The Ultimate Left-Wing Tax System

Monday, January 31, AD 2011

Recently Matt Talbot of Vox Nova offered up the following plan for tax reform:

I propose that there is a one-time, 20% federal tax on all financial assets over $2 million – assets in IRA’s and 401(k) plans would be exempt, provided the particular accounts were held on, say, September 15, 2008 (this would prevent using retirement accounts as an anticipatory shelter.) Yes, the stock and bond markets would take a hit; can’t be helped, and the stock market is way over-valued anyway, by historical standards. The stock market should be there to finance capital investment, not to enrich Wall Street greedheads.

In the comments my co-blogger Darwin had some negative things to say about this plan. Truthfully, though, I think that properly implemented a one-time wealth tax could work pretty well. In fact, I would say that the main problem with Matt’s proposal is that it is much too modest.

For one thing, as was noted in the comments to his post, restricting the tax to financial assets over $2 million excluding IRAs and 401(k)s is not going to raise much revenue. And the more exemptions you have in the system, the more likely it is that the rich will just hire tax attorneys to hide their assets and avoid the tax. To deal with these problems, I would make the wealth tax all-inclusive.

Since wealth inequality is much much greater than income inequality, this would be a highly progressive measure. However, without a lower limit, you might worry about the impact of this proposal on the poor. To offset this, I would institute a guaranteed minimum income. The minimum income level would have to be pretty low to avoid work disincentives and keep the plan fiscally responsible, but it would be high enough that even in the first year it would be enough for the poor to pay the tax. Unlike the wealth tax, the guaranteed minimum income program would be ongoing, and would be in addition to rather than instead of all existing federal assistance programs.

Going forward, I would replace corporate taxes at the federal level by raising the capital gains tax rate to 23%. Finally, I would simplify the tax code, eliminating all deductions and replacing the current bracket system with two brackets: 10% for income under $100k, 23% for above that.

Finally, to ensure that the rich don’t hide their assets to avoid the tax, I would deputize every store clerk in America as an IRS enforcement agent. Try as they might, wall street greedheads would not be able to avoid the tax. They could bury their gold in the backyard if they wanted, but as soon as they dug it up to buy a new yacht we’d get ’em.

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25 Responses to The Ultimate Left-Wing Tax System

  • How many families have over $2 million in financial assets? One, maybe two million? That would be about 2% of the population.


    Why don’t ‘we’ just take it all?!

    We see here (VN) on display infallible ignorance of the functionings of the real world. But hey, that also is true for the White House and Senate.

    I no longer read (torture myself) VN – near occasion of sin. I do not need to. A few years ago I completed my post-doctoral field work in the fever swamps of erudite, left-wing ignorance.

  • I drive a 14 year old car, and my wife drives a 13 year old car. The value of my house was just a little more than my salary when I bought it, and its value today is a fraction of my earnings. My wife and I have never vacationed in Europe, though we have been to Toronto to see her brother’s family once and flew to Cancun for our 10th anniversary. Most of my suits are purchased used from eBay. Our splurges are for Catholic schools and various Catholic and other charities — we give away between 10 and 20 percent of our gross income every year. Through 30 years of 50-60 hour work weeks and diligent saving and investing, we have now apparently accumulated too much money. Boy, have we been stupid. I don’t often get intemperate, but my response to those who make this rather unbelievably stupid proposal is go pound sand and keep punding until your brain cells work again.

  • What is your take on Fairtax?

    If you think it’s anything other than absurd deceptive nonsense, which sounds wonderful, allow me to set you straight.

    I was a big fan of Fairtax — until I saw the fine print, and asked Fairtax leaders some questions.

    Fairtax claimed for 13 years and in 8 books, and in over 4,000 speeches that “Only people pay taxes”. IN fact, Fairtax leader Boortz claimed that “only people pay taxes” was the #1 principle for Fairtax.

    But then we see this odd sentence in Boortz’s Book, ironically named “Fairtax The Truth”

    “Under our plan, all city and state governments will pay to the federal government a tax on all their spending — on all their purchases, on services and goods, including labor (wages).” Fairtax The Truth Book, page 138, by Neil Boortz.

    We called a Fairtax spokesman and asked about this — will California state government have to pay 15-18 billion dollars to the federal government? Will every city government have to pay it too?

    Is this is ADDITION to the “tax on personal consumption”?

    Yes — Fairtax leaders told us emphatically. California government will have to pay 15-18 billion dollars to the federal government. Every city, and every state government, will have to pay.

    This is central to Fairtax. Not only is it in their fine print, this is basic to their math. This trillion dollar tax on city and state government is how their math “works”.

    We have Fairtax’s goofy explanation for this hidden tax, see these two blogs.

    If you still think Fairtax is on the level — or even sane — I have a bridge to sell you.

    Yes, we need a new tax code — and we need honesty and openness.

  • Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that Schell is stupid — just his proposal.

  • I think the key difference is in more than the framing. It appears to morally offend Matt that people who own wealth in the form of financial investments exist in the first place. His tax seems based on the idea that if someone owns a bunch of stocks and bond, that money is somehow being kept away from society, and so society should go take 20% of it away and use it for more useful purposes. What he doesn’t seem to be able to understand is that, however offensive it may seem to him that large investors own more than most other people, that invested money is busy keeping the economy going, capitalizing businesses, providing people with jobs, etc.

    A fair tax goes after money as it is being spent, but ignores money which is invested. If you make a large income but save most of it, then you would pay comparatively low taxes and increase in wealth. Which is pretty much the opposite of what Matt’s proposal seems motivated by: a desire that there not be wealthy people owning investments.

    Now, of course, this is why the fair tax is actually a very good idea, and Matt’s is a destructive one.

  • Darwin,

    I agree with you about the motivation point. No one ever fed the hungry by hating the rich.

    However, I disagree when you that that with a consumption tax “[i]f you make a large income but save most of it, then you would pay comparatively low taxes.” If you do this you will end up paying more in taxes, its just that you will do so later on when you spend the extra money you earned by saving.

  • Mr. Black Adder, You clearly do NOT understand the FairTax.

    You do not correctly describe how it works. The FairTax is NOT a one time tax on wealth. It ONLY taxes consumption as it occurs. That IS what people benefit from. People do NOT benefit directly from work, the work gives them the ability to earn, then consume if they choose! Someone does not benefit from accumulation of wealth until they spend it! The FairTax encourages accumulation of wealth, which is good for the economy, and good for people of ALL walks of life. When someone decides to benefit from that accumulation they will pay taxes without exception or loophole at same rate as any other family consuming ABOVE their poverty level. That’s because NO ONE effectively pays tax until they consume above their poverty level.

  • Mark,

    I think the specific FairTax proposal has some big flaws, but I think the general idea of replacing existing taxes with a consumption tax makes sense.


    A consumption tax is equivalent to a one time tax on wealth (plus a tax on income going forward).

    Suppose I have a million dollars in assets. With a one time 23% wealth tax, I pay $230,000 in taxes, and am left with $870,00 to spend on whatever I want. With a 23% consumption tax, I can buy $870,000 worth of goods and services, on which I will pay $230,000 in taxes.

  • Exactly right, DC, subject to the proviso that I’d substitute consumption tax for Fair Tax. Whether the Fair Tax is the best consumption tax alternative is still an open question to me. I am more of a fan of the broad-based expenditure tax advanced by William Andrews of Harvard and more recently by Sam Nunn when he was a Senator of Georgia. Basically, that tax would work much like our present income tax, but allow a deduction for all contributions to savings. All withdrawals from savings at any time would simply be added to the base. In theory all income would be taxed over one’s life time as one spent it. Ideally, the need for the estate and gift tax would be obviated as the decedent’s savings would be entirely withdrawn in order be distributed to heirs.

    This tax is a consumption tax that treats gifts as a form of consumption. It has the advantages of (i) easy development from our current tax (which due to IRAs, 401(k)s, etc is already a hybrid), (ii) ability to accomodate desirable policy objectives such as a deduction for charitable contributions, and (iii) ability to accomodate vertical equity adjustment — i.e., rates can be progressive. Some would criticize thiss flexiblilty as allowing for the very type of complexity that is the subject of current widespread derision. But as a tax lawyer whose practice includes a lot of sales tax disputes, I find it naive for people to think that (i) the sales tax is simple (tax lawyers find this notiion humerous) and (ii) the Fair Tax will somehow forever avoid the array of popular exemptions common in state sales taxes everywhere.

  • If you do this you will end up paying more in taxes, its just that you will do so later on when you spend the extra money you earned by saving.

    Hmmm. Would you tax charitable giving and inheritance, or would they be exempt?

  • Would you tax charitable giving and inheritance, or would they be exempt?

    I believe that the tax applies to charitable contributions but not to inheritance.

  • Ideally, the need for the estate and gift tax would be obviated as the decedent’s savings would be entirely withdrawn in order be distributed to heirs.

    But wouldn’t that be double dipping to the extreme? If a man gifts his grandson fresh out of college $25K from his savings, would the young man have to pay tax on it or would the grandfather have to pay the tax above the amount? Either way, tax was paid on the 25K and then would be taxed again as the kid spends it. That doesn’t seem just to me (neither does sales tax on used cars either!), plus it’s one of those hidden-but-in-plain-sight type taxes which irk me so.

    I used to rail against the income tax years ago, but I have come to think it an equitable method – even if it is far from that right now. I wouldn’t like anybody to have to pay a dime of income tax until they reach a certain threshold before any taxes kick in at all and that threshold would be much higher than it is now. I would also like the structure to be more family friendly and to be an incentive for having/keeping a family, etc. I still think there would be need for the EITC, but it might be constituted a little different.

    While I think certain consumption and excise taxes are legitimate, many strike me as nothing more than a means for the “representatives of the poor” to institute a heavily regressive tax on those they champion. It’s like a cynical shell game where they pay lip service and buy votes with largess from treasury. I’ve never heard of a diligent advocate of the poor protesting cigarette, alcohol, used car, and fuel taxes – nor the lottery. All of which are either targeted toward the poor or simply too regressive.

  • Mike, I don’t believe the Nunn USA tax would require estates to withdraw all savings.

    DC, the FairTax is a sales tax. You can make all the gifts you want but the recipient would pay taxes on whatever they buy with the gift. Essentially, it would hurt charities and eliminate the estate tax.

    My biggest problem with the FairTax is the rate. 30%. That’s asking for a rampant black market. Another problem is that even with the rebate, it’s far too regressive. Then there’s the problem that it’s also a one-off wealth tax that hits everyone’s retirement which wouldn’t be as big a problem if it wasn’t so regressive.

  • My biggest problem with the FairTax is the rate. 30%. That’s asking for a rampant black market.

    This is a serious concern, but I think it could be addressed by having a VAT instead of a straight sales tax.

    Another problem is that even with the rebate, it’s far too regressive.

    It’s only regressive if you look at annual income instead of lifetime income. Under the current system once a person retires they are basically done paying taxes (they might still pay some capital gains tax, but they don’t pay any more income tax). Since the rich spend a larger proportion of their income after they retire, looking at annual income creates the illusion that the rich are paying a lower percentage than they actually do.

    Then there’s the problem that it’s also a one-off wealth tax that hits everyone’s retirement which wouldn’t be as big a problem if it wasn’t so regressive.

    Right, a switch to a consumption tax is equivalent to a one time wealth tax, plus you are effectively increasing the long term capital gains rate and taking away the investment incentives created by IRAs. Whether the incentives in favor of work and savings going forward is something I don’t think you can tell without actually running the numbers. My understanding is that economists who have looked at this have generally concluded that the positive incentives outweigh the negative ones.

  • Actually a FairTax (or any similar consumption tax) would eliminate the capital gains tax. Or alternatively, it makes all investments tax deferred which is the same thing (in the same way that traditional and Roth IRAs are identical if your tax rates are the same at contribution and withdrawal). In fact, the Nunn USA tax is just that; our current income tax with investments tax deferred. This is identical to our current income tax minus investment taxes like capital gains and dividends. There are behavioral differences between these plans but they’re mathematically identical (assuming identical tax rates). They all make savings more attractive by treating all savings as if they were placed in IRA’s.

  • RR,
    Yes, you are right that the Nunn USA Tax would not tax distributions upon death, but I view that as its largest defect. I see no good reason to encourage perpetual intergenerational wealth accumulation. It seems more sensible to me for all income to be taxed during the earner’s lifetime as he spends it. Conceptually I see no reason to distinguish between inter vivos gifts and testamentary ones, and no reason not to consider gifts as just one expenditure choice.

    In your example, grandpa would receive no deduction for his gift, which would be treated just as any other expenditure. Under my theory the gift should also be regarded as income and taxed to the grandson, but only when he spends it. I don’t see the injustice of taxing all consumption, and I think it is sensible to view all one’s income as consumed as one spends it, and see no reason to not treat gifts as just a spending option. Basically, my system would treat all uses of income equally. No preference or discrimination as between spending, saving or giving. Economists have long criticized the income tax as penalizing savings; a Nunn Bush type tax (I think mine is a slighly improved version of it) would not encourage savings — it would just not discourage savings.

  • Actually a FairTax (or any similar consumption tax) would eliminate the capital gains tax.

    The FairTax would eliminate the capital gains tax, but it wouldn’t eliminate taxes on capital gains (in the same way that it would eliminate the income tax but not taxes on income).

    Suppose I make $1 million in long term capital gains. Under the current system I pay $150,000 in taxes. Under the FairTax, I would end up paying about $230,000 in tax out of the same money.

  • Mike, I don’t know if the Nunn tax would tax inter vivos gifts but I don’t think any gifts should be taxed. I see no reason to distinguish between transferring money from my right pocket to my left and transferring money from my pocket to your pocket. I want to tax wealth, not the transfer of it. An ideal consumption tax taxes only the wealth created and only once. If you want to attack wealth, have a larger initial tax or a continuous tax (e.g., a property tax). Taxing transfers discourages them and encourages immediate consumption.

    BA, yes, but under the current system, your capital gains are made on post-income-tax principle. Under the FairTax, they’re made on untaxed principle. In the end, a 23% income tax and no capital gains tax leaves you with the same tax burden as the FairTax.

  • BA, yes, but under the current system, your capital gains are made on post-income-tax principle. Under the FairTax, they’re made on untaxed principle. In the end, a 23% income tax and no capital gains tax leaves you with the same tax burden as the FairTax.

    Fair enough, but as you pointed out a while back, a 33% flat tax with a $30,000 exemption looks a lot like the current system in terms of progressivity. So any regressive effects of the FairTax could be eliminated by making the rate 33% instead of 23% and raising the amount of the prebate.

  • BA, that’s exactly what I’d like to see. That and a VAT instead of a sales tax. Better still a digital VAT card that applies the rebate instantly at the point of sale. It would prevent people from living off their rebates like welfare since you have to actually spend money to receive it.

  • I’m trying to think if I like or dislike this feature, but it strikes me that a consumption-based tax system would encourage people to put more value on intangible assets and status rather than strict consumption, depending on what things the tax applied to.

    Say I make a lot of money and I consume relatively little but instead put away huge amounts in savings. I also contribute large amounts to certain charities. If the companies and charities I give money to respond by providing me with status, influence, and access to opportunities and facilities, these things would effectively be discounted because they wouldn’t actually be bought items.

    Now we’re talking about pretty non-tangible assets here. Though they might be highly useful in getting political and commercial opportunities. So maybe the attraction of gaining these “untaxed” advantages (which you’d be purchasing pretty inefficiently anyway) would not be that high. But it would be sort of interesting if such a system resulted either in people investing more in social institutions or developing something a bit more like an aristocracy.

  • DC, that’s interesting. Of course, since those intangible goods are costless, you’ll get plenty of supply. So while we may get more of them, they won’t be any more valuable than they are now.

  • Well, as I think about it, probably the amount of the consumption tax isn’t enough to actually effect much cultural change. 30% is a lot, but if those who are raking in truly staggering amounts of money get to keep all their earnings until they spend it, the extra 30% probably isn’t even that bad a deal.

