Midnight Rantings

Tired rantings in a tired world.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

We're From the Government; We're Here to Help

Although this was written in Sept., I just heard about it this morning on the radio. Apparently, the tax code is too complicated for the IRS. In this NYTimes article, over half of the answers to questions were incorrect. By extrapolating out, that means over half of the returns are filed incorrectly. The radio report went on to say that most would receive more money than they should. On the surface that sounds great. However, the IRS does recheck themselves, and when they find a mistake, they let you know by sending a notice and adding interest. The interest accrues from the date of the return, not the date found.
What does this say about our tax code? The reason the ultra-rich pays less taxes is because they hire legions of CPA and lawyers to find the loopholes. The solution is easy: either a flat tax or consumer tax.
A flat tax works because everyone pays the same, proportionately. By applying the tax to whatever one's gross household income, everyone would pay the same. The law could be written to tax based on income above, say, $30,000. Thus, lower income people would have some protection. The tax could be filled out on an index card and mailed in.
Consumer (sales) tax works because everyone pays it. By taxing everything except food with a sales tax, the underground economy goes under. Since our economy is based on consumerism, the money collected could be massive. People would not have to have a government drone looking at personal information to verify accuracy. The question of Constitutionality would be moot. Many on the anti-income tax side would be quiet.
I am not opposed to paying taxes. I like well maintained streets, strong military, safety net for the destitute, etc. What I am opposed to is the Byzantine tax code and living in fear of my government.

The Debate Rages On

As time ticks on and no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are found, the debate heats up. President Bush and PM Tony Blair may have some 'splaining to do. Some are beginning to call for an investigation into possible deception of Congress and the American people to get the War in Iraq going.
In this online debate in Slate: Liberal Hawks Reconsider the Iraq War , seven "liberal hawks" discuss their views on the War in Iraq.
With the rising level of vitriol by those on the left (and some on the right) regarding WMDs, these authors bring up interesting points. Namely, the war was never about WMDs. The war was one of liberation and protection of the Iraqi people and not retribution for 9/11. In this instance I agree. When war talk was beginning, I was against the war. How could Saddam hurt us here? I took the more libertarian/old-school conservative slant of staying out of it. How could Saddam hurt our national interests?
Now I know better. Saddam was never to going to contently sit by and disarm and become a peaceful neighbor. He is evil. Some say the war is about oil, I say, "So what?" Oil is vital to our country and our way of life. If some jerk in the world's biggest oil producing area threatens oil producing countries, then it is imperative we defend those countries. On the surface of it, fighting and dieing for oil seems shallow. How could a person's life be worth something like oil? The far left loves to portray President Bush with his oilman's background as going to war for cheap oil. I say, "Go for it!" The price of oil has a big impact on our economy.
On the issue of WMDs, I hope the Bush Administration overestimated the risk. In the run up to the war, everyone agreed that Saddam had WMD. France, et al. and those on both sides of the aisle in our Congress thought he had WMD and was a threat to his neighbors. The difference was how to deal with it. The left thought letting the UN deal with it was the best way to go. As we have seen, the UN is ineffectual at best. Also, many folks on the Security Council were doing business with Saddam "under the table." The French and Russians were selling illegal military supplies. There is no way on God's Green Earth the UN would have acted. Time and time again the UN has shown itself to be utter meaningless. Throughout my internal debate, I never had a problem with going it alone. If invading Iraq was the right thing to do, then do it. So on the issue of WMDs, the Administration may have bungled it. Unfortunately, they were not alone. Past administrations and other world leaders had the same conclusion about WMDs. I do not think President Bush is culpable. I do think WMDs should never have been the casus belli. The selling of the war should have been about regime change and mideast stability. By selling the war using WMDs, President Bush appears to have egg on his face. Disposing of evil in a vital part of the world is not wrong.
However, I do take exception to using the military to dispose of every evil strongman. Sometimes it is not worth the risk to America, because it does not affect us. The case for going into Rwanda was brought up by Kenneth Pollack. He said, "As someone who supported previous U.S. humanitarian interventions in the Balkans and elsewhere—and who wished we had taken action in Rwanda—the argument was an important aspect of my own conviction." Although what is happening in Rwanda is terrible beyond words, the US military getting involved was not needed. Rwanda is a civil war. Getting involved in a civil war by an outside agent rarely does well in the end (see Korea and Viet Nam). The case for Rwanda does not meet the criteria of national security. We cannot both cut military spending and use the military on great adventures. Our free society will not allow us to become a militarized society.
As the shrill voices become louder and time ticks away, we'll see more people attacking President Bush. President Bush may be guilty of poor judgement but not lieing. WMDs were not a convincing casus belli, but the war is still just. If only our elected officials had more faith in the American people and quit worrying about what the media thinks, maybe they would feel less compelled to lie to us.