Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Fab Four hang out with Robin Hood...

The Beatles...............................................................Taxman

Let's talk taxes.........................................


It can be difficult to ask good questions without exposing your own bias.  Friend Bilbo poses ten questions he would like debate participants, and candidates at large, to answer.  Even though his slant seems obvious, I'd like to hear the answers too. And maybe even offer one or two.  Let's start with this question:

2. Do you believe the current tax code is fair to all Americans? Would you consider changes to the tax code which close loopholes or raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy in order to even out the average tax burden? If so, give some concrete examples of loopholes you would close or taxes you would raise.

Important questions defy easy answers.  The current rage of sound-bite politics seems to penalize thoughtfulness.  Regardless, here is one attempt to respond to the question:

To answer the question fairly, one must first ask a few questions.  What does "fair to all Americans" mean"?  While statistics can be misleading, if you ask the Oracle Google how many Americans, who were required to file a federal income tax return, paid zero tax, the answer will come back that, in 2013, 43%  paid zero tax.  

Next, what does "even out the average tax burden" mean?  If you ask the Wall Street Journal, maybe not an unbiased source but one we will use until a better source is found, 84% of the federal tax collections from individual returns in 2014 come from the top 20% of earners.   Now that you mention it and if you check the chart below, it does seem pretty uneven.  Probably not in the vein the question implies, however.

















Before we go much farther, it should be noted that the the current system is fairly effective at raising revenue.  The first chart shows that generation of actual dollars to the federal government has never been higher.  The second chart shows the growth in revenue as a percentage of GDP.  The money seems to be flowing in quite nicely.



















Some context:  Federal income taxes were non-existent, and not constitutionally justified, prior to 1913, when the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.  As a side note, this amendment, depending on whose history books you are reading, was enacted in large measure due to the influence of the alcohol prohibitionists.  In 1900, 60% of the internal revenue collection in the United States came from alcohol excise taxes.  Prohibition was impossible without first replacing that revenue.  The 16th Amendment, allowing the federal government to directly tax individual income, was a significant response to that problem.

In the early days of  the income tax, its main purpose was to raise revenue for the government.  Eventually though, Congress figured out that fiddling with the tax code was an easy and painless way to do a bit of "social engineering."  A deduction here, a credit there, and tax-payer behavior could be modified.  (Not saying this a terrible thing mind you.  Personally, I like the preservation of historic buildings and have undertaken some of that.  Each time, we were rewarded by a tax credit. Also, I've noticed that the mortgage interest deduction is fairly popular with much of the real estate industry.)  The problem with such fiddling is that the current tax code is now largely impenetrable for the layman, being more than 74,000 pages.

Maybe thirty years ago or so, if seems like Congress's "social engineering" via the tax code morphed into something more dangerous.  Congress discovered that corporations, interest groups, and their numberless lobbyists  were willing to make serious campaign contributions - with the understanding that they were gaining access to the "ear" of the the congressperson in exchange.  More often than not, access to the "ear" meant whispering about some important tax break that benefited the whisperer.  At the risk of impugning men and women of integrity, the potential for fiddling with the tax code seems to have become a major source of campaign fundraising for Congress.  For people seeking special pleading, the complexity of the Code is one of its best features.  It has become a fairly simple proposition to slip an innocuous seeming amendment to some legislation that yields a special tax benefit to our special pleader.

As long as this is so, "tax reform" is hopeless.  Our friends on the left side of the political spectrum often cavil about "money in politics" and about the rich and corporations "not paying their fair share."
There is a solution, although I don't think they will like it - a flat tax.

Congress will never pass such a thing, but.........

Consider this:  a constitutional amendment setting forth that the sole purpose of the tax on income is fund raising for the Federal Government.  All net income, from any source, gets taxed.  No deductions, no credits, no loopholes.  To retain the ever-popular "progressive" nature of the Code, Congress would have the ability to set rates within four or five narrow bands based on total net income, say setting a minimum rate of 2% and a maximum rate of 20%.   (I am very aware that the debate over the meaning of the word "net" could be interesting and intense.)

Here are a few benefits:  Everybody is treated fairly and granted the dignity of participating in feeding the "goose that lays the golden eggs";  the wealthy and corporations will actually pay more once all the special tax treatments are removed from the code, evening out the average tax burden;  accountants and tax attorneys can find more a productive line of work than devising intricate loopholes and fencing with the IRS; a major reason for the wealthy and corporations to fund politicians and their election campaigns will disappear; and finally, everything becomes more transparent.  What could be more fair than all of that?

Anyway, although nobody asked, that is my answer to question #2.  A guy can dream, can't he?

Fifty years ago.........................................

