Starving the Beast is Stupid

People say the Republicans want to starve the beast of government, in order to cut it down to size. This is the political version of quitting an addiction cold turkey. It is the equivalent of putting sanctions on a foreign nation that misbehaves.

The Republicans believe that government is nothing but an anchor, holding back the world’s businessmen from discovering the fountain of youth. Except the military, which should grow endlessly until even the wild animals stand at attention when a man walks by.

By making state taxes more expensive (by removing deductions in the federal tax code), there is a greater value in raising federal taxes. The same goes for state programs that become untenable with reduced revenue: move them to the national level.

Cutting programs without replacement is a great way to get a seesaw effect, with Democrats coming back and restoring these programs. This actually costs more, because you have to do hiring, retraining. The people left in a ditch by the Republicans will have deteriorated and will be more expensive to rehabilitate.

The idea that people need no safety net is fantasy. It hasn’t been defended, and as recently as Mitt Romney’s candidacy there was acknowledgment to the contrary.

One starts to get the impression that the modern Republican party, and modern conservatism with it, are a cargo-cult of their former selves. Where once some ideas were developed, defended, refined, now they simply go through the motions and hope it works. Republican donors admitted as much when they told legislators that if they failed to pass tax giveaways, they would not have money to run for reelection.

Now, normally faced with such a prospect, entrepreneurial-types would make a lot more noise about that sort of threat and say, “Who wants to donate and tell the Kochs where to stick it?!” But not the Republicans. They said, “Yes, sir, Mr. Koch.”

Reason I bring it up, the Republicans are scared of being the starved beasts. They don’t believe in themselves, that they could change and run more moderate races while getting replacement funding from those who aren’t Kochian fools.

It would be cool if some moderate donors tried to line that up, anyway. It might just get a few Republicans to say no to fossil fuel money.


The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without.

— Elbert Hubbard, 1907, per Quote Investigator: 21 November 2011: “The Graveyards are Full of Indispensable Men”

In this time of upheaval over various sexual deviances of the rich and famous, including legislators, presidents, actors, comedians, journalists, and so forth, it is important to remember. Part of the slant against accusers has to do with the lofty positions that folks are falling from, and how comfortable they are in many lives.

We invite into our brains these characters to help guide us through the daily jungles of a hyperactive world, and like tourists in a real jungle, feel afraid to venture forth without their guiding hands and sharp machetes cutting the path.

But they are not our sacred cows. Even the greatest orators have speechwriters. Even the most spirited leaders have staffs.

Some worry about what is lost. That great art might perish under the association with a scoundrel. Let it. Food spoils, why not art? We can always have it remade, as Hollywood seems apt to do of any old film and not especially those made by power abusers. Or not, let the art endure with a sticker pointing out the misdeeds of the artist.

But whether it is on the issue of sexual misconduct or other abuses of power or just plain imbecility, we must remember that these people are replaceable in their roles. We should be glad to replace them.

As the GOP moves to pass their equivalent of comfort food, to snack away their pain in dealing with bad leadership, we must all remember their mistakes are replaceable too. The tax code can be fixed, and it will be fixed as the deficit rises and the debt with it. It is injurious and gluttonous to be sure, and it is a sick parody of something like Simpson-Bowles or any other even-handed attempt to reform the tax code, but after the drunken reverie wears off, even some Republicans will be lending a hand to fix their own mess.

We are only 49 weeks from the midterm elections.

Thankful for Tomorrow

Today the nation faces new challenges, many perpetrated by its own government. From healthcare to taxes, immigration to civil rights to voting rights, corporate pollution and corporate tyranny, our government is causing broad mayhem and ungreatening.

But tomorrow the people will respond. We will have universal healthcare. We will have a working tax system with an IRS funded to protect the revenue. We will have a working immigration system that allows economic refugees to come and work while protecting our borders. We will see the rise of voter registration and voter participation. There will be a fairer criminal justice system that works to let those who can reform rejoin society for our mutual benefit and only sequester those who pose an ongoing danger to us. We will have an earth healing from the spoiling of unchecked industry. And we will put people at the top of the list, ahead of profits.

