Sunday, February 28, 2010

On taxes and the redistribution of wealth

Some people take an extremist view that taxation is tantamount to stealing.

This view is often justified by statements like the following: "Right now very little of anything the government spends our money on represents anything that I want."

In a participatory government, in particular a Democratic-Republic like ours, the government is a proxy of the people. As such, the government we elect represents all of us and the wants of the minority are deferred to the will of the majority but we are collectively responsible for the effects of actions taken by our government.

Whenever I hear political demagogues talking about "taking our country back," I cringe. Take it back from whom? Ourselves? Such rhetoric is little more than political sour grapes over the result of a lost election.

Another extremist view is that taxation takes money from those who work for their income and gives it to those who don't--the Robin Hood hypothesis. "Those who don't" are often defined as people on "welfare." And "welfare" is itself defined as free money for poor people who refuse to work for a living.

Speaking as an individual who was, at one time, a welfare recipient, I can assure you that for most recipients welfare is NOT a lifestyle choice. Americans are, by nature, a very proud people. The idea of turning to ANYONE for help--their family, their church or their government--is a difficult, painful and often embarrassing decision to make precisely because of the stigma associated with seeking assistance in a culture that prides itself on what is fast becoming the mythos of the "self-made man or woman."

Are there people who take unfair advantage of welfare--or Churches or their families? Yes, but they do not represent the majority of those seeking help. Often it is those that need help the most who are shamed out of seeking it. This results in increased rates of poverty, homelessness and other burdens on society that aren't as easily quantifiable as the budgets for welfare programs.

Our society also has programs for Americans with disabilities. Individuals who are unable to maintain employment because of debilitating conditions, often physical but also psychological and emotional. Are there people who take unfair advantage of those programs? Yes, but--again--they do not represent the majority of those participating in such programs. A stigma also surrounds applying for disability programs, especially for those with chronic mental illness and personality disorders simply because those individuals--while physically able-bodied--are unable to maintain steady employment because of psychological diagnoses that can only be determined by mental health professionals but aren't always obvious by simply looking at them.

Taxation in our country does not automatically take from the rich and give to the poor. If that were the case then your average tax payer would have a guaranteed tax refund that they wouldn't have to itemize or defend. This is simply not the case. There are in fact a great number of flaming bureaucratic hoops that need to be jumped through in order to qualify for government assistance.

The reality of the government's practices in the redistribution of wealth actually takes an approach that is the polar opposite of the Robin Hood hypothesis as we witnessed in October of 2008 when the financial markets were "threatened by imminent collapse" and tax money collected from the majority of Americans--the "poor" or "certainly not rich"--and was given to major American banks under the so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) without so much as a memo indicating where it should be spent. The financial market didn't exactly collapse but the lending pump--which the bailout was supposed to prime--didn't exactly start flowing with credit either. But executives of those banks--many of them the architects of the financial crisis itself--received multi-million dollar bonuses to the genuine outrage of the American public and imitative political theater of politicians on the Hill, many of whom are on the take for campaign contributions from lobbyists for the financial industry. Most of that bail-out money has in fact been repaid--a detail many "conservative" critics of TARP fail to acknowledge--but the government robs from the poor and gives to the rich in other ways that no one seems to know about or at least care to acknowledge. I'm speaking of course about CORPORATE welfare. Farm subsidies, payment on government contracts long since cancelled, no-bid contracts to private corporations in war zones.

Another way that the poor are placed at a disadvantage in relation to the rich--if not specifically "robbed" by them--is simply through the many loopholes that exist within our tax laws.

Ben Stein once wrote, "...the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap."

In the same article, he quotes Warren Buffett, "There’s class warfare... but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” To illustrate this, Buffett compared his income and taxes to that of his staff and "It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. 'How can this be fair?' he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. 'How can this be right?'”

