“My Rights” vs. Government

questioning

On a blog that I follow, there has been extensive discussion related to COVID vaccinations. However, as is often the case, the conversation swerved a bit when an individual addressed the role the government plays — not only in this pandemic but in society as a whole. 

The person prefaced his comment thus: 

And for the record: I’m not a Trump supporter, nor a Republican, nor a Democrat, nor a Constitutionalist (though I agree with the principles espoused in the DOI), nor a Libertarian (in the political sense).

He then added …

At heart, I’m an anarchist — in the strict dictionary sense (i.e., “a person who advocates the abolition of government and a social system based on voluntary cooperation”).

Later in his comment, he asks …

I mean what is wrong with a view that government should have some very limited functions like protecting all citizens from violence but we should keep it in check so people can by and large live and think how they like?

Does it seem to you that this individual is downplaying the need for government and instead prefers a more unrestrained way of living? That’s how I read it. Of course, he’s definitely not alone as this same mantra is being expressed daily by thousands in discussions related to the COVID situation (i.e., masks and vaccines).

But it doesn’t stop there. Again and again we see instances of individuals doing things and making decisions (and even laws) based on the philosophy that it’s their “RIGHT.”

One wonders … is this the certain inalienable rights the Constitution talks about? And how far does this form of self-government extend? Can we truly live as a society where concern for one’s own welfare –and total disregard of others– is the norm? 

Do the people who embrace this philosophy ever consider the long-term consequences?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Plan For America

As many of you know, I’m a fan of Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletters. I admit some are more stimulating than others, but overall, I like what she has to say, which is why I often share her remarks on my blog.

In her most recent newsletter, she talked about the current in-the-news bill related to government funding. But what really caught my interest was the comment section — in particular, one submitted by “Angela,” in which she included the full content of an article written by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor of the DCReport (a non-profit news service).

As soon as I finished reading it, I knew I wanted to share what he had to say. 

What particularly impressed me was how Mr. Johnston clearly explained President Biden’s “American Families Plan” and counteracted those who dispute its value. I also liked the way he compared it to the many bloated programs that are currently part of the U.S. budget.

Mr. Johnston entitled his article: “How $3 a Day Can Buy America a Rich Future.”

Making Sense of Big, Scary Budget Numbers

How much would you be willing to invest for a better future for yourself, today’s youngsters and beyond?

Would you be willing to invest $3 a day?

That’s more than the gross upfront cost of President Joe Biden’s human infrastructure bill.

Sadly, that’s not how news reports describe the American Families Plan. Across the board, our major news organizations cite a big, scary and ultimately meaningless number: $3.5 trillion.

To grasp what a huge and meaningless number that is, imagine putting matches to dollars bills. If you lit one greenback per second it would take 110,985 years to burn all that money.

Folks who make at least $100,000 per day would bear 86% of the cost of Biden’s human infrastructure plan.

But the Biden plan money won’t be consumed; it will be invested.

When our Air Force planes and Navy ships burn kerosene and marine diesel fuel, tax dollars used to buy that fuel are shot out as exhaust. That’s tax dollars consumed.

Biden’s plan adds value, making each dollar invested today worth more dollars in the future by increasing incomes, creating private-sector jobs, increasing more business profits and raising more tax dollars as the economy grows.

Human Scale v. Big, Scary Numbers

At DCReport, we try to make numbers human scale. That means we start with the big, scary and incomprehensible $3.5 trillion gross cost and divide by 10 because the money would be spent over a decade.

Next, we divide the $350 billion per year by 332.8 million Americans as of this writing. Then we divide that by 365 days to get $2.88 per day per American ($11.52 for the iconic family of four).

And how much is $2.88? It was less than the average price of a cup of coffee in 2019. Gourmet coffee shops that year charged on average $4.24 per cup.

Most Would Pay Nothing

Now the best news: That $2.88 per day won’t cost you a penny if you make less than $165,600, analysis by the Tax Policy Center shows. Years of experience have demonstrated that its computer model reliably forecasts the costs and benefits of tax policy changes.

