even if it fit in their home, they may not have steady electricity to power it.  An American family, on the other hand, with $1,000 – can blow through it in a week and will be happy to do it again – that’s TALENT!  

    We pay top people to sing and play sports – why not shop?  

  60. RTodd 
    "What most people need is the dignity of a job"— best post yet.  But where I disagree is in the size of government. There is definitely a problem with greed at the top and the tax system is broken, but tax proposals from BOTH parties always target the middle and upper middle class. A flat tax would be fine with me, but baring that bigger government just gives more power to those wealthy groups, corporations and investment banks with their tenticles around the highest levels of our government. And it’s not just Republicans who are against real tax reform. Of the 237 milionaires in congress 65% are Democrats. The government can’t create globally competative jobs. Whether we like it or not the multinational corporations can go wherever the cheapest labor is and the only thing that can stop them is you and me, and everyone else in this country who is in a position to create a business, not just to make themselves rich, but to provide jobs and a decent lifestyle for others.

  61. I must say this is one of the best posts for ‘political discussions’ I have ever read, agreeing with revTodd and everyone is so very civilized.  Amazing!  We, group of traders, need to put some things on paper and send it to the reps of Congress and start a movement…I am not nearly eloquent enough, but I would help get things moving!

  62. I would not object to tax increases if this were paired with a government spending freeze. The tax increases should be moderate – top rate maybe 38.5% (not 39.6%, which actually is 43% with the deduction takeback), the dividend rate from 15% to 20% and the cap gains rate from 15% to 18%.  I propose that this would be temporary until we can come up with true tax reform – fewer brackets and deductions, possibly even a VAT. Whatever is agreed to, however, it CAN NOT BE ALLOWED TO SUPPORT MORE SPENDING.
    Let’s say we spend $3.8 trillion this FY. I say that should be the number next year – and the debate should be what gets trimmed so we can grow spending somewhere else. The option of simply raising taxes so we can continue to grow spending should be COMPLETELY OFF THE TABLE. There, that’s my line in the sand. Do you folks think this is a useful place to start?
    And NO MORE RHETORIC. I am actually getting a queasy stomach when I sign on to this site in the morning, and it has nothing to do with the freaky market. There’s a lot wrong. Agreed. Lets get past the crisis first. I may be top 1% or top 2% or whatever (before I came to this site, I had no idea, and didn’t care) but I have been a caring employer, a smart businessman, a robust taxpayer, and I have no power whatsoever. I object to being lumped with the Gordon Gekko types, simply because of my income.
    Thank you for reading.

  63.  Hey, what do you guys think about the Super Committee of 12 that will surely come up with fine solutions to our budgetary problems ?
    I was a little perturbed with Pelosi … I was hoping she would appoint Rangel, Frank and maybe Anthony Weiner or David Wu (so what if they recently resigned?).

  64. Spending/Phil – so, is that your backdoor way of proposing the VAT to replace everything else? Very clever! I do think that’s a reasonable idea, but in all seriousness I don’t know where we could take the idea or ideas such that we would find a receptive audience with the ability to make change.

  65.  Flip; you got that right.
    Just take a look at the rot in the Port Authority of NY and NJ for instance.
    An unaccountable quasi gov’t agency w/ thousands of employee / paper pushers.  Their business is to collect tolls, ostensibly for infrastructure, but in reality to support many thousands of unneeded bureaucrats.
    Now that they have blown their own budgets by billions of dollars, they are propsing 50%+ toll hikes on various bridges and tunnels, which if you want to drive in out or through NYC, you must pay.  Its nothing more than another inflationary tax on individuals and businesses, and adds no value to our lives.
    It may cost as much as $12 to drive over the GW Bridge or through the Lincoln Tunnel by end of year.

  66.  So what are you paying for really ?  Salaries, benefits and pensions of largely useless public sector employees (not all of them are useless, but I would guess you could cut out 50-60% of payroll if free market business principles are applied).

  67. Cap – Did you know that over half of all state and local government employees are teachers?  In fact, here are some numbers for you.  Total USG civilian employees (Federal/State/Local) in 2009 were 17.5 million.  2.5 million of those were federal government and 15 million state/local.  Of the state/local government employees, 7.7 million were in education.  Police and corrections were about 1.6 million.  Firefighters are another 330,000.  So nearly 10 million of those 15 million state/local employees are teachers, police and firefighters.  You really think we can cut 50-60% of them?  Or do we just eliminate all other government and then take out a third of those useless teachers, police and firefighters? 
    Check the US statistical abstract if you think I’m making this up.