Many "conservatives" don't hide their secular worship of wealthy people like Buffett, holding them aloft as if wealth is a direct measure of wisdom, justice and one's favor in the eyes of God because they are so "blessed" with their wealth and yet there he is, one of the wealthiest men in the world pointing out the lack of fairness that his class takes advantage of over the rest of us.

Many argue that a flat tax would be "more fair" but as long as big businesses can afford to hire legions of lobbyists to influence legislation that favors Wall Street and the wealthy, even the most "fair" flat tax would be riddled with loopholes to allow the most wealthy to keep doing what they're doing now to avoid paying their "fair" share under a so-called flat tax.

I don't think a flat tax is necessarily the answer--at least not one that's flat across the board. What needs to happen first is to close a lot of loopholes that allow the wealthiest people to get away with paying less than their middle-class counterparts. For example, if a corporate executive waives a $1 million salary--taxed at 35%--in favor of $1 million worth of company stock that he sells 13 months later, instead of taxing him only 15% in capital gains, it should be taxed at 35% since he accepted that stock in exchange for his services to the company. That stock is his income thus it should be taxed as income.

Many "conservatives" like to argue that taxation is a disincentive to work and they often cite a quotation attributed to Ronald Reagan to defend their argument:

“The more government takes in taxes, the less incentive people have to work. What coalminer or assembly-line worker jumps at the offer of overtime when he knows Uncle Sam is going to take 60 percent or more of his extra pay?” -Ronald Reagan, circa 1982

Let's think about that for a minute. If the 40% left over is more than what he's already making before taxes, he just might jump at it.

A coal miner in 1982 made around $13/hour. Assuming a 40-hour week, a couple weeks vacation and a handful of sick days, that coal miner might be bringing home $25,000 in 1982 which put him in a tax bracket of 32%. The top tax bracket that year was 50% and applied only to people making more than $55,300, more than TWICE the average income of a coal miner.

In 2008, a coal miner might take home $43,000 a year. Again, around the middle of the tax bracket paying 25%. The top bracket is only 35% and it doesn't kick in for an individual until he or she clears $372,950, over EIGHT TIMES as much as our coal miner makes.

My point is, coal miners and assembly-line workers--i.e. average Americans--don't have to worry about paying 60% in federal income taxes. It never ceases to amaze me how the extremely wealthy can convince the middle-class and the poor to feel sorry for them because they live in a higher tax bracket and yet the "super-rich" pay less as a percentage of their total income because they find all sorts of interesting loopholes to keep from paying it.

Let's put the Robin Hood myth to rest once and for all: The redistribution of wealth doesn't come from taxation, it occurs prior to it. If we were to bring back the highest brackets of the 80s (45%), 70s (70%) or 50s (90%), more wealth would be made available to more people because those higher brackets would encourage the wealthiest people NOT to acquire so much wealth to begin with (seriously, there comes a point where simply having more money doesn't really affect one's quality of life or one's ability to take care of one's family). Let's say the top bracket alone was raised from 35% to 45% on individuals making $372,951 or more. The bracket right below that is 33% for $171,551-$372,950. A difference of just $1 in a person's salary can mean a 12% difference in their rate of taxation. That's a difference of nearly $45,000 in taxes one wouldn't have to pay by simply earning $1 less in income. So where does it go? Back into the company one works at, enabling said company to grow, create more jobs and offer higher wages for lower earners who would still be taxed but in lower brackets, ensuring that they retain their buying power--lower earners spend more of their income than the wealthy.

The "Greatest Generation" paid over 90% in their top bracket for decades and did so with very little complaining. The 'tax as disincentive' argument is baseless. Reagan's analogy fails for reasons illustrated above. If Rush Limbaugh had to pay 75% of his income in taxes, he'd still be worth $100 Million. Sean Hannity, $25 Million. Glenn Beck $12.5 Million. Bill O'Reilly: $2.5 Million. Would a higher tax bracket really take away the incentive these men have to work?

I'm all for tax relief, but only for those people who actually spend money and deserve a break and that's the poor and the middle-class--though lately it's getting harder and harder to distinguish the two. My solution is to take the lower brackets and flatten them to 15% across the board for anyone making $0-$9.9 Million--more accurately, $9,999,999.

