Friday, August 5, 2011

Jay Batman 2016


After reviewing the roster of candidates for President in 2012, I'm convinced that America will be starving for a genuine alternative by 2016, because no matter which one of those clowns winds up being president, the American people are going to lose.  By 2016, no matter how implausible my candidacy for the White House might be, the fact that I am a genuine outsider and someone who has an utterly different approach to solving this nation's problems will work in my favor.  Plus, I have a big mouth and a quick wit.  

I'd like to take this moment to formally announce my candidacy for President of the United States in 2016.  Now, many of you are likely thinking of various slogans for my candidacy like "The Audacity of Dope" or "Sturm and Drang," but I assure that I haven't used drugs in over four years unless I had a prescription.  Granted, I wrote some of those prescriptions myself, but I had a medical issue.  Glaucoma or something, whatever.  

I'm serious, or as serious as someone who makes his reputation being utterly facetious can be.  I love this country and hate all 537 of its national leaders without reservation, and I think that by 2016 the American people will be seeing things my way.  Even the elected representatives who are decent people are totally ineffective at combatting the gridlock or effecting meaningful change.  Our system of government just doesn't work anymore.  We've got serious problems that require serious solutions, and I have some serious solutions.  

First off, I intend to dissolve Congress.  Yes, that's right.  I'm going to build my own army of paramilitary loyalists, and when I'm elected, I'm going to use that army to forcibly dissolve Congress.  We pay these individuals $174,000 annually to work 120 to 180 days a year.   Some of those days are as short as 20 minutes in length, if you measure the length of sessions.  We have everything we need in the Executive Branch to make legislation and even to hold quasi-judicial hearings.  Just look at the Immigration and Naturalization Services.  

Congress is obsolete.  All they do is squabble like little children anyway, and we need to streamline the accountability process.  If I fail as President, then it's on me.  I don't have anyone else to blame.  What America needs is a CEO and executive level heads who answer to that CEO.  Think of the Treasury Secretary as my CFO, and the head of OMB as my COO, and you get the picture.  Jay Batman, cutting the bullshit and gridlock, 2016.  

The Military

As far as my specific policy items, they are as follows.  First, I intend to curtail military spending. We spend $700 billion a year to fight an enemy that lives in caves.  It's ludicrous. The Global War on Terrror is going to be restructured entirely.  No longer will we occupy or rebuild countries, we're simply going to use our air superiority and our Special Forces to place small groups trained in discretionary warfare on the ground for targeted missions like the one that took out Bin Laden.  We'll extract them quickly, and adopt a get in and get out approach.  We will bomb the hell out of any country that supports terror.  General Curtis LeMay will be cloned, and he will be placed in charge of Dresden style bombing campaigns throughout the Middle East. Enough is enough.  It's going to be Bosnia all over again, without the emphasis on ground forces and reconstruction.  

I'm going to eliminate entire commands and consolidate their roles.  We don't need EUCOM, SOUTHCOM, PACOM, AFRICOM, and TRANSOM, along with ARCENT and the various other acronymed commands we're currently funding.  We will have four commands, with CENTCOM presiding over the other three commands.  AFRICOM will be absorbed into CENTCOM's current responsibilities with the Middle East and Eurasia, along with Europe and Russia.  PACOM will handle the nations of the Pacific Rim and Asia.  SOUTHCOM will handle South American nations.  Duplicative weapons programs that provide essentially the same equipment for various branches of the U.S. military will be consolidated as necessary and phased out entirely as necessary. We will also force the retirements of officers rather than cutting the ranks of our enlisted men and women, because we are top heavy with administration in our military.  Jay Batman, graft cutter and waste eliminator, 2016.  

Our nuclear warhead stockpile will be cut from 5,000 plus to 300.  No target set can withstand a 100 warhead effort to begin with, and at any given time, we're only faced with three potential areas that could give rise to a nuclear response.  We have China, Russia, and the nations of the Middle East.  Those are the potential threat areas, and North Korea is included in China since it effectively operates as a satellite state under the auspices of Chinese influence and funding.  

The strategic advantages are breathtaking.  Due to our own sharp reduction in warheads, the Russians will have little reason to preserve their own stockpiles.  The expense of maintaining and securing vast supplies of nuclear warheads are justifiable only when the United States' own warhead stockpiles are considered, and given our unilateral and voluntary reductions, the Russian government is likely to welcome the opportunity to cut expenditures and secure its nuclear material by reducing the stockpiles it holds.  This will lessen the likelihood of nuclear material being sold to terrorist organizations or non-nuclear regimes who aspire to join the nuclear club.  

The Chinese are likely to be more open to the idea of curbing their own nuclear ambitions for the same reasons: expense and risk.  One warhead in the hands of Uighyurs is not a desirable scenario for Beijing.  Jay Batman, nuclear peacemaker, 2016.  

I'll also reorient our forward presence in the world by centering our bases in the areas that matter to America's interest today.  Right now, our base presence in Europe is a reflection of Cold War necessities.  We don't need bases in Europe.  That's not where the threat is.  I'll establish bases in proximity to the threats that face, be it old rivals like Russia and China or the terror regimes of the Middle East.  In essence, I intend to exploit the close alliances and interests we have with the Turks by making our continued supply of their military equipment contingent on overflight rights and an actual base presence in order to give our forces the means of striking any target in the Middle East from a stable and modern nation.  Perhaps the carrot of previously forbidden military technology will induce a more cooperative attitude in our Turkish friends.  Smart thinking, Jay Batman, 2016.  

I'll also emphasize a ring of containment that encircles the Middle East and our rival China from Eurasia.  Uzbekistan, Turkemistan, Tajikistan, and other former Soviet republics in this region will be critical to our strategic ambitions going forward because they will afford us the proximity to those regimes that threaten our geopolitical and economic interests. The added benefit will be that China is blocked from establishing its own presence in those countries to expand its physical sphere of influence.  Additionally, by shifting our forces out of Arab holy lands and into forward positions in nations like Turkey and former Soviet republics, we'll lessen the provocation to Muslims.  Jay Batman, containment advocate and voice of reason, 2016.  

