Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Random Thoughts Blogging. . .

Okay, random is never the right word - rather, these are thoughts that I had that I don't want to have their own post.

1) Failures of the Democratic Party

When I look at what has gone wrong over the past four years of Democratic control of Congress, and the past two years of controlling all of government, I am struck by how ill-prepared the Democratic Party was to rule. And here's what I mean - whereas the GOP has a governing philosophy, the Democrats define themselves by not being the GOP. Sure, there is a laundry list of things to do, but Democrats can't agree on their own political philosophy, while Republicans do their best to comport to "conservativism," consequences be damned.

So, when the Democrats took power, their only goal was to dismantle everything Bush did, and then they got caught up in the storm of economic crises, wars, etc. But there was and is no clear economic vision. To this day, I don't know what Obama's vision for America is, and that's largely because he's been trying to keep the economy afloat.

This failure of leadership and vision is probably what's killing us now. The economy is stable, businesses have the cash to invest and move forward, but no one knows what the future will hold, so these companies are holding back. Had Obama set forth his vision, a vision in line with a Democratic Party philosophy of economics, we would be in a different spot then we're in now.

2) Padres Trading Away Adrian Gonzalez

As a Padres fan, this trade was painful. I knew it was bound to happen, but this trade lays bare all the problems in baseball. Here, the Padres traded away their best player, a team leader, a local boy done good (he credits his power to carne asada burritos), and an all around good guy, for prospects because they couldn't afford to resign him in a year. This may be a broken record, but when a mid-market team like the Padres can't afford to pay its best player, then there are serious problems in baseball.

3) The Yankees are Douchebags

There are two reasons why the Yankees didn't sign Cliff Lee: 1) their fans spit on and heckled Cliff Lee's wife during the playoffs; and 2) the organization went out of its way to embarrass Derek Jeter. Now sure, Jeter is overrated as a baseball player, but Jeter is Mr. Yankee - a guy who willingly took up the Ruth/Gerhig/DiMaggio mantle and wore it proudly. There are maybe 5 guys in baseball who could do the same. . .no fuck that, there's only Derek Jeter. So, if I was not a Yankee, but offered money to be one, I would have to think long and hard. If the Yankees are willing to throw Jeter under the bus, they'd throw anyone under the bus. There was no way in hell Lee was joining the Yankees after that spectacle.

4) I'm having a hard time getting excited for football this season

Maybe its a reaction to how up and down the Chargers are this year, maybe its because my dog reacts whenever I yell at the TV (he thinks I'm barking at a squirrel or something and goes nuts), but I'm just not into football this season. Sure, I'm enjoying it, but I'm not as into football as I have been in the past.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Case for a Higher Marginal Tax Rate*

I could write this post and discuss why Obama is a dumbass, etc., but rather than parrot what everyone else is saying, let me say this - having a high marginal tax rate (the rate on the highest income earners) is good. Now, I'm sure you're thinking that, since Phat Jim is a liberal/leftie/commie/pinko/socialist, that I support high taxes so as to take from the rich and give to the poor. After all, I'm a tax and spend liberal right?


A high marginal tax rate has the added benefit of redistributing wealth, and paying for social programs, and it makes sense to take money from the wealthiest people who can afford to go with less so that the government can pay its bills. But that's not why I think a high marginal tax rate is good.

What its really about is changing behavior. Specifically, its about getting CEO's and bank executives to look long-term instead of short term. When the marginal tax rate is relatively low (35% right now), high income earners have every incentive to maximize profit now - and before any feared income tax increase. So, rather than putting profits into shoring up the company for downturns, or investing in research, or whatnot, the motivation is to make money NOW.

The end result, as we've seen over and over again, is that more and more money goes to the executives and fewer and fewer money goes elsewhere. Or, worse yet, the company pursues short term profit over long-term gain. Then the company collapses into itself. We have seen this boom/bust cycle move from industry to industry for the past twenty years - twenty years that have coincided with the drop in the marginal tax rate. Not surprisingly, this boom-bust cycle we're seeing now is almost exactly the same cycle as we saw prior to the economic reforms of the New Deal, when the marginal tax rate increased, and which had come to an end after taxes were raised.

Now, don't get me wrong - paying taxes sucks major donkey di. . .okay to humor my fourth reader, I will avoid profanity here. Paying taxes, for the individual, is a terrible thing, and no one wants to pay taxes. But like speed limits, a higher tax rate is good for the country as a whole. Additionally, if we raise the marginal income tax rate, but keep other tax rates lower, such as capital gains on long term investments, etc., we can funnel money towards capital investment (which is what would happen anyway), and ease the burden. What you will definitely see, though, is a sudden and precipitous drop on executive pay, which everyone agrees is too high.


So, paying taxes may suck major donkey dick, but that donkey is the United States, and it is in desperate need to get off.


And that is why a higher marginal tax rate would be a good idea.

*Also known as "Bogart Baiting"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On the tax cut deal. . .

So, with great sadness, all Democrats have finally realized that Obama isn't a progressive, but rather a pragmatist more interested in getting small things done than providing the reform the country needs. This tax cut deal is a disaster on so many fronts - it encourages the Republicans to become more intransigent on other issues, such as Social Security, it demoralizes the Democratic base, and most importantly, its just bad policy. Yes, it could be worse (and that was Obama's point), but not by much.

Q: So, what should good progressives do about this?

A: We need to ratfuck our President.

Simply put, the Democrats on Capitol Hill should completely reject the plan. When the President calls to get people on board, they should dodge his calls. This needs to be a complete and utter loss handed to him by his own party, similar to how the GOP killed Bush's immigration reform bill in 2006.

My reasoning here is simple - right now, the President is negotiating with an intransigent GOP, and a more or less flexible Democratic Party. Democrats, by and large, are less interested in means than they are in ends. So, where a Republican will insist on tax cuts no matter the situation, a Democrat will be willing to discuss a variety of policy decisions to meet the sought after ends. As a result, the President and the policies are pushed further to the right - further than the American people want, by measure of the polls.

However, if Democrats ratfuck this deal, then the President will start having to worry about how the Left will react to his negotiations, and will adjust his behavior accordingly. In so doing, we might see real bipartisan compromise, or we might see no action whatsoever. But we will better negotiations.