Paying taxes..........................1040 filing instructions from 1965

The hang over from "Shock and Awe" continues


"Donald Trump is a baleful influence on American politics in my view, but he’s not wrong about everything. Part of the reason for his popularity is that he refuses to carry Republican baggage from the Iraq war."
-Spengler, from the opening paragraph to this post.  Concluding paragraphs here:

"The trouble is that most Americans don’t trust us Republicans with military power. The last time they gave us a blank check, we lost 5,000 lives, took 52,000 battle casualties, sent 900,000 returning veterans to VA hospitals, spent $1 trillion, and disrupted millions of lives (with 1.5 million troop-years of deployment) with little to show for it. Iran’s regional hegemony began with the Bush administration’s 2005 decision to back the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite leader Nouri al-Maliki. George W. Bush stuck with Maliki throughout, because he believed that democracy would fix Iraq and the rest of the region. And as long as we refuse to admit our mistakes, the voters won’t trust us. Why should they? The present mess in the Middle East arises from policies that both Obama and the Republican mainstream supported.
"It’s painful that we have to hear the truth from the likes of Donald Trump. Sen. Ted Cruz has criticized American mistakes in Iraq, but hasn’t gotten the same level of public attention. Americans will begin to trust Republicans only after we admit that we made mistakes in the past, and promise that we will not demand great sacrifices from them in pursuit of ideological experiments like “democratic globalism.” And Heaven help us if Trump takes on the mantel of truth-teller."

Home...........................................


Friday, August 7, 2015

Whispering in my ear.............................

Santana and Everlast.......................................Put Your Light On

Life its ownself....................................



















via

Vibrational............................................


     Because emotions emit a vibrational energy field, they affect and determine the people who are in our lives.  Life events become influenced by our repressed and suppressed emotions on the psychic level.  Thus anger attracts angry thoughts.  The basic rule of the psychic universe is that "like attracts like."  Similarly, "love promotes love,"  so that the person who has let go of a lot of inner negativity is surrounded by loving thoughts, loving events, loving people, and loving pets.  This phenomenon explains many scriptural quotations and common sayings that have puzzled the intellect, such as, "The rich get richer and poor get poorer," and "Those who have, get."  As a general rule, therefore, people who are carrying the consciousness of apathy bring poverty circumstances into their lives, and those with a prosperity consciousness bring abundance into their lives.

-David Hawkins, as excerpted from Letting Go:  The Pathway of Surrender

You're just being silly............................


.....................................if you don't check in with David Kanigan's wondrous tumblr daily.  Just saying.

Fifty years ago......................................

New cars...................................................

1965 Shelby Mustang


















1965 Plymouth Fury III

















1965 Rambler Marlin




















1965 Ford Falcon

Inseparably interwoven..............................


"The world is a tissue of involvements inseparably interwoven with bothers.  It is no solution to get rid of the second by abolishing the first.  If the only way around distress is to stop loving, well, then, let us be men about it and settle for distress."

Watch Pooh's head.......................






















via

That's what I do.........................


via

Not so sure about this one.........................


Thursday, August 6, 2015

From a simpler time.................................

Little Eva...............................................................Loco-motion

May I have your attention........................?


"Attention is a currency. We choose how to spend it, just like we spend our time, energy and money."
-Carl Richards, as excerpted from here

















via

If only it was that simple.......................


....................................friend Bilbo on religious freedom.


Be advised......................................


“In a jungle full of totalitarian monsters liberal democracy needs teeth.”
-Robert Conquest

Conquest was brought to our attention here

Fifty years ago...............................

At the movies................................007...................Thunderball

In an essay about "confirmation bias".............


,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,one of my favorite thinkers shows some confirmation bias:

"It is generally possible to predict what people will think about abortion from what they think about climate change, and vice versa; and those who are concerned about wealth inequality tend to favour gun control, while those who are not, do not. Why, since these seem wholly unrelated issues, should this be so? Opinions seem to be based more and more on what team you belong to and less and less on your assessment of facts."

On change..............................................




















"If you wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix'd in your present opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error."
-Benjamin Franklin

borrowed from here

Taking our amusements where we find them....























more fun with statues may be found here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

No, no, no, no....................................


Chad & Jeremy.........................................A Summer Song

Confounded.........................

     Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them;  whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.  Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;  the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.  The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.  The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
     Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil;  in its wrong state an intolerable one.............
-Thomas Paine, from the beginning of Common Sense

Hidden.....................................


“Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers? Why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half earth's gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become.” 
-Robert Farrar Capon

He asks.........................

..................................Are God and the mob always on the same side?   The answer gently wafts by, "Not so much."   Full post is here.  A wee excerpt here.

Nothing has changed in this regard: the Internet is wringing with moral indignation, and the pundits are kept busy by it. Goldberg rightly sees that the effect of the imposed, ideological libertinism — as it is taught by our current elites, through the schools and the media and the courts they control — is only to change the rules of the game. The game itself continues. What is condemned was previously applauded; what is applauded was previously condemned; but the mob moves on. So long as it is still provided with scapegoats to damn, in the Forum of public opinion, one sin will do as well as another. New sins will always be invented to fill the space from which the old sins were winkled; the witches in Macbeth promised no less.

