Monday, May 25, 2009

Sex and Violence

I recently attended a showing of Angels and Demons with my kids. The movie, which was rated PG-13 was full of violence. The plot involves a series of murders and attempted murders including burning a man alive, poisoning, drowning, stabbing, shooting, and a car bomb. I wonder why this level of violence is considered OK by the film ratings board when sexually oriented nudity or expletives if "as must even one of those words used in a sexual context" requires an R rating.

I am willing to bet that the parents of everyone reading this have had sex and have used a dirty word. I'm also willing to bet that almost none of them has shot, set fire to, drowned, poisoned, or bombed another person. We're not killers and we have sex, so why is violence in the movies OK for 13 year olds, but sex forbidden? I'd far rather have my kids think that sex occurs frequently and murder doesn't happen often than have them watch movies that imply it's the other way around.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Death Tax or a Birth Tax

Republicans often rail against the estate tax, which they refer to as a "death tax". The Republicans, however, fail to point out that it is a tax that applies to those that have millions of dollars left when they die. They claim that the tax causes families to have to sell farms and small businesses, but specific examples and statistics are never provided - just anecdotes.

In fact, the wealthy manage to transfer significant wealth to their offspring tax free, by paying for education, gifts, trusts, and a variety of other tactics. Furthermore, there was a $1,000,000 estate tax exemption before Bush schedule a series of reductions that included a complete repeal in 2010. In 2011, estate taxes revert to what they were before the Bush reductions. Paris Hilton has to worry about being disowned more than being taxed into starvation.

The wealthy have been given immense opportunities, thanks to our society. All the estate tax does is let them give back to the society that made them so successful.

The most pernicious part of the argument against the estate tax, however, is the part that the radical right never addresses. Absent an estate tax we either need to tax the living by increasing taxes today or our children by passing on larger deficits for them to repay.

When my third child was born I calculated his "birth tax". To do so, I took
I then used Microsoft Excel's PMT function to calculate his monthly payment if he started paying the day he was born and if he waited until his 18th birthday. My poor baby was on the hook for payments totaling $99,189.61 the day he was born. In reality it is even worse, since he's not repaying his birth tax now and is unlikely to be able to start any time soon: Assuming a balanced budget from his date of birth until his 18th birthday (an assumption that now that he's almost 4 seems ludicrously optimistic) he'll need to repay $180,611.27 over his lifetime!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Handing Wall Street Yet Another Gift

Our government is trying to buy up toxic assets by giving non-recourse loans to private equity groups that will then buy the pools of assets for pennies on the dollar. Seems unfair that these private groups can buy the assets at a deep discount, primarily with money that you and I loan them and we can not. To counter this argument, the government includes in their solicitation for bids a request for how the private equity groups will allow public participation. Not much of a surprise that they want to package them into instruments which they can sell tot he public and upon which they can collect huge sales and management fees. We do not, however, need to hand wall street a new money maker to allow public participation in the deals.

The New York Times in their reporting on the idea of retail investors participating in buying toxic assets says: "For the investment managers, the benefits are potentially large. These big firms can charge healthy fees to investors for taking part."

The treasury department already sells a variety of notes and bonds directly to the public via it's Treasury direct website. Since, the U.S. government will already be an equity investor in the deals, retaining 50% of each one, they can either sell the public some portion of their equity or some portion of the PEGs equity in each deal directly.

Monday, May 4, 2009

You Know You are a Liberal

You believe that a man should be judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skinYou support affirmative action
Believe that war is not the answerbut won't tell us how many rounds of Kumbaya it will take to get Al Quada recruits to become peace loving humanists
Believe that education and economic opportunities in the third world is all that is needed to defeat Islamic fundamentalismIgnore the fact that the 9/11 hijackers were well off, exposed to Western ideas, and college educated.
You love to talk about America's support for authoritarian in countries like Chile and Guatemalabut have no problem with third world despots from the left like Fidel Castro
Hate factory farms, buy organic, protest against genetically modified organisms, and don't like milk from cows that got rBGHClaim to want to feed the world and ignore the fact that without the technologies you protest we'd have mass starvation.
Enjoy criticizing America for all its failingsNever compare it to North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Russia, or any of the countries that don't measure up
You object to big corporations sending jobs to overseas sweatshops because it costs our jobs and depresses wagesWant to ease immigration laws as if that won't depress wages
Object to capitalism because it's not equitableIgnore the fact that it is far and away the most productive system ever used by man
Hate when conservatives ignore science and back abstinence only education, creationism, and oppose stem cell researchTreat your diseases with herbs because they are natural instead of scientifically tested pharmaceuticals. Supplements are untested and unregulated.