Taxes: If They Do the Crime, Make Them Do the Time

Americans like to trumpet the belief that we’re a “nation of laws”. Unfortunately, our laws are unevenly enforced when enforced at all. Congress churns out dozens of laws every year, while at the same time, guaranteeing they’ll fail by not budgeting for enforcement. Tea partiers like to say that most corporate laws constitute “over-regulation”. However, one could make a reasonable case that we don’t over-regulate, we under-enforce – and a law unenforced is no law at all.

You could easily say the same for failing to pay personal taxes. There’s a burgeoning industry devoted to helping scofflaws avoid penalties for “cents on the dollar”. Apparently, assisting tax deadbeats is more profitable than chasing ambulances. Some might argue tax issues wouldn’t be a problem if the taxes were lower, but these negotiated settlements allow defendants to avoid punishment. “If you do the crime, you have to do the time (except as negotiated by Nasty, Rude, Brutish, and Short, LLP).”

America is also stuck in a swamp of economic gelatinous goo. Just to spite each other we’re cutting off everything with a nose to pass a budget that takes regular taxpayers back to government circa 1865 and pumping up the wealthy’s wealth to a tax-free 2082. Yet, here are two almost untouched revenue streams. We could take a bite out of crime and the budget by simply enforcing the laws we have.

If BP befouls the Gulf of Mexico or Exxon paints Prudhoe Bay a wonderful, multicolored rainbow sheen, let’s not negotiate a settlement for pennies on the dollar while they reap some mighty fine profits. Profits at least partly derived from the other 98 cents on the dollar you and I paid to clean up the flaming dog poop they left on our porch. And bonus – maybe they’d think twice before doing the same stupid, illegal things they did to cause the accident in the first place – a twofer that helps modify bad behavior and raise revenue at the same time.

SWEET!

And since corporations have equal to (or greater than) the rights of flesh and blood, private citizens it’s only fair we stop negotiating sweetheart deals for the proletariat too. Paying taxes is a legal obligation, not an optional thing you do only when it pays for school vouchers or Muslim extermination programs. Saying you cheated or didn’t pay your taxes because “everyone does it” is no excuse. Remember Momma’s rule, “If everyone jumped off a bridge into a Chevron-managed tar pit, would you do it too?”

Of course, these actions won’t make all the bad economics go away, but it will make the sharing of pain fairer, without taxing the rich one more penny. It’s time to stop whining about what we owe and pay up.

If they do the crime, make them do the time.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Reforming the U.N. Security Council?

By: Inoljt,  http://mypolitikal.com/

The United States has permanent membership in the Security Council along with the China, France, Russia, and United Kingdom. Each of these countries may veto any resolution they desire to.

There have been occasional calls to reform the Security Council. The most discussed option has been adding Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan as permanent members.

Let’s take a look at each of the current Security Council members:

China – China has the world’s second-largest economy and – probably – the world’s third most powerful military. Its relative influence, however, is still limited. China today is far more of a great power than it was in 1945 (indeed, in 1945 it probably didn’t deserve to be labeled a great power). Moreover, China is indisputably becoming stronger.

France – France has the world’s fifth largest economy and a very modern and powerful military, probably in the world’s top five. On the other hand, its influence is somewhat limited outside the former French Empire. Compared with 1945, France is substantially less of a great power, having lost its empire and fallen under the American umbrella. Indeed, like most of Europe it has been in relative decline ever since 1918 and looks set to continue to decline in relative terms. This is because the Third World is slowly catching up to the First World, rather than any fault of France itself.

Russia – Russia has the smallest economy of the five, barely (or not at all) breaking into the world’s top ten biggest economies. However, Russia’s military is unquestionably the world’s second strongest, and it dominates the region it is located in. Russia fell into steep decline after the fall of the Soviet Union, when it was on par with the United States, and has only recently begun to recover.

United Kingdom – The United Kingdom has much in common with France. Its economy is the world’s sixth largest, and its military is probably in the world’s top five. Nowadays, the United Kingdom’s influence is more cultural than anything else; it neither dominates Europe or the former British Empire. Out of all the powers, the United Kingdom has declined the most since 1945 – losing both its empire and economic preeminence.