It is a world where the bigots and buffoons have been driven out of government. Where women can work alongside men without fear of harassment. It is a world where your race or accent are no more important to others than your place of birth or your birthweight. Physical facts, but nothing to decide employment or inclusion upon.

Tomorrow we will have an Internet unfettered by the greed of the few corporations, be they ISPs or social networks or search engines. We will design around whatever hairbrained schemes they design against us. We will route around the damage.

Tomorrow we will change the laws to drive out corruption and not merely punish it. We will erase the stupid and broken legacy designs, replacing them with modern systems that do more with less.

We will teach and learn of things that today our own government makes impossible. We will deal with the fallout of climate change, building systems to mitigate the threats to our cities and farms. We will go and explore space.

Thanks, tomorrow!

On Taxes, Republicans Bet Against America

The Republican tax plans come together with a theme, which is a unifying feature that is found throughout. In this case, that theme is that America is a loser.

We see it in their continued indifference to maintaining a modern healthcare system with universal coverage. They plan to repeal the individual mandate without replacing it. They bet that either:

  • The mandate is ineffective, in which case the deficit rises by hundreds of billions more.
  • The mandate is effective, in which case millions will be without coverage.

In either case, healthcare costs will continue to worsen due to this bet, and there will be no benefit to the country.

We see it in their treatment of deductions and carve-outs. They leave subsidies for oil and gas and coal. They remove others, like deductions for medical care, school supplies. They bet that teachers and the infirm will suck it up. That teachers are not the backbone of the nation. That sick lives don’t matter.

They bet on debt, claiming that the cuts will result in unprecedented growth. They bet that all of the cuts in spending that will be required under paygo will either not occur, or won’t result in reduced economic activity. They bet on increased investment by businesses that themselves say they won’t increase investment very much.

And then they bet that the overall economy is not due for another recession. A recession that would be more harmed by the lack of opportunity to cut taxes further among other anti-recession treatments that would be needed.

In short, the Republican tax plans continue their march against knowledge, defying physics and reason. They even bet against their own reelection, as when the mess of this risky nonsense unfolds, there’s no way that folks are going to send a majority of the designers of misery back to DC.

The kicker to all of this is that all these cuts will be reversed in the aftermath.

Everybody expected the Republicans to cut taxes as part of tax reform. Nobody expected them to be fully-responsible stewards of our government, as we all know that’s not who they are. But once again they show themselves to be far worse than our expectations, as they did with healthcare.

Instead of pushing for a conservative bill, they push for a monstrosity. Instead of doing away with almost all subsidies, deductions, and credits, which would be the conservative move, they have chosen to write bills that are extremely lopsided.

We need real conservatives that actually hold to their notions, to balance with the progressive impulses of their counterparts, but we get faux conservatives that care not for governing responsibly. They will raise the deficit and debt. They will not create balanced legislation. They are snot-nosed brats that should be sent to time-out come 2018, come 2020, and until they are willing to govern with the integrity the legislature demands.

Federal Reporting Should Be Automatic

With the recent gun massacre in a church, it came to light the attacker should have been barred from purchasing firearms on the open market due to a prior conviction. And now Congress may amend the law to try to strengthen mandatory reporting. But that’s the wrong move here. Why leave open the option for someone to neglect to do the mandatory when they could require that the system be automatic?

For this and many other data issues, we still rely on some human to either file a piece of paperwork or otherwise ensure that the relevant notifications are made. That’s wrong. The existence of computerized records means that such notifications and updates should be completely automated. This includes the elimination of the need to acquire certified copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates, along with other routine and necessary data sharing. There should be a widespread effort to let computers do what they’re good at so that humans don’t have to.

With automatic reporting, mistakes will still be made by humans. There needs to be an auditing process and a corrections process. But even there, once corrected, the updates should be automatic.

We can move toward blockchain-backed systems that allow for improved recognition of where errors have occurred and been corrected. But it’s high time that we remove error-prone mandates that pass without action.