In the Pacific, our bases on island nations such as Japan and the Phillipines will be critical to our strategic goals of containing Chinese power and deterring Chinese aggression.  Additionally, our presence in South Korea needs to be significantly fortified and enhanced to accomplish this goal.  Peace through strength, Jay Batman, 2016.  

I believe that by streamlining operations, consolidating and eliminating superfluous commands, and eliminating duplicative weapons programs while reducing the number of nukes, we can halve our military budget and utterly eliminate supplemental funding for ill-advised occupations of countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.  The savings will be significant, some $350 to $400 billion a year out of existing spending.  That's not some phantasm that relies on cuts in projected increased spending to come up with hallucinations of fiscal discipline.  

We can secure America from external threats by being smarter and changing our emphasis to a quick strike, non-occupying strategy built on discretionary warfare and our clear advantage in airpower that targets specific individuals and groups in order to disrupt terrorist plots.  Predator drones.  Jay Batman, 2016.  

Domestic Security

The answer to a domestic security and intelligence failure like 9/11 isn't the creation of a new bureaucracy to oversee the bureaucracies that failed to do their job in the years leading up to 9/11.  It's the firing of those bureaucrats and agents who obstructed the path to identifying, locating, arresting, and trying the hijackers who pulled off 9/11.  It's trying them for obstruction of justice and making them accountable for civil damages to the families of 9/11 victims.  You can have qualified immunity only if you do your job.  If you're obviously incompetent, even willfully so, you don't get qualified immunity.  

With that said, I want to eliminate the Department of Homeland Security and the Directorate of National Intelligence.  We didn't need new layers of additional bureaucracy after 9/11; we needed the existing layers of bureaucracy to do their jobs.  We needed to hold the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and various other agencies accountable for what happened on 9/11.  We needed to actually fire and discipline people.  

Instead, we got an agency that is sprawling in its responsibilities and loathed for its overreaches.  We all agree that naked scanners in airports are just absurd.  We all know that the Christmas Day bomber wasn't stopped by the TSA or air marshals. Passengers identified him and subdued him. The Department of Homeland Security did not secure the homeland.  It's just that simple.  Why spend $43 billion a year on an agency that seemingly exists solely for the purpose of funneling money to Michael Chertoff and the security equipment company he shills for these days?  

Our own FBI created a bomber out of a troubled young man by recruiting him to bomb a Christmas gathering in Seattle.  They even supplied him with the fake bomb materials, and after making their straw man, they then pointed to their arrest of said straw man as proof that they were keeping us safe by first creating terrorists and then arresting them after the fact.  

We are going to reinvestigate 9/11, and this time we will spend more money on the investigation than we spent on looking into Bill Clinton's blowjobs.  We're going to spend millions of dollars investigating how 19 hijackers who could barely fly Cessnas were able to defeat FAA safeguards, airspace security, and the FBI, CIA, and NSA's considerable powers with just $500,000 in funding and a jones for hookers, strippers, and sex toys.  We're going to do it because we owe the families of victims an answer as to what happened and why, and we're going to do it to ensure that 9/11 never happens again.  We're going to prosecute actual Americans for their role in the failures that led to 9/11, and we're going to punish actual Americans for dereliction of duty, negligence, and incompetence because their idiocy got 3,000 Americans killed.  Jay Batman, accountability in government, 2016.  

We're going to identify the specific weaknesses in our intelligence apparatus, such as the relationships between NSA bureaucrats and contractors that led to a $1.2 billion program by the name of Trailblazer being selected for data sifting and analysis over a program developed in-house at the NSA by the name of Thin Thread that cost just $3 million and did a better job than Trailblazer, which despite costing 400 times as much never got off of the ground.  We're going to investigate Science Applications International Corporation's penchant for hiring NSA employees to lobby for NSA contracts, and those NSA employee's penchant for returning to the NSA to oversee the projects associated wtih those contracts in order to win their employer more business. In other words, we're going to start addressing improprieties and conflicts of interest.  Jay Batman, rooting out corruption, 2016.  

The Economy

Our economy is hamstrung by regulation and a federal tax code that is simply too damned big and complicated.  We spent $265 billion in 2005 on tax compliance, and we dedicated 6 billion hours to figuring out how to pay our taxes and remain in legal compliance with the tax code.  Consider the following: 

"According to Commerce Clearing House, since the inception of the income tax in 1913, the number of pages of tax code, regulations, and IRS rulings that individuals and businesses must comply with has grown from 400 pages to a whopping 67,204! Just since 2000, it has increased 43 percent."  

It's ridiculous.  We have an estate tax, a gift tax, federal excise taxes, import taxes and tariffs, a corporate tax, a capital gains tax, a federal income tax, withholding for Social Security and Medicare.  Americans by and large want to pay their taxes and abide by the law, and it shouldn't be so damned difficult to do that.  We shouldn't have to hire a tax lawyer or an accountant to do our taxes, and we shouldn't have to buy tax software every year.  By 2015 it is estimated that we will spend over $482 billion on tax compliance.  

This is what I propose: scrap the entire code.  All of it.  We can do what we need to do with a VAT tax or a flat tax, and we can do it with far less hassle and expense.  However, even with tax reform, we're still facing a massive deficit.  My earlier ideas to halve military expenditures and restructure our priorities in defense spending will only get us part of the way to our goal, and we will have to make tough decisions about spending across the board.  

More importantly, you need to understand why a corporate income tax or a capital gains tax is asinine.  Let's take the corporate income tax, which in the U.S. is at 35%.  Corporations are very good at externalizing costs in the form of lower wages and benefits to labor and higher prices to consumers.  In fact, studies have shown that those two demographics bear 71% of the cost associated with the corporate income tax.  You think you're sticking it to the man, but you're actually shooting yourself in the foot.  Jay Batman, making common sense, 2016.  

You also need to understand that the way the corporate income tax is structured defeats the purpose of raising revenues from corporate profits.  In some years (particularly in the earlier part of the last decade) we actually spent more on corporate welfare and tax credits than we took in in the form of corporate tax revenues.  We went $20 billion in the hole in certain years.  Why not eliminate both the welfare and tax credits, along with the tax itself?  That way you won't have to suffer the indignity of hearing how profitable companies like GE and Microsoft game the system to collect billions in tax refunds from the federal government.  You'll have lower prices, and potentially higher wages. If you're an investor, you'll see higher dividends.  Moreover, by eliminating the tax, you eliminate the costs associated with compliance. Companies won't be spending billions of dollars on tax lawyers and accountants to comply with a tax that no longer exists.  

