Each time we have another tragic mass shooting, my friends on the left immediately renew their chorus for banning or restricting the possession of firearms. Their reasoning is that in a modern society, there is no longer any need for the average citizen to possess guns, let alone automatic assault rifles. While I understand their argument and like any rational person agree that the misuse of any firearm is to be condemned, their viewpoint is more emotional than realistic. There is no real sentiment to overturn the Second Amendment. This is probably based on the majority of Americans realizing that no matter how many times a gun is used to commit a crime, there are many compelling reasons to support our right to bear arms. Virtually every person I know, particularly those in the West, owns one or more guns. Many of my friends collect guns, including those who have a federal fire arms permit to do so. These people are not nuts. In fact, they are the people who are the most responsible gun owners. They use guns for very practical and legitimate reasons, including for self protection and hunting. I personally own a .44 magnum which I carry when hiking in bear country. Although bear spray has been proven more effective for deterring bear attacks, should a close encounter ever occur, I like having the handgun for backup. It could mean the difference between surviving or not surviving. For those who live in urban areas, our liberal media seldom reports the many incidences each year in which citizens effectively use guns to deter attacks on their persons or property. It should also be noted that with my background in law enforcement, while I respect police, our society is not a police state. In our system, the police are largely reactive, not proactive to crime. In other words, we do not want the police to have the right to pick and choose, in advance, who they think might pose a risk of using a weapon, including a gun, to commit a crime. It is ironic that those on the left who advocate gun control are the same people who routinely condemn alleged violations of someone’s civil rights by the police. The mass shootings we continue to experience are most often perpetrated by mentally disturbed people with no prior criminal records. It is practically impossible to round up every mentally disturbed person and lock them away because they might some day snap and start shooting someone. It is ridiculous to assume that banning guns would prevent these people from finding a way to kill people if that is what they are determined to do. I will not create any possibility that what I might say could be used by anyone to commit a crime but even if you banned all guns, there are very efficient ways to kill large numbers of people without resorting to the use of a gun, particularly when you can use the net to learn how to build a nuclear bomb. Rather than spend time and resources on so-called gun control, might we be better served by putting that time and money into improving our flawed and inadequate mental health care system? In the final analysis, we can only protect ourselves by avoiding venues where large numbers of people routinely congregate or at least making sure, like at our airports, that screening, no matter how flawed, increases our chances of survival. The recent shooting at the mall in Colorado gives some indication, with the prompt response by both law enforcement and mall security, that such precautions can at least assist in minimizing casualties. Life, by its very nature, risks the possibility of death. The fact that we are in denial about that possibility is one of the biggest factors in preventing us from taking the precautions, including owning a gun, that may save our lives.
To its credit, this Administration formed a task force within the Department of Justice to deal with violations by banks of federal banking and other laws. To date, however, the results have been less than impressive. While at least six major banks over the last several years, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and ING have been fined for circumventing laws like the Trading With the Enemy Act, which supposedly prevents financial institutions from financially aiding enemy nations, not one individual, let alone any financial institution, has been criminally prosecuted. The DOJ has now reached a new low with the recently announced settlement with HSBC where, once again, a bank has been fined to resolve a pending prosecution. What made this case even more egregious than other prosecutions, however, is that HSBC was not only transferring billions of dollars to rogue nations like Iran but they were also supporting banks directly funneling funds to terrorist groups and HSBC was directly laundering money for Mexican drug cartels. In another example of the concept of “too big to fail,” the reasoning for dropping the criminal indictments was the supposed effect such prosecutions could have on the banking system and the world economy as a whole, a position that our own Treasury Department declined to endorse. The message here should be very clear: as long as you’re a big financial institution, if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, don’t sweat it, you’ll be able to buy off the authorities. I remember thinking that the wall street protesters had it only partially right when they were protesting large financial institutions for their perceived actions in flaunting the law; they should have also been standing before the White House protesting the complicity of government in supporting those actions. Just think if Bernie Made Off With had been the CEO of a large bank rather than a single individual. Today, instead of being in prison, he’d probably be basking on a beach on the French Riviera.