Biden’s plan would reduce federal taxes for eight out of 10 households. The poorest 48 million households would pay $620 less in taxes. That means the poorest Americans would enjoy a 4% increase in their after-tax income. That’s the equivalent of two extra weeks of pay each year.

Families making $91,800 to $165,600 would pay on average $120 less in federal taxes. It’s not much, but also it’s not a tax increase.

Now consider people on the 80th to 89th rungs of the income ladder, people who make $165,600 to $243,000 in total income. Their taxes would go up, but by just $420 on average, less than half the price of a cup of coffee per day.

The Richest Pay

The burden for the Biden human infrastructure plan would fall overwhelmingly on the 120,000 highest income households in America, people whose annual income ranges from $3.6 million to several billion dollars annually.

The folks who make at least $100,000 per day would bear 86% of the cost of Biden’s human infrastructure plan. They were also the primary beneficiaries of the Trump 2017 tax cuts, repeating a quarter of the tax savings. This is more like a take back of a tax favor financed with borrowed money than a tax increase.

Yes, we have Americans whose annual incomes are in the billions of dollars. One example: Larry Ellison collects almost $1.8 billion a year in dividends from Oracle, the company he launched in 1977 with a federal government contract. And that’s far from all of Ellison’s income.

How the Richest Benefit

The top one in a thousand households would also reap huge benefits from the Biden human infrastructure plan, making them even wealthier over time.

The richest among us would benefit because America will be investing in a better educated, more productive workforce not burdened by student debt, which holds back the formation of families, home buying and all the spending that goes with furnishing and setting up a family domicile.

A more productive workforce with more after-tax income means most would have more money to spend on the goods and services offered by the wealthiest families and the businesses they invest in, own control. Voila, government policy that helps the many also makes the already rich richer while making the creation of new riches more likely.

How Most Americans Benefit

My life is an example of how taxpayer investments in citizens more than pay for themselves. The $8,960 that federal taxpayers invested in my college and postgraduate education over seven years under the War Orphans Educational Assistance Act has been paid back many times over in federal income taxes. Indeed, the inflation-adjusted value of that taxpayer investment in me was paid back in full just from taxes on royalties from Perfectly Legal, the first book in my award-winning trilogy on the American economy.

More broadly, one of the smartest if not the smartest federal investment ever was the GI Bill, officially the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. The GI Bill is what enabled a Seattle grocer’s son named Bill Gates to become a lawyer and, in turn, give his son the money that launched Microsoft with jobs that poured money into federal coffers.

The GI Bill doubled the number of college degree holders in 10 years and resulted in more education, higher incomes, and less poverty. And this was despite the racist and sexist details of the GI Bill that kept many Black Americans and women who served from participating. The Biden plan has no such barriers, though once enacted, DCReport will scrutinize the final legislation looking for any subtle discriminatory features that Congress may slip in.

When Republicans and a handful of Democrats declare that they will vote against the American Families Plan, here is what they are really saying, you should:

  • pay higher taxes
  • not get as much in benefits as you could for those taxes
  • pay higher prices for prescription drugs
  • endure more medical bills
  • have your pockets drained to pay for childcare and eldercare

Irrational Tax Hatred

And why? Because the ideological and irrational anti-tax crowd, which denounce all new taxes as bad, wants to ensure that the already best-off Americans can have more now instead of the more prosperous future we could all enjoy.

We would be a poor country today but for massive taxpayer investments in the future like the GI Bill and the related War Orphans Act. The way to think about human infrastructure is that it’s not spending, like lo those fossil fuels consumed by military planes and ships, but an investment in a better and all-around wealthier American future.

At a gross cost of $2.88 per day, the American Families Plan is a bargain. At a net cost of less than zero, only fools would say no.

DISCLAIMER: I looked up DCReport.org on MediaBiasFactCheck.com and found that overall, they rate it at “the end of left-center bias and High for factual reporting due to proper sourcing.”

A U.S. Economic Perspective

stacksofmoney

Heather’s recent newsletter addressed the current funding bill that would both keep the government from shutting down and prevent a default on the U.S. debt. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives — the vote being 220 to 211 (all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against). 

