James Beach

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Nonfiction and More


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And cheers always.

~ me  : )



“It’s the Democrats’ fault” = a Govern Mental Shutdown

Just posted this as a lengthy comment elsewhere, so figured I might as well post it here.

This talking point that I keep seeing attempting to float, that the Democrats are responsible for the shutdown by “not negotiating” is incredibly frustrating to me. It’s so wrong, I almost don’t know where to start. It’s like saying it’s Bob Dylan’s fault the moon is purple.

First of all, weeks ago, in an attempt to forestall the latest round of tantrums in the form of refusing to raise the debt ceiling, the Democrats presented a “clean” debt ceiling bill to the GOP Congress. It was set to meet all of the GOP’s goals besides the ACA. This was in itself a considerable concession that left many Democrats unhappy. Boehner initially said he’d allow a vote on it and expected it to pass. This apparently is the same bill that Boehner is now ***refusing to allow a vote on***.

As no one disputes, the ONLY reasons for the GOP pursuing this shutdown is the ACA, aka “Obamacare”, aka (apparently) the “Islamo-Kenyan-Fascist Death to Christian America and Their Puppies Act of 2013, 666, Booga-Booga!”

Which means that the GOP has created this situation by refusing to accept a law that was:
1) Passed by Senate and Congress, with both parties voting
2) signed into law
3) appealed to and approved by the SCOTUS
4) was not repealed after **41 ATTEMPTS**

So now the GOP Congress is holding the entire government – and the economic wellbeing of our country and potentially the world – hostage, in a hopefully vain attempt to gain the extra-Constitutional power to line-item-veto legally passed laws they decide they don’t like AFTER THEY’VE BEEN PASSED.

The GOP Congress attempting to allow this or that budget item while still denying the ACA, is not negotiation by any reasonable definition. It is flatly and transparently just another attempt to have this same power, of effective line-item-veto.

Who can possibly think it’s a good idea for any Congress of any party to have this power?

No one likes the effects of this shutdown. We should all make sure we’re looking at the actual root causes. Sometimes both parties are equally to blame for something. As you can see from the above, this is not one of those times.


Why the Flat Tax is an idea that sucks donkey balls. In a bad way, if that wasn’t clear.

A flat tax is the idea of taxing incomes at a flat percentage. In essence, those making $20,000/yr and those making $200,000,000 a year pay the exact same percentage of their income.

Here’s what’s wrong with a flat tax.

a) it puts a disproportionate amount of the cost of running a country on the shoulders of those least able to afford it,

b) it discourages consumption which, like it or not, is what actually drives our capitalist production-based economy.

Regarding a: “How is it disproportionate? It’s the same percentage for both the highest and lowest taxed incomes.”

A reasonable question to ask. Here’s why: because the costs of living are not proportionate to income. The costs of living are relatively fixed.

The costs of water, food, shelter, and medicine don’t increase due to income. So, all other things being equal, someone paying a flat tax in a lower bracket will have a much larger portion of their income taken up by these costs than someone in a higher taxed bracket.

Even further, not just survival but nearly all other costs important to life and its improvement don’t rise 1 to 1 with increased income. They remain also relatively fixed. College and post-grad tuition costs can crush the poor or middle class, and be less than a rounding error to the very rich. Same for transportation, doctors, court costs, and on and on. These are relatively fixed costs, regardless of the tax bracket paying them.

So, because the amount of money needed to live and thrive does not rise in a 1 to 1 ratio with income, a flat tax disproportionately harms the lowest tax-paying bracket in favor of the higher tax-paying brackets. It leaves the lower tax-paying brackets with disproportionately less resources to improve their lot in life, after they’ve paid what they need for their survival.

This is especially clear if the flat tax was instituted in a blunt fashion, where for example %15 is taken from any income after expenses. But this remains true even if a tax on only “disposable” income, after living expenses, is put in place. The lowest paying brackets have less to save for unwanted emergencies, general investing, better schools, or any other “optional” spending necessary to improve one’s lot in life.