One of the frustrations that fiction writers share is the assumption by readers that everything an author writes is autobiographical. To some extent that is true. As Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse said, “Well, unless one is a genius, which I am not, a writer will tend in many respects to be semi-autobiographical in the delineation of the character and temperament of the…hero.” But as an author, you also realize early on, especially if your character is a child molesting serial killer, for example, that he or she will be, thankfully, quite unlike you. Dexter added this, as well then, about Inspector Morse: “He was in no way likely to be confused with the description I once gave myself: ‘short, fat, bald and deaf.’”
I mention this because in my holiday novella, Christmas Story which you can read for free on my web site, warnerbbairii.com (commercial, commercial!), my protagonist, Anon, does a little parody on the Christmas letter that so many people include with their Christmas cards where they tell you all about their last year’s activities.
I want to assure you that I’m not Anon and I welcome receiving your letters and Christmas cards. Although Kathy and I seem to be on the road most holidays, visiting children (and now, thankfully, grandchildren) and therefore don’t routinely send out cards, we do appreciate receiving them from you.
Therefore, I use this forum as an opportunity to thank all of you who routinely follow my musings on this blog, who read my novels and otherwise give a damn about us. We feel the same about each of you and appreciate hearing from you.
Merry Christmas and may all of you have a good new year.
I’m no fan of Ellen Degenerate. I think she’s about as entertaining as watching U Tube video’s of Lindsey Lohan in a drunk tank (assuming there are any such videos). But I find myself coming to old Ellie’s defense when she was attacked personally after she appeared in an ad for J.C. Penney’s. Apparently, some right wing group called the One Million Moms criticized Penny’s for allowing Degenerate to be in their ad because she is gay. Now, be aware that old Ellie wasn’t endorsing being gay in any way, she was just endorsing a product. So apparently, the message here is that if you have a particular personal life style which I suppose could include everything from religion to sex, you may not be an appropriate spokes person. In essence, then, the only politically correct spokes people will have to be ones who mirror the life styles of those who might watch the ad. Good luck with that. I supported former Arkansas gov Mike Huckleberry’s campaign to aid the beleaguered prexy of a chicken franchise who personally expressed his opposition to gay marriage. I wonder if ole Mikey will be openly defending Penney’s and Degenerate. By contrast, a California teacher’s union ran an ad narrated by that left wing bigot Ed Anger in which they showed a cartoon character representing the top 1% of earners in our country urinating on other characters supposedly representing the middle class. That was a direct attack on a class of people. When Asner was confronted by a reporter about the ad, he offered to urinate on the reporter. Real classy Eddie. The difference is pretty obvious and establishes what is appropriate and what isn’t. In one case, you have a spokesperson who might have a personal life style that is objectionable to some people. Fine. Don’t buy the products they endorse if you’re that narrow minded but don’t criticize a business for allowing these spokes people to earn a living. In the other case, we should all condemn bigotry in any form and have no hesitation in condemning organizations and their spokes- people who advocate hate.
One of the phenoms of electing politicians is how they spin the margin of their victory to result in a supposed mandate from the people. Although this Prexy won reelection by about 2% of the vote, some of his cronies still use the word “mandate” when discussing his narrow margin of victory. Of even greater irony is how politicians spin the nature of their supposed mandate. This Prexy is now arguing that since he won re-election after campaigning on raising taxes for the top 2% of earners, everyone agreed with him that this should be done. Even this Prexy has to recognize the obvious truth that many people who voted for him did so based on his stand on other issues, including social issues like gay rights and contraception for example. In fact, polls show that about the same number of people who voted for our Prexy agree that it’s no sweat if the highest earners get their taxes raised.
For their part, the Elephants argue that raising taxes on the top earners would hurt job growth because most of these taxpayers are small businessmen. While their underlying argument may have merit, the argument that most of the top earners are mom and pop business people is largely bogus. In fact, while 48% of net income ( in 2007 ) came from proprietorships, partnerships and S corps for those earning more than $250,000 per year (Obomba’s magic number for his definition of “rich” people whom he wants to see pay higher taxes), most of what is being listed on these folk’s tax returns is being earned from investments in and not from the actual operation of a small business.