You might ask, Why so much? Why that particular number?

Let's face facts, a million bucks isn't what it used to be and small business owners, the people who employ most of the work-force, are middle-class Americans--many of them paper millionaires who can do a lot more good for the economy with a tax break than Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg who all do just fine no matter what shape the tax code takes.

Why all of those nines? Because middle-class millionaires are defined as anyone worth more than $1 million but less than $10 Million and $10 Million is where I draw the line between the "Rich" and the "Super-Rich."

As for people making $10 million and up? Tax the hell out of them. What you get won't be a disincentive to work but a disincentive to earn more than they need. Incentivizing people to earn a lower salary ($9.9 million a year hardly puts anyone in the poorhouse) keeps money out of any one person's bank account and invests it into business, job creation, the economy.

Question Time

What is your political philosophy?

I'm a political centrist on the Nolan chart. I'm neither a statist nor fully libertarian in my philosophy. The terms "conservative" and "liberal" have lost nearly all meaning to me in modern political discourse since most people who apply those labels to themselves can't reconcile their rhetoric with the very meanings of those words. I have given up on political parties as I fear that George Washington's warnings about the dangers of political factions have become a reality.

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty." -George Washington, 1796

How do you interpret the Constitution?

While I have read the document, I have not gone through it line by line interpreting every article, section and clause. As matters of Constitutional importance come up, I do feel it is important to turn to history and understand the context in which the Constitution was originally written. There are some clauses that stand up better to the tests of time than others, such as the Bill of Rights. There are also sections of the Constitution that have been completely ignored in public discourse and in the passage of federal laws, such as Public Law 62-5 which limits the number of Congressmen in the House of Representatives to a completely arbitrary 435. The United State Constitution makes it clear that "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand..." With a population greater than 300 Million souls, the United States House of Representatives should be seating over 10,000 Congressmen. Utah alone should be represented by 91 delegates to the House instead of only three. This law, nearly 100 years old, has undermined that document to near-catastrophic ends and yet has been largely unchallenged. The only legal way to change the number of Representatives in the House is through a Constitutional amendment but Congress itself has bypassed this process illegally and hardly anyone is even aware of it.

The question of whether or not the Constitution is a "living" document I think is answered by the fact that it includes within its articles, instructions on how it can be changed.

What are your views on what constitutes a just war?

War should always be avoided and used only as a last resort in response to a direct attack on our nation by another nation-state and in response to a similar attack on an ally as defined by a specific international treaty such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Unfortunately, since World War Two, this definition has rarely been met in our conflicts with other countries. The two most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been a mixed bag. I feel that the war in Iraq is illegal and we should never have entered into it. I felt that there was legal justification for the war in Afghanistan, which was entered into with support from NATO under Article 5 of that treaty. Unfortunately, the political priorities of the previous administration crippled our efforts in Afghanistan because the war that the Bush administration really wanted was with Iraq which had more to do, in my view, with a vendetta against Saddam Hussein by George W. Bush than any supposed threat posed to the U.S. by the nation of Iraq. At this point I think that our military presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq should come to an end as quickly as possible. The situation in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan may be better suited to more clandestine tactics and operations carried out by special forces.

How do you feel about United States foreign policy?

The last eight and a half years have largely been an embarrassment. The United States has only recently begun to regain its moral standing in the world after the horrendous actions and consequences of the previous administration's "cowboy" diplomacy. While I do not support a policy of political and economic isolationism by any means, I do think the time has long past when we should have started to rethink our priorities as a nation both militarily and economically.

Do we need military bases in foreign nations anymore? How much of the deterrence afforded us by land-based military facilities can just as effectively be maintained through the use of aircraft carrier battle groups? I think this question should be asked on a case by case basis in regard to our foreign military presence. Some military facilities may be more easily replaced than others by Naval forces keeping our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines out of harms way until absolutely necessary.

