Friday, July 31, 2009

Healthcare Reform -- The Income Tax circa-1913

I am for health care being made available and affordable to all Americans, and I'm (very cautiously) in favor (at least not completely opposed) to a nationalized health care option. However, I think caution is needed in accepting Congress' current plan and the guarantees the president and congressional leaders make regarding the a fore mentioned Act. I thought I would bring up something from our past to illustrate -- the income tax.

The first tax return was required to be filed by those that made 3,000 dollars+ during the tax year -- over 64,000 dollars adjusted for inflation. The top rate for the uber-rich was a big fat 6%. A minute 1% tax was owed if an individual had net income less that 20,000 dollars -- 430,406 dollars inflated to 2008 value. The income tax promised when it was enacted was supposed to small and painless to We the People, but the tax system promised has turned into a monstrous beast of government influence. The rates are high, it is used as welfare vehicle, and it is incredibly complex, a gross mutation from the simplistic tax system enacted in 1913.

The President and Congressional leaders are promising that the public option (using the Social Security/Medicare system -- the largest ponzi scheme ever) will provide a flowery fix to the problem of ever booming health care costs. We the people need to have our voices heard on this issue. Given the problems that Social Security already has, it gives me pause to think that our leaders want to put the entire health care in the hands of this same agency. It may be that using Social Security is the best option to provide insurance to everyone, but Congress needs to put a little more caution into creating (what may become) one of the most intrusive government programs in American history.

While I yearn to feel confident that my family and I can afford to see doctors when necessary, I am scared to death to think of Social Security-esque bureaucracy becoming a part of the health care system. I have nightmares of taking my kids to the doctors and the offices resembling the stark white, inefficient Social Security offices I have had to misfortune of visiting on a few occasions.

There may be other options.

y-intercept had an interesting post, about the perverse incentives that insurers have in rising health care costs. He suggested that health cost should flow through individual accounts in Medical Savings and Loans, laws of supply and demand would be better able to regulate skyrocketing health care costs.

I hope that our leaders step back before they take us down a road that will be irreversible. I fear that we will soon tie ourselves to a system that our children will curse for generations to come. Everyone needs to be able to see a physician without worrying about bankruptcy, but we should be able to do it without possibly bankrupting the nation or burdening future generations with an even more grievous tax burden.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Madoff -- He has a Projected Release Date

I found this to be rather interesting. Bernie Madoff received a 150-year sentence for his Ponzi scam. You would think a sentence of 150 years would be treated as a life sentence without the possibility of parole -- the end. However, the Federal Prison Bureau has calculated a projected release date for Madoff and the date is Nov. 14, 2139. The good news for Madoff is he has already knocked 20 years off of his sentence.

I wonder why have a release date for him. There is the obvious answer of federal agencies just following policies and procedures, but there is also a demoralizing factor for a prisoner like Madoff of puting a date to the end of his sentence. "You can get out in 2139" is a lot more vivid than, "you are sentenced to 150 years in prison." Point is -- Madoff is going to die in there.

The LDS Church and the Kiss Heard Round the Salt Lake Valley

Before I write anything I want to express that I am a Mormon, and I support my church's teachings. However, too many Church members view the Church's opposition to homosexuality as a lifestyle as a reason and excuse to discriminate and oppress gays and lesbians individually and as a group. For this I am sorry and embarrassed. The second great commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself -- there is no caveat in this commandment for color, religion, or sexual orientation.

Last week a gay couple was asked to leave the church owned Main Street Plaza for kissing, and was subsequently arrested when they refused. This led to a minor firestorm of criticism and protests directed at the LDS church. While I agree that some on that LDS Church security crew handled the confrontation in a bigoted circa-1963 Alabama-esque manner, I think the subsequent rage, and protests are counter-productive and somewhat misguided.