    However, I would note that goods such as status or influence are not necessarily costless or of infinite supply, though maybe “intangible” is the wrong word for what I mean.

    The kind of thing I was thinking of was: Say someone has a truly massive amount of wealth, such as he might spend on a private jet and a really out-of-this-world vacation home or island. But somehow, consumption is just out now. So instead, he endows a new wing to the hospital which is named after him. Not, however, totally out of the goodness of his heart. Because it’s with the implicit understanding that it’s “usual” as a business expense for the hospital to court donors with flights to conferences on private Caribbean islands, and having their names and the names of their company splashed on lots of hospital materials, and being invited to swank board dinners and made the guest of honor at banquets and such.

    Basically, if certain kinds of consumption are basically a way of signalling “I’m a really important guy” and consumption somehow becomes unfashionable, does this drive people into other ways of signaling the same thing?

    If so, pushing people to signal importance by endowing charities and owning private companies and sitting on boards and such might actually be more beneficial for society in many ways. It might be a good thing. Though it might also, in some ways, lead to a more static society in that it would tend to reinforce ties between members of an existing elite. (So, for example, the hospital and the other members of the hospital board might be more likely to go to their donor’s company for various goods and services rather than really searching for who has the best product at the best cost. This closing of opportunity might make it harder for a new company which isn’t connected to a known grandee to make it.)

    As I say, now I think about it coolly, I don’t really think a 23% or 30% consumption tax would cause this, but this idea that people might trade consumption for status and influence did strike me as interesting.

  • DC, business expenses wouldn’t be any cheaper for businesses under a consumption tax. And now that I think about it, it wouldn’t even affect the costless intangibles. Under the current income tax system, companies can provide you with pre-tax benefits like dinner. Or it can give you the money, and you have to pay income tax then buy dinner with post-tax money. Nothing changes under a consumption tax except you pay the tax when you buy the dinner instead of when you receive the money. It’s the same tax. This stuff gets confusing because we often forget that when we buy something we’re buying it with money we already paid income tax on.

  • The thing is, people are not necessarily profit maximizing rational actors. Often they get hit up about things because they are loss averse but only recognize certain losses as “real”.

    Two classic examples are the way that people talk about mortgage and charitable donations. If you think about it, it makes no sense to take on more mortgage debt in order to maximize your deductions or to make charitable donations strictly to maximize your deductions. A deduction, after all, simply reduces your taxable income. And yet, you’re always better off with more income and paying the tax on it than giving up the income entirely.

    People do not always think this way, however, probably because they don’t have any choice about witholding and so they see the only thing they affect as being what they file and how much they get back.

    No, we could also theorize that people are mistaken about their motivations when they claim that they maximize their mortgage debt or make large donations at the end of the year in order to minimize their taxes, but I’ve had enough people claim to me that they refinanced and took money out of their house or made a large donation right at the end of the year in order to minimize their taxes I’m moderately convinced that some people act that way even though it’s not rational.

    I think the question would be: would suddenly imposing a very large consumption tax cause people to look for other ways of getting benefits they might previously have purchased. Would people become more averse to purchasing luxuries and instead try to secure “free” stuff via social status and power.

    Now note, this would only apply if certain types of very expensive purchases are basically just signalling behavior and not something people actually place that much value on in and of itself. And like I said, as I think about it, I think the increase in take-home income for the very rich would cancel out the effect in this case and so a 30% fair tax would not have this effect.

Obamacare Ruled Unconstitutional

Monday, January 31, AD 2011

In the second ruling of its kind, a Florida judge has found the provision mandating individual health insurance to be unconstitutional. Even more interesting to me is that the judge found that the provision was inseparable from the rest of the bill, so that the whole bill is unconstitutional.

The first part may not be that important, as the Supreme Court will have the final say. However, it will be interesting to see what happens with the separability issue. I wonder if Obama will be encouraged by this ruling to start working with Republicans to put many of the positive/popular aspects of the plan (like not denying people with pre-existing conditions) into law such that they are not dependent on the individual mandate. If not, Obama is risking his legacy on getting a majority of Supreme Court justices to believe that’s it ok for the government to mandate people buy something with no way to opt out. That seems to me to be a very dangerous gamble, and considering the political capital Obama’s used on this reform, it would be wise for him to try to preserve what he can and keep as little in the hands of the judiciary as possible.

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7 Responses to Obamacare Ruled Unconstitutional

  • I can’t see Kennedy ruling it unconstitutional.

    The only ideas even floating around for covering those with pre-existing conditions without a mandate is to penalize people who put off buying insurance. So instead of penalizing them now as ObamaCare does, they are penalized when they eventually purchase insurance. I find that even worse than a mandate. If you fail to purchase insurance now (which is the problem we’re trying to solve in the first place), you’re discouraged from purchasing it later.

    If you want to cover those with pre-existing conditions, the only options are a mandate or subsidizing them. The latter would involve a lot of central planning as the government would have to determine how much to subsidize whom for which pre-existing conditions and then investigate for fraud.

  • “Even more interesting to me is that the judge found that the provision was inseparable from the rest of the bill, so that the whole bill is unconstitutional.”

    ObamaCare was so rushed and poorly crafted that they did not insert the standard severability clause. I really don’t see this surviving before the Supreme Court as presently constituted.

    The Supreme Court should be rendering its decision before the Presidential election. I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama is praying that the Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare. If the Court does, many liberals would go absolutely berserk and drive up the intensity factor for Obama. On the other hand, if the Court upholds ObamaCare, every Republican, conservative and Tea Party member will be pulling out all the stops to make this term Obama’s first and last.

  • Here is a link to the decision.

    I love this magnificent passage:

    “It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting — as was done in the Act — that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.”

  • There are no redeeming or positive aspects to Obamacare. The pre-existing condition prohibition is likely the costliest and most unsustainable provision in the entire monstrosity.

  • I really don’t see this surviving before the Supreme Court as presently constituted.

    Doesn’t it (once again) come down to whether Justice Kennedy gets up on the left or right side of the bed that day?

  • I can see Kennedy upholding the constitutionality of the mandate. I can see Kennedy finding it unconstitutional. I can also see Kennedy strumming “Sunshine of Your Love” on a sitar.

    Kennedy’s like that.

  • The best part of the decision was footnote 30.

Funding Falsehood

Monday, January 31, AD 2011

It was widely reported a few weeks ago that it had been conclusively shown that not only was the Lancet study claiming to suggest a connection between the MMR vaccine and Autism unsupported by further research but the original study itself was actively fabricated. The doctor who wrote the fraudulent paper falsified his data in order to reach the desired result, and did so because he had received a retainer from a law firm that was seeking to file a lawsuit against vaccine makers.

Listening to an hour long interview with the investigative journalist who got to the bottom of it all, however, I was somewhat shocked to hear that the reason why the law firm in Britain was originally fishing for an expert to support their claim is that the British government provides funding to law firms who appear to have a valid case against a medicine.

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One Response to Funding Falsehood

Hell and Good Intentions

Monday, January 31, AD 2011

L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs.  (Hell is full of good wishes and desires.)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Klaven reminds us of something that is very true in the above video.  In human affairs someone who, from the outset, intends to do evil can cause quite a bit of calamity and tragedy.  However, for true catastrophes you generally need someone who is seeking to do good, but is blind to the negative consequences of his actions.  History is replete with examples.  Martin Luther, I think, really did start out honestly intending to merely give impetus to reform within the Church.  Gandhi did not want to see India divided once the British withdrew because he honestly believed that Muslims and Hindus could live in peace together throughout the subcontinent.  Neville Chamberlain resisted taking any stand against Hitler until September 1939 because he honestly wished to spare Britain another World War only a generation after the first one. 

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5 Responses to Hell and Good Intentions

  • Hi Donald,
    Just a small edit in the following sentence (I imagine you were writing it late at night and tired!): “he honestly truly that Muslims and Hindus could leave in peace together” should read “he honestly, truly thought that Muslims and Hindus could live in peace together”. 😉

  • Thank you for pointing that out to me Kevin! I have made the necessary edit.

  • A dude named Edmund Burke, I think, said the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

    I think our (at many levels) leaders have embraced misplaced mercy and political correctness to rationalize their retreat from the clash with evil.

    N.B. had Neville C. stepped on Hitler in before he had armed and grown strong, he likely WOULD have avoided WORLD WAR II.

    Cowardice and treason are not “good intentions.”

    Finally, Gandhi waged war – nonviolent war, but war nonetheless.

  • Although that is commonly attributed to Burke T. Shaw he never said it.

  • MK Gandhi through the cunning of history obtained for modern India relief from the fate of being burdened with a very large, irredentist Muslim population. When I see what is going in Pakistan and to a lesser extent in BanglaDesh, I say in all sincerity, good riddance to the Muslims. So called Hindu nationalists who can neither put a up fight with the Muslims, nor yet live in peace with them should go on bended knees to thank God for Gandhi who in his own quixotic way. managed to cast off India the pointless burden of looking after legions of Muslim barbarians.

A Call to Arms: Oral Contraception and its Insult to God

Monday, January 31, AD 2011

Christianity does not simply ask followers to respect life, nor does it insist they denounce the everyday sins of humanity. Truly devout living compels us to actively defend the right to life, which is our duty as the children of God.  However, the defense of life involves education and exposing disturbing signs of moral decay. Heavily responsible for these recent immoral trends, dangerous forms of unnatural contraception are an increasingly-valid threat and widely misunderstood. Although the bible asserts that children “are a blessing to be cherished and cared for when given,” these methods of pregnancy prevention challenge those words with their blatant disrespect for life, increasingly leading young adults astray.

Nevertheless, many families continually choose these “convenient” forms of contraception to control their family size. Even unmarried couples now frequently use these forms of birth control to recklessly satisfy their sexual desires. Even more troubling still are the countless young people engaging in sex freely because a variety of dangerous contraceptives apparently allow it. The use of these products isn’t just an insult to relationships or marriage, but an attack on the entire foundation of children and the family itself.

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16 Responses to A Call to Arms: Oral Contraception and its Insult to God

  • OH, dear. We have someone else who is confident He knows what GOD thinks.
    And isn’t it coincidental, that God thinks just as he does.

    I will defer to your greater knowledge of the side effects of oral contraceptives. I will assume you are correct. Therefor I agree, they should be taken off the market. But my reason is that children and an unsuspecting public seek a remedy for problems that an uncaring society and church ignore. They are victimized and those that do it commit the unloving acts.
    Allow me to point out what I see as the flaw in your reasoning. You adopt the current reasoning of the church that sex is warranted only for the purpose of creation. Therefore, contraception and same sex acts are immoral because they involve sex with the intent to avoid creation of life.
    1. The rhythm method sanctioned by the church requires, a well planned, premeditated effort to thwart pregnancy. If the state of mind is critical to sin, Rhythm is the greatest offender.
    2.Many person are born sterile or rendered so for many reasons beyond their control. Eg There is a couple of doctors (male) who were both rendered sterile by mumps in childhood. They are in a monogamous same sex marriage. No matter what they do, they can do nothing to avoid procreation. God already did that for them. Are these the fortuities upon which eternal damnation rests?
    I’m a Catholic but i don’t think God gives a hoot about sexuality except as it reflects an unloving act. Personally, I think abortion is unloving. But I haven’t “been there” and am reluctant to judge because, judging is also unloving.

  • Antonio,

    Apparently you know better than Jesus.

    Good luck with that line of reasoning as you explain yourself to Him in the hereafter.

  • Antonio has much to learn about the “why’s” behind Church teaching. He also has much to learn about modern NFP and how it contrasts with the old rhythm method. Google is your friend.

  • OH, dear. We have someone else who is confident He knows what GOD thinks.

    Evidently we do.

    I’m a Catholic but i don’t think God gives a hoot about sexuality except as it reflects an unloving act.

    So you call out Tito, who is simply re-affirming the 2,000 year history of Church teaching, for supposedly entering the mind of God, but you find your own un-biblical and anti-Catholic perspective to somehow be authoritative?

  • “I’m a Catholic but i don’t think God gives a hoot about sexuality except as it reflects an unloving act.”

    But this is just the Catholic position. When you start thinking hard about what “love” is, you eventually end up with the Catholic position on the indissociability of the unitive with procreative aspects of the sexual act that express that love within marriage. So you’re in agreement with the Church, despite your thinking that you’re not.

  • OH, dear. We have someone else who is confident He knows what GOD thinks.
    And isn’t it coincidental, that God thinks just as he does.

    FIrst of all, it’s not like I really really wish contracpetives were evil just for the sake of it. I accept Church teaching because it is the teaching, and it is not contrary to reason.

    Second, are you claiming to know the mind of God? If so, why should we believe you – you are just as fallible as the next guy. If not, then how do you know this isn’t what God thinks?

    You adopt the current reasoning of the church that sex is warranted only for the purpose of creation (sic).

    Allow me to point out the flaw in your reasoning – this is not the Church’s teaching. The teaching (as mentioned above) is that the unitive and procreative aspects cannot be separated – more specifically, you cannot thwart the procreative aspect to engage in the unitive to the exclusion of the procreative.

    Using NFP (for a grave reason) does not thwart the procreative aspect as, by its nature, periods of low fertility are part of the system, and there remains a possibility of procreation regardless. Homosexual acts, by their nature, are only ordered to the unitive – they can never be procreative, evah.

  • thank you for proving my point. I respect your opinions but they are after all, just our opinions—Not Gods.
    Jeremiah long before Jesus announced that God had written his Word in our hearts not by scribes on stone or paper. The most we can do then is to search diligently and honestly as we can, that which we call conscience.

    I believe and submit to Church Dogma. As for Church Teaching, I refer to my conscience what the church writes on their stone tablets(teachings)

  • Jeremiah long before Jesus announced that God had written his Word in our hearts not by scribes on stone or paper.

    How do you know that…………..except through words written by scribes on paper (or papyrus)? Can you channel Jeremiah directly?

  • And didn’t Jesus anounce something about whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, etc., etc.?

  • thank you for proving my point

    First of all, not to nitpick, but proper grammar and capitalization would help me take you just a bit more seriously. Just because this is a blog doesn’t mean that you can dispense with the rules.

    Second, simply retorting that someone has “proved your point” isn’t really an argument. It’s an admission that you don’t really have any arguments to muster in rebuttal, so you’re now going to engage in cutesy rhetoric that make you seem like you somehow know what you’re talking about. It fools no one but yourself.

    I believe and submit to Church Dogma. As for Church Teaching, I refer to my conscience what the church writes on their stone tablets(teachings)

    If you can’t see why these statements are in contradiction, then there’s not much more I can say in response to you.

  • I believe and submit to Church Dogma. As for Church Teaching, I refer to my conscience what the church writes on their stone tablets (teachings)


  • I apologize for the bad grammar and poor sentence construction. I tried to jam in a response while on break. This is not offered as an excuse, just an explanation. I would be the first to complain of the same thing. Sorry.
    It wont happen again.
    in appreciation

  • Pacem.

    Here is today’s blessing/miracle direct from God Almighty through Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

    This evening as I (LIRR carries me home) left to pick up the wife from work at the ICU I said a little prayer for safety and acceptance of God’s Will. And, as I passed St. Ann’s RC Church said a couple prayers, hat off, as customary. When you hear a siren – an ambulance coming to the ER – you say a prayer for the person in need. The nuns and brothers taught us that.

    Picked up Mother and got home safe. Glory be.

    Miracle. Junior went outside. He called us to hear the front left tire pfffttting and flattening. I had run into something sharp on the road that busted the tire. But, God brought us home.

    Now, the first Commandment (it is not a “shalt not”) God gives us six or seven times in Genesis is variously to His creatures and to man: “be fruitful and multiply” and “go forth and procreate.”

    A man and woman in the sacramental marital conjugal act participate with God in creating new human life. Interfering with that blessing thrusts God away from us and pwerverts the commanded creative act and that is NO GOOD.

    Contraceptions are sins against God, nature, and creation.