On the economic front, our nation has allowed itself to be spoiled by a combination of unfettered greed and the desire to get "the best deal possible" on goods and services and the global economy has been more than willing to accommodate us. Unfortunately, our pursuit of these deals has lead to the decimation, to put it mildly, of our own economy and our ability as a nation to produce goods and services for ourselves. Again, I do not advocate an isolationist view but something must be done for our nation to regain its economic independence for the good of our population. Moving away from a model that relies on consumption for 70% of our economy would be a good start. This can be accomplished through a number of steps like tariffs on imported goods, incentivizing the retention of domestic production capacity and investing heavily in raising our education standards.

What do you consider to be the natural rights of man concerning life, liberty and property?

I think no other document than the Bill of Rights can more eloquently answer that question.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The AnglÉ™ "On Jason's 'Climate Tax' Pledge"

I posted this in May of '09 but it clearly demonstrates what a sheep Chaffetz is.

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Wholly owned subsidiaries of the insurance industry."


I don't care for the current healthcare legislation as it's written but I'm not going to lose any sleep if it passes. Despite Weiner's passionate declaration that the GOP is "a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry," don't be fooled into thinking that the Democratic Party isn't just as compromised. The healthcare industry is playing both sides against the middle. They're bribing the GOP to kill reform at the same time that they're bribing the Democrats to make reform work in their favor.

Ms. Maddow is correct in her analysis that for-profit insurance companies can't be blamed for doing everything they can to turn a profit. That's how for-profit insurance works. I think that the profit motive should be removed from healthcare altogether. Legislation should be passed requiring health insurance companies to operate strictly as non-profit corporations, mutual companies and/or co-ops to ensure that premiums are used to treat sick people and not line the pockets or stock portfolios of insurance executives.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Poverty

The most encompassing solution to the problem of poverty is to create an environment that offers real economic opportunities to the poor. I'm not talking about minimum wage jobs, I'm talking about living wage jobs. What are some solutions to this problem? What needs to be done for the long term? Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. is a popular solution but often people have second thoughts when they realize just what that entails. Raising tariffs on imported products, higher prices for goods and services, renegotiating international trade and security treaties, etc. It can be done, but are Americans really willing to accept such a shift in priorities and the legal and bureaucratic headaches that will undoubtedly go along with it? Who among us hasn't gone out of their way to save a few bucks on the silliest of items? How addicted are we to the "good deal"? That addiction and our willingness--or unwillingness--to become rehabilitated will determine the answer to the above questions.

We should also understand that even in the best of economic times, there are always going to be those who are in need of assistance whether it's getting food on the table or keeping a roof over their head. Let us not punish those in genuine need because of a handful who abuse the system. Requiring people in assistance programs to provide some degree of service--whatever they are physically and emotionally capable of handling--as a prerequisite to getting said assistance is not only appealing to those who contribute to the safety net, but it also puts the recipient at ease. Oftentimes a person standing in line to apply for food stamps--or subsidized housing or to participate in a local food pantry program, etc.--does so with their head hanging in shame. To give them the opportunity to work, to provide some service--no matter how small--in exchange for the help they receive would not only wash away the stigma of applying for such programs but encourage more participation from those who can afford to; donating food to a local pantry, being willing to work with HUD with their rental properties, etc.

Chaffetz, his minions and the corruption of the GOP

Jason Chaffetz made a post to his Facebook page in which he made a direct association between earmarks and the $12+ Trillion public debt. This is misleading--to say the least! Earmarks account for less than 1% of government spending but Chaffetz harps on it as if earmark reform is the magic bullet of fiscal discipline in Washington. And yet he says NOTHING about the cost of two wars that is quickly approaching $1 Trillion. Nor does Chaffetz say a word about the tens of billions of dollars spent every year on corporate welfare, public law that keeps getting funding every year without end and no one is saying anything about it because they keep falling for red herrings like earmarks and the stimulus which are easy targets because they scare poor people who can barely comprehend how much money they represent.

