Monday, August 16, 2010

SAR #10228

How much war is enough?

Unprejudiced:   In an attempt to ensure a fair trial for the 15 year old terrorist, prosecutors dismissed the only juror who thought Guantanamo should be closed.  The remaining jurors all think the war in Afghanistan is just peachy, that the US never uses torture, and when it does it only uses it on the worst of the worst, like impressionable teenagers.

Two Thoughts:  Obama is warning that if the GOP retakes Congress this fall they will seek to destroy Social Security.  1. What makes him think they are not seeking to destroy it now?  2. To prevent this horrible fate, will he be true to form and help the GOP destroy it now, just to take away their future options?

Tippy Toeing:   Greenland's ice will entirely disappear if global temperatures rise more than 2ºC. That much of an increase will locked into the atmosphere within a decade or two and the irreversible melting will eventually raise sea levels over 20 feet. Don't worry, no need to panic –odds are you won't be around. Just your kids.

Now It Can Be Told:   Afghan reports claim an oilfield with an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil has been discovered in “the north of the country”. 'Claim' and 'estimated' being the operative words.

Simpleton Math:  A nationally syndicated columnist/investment advisor, in debunking the idea of increasing amount of earned income subject to social security, claimed that increasing the limit from the current $106,800 to $300,000 would result in “high income professionals paying at a 50% tax rate.”  Balderdash.  Using this year's tax charts and including a 15% self-employment tax , those earning $300,000 in taxable income would pay $76,820 in taxes.  That is 36%, not 50%.   To come close to the scary 50% level requires an income in the millions. Ah, the level of honesty in the don't-tax-the-rich camp.

Warrior Spirit:   National Security Advisor James Jones is worried that the American voter is growing tired of spending tens of billions of dollars for years and years to kill people at random in Afghanistan.  What's not to like?

Warm & Fuzzy:   It has been decades since the seeds of the current difficulties were planted during the Reagan years, and it will take a long time – perhaps a decade to crawl out from under the debris caused by deregulation, free markets, and globalization.  With luck we may average 2% GDP growth over the next decade – during which unemployment will continue to increase.  I'm open to bets on the over/under of the country making it that long.

Waiting Game:  At least 1 out of every 4 houses on the market has already taken a 10% cut in price from the original asking price.  Doesn't do much to move the houses, because when “buyers are unqualified to buy, it doesn't matter how low interest rates are or how discounted a home is.”

Animal Spirits:  Insofar as economics is the study of how people interact in the marketplace, it is at best an observational social study, not a science. The pretense that it is a science of any sort is just that, a pretense.   One look at the mess we are in today should be sufficient to disabuse all but the most gullible of the belief that economics is a science or that the 'science' of economics can help get us out of this mess.

Nine out of 10 Doctors:  Why is it that we accept 'experts' opinions in nearly all aspects of our lives – at most we seek just a second opinion from lawyers, mechanics and doctors .  Yet we continue to ignore the 97% of climate scientists who agree that global climate change is real, is man-made, and is a grave danger to all our futures.  Why?


Anonymous said...

Responding to your section 'simpleton math', I think that the column in question is not that simplistic. On the face, it looks like you did not take into account state taxes, so being generous, let's assume that's what the columnist forgot.
However the main point that nobody discusses is that lower taxes on certain segments of the population (like the stock option crowd) are a large factor in creating unaffordable urban areas for the upper middle class.
In the absence of government allocation of resources, we are witnessing the 'wisdom of the masses' that has created bubble after bubble.
In fact, the $250,000/year household that feels poor is a fact of life in Silicon Valley. In such an area of underfunded schools, overpriced houses, and conspicuous consumption of baubles, a family that does understand real wealth (health care, education, savings) will be outbid for every resource they need.
As a nation we have bought into this nonsense that the consumer knows better than our government. Hmmm... so is that why our Canadian cousins have avoided so many bubbles like:
-education bubble
-housing bubble (eh, maybe they caught that one)
- health care bubble
- automobile bubble (remember hummers)

Could it, could it really be because the government actually controls and manages much of their economic activity, whereas our effectively laissez-faire strategy allowed an auction of ...everything?

To finish, we really do have to take care of our upper middle class (hey I'm one). They actually do provide good value to society by being educated, staying out of trouble, saving money, etc. That does not mean low taxes. However it does mean providing this declining group the services they paid for: education, health care, financial security.