Imagine an America with no corporate income tax that functions like a tax shelter for large multinational corporations that come here and hire Americans to avoid taxes in places like Europe and elsewhere.  It's just good for business and workers alike.  Jay Batman, making the economy work, 2016.  

As far as a capital gains tax goes, why would you tax a positive act?  Taxation is punitive, and what we want in this country is greater private investment to spur job creation and business.  Eliminate the capital gains tax and you'll attract that investment.  It's simple economics: if you can invest here and keep your dividends free of tax, as opposed to other nations where you have to pay taxes, you'll invest here as opposed to there. You have every reason to when you consider the tax advantages. To those who oppose this because they want the rich to pay their fair share, I say the following: you can have a job or the satisfaction of class resentment.  You can't have both.  

Excise taxes on gasoline and other forms of oil comprise up to .50 or more of every gallon of gasoline you purchase.  Would you like to see the price of a gallon of gasoline go down by .50?  Of course you would!  Jay Batman, cheap gas and hot air, 2016.  

As far as the type of tax we might choose, be it a VAT or a flat tax, there are benefits and disadvantages to consider all around.  The benefit of a VAT tax is that it's easy to collect, and easy to monitor because each link in the supply chain keeps track of what the prior link paid in order to deduct that contribution from its own payment.  It's self-enforcing.  Unfortunately, a VAT tax is also easy to conceal and tough to monitor. That means it's easy to hike the rate without much negative feedback, and perhaps we don't want our government to have the ability to do such a thing.  Jay Batman, limited government and low taxes, 2016. 

A flat tax is good in the sense that everyone pays the same rate, but flat taxes in history have not fared well. The people of Athens tried such a tax, and promptly repealed it to bring back the old progressive tax. Perhaps the obviousness of a flat tax is its weakness.  At any rate, taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, and we all have to pay taxes in order to finance things like roads and bridges and national defense and agencies to enforce laws against fraud and malfeasance in our markets.  These things have a cost, and my message to the American people is that you can have whatever you damned well pay for in advance or as you go.  Jay Batman, balanced budgets from an unbalanced mind, 2016.    

Tax reform is vital to the continued prosperity and renewed economic vigor of America, and I'll push it through with ease because I intend to abolish Congress.  No roadblocks or filibusters.  If you don't like what I do, you can always mobilize to elect someone else, or you can overthrow me.  Democracy: revolution by the ballot or the bullet!  Jay Batman, choices in representation unless you're against me, 2016.  

Tax reform is one part of our economic renewal program, but there are other programs to consider as well.  I intend to revitalize America's infrastructure.  Fully half of our roads and bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and it is time to fix this problem.  If there's one thing I'm willing to spend on, it's maintaining and improving the arteries of commerce that are our roads and bridges.  Dams, levees, and all other implements of infrastructure that benefit American communities and our economy are going to be addressed as well in a large scale program to overhaul America's infrastructure.  Decades of neglect have a cost: this is not going to be cheap.  However, you get what you pay for, and you are going to pay for it because Jay Batman represents fiscal responsibility.  Jay Batman, hot tough fiscal love, 2016.  

The benefits are obvious: such a program will create jobs, and it will benefit commerce by making transportation of goods easier and more efficient.  Additionally, you won't have to worry about New Orleans being flooded by a Category 2 hurricane or going through the collapsing bridge you're driving over.  These are good things.  The federal government has had a role in infrastructure since George Washington advocated for a national canal system, and it's appropriate that we go forward by exercising our federal responsibility in this area.  

Education

We have a problem in this country: our children is not learning, and our Presidents are reflecting such realities more and more as time goes by.  However, Jay Batman was educated by competent teachers who taught him to speak and write good English.  My syntax won't embarass the nation before the international community.  As a former Scholar's Bowl captain, I won't mangle American history, either.  Jay Batman, literate and cultured, 2016.  

Education is fundamental.  It's an investment we make in our people and in the society we want to have.  It's non-negotiable.  It's also a local concern.  The federal government doesn't have any business in education, but I don't like the way states are running education, so I'm going to trample their prerogatives and do whatever the hell I want.  Here's how: I'm going to use the law as expounded in South Dakota v. Dole to withhold federal education funds from states that don't consolidate their superfluous districts and start shifting dollars from administration to actual classroom instruction.  Barring that, I'm going to tell states outright what I want done and send in tanks to make them do what I say.  

I like teachers.  I hate unions.  Unions are run by bastards who obstruct the democratic process and condescend to parents.  I'm going to bust unions with charter schools and vouchers.  Parent choice will be a federally mandated reality.  This will spur competition and motivate public schools to start getting their damned act together in order to attract students with a quality product that's competitive. Jay Batman, also known as Cincinnatus, 2016.  

Union leaders are terrorists, and their control of our educational system is going to end.  We're at war with the terrorists, and the United States does not negotiate with terrorists unless it first creates them to fight communists and counterbalance our geopolitical rivals for international hegemony. Unions don't fit that description.  They're done.  Teachers can negotiate collectively if they want, but districts can and should elect to replace them if the deal can't get done.  Jay Batman, tough on terrorism, 2016.  

As far as colleges go, I've had enough of their increases in administrative costs and subsidies of college athletics. If your football team can't make enough money from tickets and merchandise to fund its own operations, you aren't dipping into education funding to make up the difference. Additionally, I'll withhold federal funds from higher education institutions that don't implement cost reviews to maximize efficiency and cut waste.  

And let's face it: college rankings are a joke.  If you spend more money per student, your ranking goes up. Your students graduate with more debt, may or may not be able to get jobs, and you look good in U.S. News and World Report. It's dumb.  Really dumb.  I don't like it.  Jay Batman, straight talk, 2016.  

The federal government will rate institutions based on the employability of their graduates and the debt levels those graduates accrue upon matriculation.  The former is a positive; the latter is a negative.  