    We Catholics believe in the forgiveness of sins. We are fallen and sin, and need Grace, and need to pick ourselves up and pray for Divine Assistance to not sin. Repent, confess, do penance, amend lives, do good works and glorify Almighty God.

  • I am always amused (and should be angered) by the lack of female debaters when it comes to the topics of contraception and abortion. Never hear much from them. Could it be their too busy working to support kids and lazy fathers. Apparently you guys have all the time (and energy) to discuss what effects women and children but not enough time to make their lives easier. Haiti is a prime example of your “lofty” sanctified disconnect. If only you could do more to remedy the situation for the millions living and being born who this god of yours apparently doesn’t know or care that they exist.

  • Lack of women? It appears you have perhaps not read many contraceptive debates…it always seems women are the most opinionated…as well we should be. Allow me, as a woman, to express my thoughts on the subject.

    I am a young woman, 23 years of age, who graduated summa cum laude from a state university and was the valedictorian of her college. I am now a working professional. My husband and I were married this past June and I would not touch oral contraceptives, or any contraceptives for that matter, with a ten foot pole. Allowing something so contrary to both science and reason to separate us in our most unitive and loving of acts horrifies me. I truly pity the women who believe the lies that doctors and money hungry pharmiceutical corporations have told them- that their fertility is a disease that they must medicate themselves against. The lies of my grandmother’s generation 50 years ago must be ended.

    The ability to carry a human life within your own body is woman’s most glorious gift…something men will never be able to do. I believe in a truly feminine mindset that this privilege of carrying and nurturing life within should be celebrated, not medicated.

    I do not quite understand how Haiti is relevant to this topic, but it is obvious that if human beings, children, are not treated with respect and dignity at their earliest beginnings, how in the WORLD are they to be respected later in life? One logically follows the other. Teach the world to respect children, the weakest among us, and respect for their stronger adult forms will follow naturally.

    Something very hurtful must have happened in your past to have such a bitter and negative view of Our Heavenly Father, whose loving heart allows His children free will and Who watches suffering that comes with our free will with much sadness. I know from past experiences that verbage can never heal the hurt and so please know that I am sincerely sorry for your pain. I will keep you most diligently in my prayers. God Love you.

  • Marilyn Closterman needs to get out more and meet men like us commenting here. While I have not met any of the other gentlemen on this thread personally, I’m willing to bet that none come close to Marilyn’s caricature of men.

Lincoln’s Dog Fido

Sunday, January 30, AD 2011

(Faithful readers of this blog will no doubt be saying to themselves, “Yep, I knew eventually McClarey would write about Lincoln’s dog!” )

One hundred and fifty years ago the Lincolns in Springfield, Illinois were making preparations for their move to Washington.  One sad task for them was to find a new home for their dog Fido, who had been a member of the family since 1855.  Mr. Lincoln was an animal lover, and Fido, a mustard colored mutt, often accompanied him as he went around Springfield.  When they went to the market Fido would bear a basket in his mouth.  The dog could be seen waiting patiently outside of the barber shop while Lincoln’s hair was cut.  Fido was an inside dog, and seemed to think that a horse hair sofa in the house was his own personal domain.

Lincoln hated to part with Fido, but the dog was terrified both of cannon fire and trains, and he decided that Fido would have a hard time dealing with the train trip to Washington.  Fido was placed in the care of John Roll and his family.  Roll was a carpenter friend of Lincoln’s who had helped Lincoln remodel his house.  He had two young sons for Fido to play with.  The Rolls were asked never to scold Fido for coming into the house with muddy paws, to never tie Fido up in their yard alone, and to allow him into the house when he scratched on the door.  The Lincolns gave the Rolls their horse hair sofa so that Fido would feel more at home.  Shortly before they left Springfield, the Lincolns had a photo taken of Fido,  an image of which is at the top of this post.

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9 Responses to Lincoln’s Dog Fido

  • The more I learn about Lincoln, the more I admire him…

  • Thanks, Donald, for this anecdote. I thought I knew a lot about America’s greatest president but this was a wonderful revelation. As a dog lover, I was touched by the poignancy of this story.

  • Thank you Joe. I too love the noble canine race and I am glad that Lincoln shared this passion.

  • Eventually, Don will have to write about Lincoln’s doctor, or maybe “Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog” (a title publisher Bennet Cerf once said would be a guaranteed best seller since books about Lincoln, medical science, and dogs always sold well).

  • Actually Elaine, I probably will write about some of the doctors who examined Lincoln over the years. Lincoln’s health has been subject to more speculation over the years than any other President and there is a large body of work, much of it based on fairly shaky foundations in my opinion, on the subject.

  • It’s funny the mental associations people make. I read this thinking, of course Lincoln was a dog person. Only a dog person has the proper understanding of equality to free the slaves. A cat person would never have freed them, because cat people are bound up in heirarchies.

    Do you know if Fido was a popular dog name before Lincoln? I’ve always wondered where it came from.

  • From what I can glean Pinky, Fido became a popular dog name in this country, at least in the North, because of the Lincoln tie-in.

  • “Only a dog person has the proper understanding of equality to free the slaves.”

    I believe Lincoln did also like cats and had some as pets also (Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln biography mentions this). In fact he was known for being compassionate to animals in general. However, the story of his granting the first ever Presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardon appears to be merely legend.

    If I had to guess I’d think that cat people would be MORE likely to favor equality and free the slaves, because cats have an independent streak that does not appeal to those who prefer their pets or companions to be subservient.

  • “because cats have an independent streak”

    As in “I’ll ignore this silly human servant until I really need something!” Every dog thinks his owner is Napoleon. Every cat knows that he or she is Napoleon! 🙂

4 Responses to Internet Hitler Weeps for Olbermann

  • I love the way this clip from this movie has been used to upend the liberals and leftists time and time again! Somebody ought to compile a DVD of the best of these altered clips. It would be a hoot!

  • Kraig Olber-WHO?????

  • ” I love the way this clip from this movie has been used to upend the liberals and leftists time and time again! Somebody ought to compile a DVD of the best of these altered clips. It would be a hoot! ”
    Stephen E Dalton

    Well, I think real liberals would detest Keith Olbermann, regarding him as best as a politically dangerous lunatic and at worst as a manipulative leftist fascist with an orientation towards Nazism. The more important point is that many Republican Senators are supporting COICA under which, Youtube will be given the choice of removing that, ” Downfall ” parody clip of Mr Olbermann or having their entire internet operation shutdown by the US Federal Government. I regard COICA as being on a par with Adolf Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933. The Republican Party has a pattern of behavior of pandering to Islamonazism / Islamofascism as a result of pressure put on Republican Party politicians by big business in order not to offend those in the Arab and Islamic World who could make purchases of US commercial products.

    Why Voting For COICA Is A Vote For Censorship

    NB I have emphasized the Republican Party in this posting, not because I feel that the Democratic Party is blameless in these matters but because I believe that I could not get any traction with those people in criticizing them over COICA.

  • Here is more on COICA:

    This is a bi-partisan bad idea being pushed by the entertainment industry. Under the guise of fighting pirate sites on the net, it could very easily be a tool to stop any site on the net from using video clips in commentary. I think the act is clearly unconstitutional and all who cherish the freedom of the net should fight against it. Pirate sites are despicable, but pirate sites really are not the true target of this bill.

The Economic War Between The States

Saturday, January 29, AD 2011

Years ago, this satirical piece in The Onion poked fun at interstate rivalries with its account of “Middle West peace” in peril.

Thankfully, battles between U.S. states haven’t resulted in actual violence for nearly 150 years. However, there is another kind of battle going on between states, and even between communities within states, that has been destructive in a different way.

I am speaking of the economic battles states and localities wage against one another when they compete for new businesses via economic incentives such as tax breaks, regulatory exemptions, or taxpayer funded grants and loans that are offered only to specific companies.

In 1996, economist Lawrence Reed wrote a widely reprinted essay titled “Time to End the Economic War Between the States.” Reed called the constant battle of states and localities to outdo one another with economic incentives to prospective employers “an exercise in mutual assured destruction, or at least one in which the victories are Pyrrhic ones at best, with the victors losing almost as much as the vanquished.”

Nine years later, in 2007, Federal Reserve economist Arthur Rolnick used nearly the same language in testimony to Congress about the ill effects of this approach. He proposed that Congress use the Constitutional interstate commerce clause to prohibit states from engaging in these tactics — although that raises questions of its own for advocates of federalism and smaller government.

According to Reed, the earliest example of this type of economic incentive was the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s offer of $86 million in incentives to build a Volkswagon factory in 1976. The factory was supposed to produce about 20,000 new jobs, but actually employed only 6,000 people before it shut down 10 years later.

The practice really took off in the 1980s with highly publicized competitions between states and communities for new manufacturing plants and other facilities. More recently, states have competed for TV and movie productions with tax incentives for producers who shoot on location.

Most states now have economic development organizations devoted entirely to putting together incentive “packages” for new or existing businesses. Aggressive pursuit of businesses with tax breaks and other public subsidies has become so common that major employers have come to expect and even demand it, and most state and local governments have concluded they have no choice but to play the game.

Some businesses seem to use these incentives almost as a form of extortion — for example, professional sports franchises that threaten to move elsewhere if they do not get public financing for a new stadium or arena.

Both economic conservatives and liberals have criticized this approach and noted that it rarely delivers all the benefits promised.

So, is there any way to call a cease fire in this war?

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7 Responses to The Economic War Between The States

  • Michigan had the right idea: if a state government wants to encourage economic development, it should just cut taxes. Let the market decide where new businesses and jobs are needed. Business owners and workers will be more productive if they know they all get to keep more money than if they have to worry about competing against each other for grants and credits. And a dollar that’s never taxed will have more economic impact than one that’s hauled off to the capital, trimmed to pay for all the bureaucracies it passes through, and then spent back out for development.

    But even when that so obviously works, as it did in Michigan, the temptation for politicians to decide what’s best for everyone and play Sim City with their constituencies is just too strong.

    It’s always seemed particularly unfair (and stupid) when my town gives taxes breaks or subsidies to a big box store that moves into town, and doesn’t give the same deal to businesses that have provided jobs and products here for decades. I don’t think any real conservative would support such a thing; what would it be designed to conserve?

  • My late revered accountant Mort Lipsky [RIP] always insisted that a business should not make decisions based on taxes. Businesses should look to do business. Taxes are a cost of that business. To rely on tax breaks is to rely on the word of politicians. Need one say more?

  • Gabriel,
    Businesses hunt for low tax environments precisely because they are a cost of doing business. Businesses try to minimize all costs.

    While I agree with much of the criticism embedded in Elaine’s post and subsequent comments, one must also realize that there is nothing particularly wrong with governments competing for business and jobs. Without competition among governments taxes would only increase. Competition has merit.

  • That said, I still think “tax harmonization” is the most frightening phrase in politics.

  • One economic development tool that has been way overused in Illinois (don’t know if other states do it) is the Tax Increment Financing District or TIF. Here’s an example of how it might work:

    To encourage development in a blighted area, local officials will create a TIF District there. A TIF usually lasts about 20 to 30 years but can be extended. When a TIF is created, the amount of property tax revenue from that district that will go to local governments (including the city, schools, libraries, parks, etc.) is frozen at its pre-TIF level. Any additional revenue generated by increased property values during the life of the TIF, instead of going to local government, is set aside in a special fund which business owners in the TIF can use to make improvements.

    If TIF Districts are confined to a relatively small area that wasn’t generating a whole lot of tax revenue to begin with (like an abandoned factory site), they can do some good. However, if you end up with one-half or more of an entire city or town being in a TIF District (this happens rather frequently; I believe more than half of downtown Chicago is in a TIF District), that cuts very heavily into the public goods the presence of new industry, etc. is supposed to support. Plus, control of TIF funds can easily become a vehicle for local pols to reward their favorites or punish their non-favorites. I would say it’s time to abolish them.

  • professional sports franchises that threaten to move elsewhere if they do not get public financing for a new stadium or arena.

    Precisely what happened with the Houston Oilers. And then they went and built a new stadium anyway to attract the Texans. Go figure. (The disAstros and Rockets got new stadiums too).

  • Elaine,

    Great to see your article here. I have recently written my second book on this subject (see website link), Investment Incentives and the Global Competition for Capital. In it, I estimate that U.S. state and local governments spend close to $50 billion a year to attract business. This competition actually goes back more than 100 years, when cities tried to attract railroads to lay track through their cities.

    By the way, the Reed article you mention was preceded by Melvin Burstein and Arthur Rolnick’s “Congress Should End the Economic War Among the States” in the 1994 Annual Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. They argued, and I agree, that a federal solution is necessary because the states do not take account of the effects of their bidding on other states. The European Union, in fact, has fairly successfully implemented control over its Member States’ subsidies to attract investment.

    FYI, tax increment financing is used (and generally heavily abused) in almost every state of the country.

    Thanks again for your article.

Hannibal and 16 Tons

Saturday, January 29, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  A song about Hannibal to the tune of 16 Tons.   Hattip to Hank at Eclectic Meanderings.  I have read quite a bit about the Punic Wars, but I have never seen information on them conveyed more fetchingly than when sung by “Anna Domino”, as she does her dance of the elephant veil and sings her song.  What a hoot!  This is one of a series of videos put together by history for music lovers, and long may they prosper!

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3 Responses to Hannibal and 16 Tons

  • Thanks,

    What a hoot!

    If I remember, Hannibal’s generalship and Carthaginian disciplined valor tore up large Roman legionary armies in at two major fights in Italy.

    Ancient sources state that Cato the elder ended all his Senate speeches with “Cartago delenda est” – Carthage must be destroyed.

    “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Plato (I think).

    In 2011, same truth: “another day older and deeper in debt”; only now, you owe your soul to the government.

  • Donald

    Thanks for the link!

  • Thank you Hank for introducing me to the wonderful videos of History for Music Lovers!

Rewinding Taxes to the Good Old Days

Friday, January 28, AD 2011

For decades, progressives tended to accuse conservatives of wanting to bring back the ’50s, but in recent years the shoe is on the other foot, with some prominent progressives saying they yearn for the good old days when unions were strong, manufacturing was the core of the economy, and the top marginal tax rate was over 90%. I wanted to see what the real tax situation was for people in a number of different income situations, so I decided to pull the historical tax tables and do the math.

Luckily, the Tax Foundation publishes the income tax tables for every year from 2010 back to 1913. I decided to compare 2010 and 1955. Here are the 2010 tax tables:

I then got the 1955 tax tables and adjusted the income brackets to 2010 dollars using this inflation calculator. (For those interested, the inflation factor from 1955 to 2010 is 713%) The result is as follows:

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19 Responses to Rewinding Taxes to the Good Old Days

  • So our tax burdens are all lower today, but the federal government is spending more in constant dollars (presumably).

    No big surprise, but it is a reaffirmation of why we’re running huge deficits.

  • To an extent, yes. But it’s also a factor that the population is much larger than it was in 1955 and real incomes have also grown quite a bit.

  • In 2010, standard deduction for married filing jointly was $7,300. In 1955, adjusted for inflation, it was $9,764.

    So the poor paid less in 1955. The middle class paid a little more. The rich paid much more. Overall, it was more progressive back then.

    There are huge fluctuations depending on the year. In 1942, when the insanely high 50’s era brackets were introduced, the deduction was $16,053, adjusted for inflation. In 1981, the last year of >50% tax brackets, the deduction was $4,798. So everyone was paying more taxes during the Carter years. Interestingly, I see the Kennedy tax cuts went almost entirely to the wealthy.

  • RR,

    I think you’re confusing the standard deduction with a tax credit.

    If you take $9,764 off 40k, that gets you $30,236 in adjusted gross income, which with the 20% tax bracket (on income up to 32,544) in 1955 makes for $6,047 in tax.

    If you take $7,300 off 40k, that gets you $32,700. You hit the bottom two tax brackets and pay a total of $4,067 in 2010 taxes.