First, it is disingenuous of the arrested gay couple to claim that the kiss on the LDS Church owned plaza was just an innocent display of affection. The LDS church is often made to be the main oppressor of the gay and lesbian community in Utah. I would assume that a gay couple living downtown would know this. However, this couple expects the public to believe they were somehow shocked when they were confronted for publicly displaying affection amongst homophobic Mormons on private LDS Church property. Come on! This couple was looking to raise eyebrows, even if they didn't expect they would be arrested and treated so brutally.

Second, the LDS church and the gay and lesbian community will never see eye to eye on this issue. The LDS church (unless this ends up being a major church policy shift caused by a visit from the Deity in person) will never support gay marriage or openly support anything resembling gay marriage. The LDS church will fight gay marriage on all fronts, until the idea is completely rejected in this country, or it becomes institutionalized. I believe the biggest reason the church fights gay marriage so openly is due to our nations civil rights laws, if this was institutionalized nationally our country's civil rights laws would possibly become very cumbersome to any Christian-church that doesn't perform, solemnize, or recognize gay marriages by way of anti-discrimination lawsuits and by other legal issues that face organizations that are viewed as discriminatory. So the point is this, the battle for gay rights should be fought on other fronts (i.e. against political groups like Eagle Forum, and legislators like Chris Buttars), compromises may be needed, and most of all level headed civil political discourse should be maintained. The rage and protests against the LDS church last week seemed a little like childish-pouting. This doesn't excuse the security guards behavior, but targeting the LDS church as an organization is not going to lead gay and lesbian activists to their end goal.

Having said all that. More needs to be done to teach local LDS church members, how be more tolerant of others in this state. The backwardness of many Latter-Day Saints in Zion is somewhat appalling -- tolerance of those who drink alcohol can be a stretch for some members. For a religion that wants members to proselyte to all people, it is interesting that one of the most powerful tools (loving all men as brothers) completely eludes so many of the local Saints.

Personally, I support civil unions (that are treated exactly like marriage) as the best compromise in the gay marriage debate. Civil unions don't seem to be as problematic for Christian churches, and they provide marital benefits and protections to homosexual partners. Most of all I hope that a spirit of peace and compromise may one day lead to a resolution of this issue.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Civil Political Discourse -- Southern Utah Style

How marvelous! St. Georgians exercised their freedom to assemble this 4th of July by having one of many National "Tea" Parties. Unfortunately, due to my camping trip to Lake Powell, I was unable to attend. Thankfully the crack squad of reporters from the Daily Spectrum were there to cover the meaningful, civil discourse between angry conservatives and a snarky Washington County Democratic Party Chair.

Washington County Democratic Party Chairman Cyril Noble braved a hostile crowd when he stood at the microphone and said, "Repeat after me, 'Obama - a two-term president.'"

Amid a growing chorus of boos and shouts of "Traitor!" and "Go home!" Noble said, "He is doing the best he can."

Noble noted his own accent, saying, "I am an American. ... I am an immigrant, which you don't like."

Someone in the crowd called, "Sounds like he's trying to be a victim, to me."

I don't know if it is the snarky liberal, or the bitter, angry, and phobic conservatives -- but events like this are so obnoxious. The liberal used ad hominem arguments, and baiting tactics and the local conservatives were simply parroting conservative talk radio pundits. It is the same old story -- too many Americans have political myopia.

This was my favorite:

Seven-year-old Fox Barrett was one of the speakers to raise his voice against the president from the microphone.

"I'm a conservative, and I just want to say to Obama, 'Stop stealing my future,'" he said.

"He's been wanting to do this since April," said his father, Brett Barrett, while the pair waited in line.

"So he's going to exercise his First Amendment rights, then we're going to go home and exercise our Second Amendment rights," he said, indicating they were going to go shooting at the local firing range.

All right, way to push political ideology on your seven year old! What kid wouldn't want to spend his 4th of July hanging out with awnry old farts?

I am sorry if this offends any of the attendees, but the lack of civil, intelligent political discourse is one of the greatest stumbling blocks for our state and nation. We need to open our eyes, pay a little less attention to pundits, give a little more consideration to what problems need to be addressed, and figure out which elected officials are most likely to present real solutions to those problems.