Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Dancing with the Stars
"Increase Taxes On The Rich"
An interesting analogy found floating in the blogsphere:
U.S. Tax System Explained in Beer
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers", he said, "I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."
Drinks for the ten now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers?
How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share"? They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 ( 22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20!" declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "But he got $10!”
"Yeah, that’s right!" exclaimed the fifth man.
"I only saved a dollar, too.. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I did!"
"That’s true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute!" yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man ( the richest) didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill.
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking somewhere else where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I just watched a video lecture that was send to me by the Notre Dame Alumni Association. Professor Christopher Waller, the Gilbert Schaefer Chair of Economics at the University of Notre Dame explained the causes of the recent financial crisis. He started with the history of the Great Depression and explained the chain of events that lead to the present situation.
His lecture was given the day after the bailout was signed, so his take on how the bailout will work is a little dated. For example: he did think the Fed should inject equity into the banks and recapitalize them. However, it turns out that is exactly what the Fed did.
The lecture was enlightening. I recommend it to anyone interested in knowing this crisis came about.
You can read a summary of the presentation or watch the complete video (You Tube).
Which Candidate is Better on Abortion?
The answer should be obvious, but some Catholics unbelievably say Obama is better. The argument goes something like this:
- The "right" to abortion established by Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and there is nothing we can do to change it. So voting for pro-life candidates will have little to no effect on abortion.
- Restrictions on abortion such as parental notification, parental consent and the partial birth abortion ban do not reduce abortions.
- The social safety nets and universal health care supported by Obama will encourage women to choose life and will reduce the number of abortions
- Therefore, the abortion rate will be lower under an Obama presidency than under a McCain presidency
That sounds pretty good. So, I have decided to change my vote and endorse Barak Obama.
Unfortunately, many catholics buy into this line of reasoning. Let me show you where it breaks down point by point.
1. The pro-life movement has a very good chance of reversing the current law of the land. Roe v. Wade is on the ropes. Go to Planned Parenthood's website and you'd think a woman's "right" to chose is on the verge of being lost. Yet, the pro-choice movement is right to be concerned. The Supreme Court has four justices who has consistently vote pro-life, one justice who is a swing vote and four justices who vote pro-choice. The two oldest justices on the Supreme Court are pro-choice. One of them is in his late eighties. He probably won't last another four years.
That means the next President of the United States will likely have the opportunity to replace one or two pro-choice justices. McCain has promised to appoint strict constructionist justices. These judges tend to vote pro-life. Obama will certainly appoint pro-choice justices. With a majority of Supreme Court voting pro-life, we would see as a minimum a gradual chipping away of Roe v. Wade. We could even see an outright reversal of Roe. The Court tends to respect precedent, but it has reversed itself before. This election represents a tremendous opportunity to overthrow the regime of Roe v. Wade.
2. The Heritage Foundation conducted a study which demonstrates that restrictions on abortion do indeed reduce the number of abortions. Right now, most states require parental notification and/or consent before a minor can get an abortion and they do not allow tax dollars to pay for abortion.
- parental notification laws
- parental consent laws
- abortion clinic regulations, even those designed to make abortion more safe
- law that protect the conscience of doctors who chose not to perform abortion. In other words, catholic doctors could be required to perform abortions or lose their jobs.
- laws preventing partial birth abortion
FOCA could also require states to use tax payers dollars to pay for abortion.
Barak Obama advocates using federal tax dollars to pay for abortions at home and overseas. It stretches credulity to think Obama will reduce abortions.
3. Social safety nets and universal health care will reduce abortion. I do not know if this is true, but it is certainly plausible. Economics can certainly be a factor in a woman's choice to get an abortion. How big a factor is unclear. I do know that crisis pregnancy centers out number abortion clinics and these charities offer women financial, emotional and medical assistance in order to encourage them to choose life.
One component of Barak Obama's health plan is to mandate that all children have health insurance. Parents could be fined for not buying health care for their kids. A woman who is not sure if she can afford health insurance may choose to abort her child instead of facing the prospect of being fined by the federal government. I laud Obama's desire to ensure every child has health insurance, but his method of doing so could encourage abortion.
Here's an idea. Why don't we give all families a $5000 tax credit so they can buy insurance for their kids? That could help achieve the goal of full coverage for children without encouraging abortion.
4. There is ample reason to believe an Obama presidency will lead to an increase in abortion, not a decrease. But, to be fair, I do not have a crystal ball and cannot predict the future. It is possible (but I don't think likely) that Obama's social welfare plan will reduce abortion more than FOCA will increase it. Is that a good enough reason to vote Obama?
Life is the most basic, most fundamental and most important of all human rights. Without life, all other rights become meaningless. What good is freedom of speech if you are dead? All unborn children have been endowed by their creator with the unalienable right to life. A just society has a moral obligation to recognize that right in law.
A legal recognition of a child's right to be born is not only the right thing to do. But, it will inevitably lead to a decrease in abortions. People are influenced by laws. Sure there are people who break the law, but most people are law abiding.