    So it looks like even assuming the standard deduction you’d pay a lot less in 2010. And that’s ignoring the per child income tax credit, if you have kids, which can be a huge deal at that level. The last year when I made 40k we had two kids, and once we did deductions and tax credits I had a net tax liability of negative four hundred dollars — as in, they paid me rather than me paying them.

    That’s way more progressive than anything in 1955. (In part because the country was a lot poorer then than now, making 40k in 2010 inflation adjusted income was much more middle class then than it is now.)

  • Wow, now I try it, it looks like even with the $16,053 standard deduction of 1942, you still would have paid $4789 in 2010 dollar taxes on an income of $40k in 2010 dollars — versus the $4067 you would pay with the $7300 standard deduction in 2010. It must just be really hard to have enough of a deduction to make up for that 20% bottom tax bracket versus the 10% and 15% brackets for 2010.

  • Oops. I forgot to apply the deduction to 2010. Still, it might affect your multiples enough to make taxes today no more progressive than it was in 1955.

  • Now, I only applied the deduction on the 40k, I didn’t try it on the others.

  • It really is surprising how big a deduction you need to make up for lower brackets. I graphed a 33% flat tax and found that for it to look more or less like our current system, we’d need a $30K deduction for single filers! And yet, I’d prefer that. Or an ever higher flat tax and deduction so that only half the country even files.

  • Okay, I graphed all the incomes I’d tried, and you always pay less in 2010, but the difference in progressiveness mostly goes away with a blip in the low 100k range:

    At 40k you pay 1.5x more in 1955
    At 80k you pay 1.4x more
    At 120k you pay 1.26x more
    At 1.2M you pay 1.9x more

    I want to say the flat tax proposals I’ve seen have had 30k+ standard deductions — though I think there’s also an extent to which people would be willing to pay a bit more if the tax code were just simpler.

    Frankly, if my taxes were something I could fill out simply on one sheet of paper, I’d happily pay a bit more than I do now. As it stands, I always spend a whole weekend with TurboTax and still worry that I got something wrong and the IRS will come after me. (After moving to a state and city with income tax, I may break down and hire a tax guy this year. Sucks.)

  • I always do my own taxes, as with two businesses they tend to get fairly convuluted, and I think I understand the Code as well as most accountants, although my math skills are appalling. (I have my wife, who has excellent math skills, check everything.)

    I am not a big fan of flat tax proposals. I have never seen any proposed that I think would keep the virtue of simplicity for more than a few years, before the tinkering of politicians would destroy that key feature. I certainly am also not a fan of the current system either. The problem though is not really the tax code, but the fact that we simply have far more government than most people are willing to pay for, and too many politicians eager to spend money in order to ensure their re-elections.

  • I am curious – do the differences between the 1955 and 2010 tables also reflect other payroll deductions, such as FICA (SS and Medicare – 7.6% of paycheck up to $108,000, if my research is correct)?

    “So while the rich pay less in taxes in 2010 than in 1950, the middle and working classes pay much less as well. And overall, we have a significantly more progressive tax code now than we did then.”

    It seems to me that one would have to take into account sales tax and spending habits as well in order to make a true comparison of this (in addition to FICA deductions, etc.). Indiana, for instance, levied its first state sales tax of 2% in 1963.

  • Any idea how much they paid into Social Security back then? I don’t pay that much in actual income tax today, but being self-employed, SS really hammers me. And you can’t deduct any of it away with charitable giving or anything like that; the only way to pay less is to make less.

  • Ah, that’s a really good point about social security. (And Medicare, which didn’t even exist in 1955.)

    According to this table, it looks like the difference is pretty big.

    In 1955 the rate for employees was a total of 2% (just SS, there was no Medicare) while in 2010 the total rate is 7.65%

    It’s far worse for the self employed. In 1955 they paid only 3% total, now they pay 15.3%.

    Since the entitlement taxes are not progressive at all, that pretty much evens up the field on tax progressiveness between 1955 and 2010.

  • And the non-self-employed still pay that 15.3%. Half of it doesn’t show up on their pay stub, but their employer has to pay it, so it comes out of their productivity one way or another.

    That does far more than even up the progressiveness. On 40K, assuming the standard deductions you mentioned earlier, I get:

    1955: 40K – $9,764 = $30,236 * .03 = $90.71
    2010: 40K – $7,300 = $32,700 * .153 = $5003.00

    So you might be paying half as much income tax now, but 50 times more FICA. And that money is for the programs that even the Tea Partiers don’t want to cut.

  • You slipped a digit there, the 1955 social security taxes would have been $907.10, not $90.71, but the point is dead on. (Actually, it would be a little more than that, because in 1955 the self employed effectively got a discount, for those who were employed it was 2% from the employee and 2% from the employer, so 1208.)

    Also, that underlines how the supposed era of fiscal responsibility in fact (though arguably unknowingly) was no such thing. The social security tax rates have gone up so much because the structure of social security was based on bad demographics, and so those of us paying 15.3% now are effectively subsidizing the low tax rates which people working in the 50s and 60s paid.

  • There’s more to the story than that. In 1955 they didn’t have the Earned income tax credit. This is particularly helpful for lower income families and making the current tax brackets more progressive than they appear compared to 1955. Also, a big part of Reagan’s tax package was to close many tax loopholes that were widely used by and only beneficial to those with very high incomes. Despite how many leftists like to characterize it, the rich didn’t receive as huge of tax decrease as the tables would indicate. It was just a more straightforward approach and shift in emphasis regarding where taxes were paid – relaxing capital gains to encourage investment, was the largest relief the rich saw. However, many middle class folk benefit from that as well.

  • There is no question that the able producers and earners (those who can invest and work and do) are paying much higher taxes now than in the 1950s. The ‘poor’ and by that I mean the able unproductive (those who can work and choose not to) are paying far, far less or are actually net receivers of wealth transfers thanks to LBJ’s New Deal on steroids from the 60s.

    We can discuss rates of taxation, deductions, capital gains, etc.; however, the fact is that we have to count FICA (payroll taxes) as ordinary income taxes. FICA is not a separate account funded like a pension, FICA taxes are general revenue – there are no segregated funds. FICA is just a ploy to collect more in taxes while allowing people to think they are being taxed less. This also increases the entitlement mentality to the middle-class. By making people think their money is being held to be paid out as an annuity, people who otherwise disdain ‘welfare’ begin to defend it. This was also foisted on senior citizens (who have more time to be politically active) in the 60s with Medicare. It was intended by Roosevelt that people feel that they are ‘owed’ their OASDI benefits in order to keep the program alive forever (at least politically speaking, it was economically dead from the get go) and to make it untenable for politicians to repeal it – the so-called ‘political suicide’ of unprincipled politicos.

    When you factor ordinary income, FICA and capital gains (taxes that affect many more in the middle class today than in the 50s) we are paying more in taxes now and for far less of anything except more government, more that is not enumerated in the Constitution.

    The biggest tax of all though is unseen. The devaluation of the dollar by the political spending addicts and their drug dealer the Fed has cost ALL, but the small clique of connected bankers and corporatists, more than any other tax.

    The real question is how much of the taxes from all sources, and there are many more today, now go to service the usurious debt than in the 1950s. Taxes are supposed to fund the general purpose of government for the common good within the Constitutional constraints. This is not why we pay taxes now. We are all debt-slaves and more so now than in the 1950s. People are always regarding themselves as ‘taxpayers’ or exclaiming their loyalty to the country by stating that “I pay my taxes so I am entitled to such and such” – this is a slave mentality. Americans prior to 1913 would NEVER have referred to themselves as such, in fact, they would have likely killed the tax-farmer than call themselves a taxpayer. We have been conditioned to think our taxes pay for ‘necessary’ services, yet so-called services are funded by debt and we are servicing the debt. We may as well live in Goshen.

    I know this seems dramatic, and the reality is this is not as bad as I am presenting it, yet – but, we are on a path that will make all of us wage-slaves to cover taxes that only serve to service debt. Since wages represent time working, we become slaves rendering our tribute to Caesar by servicing ‘our’ debt. If we are rendering all of labors to Caesar, what do we render to God?

    The primary culprit here is that despite the fact that the 50s were not the Utopia ‘conservatives’ paint it to be, as a people, we Americans, were far more moral then than we are now and that is why we are slaves. It is as St. Augustine told us centuries ago, as many vices as a man has, he has masters.

    We can say as many government handouts, subsidies, programs, tax-incentives, etc – basically debt for perceived benefits as we have, we have a master and that master is our Federal (feudal) overlord and his banker (the Fed).

  • Your analysis is interesting, but why do you stop at a mere 1.2 million? All the action in the last half century has been in the stratospheric range. Today’s hedge fund managers would have paid much much more under the 1950’s system. Here’s a little food for thought, courtesy of a commenter at the NYT:

    “In 1968, the largest American corporation was General Motors. The CEO of GM made 66 times more than the average GM worker. He paid a top marginal federal income tax rate of 70%. By 2005, the largest American corporation was Wal-Mart. The CEO of Wal-Mart made 900 times more than the average Wal-Mart worker. He paid a top marginal federal income tax rate of 35% (and probably really only paid about 15% if he was paid mostly in “dividends”)

    I would like to see a more thorough analysis than what you have presented here.

  • Doug,

    The 1.2M figure was semi-arbitrary, but also because the standard tax rates are on salary-type income. As you point out, executives and hedge fund managers and such often make much of their income in some other form than salary income.

    For instance a CEO may be given a stock grant or set of stock options worth $40M, but not be able to sell those shares (or exercise that option) for a certain amount of time. The taxes on those kind of earnings work differently, so it was simpler to not deal with them.

    Similarly, hedge fund managers get much of their money via getting a share of the profits of their fund, which is taxed as capital gains rather than salary.

    But my question here is in whether a regular guy actually paid less in taxes back in the “golden age” of the 1950s, not how much CEOs pay. After all, it’s not really any skin off my nose if some other guy I never meet makes more than me.

Egypt on the Brink, Obama Doing His Best Carter Imitation

Friday, January 28, AD 2011

[Updates at the bottom]

Egypt has sent out the army to the streets of Cairo with reports of gun-battles and deaths everywhere.  Media sources are reporting 870 wounded, but this can’t be confirmed as of now.

How important are the events occurring in Egypt today in reference to the United States?  Very important.

Any person of history understands that in the 20th and 21st century, how Egypt goes, goes the Middle East.  The most distinguished Islamic university is located in Cairo and militant Islamic organizations such as Al-Qaeda are off-shoots from the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist Muslim organization based in Egypt seeking to return to the days of Muhammad.

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30 Responses to Egypt on the Brink, Obama Doing His Best Carter Imitation

  • Egyptian Sphinx eats American dove . . .

  • It is a bad day when I have to rise to the defense of Obama, but I sincerely doubt there is much that cold be done by any American administration right now. Backing one faction or another could well backfire. Other than making public statements calling for a peaceful resolution and that this is a situation that Egyptians will have to work out, I doubt there is much that an American President can do. You can bet that the Israelis are looking at this closely. They have enjoyed a Cold Peace with Egypt since the days of Sadat. They have no guarantees that the government that follows the present one will keep the same policy.

  • This is looking more and more like Iran ’79.

    You are correct, this is about stability in the Middle East. Although I don’t mean to go into this point too deep, this here is one reason that Iraq was engaged by the Bush Admin. When a powerhouse falls in an Islamic country, it isn’t usually at the hands of peace loving democrats, instead it is often at the hands of the youth that scream for democracy, but handled oh too well by older and more powerful Islamic fundamentalists.

    One point though, I do have to agree somewhat with D. McClarey. It is hard for Obama to do a lot right now. There are reports that there has been some US ties to this ordeal dating back three years.
    If that is the case, we better do exactly what you say and back another more liberal leader, and not let the Muslim Brotherhood take the reins.

  • I do understand what Donald and Joe are saying about the lack of influence that the Obama administration has on the outcome, but they do have influence.

    So Obama’s actions can affect the outcome to certain degrees.

  • This is a fascinating situation to watch unfold, especially with regards to its wider impact across the globe.

    Note to Obama: this should be your lesson that an internet “kill switch” is NOT a good idea under any circumstances.

    Let’s see if Mubarak goes down and if the economic circumstances that ignited these revolts in Tunisia and Egypt spread to other corners of the globe. Remember: in recent times we’ve seen riots also in Iran, Greece, France and the UK. Yes, all these countries have vastly different domestic circumstances, but don’t think that the global economy does not string all these events together.

    Curious: what more will Wikileaks have to reveal?

    Also, Obama might not have a lot he can do right now, but don’t think that our foreign aid support to nations like Egypt does not contribute to the domestic powder keg.

  • President Obama just finished his speech on the situation in Egypt.

    Basically a bunch of nice words, but nothing that puts pressure on Mubarak to make reforms or action of support for the protesters.

    He just split the difference in his speech without making a difference.

    Pretty much ineffectual flowery ‘nothing’.

    Obama is pathetic.

  • There surely is precious little this 40-something, former community agitator (a glib Al Sharpton?) and gangs of aging, hate-America hippies who spent the last 2 years dismantling the evil, unjust United States . . .

  • · I hope people remind Obama that he supports reopening the internet in Egypt the next time talk of an internet kill switch occurs

    · Isn’t it sort of bad diplomacy to admit to the whole world that you spoke with Mubarak minutes after he finished his speech?

    · Doesn’t all of Obama’s talk of government by consent over coercion just sort of reek of contradiction considering our own coercive economic policies, to say nothing of the dubious last 10 years on “human rights,” whether it be on abortion, torture, secret prisons and Guantanamo?

    ·Agreed. This was a nothing speech, designed to make him look like he has some influence over world events. He doesn’t.

  • As usual, Donald sums things up well.

    Also, on an unusually old-world conservative note for me: This underlines that democracy itself is an unmitigated good. Mubarak is certainly a dictator, but he’s willing to keep the peace in the region. It’s entirely possible that a popular government would happily participate in kicking off a regional war in a region which, however “undeveloped” by Western standards could easily stage a WW2 size war in terms of people and technology.

  • Certainly, the Egyptians will heed the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s call for no violence as he conducts two wars in their neighborhood, and listen attentively to the Secretary of State whose husband bombed Serbia and whose Attorney General engineered the massacre of 74 innocents at Waco in 1993. Clearly, the U.S. has the high ground here.

  • I don’t understand. Aren’t we supposed to be ‘pro’ democratic uprising? Isn’t Mubarak essentially a dictator? Or do we only support democracy when we are confident that it will support our interests? Such seems to be the case with our support for the autocracies of Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt. In any case, I don’t think it’s likely that Egypt will turn into an Iran. Will it be a state friendly to U.S. interests? Likely not. But then, again, it may ween us from our codependent relationship with Israel. Is that a good or a bad thing? Who knows? Augustine’s total political cynicism makes a great deal of sense in these situations. May not too many innocent die, no matter what happens.

  • Daniel Larison has characteristically excellent commentary on the situation here:

  • “I don’t understand. Aren’t we supposed to be ‘pro’ democratic uprising? Isn’t Mubarak essentially a dictator?”

    Oh, he is a dictator alright, a relatively benign one by the standards of his bad neighborhood where dictatorships are the norm, with the exception of Israel, Iraq and Turkey. I will weep no tears for his regime if it is toppled, but many people in Egypt and abroad will weep tears if he is replaced by an aggressive Islamist regime. At this point we do not know what will happen.

    “In any case, I don’t think it’s likely that Egypt will turn into an Iran.”

    Nasser was quite bad enough, and a Nasser II might be the most likely outcome. The Muslim Brotherhood would love to control Egypt as the mullahs control Iran. The Army might step in and take over. Many bad possibilities as well as good ones, and it is too early to tell how it will develop.

    “Will it be a state friendly to U.S. interests? Likely not.”

    Then that is a bad thing unless one subscribes to the isolationist fantasies of a Daniel Larison, who simply refuses to in habit this frame of reality.

    “But then, again, it may ween us from our codependent relationship with Israel.”

