Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tax stats

I came across this post, and it seemed pertinent to this recent post and discussion. I haven't double-checked his source or analysis. (Bride-of-Scrutinator K loves to analyze data. Care to look this over?)

HT: The Malung

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Katrina spawned plague of misinformation

USA Today's headline captures it pretty well. And Hugh Hewitt reported this two weeks ago.

This event occurred on U.S. soil. It involved U.S. citizens. Reporters had pretty much full access (better even than FEMA, it seemed). It occurred in these modern times--last month--not in dark ages past. The reports were first-hand accounts from people we had no reason to question.

The reporters were enlightened people, professional journalists holding the highest standards, reinforced by their editors' multiple layers of checks and balances. Not the Weekly World News you see in the check-out line, but reputable organizations like CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, national newspapers.

And we had no reason to doubt what we were seeing with our own eyes.

Now we're left with a confusing mix of truth and fiction.

MORE: Richard Roeper helps sort things out in the Chicago Sun-Times.

10/19 Update: Gateway Pundit fact-checks statements made since Katrina. HT: Instapundit

12/23 Update, Mona Charen calls it the worst coverage of the year: "the fabric of reporting on Katrina has unraveled utterly, and it's enough to encourage caution -- if not outright cynicism -- about all reporting, particularly during emergencies."

3/7/2006: Hats off to Popular Mechanics Magazine for their debunking Katrina myths. (I've praised their debunking work before.) They show us Katrina's "Big Truth": The disaster response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest, fastest rescue in American history.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tax that yacht or not?

Scott left this comment on the previous post. This is worthy of its own discussion.

There's really no question that America is the wealthiest and most well-off country (financially and materially speaking) in the world, is there?

My boss' boss and I recently had a good political discussion on something very similar. He's a proponant of a static tax rate for all incomes - something that will never happen, admittedly. As people make more money in this model, they pay more tax, but it's the same percent of their income as someone making far less.

His argument is basically that because he worked hard to where he got, he shouldn't have to pay a higher percentage of tax than others. He is referring to the "behavioral poverty" people.

I think he makes a good point about people abusing the system and playing on people's sympathy rather than changing their own lifestyles, but I'm not sure I agree with his static tax model. In a way, people on the low end of the economic spectrum are really just using "loopholes", if you will in the same way as people on the upper end of the spectrum are using them to avoid paying taxes. There are abusers on both ends in today's model. I believe the loopholes need to be eliminated. There is no justification whatsoever for tax breaks for the wealthy. None. At a minimum, they should pay the same rate of tax (as a percentage) as I do.

In addition, I'll go so far as to say that the obscenely rich (our illustrious Veep, for example, or Bill Gates) should also pay a higher percentage than I do. I say this because we are living in a democratic society in which "the people" have determined this to be so. If I'm given the choice (which again, in our democracy we all, essentially, are given when we vote) between Bill Gates getting another 5 billion dollar yacht or funding the schools most in need of funding (insert your own political cause here), I'm going to go with the schools. Now, Bill may tell me it's not my right to take his yacht away from him, but I'll sleep better at night knowing that I've done so in order to improve some kids' education.

Of course, the obscenely rich being in a higher tax bracket doesn't do much when they use loopholes to get out of paying the taxes that they should. Which brings me back to my "close the loopholes" point.

Essentially, yes, there are people that abuse the system at the low end of the economic spectrum. They are not, however, the worst abusers. I'd rather see more effort put into getting the upper end of the spectrum to pay the taxes they should pay. That would solve many of this countries economic problems.

Dan Trabue adds: "To them to much has been given, much will be expected." (Luke 12:48)

I think I'm for the flat (same percentage) tax. I think it would close loop-holes for the high-end people. (Closing loop-holes on low end would be good too.) I like the thought of it rewarding hard work.

Regarding the will of the people: I respect the will of the people. I have a certain amount of faith in the basic goodness and decency of the American people. But I'm all for influencing them, too (for all our good). The will of the people has made the lotto and McDonald's what they are today.

What about taxing the "obscenely" rich at a higher rate? First, full discloure: we're not obscenely rich. (Are we, hon?) And I don't operate from sympathy for these folks. My concern is what effect it has on all of us.

So somebody like Bill Gates goes after his buku-million dollar yacht. In the process, he employs thousands of folks for several years at decent salaries. They each pay their tax, and spend their income at the grocery store, Home Depot, etc., each of which employs others, who pay their tax, etc. We raise Bill's taxes high enough, and he decides not to bother. Then all these cascading employments fall off accordingly. (A valid assumption?)

Once we add it all up, would everyone's tax have made a bigger contribution than the increase on Bill's alone? How do we measure all the benefits of these jobs and the wealth they generate (including yacht makers themselves)?

This is where I consider Dan's remark. Much has been given, and much has been given back.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Understanding Poverty in America

My wife found this very interesting article on what it means to be poor in the U.S. today (2004). It's very long, but here's the summary.

Compassion for the poor is a very, very good thing. The best way to help the poor begins with the best understanding of who we're talking about.

Update, 10/12: USA today reports that 399 out of 400 Americans aren't homeless.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Evanston Panhandlers

I saw this poster a few days ago on a shop door in Evanston (Illinois). Evanston is one of the most liberal communities in the nation, and this is their analysis of their panhandlers.

When we lump together the poor, the addicted, and the mentally ill, we fail all three.

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Blog's 1st Birthday

This week is my 1st anniversary of blogging. Officially yesterday, but I missed it. But my first real post was October 8th, 2004.

And best of all, Bride-Of-Scrutinator just laughed instead of threatening to kill me or something. Ain't that grand?!?!

Abu Ghraib ends quietly

The Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, after over thirty front-page New York Times headlines, now ends quietly with Pfc. Lynndie England's sentencing. Opinion Journal suggests why their dilligence (and interest) evaporated.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

China's Fifty-Sixth Anniversary

Mark in Mexico tallies China's 56 years of Communism.

I recently asked R. J. Rummel on the wide discrepancies in the numbers on China. Here's his response.

HT: RogerL

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