Now, the other extreme from a flat tax would be to tax the highest income earners until they have the exact same amount of disposable income as the lowest. But that would be unfair as well as bad for the economy. It would utterly discourage any incentive to work harder, and it would reward success and failure equally poorly.

So the best solution, as has worked for every first-world democracy throughout the 20th century, is a progressive income tax that distributes the burden of paying for government resources in an equitable and adjustable fashion.

Regarding b: “How does it discourage consumption? People in the highest income brackets buy things too. “

This is true. But those at the highest income brackets don’t have to spend money  to live. They can save it, invest it overseas, or if they want just pile it up in bricks.

That right there is why supply-side economics, AKA Reaganomics, AKA Voodoo Economics, simply does not work. And never actually has.

Whereas when the lower tax-paying brackets receive money, they must spend it to keep going. So giving them more money to spend is not only beneficial to the least wealthy, its beneficial to the entire economy.

This is known as Keynesian economics, AKA demand-side economics. It is what the overwhelming majority of economists and economic historians agree got us out of the hole of the Great Depression. It is also what contributed mightily to the 1990’s economic boom.

Also regarding b: “But giving more money to the highest income brackets gives them more money to hire people.”

Okay. But why would they hire more people? They wouldn’t do it just because they can.

The only compelling reason for a business to hire people is to make more money. What makes businesses more money is more demand for their products. What makes this increased demand possible is more people with money to buy them.

And the overwhelming amount of products and services in our economy are aimed at and bought by the poor and middle class.

So just giving the highest income tax brackets more money doesn’t necessarily result in more hiring. Those who want to keep businesses running will only spend money if they think it will make them more money. And the only thing that makes businesses more money is more demand for their products.

To sum up

A flat tax doesn’t work morally because it is puts too much of the burden on the lowest tax-paying brackets; it doesn’t work pragmatically because it lowers consumption and inhibits the economy; and no first-world nation does it.

But  besides those reasons, a flat tax is a great idea.


Transgender at 6? Or douchetastic parents?

So this story showed up:


There’s a larger issue to me – whether or not a 6-year-old is mature enough to know if they’re ‘transgender’.

People can know if they’re gay, or at least have a guess, that early. That doesn’t surprise me. But I don’t see how a 6-year-old kid is even developed enough mentally, let alone physically, to claim being transgendered. It seems much more likely to me that the parents are projecting their own politics onto the kid. Which makes them the awful example of liberal parenting that, as a liberal, makes me freaking cringe…


The Steubenville rape case, and the Mass Media’s syndrome of misplaced sympathy

Re: Steubenville – I think I understand a) why so much of the mainstream media was so bizarrely sympathetic with the attackers, and b) why so many in positions of power at the town and the high school itself would probably have allowed the whole thing to slip under the rug. It’s both for the same reason:

Young football players are supposed to be winners. And harsh things just aren’t supposed to happen to winners. Winners are supposed to be a separate class – where everyone wants to be, where everyone can feel insulated from the difficulties of the rest of the world.

There is this just this weird feeling in many societies, but perhaps especially in America, that winners should be treated especially well. They should be given extra leeway, extra benefits of the doubt, and when something harsh happens to a *winner*, that’s an extra tragedy that goes beyond something happening to, say, some probably-a-loser little peasant girl.

That’s why crack users can get years in prison for being caught addicted, while drug money launderers can get bonuses while fines are deducted from their banks’ profits. That’s why stealing $100 can put you in jail, but stealing $1 billion from the economy can get you a corner office. People just aren’t comfortable, somehow, with the idea that perceived winners should be treated just as harshly as anyone else. Or, alternately, that losers should be treated just as well.

And that’s why when the attackers get sentenced, there isn’t a dry eye among nearly anyone in the major media about the horrible effect this will have on *their* lives. How this will hurt their careers. Gee, how they will have to carry the damage of this sentence their whole lives – and on and on – there isn’t enough irony in the *world* to describe the ridiculousness of this position.

I do think this concept is changing, but it’s going to continue to take a lot more work on everyone’s to fix the individual situations, and the overall pattern as well.