    Actually an Egypt hostile to Israel would likely drive the US and Israel closer together and make far more likely a general Middle Eastern war.

    It is too early to see how this Egyptian situation will play out. We should not indulge in either optimism or pessimism. We should watch and wait.

  • Donald,

    You too easily reduce the principled position of anti-interventionism to that favorite shibboleth of the post-Wilsonian: “isolationism.” Isolationism is not anti-interventionism. It does not involve the closing of borders, refusal of trade, abandonment of treaties, etc. It rather embodies a sense of limit and prudence, and recognizes the difficulties that attends involving oneself overmuch in the affairs of other countries. It is the position, more or less, of all of the Founders. One can disagree with this posiiton, of course, but it’s just not intellectually responsible to dismiss it as “isolationism”–this kind of language is name-calling masquerading as thought.

  • “It does not involve the closing of borders, refusal of trade, abandonment of treaties, etc.”

    By that standard WJ no one in American history has been an isolationist. Larison, acolyte for Pat Buchanan, isolationist in chief, is firmly in the tradition of the America Firsters, who they celebrate, who thought America could retreat into a Fortress America before Pearl Harbor. It was a foolish and dangerous policy at that time, and it is no less foolish and dangerous today. What worked for America in the Nineteenth Century, courtesy of the British Empire, will not work for America in the Twenty-First. Anti-interventionism is merely the latest gloss on, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “Let ’em all go to Hell, except Cave 76!”. That does not mean that American intervention is called for in all situations. As to the situation in Egypt, for example, I can’t think of anything we could do positive right now. But the idea that the US can simply ignore developments abroad and cultivate its garden here at home is merely a pleasant illusion and not a serious foreign policy.

  • Donald,
    But it’s simply *not true* that the position of Larison and Bacevich–to take two prominent contemporary anti-interventionists–is what you describe it as being: “ignore developments abroad and cultivate its garden here at home.” This is what I meant about your consistent tendency to reduce the arguments of anti-interventionists to the strawman of “isolationism.” As though the only two options were (1) involvement in *every* foreign crisis and (2) blithe ignorance of the goings on of other countries and how they affect our interests.

  • To the contrary WJ, a retreat into Fortress America is precisely the policy advocated by both Larison and Bacevich. That of course is why Bacevich, hilariously, endorsed Obama in 2008, thinking that Obama shared his isolationist predilections.

    “So why consider Obama? For one reason only: because this liberal Democrat has promised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq. Contained within that promise, if fulfilled, lies some modest prospect of a conservative revival.

    To appreciate that possibility requires seeing the Iraq War in perspective. As an episode in modern military history, Iraq qualifies at best as a very small war. Yet the ripples from this small war will extend far into the future, with remembrance of the event likely to have greater significance than the event itself. How Americans choose to incorporate Iraq into the nation’s historical narrative will either affirm our post-Cold War trajectory toward empire or create opportunities to set a saner course.

    The neoconservatives understand this. If history renders a negative verdict on Iraq, that judgment will discredit the doctrine of preventive war. The “freedom agenda” will command as much authority as the domino theory. Advocates of “World War IV” will be treated with the derision they deserve. The claim that open-ended “global war” offers the proper antidote to Islamic radicalism will become subject to long overdue reconsideration.

    Give the neocons this much: they appreciate the stakes. This explains the intensity with which they proclaim that, even with the fighting in Iraq entering its sixth year, we are now “winning”—as if war were an athletic contest in which nothing matters except the final score. The neoconservatives brazenly ignore or minimize all that we have flung away in lives, dollars, political influence, moral standing, and lost opportunities. They have to: once acknowledged, those costs make the folly of the entire neoconservative project apparent. All those confident manifestos calling for the United States to liberate the world’s oppressed, exercise benign global hegemony, and extend forever the “unipolar moment” end up getting filed under dumb ideas.

    Yet history’s judgment of the Iraq War will affect matters well beyond the realm of foreign policy. As was true over 40 years ago when the issue was Vietnam, how we remember Iraq will have large political and even cultural implications.

    As part of the larger global war on terrorism, Iraq has provided a pretext for expanding further the already bloated prerogatives of the presidency. To see the Iraq War as anything but misguided, unnecessary, and an abject failure is to play into the hands of the fear-mongers who insist that when it comes to national security all Americans (members of Congress included) should defer to the judgment of the executive branch. Only the president, we are told, can “keep us safe.” Seeing the war as the debacle it has become refutes that notion and provides a first step toward restoring a semblance of balance among the three branches of government.

    Above all, there is this: the Iraq War represents the ultimate manifestation of the American expectation that the exercise of power abroad offers a corrective to whatever ailments afflict us at home. Rather than setting our own house in order, we insist on the world accommodating itself to our requirements. The problem is not that we are profligate or self-absorbed; it is that others are obstinate and bigoted. Therefore, they must change so that our own habits will remain beyond scrutiny.

    Of all the obstacles to a revival of genuine conservatism, this absence of self-awareness constitutes the greatest. As long as we refuse to see ourselves as we really are, the status quo will persist, and conservative values will continue to be marginalized. Here, too, recognition that the Iraq War has been a fool’s errand—that cheap oil, the essential lubricant of the American way of life, is gone for good—may have a salutary effect. Acknowledging failure just might open the door to self-reflection.

    None of these concerns number among those that inspired Barack Obama’s run for the White House. When it comes to foreign policy, Obama’s habit of spouting internationalist bromides suggests little affinity for serious realism. His views are those of a conventional liberal. Nor has Obama expressed any interest in shrinking the presidency to its pre-imperial proportions. He does not cite Calvin Coolidge among his role models. And however inspiring, Obama’s speeches are unlikely to make much of a dent in the culture. The next generation will continue to take its cues from Hollywood rather than from the Oval Office.

    Yet if Obama does become the nation’s 44th president, his election will constitute something approaching a definitive judgment of the Iraq War. As such, his ascent to the presidency will implicitly call into question the habits and expectations that propelled the United States into that war in the first place. Matters hitherto consigned to the political margin will become subject to close examination. Here, rather than in Obama’s age or race, lies the possibility of his being a truly transformative presidency.

    Whether conservatives will be able to seize the opportunities created by his ascent remains to be seen. Theirs will not be the only ideas on offer. A repudiation of the Iraq War and all that it signifies will rejuvenate the far Left as well. In the ensuing clash of visions, there is no guaranteeing that the conservative critique will prevail.”

    In hindsight of course this seems all completely laughable, but that is what Bacevich wrote at the time. Bacevich and Larison are isolationists, and to claim otherwise, to use your phrase, is not “intellectually honest”.

  • Nothing you’ve posted from Bacevich answers the objection I’ve raised. Opposition to the Iraq War, and a recognition of its enormous cost in lives, money, and its failure to promote the security for which it was purportedly undertaken–none of this entails “isolationism” as you continue to insist. Bacevich does articulate, briefly in that section, an anti-Wilsonian realism that is more legitimately conservative–a label that I would think most writers and readers on this blog would be proud to claim–than the ridiculous idealism that forms the vocabulary and, at times, the practice, of our foreign policy. That Bacevich was wrong about Obama, who is clearly no anti-interventionist, is irrelevant. One point of agreement that I have with you is that there was never any good reason for supposing that Obama would have the courage or ability to reverse the de facto interventionist stance that has marked the last several decades of our foreign policy. There Bacevich was suffering from an illusion. But I can’t see how that fact has any bearing on the merits of anti-interventionism as a corrective to the default position we are in today.

  • Isolationism has few advocates on the right WJ who are politically signficant. (I do not consider Ron Paul politically signifcant.) Support for a robust American foreign policy abroad has been the norm for the vast majority of conservatives in this country since December 7, 1941. As to Bacevich, he did not just oppose the Iraq war. He also believes that the Cold War was an unnecessary event against a largely illusory foe. He thinks American intervention in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, Afghanistan and Iraq were all mistakes. The man is a thorough going isolationist. I can only assume that you are unfamiliar with much of his writing.

  • A good review of the latest isolationist tome authored by Bacevich:

  • I am aware of Bacevich’s writing, and of his thesis that post-WWII America was unable rationally to reassess the benefits and liabilities to anti-interventionism on account of that War and its reception. We are just talking past each other now, as it seems clear to me that you believe anything *other* than Wilsonianism is “isolationism,” where I believe that one can be an anti-interventionist without being an isolationist, and that such anti-interventionism is, in fact, the conservative position. Eisenhower himself was deeply cognizant of the dangers that Wilsonianism would pose for post WWII America, and he was no isolationist. If you want to believe that any approach other than the largely failed and counterproducitve approach of military intervention is “isolationist,” then I suppose that’s your right. But it is historically unimaginative.

  • I would have bet money WJ that you were not a fan of Mr. Beck, but your use of Woodrow Wilson as a bogey-man makes me doubt that wager. 🙂 I consider both the Cold War and American interventions abroad to stop Communism to have been not romantic idealism but hard headedly realistic, just as I consider the current interventions to be. I think you mischaracterize Eisenhower, you are certainly not alone in this, as anyone familiar with the foreign policy he and John Foster Dulles pursued could not reasonably regard it as in any sense non-interventionist.

    Bacevich does not bring up reasoned critques of American interventions abroad. Reasonable people can an will disagree about particular interventions. His heated verbiage about an “American Empire” is in the best traditions of both Pat Buchanan and Noam Chomsky. In his world American intervention is ipso facto bad, and America should retreat to its shores and let the rest of the world get along as best it can. If this foreign policy is ever attempted by the US, I think we would not like the world produced by our attempted flight from responsibility and reality.

  • In regard to Bacevich, his transformation into a raging isolationist is fairly recent. Here, in part, is what he wrote in National Review back in 2003 when he supported the invasion of Iraq:

    “Such an approach would use the coming war against Iraq as a vehicle to persuade Arab governments that they themselves have a compelling interest in putting Islamic radicals out of business. In the Arab world, American values may not count for much, but American power counts for quite a bit. Concepts like parliaments or women’s rights may strike Saudi princes as alien. On the other hand, they have no difficulty grasping the significance of a B-2 bomber or a carrier battle group.
    The promptness with which U.S. forces dispatched the Taliban in the fall of 2001 has already provided an object lesson of what awaits any regime that knowingly harbors terrorists. By dispatching Saddam Hussein in the coming weeks, U.S. forces can provide a second lesson: that any ruler who flagrantly disregards international norms and engages in behavior that poses a threat to the United States— for example, by funding terrorist groups, subsidizing radical Islam, or nourishing anti-American hatred—can expect to share Saddam’s fate.

    Thus, taken in tandem, the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and in Iraq will define red lines that a regime will violate only at its peril. In that regard, the message to the Arab world from American officials needs to be explicit and unambiguous: Respect those red lines and we will respect your existing political arrangements; disregard them and we are coming after you, with or without allies, with or without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

    In sum, what we should demand of Arab Leaders is not ideological fealty, but simply responsible behavior. And this demand is not negotiable. We will not insist that the House of Saud declare its adherence to the principles of Jeffersonian democracy. But we will insist—as the Bush administration has yet to do—that those who rule the kingdom will ensure that Saudi Arabia cease serving as an incubator of suicidal terrorists. On that point, we will be adamant and uncompromising. And on that point, with the examples, of Afghanistan and Iraq showing that we mean what we say, we can expect compliance.

    As it pertains to a post-Saddam Iraq, such an approach would find the United States extracting itself from Iraqi affairs with reasonable promptness. This is not to say that U.S. forces would withdraw in a matter of days or even weeks, but that we would not commit ourselves to a vain effort to remake Iraq in our image, which would require another semi-permanent U.S. military garrison. Once we have established a regime that is legitimate, friendly to the United States, able to maintain Iraq’s territorial integrity, and respectful of its people, Washington would do well to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

    A foreign policy based on authentically conservative principles begins by accepting the fact that the world is not infinitely malleable. It recognizes that our own resources, although great, are limited. And it never loses sight of the fact that the freedom that U.S. officials are sworn to protect is our own.”

    [Andrew J. Bacevich, “Don’t Get Greedy! For sensible, limited war aims in Iraq,” National Review, February 10, 2003.]

    Anyone can change his mind, but I always find it surprising when someone of Bacevich’s vintage decides to do an ideological remake in the course of a very short period of time. A debate between Bacevich 2003 and Bacevich 2011 would be amusing if not illuminating.

  • Well, when you consider the lies, distortions, and mismanagement at play leading up to and in the war in Iraq, and you consider further that his son was killed in that war, then this might make more sense to you. But Bacevich was strongly critical of both the decision to invade Iraq and the conditions that made that invasion seem responsible well before the death of his son.

  • Your litany is a familiar one from Iraq war opponents Wj, but Bacevich is not simply an Iraq war opponent. In the space of about two years, 2003-2005, he went from being an advocate of both the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq into being the reincarnation of William Appleman Williams. Bacevich was 56 in 2003. I guess we have to assume that he simply wasn’t paying attention the first 56 years, most of it spent either in the United States Army, or as an academic specializing in defense and foreign policy. I haven’t seen such a radical makeover in such a short time since Gerald Naus, formerly of The Cafeteria is Closed, rediscovered his inner atheist, shut down his blog, and left the Church. When such about faces involve someone who is relatively young and inexperienced I find them more understandable than someone who is deep into middle age, and, one would have thought, would have had time and opportunity to better develop their views over the span of most of a lifetime.

  • I guess that one’s child dying for the cause is probably enough to spark introspection at any age.

  • I can’t wait until the democratic reformers in the new Weimar Egypt vote in Sharia.

  • “I guess that one’s child dying for the cause is probably enough to spark introspection at any age.”

    Perhaps Bob, except that First Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich, a 27 year old West Point graduate, was killed in Iraq in 2007, well after the transformation discussed below.

  • When was the young Bakevich first put in harm’s way in the cause of freeing Weimar Iraq from Kaiser Saddam? (I honestly don’t know. The point that one’s own flesh and blood on the altar tests one’s devotion may or may not apply here).

  • He was first sent to Iraq as a platoon leader in 2006. He enlisted in the Army in 2004. (A correction to my earlier entry. First Lieutenant Bacevich was not a West Point graduate. He graduated from Boston University in 2003. He earned his commission through Officer’s Candidate School in 2005.) Bacevich the father has indicated that he was opposed to the Iraq war prior to his son’s enlistment, as articles he wrote prior to that time would indicate, although he supported the war in 2003.

Feast Day of the Dumb Ox

Friday, January 28, AD 2011


“We call this young man a dumb ox, but his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world.”
Saint Albert the Great
“Somehow they steered that reluctant bulk of reflection to a seat in the royal banquet hall; and all that we know of Thomas tells us that he was perfectly courteous to those who spoke to him, but spoke little, and was soon forgotten in the most brilliant and noisy clatter in the world: the noise of French talking. What the Frenchmen were talking about we do not know; but they forgot all about the large fat Italian in their midst, and it seems only too possible that he forgot all about them. Sudden silences will occur even in French conversation; and in one of these the interruption came. There had long been no word or motion in that huge heap of black and white weeds, like motley in mourning, which marked him as a mendicant friar out of the streets, and contrasted with all the colours and patterns and quarterings of that first and freshest dawn of chivalry and heraldry. The triangular shields and pennons and pointed spears, the triangular swords of the Crusade, the pointed windows and the conical hoods, repeated everywhere that fresh French medieval spirit that did, in every sense, come to the point. But the colours of the coats were gay and varied, with little to rebuke their richness; for Saint Louis, who had himself a special quality of coming to the point, had said to his courtiers, “Vanity should be avoided; but every man should dress well, in the manner of his rank, that his wife may the more easily love him.”
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4 Responses to Feast Day of the Dumb Ox

  • There’s a great line in that passage to the effect of, Louis was the kind of saint who didn’t mind being a king.

    Such a great saint, Thomas. But is today a feast day or memorial?

  • It is a memorial Pinky. I use the term feast day because I have found that even Catholics get confused with the term memorial rather than feast day for a saint. I do appreciate you pointing it out however.