Chaffetz refuses to look at the big picture and he's convinced his fanatic followers that little scraps of waste--like earmarks--that fall through the cracks in the government floor are the problem when in reality, we need to stop spilling so much onto the floor to begin with.

If Chaffetz wants to be on bread crumb patrol and pretend that it matters, he can go right ahead and do that. I'd rather see someone in Congress who's got the balls to stand up to corporate welfare recipients and say, "The party's over. Government doesn't exist to keep you in business, that's for you to figure out."

Why isn't Chaffetz fighting against farm subsidies? The federal government has enabled corn to become so cheap that it gets used in so many processed food products that healthy food has become too expensive for average Americans. The result, people are eating crap because it's cheaper than healthy food. Why is it cheaper? Because much of it is repackaged, government subsidized corn. This leads to unhealthy lifestyles, which burdens the healthcare system, driving those costs through the roof.

I support earmark reform but if that's the only bell Chaffetz is going to ring then he needs to wake up because there are bigger and considerably more expensive fish to fry in Washington and if all he's going to do is complain about the Democrats and pontificate over chump change just so he can rile up his uninformed base then he's just as politically impotent as every other two-faced hypocrite in his party.

The real joke is that Chaffetz continues to complain about pocket change while remaining silent on real waste and his minions in his online forum are just as naive as he is to the point that they demand little more from him and think that he's actually trying to change how things work in Washington. They are being conned by a guy who pretends to believe in reform but is just another tool of the corrupt organization that is the GOP. I don't know what's scarier, the thought that he's naive enough to believe his own rhetoric or that his cheerleaders are so willing to accept his smoke and mirrors politicking as reality.

Going after small fish like earmarks while ignoring real government waste is a fool's errand. Real reform is hard work and takes a champion who's smart enough to understand that there's no single solution to a problem as complex and ingrained as government waste; that multiple angles of attack need to be engaged. What's Chaffetz' objection to "Pay as you go"--which contributed in no small part to the budget surpluses we enjoyed at the end of the last century? Why is he fighting against healthcare reform which can also bring government spending down (not to mention the cost of healthcare for every American?

Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, values and morality and yet they have demonstrated that they are the most spend-happy, bloodthirsty and bigoted group of hypocrites that dare call themselves patriots. Serving their corporate puppet-masters and having the audacity to say they care more about regular Americans than any other party.

The GOP is only paying lip service to conservative values and that includes Chaffetz who's more interested in being a celebrity than a statesman. The GOP is a sinking ship and they're dragging the Democrats down with them. And I say: So be it! Both parties are beholden to corporate interests at the expense of what's right for the people. Chaffetz is just another political shill who does as he's told by his party handlers. If he gave a damn about changing the way Washington works, then he would support publicly funded elections and get corporations out of politics. Instead he gladly accepts money from corporate interests and embraces the lie that corporations should be treated like people instead of the legal fictions that they are. Chaffetz doesn't give a damn about his constituents. All he wants is their money and their vote and he will defer to the will of his Party and its corporate backers when he's in Washington.

Being a freshman doesn't give him a pass for the lies he has told to his own constituents or the blind loyalty he has given to his party leaders--who haven't been freshmen for a considerable time. Chaffetz is a darling among the right-wing media because he parrots the party line so well. The few positive things I give him credit for simply aren't enough to outweigh the betrayal of party politics that he has so eagerly embraced.

Chaffetz has proven himself to be as much of a pawn of the GOP as any other member. He propagates their lies as gospel truth. He ridicules the current administration while making excuses for the one that preceded it. Instead of proposing practical solutions, he riles up his base with half-truths, insinuations and regurgitation of whatever misinformation he is fed by his party handlers. Chaffetz has embraced the despicable practices of the extreme Right wing of his own free will and has become corrupted by it.

The Federal Budget Deficit & the National Debt

In tough economic times, it is not un precedented to cut taxes. Even if it means short-term deficit spending. However, when the economy is doing well there's nothing wrong with raising taxes and cutting federal spending in order to balance the federal budget and keep the national debt at a manageable level.

