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A Flat Tax

August 4, 2010 19 comments

A Flat-Rate Tax

I am in favor of a flat-rate system of taxation, a system that applies fairly and equally to all, regardless of income.  I include corporations and churches in this system as, in some aspects, they are legally regarded as individuals.

The tax rate might be as low as ten or fifteen percent, whatever is needed to finance the government.  There would be no deductions, exemptions, or exceptions.  This also means no tax credits for any reason.  By removing even the possibility of loopholes, all persons would pay their fair share.  Who would mind paying if they knew everyone else was paying, too?

There are groups who oppose such a plan.  Obviously, anyone making money from the present tax system is opposed to change.  The Internal Revenue Service, for example, could be almost eliminated.  Tax returns would be needed only for the self-employed and those having income other than wages and salary, such as tips or gambling income.  All others might send in a simple affidavit stating that they had no unreported income.  The IRS would have little to do, and could be reduced to a fraction of its present size and budget.

Employers would deduct and pay the flat-rate tax as they now do under the present system.  Because the percentage would be the same for everyone, it would be far simpler to do.  (No W-2 forms for openers).

High-income persons with tax shelters form another group opposed to tax reform.  Many of these people and corporations pay little or no tax year after year.  Because this group finances many political campaigns, they exert influence far out of proportion to their numbers.  Because many politicians are in this category, it is unlikely that they will bite the hands that feed them, or vote away their own favored tax situation.  With these groups and the IRS opposed to any real changes in the tax structure, I see little hope of reform, but it is nice to dream.

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Land of the Free?

August 3, 2010 5 comments

Land of the Free?

America is not the land of the free and never was.  This is not limited to the USA, of course, it’s true of most places at most times.  It is only free if you profess to believe the “right” things, practice the “right” religion, support the “right” causes, and say the things that “everyone knows” are correct.  Now, it must be “politically correct,” too.

Dissent has always been not only discouraged, but punished, socially, legally, and often physically.  How many “hippies” of the 60’s were disowned, ostracized, and often physically abused for their views and lifestyle?  Is it any different today?  Isn’t “gay bashing” still practiced?  How about right of choice?  Is that also punished?  Even to the point of murder?

Anyone that opposed the Iraq War 2 was accused of being unpatriotic, unchristian, and possibly treasonous.  The fact that not one weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq and that it is becoming very apparent that the government, starting with the President and Secretary of State misstated or even lied about the intelligence excuses for the war has not lifted the mantle of hate aimed at these few voices of reason.  Some “friends” have even told me that, if I can’t say what they want to hear and stop criticizing the government to stop communicating at all.  I may have lost some acquaintances, but I have kept my integrity.

It doesn’t stop with false patriotism, it continues into every area of life; especially when you intrude upon religion.  Madelyn Murray O’Hare may have won a few battles, but at the cost of eternal hatred and enmity from so-called “Christians.”  The hate and threat-filled mail she received reveals the true level of “Christian love and tolerance” that exists in the USA.

Anyone that dares to express dissatisfaction with blue laws and protests anyone attempting to enact their personal religious beliefs into law is reviled and attacked, often physically.  Think about the number of bombings of abortion clinics.  Are these acts of Christian charity?  Whether anyone likes it or not, the abortion issue is a religious one.  Has any other argument been offered against it?  If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.  If you have a logical, provable, argument against it, state it clearly and reasonably.  Attempting to enforce your opinion with violence or making it a law with its implied threat of “legal” violence is morally wrong and contrary to the standards of a free country.

If America were truly free, anyone could express any opinion and live any way they chose without running the risk of social, financial, or physical danger.  This situation does not exist today and never will because there are two universal truths that forbid it.

The first is:  A person’s most precious possessions are his illusions.  People will sacrifice their homes, money, possessions, even their children as long as they can maintain their illusions of religion and what’s “right” and wrong”.  If you doubt this, think of parents watching their children go off to fight and die in a war because they refuse to surrender the illusion that “It’s a just war against a godless heathen.”  They cannot accept that it is to ensure the profits of oil companies and presidential pals.  They do this because very few are cognizant of a second truth.  Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.

One of the things I’ve learned is that most of our beliefs and attitudes are really an accident of birth.  If you had been born in another place, you might just as sincerely believe in Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, or some other religion and be convinced that your country was always right and that America was the “Great Satan.”  You would be just as wrong.

America free?  Think about these.  No-warrant wiretaps, indefinite detention of citizens without charges, no-knock entries.  Search and seizure without warrants, rendition of prisoners, torture renamed as “intensive interrogation”, stop and frisk without probable cause, confiscation or destruction of cameras used to record illegal police actions, mounting cases of police brutality and even executions by police that are never investigated, much less punished, and finally, “managed news.”  Does this sound like a free country?

Do I expect to suffer for these opinions?  Most certainly I do.  There is no doubt there will be  hate mail and death threats (the religious reich is especially fond of those) but also financial, social, and personal loss.  But I still have my integrity.  That’s more than most.

 

Term Limits

August 3, 2010 18 comments

Term Limits

This was a Guest Editorial for the Arizona Republic, October 1990.  It seems more true today than it did then.
“Those who trade liberty for security will soon have neither.”– Benjamin Franklin
“When a government fears the constituency, its first action is to disarm them. When faced with this action, the constituency’s duty is to arm itself even further.” — James E. Smith
“Governments need enemies to justify their existence.” — Edward Abbey
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the American Government needs a visible enemy. It seems to have chosen the American people to fill this role. When the government declares war on your rights it’s always “For your own good.” In reality, it’s only to increase that government’s power and to perpetuate itself in an increasingly larger form.
It’s time to make some fundamental changes in the American system if we are to preserve our traditional liberties. The founding fathers never intended that anyone would hold a public office for a lifetime. Today, we see politicians whose only purpose is to be re-elected. Everything they do, all the deals, compromises, and voting is to that end. If they were only permitted to serve one term, none of this could happen. In fact, a person should only be permitted one elected position in a lifetime. with a maximum term of six years. We could go even further and allow no one to work for any government in any capacity for more than six years. The military could be exempt from this restriction, as this is the one area where experience might be useful. Is there any other government job that the average individual cannot master in six months to a year?  Who is truly satisfied with a government “service”?  Is anyone happy with the Social Security Administration, the TSA (Terminally Stupid Association) or  Homeland Security?  (Hopelessly Silly)
Many would say that this plan would throw out the good with the bad. What good? Does anyone know of an elected, appointed, or hired government employee that couldn’t be easily replaced? After six years, they are no longer part of the solution but have become the problem. They need to get back into the work force and find a real job. If they knew they were going to have to rejoin the real world and live with the results of their actions, it might influence some of the decisions being made in government. The first monetary savings would be the elimination of the incredible retirement package they have voted themselves.
Who would serve under those conditions? Most Americans would do so. For some positions, it might be necessary to have a mandatory period of national service; not a bad idea in itself. Draftees could serve as lower-level public servants for two years, then be free to pursue their careers.
Private industries or groups could better provide many government “services” anyway. Two prime examples are the Tennessee Valley Authority and fire departments. The TVA is subsidized by taxpayers all over the country so that select consumers may enjoy electric rates far below the national average. The entire system could be sold to private power companies for billions of dollars. Resulting in a handy profit for the government and some relief for the taxpayer. The TVA customers have to become accustomed to the real world of energy costs where the rest of us have lived for decades.
Those who have fire protection from Rural Metro know that their service far exceeds what is usually available from government-run fire companies and at a surprisingly low cost. Local governments could vend fire protection to private companies. Firefighters deserve to be properly paid and the open marketplace is the only way to ensure this.
Most readers can think of many instances where a government “service” competes with private business. Vending these out or simply getting out of the business would help both the government and the commercial enterprises. The government would gain tax revenue while cutting expenses and the business would prosper. Taxpayers would receive better service at lower costs. This is a “win-win-win” solution.

James E. Smith