Thursday, July 21, 2011

Still freaking tired of it all.

It's been brutally hot here. Oh, I know, a lot of the rest of y'all are getting it now, and it's worse on you Northerners because many of you don't have air conditioning. But we've been putting up with heat indexes greater than 100 F since, I don't know, June 10 or something. I'm ready for it to be DONE.

I'm also continually dismayed by what I hear in the news:

- We probably won't get any kind of a budget deal or any kind of real debt reform. I bet what will happen is the debt ceiling will be raised at the last minute and we'll go on our merry way down the road to Greece.

- I despair for politics. It seems like it's the goal of many in the media to paint anyone that their commentators/newsreaders disagree with as dangerously unhinged. Even within a political party, there doesn't seem to be such a thing as honest competition any more; there has to be innuendo and subtle smear tactics.

- I really think a flat tax would solve a lot of problems (and a flat tax where the vast majority paid at least a little in to it, so we don't see something like 60% of the populace paying taxes and 40% not), but I doubt there's any sort of political will for that. Flat tax, very few if any deductions, everyone (or very nearly everyone) pays in.

- Alternatively, less attractively to me, would be replacing income tax with a national sales tax. I will say there are two big benefits to this I could see: (a) people who choose to save are not penalized, and in fact, are rewarded and (b) people in the "underground economy" (e.g., drug dealers who get paid in cash) wind up paying tax when they spend their money (whether it's honestly gotten or not). I admit, I'm not sure that taxing purchases is a smart thing in a slow economy, though. And I don't like the idea that my Roth IRA - which I've already paid taxes on - would be taxed again when I spent it down in retirement.

- Copper thefts and the general Vandalization (and yes, I capitalized that on purpose) of our country continue. People have begun to take what they want, what they think they deserve, even if it means a church or a senior center has to go without air conditioning in a heat wave. I try not to see this kind of thing as early signs of a total civic breakdown but it's hard for me not to. Selfishness seems to be winning.

- It frustrates me when some people claim that taxing people for redistributing money to the poor is purely Biblical and right under Jesus' teachings, because it seems to me that they all too often forget about the possibility that people might choose to give voluntarily to organizations that help the poor, or even directly to the poor themselves. It's like they can't see any way of helping the downtrodden other than by funneling the money through the government first. And from what I've seen, it seems to me that giving money to a church group or the Salvation Army or any of numerous other relief agencies seems to get (a) MORE of it to the people in need and (b) gets it FASTER to people in need. I give to a number of different groups, a small amount on a monthly basis (and bigger donations to places like the Salvation Army when there's an especial need, like after a natural disaster) and it irritates me that there are some people who think that it doesn't "count" as help unless it's money that's come in as taxes.

- I need to read some history to figure out how social safety-nets worked in the era before the New Deal and the Great Society. My gut feeling is that families looked after their own more (even if it meant the rest of the family did with less, because they had to care for Grandma and Grandpa or whatever). And perhaps religious groups did more. And I guess there were benevolent organizations like the Elks and Woodmen of the World who might have taken on the role of supporting people that could no longer work. And I suppose, perhaps, there was more begging on the street and such, and that's unfortunate. (But I still see the "STRANDED NEED MONEY FOR GAS" guys, or the "CAN'T WORK NEED MONEY FOR FOOD GOD BLESS" guys. I feel terribly conflicted - on the one hand, I want to help, but on the other, I've heard of enough stories of people who scammed that - who could work, but found they could rake in more by playing on people's compassion. So, though I kind of hate myself for it, I don't give money to the individuals on street corners, and just hope that if they're truly in need, the Salvation Army or some other group I support can go to them and help them.)

- Maybe we need to get back to a more decentralized model of helping people? In my experience it seems that big bureaucracies cause a lot of red tape and tend to slow things down and waste money, but smaller, more localized groups seem more efficient. And yeah, I know, maybe it's "unfair" that some parts of the country might have more people donating to their local groups than others, but...I don't know. It seems to me that bigger and bigger government agencies aren't going to solve things, and there may be unintended consequences - like with the TSA. The problem they were set up to solve: terrorists getting on flights and hijacking them. But now, the TSA winds up humiliating senior citizens and scaring children and being rude to random fliers and just making the process of travel more miserable...

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