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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei


News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The liberal blogger poll

Several other blogs had responded to this Atrios poll, so I thought I'd add my two cents.

Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration

Opposed. The issue here is a change in the law that prohibits many individuals from totally eliminating their debts with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, requiring them instead to work out a partial repayment plan through Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

For many people, bankruptcy is unavoidable, whether caused by a large medical bill or a failed business venture. For a few, it's all due to bad decisions. Can you explain why, as a matter of principle, bankrupt individuals with above average incomes shouldn't repay part of their debts? Even in the most unfortunate bankruptcy case, where the family is completely blameless, why should they not repay as much of their debts as possible? Try picturing yourself as one of the creditors.

Repeal the estate tax repeal

Opposed, for philosophical reasons. Estate taxes are the purview of communist theory. If you're going to assess an estate tax, why not just assess a tax equal to 10% of the assets of the rich right now?

The estate tax doesn't actually reduce the amount of money transfered to the children of the rich, it just requires inefficient estate planning (survivorship life insurance and trusts).

I fully support a cultural shift: the rich should know that it is expected of them to give the majority of their money to charities and worthy causes, a la Andrew Carnegie. But if they choose to transfer their wealth to their heirs, that is their individual right.

Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI

No. It's a giveaway to the children of the middle class and unions with wages tied to the minimum wage. So few people are trying to support a family on the minimum wage, we'd be better off having rich liberals give money to the ones who really need it to support their families.

Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)

I doubt anyone could propose a working plan. Looking at the health care systems of the world, you have rationing by waiting, rationing by connections, and rationing by money. Of the three, the latter is best of the bad options. Why? Money is a reward from doing good and valued work, so in some ways, money tells us who is most valued by society.

Again, this situation could be largely aided by a shift in culture: people should know it is expected of them to cover their own health care needs, via job or individual insurance. Only the truly indigent should rely on others to provide their health care.

Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation

Here's a liberal contradiction: supporting increased CAFE standards, while requiring stronger environmental restrictions. Changes to pesticides or arsenic in water might save a live every ten years, but increased CAFE standards (meaning lighter, smaller, less safe cars) cost more lives every year. The phrase penny wise, pound foolish applies here.

I'd like to hear discussion of improved CAFE standards for vehicles of the same shape, weight, and engine size. Can that be done, without pricing the poor out of car ownership? Otherwise, no.

Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.

Nos all around. Let's start with abstinence-only education. Of all methods to prevent pregnancy, only one is 100% effective. Compare, again, to the desired environmental standards. If a corporation wanted to stop one kind of 100% filtration at its big factory in favor of another, which would release chemicals that would give 1% of women a debilitating condition, liberals would scream in opposition. Yet that's what relying on birth control entails.

I do support education about contraception, but in conjunction with abstinence education. Explain that playing Russian roulette is stupid, no matter if the gun has 6 chambers, or 106.

Another point of contention: why do we think that 17 year old girls need their parents' permission to visit the museum as part of a school field trip, yet don't need their parents' permission to have an abortion? Which is the more serious issue?

Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code

Yes on the first, no on the second. A consumption tax would meet the first goal, while making taxes largely voluntary.

I find it hard to accept that some dollars should be taxed at a rate near 100%. Again, I support a culture that says the rich (Kerry, Edwards, etc.) should voluntarily pay higher taxes, but if an individual chooses to keep his money, that's his decision, not mine.

Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.

No on the first, if the faith-based funding works. We've seen churches contribute meaningfully in every national disaster, often with smaller overhead than government agencies; why should these groups be prohibited from contributing equally from government-funded charity dollars?

On the second, I think we can agree that these groups should not discriminate. But let's be clear about terms. "Religious discrimination" does not mean expressing disapproval of homosexual relationships; it means a food kitchen denying food to needy homosexual victims.

Reduce corporate giveaways

Expressed like that? Sure. But that applies equally to all giveaways. As others have pointed out, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives a lot of giveaways. Tax credits for hybrid vehicles or installing solar panels also have to go.

In fact, what is termed "corporate giveaways" should have to be justified, given goals, and continued only if it succeeds at its goals. [I'll leave aside for now the issue of whether "corporate giveaways" are an appropriate role for the federal government under its constitutional authority.] Consider it like a business proposal. You tell the executive committee "By investing in advertising in Europe, we intend to increase sales of our product by 10%." The committee looks at the costs, and if it approves, the plan is a go. If after a year it's not providing the returns promised, you cut it off. Simple in concept.

Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan

I'd consider it, if it could be demonstrated that this plan would be better than the status quo. But that's not likely.

The whole of Medicare needs serious reform.

Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.

The second part is a recipe for disaster. The first part is largely a part of the structure of ERISA. Funding pensions is not that difficult an endeavor. But here's one suggestion: separate pension funds and funds covering retiree health care benefits. Haven't you noticed that all these pension plans being dumped on the government are union plans that also offer health care benefits?

Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.

I'd actually be willing to try it, but the cynic in me says that those who advocate medical marijuana and promote hemp as a wonder plant want only one thing: to get high. But more drug use means more people dying to drivers under the influence, and for drugs that are addicting, more people ruining their lives.

Again, we need a culture of personal responsibility. And an absolute, mandatory requirement for any drug legalization is a recognization that drug addiction is absolutely, positively, in no way considered a disability, by anyone with any authority.

Imprison Jeff Goldstein for crimes against humanity for his neverending stupidity

Typical liberals: engaging in ad hominen attacks.

Paper ballots

Good idea. Best is a system of paper ballots that can be reliably read by optical scanners: a system that can provide results quickly, while providing a paper trail that is verifiable and makes it difficult to "stuff the ballots" with illegal votes.

Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.

Daycare is a good idea. Obstacles to working need to be eliminated, as only through work will someone struggling improve their lot. Until I see details, though, it's hard to agree. Once again, see personal responsibility: those who have the means should pay the full cost of their day care, even if it means giving up first run movie tickets and $4 lattes.

Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.

Translation: charge taxes based on a wage of $360,000, pay benefits based on a wage of $90,000. In other words, a 75% cut for Social Security for the wealthy. Does that sound fair to you?

I prefer Social Security remains a government pension plan. It can retain its progressive nature, it can even become more progressive, but it should definitely have benefits tied to taxes paid. If you introduce a disconnect like this, what's to stop increasing taxes to fund certain favored groups? Social Security would then become another welfare program, where voters are bought off by their representatives.

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