The following was submitted as a comment to Heather’s commentary and, IMO, needs to be read by anyone who is interested in the current U.S. economic situation. It was written by a CEO (Harbour Bridge Ventures) and, for me, clearly explains what this bill is all about. 

By sharing this person’s remarks, I’m hoping those who are FAR more knowledgeable about this subject than me will offer their thoughts and opinions. Do you agree with his perspective? Or does he have it all wrong? 

Remedial Economics 101 for Republicans

While I do not claim to know as much about Economics as Janet Yellin, I do have at least a moderate academic background in the subject thanks to an education that included studies in Economics and Finance. This does, however, leave me with the view that my knowledge in Economics and Finance far surpasses that of every Congressional Republican who collectively appears to know zip all. Here are a few points that even a relative economic dunce like me gets.

1. A raise in the debt ceiling is to cover spending already approved by Congress in the form of past budgets and already Congressional mandated spending. In fact, it is silly that we even have to go through the charade of approving a raise in the debt ceiling since objections to the spending should be over once budget bills are approved by Congress and the spending is then Congressionally mandated. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling is like denying responsibility for your credit card bill when received after already having incurred charges on the card. The real answer to this is that we should stop taking sham votes on raising the debt ceiling and just suspend it. The time to object to spending is before you actually make it, not when the bill comes due.

2. Let’s briefly discuss the idea that spending $3.5 trillion on human infrastructure and social spending is “too much.” So let’s start with the fact that yes, $3.5 trillion is a lot of money. But … compared to what? Compared to the $8 trillion added to the federal debt during the Tя☭mp administration? Hmmm, less than half of that and that was added in only 4 years, not over the 10 year spending period proposed in the Biden/Democratic proposal. In fact, retrospectively we now understand the Tя☭mp / Republican tax cut will wind up costing the U.S. $10 trillion (in lost revenue) over a similar 10 year period. About three times the amount proposed now by Democrats over 10 years.

OK, let’s put politics aside for a moment and stick to economics. The annual size of the U.S. economy at present is approximately $23 trillion. Over the coming 10 years, the total size of the U.S. economy (remember to account for anticipated growth, just based on trend lines now) is estimated at a total of $300 trillion. This means a 10 year spend of $3.5 trillion is just a little over 1% of the total anticipated size of the U.S. economy. Are we as a country willing to spend an additional 1% of our economy over the coming 10 years on improving conditions for working families, dealing with climate change perils, improving healthcare, and all the other components of the Democratic proposal?

Now let us also remember this is not only spending. The bill also raises revenues by an estimated $2.9 trillion. So the net additional spend is really only about $600 billion. This is even a much smaller proportion of our overall economy.

Now if we account for the fact that investments are expected to generate actual returns and apply the multiplier effect of social spending (by the way, social spending has a higher multiplier effect than any other government spending, unlike tax cuts which actually have a negative multiplier effect), it is possible we may actually see the investments generate more returns than their costs.

By any measure, as a country, we can certainly afford the $3.5 trillion over a 10 year period.

So, when you hear others say $3.5 trillion is too much or try to justify not raising the debt ceiling because we “have to live within our means,” now you will know just how ignorant they are on economics, finance, and government spending. Remember that when you decide who to vote for in 2022 and 2024.

A Look at “American Values”

The following post was written by an individual whose writings I have shared in the past. In this instance, I decided not to just “reblog” since only a portion of his thoughts would be shown here — and this time I wanted to be sure visitors read the entire post. 

The writer has chosen to remain anonymous and goes by the handle of “Ends and Beginnings.” Regular readers may remember him — or may even be a subscriber to his blog themselves.

In any case, I look forward to your reactions and comments related to his perspective on the Afghanistan situation.  

The vast majority of the western world has learned its history and formed its opinions of the Middle East from a book of fables, the Bible and Hollywood movies. You see, Charlton Heston really isn’t Moses and Elizabeth Taylor isn’t Cleopatra. And the illustrations in our picture Bibles growing-up as kids of Arab men, looking more white than brown, with long beards, flowing robes, and living in silk tents with camels in the desert isn’t the whole story.

