August 31, 2003

Think Big, George

Richard Stevenson writing in the New York Times speculates on the Bush campaign's strategies for a central issue on which to base the campaign. In what may be a striking departure from the typical NYT liberal orthodoxy in recalling Bush's focus on tax cuts in the 2000 election Mr. Stevenson complains that bush was able to claim a mandate "despite the narrow margin of his victory."

The speculation is that the Bushies will make privatizing Social Security the center plank of their platform, though overhauling the tax system has been mentioned as well. While I like the idea of privatizing Social Security - I'm young enough that by the time I retire there will be nothing left of the current system and if my future is going to be in anyone's "lock box" I'd rather it be mine.

Partially privatizing Social Security is a half measure and I think too small to be the centerpiece of a presidential campaign. Bush needs to think big. VERY BIG. A complete overhaul of how the federal government confiscates our money - I mean collects taxes - is in order. The goal should be simple and should be simply stated eliminate the socialist nature of taxation in the United States. When you hear a politician suggest that we should tax the wealthiest among us in order to help those less well-off what they are saying is we should place a heavier burden on anyone who has achieved success in order to help those who have not. To put it more bluntly, what they are advocating is "From each according to his ability. To each according to his need."

In any system of taxation that exists to support a massive welfare system this principle will play a part, the best we can do is try to add a little fairness - and remove the built in penalty for being "rich." There are a number of possible ways this can be accomplished. One proposal making the rounds is to impose a 23% federal sales tax on most purchases. It has been calculated that taxes account for about 22% of the cost of all goods. Remove those taxes from the equation and it would be a wash. Because I don't see it as realistic to expect that manufactures and retailers will give back all of that 22% I think the net effect of this proposal would be a higher cost of living for everyone.

What we need is a three step revision to taxation.

Step one: an amendment to the Constitution stating that with the exception of a national emergency declared by a two thirds vote of congress and the affirming signature of the executive the federal government is prohibited from borrowing money.

Step two: Congress should be required to pass a projected budget for the coming year by November 1.

Step three: The progressive income tax should be scrapped and a flat tax implemented. The first $20,000 of income would be exempt any income above that would be taxed at a rate determined by dividing the total income taxed the previous year - adjusted for growth etc. into the total of the projected budget passed in step two. Other than the first $20k of exempted income there would be no deductions or tax credits of any kind.

This system would essentially paint the government into corner of accountability from which there would be no escape. It would take an event of the proportions of 9/11 to get two thirds of Congress to approve borrowing. No more deficit spending. If you want it you have to pay for it NOW. If congress was required to pass the projected budget on which the tax rate was determined days before elections just image the amount of pork that would be eliminated. Step three brings in a bit of fairness and an incentive to succeed. Assume that for a given year the tax rate is 10%. would you rather have the after tax income from a $30k salary or $50k. Or put another way, if you were making $30k wouldn't it be nice to contemplate you income going up without worrying about what the impact of a higher tax bracket will be. You could strive to be one of the "rich" without worrying that someone was going to try to place an even heavier burden on you.

I hope Bush has the Texas sized cajones to put a half measure like partially privatizing Social Security on the edge of the platform and put something really big like overhauling the tax system front and center.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:20 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

It's the Air Stupid

The Democrats have found yet another issue to try to bring down the Bush White House - the air quality around Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It would seem that EPA statements that the air was fine may have been incorrect or according their own documents not based on facts known at the time. The EPA report does not say that its 9/11 statements were wrong but rather that the question will not be finally answered for some time.

The Democrats lead by "non" candidate Hillary Clinton are of course crying conspiracy and demanding an investigation. Fox News quotes her as saying: "I know a little bit about how White Houses work. I know somebody picked up a phone, somebody got on a computer, somebody sent an e-mail, somebody called for a meeting, somebody in that White House probably under instructions from somebody further up the chain told the E.P.A.: 'Don't tell the people of New York the truth.' And I want to know who that is."

If a final determination of conditions will not be reached for years, I can imagine a slightly different scenario.

In the midst of the worst crisis this nation has faced, working very quickly and with inconclusive evidence the EPA chose to err on the side of reassuring a nation already in a state of shock and fear. Even if it turns out in the end that the air was worse than they stated, I cannot fault them for that.

Hillary may indeed know a little bit about how things worked in the Clinton White House - which is reason enough to hope she never returns there as anything but a dinner guest.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:09 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

August 30, 2003

Why am I here?

Long before I had heard of weblogs I had found on the web a prolific writer of commentary on daily news. A man with whose prodigious output was matched only by his intellect. In addition to his daily column he mailed a monthly newsletter to paid subscribers. He has also written several works of fiction

His name Was Ernest G. Ross. Sadly he passed away in April of this year.

He called his website The Objective American: An independent voice for positive, rational living. As the name implies he looked the positive side of a rational objective evaluation of the world. As he often expressed it "The positive is part of the objective."

I am reasonably sure I will never equal his volume of output - it is my goal to approach as close as I can the level of quality.

The good news, the positive side of this sad post, is that the site is still up at and there is an extensive archive of past writing available. I highly recommend spending a few hours - or days - there.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:55 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Day 1

Welcome to the Hold the Mayo. Here you will find my thoughts on whatever I happen to be thinking. I hope you find them as interesting as I do.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:14 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

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