  • I know that I get them confused. But it’s Friday, and I’m not in the mood for fish, so the possibility of a feast day really appealed to me.

    I guess that tonight I’ll read some random question in the Summa over a tuna sandwich.

  • I honestly don’t understand the rage about Fr. Barron. I don’t find him to be all that impressive.

Bishopess Mangles Church History for Paulists

Friday, January 28, AD 2011


Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who I have designated Defender of the Faith, has a not to be missed post on the farce that ensued when the Paulists had the presiding bishopess of the Episcopalian church in this country deliver a lecture to some Paulist seminarians:

Each year, St. Paul’s College, a Roman Catholic institution for Paulist seminarians in Washington, DC, hosts what it calls the Hecker Lecture.  This year’s speaker was the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Organization, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.  And I cannot remember the last time I read any sort of message about anything at all that fell completely apart in the very first sentence:

We are the respective heirs of different strands of western Christianity.

No “we’re” not.  “We” were all one big happy family until the 1500?s when “we” Anglicans decided to go it alone.

I will not begin with the Reformation, but with a much earlier, indigenous Christianity in the British Isles.

And herrrrrrrrre we go.

Roman soldiers appear to have taken the Christian tradition with them when they were posted to the frontiers of the Roman Empire – at least by the second century.

An alternative theory suggests that British Christianity was kept alive in Middle Earth by hobbits and that Frodo is Elvish for Jesus.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it; if the Presiding Bishop can live in a fantasy world, so can I, consarnit.

That tradition remained when the Roman Empire receded, but the faith continued to grow and develop in its new context.

Sort of makes one wonder why the western Church sent all those missionaries to the British Isles.  Why did Columba leave Ireland and set up Iona?  And just what was he telling the Picts anyway?

If we would look for a modern parallel, we might point to the development of the Three Self Movement in China, with roots in the various colonial plantings of Christianity in the 16th to 19th centuries.

Awkward analogy, that, insofar as, whatever its origins, Three Self was at one time shot through with Communists who didn’t believe all this supernatural crap, becoming, in effect, a sort of Episcopal Organization backed by fiercely-atheist state coercion.

Gregory sent Augustine to 6th century Britain, and challenged him at least in part to bless the best of local tradition in recognition that God had already been at work there.

I believe that would be Pope Gregory and does the fact that Pope Gregory sent Augustine to Britain suggest anything to you, Kate?

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16 Responses to Bishopess Mangles Church History for Paulists

  • She also says, “Vatican II was able to say that there is salvation beyond the church.” which isn’t actually true. It should read “Vatican II was able to say that there is the possibility of salvation beyond the Church.” Huge difference there.

    Great post!

  • Well, the Bishopess is not completely incorrect. The Roman Empire did bring Christianity to Great Britain during the last century or so of its existence (Though more in the 3rd and especially 4th century than in the 2nd). Its a matter for debate about whether Christianity was the dominant faith in Britain when the empire pulled out in the late 4th and early 5th century, but it was certainly reasonably prominent.

    The real fact of the matter is that in the 5th and 6th centuries, Roman Britain was invaded by Germanic Tribes (most commonly the Angles, the Saxons and the Juttes), and that these vibrant pagan groups appear to have replaced the native Roman-Celtic culture (Including the Christian faith) in the parts of Britain now known as England.

    Where there Christians still in England following the Anglo-Saxon conquests? Probably, but they certainly had little to know influence in the broader society. Hence the need for St. Augustine.

  • Maryland Bill, Christopher Johnson was not disputing that there were Christians in England following the invasion of the Germanic tribes in the Fifth Century. He was jabbing at Kate the Confused’s obvious intent to depict them as separate from Catholicism on the Continent. As to Christianity in the British isles following the invasion of Hengist and Horsa and their successors, we know as little about that as we do about the historical “King Arthur”. That is one period of history that is largely a blank page due to an almost total lack of contemporary accounts.

  • The following is more valid than anything that priestess (to what goddess doth she sacrifice?) spouted:

    Ziggy zoggy
    Ziggy zoggy
    Oy Oy Oy!!!

    Mac, as one notorious politico of disputed parentage oft spake, “You cain’t put lipstick on a pig.”

    Lo, Hygelac and I had a good laugh.

    Though, it was a valiant effort on your part.

  • She forgot to mention how Jesus spent his youth in Britain and St. Thomas spent some time there before being posted to India (part of the good old colonial administration, what?) not to mention the grail and the lance and all that.

    In other news, the expanding universe theory finally proved what all good true born British men and women had always suspected — Britain is at the center of the universe. (And anyone who has not had the good fortune to be British true born, or a man or a woman, can just listen up as a matter of simple decent respect!)

  • Donald, that might be his intent, but that is not what he wrote. He not only mocked (justifiably) the notion that those tradition remained strong in Anglo-Saxon England, but also that Christianity was brought to Britain in the first place by the Romans.

    Some of the original Roman Christianity did remain; in Ireland and Wales. And Irish monks actually were responsible for converting the Anglo-Saxons of Northumbria independently of St. Augustine’s mission. The mistake the Bishopess makes is that this “Celtic” Christianity was part of the Catholic Church with their own particular traditions… while most of those traditions (tonsure and dating of Easter) were abandoned when contact was reestablished with Rome, at least one (Irish Penance practices) were ultimately adopted by Europe as a whole.

  • Well, apart from the legimitate and scholarly disputes about the status of Christian belief in the British Isles prior to Augustine of Canterbury, it is clear that her intent is to lessen or, indeed, deny the fact that the Henrician reformation was a major rupture with the existing practice of Christianity in England. Her fantastical view–found, actually, also in much of the propaganda in the early modern period–is that the Henrician reformation was merely a reassertion or development of a native strand of Christianity that had preceded the presence of the Roman Church on the isle. This (fantastic) account of history–believed by nobody working on the English Reformation today–is what justifies her opening line.

    She’s describing Anglicanism as though it had always been a local rite of Catholicism, instead of an invention of 18th and 19th century divines, flailing to find a way of describing the ad hoc negotiations between Puritan hard-liners, the monarchy, and the masses that eventually gave rise to that curious thing: the “Anglican” Church.

  • What a hoot! This lady is confused to the max! She mixes liberal theology, the myth of an independant Celtic British Church, and ecumenicalism into one heady brew1 Why didn’t she throw in British-Israelism, too?! LOL!

  • Critiquing the Episcopal bishop’s lecture is one thing, being so utterly rude and disrespectful of her as a person and fellow Christian is quite another. We Roman Catholics may not recognize Episcopal orders, but Episcopalians some Lutherans and other Christians, with whom we share a common, valid baptism, do. This post–and the posts that hoot encouragement– embarrass Christ, who says to all who are baptized, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Even if you think of Bishop Jefferts-Shori as your enemy, Christ says “Love your enemies,” and if somehow you are offended by her, “Do good to those who do you harm.” Do you think you prove the truth of Catholicism by this kind of writing? Do you think you persuade others to come to Christ with this tone? If this is “defending the faith,” which faith? Surely not Roman Catholicism, the supreme law of which is the law of charity.

  • Forgive my guffaw David. Considering her support for homosexual clergy, abortion on demand, and watered down Anglicanism, the Bishopess is getting off lightly in this post. Reread some passages in the Gospels and the Epistles and ponder what Our Lord and Saint Paul had to say about those who would lead others away from the Truth. A true Protestant man or woman of God, following the teachings of Christ the best they know, will always have my respect. I do not place the Bishopess in that category.

  • Some background on the Bishopess:

    I am thankful to her for one thing. Her and prelates like her in the Episcopalian and Anglican churches, have made many good Catholics by driving former members fed up with their antics across the Tiber. Keep up the bad work Bishopess!

  • Love the sinner. Hate the sin. Admonish the sinner. Instruct the ignorant. Counsel the doubtful.

    I could be wrong: Christ used a knotted cord to beat the money changers in the Temple.

    Correct me if I’m wrong. One of the last things Christ said (updated): “Let him who has no gun sell his robe and buy one.” Therewith the Second Amendment is sound theologically. Case closed.

  • Sure sign that someone, while having the theologically correct position of ordination reserved for men, also is particularly animated not just by orthodoxy but by misogyny — they can accept the common and papal courtsey of referring to Episcopalians by their self-named titles of “priest”, “bishop” or “clergy” even though the Church as ruled Anglican Orders invalid, but feel compelled never to extend the same courtsey to Anglican women (or even the non-commital term “clergyperson). To them the pagan term “priestess*” or the belitting term “bishopess” must be used.

    * In a quick “google” search, I find not a single use of the term except in reference to non-Christians or as a slur toward female Protestant clergy. I find not a single example of Christian using the term to describe herself.

    Sadly, my life’s experience is that those who find the need to write or speak extentisively on this issue, allowed to ramble on long enough, almost always move from a simple statement of orthodoxy to a revelation of underlying hatred of women.

  • “To them the pagan term “priestess*” or the belitting term “bishopess” must be used.”

    Priestess is a pagan term Katherine? No more than priest is a pagan term. As for bishopess, are you arguing that only the male form of the term is proper? How sexist of you! I find it amusing that you are more exercised by the term to be applied to the bishopess rather than the rot she was speaking. As to hatred of women, my wife of 28 years, my 15 year old daughter, and my secretary of 26 years I think would give me a good character on that score. However, I can understand why you would wish to cast aspersions of misogyny rather than dwell on the hilarity of having a pro-abort bishopess attempting to instruct Paulist seminarians on Church history.

    As for the term clergyperson, it does have a certain classic pc-uber-alles feel to it. I might in future sometimes refer to the bishopess as the bishopperson, although that might be sexist as it does end in that dreadful “son” suffix.

  • Priestess is a pagan term Katherine?

    Can you show me a Christian who uses the term for herself or a Christian denomination that names their clergy such? Papal and common courtsey accepts whatever titles a separated Christian community uses for itself. Yo find a need to invent titles to belittle others — correction — you don’t seem to find a need to belittle Protestant pro-abortion clergymen, it’s just women that win your ire.

    If you think bishopess is a perfectly non-pejorative word for an Anglican woman in episcopal orders, I would refer you to the church’s teaching on both Anglican Orders and the admission of women to the priesthood.

    If you are simply following common courtsey and applying self-chosen titles, then I would suggest you better investigate what term she and the Episcopal Chuch use.

    If you want to give a commentary on her remarks, do that rather than engage in childish name calling.

  • Nothing childish about it at all Katherine. Merely calling a knave a knavess.

New Jersey Loves Illinois!

Thursday, January 27, AD 2011

I was on my way to court yesterday morning when I heard this ad on WLS attempting to lure businesses from Illinois:

“Hi, I’m Chris Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Move my business to New Jersey? Really?’ Really. My administration has worked hard to change the direction of our business climate, plus our state has many advantages. We have an incredible talent pool to drive your business. Innovative financing, incentive and assistance programs. And an exceptional quality of life for the people who live and work here. Oh, and one more thing. As long as I’m Governor, I will not raise your taxes. I am proud of the new direction we’ve brought to New Jersey: lower taxes, reduced government spending and less regulation: a better home for business — today and in the future. Don’t let Illinois balance its budget on the back of your business. Choose New Jersey – we mean business.”

Go here to listen to the ad.

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23 Responses to New Jersey Loves Illinois!

  • Actually I think this latest move proves that what has long been known as the “economic war between the states” has gotten way out of hand. In fact I will soon be doing a post on that very topic.

    I have been rather an admirer of Christie but to be honest, my opinion of him just went down a few notches because of this stunt — and yes, it is a stunt. Seriously, his own state still has a long way to go in fixing its problems, and it is still losing people at a faster rate than Illinois, so he ought to focus on it. Some of Christie’s budget cutting devices (like skipping the state’s payment into the employee pension fund) were already tried in Illinois years ago with the disastrous results we see today.

    Also, don’t forget that:

    1) several of the states that are now attempting to poach jobs from Illinois have combined state and LOCAL tax rates that are about equal to or in some cases HIGHER than what Illinois has now, and

    2) a lot of corporations get tax breaks from Illinois or whatever state they are in so the official tax rate doesn’t apply to them anyway.

  • I think Christie is moving in the right direction Elaine. Considering the economic basket case the state was in when he took over, and the fact that he confronts a hostile state legislature controlled by Democrats, I think he has done well.

    On the other hand we have too many people in Illinois who are in denial and simply will not admit that this state is about to hit a fiscal wall. This really atrocious piece by Rich Miller at Capitol Fax is typical of the whistling at the top of the abyss. Attacking other states to divert attention from the fact that Illinois is on the brink of fiscal collapse is amusing, but that is about all I can say for it.

  • There are limits to everything.

    Is it that big governments try to be “all things to all people”, with private sector taxes paying for it all?

    At what point do high taxes chase away, or ruin, the state’s private sector?

    A number of states’ rulers have serious “heads in sand” issues.

  • That goes for the DC Dim crowd’s adamant adherence to fiscal destruction: freeze government spending at $1.5 trillion more than tax revenues????

    Er, cut the annual deficit to $1.1 trillion over ten years????

    I didn’t even need to go to my HP-12 financial calculator to estimate that would add $12+ trillion to the already unsustainable National Debt.

    Does the bloviator-in-chief think we are stupid? Not 75% of us. How can 25% be so stupid? Ans. a. the kool aid b. Public school brainwashing. c. Food stamps.

  • …Plus, we in New Jersey have great landfills…Come ride the NJ Turnpike, where you still have to pay a toll even though the road was paid for years ago. Even the legendary Jimmy Hoffa probably has found a home here. Our economy is so good that the Mafia hasn’t laid off a judge in at least a decade. And that great smell around Bayonne of old tires and petroleum fumes is something you just can’t find anywhere else.

    Yes, come to the Garden State and visit beautiful downtown Camden, but make sure you bring a gun because there’s no one there to protect you because most of the cops have been first. But, hey, we have to start making cuts somewhere and business comes first and there are plenty of opportunities for profit on the hundreds of foreclosed homes and empty storefronts.

    And if you think the politicians in Illinois are crooked (after all, how many of our ex-governors are in jail?), we still know how to accept a “campaign contribution” with the best of them. Please use a brown paper bag, however, and make it cash. Dollars are acceptable but Euros and Asian currency are preferred.

    Thanks for stopping by! We look forward to your business!

  • I doubt this would impact anyone’s decision. If you’re a business owner or leader and you find that you need to relocate in order to stay afloat or prosper, you’re going to appreciate Christie’s attitude. However, that doesn’t mean it is New Jersey’s attitude, and it’s doubtful the attitude the remain once Christie is gone. If you have to go through the pain and expense of uprotting, you’re going to look for a location that can suit your business needs and do so economically over the long haul. If you’re finding Illinois unworkable, you’re likely going to find most traditionally blue states a poor choice.

  • …correcting typo: “…most of the cops have been FIRED.”

  • Joe, I must stand up for the honor of Illinois! When it comes to political corruption we are second to none. In the past four decades we have had three of our governors go to the Big House, with a fourth on the way. Try and match that!

  • RL, I think most of the businesses leaving Illinois will probably head to Indiana and Wisconsin. However, I would not be surprised if Christie isn’t able to lure a few businesses as the SS Illinois sinks beneath the waves after hitting the fiscal iceberg.

  • Agree, Donald, that NJ has a ways to go, but they’ll get there eventually. Meanwhile, can’t wait for Blago’s new TV reality show.

  • Wisconsin’s new slogan: “Wisconsin is open for business.” Translation: “We can grease palms with the best of them”

  • NJ may be starting to appeal to some businesses, people should look at NJ’s very high property taxes:
    Average property tax in NJ is about $6.3K a year whereas in Illinois it’s about $3.3K. That extra $3K might come in handy for some families.

    (NOTE: this data is slightly out-dated, I thought I saw newer data for NJ that said property tax has increased to over $7K.

