Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rape, Abortion, and Other Fine Topics

One of the most bizarre things that has occurred over the course of the 2012 campaign is the seeming endorsement of rape by the Republican Party.  Todd Akin talks about "legitimate rape," which he then clarified as "forcible rape" - and states that a woman can't get pregnant from rape (which, of course a woman totally can).  Paul Ryan and the other Congressional Republicans tried to change the Federal definition of rape.  And, of course, the Republican Senate candidate from Indiana, Mourdock, says that pregnancies from rape are "God's will." 

All this leaves me to wonder, what the hell is going on? Well, that's not exactly true.  If you've read this blog before, you know what has happened - the bedrock conservative base of the Republican Party has completely taken over.  So, what was once considered okay - exceptions for abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother's life was in danger, are now fair game.

With that said, I will say that Mourdock's comments regarding rape were far less despicable than Todd Akin's - or at least less misogynistic.  If Mourdock had to say it all over again, I'd imagine he'd say something like:

Rape is a truly awful, horrible, thing, and I hope that the victims of rape get all the counseling and treatment they need.  I also hope that the perpetrators of rape are caught and sent to prison for as long as the law allows.  I do not, in any way, support or condone rape.  But, when a pregnancy results from the rape, I do not support aborting that fetus.  After all, the fetus cannot control how it was conceived, or how it was brought into the world.  It is an awful situation, and all we can hope for is that God has a plan for that child beyond our comprehension.  

Even that statement, which is somewhat sympathetic to Mourdock's point, is still problematic.  Why should a woman be forced to carry her rapist's child to term?  What if the rapist gets out of prison early, does he get parental rights?  But, at least I understand his point.  Rape bad, abortion bad.  So, his concern seems to be preventing abortion because he wants to protect the life of the fetus.  Of course, I could be wrong, and he could be saying that the rape was also God's will (but I hope not).  

Todd Akin, on the other hand, is purely misogynistic.  In his mind, a woman can't get pregnant if she is really and truly raped, and so there should be no exception in the case of rape, because those pregnancies never happen.  Akin's view, in contrast to Mourdock, is that women should carry fetuses to term (whether they want to or not) because they are sluts and should be punished. 

Now, the interesting thing about these two statements by Mourdock and Akin is that they may represent the two wings of the "Pro-Life" (anti-choice) movement.  Akin certainly represents the "pregnancy is God's punishment to sluts" wing, and is the poster boy for what Pro-Choice types think the Pro-Life movement is all about.  Mourdock (and again, I'm not entirely sure of this), appears to represent the actual pro-life, or at least pro-fetus, wing of the pro-life movement.  

Interestingly, though, both Mourdock and Akin hold a position - opposition of abortion even in the case of rape - that is way, way, way, outside of the mainstream.  Most Americans (80-90%), even if they generally oppose abortion, will support the right of woman to have an abortion when she has been raped.  In the long run, I wonder how this will play out.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Missing Link in the Economic Debate

Sorry to have taken so long in posting, but the older I get, the more responsibilities, etc.  Okay, that's only half true.  The other half is that since the first Presidential debate, I've been in the fetal position, metaphorically.  And Andrew Sullivan's total and complete freak out wasn't helping.  Not. At. All.

Well, we then got to see the VP debate (Malarky!), and the second Presidential debate (Binders of Women!), and everyone on the Left is doing much better.  Plus, Andrew Sullivan is off the ledge, which is helping my spirits on the Presidential race significantly.

Now before I go into my rant below, I want to add one more thing about the debates - I love politics.  I've followed politics the way some people follow sports.  If anything, I think of myself as a former minor leaguer who developed a love of the sport, and never looked back.  With that said, Twitter and the internet have increased my enjoyment of these debates immensely.  The immediate and free-flowing snark, the immediate creation of internet memes (a.k.a. inside jokes), and insight is mind-blowing.

But there is something missing from the President's economic message - why does raising taxes on the wealth raise revenues and seemingly drive economic growth at the same time?  After all, that's what Bill Clinton did, and we had tremendous economic growth.  All Obama seems to say is - look at what Clinton did, and it worked.  But he really has to describe the why it works, and why trickle down economics doesn't.

I've talked about this before, but it bears restating.  Having a higher tax rate on the wealthy drives economic growth because it encourages them to invest their money.  Now, the classic Milton Friedman theory is that if you cut taxes on the wealthy, they use that money to spend on boats, houses, and other crap.  Which, like everyone else, they do.

But wealthy people aren't stupid - and even if they are stupid, their economic advisors are not.  Their first priority with their money is live like Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey (um. . .my girlfriend is a fan), but their second priority is to make sure their kids can live like Lord Grantham, and then their grandkids can live like Lord Grantham. (Okay, I might have watched a few episodes*).

*Editor's note: The author has totally watched both seasons, including the Christmas special.

In other words, rich people don't throw their money away, they invest it in stuff that is safe and gives a reasonable rate of return.  After all, if you have $100 million, a 5% return is $5 million.  The estate becomes something to protect above all else.  And with a low tax rate - a guy like Romney can pay 14% of his income in taxes (which is way less than what I pay, mind you) - the wealthy have every incentive to try to keep their money with their descendants for forever and a day.

But, when there is a high marginal tax rate (rate on the highest income earners), there is more incentive to invest that money to get a higher rate of return.  Let's take a guy who's makes $5 million a year in income.  If he pays a tax rate akin to Romney, he's paying something around $750k in taxes that year.  While that $750k is painful, he still walks away with over $4 million. If, however, the tax rate on that $5 million is 40%, then he's paying $2 million in taxes. . .unless he finds out some way to lower his taxes.

One way of doing that is investing what would have been the $2 million tax bill into a business that has an interesting, but iffy business plan - like 90% of the internet companies in the 90's.  In fact, business losses, which are tax deductible, are almost preferable to gains.  After all, the guy is going to lose $2 million anyway, so he might as well gamble with it.  That gamble, in turn, helps create jobs.

Now, as the Matt Yglesias notes in his post, this positive effect of income taxes only applies to income taxes.  So, if there is a small business owner wondering whether or not to hire more people, the same effect applies - the additional workforce is a tax write-off.  If the owner was going to lose that money to taxes anyway, he or she will be more inclined to spend the money.