What makes our current situation so screwed up is that during the last period of economic "growth" (i.e. the housing bubble), we didn't cut spending, we increased it without raising taxes to pay for it (again, justifiable when the economy is growing). Pile onto that two major wars--of questionable legality--without a clear exit strategy (wartime also being a justifiable reason for increasing taxes) and we compromised our ability to handle future crises.

Look at the mismanagement of the federabl budget under George W. Bush: He fulfilled his promise to cut taxes (favoring the wealthy); he saw an opportunity to go to war with Iraq after establishing a token presence in Afghanistan following 9/11; He sought MORE tax cuts during these wars (which is unprecedented) to buy more votes during a relative time of "plenty" (the housing bubble); Bush and the GOP bought the senior vote for 2004 with Medicare Part D funded solely by deficit deficit spending. By the time the current recession had hit, there would have been fewer headaches and much less anxiety over a stimulus package and tax cuts even while running a deficit over a period of years had the previous administration been true to conservative values like fiscal responsibility--the GOP claims to have seen the light as they take on the role of deficit hawks and point fingers at the Obama administration's spending but can we really trust them to balance the budget and pay down the debt were we to put them back into power in Washington? I seriously doubt it. Especially considering their opposition to PayGo and a bipartisan panel aimed at reducing the deficit. All the GOP is interested is returning to power for power's sake.

As for the national debt*, as long as it's maintained at manageable levels as a percentage of GDP (for the sake of argument, let's say around 30%) the Federal government can afford to run deficits in times of financial crisis and times of war and still be able to rebalance the budget within a decade of the end of the crisis.

At the end of World War Two the national debt was 125% of GDP. After the war the economy exploded (having blasted most foreign competition to smithereens helped) and the highest income tax bracket was over 90%. We paid off the debt within a decade--and fought an entirely new war in Korea to boot.

The current national debt has yet to hit 100% of GDP. Theoretically, we can afford borrow another trillion dollars just to pay off everyone's credit card balance and keep responsible people from losing their homes. However, this scenario presents a moral dilemma. We're supposed to be a country of do-it-your-selfers, where each individual is responsible for their own success or failure. The government stepping in to bail out individuals should be just as bitter as bailing out the banks, if not more so. The numbers make sense, sure. But one old quote I keep hearing is that the country that can give you everything you want can also take everything away. Paying off individual debts would be the ultimate form of government influence over the economy because the results would almost be instant (look how fast they got the money to the banks). I'm willing to bet that if a lot of people had their credit card balances paid, they'd waste no time racking up that debt again. It would sure get the economy moving but we would wind up exactly where we are now. Our culture has to change first.

The thing we have to be prepared to do however is that once the economy is back on its feet and people have switched from public jobs--financed by the stimulus--to private sector jobs is to have the courage and commitment to cut spending AND raise taxes in order to get back to budget surpluses so we can pay the debt back down to manageable levels and keep the economy from burning itself out in another bubble. Spending cuts alone aren't going to do it (and are unlikely to happen because they are politically unpopular, no matter what the GOP says) and raising taxes on the super rich (say $10,000,000+ yearly incomes) won't hurt the spending ability of the lower classes (I'm starting to wonder if the middle class even exists anymore).

Once we're back on even keel with a manageable debt load, we can ease the tax burden without running a deficit--helping the economy by demanding less from those who spend the most--and be in a better position to handle the fiscal demands of the next crisis.