We, Anglo-Christians, manufactured this history because of Jesus and for the last 100 years or so Americans have tried to mold a region and a people into a vision that we created, a vision that is false and a fantasy. Towns, cities, community, and commerce have been a reality of the Middle East long before the idea of an America was even a dream. We, the Western world, treated the Middle East like they are some backwoods, bum fucks, living in the hills of the Smoky Mountains. That without us, our smarts, our religion, our democracy, they would just be eating sand and herding goats. Obviously, the Middle East, for the most part, has progressed a little beyond that, check out the skyline of Dubai for instance, but Americans simply can’t let go of those images or the need to be thanked for bringing them into the 21st Century.      

I am not a Middle East expert, but I have spent a considerable amount of time reading about the history and the conflicts, particularly the American conflicts. What I have concluded is this, our “issues” in the Middle East can be boiled down to two matters, oil, and Israel. Everything else is ignorance and noise on our part.

The oil rush in the Middle East began in the early 1920’s and 30’s thanks to Henry Ford. The United States and Great Britain staked claims, literally this is your country, and this is ours, bringing workers, technology and greed to a world that had happily existed without our intrusions, our values, and our religious beliefs for centuries. As Americans are known to do, we raped and pillaged the resources paying pennies on the dollars to sultans, kings and tribal leaders making them wealthy while the everyday common Omar and his family got nothing. Unfortunately, mister common Omar became a problem and continues to be a problem even today.

Israel became a point of conflict in the 1940’s and 50’s when the Christian world decided they were going to take it upon themselves and enforce God’s edict to Abraham that “Unto thy seed have I given this land”. The problem with this “transaction” was and continues to be that Abraham’s “Seed” includes both the Jews and the Muslims and to a lesser extent the Christians, but that tidbit of history didn’t fit in the Judeo-Christian narrative then or today.    

What we, Americans, have done is support the Jews supposed rights to Israel and eliminated and erased any rights the Muslims have or had all in the name of Jesus. The Evangelical thinking is, and continues to be without a nation of Israel how or where will Jesus return?

We have spent 20 years and billions of dollars in Afghanistan defending what? According to Lindsey Graham 9/11. He contends that the blood we have shed and the dollars we have expended are to avenge and prevent another 9/11 from occurring. I think if we all dug a little deeper into the reelection bank accounts of war hawks like Graham, we would find out why endless, unwinnable wars are so important to them. Campaign contributions from the manufactures of guns, tanks, and bombers.

Graham has never had a solution nor offered a way out of the war in Afghanistan, but doesn’t he sound righteous on Fox News throwing everyone else under the bus? To date, 2,300 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and over 20,000 have been injured. For what, so we can Americanize the Afghan people? Introduce them to Jesus, McDonalds, and Walmart?

It is well past the time that we quit forcing our values, or politics and our religion down the throats of others. 9/11 happened because mister Omar wanted to get our attention. He wanted us to know that he has had enough of our continued support and bloody defense of Israel and that the Persian Gulf War was not our war to fight. It is high time we acknowledge his concerns.  

Afghanistan

afghanistan-map

I know some of you have strong opinions about the recent actions in Afghanistan initiated by Biden, the current POTUS. Some see the action as beneficial in the long run. Others? Not so much.

For myself, I tend to agree with Heather Cox Richardson’s perspective on the issue as she has laid out in her most recent newsletter. I particularly liked the pointed questions she asks related to “America’s interest to fight a ground war.”

As noted in various news reports, the U.S. withdrawal has allowed the Taliban to aggressively move back into Afghanistan — and this has caused some to express concerns about the Afghanistan women and how they are going to lose the independence they gained during the U.S. presence.  However, IMO, Heather addresses this issue rather well towards the end of her newsletter when she writes about the ”fate of Afghanistan’s women and girls.” 

While I know many of you are subscribers and have probably already read Heather’s commentary, for those who are not familiar with her writings, I urge you to take a few moments and click on the link.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and opinions. All I ask is “stay on topic” and “be nice.” 🙂

P.S. I thought her last paragraph was a Zinger (!) — and a perfect way to end her commentary.