The first step to such legal recognition is to overturn, or at least diminish the scope of Roe v. Wade. As I argued above, we are close to having the Supreme Court majority required to do that.
FOCA will do the opposite. It goes beyond Roe v. Wade and expands abortion "rights" at the expense of unborn life.
There are two major candidates for President. One of them has voted consitently to establish in law an unborn child's right to life. He voted for unborn victims of violence, partial birth abortion ban, born alive infant protection act, Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito. The other candidate has either opposed or voted against all of those measures.
McCain will protect the rights of the unborn. Obama will not.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
So I Lathered Him With Me Shillelagh...
As I announced in the headline of my last post, I had intended to refrain from any more political posts, at least for the remainder of the year. I had outlined my position as clearly as I could, and felt that any more ruminations on the wrecking ball that an Obama presidency promises to be would only be an exercise in this:
Subject: Can Pro-Life Catholics Vote for Obama and Other Democrats?
This guy says you can:
I may be wasting my time arguing with these guys, but it is helping me understand my position more clearly. Feel free to weigh in.
Echoing Michael Corleone in Godfather III, "I got out, but they pulled me back in..." My response:
Ugh. He even brought out the ol' "Seamless Garment" line.
A brief fisking of one paragraph will illustrate the fault(s) in his position:
All of this said, there may be non-restrictive means of reducing abortion rates. [There also may be non-law-enforcement ways of stopping homicide. I don't know of any that have actually worked]. One of the conditions for the possibility of building a pro-life consensus in a pluralistic democracy would be to reduce the demand for abortion. [Putting the cart before the horse here. First he wants to reduce the demand for abortion, which he then claims will cause a change in people's beliefs. Would not a more sensible argument be that a change in beliefs would trigger a demand for abortion? To assert such backward reasoning as a premise statement does not bode well for the rest of his argument]. Barack Obama promises to try to reduce abortion rates by non-restrictive means. ['Promise' is certainly a stretch. In the face of criticism about his opposition to the Born Alive Infants Act and concern over his promise to remove any and all restrictions against abortion, he has hypothesized that his policies will nevertheless cause a decrease in abortions, a hypothesis that this article is attempting to flesh out]. Some statistics indicate that up to seventy percent of abortions are driven by economic decisions. [Yes, and some statistics show that global temperatures have increased as the numbers of pirates worldwide has decreased. It may be true, but no one with any amount of common sense would say a dwindling number of pirates is driving worldwide temperatures. Likewise, nobody with any amount of life experience would buy that '70% of abortions are driven by economic concerns'. More likely, THE primary reason for a woman choosing abortion is "I don't really want this baby", and any economic concerns are voiced primarily in justification and/or support of their decision. I would further venture that there is a percentage of women who, when learning they're pregnant, think to themselves "I would really love to have this baby, but I can't afford to raise it. My only option is abortion.", but that it is extremely less than 70%]. Might a combination of economic justice initiatives [Pardon me if the term 'economic justice' makes my blood run cold. 'Economic justice' from the mouth of the Obamessiah, according to his own words, means using the progressive tax system as an engine for wealth redistribution, which is about as economically unjust and un-American as one can get] and better education efforts (including abstinence training) decrease abortion rates? Might the late Cardinal Bernadine's " " argument for a consistent ethic of life be more persuasive in forming a culture of life?[Ah yes, the 'seamless garment' argument. Nevermind that Obama takes a set of fabric shears to the 'conception-to-birth' swath of fabric, shreds the 'don't create life to destroy it' section of cloth with his planned support for the as-yet unsuccessful and completely unneccessary embrionic stem cell research, with a likely scissoring of the 'natural death' end of the fabric in the future. Nevermind that his proposed tax increases on "big corporations" will include pharaceutical companies, which will only drive up the cost of pre- and post-natal care. The garment you have left might be seamless, but it is in tatters] Might this ethic be more consistent with the whole of Catholic social justice teaching? Isn’t the consistent ethic of life implied in Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae? [Sure, if you conveniently ignore that the right to life is not merely "one life issue among many" but is the foundation of all other human rights. More accurately, he is simply invoking the squishy term 'social justice' to justify supporting a candidate who advocates abortion-on-demand, tolerates infanticide, and eagerly advances a purely socialistic tax policy].
I could do the above with any paragraph in the article, especially his forays into what certain saints may or may not have thought about the moment of ensoulment and his laughable (and thankfully brief, as to not further embarrass himself) defense of recent words on the abortion subject from Pelosi and Biden. However, I can only deal with so much disingenuousness on any given day.
Love and kisses,
Horse thoroughly beaten.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
An Amazing Story
A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending a talk by a former POW. Air Force Captain Guy Gruters was shot down over north Vietnam and ended up spending years in the Hanoi Hilton. His story of grace is amazing. The description he gave of life in prison is horrifying. He listened to Lance Sijan get beaten slowly to death over the course of a month. He talks about living in raw sewage and being infested with parasites. He speaks of an environment that can only be described as pure hell.