  68. Yo – we the people need to pass a new amendment mandating public funding of campaigns and a new primary system and everything else will fix itself.  It’s the singlemost effective thing we could do to affect change in the governance of our country.  While being more doable than 3/4 of the things I’ve read on here-

  69. ´´Let’s say we spend $3.8 trillion this FY. I say that should be the number next year – and the debate should be what gets trimmed so we can grow spending somewhere else.´´
    This takes no account of demographics.   With baby boomers reaching 65 the number of recipients of Medicare and SS mushrooms, so ´´the same´´ becomes a massive cut increasing exponentially each year for a number of years.
    Defense is another matter.
    It just isn´t that easy to say let´s stop funding treatment for oseoporosis and cholesterol levels and save so many billions.

  70. Phil – that SUCKS about the futures account. It is crazy what they are doing. They told me tonight it would only be a week or two before things get back to "normal"

  71. Is it worth collecting all of this content to a wiki page? Maybe a manuscript can come from it that will make it to someone’s desk of importance. That may suffice for getting things moving like pharm said.

  72.  I was just reading about tetraethyl lead.
    You can thank the EPA for the fact you might live ten years longer at the expense of Exxon and Mobil.
    Just sayin’

  73. Good morning!

    Wiki’s a good idea Kwan but we can barely get people to contribute to our own PSW Wiki…

    Anyway, I finally finished updating the Income Portfolio, which is in pretty good shape on the whole, and the futures look nice and dull at the moment, up about half a point on the US side with the Dollar hugging the 74.50 line.  Oil $85.50, gold $1,738, gasoline $2.82, nat gas and copper around $4 again and silver $38.94 so nothing much happening at all. 

    I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing…  

    Hang Seng is up 2.8%, Shanghai up 1%, Nikkei up 1.4%, India down 1.3%.  Asia seems happy about our Retail Sales Report from Friday (more excited than we were) and Japan’s GDP was "only" down 0.3%, which isn’t bad as they tie with France and they at least had an earthquake and a nuclear melt-down for an excuse.  

    Bed time for me – see you all in the AM! 

  74. Buffett: Raise Taxes on ‘Coddled’ Billionaires
    Buffett’s advocacy of higher taxes for the “mega-rich” may reinforce President Barack Obama’s call for an end to tax breaks for corporate-jet owners. In the op-ed, the 80-year-old investor said his federal tax bill last year, or the income tax he paid and payroll taxes paid by him and on his behalf, was $6,938,744.
    “That sounds like a lot of money,” Buffett wrote. “But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”

  75. Fred Reed article:

    Slouching Toward Guatamala
    Reflections on the Impossibility of Government
    July 30, 2011
    God it’s wonderful—really diverting in a macabre sort of way, at least if you have a diseased sense of humor and enough Padre Kino red. Which I do. As I write the world’s only delusional superflower, perennially in love with itself, navel-gazing as narcissistically as ever, ignorant, self-indulgent, gurbling like an insane relative in the attic and fondling electro-trinkets from Japan, is broke. Yes, we see a beautiful dive from the high board, two somersaults and a half-twist, into the Third World. And so richly deserved.
    Congress, a collection of whores, con-men, and penny-ante sharpers from East Jesus, Nebraska, ponders the Great Question: Default now, and admit manfully to being the economic lepers everyone else already knows we are? Or raise the debt ceiling, keep spending like a spoiled Swarthmore sophomore with daddy’s credit card, and collapse a bit later?
    It’s just lovely. The World’s Greatest Economy holding out the begging bowl to China. “Alms? Alms for the poor?” Maybe I don’t have enough Padre Kino after all. Maybe there isn’t enough.
    On the lobotomy box, congressmen come and go, not talking of Michelangelo, like mayflies but without the brains, calling each other names. They seem to think that they are in an off-year election. I mean, it’s only the future of the country. What, me worry? What if a huge cosmic flyswatter came down on Cap Hill and turned them into barely historical smears? How the hell do you start a cosmic flyswatter?
    The Republicans want to protect the wars, the rich, and the military companies. The Democrats want to protect the entitlements. Well, ok, I guess killing Afghans matters more than feeding Granny in Spokane. Unless of course you are Granny. Who really cares? I mean, how many “defense” contracts does she have?
    But actually the Dems have the best of the argument of national security. Entitlements are our friend. Welfare is the price we pay for not having the cities burn. Mailbox money is our protection, not gaudy aircraft carriers like the USS Thundertrinket, zooom-kerpow.
    It’s the Empire, stupid. You want spending cuts? Easy, if you don’t want to rule the world for three more years before going down history’s cloaca. Pull out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Japan, and NATO tomorrow. Pull out. Pull out. Coitus interruptus. Stop wasting precious engineering talent and non-existent money on pointless funsy weapons of no utility: the F35, the Airborne Laser.
    Come to think of it, don’t bother. It’s too late.  The US really is poised to enter Central America. You know, continental drift. It can’t be stopped. South Korea and Finland among others are far more advanced in their internets. Health care in America is first-priced and second-rate. The country is thirty-third in infant mortality. Schooling would be pathetic if we could raise it to that level, the universities largely farces. The Russians and Chinese have manned space programs; we don’t. Industry flees Gringolandia or has fled. The great moiling gerbiltry out there hasn’t figured it out.

