Friday, January 25, 2008

I should have taken notes

I watched the better part of the Republican Boca Raton, Florida debate last night. It was an eye roller from my point of view.

Just to hit on a couple of high points ...

Fair Tax Sales Tax

On it's face, it sounds like a lovely idea -- a sales tax to substitute for the Federal Income Tax. My goodness, that sure sounds fair. People who spend more would be taxed more and those who spend less would be taxed less. However, there are a couple of issues that get glossed over every time a similar scheme gets promoted as the latest and greatest bright idea.

One of the issue that gets ignored (and one that's near and dear to my heart) involved retirement savings. What happens to all that income that got income-taxed over the years on it's way into some sort of savings vehicle when the Fair Tax hits? Do I pay taxes on it again as I spend it? Is that fair?

And then there's the encouragement of a black-market economy that is the natural spin off of any sales tax based scheme. Current sales taxes across the country fall between 5% and 8%. However, the Fair Tax proposals all focus on a tax rate of between 15% and 30%. That's pretty serious money. It encourages everyone in this country to look for black market options to avoid the tax and reap some savings. In order to maintain revenues required to run government city, state and the federal government are forced to ratchet up the sales tax ... which, in turn, further encourages businesses and individuals to find off-the-books means of doing business.

With a substantial segment of the economy suddenly off the books, what happens to all those regulations we enacted through our representatives in Congress designed to protect us from the abuses of corporations? How do we enforce regulations against things like lead paint, for example, if the goods are sold in an illegal market? How do we deal with the regulations regarding food and drug production is substantial quantities of product are sold through alternative economy channels? This sounds like an economic cluster-fuck to me, fraught with serious and uncountable negative unintended consequences.

Mike Huckabee makes the Fair Tax sound lovely. But he’s glossing over objections raised by a host of critics who say that the Fair Tax is unfeasible and unworkable.

Politifact has a nice summary of the downsides of the not-so-Fair Tax proposal.

Bill Clinton was responsible for military reductions.

Except that the Peace Dividend reductions STARTED under Bush I (with a Democratic Congress) and continued into the Clinton administration (with a Republican Congress). An honest assessment would have to be that it was a bipartisan effort. To put the full responsibility for it on Clinton ignores significant fact based realities and is a denial of the Republican role in the effort. Of course, if we weren't involved in a pre-emptive war with no end in sight and initiated under false pretenses, a broken military wouldn't be an issue, would it? It wouldn't be broken. It wasn't the bipartisan Peace Dividend reductions of the 80s and 90s that are responsible for our broken military. It was the ill conceived adventure undertaken by the current Republican administration that broke the military. To blame Clinton disingenuously ignores a little war that isn't going well, that was not only ill conceived but was also ill planed, ill manned, ill administered, and has weakened our country in a thousand ways ... not just militarily. Denial is not a monopoly of the right ... but they seem to be working overtime to make high art of it.

Those on the right like to paint themselves as strong on National Defense. So, if that's the case, do you feel safer now than you did in 2000?

And the list of half truths goes on and on (if you've ever been involved in a divorce, you've had some lessons in half-truths - and I would imagine that understanding would make you a little wary of those you use them):

Hillary Clinton wants to "wave the white flag of surrender and set a date for withdrawal."

"The average American is working through the month of May just to pay off the government."

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