United States – The United States has the world’s largest economy and most powerful military. It strongly influences the entire world. It is more powerful than in 1945, with the fall of its great rival the Soviet Union.

All in all the United States, Russia, and China (going in order of their great power strength) definitely ought to be in the Security Council. The case is more questionable for France and the United Kingdom. Europe is still a very powerful entity in the world and should have a permanent member in the Security Council. But having two members in the Security Council – as is currently the case – certainly overstates its status.

The trouble is that by themselves, France or the United Kingdom aren’t powerful enough to have one seat. Nor is the European Union influential or coherent enough to deserve a seat. Under an ideal situation, one-third of a seat each would go to France and the United Kingdom, with the other third going to Germany. This, of course, wouldn’t be feasible in the real world.

Finally, let’s take a look at the countries which some propose adding as permanent members:

Brazil – Brazil has the world’s seventh or eighth largest economy, which is why people propose adding it. However, Brazil has no substantial military presence to speak of. Its influence is limited to Latin America (where the United States is probably more influential). While Brazil has become relatively more powerful since 1945, it is still not in the category of great power status.

Germany – Germany probably has the strongest claim to being added to the permanent Security Council. Germany’s economy is the world’s 4th largest (bigger than the United Kingdom or France), but its military is still quite weak due to the restrictions imposed upon it after World War II. Germany is generally seen as Europe’s first-among-equals; it is Germany, not France or the United Kingdom, which is coordinating the response to the European Union debt crisis. Germany has thus definitely become more powerful after rising from the ashes of 1945.

India – India is similar to Brazil in many respects, except weaker. It has the world’s tenth or eleventh biggest economy. Like Brazil, its military is essentially nonexistent. It has very little influence even in its neighborhood. India has certainly strengthened since 1945, when it was under foreign rule. However, it definitely is not yet a great power. One could make a stronger case for adding Italy or Canada to the permanent Security Council than India (or Brazil, for that matter).

Japan – Japan is a unique case. Its economy is the world’s third largest, which seems to say that Japan ought to be included in the permanent Security Council. Japan’s military, however, is extraordinarily weak. Furthermore, Japan has no regional influence; it is regarded negatively by its neighbors for its crimes in World War II. Indeed, Japan has been bullied quite recently both by Russia and China over disputed islands, with Russia and China getting the better of it each time. While Japan has advanced economically since 1945, its regional influence is still lower. Before World War II, for instance, Japan occupied Korea and much of China as a colony; this would be impossible today.

Out of these four countries, probably only Germany truly ought to be in the permanent Security Council. Brazil and India are still middle powers. Japan, while economically strong, lacks the other qualifications that go along with Great Power status.

Indeed, none of these countries have been able to exert their strength in ways the Security Council Five have in the past decade. The United States invaded and occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, countries half around the world. Russia invaded Georgia. The United Kingdom and France are currently bombing Libya. Perhaps only Germany – and even this is fairly uncertain – can do something similar today.

The world has changed a lot since 1945, but it has also changed a lot less than many believe. The five great powers in 1945 still are, by and large, the five great powers in 2010.

 

 

Enslaved to Ron Paul

“With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies,” the senator said. “It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me.”

“It means you believe in slavery. “It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.” – Rand Paul

Rand Paul (R-Craters of the Loon) is a tough man to like, but I have to give him credit for being remarkably consistent, if not wholly, about his Libertarian beliefs. He believes that toilet regulations are an affront to capitalism that will destroy the vaunted American plumbing infrastructure. He similarly believes a human right to health care is slavery.

Pity the Poor Conscripts
It seems Rand is afraid that as a doctor he’ll be “conscripted” to give health care to a goldbricking, unemployed cancer victim living in an AMC Pacer currently parked in front of their foreclosed home at 1313 Mockingbird Ln. Rand doesn’t mention that he’ll likely be paid handsomely for his conscription. He also hasn’t given up his own health insurance in order to throw off the terrible shackles of slavery.

