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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.

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

Universal Truths

August 3, 2010 6 comments

Smith’s Universal Truths
A universal truth is something that’s true at all times for all people.  Here are a few.

  1. Beware of any project that starts with the words, “Remove old finish.”
  2. True happiness is finding someone who will tolerate you.  The first step in finding that person is admitting that you need some tolerating.
  3. If you wonder why something is the way it is; learn who’s making money from it being that way.
  4. If it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t dessert.  Banana cream pie, for example, is just another part of the meal like the green beans or asparagus.
  5. Whenever someone tells you they are doing something “for your own good,” you can be certain that you won’t like it.  Furthermore, they will expect you to pay for it.  If they’re “protecting your morals,” you’ll have to pay double.
  6. Not all lawyers should be shot.  Some should be hanged.
  7. Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.
  8. Nothing is so perfect that someone, somewhere, won’t hate it.
  9. Real knowledge is knowing where to find the answers.
  10. The world is run by the people that show up.
  11. Information is not knowledge anymore than loose ingredients are a cake.
  12. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left.
  13. Intellectualism must not be confused with wisdom.
  14. A problem with doing anything right the first time is that no one knows how difficult it was.
  15. Few things in life succeed as well as a power-off reset.
  16. The difference between adventure and disaster is preparation.
  17. The most popular human pastime is denial.
  18. Forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission.
  19. Any solution proposed by a politician will contain more problems than it solves.
  20. Don’t worry, you’re not the first.
  21. You can have it if you’re willing to pay for it.
  22. Man’s most precious possessions are his delusions.  No power equals that of self-deception.
  23. An entity that cannot laugh at itself has planted the seeds of its own destruction.
  24. We earn our appellations by our conduct.
  25. Any statement containing the words, “if everyone” will be void of logical content.
  26. Excuses are easier than action.
  27. The most difficult human task is thinking before speaking or acting.
  28. To most people, personal convenience is more important than courtesy or respect for others.
  29. If something “goes without saying” you can be sure that someone will say it.
  30. Sometimes it’s harder to sell the truth than it is a lie.
  31. Local customs are not laws of nature. – Marcus Aurelius
  32. The human race will never be truly free as long as it willingly submits to the tyranny of religion.

Global Warming?

July 30, 2010 2 comments

Global Warming/Climate Change

People seem to want to deny global warming/climate change, claiming there are no “facts”.  What facts do they want?  That the glaciers and ice caps are not melting? That the sea levels are not rising? But those are facts. Perhaps there is some explanation other than global warming? What would that be, then?

The fact that some people like Al Gore are making money from it doesn’t change the facts. It adds the fact that Gore, along with other people, are opportunists. Of course he won’t debate it because he is not a scientist and not equipped to do so. He is simply an opportunistic politician (a redundancy, I know) that serves as a front man because of his visibility and it does make money for him. Evidence of his hypocrisy is in his personal lifestyle of a 20,000 sq ft house, executive jet travel, and other environmental sins.

Nonetheless, AG’s hypocrisy and opportunism doesn’t change the facts of global warming. His inability to debate it doesn’t alter the fact the there are plenty of real scientists qualified to do so and that are debating it every day. So are the proponents of alternative energy sources scammers? Some are, no doubt. Follow the money. Others are only misguided and painfully unaware of basic physics.

The total causes of global warming are not totally clear. Even ardent supporters of it concede that. That the exponentially increasing use of energy by humans is at least partially to blame is also clear. What I believe is that a total change from fossil fuels is not the answer. That ignores the law of conservation of energy. All energy use, from whatever source, eventually becomes heat. If every car, bus, boat, train, and even plane in the world were powered by electricity created only from wind, hydro, and solar sources, it would not reduce the heat output by any significant amount. It would only shift the cause from one thing to another. Nor would using hydrogen be any different.

All of these sources create heat when making electricity. A generator or electric motor becomes hot when turning. A battery becomes hot when charging or discharging. Manufacturing any of these creates more heat as well as chemical pollution. The big thing is heat pollution. So what’s the answer to that? Let’s look at the problem. More and more people using more and more cars, refrigerators, TVs, computers, etc.

As the global standard of living rises, as it is in the most populated areas like China and India, the energy consumption also rises.

The solution? Fewer people. Reduce the seven billion people on the planet to three or four billion and most of the problem disappears. How do we do that? By genuinely having a separation of church and state, something that certainly has never existed in the USA or most of the world. Religions that promote endless reproduction are not only self-serving at the expense of humanity, they are contributing to the destruction of the environment as we know it.

As I have said many times, most of the problems of the world are, and always have been, caused by religion. Add to those crimes, the destruction of the environment.

Income Redistribution

October 8, 2009 2 comments

Some people are complaining that the current administration is bent upon “Income Redistribution”.  This is amazingly ignorant.  All government consists of income redistribution.  What is social security, mail service, air traffic control, libraries, medicare, welfare, police and fire protection, and any other government service if not redistributing income?  Yes, it’s usually not done evenly or fairly but how many want to do without these things?  Should people who never fly pay for the ATC or, for that matter, the TSA? (Terminally Stupid Administration)

There are libertarians that can make good arguments for privatization of fire, police, and most government programs.  Privatization will certainly result in for-profit companies providing these services much as health care is today.  But then, what happens to those who cannot afford them?  Should your house burn down because your neighbor cannot or will not pay for fire protection?  Should your neighborhood be overrun with crime because others do not have police protection?  Should your family be exposed to diseases because others do not have proper health care?

What we are hearing is just more right wing-nut posturing and scare tactics.  What’s most disgusting to me is how many people will nod their heads sagely and say “Yes, that’s right,” without giving it one second of thought or even questioning, “Can this be correct?”

Albert Einstein was right when he said, “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and human stupidity.”