The only problem with all of this: It's a long term, historically precedented solution but impatient Americans want it fixed NOW! ;-)

*Remember, not all debt is owned by the Chinese, Japanese and other foreign interests. It also includes savings bonds, treasury bills and other debt instruments. The social security trust (which basically means that the government owes money to itself). Not all federal debt is bad. As long as it's properly managed, foreign governments would love to keep investing in treasury bills even if we didn't ask them too because they earn interest on it. When economic times are good and the government manages our money responsibly it can benefit people around the world.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An open letter to Jason Chaffetz

Congressman,

I couldn't help but notice that--once again--I am no longer able to leave comments on your Facebook page. At first I thought I would give you the benefit of a doubt and chalk it up to glitches associated with the recent changes Facebook has been implementing into its system but as the glitches have calmed down, my ability to post comments on your virtual wall has not returned. I can't even send you a direct message via Facebook as I have in the past.

Given your track record of trying to silence people who criticize you on Facebook and YouTube (most notably myself and Dave Iba), it would appear that you have decided to take some of this criticism personally and exact your revenge in the most cowardly manner possible in a free society. This is becoming quite a habit for you and not one that is becoming of a United States Congressman.

How many times have I told you that if you want to be in the public spotlight--which you seem to crave more than doing anything of substance--then you need to have a thicker skin. You can't take what I say personally any more than what might be said about you in televised or printed editorials. I haven't had the kind of exposure that would make my opinions about you matter in the eyes of voters. The largest audience I get for my criticism of you is on your "Fan" page where my remarks are clearly outnumbered by the sycophantic overtures you seem to feed off of. Have you blocked anyone from your group because all they offer you is flattery and hollow praise? No.

And yet here I am, one voice in a group of thousands of "fans" who gives you enough credit to challenge your positions, to question your stand on specific issues and while you have given very short answers to a small percentage of my questions--which I appreciate--it's all for nothing if your response to tougher criticism is to try and silence me.

There are people in your forum that call me a joke and that's fine, I don't take it personally. I have friends who have said to me, "Chaffetz probably thinks you're a joke," until I explain to them that this isn't the first time that you've tried to silence me because I said something that you didn't like to hear. Because this is behavior that you have exhibited before, we can't honestly conclude that you think I'm a joke.

Frankly, we think you feel threatened.

If I was a joke, you'd just ignore me. Maybe you would try and placate me with short, ambiguous, one-sentence answers to specific questions that your "fans" would praise you for. But, instead, you chose to silence me in the one forum that you can control--that is not the act of a man who's laughing. Perhaps you've chosen to be offended because I use strong language to illustrate my opinion of you. I have called you impotent--in reference to your political influence. I've called you a liar and backed up my assertions with facts that directly contradict your statements. I've called you out for making a big self-righteous show about how you claim to be changing things in Washington and illustrated just how much you are a part of that broken system. I'm probably the only person you know who's willing to call you out on your political failings and demand that you address them. I'm the only person who dares look past your rhetoric and ask you to reconcile it with your actions. I'm the one guy who's not going to settle for your token gestures and symbolic "reform" while you ignore the bigger problems that are destroying our country. Bottom line, I'm the best friend and "fan" that you will ever have because you can always count on me to be honest with you and NOT kiss your ass.

If you aren't already aware, I have decided to do more than just criticize the job that you're doing as Congressman. I have made the decision to challenge you in the general election in November as an independent candidate. Before you booted me, I made a conscious decision to say nothing about my campaign or answer any questions related to it on your Facebook page because I respected it as one of your tools to communicate with your constituents--even though you do more inflaming than communicating--and a place for open discourse despite the fact that most people in that forum aren't open to anything.

I'd like to formally request that I be allowed to maintain a participatory presence on your Facebook page as well as invite you to become a member of my Facebook group and participate in the discussion that occurs there. You are welcome to be as harsh and critical of my politics as I have been of yours and I promise to give honest, straight-forward responses to your questions.

Have you ever watched the movie "The Godfather"? Remember that classic line, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer"? I'm not saying that we are enemies but we certainly are opponents and it would be wise for both of us to keep tabs on the other, maintain an open dialogue and challenge each other on the issues. That is if having an open mind and thick skin are traits that you value in a public servant.