However, through it all he found grace. At first he was full of pride which led to anger and hatred. Later he started to find humility. Finally, he discovered the power of prayer. He said he prayed for his captors over the course of months "without really meaning it." I loved that description, because I find myself doing the same thing sometimes.
Then, after months, he started to really mean what he was praying. Then he learned to forgive his torturers and finally learned to love them. After that, although he was still living in the most horrible conditions, he discovered the sovereignty of God and received a tremendous sense of peace.
It was an amazing talk and you can download it from here (76 mb mp3 - recommend right-clicking and selecting "save target as"). You can find more great talks at the Theology on Tap website.
I strongly recommend Capt. Gruters' talk. God bless.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Sizing Up The Field II: My Final Politics Post For 2008
Dear America (and the 3 or 4 people who read this blog),
Here is a summary of your two candidates for president:
Political Foundation and Record
McCain: Son and grandson of US Navy admirals; US Navy pilot; seven years prisoner of war; combat unit commander; twenty two years US Senator authoring and sponsoring significant legislation.
Obama: Protege of Marxist/Leninist ideologues and “Bash America First” lunatics; product of Chicago Democratic political machine, one of the most corrupt in the nation; Two years in Senate, where he was absent or voted “Present” 50% of the time; no accomplishments or achievements, honors or awards;
Foreign Policy Approach
McCain: America’s interests first
Obama: Make sure everyone likes us
McCain: Domestic drilling for oil and gas, nuclear energy, invest in alternative energy programs. Basically, try everything.
Obama: Same as McCain, except no drilling for oil or gas. Why our own natural resources should not be utilized has not been explained. Also was against nuclear power, but may have changed his mind.
Government Spending And Taxes
McCain: Reduce domestic government spending; tax relief for corporations (who, you know, employ a lot of the middle class and make the stuff the middle class buys)
Obama: Trillion dollar Marxist wealth redistribution social welfare spending programs, which will be paid for by taxing corporations and the “top 5% income earners”. Exactly how taxing corporations will not trigger layoffs and higher prices for goods and services has not been explained. Exactly why it’s fair to apply a high tax rate to the top 5% income earners (who already account for more than 50% of tax revenue), while 50% of Americans pay no taxes at all, has not been explained, either. States that the role of government is to help everyone pay their bills; however, the Constitution of the US - a document 'progressives' love in the abstract but in every instance ignore in the particular - says nothing to the effect of it being the government’s responsibility to help everyone pay their bills, and nothing at all about the higher income earners being required to shoulder almost all the tax burden required to have the government help pay everyone's bills.
McCain: Promotes choice and personal responsibility. Believes that putting market incentives in place will encourage and reward efficient behavior. How will he be able to provide enough assistance to those who are now uninsured by simply redistributing the tax breaks now only enjoyed by those currently covered? No idea. But his plan does not call for the government to "solve" everyone's health care needs.
Obama: Socialized medicine, anyone? His "right" to "free" health care will cost over $100 billion a year. Would the Obama health care system work? It would clearly get almost everyone covered sooner rather than later. The real question is how would it be sustained. Are their cost containment strategies going to support a system that is affordable in the long run? No. More likely, a $100 billion infusion of new health care spending by the Obama plan would actually increase the rate of health care inflation and ultimately create an imperative for more draconian government intervention in the health care markets.
McCain: Has stated that he is pro-life. Don’t know how serious he is about it.
Obama: Stated that 1st action will be to sign “Freedom of Choice Act”, which will wipe out any and all state restrictions on abortion, including parental notification; Judging by his defense of his opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, he’s cool with infanticide, too.
As Potential Commander In Chief
McCain: Distinguished military record; seems to grasp (at the very least) basic military strategy
Obama: Gave an anti-Iraq war speech to a crowd of anti-Iraq war demonstrators; almost visited wounded troops in Germany, but decided to go shopping in Berlin instead; does not know the difference between a strategy and a tactic
War On Al Queda Strategy
McCain: Finish job in Iraq. Provides rough sketches of how to completely wipe out Al Queda, but is smart enough not to tell everyone what the next move is.
Obama: Screw Iraq. Save Darfur. Says he plans to invade Pakistan, though he does not seem to have much faith in US military leaders.
McCain: Sided with George W. Bush 96% of the time, whose approval rating is about 18%.
Obama: When he bothered to vote, sided with far left, the same far left in control of present Congress whose approval rating is about 9%.
McCain: Has co-sponsored bi-partisan legislation.
Obama: Talks about bipartisanship, but has never co-sponsored bi-partisan legislation.
Judging by the polls, it seems that more of you prefer Obama. Fine. You want him, you've got him. Enjoy Jimmy Carter, Installment II. Sorry I won't be joining the party. Socialism and infanticide are not my thing. Instead, I'll be gearing up for 2012:
Jerry, over and out.