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

re the "wisdom of the masses"

Madison Avenue has studied well the Harvard Law of Behavior:

Under carefully controlled experimental conditions, the animal does what it damn well pleases

When one sees "consumer" or "customer" used about those they deal with even by government agencies, when "citizen" might have been appropriate, one sees the triumph of the other-directed marketing orientation to the manipulation of potentially sentient beings

To quote the songwriter Todd Rundgren, whose most-often composition might be "Bang on the Drum All Day":

I got a free will
and I ain't gonna use it till I know what I'm doing

And, I would argue, on very many issues most people lack the degree of knowledge and self-knowledge required to exercise free will

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

I meant to say Rundgren's most-often heard song might be "Bang on the Drum All Day" - "I don't want to work, I want to bang on the drum all day"

To unpack my argument a bit more, I am contrasting

a)organisms which are "free" to do what they damn well please WHEN CONFRONTED BY CAREFULLY CONTROLLED EXPERIMENTAL CONDITIONS


b)sentient beings which are able to understand, evaluate and respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves, in order to promote their own immediate and long-term goals

It is my contention that the purpose of the Military Industrial Congressional Financial Corporate Media Complex (MICFiC) to carefully control the experimental conditions in order to use, abuse, and confuse the people - to "milk, shear, and slaughter the sheeple", metaphorically speaking

- except that the SLAUGHTER is not metaphorical, of course

CKMichaelson said...

Anony 9.28 I maintain that if the columnist wanted to talk about state, sales, and property taxes, in addition to the Federal Income Tax and FICA, he should have said so, instead of citing the 35% tax rate.


Anonymous said...

Re: Warm & Fuzzy; The seeds of the current difficulties were planted long before the Reagan years. Your partisanship makes you look like a mushroom. (In the dark and fed.....) Alas, I'm sure your fellow travelers worship and admire you. As an adept wordsmith though, I find you entertaining. Keep up the party line comrade, you're a fine tool.

CKMichaelson said...

Anon 12.28 I'd not complain about a history that went further back - certainly to some of the decisions made at the end of WWII - but the free market fever & the deregulation & the idea that the government is the enemy are very large in our current problems.

So, too, is the entire history of The American Dream (the foolishness of home ownership for all as the holy grail).

Perhaps the real roots are back in the transformation (due to the industrial revolution?) from the Christian (& Muslim) worldview that one's reward for a 'good life' (with all its varried definition) was in the next life, to the capitalist & communist world view that the rewards were to be had here and now.

And the only way to accomplish that was through debt created money (instead of production created consumption) which lead to banking and credit and the land of plenty... and eventual collapse.

Yes, the world is much, much more complex than a two or three line sardonic comment can convey. But my mind's barely competent to construct these little pin-pricks, much less undertake a 300 year survey of how we got here.


Anonymous said...

Unprejudiced: ....

In addition, these "soldiers" think that in a War the other side should not shoot back! Creampuffs all!

Anonymous said...

"... my mind's barely competent to construct these little pin-pricks, much less undertake a 300 year survey of how we got here."

Are we're expected to take this seriously? To paraphrase: I'm incompetent to weigh and judge, but please accept my whines and grumbles as valid criticism of the status quo.

Invertebrates cannot complain much about the lack of backbone.

CKMichaelson said...

Anon 6.40 Those who do not appreciate sarcasm and cannot smell false modesty at 50 paces may leave the room.


Anonymous said...

Hey, CK. Thanks again for the blog/story.


john patrick said...

On war...

All wars should require a 100% participation vote. If you vote YES, then you pack your bags that night and leave for the frontline.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:28 here. Thanks for the reply CKM. Unlike Anon 6:40, I liked your response. That's all the acknowledgment I was looking for, that this common experience we find ourselves sharing, is beyond comprehension and blame most of the time. Whether fate or chance, we are all of us, along for the ride. Cheers.

CKMichaelson said...

Anon 12.28/9.09 hits it pretty squarely: "this common experience we find ourselves sharing" is mostly beyond blame and comprehension.

Most of the steps that got us here - even the ones that some thought were a bad idea at the time - were not taken with evil intent. Sure, the rich want to get richer. So do the poor. And most of us get pretty narrow visioned when we start doing for ourselves and our families and find it easy not to consider the effects of our actions three steps down history's lane.

And even when we 'know' we are pretty good at not carrying it in the forefront of our mind constantly.

I would have responded sooner, but I'd run down to Walmart to get some stuff... for example.