We're not in the business of giving Pell Grants and Direct Loans to interpretative dance majors and racial studies majors. What kind of a damned job are you going to get with that nonsense?  Get a business degree to go with your art degree, and we'll talk.  Jay Batman, your ornery dad, 2016.  

We're going to subsidize interest rates in Direct Loans, because socking it to bright enterprising people who are trying to better themselves by gaining skills and enhancing their job prospects is counterproductive and stupid.  We're going to cut rates in Direct Loans by applying a formula that correlates your high GPA to a lower rate of interest.  We're also going to make zero percent interest rates available to qualified applicants who want to go into engineering and medicine.  Get a good MCAT score, and we'll talk.  

In point of fact, I'd support a national powerball lottery to fund college and graduate scholarships for those who make above a 3.0.  We'll offset your tuition by half.  Make a 3.5, and we'll offset by 75%.  Make a 4.0, and we'll pay your way 100%.  It's merit, it ought to be rewarded, and it's the right thing to do.  Jay Batman, rewarding achievement, 2016.  

We're going to take the same approach with teachers.  If your students do well on their standardized tests and ACT or SAT scores in the subject area you taught, you get a merit bonus.  Every grade level.  You could get 13 years worth of bonuses if your students go forward and do well and you're a kindergarten teacher. What's more, we're going to give teachers a generous tax credit against the flat tax or the VAT to incentivize their career choice and signify our respect for the vocation.  Jay Batman, bringing the bigassed apple, 2016.

 There's more to come as I outline my plans for 2016 and the country at large.  Jay Batman, the Audacity of Arrogance and Hubris, 2016.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why Buy This System?

Most of us are at heart civil libertarians.  We may call ourselves something different, but we don't like the government in our lives or in our information.  We hold pretty general views that align across the political spectrum, such as a respect for human life and private property.  The great majority of Americans have a set of general ideals and principles that they can agree on, but when you start to argue about the specifics of those ideals, that's where we start to disagree.  We generally agree that human life is worth preserving and protecting, but then we argue over where human life begins and whether or not life begins at conception or birth or at some point within a pregnancy where a fetus becomes "viable."

Our differences are largely semantic.  We argue over when life begins, what viability is, but the fact of the matter is this: we all began our lives as a zygote.  That's the earliest point at which a female and male gamete combined to form something distinct that could eventually grow into a full-blown human being.  We talk about the sanctity of human life, and the importance of valuing life, but we have no problem extinguishing the lives of people who murder, or, as we might more accurately put it, people who are convicted of murder.  Reasonable doubt very often turns on your socioeconomic standing, as O.J. Simpson knows.

It's in these compromises, these departures from an absolute conception of the sanctity of human life that an opportunity arises for utilitarians and others to make their pitch.  That pitch usually talks about the lives of the many over the lives of the few and the finite nature of resources as part of an advocacy for greater centralized control in the form of government power so as to check the ever metastasizing population growth of the human race.  The proposed solutions are usually unpalatable to the general population, and the specifics are really unpalatable to the wider population.

We have government-funded studies that deliberately infect human beings with syphilis and various other venereal diseases, both here in the United States and abroad in countries like Guatemala.  We have an entire intelligence agency that devoted its energies to administering hallucinogenic drugs to unwitting subjects without their knowledge or consent.  We have a psychiatric community that developed torture techniques in order to maximize their efficiency and efficacy.  What we have is a bifurcation between generally held values and values held by a small section of our population, with the problem being that the small section of our population tends to arise out of academia and the political class or some combination thereof, thereby giving that small subsection vast inflated influence over policy and power.

There are a number of things you need to accept in order to understand why our government behaves the way that it behaves.  The first thing is that ideas matter, and the more exotic an idea is, the more likely it is to catch on with a small yet devoted group of enthusiasts.  Fanatics don't worry about numbers or the need for majoritarian consent, because they understand that majoritarian consent is irrelevant if you have certain things like secrecy and fear on your side.  The majority of historically significant people have arisen out of small yet devoted minorities.  Their ideas are usually well out of the mainstream for their time and place, but they aren't deterred.  They are true believers in the righteousness of their cause.  The second thing you must understand is that no state or government ever really accepts limitations on its power.  Limits are theoretical.  They are never applied.

Those who manipulate the levers of power understand that the general population must believe that limits are real, or that limits are merely being ignored by an abusive government whose transgressions are isolated incidents rather than common occurrences. We can always restore or reclaim government, the thinking goes.  The truth is that no government has ever really worked according to the underlying theory that supposedly shapes and guides its actions.  The Constitution of the United States of America is merely a suggestion to partisans.  It isn't binding.

The third thing you must understand is that you are not a fanatic, not in the real sense of the word.  A fanatic is defined as a person with excessive or single-minded zeal.  As an extension of this epiphany, you must understand that you are not a partisan, because real partisans are always fanatics. They marry themselves to an ideology completely, and they cannot think or function outside of that ideology.  It is no great matter that the results of the ideology do not comport to the predicted outcomes of the theory that underlies the ideology; the partisan will always find an excuse for why the ideology did not produce the outcome and that excuse will be linked to an outside factor.  Jews. Blacks. Mexicans. People of a different political persuasion who obstructed the purity of implementation and thereby prevented success.

You aren't a Republican.  You aren't a Democrat.  You're a person who sees various things in either extreme that you like, and you marry the things that you like from both ends of the spectrum into your own bastardized hybrid.  It's normal to do this when faced with any ideology.  The vast majority of people do this, and as a typical human being, you are a subject to the normal impulses that govern most human beings.  You recognize that no one group has a monopoly over the truth or over the right way to do everything.  You may say to yourself that this group is more right than that group, but at the end of the day, you don't say that they're completely and totally and perfectly right.

Each individual is a kind of denomination or sect unto himself or herself.  You go to Mass on Sunday, but you don't really believe that you're eating the body and drinking the blood of a 2,000 year old god or an 8,000 year old god.  You use birth control or the rhythm method.  You do a lot of things that the church says not to do, and you don't feel conflicted about it because you are capable of recognizing that a lot of things that the church says to do are simply absurd.  Maybe they're even dangerous or destructive to your own self-interest as a person who doesn't want to have 12 children.

You might cheer for the Republican Party to win, but you recognize that their utter love of tax cuts leads to massive borrowing because they can't divorce themselves from epic spending sprees.  It's an obviously mutually exclusive set of outcomes, and when combined these strategies produce economic chaos and fiscal implosion.  Perhaps you assign blame to those damned Democrats, but at the end of the day you understand that even with clear majorities, the Republicans haven't ever really been ideological puritans and restrained themselves when entrusted with the purse strings.  You don't buy their silly little sound bites about small government, either, because government grows a lot under Republican leadership. Medicare prescription drug benefits, Department of Homeland Security, Directorate of National Intelligence, the Environmental Protection Agency. All of these were created under Republicans and with their assistance and even their encouragement.

Most of all, you aren't a partisan because you aren't willing to do anything to see your partisan viewpoint succeed.  You aren't willing to rationalize behavior you see as immoral, even if the rationalization would be pragmatic from a strategic and tactical standpoint.  You won't kill a Democrat, or take illegal steps to sabotage his business.  You're just a person who thinks he's a Republican in the sense of whatever being a Republican or a Christian or a capitalist means to you.  In truth, you're a study in contradictions.  You like free market healthcare and oppose single-payer, but you want your Medicare untouched.  You don't believe in Ponzi schemes as a legal means of business, but you don't want your Social Security benefits to go anywhere.  You're pro-life and pro-death penalty. You don't trust the government to get it right, unless it's electrocuting or injecting another human being who was convicted of murder.

Partisans are a problem.  They are perhaps 10% of the population, but they commit 90% of the action.  They don't care about your rights, or the constitutional limits on the government they so often seize in order to direct its power towards their own ends.  They are right, and anything can be rationalized when you are right and your cause is holy.  As long as you choose the option that they think you should choose, they're fine with your input.  When you don't, they believe the option should be mandated by law.  As long as governments exist, and states proliferate, these people will have a means of realizing their goals, or at least progressing towards those goals.

They'll exterminate Jews and coloreds and Poles and Slavs. They'll finance their intelligence networks with the proceeds from illegal drug smuggling.  They'll provide universal healthcare to all by denying it to those people who are at the end of their lives as determined by a committee and that committee's educated guess.  You don't have the right to object or have anyone on your side object to their decision, because you are selfish for wanting to prolong your life when your life is over from their perspective.  They are right and holy and just in their cause, and the ends do always justify the means.  You can't make a better omelet without breaking more and more eggs.  In the name of utopia, dystopias must be explored.

The brutal truth of our reality is this: we have every cause to rebel against the system, and we do not because we are afraid of the unknown.  We are sheep. We live on our knees because we are afraid to walk on our feet.  Our values are a handicap to us.  Our love of life, both our own and the lives of others who are threatening our lives and liberties, is our weakness. The problem with ideology is that the people who parrot it and advocate for it never die as a result of it.  They kill a lot of other people, but they largely evade culpability.  It's been four decades, and there are members of the Khmer Rouge who are just now going on trial for their actions.

We trade comfort for freedom every single day of our lives.  The devil we know is better than the devil that may exist out there in the unknown.  We are risk averse, but we appeal to a heritage rooted in risk and claim the mantle of our forefathers who risked everything to gain self-determination and independence.

We just allowed our government to hand $23.7 trillion to bankers, and we're arguing over a debt ceiling. We can all agree that giving $23.7 trillion to people who wrecked our economy and ruined the lives of many of our friends and family members is something that really pisses us off, but that's okay: we aren't going to do anything effective about it.  Wealth redistribution is wrong, until it happens and we let it pass without a revolution.  We have more guns than people in this country, but we will stand by and allow our country to be transformed and wait two years to do anything about it.

No one is going to shoot Jamie Dimon.  Ben Bernanke will live a long life and die of old age.  Lloyd Blankfein will continue to make millions of dollars in compensation.  Your house is worth less than your mortgage because of these people and the decisions they made, and your job is at risk because of the culture they've cultivated.  They live lawless lives and trample basic values that most of us share, and they get wealthy by doing so.  If we screwed our business partners and customers the way that Goldman Sachs has in the past, we'd be sued or shot for our trouble.  Our reputation would be so terrible that we'd be unable to drum up future business.

We have two wars that we don't want.  We certainly don't want the $3 trillion bill for those wars.  Think about it: between the bailouts, guarantees, loans and wars, we've spent nearly $27 trillion.  That's our national debt plus $12 trillion.  All this time, we've been told that the money wasn't there for education, for healthcare, for decent wages to keep our military men and women off of welfare, and for working levees and canals to keep a storm surge out of a major American city.  The money wasn't there to prevent 9/11.  The money wasn't there to ensure that Deepwater Horizon would be properly inspected and regulated.  But let a major bank fail because of its own destructive decision-making or a defense contractor go wanting, and the money will always be there.  I'm no socialist.  I've advocated abolishing government altogether and I've outlined concrete proposals to eliminate entire departments like the Department of Education, the DEA, the ATF, and the Department of Agriculture.  I built a plan to eliminate Social Security over a 20 year period for the broader population, while preserving some form of a social safety net for the disabled.  I've advocated cutting military funding in half by consolidating commands and eliminating the majority of our nuclear stockpile while closing most of the over 1,000 bases we have around the world.  I've advocated eliminating salaries and benefits for Congress, and establishing publicly financed election campaigns and term limits of two terms in the Senate and six terms in the House.  I've point-blank said that we should take the statutory escape available to us and give the Federal Reserve $1 billion and seize control of our own currency again to eliminate the banking cartel's influence over our currency and our policy.

If you genuinely love your country and the ideals it represents in theory, you're going to have to fight for those ideals if you ever hope to see them implemented again.  You're going to have to join an army rather than hoping that others will form it and fight the war for you.  There's a war ahead of us, and the principles at stake are non-negotiable.  Liberty, equality before the law, accountability for your actions regardless of your political connections, and a free market where you succeed or fail based on the merit of your actual performance rather than your ability to attract tax credits and government bailouts are simply non-negotiable points.  A good society depends on the perpetuation of certain values like respect for the law and equal enforcement and application of that law.  We can't afford the tiered access to the law and its institutions that we currently have, because it cost us nearly $27 trillion over the past decade on just two fronts: the banking industry and the War on Terror.

The time has come to reject a government that tortures, indefinitely detains American citizens without trial or access to legal counsel, claims for itself the power to execute American citizens without due process, that experiments on its own citizens and on people in foreign locales, and to forge a new way forward.  The time has come to organize for the future and to plan for a day when we will have to seize our government by force if our vote is not respected.  Between caging lists, voter intimidation, electronic ballot security issues, failures to install adequate numbers of voting machines in certain precincts depending on their prior voting tendencies, and the two party stranglehold on our electoral process, democracy is gone.  It's time to stop pretending like we have a legitimate government that functions within constitution limits and respects our individual liberties and our shared values.  We have a terrible government, and we need to get rid of it once and for all.  The argument that certain individuals within that government are decent by themselves doesn't wash anymore.  The fact that a few people in Congress might be good people doesn't change the fact that the overwhelming majority of Congress is comprised of louts who have enabled one legislative overreach after another at the behest of their campaign contributors.  We have a legislature of whores who have sold the temples of our republic to the highest bidders.

It isn't that things have changed and Congress is any worse than it was years ago.  We've had 41 consecutive years of deficits and outright illegal behavior in the Executive Branch.  Our nation has borrowed to finance its overreach from its earliest days, and fiscal profligacy has been the rule rather than the exception.  The full faith and credit of these United States is not a blank check to be handed by our elected representatives to their friends and patrons.  It's time for us to make them understand that by sending their whipped and broken asses back to their home districts, where their awaiting constituents can tar and feather them for decades of corruption and abuse of the public trust.  

I'm calling on you to do some very simple things.  First, get involved in precinct and county level politics for both major parties.  Even if you're not a Democrat, if there's a Democratic precinct open in your area, change your registration and run for it.  The same thing for those who aren't Republicans.  A friend of mine once told me to think of both parties like an empty storefront.  Just move in and set up shop.  Start selecting state level officers who are of like mind.  Most importantly, do it intelligently.  Don't advertise your radical notions that government should be limited and scaled back.  Don't let the establishment see you coming. Say the right things, bide your time, and look, sound, and act like you are one of the loyal foot soldiers looking to toe the party line until the time comes to throw a wrench into their plans.

Start organizing.  Start buying guns and storing ammunition and food.  Learn to grow your own garden. Drop a well in your own backyard and collect rainwater for your own use. It may never come to it, but these things will be useful if we one day need to take drastic action.  Organize into cells and develop action plans and contingency plans.  Get ready for a day when your government crosses the line that you can't tolerate or abide, and be prepared to put the bastards back into their places.

Get rid of your revolving debt to the degree that you can.  If you want to, go offensive by refusing to pay it.  If we all wanted to cripple the major banks, we could by simply organizing a collective effort to take a month or two off of our credit card bills.  That kind of protest would serve up notice and increase our bargaining leverage.  We're already in a class war, and they took $23.7 trillion in loans, guarantees, and bailouts.  You didn't get a vote in that.  They declared no-holds barred war on you as an average taxpayer and American by appropriating your government and your elected officials to enable their unconstitutional and undemocratic pilfering of public dollars.

Most of all, realize that it is truly us against them, and we've got numbers and guns.  I'm not encouraging you to do anything illegal, just to have an epiphany about where things really stand.  We're the people who do their lawns, serve their food, work in their cubicles, sell their goods, and generally make their lives possible.  It's time to say one simple thing: don't fuck with us.

Most of all, it's time to realize that you're on the same side. All of the bullshit about parties and Republican vs. Democrat is nonsense.  You're Americans, but more than that, you're just average people facing the same prospects of limited opportunity and lower incomes because of an incompetent and corrupt government and its policies.  1 in 5 of us is unemployed and on some form of government assistance.  Probably 2 in 5 are facing a situation where they can't afford to pay all of their bills.  3 in 5 are afraid of what's coming.  4 in 5 of us realize that the other 20% are the ones who have the money and own the voting shares of stock, and we aren't members of the ownership class.  Congressional elections are typically financed by less than three-tenths of one percent of the population, and they get the whores they pay for in the end.  80% of this country needs to realize that a me first attitude got us into this mess, and to some extent we already do.  We understand that Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon and the people who work for their companies had a me first attitude, and they ruined our economy to turn a short term profit.  We're losing our jobs and our homes.  We have no choices that really afford us any hope of reversing the inexorable course of our government towards greater insolvency and even more compromises where our liberties are concerned.

There's no reason to buy into this system any longer. It doesn't work. It doesn't deliver on what it promises, ever.  It just piles up debt after debt for you and your children and your children's children to pay off at some distant day in the future.  It pulls you over and searches your cell phone without probable cause, fondles your six year old before she gets on the plane with you, and exposes your wife and daughter's breasts and genitals to a TSA screener as they stand in front of a full body scanner.  It cuts deals with Mexican drug cartels to allow cocaine to be trafficked into your neighborhood.  It gives the Taliban $1 billion a year of your money from the humanitarian aid it drives to warlords and corrupt elements in Afghanistan.  It occupies foreign countries and offends the locals, who then resent you and yours rather than your government.  

It tells you tax cuts will end all of your woes, and you get your $800 stimulus check financed by Chinese bond buyers.  Let's call a stimulus check what it is: purchased complicity.  You're pissed with the government and you don't like its policies, but as long as they give you an earned income credit or a child tax credit, you'll keep your disagreement toned down. Many of us collect more in refunds from child tax credits than we actually paid in taxes, and how is this anything other than bribery?  Bribery with borrowed money at that!

And for what? So that you can go buy another car with the tax credit you got for letting the government destroy your old car, or use the government's borrowed money to pay your home's down payment, and in the end you're just another sucker in debt in a market with imploding home values.  Your new car depreciates by a third when you drive it off of the lot. Be patriotic and slide your Mastercard.  It's sad.  What's the point of all of this?  Do you want to be a debtor?  Maybe you want to finance your life at 25.99% APR, and if you do, that's your prerogative, but deep down inside you know that it's stupid.

It's $5.13 for a venti caramel mocha at Starbucks, and many of us say we can't live without such concoctions in the morning.  You have 30 of those in a month, and you've spent over $150 on coffee with syrup and whipped cream.  And you watch your cable, which is essential to your life and costs you $50 to $100 a month, so that you can have 500 channels and nothing to watch.  With the money you spend on cable and coffee, you have the gall to bitch about the price of gasoline.  This is what we've become, various constituencies of resentment who waste so much money we're pissed about our inability to waste more money due to the increasing amount of money we have to spend on necessities like food and gas.  It's not that we're grateful for the ability to pay for what we need; we're actually pissed off about our inability to pay for even more stuff we want.  All the time we spend complaining about bailouts and government is really a subtext for the real problem: we aren't getting bailed out from the consequences of our own goddamned stupidity and avarice.  It's not fair.

You're not black or white or Asian. You're all poor, and you live from paycheck to paycheck in an economy where the next paycheck is far from guaranteed.  The point of working and earning money is to have some form of self-determination and autonomy from your subsistence.  Is that really the case?  Let's face it, we're all at the mercy of our jobs.  If our boss tells us to come in on our day off, we have to come in on our day off because we can't afford to tell him to fuck off and leave our day to us.  If our boss cuts us from 8 hours a day to 6 hours a day to save money, we lose the two hours.  There's no court of appeal.  Your boss can fire you for having different political views than he does, and it's legal.  Your employment is at-will employment, and even if you protest, your employer will just conjure up some reason to legitimate your termination.   You can be fired at any time for any reason.  That's the job security you have.

You aren't significant to anyone of consequence.  The entire system exists to drill that point into you day in and day out.  The only job growth is in menial and low-paying jobs where you have to go work for a company like Wal-Mart and deal with the dregs of society in the form of bitter customers who get pissed off at you because the DVD they want isn't in the $5 bin.

You make $2.13 an hour to wait tables for disgusting, petty people who berate and belittle you simply because they can, and you are grateful if they leave so much as a dollar on the table as your tip after you run around topping their drinks off and making sure that they have every little thing that they want.  They aren't anyone of consequence or significance themselves, but while they are dining in your establishment they might as well be gods.

You cut hair at some cookie-cutter franchise and depend on volume to make any decent money.  To get certified as a hairstylist, you have to go to school and accrue debt in the form of loans so that the state can certify you.  There are sixteen year olds who get behind the wheel of a ton of steel and drive it on major interstates with less training than you receive to cut hair.

You live in the freest, fairest country on the planet, one where the government asserts the power to snatch you off of the street in broad daylight and hold you indefinitely if they suspect you of involvement in a terrorist plot.  They can deny you legal counsel and even refuse to tell you what you are charged with.  Your president claims that he has the power to order your assassination if he so deems it necessary, and he doesn't have to go to a court to get permission to kill you as an American citizen.  He doesn't have to get you convicted of any crime.  He just has to issue an executive order.

This is the system you don't want to fight against.  It's the system you cast a vote within for some jackass who says one thing and does another every single time.  His dad was a senator, and so he is a senator.  His dad went to Harvard, and so he went to Harvard and made a C in everything.  He gets money to run his election campaign from private individuals and businesses, and those individuals and businesses then line up to get taxpayer dollars from his votes on major legislation.  In any other context, it would be called a bribe.  In politics, it's called a contribution.

You're frustrated, but you aren't going to do a damned thing.  You're going to be the cow that they think you are, and you're going to live your life unfulfilled and wandering from mistake to mistake.  All your dreams, all your ideals, all your concepts of what the world could be like...all of these things disappear over time.  You learn to content yourself with reasonable outcomes.  One day you wake up and you realize that you no longer dream about anything.  There's nothing to aspire to anyway.  Even if you're promoted at work, it'll just be a position with more responsibility for a small increase in pay, and you'll be more likely get yelled at in the course of a day by someone who has actual power.

There was a time in this country when one of our leaders said that labor was superior to capital.  That isn't the case any longer.  Capital is superior to labor and to human life,  and we subordinate everything to it. Drug companies forge their study results and get approval for dangerous drugs that cause birth defects, and we tolerate it.  Insurance companies take your premiums and then deny you coverage for your treatment when you're sick, and we tolerate it.  A major corporation pollutes your groundwater supply and you get cancer, and we tolerate it even when your attorney takes 40% of whatever you get in a settlement or a judgment.  Your bank holds back transactions to post them all in a manner that maximizes the NSF fees they can charge you, and we tolerate it even though it's dirty and obviously an intentional screwing.  When a bank has insufficient funds, the government steps in to give them more funds.  When you have insufficient funds, you pay $38.00 each time.

This is the system you defend and uphold.  The real question isn't why you do so, it's why there hasn't been a mass uprising already.  You've got so many reasons to agree to hate this, and yet you disagree and squabble amongst yourselves.  The question is why?  Why buy this system?




  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Failure to Lead


When one looks at the specifics of the debt ceiling compromise, one is struck by just how bad the actual compromise is.  One of the features is a 12 person joint committee, with each party selecting six of its own to said committee.  The committee is apparently vested with the power to cut spending or pass tax cuts without a full vote of Congress, and according to Senator Harry Reid, the committee has the power to look at "everything."  

That's ominous in and of itself.  Can you imagine the committee being utilized to address controversial legislation like the Patriot Act, conducting its deliberations largely behind closed doors and passing wide broadsides against civil liberties with a 7-5 vote?  It's as bad as a 5-4 Supreme Court vote determining your right to own a firearm or get an abortion in order to preserve your life.  

Additionally, spending will increase by $7 trillion over the next decade even with the $2 trillion in announced cuts, because the spending cuts are to the baseline projections, which always assume that spending will increase over time.  It just won't increase as much over time, apparently.  

This is as bad of a deal as the Republicans could have come away with, when the simple truth was that they could have forced the President to invoke a 14th Amendment solution and raise the debt ceiling by fiat.  Can you imagine the political points they would have scored?  2012 would have been a foregone conclusion, especially given the fact that we're in what the mainstream media is terming a double-dip recession. In truth, the recession never really went away, and it's not a recession: for the 20% of Americans who represent the real unemployment statistics in this country, this is a depression.  