Fifty years ago..................................


At the movies.............The Duke...........The Sons of Katie Elder

Tempting...............................


The Deep Lagoon    larger image, description and copyright here


















It is tempting to view the vast and
luminous heavens as 
the body of the Tao.
That would be a mistake, however.
If you identify the Tao with a particular
shape, you won't ever see it.

-Verse 28, Hua Hu Ching

I started to clip an excerpt....................

................................................from this blog post about varieties of laziness, but then couldn't decide which one.  The whole damn thing is worth reading.

This is absolutely not true.......................























........................................We didn't have shag carpet.

via

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Stare at this for three minutes............I dare you

Jefferson Airplane...........................................Somebody To Love

The moon......................................




“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” 
-John F. Kennedy


Copyright: Dylan O'Donnell
















Enlargeable photo, and explanation, here

Photo contests are pretty cool..............

Especially when National Geographic is the sponsor.

Arctic Greeting     by Laura Keene

















More here.     Thanks David

Fifty years ago........................................

The Beatles............................................................I'm Down

Is this a great country, or what....................?

The crew of Apollo 11 filed a Customs Declaration on their return to Hawaii from the moon.  Who knew?


Back story, and a bit more (enlargeable) paperwork, here.

Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon

Never a dull moment.............................


.....................................................................with Guanciale.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Chill................................

Diana Krall and Friends.............................................Route 66

Wrap your body round my soul....................

Mountain....................................................Nantucket Sleighride

Milton Friedman quotes...........................


...............................The guy was pretty smart.  Do yourself a favor and read some of these.  Here is #5  of twenty:

 "Workers paying taxes today can derive no assurance from trust funds that they will receive benefits from when they retire. Any assurance derives solely from the willingness of future taxpayers to impose taxes on themselves to pay for benefits that present taxpayers are promising themselves. This one sided 'compact between the generations,’ foisted on generations that cannot give their consent, is a very different thing from a 'trust fund.' It is more like a chain letter."

Speaking of chain letters, it has been a long time since I've received one.















thanks craig

I see friend Kurt is on the case as well.

On words and their meanings......................

   
     To ensure quality then, excellence must be an earned word, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves.  It is the responsibility of good leaders to make sure that words remain attached to the meanings and ideals they represent.
-Ed Catmull,  Creativity, Inc.:  Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration.

Investing.................................
























If I paid more attention, I believe there may be a way to "time" the market based on the timing of waves of calls we get from investment salesmen peddling oil & gas or other commodity investments.  When they get around to calling us, it surely means they have run out of real buyers.  Occasionally - for educational and entertainment purposes only - I will listen to the full sales pitch.  Usually though, in the interest of saving time for the both of us, I interrupt the pitch and say, "Sorry, I won't be buying your product. We have all of our money tied up in real estate."  Sometimes the sales guy wants to argue my point, but typically they - thankfully - just hang up.  My way of avoiding the sales pitch has all the benefits of being true.  ALL of our money is in real estate.  However, that doesn't stop me from reading investment advice blogs.  Like this one, offering ONE way to invest, and SIX ways not to invest.  Looks like sound advice to me.

Two wee excerpts:
"If you’re not a financial professional, try not to spend too much time, energy, or brain space on this investing task. Simplicity and modesty can actually put you way ahead of the pros trying to do fancy things with their investment portfolios."

"Well, the best time to be in the market is always thirty years ago. But you can’t get there from here unless you start today."

thanks

Fifty years ago...............................

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles................Going To A Go Go

Gettin' there.......................................
























via

On craft and art.......................................
















"Craft is what we are expected to know;  art is the unexpected use of our craft."
-Ed Catmull

The above photo comes from "Luxo Jr.", the computer animated short film that truly launched Pixar.  That short film (under two minutes) may be viewed here.  Here is Wikipedia's conclusion about Luxo Jr.:  "In 2014, Luxo Jr. was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[5]"

It is a complicated world.....................

Ben Casnocha spends some time in Germany.   Here is his report.  A wee excerpt here:

NSA spying on German officials, including Merkel’s cell phone, came up over and over again. All of the Americans on the trip were surprised at how upsetting the spying scandal was to the German government and German people. Although I don’t know what the Americans gained through the spying operation, it seems incredibly unlikely that the benefits outweighed the costs. The damage to the trust and cooperation between the two countries appears to be immense. “Are we friends or just partners?” This is a question Germans asked over and over. There’s a difference in their minds. Friends cooperate in all sorts of ways that partners would not; friends do not spy on each other.

I think I can, I think I can.......................




















The Essex Ascending:   1930