  76. go to ib..its the class of the field..everything by the book but no amateur bs

  77. Solutions=Elections/Phil – ok, weekend’s over so I’ll post here rather than on the Monday thread, but, Phil…."all it takes is the election of some responsible adults and we can begin to address, not just individual taxation but the much, Much, MUCH broader issue of Corporate Taxation – which is a total joke!  " I really like a lot of your solutions, infrastructure changes, VAT, and so on – but implementation is the problem, and I feel strongly that whomever gets elected will make no difference because of the ownership of the government by big business. We need to speak to those who truly have power and the ability to make change. I don’t know who that would be among bug business or the very rich, but it’s not government. In my humble opinion.

  78. To JMM1951: I purposely ignored inflation and natural program growth because while I am willing to send more money to feed the beast, I want the beast put on a diet. Our "leaders" get to CHOOSE what they cant fund for the next year. I think this might be a solution to the current problem.
    Needless to say, there are serious reworkings necessary of most everything our government does, for it does so little correctly. That’s another subject. We need to work out the overall funding strategy first.

  79. Medicare savings.
    Medicare savings are potentially almost infinite, but it all depends on what kind of medical system we want. Here´s why.
    I am in the Dominican Republic. I am 60, in good health, and take no medication.
    Three days ago I developed an excruciating pain in my right him. It feels like I was kicked by a mule. I cannot stand or walk across the room without a crutch. However I can ride my mountain bike. Non prescription anti inflammatory drugs even at the maximum dose and beyond are no help at all.
    This morning I went to a walk in emergency clinic manned by a medical student. My blood pressure was checked and the student made a cell phone called to a doctor called Mami. I was given intravenous Lasix and an intramuscular shot of a painkiller and anti inflammatory drugs called Diclofen. AFTER this was done, the medical student asked me my name and if I had insurance. She wrote out by hand an invoice and receipt for about US$60 and told me to come back for more tomorrow. This was the only paperwork of any kind that was done. I did not have to fill  out any forms or give my address.
    Just as I was about to leave,  a male doctor called Papi came in. We discussed my condition and he said it was sciatica and I should come back tomorrow and he will give me a shot of a drug called Solumedrol, which is a powerful long acting steroid that has a few side effects. This will set me back another massive $50.
    If I had gone to an  Emergency Room in the US (I have no insurance), it would have cost me $400 just to register without any treatment, and I would have had to sign an inch thick stack of forms promising to sell my descendants into slavery unto the third generation to pay the bill.
    I do not dispute for one moment that the quality of care is better in the US, but at what cost? My pain is already greatly reduced and I would willingly give those folks at the clinic a bottle of wine and a bunch of flowers in addition to any fees for helping me out. In the US, they would probably be sued for giving substandard care.
    If we reduce the availability of treatments and the record keeping and get tough with the drug companies over prices, there is almost no limit to the amount by which costs of Medicare could potentially be reduced, but it would require a major effort of will on the part of patients and politicians to decide what level of care is acceptable. It would also require a major overhaul of medical liability rules. I am sure that many people would  be willing to waive their rights to malpractice suits or agree to take them to a tribunal in exchange for a 50% discount on health care.

  80. Sorry, that should read ¨right hip¨.

  81. medical care/jmm1951 – medical care in the States, from my perspective as a research epidemiologist, has been sliding considerably over the past 2-3 decades. You can see this most readily in statistics for things like infant deaths, life expectancy, and such, but even getting down into the details like survival following treatment for various sorts of cancers shows the US really doesn’t do that well. We need to start recognizing this. We’re paying tons for something that’s a long way from being "the best". For example, I travel to Korea regularly and feel much better about medical care and practice there, including the latest shiny technology, but also the simple stuff. And Korea has single payer national health insurance.

  82. Jcaesar -

    The 50-60% cut In headcount I referenced was directed at the PANYNJ.

    Wasn’t referring to anything else.

    When it comes to teachers firefighters and cops, the problems are largely burdensome costs of pensions, health benefits, tenure, work rules, etc. Which need major reform. In NY there is incredible waste b/c of antiquated seniority rules and lack of merit based evaluation. You can’t fire bad teachers or even perverts. They send them to rubber rooms where they do nothing all day for years while collecting full pay benefits and pensions. Some even run other businesses out of the rubber rooms. You can’t get rid of them. Try getting away with that if you work in the private sector for JPM or GE or GOOG or AAPL. Your ass will be on the street in a nanosecond.