There are a number of arguments about whether the right to health care or free-flowing toilets are any business of government. There are still logical debates to have, as there should be. However, Rand’s penchant for ideological absolutism and absurd comparisons like health care = slavery cheapens an important debate and makes it impossible to get any work done.

It also makes him look like he has the IQ of a ham sandwich, but that’s a whole other post.

Excuse Me But the Cracks in Your Fidelity are Showing
Although Rand’s often off-the-chart comparisons may sound like total fidelity to his principles he often injects quirks and oddities that left unchecked would harm the country much more than help it. They also point out cracks in his passionate fidelity.

For example, slaves got food and water (two other items Rand thinks aren’t human rights). They got those services because slaves were too valuable to do otherwise. Providing services, even to those you hate, doesn’t make slavery. Slavery comes from the single pin that the enslaved have no choice. Which isn’t the case in Paul’s descriptions.

Paul is a Presbyterian. Can we automatically decide that if he complies with God’s every command that God has enslaved him? After all, God’s slavery is infinitely more total and absolute than a government decree (which isn’t the case, nor will it likely be) that health care is a human right.

I wish Rand would choose his battles, and especially his analogies, more carefully. All they do is muddy the water and keep the country in perpetual rancor and decay.

In other words, stop enslaving the rest of us with your silly, distracting speeches.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

What Elections Would Look Like in a Mexico-United States Union

This is part of a series of posts examining, somewhat lightheartedly, the electoral effects of adding Canada and then Mexico to the United States.

(Note: This post was written for serious political analysis along with it. It is not meant to offend, and sincere apologies are offered if any offense at all is taken. I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The previous post noted that if Mexico joined the United States, and if Mexico voted for the Democratic Party, then the Democratic Party would at first glance seem benefit very much indeed. President George W. Bush would have win Delaware to become president. Double-digit Republican victories would turn into ties.

But this assumes that American voting patterns remain unchanged if the United States joined Mexico.

Imagine how the typical American would react to the last six words in the sentence above, and one can begin to see why that assumption is probably extremely inaccurate.

If the United States were to join Canada, the result would probably be fairly free of friction. The United States and Canada have very similar or the same cultures, histories, income levels, languages and ethnicities. It is impossible to tell a Canadian and an American apart.

None of this is true regarding Mexico and the United States. Mexicans and Americans are truly separate peoples to an extent Canadians and Americans are not. Their cultures, histories, income levels, languages, and ethnicities are different. It is not hard to tell a Mexican and an American apart.

For these reasons, it is pretty simple to predict voting patterns in a union of Mexico and the United States. The typical election would probably look like this:

 

Link to Image of Typical Election in Mexican-American Union

 

Adding the United States to Mexico would probably spark an enormous racial backlash amongst Americans. The effect would be similar to that of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the South. This might not be confined merely to whites; if there is one way to break the Democratic Party’s lock on the black vote, adding the United States to Mexico might be it. Elections would come to resemble those which happen in Mississippi today: everybody from Mexico would vote one way, everybody from the United States would vote another.

This is not just a guess. Many countries today experience similar problems, where two different peoples happen to share the same borders. Tribal voting often happens in Africa, due to its colonial history. Another example is Ukraine, which has an enormous east-west divide. People in the west are Ukrainians, who speak Ukrainian and want to join NATO. People in the east are Russians, who speak Russian and want to re-create the Soviet Union. It’s not pretty:

 

Link to Image of 2004 Ukrainian Election

 

 

It’s not very hard to imagine a similar electoral dynamic playing out in an American-Mexican union.

--Inoljt

 

What If Mexico Was Part of the United States?

The previous two posts in this serious dealt with what would happen if Canada’s electoral votes were added to the United States. This post will examine what would happen if the same occurred with Mexico.

(Note: This post was written for serious political analysis along with it. It is not meant to offend, and sincere apologies are offered if any offense at all is taken. I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Mexico is a lot bigger than Canada. Canada has a population of 34 million; Mexico has a population of 112 million. Indeed, it’s one of the most populous countries in the world. The effect of adding Mexico to the United States would have far more of an impact than adding Canada.

