Saturday, June 05, 2010

Senate Candidates -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Social Security and Taxes

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The candidates have all opined on the reversal of "don't ask, don't tell". All three have towed the party line (at least, locally) regarding this subject. Granato has parroted Democratic party talking points calling the military policy a "violation of civil rights" while the Republican duo has stated solid opposition to removing the ban on gays being allowed to serve openly in the Armed Forces.

No one wins here.

Forcing people to keep a key part of their identity secret in order to avoid losing their jobs is a violation of civil rights. However, the dangers and stresses of combat that the Armed Forces work under may merit different consideration regarding workplace policies. If the military can show that gays serving openly in the military (I have no idea how this is possible, but for the sake of argument I'm making the point) will cause a detriment to the Armed Forces ability to be effective -- then "don't ask, don't tell" should remain. I've never been in the military (I don't believe any of the Senate candidates have either) and I don't know how or why gays in the military is a problem, but if it truly is than we shouldn't make a policy shift like this especially while our country has wars on two fronts.

Social Security --

Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater came out and openly discussed their views on what should happen to Social Security. Both Lee and Bridgewater support the ideas of raising retirement ages and giving American citizens control over Social Security in privatized investment accounts (the idea GW Bush recommended to Congress during his presidency) Lee went a little further -- Lee questioned the constitutionality of Social Security and suggested that control over Social Security be handed over to individual states.

The suggestion that Social Security be handed over to the states prompted a blunt response from a University of Wisconsin professor to SL Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke:

Timothy Smeeding, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who studies Social Security, was blunt in his assessment of Lee's proposal: "That is total horseshit."

"What happens to people who move in and out of the state? It's just knee-jerk," he said. "[Social Security] is a federal program. It covers you no matter where you live and as long as you live."

With workers moving between states, a state-by-state patchwork is an idea that is impractical and should be discarded, Smeeding said.

While I agree that a few of Mike Lee's positions are "total horses*&@!", I'm not sure that allowing the states to control Social Security is that bad of an idea. Although Professor Smeeding in Wisconsin is concerned that the idea wouldn't be practical for people moving in and out of different states, I'm not sure that the social security funds couldn't be tied to voter registration and that it wouldn't be something that is completely unworkable. Social Security is a mess. It was created with shortsightedness and we are desperately needing Congress to address that shortsightedness and come up with solutions that will make Social Security a viable program once again. While I don't believe the "state's control" proposal is a viable solution to the Social Security problem, I appreciate that Mike Lee proposed it and that he is willing to bring up unpopular recommendations to a problem that many (if not most) Congressional leaders seem to ignore like a 800 pound gorilla in the room.

While I like the idea of private accounts, I wonder about how it would be implemented. There are a ton of questions that will need the best and brightest to solve. Unfortunately, as the baby-boomer crunch draws near the problem may be bigger than our ability to solve.

In a perfect world, Social Security would have been a forced savings or investment system from the beginning instead of the pay as you go system that we have now. American workers would have been able to build nest eggs through earnings from interest, dividends, and gains on investments. Federal government intervention would be necessary on a more limited scale at this point, and (all other things being equal) we would have a government run banking/investment system. However, what we got was a system that didn't account for an increasing average lifespan, the baby boom, and a major deficiency in social security tax-paying workers to support that baby boom generation in their retirement years and in a few years our nation will reach the squalor of those good intentions.

The social security staus quo will not cut it for future generations, and the longer changes are not made the more likely financial disaster becomes an inevitability for the social security program.

1 and 1/2 Points for Lee (showed some innovation), 1 point Bridgewater.
Taxes --

Both Republicans are advocating a flat tax or a "fair" tax system. I have written ad naseum regarding my opposition to all flat tax proposals. Before Utah enacted its "flat tax cut" I predicted that it would be a tax hike for Utahn's in the middle class whose incomes are consistently the same from year to year -- personally my tax bill went up more than 400% in the first year after the flat tax was enacted while my income dropped more tan 7000 dollars in the same year. Flat taxes can be tax cuts, but only if your income is high enough that a majority of middle class tax benefits have phased out

Sam Granato came out in opposition of flat tax proposals:

“The middle class is the backbone of this country. When middle class families prosper, we all prosper. And yet, even in these difficult economic times, the Republican candidates in this race are supporting a so-called ‘fair’ or ‘flat’ tax plans that economists say could result in substantial tax increases for 83 percent of American families. That doesn’t sound fair to me at all,”
While it sounds fair in theory that all Americans pay the same percentage of income as a tax (even more so in 10% tithe paying Utah) the numbers don't work out that way. A 10% bite of income for someone living on 40,000 is quite a bit different than a 10% bite out of income for someone making 400,000 -- one is left with 36,000 dollars to live on during the year and the other is left with 360,000 dollars (Fair, right?).

2 points Granato, 0 points Lee and Bridgewater

No comments: