Help America Save Itself

Recent events in my country remind me of this exchange:

By Stephen Decatur:

Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.

By G.K. Chesterton:
``My country, right or wrong,'' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ``My mother, drunk or sober.''

I'd like to comment on the duplicity of the Bush Administration, but I'm too angry to write about it. And many Americans don't seem to know or care how sick their leaders are. Jeff Gannon, a male prostitute operating under an assumed name for a fake news organization, attended White House press briefings for three years asking questions helpful to Bush. Although this was finally exposed by other media, I just read that some major news venues, including ABC and CBS, never even reported on this hoax! In a final cynical twist, because he's also a male prostitute this right-wing scamster is accusing his detractors of homophobia!

When one asks how crooks like Cheney and Karl Rove's stooge can be elected to high office, their cheating is of course the major problem. Right-thinking Americans would have prevailed in 2004 without the deceitful Swift Boat campaign, and of course in 2000, by merely counting all the votes. I don't know whether the 10-hour queues at Democrat-leaning precincts in Ohio were decisive, but they certainly were disgraceful.

Democrats are their own worst enemy

Yet sometimes it seems Democrats are their own worst enemy! Gore, whatever his faults, was a godsend for environmentalists, by far the ``Greenest'' Presidential candidate ever. So in that election environmentalists voted en masse for ... Ralph Nader!

And so many ``progressive'' positions are wrong-minded. During the Democrat primary season, one of Edwards' ideas was a new tax rate on a portion of capital gains held for at least three years. Many Americans waste much of their tax savings by the need to hire tax accountants, and would agree that tax simplification is a worthy goal. The tax form (and hence mutual fund reporting) already requires three different capital gains durations. Of all the problems and remedies to emphasize, that a grown adult would think adding a fourth duration for capital gains reporting is a key idea should strike us as (pick one) pathetic/hilarious.

Americans would trust politicians who are willing to tell the truth. Instead of proposals which are wrong-minded but seem to pander to voters, why not just propose what's best for America?

Tax reform

Put a high tax on gasoline, or carbon more generally. The many reasons for this have been known for decades so I won't repeat them here. It's shameful what a high percentage of the world's fossil fuels are consumed by Americans. Right-thinking economists strongly espouse such a tax, but nothing is done.

Such a tax would be regressive. (Duh!) Just make a different part of the tax code less regressive. I propose that the first $10,000 of income no longer be subject to Social Security withholding or employer contribution. The person's Social Security account would still get full credit. The funding shortfall would be made up by transfers from the gasoline or carbon tax, by increasing the wage subject to withholding above the present $90,000 cap, (and perhaps a slight increase in the tax rate above $10,000). This change in the Social Security tax would act like a minimum wage increase for workers, but would save money for employers, and therefore boost employment. Simple idea? Good idea? It sure makes more sense than adding a fourth duration for capital gains reporting.

I've heard some right-wingers say ``America consumes so much petroleum because our economy is so big.'' It would be refreshing if right-wingers got their facts right for once. The aggregate economy of Western Europe is bigger than America's but we consume almost twice as much petroleum as they do! I don't think you'll need a college degree in economics to understand the reason: when gasoline is $5 per gallon, you don't buy SUVs.

(It's important to understand that consumers are not to blame for buying SUVs. Most of us are not altruists; indeed we have a responsibility to do what we think is best for our families. It is the job of government to adjust, through taxes, the prices of things to reflect impersonal costs like fire control, security, pollution. A right-thinking American will want higher gasoline prices for noble reasons, but still take advantage of cheap gasoline while politicians aren't taxing it.)

Tort reform

Recently I read that Senator Obama is being condemned for voting with the Republicans on a tort reform bill. My heart is much fonder of left-wingers than right-wingers, but with my head I sometimes think the left would vote for the Tooth Fairy if it could.

Let me illustrate, with specific examples, the absurdity of modern tort law.

Example 1:

When you undergo surgery or medical treatment, you or your insurance company will pay a surcharge to cover your possible lawsuit should the treatment go wrong. For the same treatment at the same hospital, you pay the exact same surcharge that Tom Cruise would pay.

Now suppose you and Mr. Cruise both lose a leg due to surgical error. You both sue, and are awarded money including lost wages. I don't know about you, but Mr. Cruise would end up with much more money than I in this scenario. Is that fair? It is when you consider Mr. Cruise's greater earning power, but remember that these payments are funded, in effect, by implicit surcharges on medical bills, and the identical surcharge is paid by rich and poor alike! If a ``progressive'' is someone opposed to the modern American practice of the Poor subsidizing the Rich, then progressives should be opposed to the way the tort system works. (The same effect of poor subsidizing rich applies to most torts, not just medical malpractice.)

The solution is very simple. Ordinary insurance should cover medical tragedies. Those who need high coverage pay high premiums. (Another goal of malpractice litigation -- making doctors and hospitals responsible for their errors -- is a worthy goal; unfortunately, as explained thoroughly on other webpages, the present system is counterproductive even towards that goal.)

Example 2:

A few years ago, purchasers of Motorola stock initiated a class action suit against Motorola. (Their real complaint was against certain Motorola executives, but the huge sum of money they wanted could only be found in the Motorola corporate treasury.) This Motorola lawsuit isn't an isolated example: one can hardly check the business news without reading of yet another stockholder lawsuit.

Who is going to pay those Motorola stockholders if they win? Well, the 2005 stockholders will pay the 1999 stockholders of course! Neither class was ``guilty'' and when one considers the way most stock trading is done it's almost like a guy crapping out at a casino dice table suing his friend who bet on ``Do Not Come.'' Buy-and-hold investors end up suing only themselves in these lawsuits (and breaking even except for lawyers' fees). Am I the only one who sees the absurdity?

Earlier I wrote ``the present tort system benefits only lawyers.'' Just because right-wingers also say this for their cynical purposes, doesn't make it false.

Other Examples:

In the present system, twelve ordinary citizens are asked to pass judgment on complicated engineering systems. If this makes any sense to you ... then you have no engineering training.

In the present system, asbestos companies -- which didn't have timely knowledge of asbestos dangers -- have been forced into bankruptcy. Stockholders in the maker of Marlboro have been spectacularly successful. Even if politicians finally decide to bankrupt tobacco companies, the executives who made cynical decisions about cigarette advertising will still be happily retired in Tahiti. It is silly to think tort litigation acts as an important brake on executive negligence.

Health care reform

I'm not going to go into the complicated subject of health care reform, but want to mention one detail that convinces me Democrats are their own worst enemy.

Like most Americans I'm against abortion but also pro-choice. I think women owe it to themselves to consult parents or priests before having an abortion, but the woman's decision should be final. Certainly the federal government has no business getting involved.

But it does not follow that the right to an abortion is the right to a free abortion. One might as well say that the right to drink champagne is the right to drink free champagne. If I were a Congressman I might vote to fund abortions, as a matter of good public policy, but I would certainly understand that many religious people would disagree.

Eleven years ago Democrats tried to pass a major health insurance bill. Among many other questionable details, if their law had been enacted it would have been illegal to sell health insurance in the U.S.A. that did not cover the cost of abortions! This amazed me! As I say, I'm very pro-choice and might have supported the abortion provision if it would get enough votes, but to present the bill this way was an exercise in political masochism.


It's sad that democracy in America no longer works, and that the zanies are elected and reelected due to gerrymandering, vote rigging, smear campaigns, etc. I wish I could offer a plan for how right-thinking Americans could win their country back, but I can't.

One of the silliest things about the Bush Administration in 2001 was the way it insisted on an anti-Clinton position even when Clinton was right. Outgoing Clinton officials had made an emphatic warning about terrorism so, to spite them, Bush and his cronies ignored the threat until 11 September.

Let's do not make the same mistake as Democrats. Don't be ``penny wise and pound foolish'' on issues where the Republican position is reasonable and in touch with popular opinion.

Paul Gregory House spent too long on Death Row

The innocence of Mr. House, who languished in a Tennessee prison for many years awaiting execution, has little to do with the rest of this webpage, but I'm amazed more Americans aren't outraged. The Bushies aren't censoring the Internet (yet), so check the facts yourself via Google but briefly, House was convicted of a rape-murder partly on the basis of a semen match, but DNA testing after his conviction showed the semen matched the victim's husband not House. (And the husband has bragged to his friends that he was the murderer.)

An appeal was brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati; there was one vote to give House a retrial, six votes to free him altogether on grounds of actual innocence, and eight votes to proceed with capital punishment. Thus by an 8-7 vote, House remains on Death Row.

What does this have to do with the Republicans and their evil agenda? Listen to this! The 7 judges who voted for release or retrial were all appointed by Democrat Presidents. The 8 judges who voted to keep an innocent man on Death Row were all appointed by Republican Presidents. I find that remarkable!

Even more remarkable is that Americans hardly seemed to noticed this decision or the strange correlation with Republican judges (I guess it wasn't mentioned on Fox News), or the many other bizarre policies of the Idiot Right-Wing and this misbegotten Bush Administration.

(Is capital punishment such an important ``American value'' that innocence is no longer a deterrent?)

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