One can calculate the number of electoral votes Mexico has this way. The first post in this series noted that:

A state’s electoral vote is based off the number of representatives and senators it has in Congress. For instance, California has 53 representatives and 2 senators, making for 55 electoral votes…

The United States Census estimates its population at approximately 308,745,538 individuals. The House of Representatives has 435 individuals, each of whom represents – on average – approximately 709,760 people. If Canada was part of the United States, this would imply Canada adding 48 (rounding down from 48.47) representatives in the House.

This is a simplified version of things; the process of apportionment is quite actually somewhat more complicated than this. But at most Canada would have a couple more or less representatives than this. It would also have two senators, adding two more electoral votes to its 48 representatives.

Mexico’s population in 2010 was found to be exactly 112,322,757 individuals. Using the same estimates as above, one would estimate Mexico to have 158.25 House representatives. Adding the two senators, one gets about 160 electoral votes in total:

Link to Image of Electoral College With Mexico

This is obviously a lot of votes. For the sake of simplification let’s also not consider Mexico’s powerful political parties in this hypothetical.

How would Mexico vote?

Well, it would probably go for the Democratic Party (funny how that tends to happen in these scenarios). This is not something many people would disagree with. Most Mexican-Americans tend vote Democratic. The Democratic platform of helping the poor would probably be well-received by Mexicans, who are poorer than Americans. Moreover, the Republican emphasis on deporting illegals (often an euphemism for Mexican immigrants, although some Republicans make things clearer by just stating something like “kick out the Mexicans”) would probably not go well in Mexico.

Here’s what would happen in the 2004 presidential election, which President George W. Bush won:

Link to Image of 2004 Presidential Election With Mexico


Senator John Kerry wins a pretty clear victory in the electoral vote. He gains 409 electoral votes to Mr. Bush’s 286 and is easily elected president.

What states would Mr. Bush need to flip to win?

In the previous post, where Canada was added to the United States, Mr. Bush would merely have needed to flip one: Wisconsin. Given his 0.4% loss in the state, this would require convincing only 6,000 voters to switch.

Mexico is a lot harder. In order to win, Mr. Bush needs to shift the national vote 4.2% more Republican. This flips six states: Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and finally Oregon (which he lost by 4.2%). They go in order of the margin of Mr. Bush’s defeat to Mr. Kerry:

Link to Image of Electoral College With Bush Victory


But there’s a caveat here: in this scenario the entirety of Mexico is assumed to only have two senators. The fifty states have 435 representatives and 100 senators, making for 535 electoral votes in total (plus Washington D.C.’s three). Mexico, on the other hand, has 158 representatives and two senators, making for only 160 electoral votes. Obviously, Mexico’s influence is strongly diluted.

Mexico itself is organized into 31 states and one federal district. Assume that instead of the entire country voting as one unit, Mexico is divided in the electoral college into these districts. Each Mexican state (and Mexico City) would receive two senators, giving Mexico 222 electoral votes instead of 160.

But that’s not all. There are several states in America – Wyoming, for instance – whose influence is magnified due to their low population. The “Wyomings” of Mexico are Baja California Sur, Colima, and Compeche – which each have less than a million residents. Overall, this would probably add three more electoral votes to Mexico.

This means that Mr. Bush has to flip three more states to win:

Link to Image of Electoral Map With Mexican States

New Jersey, Washington, and Delaware go Republican under this scenario. To do this, Mr. Bush would have to shift the national vote 7.59% more Republican (the margin by which he lost Delaware).

One can see that Mexico has a far more powerful effect than Canada; a double-digit Republican landslide has turned into a tie here. That’s what happens when one adds a country of more than one hundred million individuals.

Before Democrats start celebrating however, one should note that this the hypothetical to this point has been in no way realistic. It assumes that the residents of America will not alter their voting habits in response to an extremely fundamental change.

The next post explores some conclusions about what the typical election would look like if the United States became part of Mexico.

--Inoljt

 

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