We're talking federal assistance for most of those individuals, and Obamacare is on the horizon.  Make no mistake about it, we are going to have universal healthcare.  Employer provided healthcare is done.  The reason is simple: the fine employers will pay for jettisoning their healthcare plans is smaller than the cost of their employee insurance.  It's a simple economic decision, and as a result, millions of American workers are going to be shuffled into the new healthcare exchanges, which will result in actual costs that far exceed the costs projected by anyone who relied upon the Administration's estimates of enrollment for those exchanges.  

The net result is a spending bomb.  You've got spending increases that are automatically projected for and that total over $7 trillion even without overloaded health insurance exchanges.  What's more, the federal government isn't building the infrastructure necessary to accomodate the certain influx of customers who will be seeking insurance through those exchanges, and the government isn't doing anything to really control costs either.  We'll still have the same fee for service model of healthcare that incentivizes overtreatment, overmedication, and overtesting, but it will be financed by government subsidized exchanges.  

Combined with the fact that the government owes $2.5 trillion in IOUs to Social Security, IOUs it will have to repay as chronic high unemployment will slowly implode receipts from withholding taxes specifically alloted for Social Security, you're faced with even more spending as the government has to repay what it has pilfered from Social Security surpluses since the mid-80s.  Then there's an aging population, skyrocketing prescription drug prices, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit.  

On top of all of this, we spend over $700 billion annually on our military, and hundreds of billions more on intelligence, all to fight a war against terrorists who pulled off the likes of 9/11 with under half a million dollars in funding.  The three countries who make up the Axis of Evil, Syria, Iran, and North Korea, spend a combined 1/60th of what we spend on national defense to fund their militaries.  Everywhere that you look, we are faced with an imminent catastrophe that will come in the next decade unless something is done.  

That solution has to be comprehensive, and it has to address rampant fraud and malfeasance in our financial markets, tax reform, spending cuts, entitlement reform, and it has to somehow arise out of a Congress that is obviously dysfunctional to the point of paralysis.  

If ever there was a doubt that the Republican Party had lost its way, this debt deal and the failure of Republicans to deal in a meaningful way with the debt ceiling or at least parlay the opportunity into a political nightmare for Barack Obama is full evidence of the ineptitude of the GOP.  The GOP has sided with banks that defrauded homeowners, investors, and stripped their own shareholders of value in the process.  It's refused to consider meaningful spending cuts that actually involve a freeze on spending and a lock on projected spending that flatlines future budgets at current levels of spending in order to make significant cuts.  The GOP has a problem with the federal government enforcing reasonable safety regulations that might have prevented the Deepwater Horizon disaster, while at the same time advocating full body scanners that show your genitalia to some TSA pervert who then searches your child's crotch.  

This is where we're at, people, and there aren't any candidates on the horizon who can or will address these problems in a meaningful way.  This country needs a revolution, but the electoral process is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the two major parties, and they aren't about to allow the American people to put principles above partisan interests.  The two parties both conflate their own political well-being with the interests of the nation, even though this approach has led to 40 consecutive years of deficits and a record national debt, not to mention the current economic crisis, which is a direct result of government deregulation in the financial sector and shoddy oversight of our markets by the SEC and other federal agencies.  

Until the American people get rid of every incumbent at every level, these problems will continue.  We need a drastic solution for drastic times, and we aren't going to get what we need going forward with either of the two parties controlling our electoral process and making sure that only those candidates who toe the party line make it through the primaries.  It's bad.  There is no other way to put it without being disingenuous.  

When faced with a crisis, the Republican Party delivered a compromise that adds $7 trillion to the national debt, does nothing to address depression level unemployment and a recurring collapse in the housing market, and which also consolidates power into a joint committee with the power to enact legislation on "everything," if Harry Reid is to be believed.  The party of Reagan gave us government as the solution, rather than standing against government as the problem.  It was a bait and switch, and the American people aren't stupid enough to believe it.  Even if they were, the coming decade is likely to produce strains on the bottom line of the federal budget like never before.  Given how many state and local governments rely on federal funds, the coming fiscal crisis is likely to be severe and inescapable.  

All of this will occur against a backdrop of unfettered and renewed malfeasance in our financial sector, only this time there won't be enough money to bailout the problem. Those bad home loans?  Even after $23.7 trillion in bailouts, loans, and guarantees, those toxic assets are still on the books. Thanks to a tweak to federally mandated accounting rules, banks no longer have to report those assets on their quarterly statements, so it looks as if they're generating profits rather than writeoffs.  With another 10 million homes facing risk of foreclosure, this is a tsunami waiting to hit our credit markets anew, and there is no leadership in D.C. capable of addressing this problem in a mature manner.  

America will survive and go on, but in order to do so, it will have to choose its own best interests over a two party system that is morally and patriotically bankrupt and ideologically inflated.  This process is likely to be painful and extremely difficult.  The partisans are not going to go quietly into the night.  What is more, the human misery that is on the horizon in the form of another economic crisis is likely to be severe.  

In all of this, the great irony is that Congress is acting as if it didn't pass the budget that has created this debt ceiling issue in the first place.  The President doesn't want to raise the ceiling to increase spending, he has to raise the ceiling in order to pay the obligations created by a Congress that raised spending time and time again.  It's absurd that people are blaming Obama for what a Congress did of its own volition, because Congress could have put a stop to this issue before it became an issue by cutting spending instead of continuing the orgy.  What Congress did was kick the can down the road, only to blame the Executive Branch for the consequences of its own actions when it arrived at the can's resting point.  

This entire charade, with its symbolic passage of a House plan that was D.O.A. in the Senate and the Senate Democratic caucus's 53 member signature of a petition that went to Speaker Boehner, was nothing more than a very expensive and absurdist form of theater.  In the end, business as usual was going to prevail, and that's exactly what everyone in D.C. knew would happen.  The American people got screwed today, as they have so many times over the past 40 years.  Their best interests were not represented by their representatives; instead, the representatives pandered and postured for a month over what would turn out to be...nothing.  The $2 trillion in advertised cuts aren't really cuts at all...they're just a reduction in the rate of increased spending. Current spending is going to stay the same and increase over time, and there is no plan to pay for it with taxes or any other method beyond borrowing.  

2012 ought to be a time for the American people to make their final stand against a two party system that simply doesn't deliver on America's best interests with actual solutions.  It's time to kick them out, now more than ever before.