  • I live in Illinois, and there’s no chance I’ll be moving to the East coast. Like Don says, our Midwestern image of New Jersey is that it’s NYC’s Mafia-run landfill (no offense). But I live 5 miles from the border with Missouri and work online from home, so I’m going to look into whether I can get a post office box or rent a small office on the other side of the river and officially make my income in that state. I probably don’t make enough money for it to save me that much, but it’d be worth it to poke them in the eye even if I break even on the deal.

    Many locals already drive over there to save 10 cents/gallon on gas, and there’s a string of other businesses among the gas stations that exist only to serve Illinois residents (there’s no town over there to speak of). I bet they were all cheering when they heard about Illinois’s 66% tax increase.

  • Funny how competing sovereign states can highlight the errors and the best practices of each other. We must put a stop to this if we are to remain a Union. I suggest that Illinois raise up the militia and invade New Jersey to force a regime change.

  • Joe your bitter grapes with regard to Wisconsin are surely not on account of the Packers crushing da Bears???

  • Uh CL, nothing against the Pack, but “crushing”?

  • You say tomato, I say tom?to . . .

  • Lawyer…FYI, I am a transplanted Cheesehead whose veins now run green and gold. I am not responsible for any inferences drawn that my state’s politics are in any way corrupt : )

  • This just in… the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled, unanimously, that Rahm Emanuel CAN stay on the ballot for Chicago mayor, based on established precedent from an eerily similar case that was decided in the 1860s (that’s not a typo, we’re talking 140 + years ago) and was considered settled case law until called into question “a few days ago”. Intent DOES count when establishing residency for purposes of running for public office, as well as for voting for public office.

    Now back to our show…

    I have to differ with you, Don, on that Capitol Fax article you linked to. While Miller may be a bit over the top in his writing style there all his information was accurate. If you read him habitually (as I do), you would know that he’s been sounding the alarm about Illinois’ looming fiscal disaster louder and longer than just about anyone in the legacy media. What he was attempting to do here was NOT ignore or dismiss the problem but put it in some perspective, and point out that it’s not necessarily the end of the world, or of Sucker State civilization as we know it.

    I agree that Miller comes down pretty hard on Christie, whose budget deficit is at least headed in the right direction, however slowly. Still, I’m puzzled as to why Christie would do this except in an attempt to play to a national audience and not miss out on the “pile on Illinois” game being played by other GOP governors (including prospective POTUS and VPOTUS candidates).

    It’s one thing for Wisconsin and Indiana to try to persuade Illinois businesses to move — they are right next door, and one could locate in those states and still be within easy reach of the Chicago metro area. And I could even see states like Texas and Florida getting in on the act, after all, they offer freedom from both income taxes and snow shoveling 🙂

    But New Jersey? Seriously, what Illinois business owner is going to pack up and move 1,000 miles just to put up with equally bad if not worse weather, higher property and income taxes, and even more entrenched corruption (mainly at the local level)? Not to mention Snooki and The Situation taking the place of Mr. and Mrs. Blago as your least favorite reality TV stars?

  • In regard to the Emanuel opinion Elaine, I thought it interesting that in the concurring opinion they took exception to the caustic tone of the majority towards the two appellate court judges who wrote the opinion that the Supreme Court reversed. I applauded that. The Illinois Supreme Court harps on the necessity of civility by attorneys and lower courts, and then they write fairly unprofessional opinions, the tone of this one was not that much worse than others I have read, in which they let their inner jerks have free reign. I also agree with the concurring justices that the law in this area was not clear and I think the Supreme Court has made it murkier. The next time that a Chicago cop is fired for non-residence, it will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court still believes that the law is crystal clear on the issue of residence.

    As to Capitol Fax, I am not inclined to be charitable. I think Miller leans to the Democrat side, and I think he is unfair to Christie who is making heroic efforts to balance the books of New Jersey:

    In regard to Christie and Illinois, I think his attitude was it would give his efforts to woo businesses to New Jersey nation-wide publicity for a modest radio investment, and he was right. I think it was a shrewd move, even if he doesn’t get a single Illinois business to jump ship.

  • At the risk of being snarky (oh, what the hell), perhaps Mr. Christie would do well to tighten his own belt — that is if he could find one to accommodate his girth.

  • Better a fat belly than a fat head Joe. If it would make them fiscal hawks like Christie, I’d send each governor a case of Christie’s favorite desert.

    Corzine of course tried the “Christie is fat” attack during the campaign, and Christie just rolled right over him. 🙂

  • Go to the link below, run the video, and see why Chris Christie is a great leader to end the drunken sailor government spending this country is addicted to:

Bishops are to Blame!

Wednesday, January 26, AD 2011

Michael Voris in the Vortex addresses the problems and opportunities lost by American bishops following the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council which finished in the cultural upheaval of 60s dissent and disobedience within the Church in America.

Souls are at stake and our bishops seem more concerned about the next fundraiser or not leading with boldness and the Truth.  Instead they grovel to political correctness and stand quite on society’s most contentious issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider gave an important speech recently where he constructively and critically examined these issues of episcopal disregard.  Especially in the education of the laity with proper catechesis and the lack of defense against modernism and dissent, which have infested chanceries with “yes”-men in which the Pope calls, “professional Catholics”.

Watch this segment of the Vortex to get the full story:

Cross posted at CVSTOS FIDEI.

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19 Responses to Bishops are to Blame!

  • Chris, we pray for the bishops, we praise them when they do what’s right, and give them a royal raspberry when they go again 2000 years of Catholic tradition. Sounds like a plan to me!

  • FWIW my almost-immediate reaction to the title of this blog post was

    “and so is each and every one of us!”

  • FWIW my almost-immediate reaction to the title of this blog post was

    “and so is each and every one of us!”

    As it should be.

  • I suggest spending some time with the full text of Bishop Schneider’s address (link below). There is a lot of substance in it, leading up to the most quoteworthy portions which have been seen on the web. It would be disappointing for people to miss the richness of what is in the full text.

    I think it is good to read the document and discuss it, but in a manner that is consistent with how Bishop Schneider does with his audience.

    His Excellency is one of the most gentle teachers I know, who works to win hearts with wisdom, reason and air-tight arguments. At the very root of his effort is genuine love, not anger, for those he is trying to win over.

    The full text prints very well from the EWTN page.

    Father Z has made a podcast of the full text

    Read more about how this full text made it into English. Hopefully, this weekend there will be time to add English text next to the Latin from appropriate sources.

  • “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

    Do whatever you need to do to save your soul.

    Orwell wrote, in his piece on Gandhi, that you either are spiritually or worldly oriented. He wrote that the humanist ideal is that we have this one life and it is our job make it as “good” as we can. The Spiritual ideal is that we place primacy on our souls and we need to be sure we obtain (through God’s grace) redemption.

    Orwell even goes so far as to state the mildest liberal has embraced the humanist and not the Spritual ideal. The atheist that Orwell was, he may have been more Catholic (here) than some bishops.

    St. Paul, loosely: What has a man gained if he wins the entire world but losses his soul?

  • Sorry, no, our bishops do not “stand quite” on abortion and gay marriage. And they don’t need “Taliban Catholics” telling them how to run the Church either. Vitriol against fellow Christians from self-described “real” Catholics does not build up the Body of Christ:

  • Paralysis results from too many varying opinions. I do not
    recognize the Catholicism of these days and cannot reconcile
    it with what/how I was taught in my youth.

    The Catholic Church is reaping what has been sown, in practice.
    It is sad, indeed, but it is fitting. I will be held to account for my
    words and actions at my final judgement. I try to live as I was
    taught but it seems out of sync with most that I see, in my small

    I, however, am tired of hearing that homosexuality is the big
    problem with marriage. Balderdash.

    When a bishop has the data, excommunications should be flowing
    for unrepentant adulterers and unjust marital abandoners, as
    well as for those in positions of influence in the Church, both
    clergy and laity, who go out of their way to find ways to
    “justify” divorce but do not work 10X harder to help heal
    wounded marriages, especially wheh their help is sought.


  • ron,

    I think Pope Benedict’s advice was to be respectful in the blogosphere in the spirit of Christian charity. Comments like “Taliban Catholics” fly in the face of that advice.

    A Tucson moment seems to be evolving around Benedict’s comments on proper behavior in social media. Unfortunately, some of the most vocal in commenting on it have also been those who have been quite prolific in not demonstrating respect and Christian charity in their posts and comments.

  • Try the below for ” . . . respect and Christian charity . . . ”

    “The road to hell is paved (not just with good intentions) with the skulls of erring priests. The sign posts are skulls of bishops.”

    “Goggle” which saint said that.

    Christian charity also may be zeal for the salvation of souls, in contrast to ardor for secular humanism or Dr. Phil/feel good here and now psychology.

    PS: I love you’all’s new campaign slogan: WTF!!!

  • T. Shaw,

    I don’t have a problem with people speaking the truth. I also believe that there are priests and bishops who have, are, and will lead souls to Hell. My point is that for most people, honey does better than vinegar. So we can call a spade a spade, but with respect. That includes our clergy. They are not automatically free from error and may very well be the tip of the spear when it comes to error. But, a la Catherine of Sienna, we should approach them, and all men, with respect.

    My more blunt point was that, there are many Catholic bloggers now attempting to make a Tucson moment out of the Pope’s statement. As with that moment, this only serves to point out the hypocrisy of many of those blaming “conservative Catholics.”

  • Does anyone think that Catholicism in America has thrived in the last 40+ years? What changed and what went horribly wrong? Who here doesn’t cringe at the rotgut modern culture that’s shoved down our children’s throats? And who’s OK with over 50 million unborn babies murdered? Considering the wholesale damage done to so many souls over the years forces us to do more and face the TRUTH. I’m truly sorry if it hurts feelings but aren’t the alternatives are far worse?

    So, Mike Voris quotes bishops, the Pope, and documents several facts as a basis for an analysis. Where exactly is he wrong?

    Hasn’t the Body of Christ suffered enough?

    The hypocrisy of the left both after Tuscon and in the phrase “Taliban Catholic” would be funny except we’re dealing with truth and the spiritual realm. We all answer to God and “shut up you’re stupid” rebuttals may help one’s self esteem but I respectfully submit they do not help you get into heaven.

    In spite of the obvious scriptural basis for a pro-life position there’s a Methodist church next to our Catholic church that would be more than willing to accommodate cafeteria Catholics whose self esteem is uncomfy–they may have even put out the ad below:

  • Templar, it’s not so much the analysis which I’m concerned about, but the fact all we get is complaints about how bad “the bishops” were and are. It’s *almost* playing the victim card… “Woe is we!” How about instead *we* do something about it! The laity aren’t exactly helpless these days to spread the Gospel… these “bad” priests & bishops haven’t stationed the Swiss Guard at our doors to prevent us from evangelizing.

    At the *very* least, we could have a call to prayer for our hierarchy, but we don’t even get that.

    In her amazing story of conversion from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate (and very soon, Catholic), Abby Johnson explains how it was the quiet, friendly, prayerful approach of the Coalition for Life and that helped win her over, while the more combative approach (people in grim reaper costumes, others holding placards of aborted babies) that only hardened opposition to hearing the pro-life message.

    “Honey attracts more flies than vinegar” isn’t just a cliche… it actually works.

  • The fact that sometimes the truth hurts =/= the idea that anything hurtful is the truth. Quoting a saint or pope chewing out someone who deserves it isn’t proof that every time you think someone deserves it, you have the right to chew them out.

  • Spiritual Leadership

    Truly it’s time for the Bishops of America to stop pretending to be shepherds of the faith among god’s people with messages to the flock that merely reflect “concern”, “regret” and “dismay” at the heretical behavior or extreme positions taken by catholic politicians and their “prominent” catholic supporters which betray the teachings of the church.

    We have literally stripped ourselves of the identity as “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” church. We are now the diversified, progressive liberal, independent thinking, and apologetic church of America with sentimental ties to Rome.

    Just look at us. We’ve produced the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Charles Rangel, and many other “distinguished” members of congress along with a host of “intellectual” clergy and prominent individuals who ALL gave their unbridled support (honorary degrees) to the most pro-abortion candidate ever to run for president. What does this say for the church in America? Especially when these same people often state and expound that their positions and values don’t conflict with or reduce their standing within the church as they boldly file in line at the communion table.

    Remember when Nancy Pelosi told a reporter that (her) church was not sure when life begins and that it was “debatable” only about 20 of the approximately 150 catholic members of congress willingly signed a letter of admonition to her.( None of the above mentioned). And to realize that these officials are continually reelected by large portions of catholic laity speaks volumes for the guidance the laity are receiving from their shepherds.

    Add to this the fact that we are closing parish schools at a record pace and there is little or no voice in Washington on behalf of VOUCHERS coming from the largest single religious group (29% catholic) of representatives. Clerical Compassion needed for catholic education and faith based initiatives is cautiously reserved like holy water to sprinkle on secular approved issues like gay “rights” or hoped for embryonic research or cloning for medical technology. Need we say more?

    We are in moral disarray here and our spiritual leadership for the most part does not speak forthrightly to us for fear of “politically” advocating Christian values thus overstepping the bounds of “separation” or at worst governmental funding reprisals.

    We can’t be “children” of God without being men and women of honor and deep faith before the sword of separation if we intend to follow Christ.

    Today, as in the time of the early church as the Kingdom of God was being thrust upon the kings of the world, “Martyrdom” needs to be revived in the public arena and a part of our faith life so that the people can witness for themselves that our eternal souls are of more value than political capitol, catechetical compromise, or “apostolic” appeasement which is reducing Christ and His church to the status of “community (ritual) organizers” within a purely secular society. May the Lord have mercy on us if we choose otherwise!

  • Chris, you’re absolutely right that we the laity must do more and especially pray for our church leaders. We must support them, empower them to preach the truth. Let it fly! We and our families can take it! We love our bishops and priests (our parish is blessed) and it would be very embarrassing for me personally if someone pulled out some register of Christian deeds comparing me to a given priest or bishop–yikes!

    Mike Voris took care to praise several bishops and the Pope. How then could anyone say that all they get are complaints? Isn’t Faith the result of reason applied to the world we live in? Please don’t ask me to leave my reasoning at the door in order to be a better Catholic Christian. I never will because it allows me to see the truth in an ever more beautiful light. It also allows me to see the vulgar hypocrisy of leftists supporting abortion, gay marriage, global warming, Keynesian economics, socialism, etc–and stupid shallow labels like “Taliban Catholic.”

    If God’s truth is honey that attracts ‘flies’ then the vinegar out there is from the alleged Catholic groups that deliberately deviate/distort Catholic teaching. Just wade through the ‘National Catholic Reporter’ or ‘America’ and you’ll have enough vinegar for barrels of pickles.

    With respect, I submit that the overall efforts of the laity and the clergy have failed in the past 40 years. So whatever ‘we’ did ‘we’ may want to review it. I would also agree that I’m part of the problem but I’m working on that! I would also agree that kindness and charity are key in changing minds–and I’m working on that too!

    Cardinal DiNardo gave such a beautiful homily this weekend at the Basilica in Washington. I think I could’ve listened better but my knees where killing me from sitting on the floor for so long. The march the next day was great as well–what a great weekend!

    Thanks for your comments Chris, God bless.

  • We need to stand up and “correct” misstatements. In the Sacramento diocese there is a gravitation towards socialism. It has gone so far as to ask “fair distribution of wealth” in petitions of the faithful. This is unacceptable! I have communicated the wrongs in promoting socialism with the Bishop. This issue is not one he objects to.

    To correct this I am printing off ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII

    And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.”

    This will be placed on bulletin boards and I am considering handing it out to parishioners …. I do not know what to expect for my actions….

  • Nothing Michael Vorhis says sounds anything like what Jesus said. Jesus never codemned except those Pharisees that are the hero type Bishops Mr Vorhis hungers for.

    Jesus didn’t tell the publican in the temple pounding his breast and repeating, “have mercy on me a sinner” that it was his sins that would condemn him but rather his submission that would justify him. He never told the woman at the well to repent or do anything more than to believe in him, He never asked the criminal on the cross, once he’d submitted to our Lord, that there was anything more left to do.
    The condemnatory rant of bishops and speakers like Mr Vorhis is the catholic ship that is sinking.

    Sadly, it is a secular government, The US government based on principles of Fairness, Freedom and Equality, caring for the poor, the hungry and ignorant and victimized that sounds more like Jesus than Mr Vorhis or his hero bishops.

  • Soooo, the US government is is more moral than US Bishops speaking the truth in line with the Bishop of Rome? Didn’t the POPE bring up the term “professional Catholic”, indicating that their bureaucratic modernistic notions are causing great harm to the church? Is the Pope one of your Pharisees too? I know many leftists think they’re morally superior to him as well–heck, I literally heard our “Christian Service” (aka recycling, fighting globo warming, blablabla) ‘director’ say that she wished our current Pope would “hurry up and die” during a RCIA class. That’s the ‘vinegar’ trying to sink the ship. Didn’t JP2 tell us all that LIFE is by far the most important issue, i.e waaaaay ahead of the social justice concerns?

    So again, I guess we shouldn’t use reason to try to figure out God’s wonderful infinite truth. We should just blindly submit and believe…. but wait… is it faith alone that gets you into heaven? What did James call those who rely on faith alone? But alas some on this board may be Protestant so they wouldn’t know the book of James since Luther–the original modernist, threw it out of their ‘bible’. What about the Sacraments? Don’t we believe in DEEDS as well especially in a Sacramental life?

    With respect, I reason that Michael Voris cites scripture in a coherent context and in line with our wonderful encyclicals, those wonderful encyclicals that prevent us from cherry picking scripture to suit our individual needs. Isn’t that true submission to God’s truth?

    I feel we should all ask Mary to intercede to give our beloved Bishops and Priests the strength to proclaim Christ’s will to us (like me) who really need it. I know I have a long way to go and I appreciate everyone’s understanding.

    As far as my government’s good intentions go, I’ll cite a favorite recent link from TAC:

Gadsden Flag

Wednesday, January 26, AD 2011

Adopted by the Tea Party as the symbol of their movement, the Gadsden Flag goes back to the very beginnings of the Republic.  Benjamin Franklin was indirectly responsible for the flag.  In his Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754 he published a cartoon of the 13 colonies as a rattle snake and how desperately unity between the colonies was needed.

In December 1775 he wrote an essay in the Pennsylvania Journal which set forth why the rattlesnake was a good symbol for the American spirit:

“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?”

The Marines, newly created by the Continental Congress, painted their drums yellow with a rattlesnake with thirteen rattles and the motto “Don’t tread on me.”  Colonel Christopher Gadsden, delegate from South Carolina, designed the Gadsden Flag and presented it to Commodore Esek Hopkins in December 1775 to be displayed from the mainmast of his flagship.  He presented another copy of his flag to the legislature of South Carolina:

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6 Responses to Gadsden Flag

State of the Union Immediate Reaction

Tuesday, January 25, AD 2011

The president has just wrapped up his speech. Some quick thoughts:

  • I think it was better to not have everyone sit according to party.
  • I know we had this emphasis on a “new kind” of SOTU. I’m not buying it. To be sure, it had a theme which was good. But in the end, just “we can do it! Remember after Sputnik!” isn’t much of a theme, leaving us left with what the SOTU always is: a bunch of presidential policy proposals, or as Chief Justice Roberts put it, a political pep rally.
  • Very glad he addressed the BP oil spill. Oh wait…
  • He talked about the old world where hard work kept your job but that that world is gone. Could we at least give a thought to figuring out if we can restore that world before we forsake it? Or are we doomed to Wal-Marts?
  • I want to know how he’s going to simplify the tax code and the federal government. Good ideas, but the devil is in the details.
  • Not subsidizing oil companies is probably a long over-due reform, but good luck getting it through, especially since Obama has been so unreasonable with the drilling moratorium
  • Everyone should have the opportunity to go to school, but does giving everyone a degree mean automatic economic success? Shouldn’t we be looking instead to figuring out how to make four-year institutions more effective and less costly?
  • On illegal immigration, I had hoped to hear more than just how illegals who get an education ought to be allowed a path for citizenship. I suppose with the climate no more can be said, which is very sad in itself.
  • Why didn’t we spend all this money on the infrastructure 2 years ago when we needed immediate jobs? Now we have debt and no infrastructure; we’ve missed our opportunity and with the deficit I’m suspicious of too many infrastructure building programs.
  • I don’t think Obama has a clue how to rein in the deficit. He gave some good ideas, but not nearly enough to convince me he can get it done.
  • If someone could ban the cheap shots to random Americans stuck in the Chamber for those brief snap-shots, I would vote for them regardless of what they do.

Those are my thoughts at the moment. What do you think?

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22 Responses to State of the Union Immediate Reaction

  • “Investment” sounds great, but of course, it’s a (not so secret) codeword for federal spending, and the federal government doesn’t exactly have “extra” money to spend.

    A speech devoted to the need for fiscal discipline with tons of specifics would’ve been nice. And he could’ve used Ryan’s Roadmap for political cover… *that* would’ve been working together in a substantive manner.

  • I’ve realized that in this era of the 24-hour news cycle and high-quality wonky blogging, the State of the Union doesn’t tell us much anymore.

    And you’d think that after all these years the opposition would settle on a proven format for the rebuttal. Way too close to the camera this time. Can’t they just put him behind a desk like a news anchor or pundit?

  • Bachmann’s presentation was much better but at least on CNN she didn’t look into the camera. It was far too accusatory. She blamed Obama for the spike in unemployment.

  • “but does giving everyone a degree mean automatic economic success?”

    Obviously no. Also your choice of words is correct. Academic standards are so debased, and grade inflation so widespread, it is astonishing to me how many undergraduates still manage to flunk out. What is going on in most undergraduate programs at most colleges and universities may be called many things, but education is rarely among them.

  • Lets’ go (like Will Rogers would say) to the record.

    What has he done?

    What is with this man, and his adamant attachment to failure?

    That’s why 24/7 they need to libel and slander Sarah and Glenn Beck.

    Mac, You’re right. “College” is a four-year party. What used to be the “gentleman’s C” is now B. As long as they pay the tuition . . .

    It’s again snowing in NYC. I blame Bush for not supporting global warming.

  • Did he mention the 50 million killed by abortions, which he supports? Didn’t watch any of it, but I’d guess not.

  • Remember this Far Side cartoon – ?

    I felt a little like that last night, only with less understood. I think that is one of the first times (being 34) I have heard the SoTU address and the majority of it consisted of dollar signs flying out of the President’s mouth in the form of all the wonderful things government can do.

    It was a stunning combination of sounding centrist and placating while at the same time taking its cues from the most progressive themes available. “Let’s expand government, and let’s do it together, so we can all have power and money.”

  • Watched the speech on and off last night. Obama’s speech was boring. It consisted of the “same old, same old” rhetoric. Obama’s words and actions haven’t matched up the past two years so I am positive that his actions and words aren’t going to match up in the future either.

  • T. Shaw,

    Actually Global Warming has caused your snow. Global Warming causes everything:

  • I didn’t watch the speech, but Donald is right on the money about education. What we need to do is restore the quality and reputation of a high-school education. It used to be that a diploma was proof that you could read, write, calculate, and think well enough to be a productive worker and citizen. Today, you need a college degree to prove it, and we’re headed toward needing a Master’s degree for it. Making higher education more affordable isn’t much of a solution; making public secondary education more complete is.

  • Starbucks already has enough people with BA degrees working there.

    Allow the business environment to be conducive to growth, jobs will come, and incentives will be there to become educated as appropriate.

    Reduce the “cost of doing business”, e.g., go to loser pay product liability law suits, reform worker’s comp, put common sense into the EPA and OSHA, allow aggressive write-offs for new capital equipment, do not tax repatriated earnings, reduce the cost of providing insurance by pushing for a greater use of PA’s and nurse practitioners and reduce need for “defensive” medicine, and get the point across that free trade can only exist when there is freedom for all participants in the value chain–i.e., if the workers are not free to associate or to organize it is not free trade and should be heavily tariffed. Problem is, this is more about what government does not do, not about what it does, so don’t expect it to happen for another couple of years.

  • Actually, the largest costs in business that the government can impact are compliance with various regulatory schemes, from taxation to environmental to health code/labor regs, etc.

  • This was even more of a waste of time than usual. Unsurprising. Is there anyone left who thinks Barack Obama is likely to have an original thought about anything? A few quick things:

    He already promised to simplify government and cut waste and corruption in his campaign. He doesn’t have any more idea how to do that now than he did in his first year. (To be fair, neither does anyone else in D.C.) Nor does he have any clue how to lower the deficit, because that requires making government less involved in people’s lives, which isn’t in his vocabulary. So those are especially empty platitudes. It’s a wonder he can say them with a straight face.

    There are already numerous paths to American citizenship. They just have to be followed legally. Saying that we have to provide a path for illegal aliens is like saying if I go steal a case of beer from the liquor store, the government should provide a path for me to become the beer’s rightful owner.

    Apparently we’re just not going to have manufacturing jobs anymore. We’re all supposed to follow his lead by getting high-falutin’ degrees and then work in government or quasi-governmental fields like health care.

    Which is why he (like Bush) thinks everyone needs a four-year degree (at least). Most people should probably get a two-year degree or one-year certficate at a trade school or community college, which would prepare them for perfectly good middle class careers as things like plumbers and electricians. In fact, if the grade schools and high schools did anything useful, most people could apprentice at the age of 16 and be useful members of society by 18, like my grandparents were. But we can’t have anyone getting his hands dirty. We’re all white-collar now.

    We did spend a pile of money on infrastructure already; I remember all the signs saying, “This highway project is funded by the American Renewal Act,” or whatever fancy name they gave the stimulus bill. Problem is, when government “creates” jobs by spending money, the jobs stop when the spending stops. They aren’t like private sector jobs that can sustain themselves. So if that’s the only way we know how to create jobs and build things, it’s going to require endless stimulus spending.

  • State of the Union: Stuck on Stupid.

    I do not need to see his birth certificate.

    I do not want to look over his college transcripts.

    I do not care to peruse his medical records.

    What I truly must know is “When did Michelle stop beating him?”

  • Mr. Morgan,

    You wrote:

    “Reduce the “cost of doing business”, e.g., go to loser pay product liability law suits, reform worker’s comp, put common sense into the EPA and OSHA, allow aggressive write-offs for new capital equipment, do not tax repatriated earnings, reduce the cost of providing insurance by pushing for a greater use of PA’s and nurse practitioners and reduce need for “defensive” medicine, and get the point across that free trade can only exist when there is freedom for all participants in the value chain–i.e., if the workers are not free to associate or to organize it is not free trade and should be heavily tariffed.”

    I entirely agree with the analysis but think you left out the “elephant” in that the inability to hire, fire, promote, and retire under current discrimination law is making business in America very unproductive indeed. All large organizations suffer under draconian regulatory and absurd liability regimes that make it virtually impossible to hire those who demonstrate competence, seek out and promote the stars in an organization, and terminate the employment of the unproductive before they are able to demoralize and destroy.

    Connecting this thought to American competitiveness as the President did last night, it strikes me that stifling the creativity and ambition of our best and brightest under the guise of providing for “fairness” in the labor market makes it virtually impossible for even mid-sized organizations to compete with competing companies overseas. I conclude that America’s successful war against discrimination has utterly outlived its usefullness and serves now only to empower our competitors.

  • G-Veg – I see that problem as being closely tied to grade inflation and poor academic standards. Every employer has to be able to support his hiring and firing decisions in court if/when called upon to do so. You can’t hire by gut feeling or based on a good interview any more, because those aren’t quantifiable in front of a jury. So businesses try to filter out the low end of applicants by using unnecessarily high academic criteria.

    That means everyone needs a college degree. That means college standards have to drop. That means high schools can get away with turning out students with even less learning, as long as their grades are high. It’s a vicious circle.

  • Pinky,

    I do not disagree with your analysis insomuch as it seems to be an important facet to the problem. However, I think we let the law off the hook on this one. To cite an example,

    We had a woman working for us who came on board when she was a Junior in high school. She worked part-time through her Junior and Senior years. When she started college, she began to work full-time for us as a clerk.

    She made it clear that she wanted a career-track job with us and she knew everything about the organization. Indeed, she was one of our brightest and most ambitious employees. Unfortunately, we could offer her absolutely nothing because everthing had to go through Human Resources, meaning that she had to apply on the national job announcement, take a test to show her eligibility, then be selected for an interview by a remote pannel that received only a score of eligibility rather than a copy of her resume.

    She took a job with another organization.

    We lost a great employee because we couldn’t manage HR.

    My sister is a mid-level manager in an entirely different organization and tells similar tales. My brother is a hospital administrator and has even worse tales to tell because he has three unions representing his employees.

    Undoubtably, this is a “vicious circle,” but I see it as one of regulation and civil suits driving HR to employ more and more “blind” regimes for managing employees, which then drives the legal environment even further afield from experience and reason. Where does it end? When no work is performed here.

  • G-Veg – Believe me, I didn’t mean to leave the law (or the lawyers) off the hook. The whole thing is too big to fathom. We’ve built an entire industry of non-productive behavior. In fact, there’s more revenue to be made in obstructing output than in producing, which means the best minds are going to be rewarded most by becoming plaintiffs. I just don’t think that people have considered how the legal / HR /insurance problems relate to the academic problems.

  • A few people have mentioned the HR nightmare of hiring people, and they are right. A few years ago a local business closed and a lot of people were out of work. I suggested an idea for a business (one that would have a pretty good captive market) to a local man of means and he replied that to get into that line of work he’d have to automate as much as possible, last thing he wanted to do was to hire a bunch of people–each hire is a potential time bomb.

    Last place I worked people would claim an injury (back hurts, mainly), and it would go to trial. The company Dr said no disability, the workers’ comp lawyer would say 20% disability and the judge would split the difference and the worker would walk out with $50,000 and go right back to his old job. Workers’ comp was supposed to be no-fault insurance to cover future lost wages, fine. But these guys were not losing wages. Just keep saying your back hurts and eventually someone will hand you a check for $50,000–it is a wonder everyone does not do it. Plant ultimately moved to a different state with a different set of laws.

    Worked at a place before that where people would beg for jobs, and then when fired for lack of attendance and poor job performance they’d swear that they’d have us shut down. Some of them, you just knew that they were sizing the place up, looking for a way to have a suit filed. There were high school graduates and even people with a year of college who could not add or subtract simple fractions or read a tape measure. My grandfather only finished the 8th grade and had a career as a sheet metal layout man–using geometry to do things like make square to round offset transitions out of plate steel for gigantic duct work for ore refineries. He died last month at 91 years old, and he was still (last fall) working off and on because no one else in a fifty mile radius could figure out how to solve the hard problems. A company he retired from in the 1980’s sent flowers to the funeral. How did an 8th grade education in the 1930’s come to beat out contemporary high school and even college? He did not just know fractions, he knew geometry and trigonometry and esoteric ways of applying them to solve complex three dimensional problems. Of course, his math teachers back then were not interested in self esteem or excitement, they were interested in imparting essential skills.

    Certainly government is part of the problem, but ultimately it is a problem of morality. Laziness, fraud, and trying to get something for nothing: the new American way.

    Is it any wonder executives just want to sub it all out to China at a fixed price rather than wait for what comes out of the HR freak show tent next?

  • “An inevitable consequence of capitalist enterprise is the creation of bourgeois youth demanding university education and employment in a bureaucracy”.

    There are, I think, four bureaucracies: government, academe, the Church, business.

  • US News and World Report

    Was President Obama’s State of the Union speech a success?

    1. 24.96% Yes
    2. 75.04% No

    There is yet hope. Three of four of us know this nobody is with an adamant attachment to failure.

  • I don’t think Obama has a clue how to rein in the deficit. He gave some good ideas, but not nearly enough to convince me he can get it done.

    That’s always been the question about this fella. Does he know anything except how to run his mouth?