Sincerely,

Joe Puente

My Facebook group: http://bit.ly/jpofb

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quayle: 51-Vote Senate Majority 'Not What Our Founding Fathers Had In Mind'

FYI: The U.S. Constitution requires a supermajority vote under ONLY THREE specific circumstances: 1) To propose a Congress-driven constitutional amendment; 2) to override a presidential veto and 3) to ratify a treaty. Any other motion before the senate can be passed with a simply majority, i.e. 51 votes. The rule currently in place requiring a supermajority for a cloture vote has no Constitutional justification.

The former Vice President's assertion that passing a bill through reconciliation would be "unprecedented" is a LIE. When the GOP controlled the Senate under George W. Bush they passed bills through reconciliation all the time--this includes Bush's tax cuts and Medicare Part D.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Is Chaffetz really this ignorant or is he just lying?

In anticipation of the 1-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (AKA "The Stimulus Package"), Jason Chaffetz posted a link on his Facebook page to one of his "good" sources of information: GOP.gov--oh, there couldn't possibly be any bias coming from that source--which asks "Where are the jobs?" Chaffetz accompanying remark was, "A year later.....we can't spend our way out of our problems."

I threw a test question out to the forum: Tell me, what exactly was it that got the US out of the great depression?

I got the answer that I expected: "World War II"

I've had similar discussions before and every critic of the stimulus like to point out that it was World War II and NOT the New Deal spending programs that lifted America out of the Great Depression.

But what was World War II if not situation that forced America to spend money that it didn't have? And did it not result in a national debt approaching 125% of GDP but also an economic boom that helped us pay off that debt within a decade?

If World War Two had never happened and the US Government decided to build all those tanks, aircraft, rifles, ships and tools of war anyway and then just took them out into the middle of the ocean and SANK them, the effect on the economy would have been the same; a major boom in wealth and prosperity which would have resulted in increased tax revenue, budget surpluses and paying down the national debt--only no lives would have been lost.

What I struggle to understand is why so many "conservatives" seem to have no problem with ringing up a national debt in the trillions in the name of security or for the sake of war--resulting in the unnecessary loss of American and foreign lives--but somehow they have a moral objection to short term deficit spending in the interest of rebuilding infrastructure and employing Americans while providing the impetus for the private economy to reboot. Why is war politically preferable to doing right by the people of this nation? Why is it okay spend billions of dollars destroying the infrastructure--and countless lives--of a foreign nation but it isn't okay to spend billions of dollars to say upgrade the U.S. power grid so the lights don't go out just because it rains?

Deficit spending for the government is not always a bad thing. It is in fact necessary during times of war and historically precedented during times of economic turmoil. Despite what Chaffetz and his minions claim, federal spending in the short term CAN provide a boost to the economy and that boost results in increased tax revenue in the long term that can help balance the federal budget and shrink the national debt.

Chaffetz does his constituents a disservice whenever he puts the government's fiscal policy in terms of home economics. The federal budget is not analogous to a household budget and someone who's serving the U.S. Congress--in the very chamber that determines what is and isn't spent--needs to understand that. So far Chaffetz has demonstrated that he doesn't have a basic grasp of macroeconomic theory--or he's pretending not to for the sake of scoring political points with uninformed constituents. Either way, we don't need any more Congressmen who are ignorant or lie to the people for the sake of a few extra votes. Utah doesn't need another politician in Washington, we need a representative who has the ability to see beyond the short term--i.e. the next election--and do right by those he or she represents.

And if there's any one reason the stimulus didn't live up to its expectations, we can blame "conservatives" in Congress for gutting it in exchange for the empty promise of bilateral support. What resulted was a hint of a stimulus that instead of reversing the recession, merely caused it to be less painful than it could have been. And wether you want to believe it or not, jobs were created by the stimulus, unfortunately the number of jobs created by government intervention was offset by the number of jobs lost in the private sector.

It should also be noted that the cost of the stimulus doesn't just represent spending, it also takes into account the LARGEST TAX-CUT IN AMERICAN HISTORY. And Republicans STILL voted against it.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/26/business/economy/20090126-recessions-graphic.html