Without attempting to predict whether a deal to raise taxes on the highest earners will occur, thus avoiding the imposition of draconian spending cuts and higher taxes on all Americans on January 1, 2013, an examination of the issue, itself, should convince any objective observer that the idea is purely politics and of no real value in solving our admitted economic woes.
What will raising taxes on those earning more than $200,000 individually or $250,000 if married do for our economy?
The whole purpose of generating additional tax dollars is to raise more money to operate the federal government. This presupposes that it is a good idea. Given the waste of tax dollars that aim is debatable. We also have a deficit which ranges from 16 trillion dollars to as high as 86 trillion dollars depending on which estimate you read. If we raise taxes and generate more revenue, then seemingly, we can use this additional revenue to pay down the deficit. Finally, we need to factor in history which demonstrates in both Repub and Demo administrations, the highest tax dollars were generated when tax rates were lowered not raised.
If the Elephants cave in and the prexy gets his wish and we raise tax rates on the top 2% of earners, here are the likely outcomes.
1. The money generated in additional taxes will operate the government for approximately one week. If the money were used to reduce the deficit, it would only reduce it by about a trillion dollars. Thus, the argument that raising taxes on the highest earners would make a significant difference in raising additional revenue or make any real dent in the deficit is wishful thinking.
2. Unless the tax code is also reformed, simply raising tax rates is unlikely to generate much in additional revenue since the richest American taxpayers also can afford the accountants and tax lawyers to avoid paying taxes. As we know, about 47% of all Americans pay no income tax. If one in five Americans are below the poverty line (20%), then seemingly another 27% should be paying taxes but obviously are not. That is what is laughable about the prexy’s statements about “paying a fair share.”
3. Even if most business income is generated from investments in business rather than running a business, higher taxes will discourage those investments and for the real small businesses discourage reinvestment, expansion (hiring more workers). It is axiomatic that if a small business is facing higher taxes, why hire? Why spend money to expand? Even now, before we’ll know whether we will go over the fiscal cliff, businesses are pulling in their horns and going into a siege mentality.
Finally, there are two other important points to consider in this debate on raising taxes, one philosophical, one very practical. On the philosophical side, is it fair to raise taxes on the highest earners? The argument posited by some is that, for example, in 2006, 3.8% of Americans earned more than $200,000 but they paid over 50% of the taxes collected that year. On the other hand, most of the wealth in this country is held by these top earners and our current tax system’s progressiveness declines as the rates increase, meaning that top earners progressively pay less than those in lower brackets. And, as noted above, top earners often pay no tax or lower taxes by not
showing any taxable income or by having their earnings taxed at lower rates by characterizing those earnings as something other than straight income.
Of far greater importance is that while we debate raising taxes, there is no serious discussion about cutting spending. Most objective economists and other less partisan observers realize that while revenue must be a component of getting our fiscal house in order, we must also look at cutting spending by the government. When our prexy was asked on a talk show about the deficit, he feigned not knowing the exact amount but laughingly concluded it isn’t a problem for now. Wrong. It doesn’t take an economist to realize that whether as an individual or a government, you spend more than you take in, sooner or later you’re going to have to pay the piper. For individuals, that means bankruptcy court. But there are no bankruptcy courts for nations as some of the European countries are now finding out.
What many people do not realize is that our deficit cannot exceed our GDP. When that happens, we are officially spending more than we’re taking in. We are marching, seemingly unconcerned, to that point. Unless we cut spending, we’re headed for a Greece like status. It is also interesting to note that besides printing money in our rush to reach the real fiscal cliff, we are also generating a serious national security issue for our country by borrowing 40 cents on every dollar from our main economic and military rival, China, leading some wags to suggest that we’ll all be speaking Mandarin in a few years anyway.
The Elephants have correctly pointed out that as much or more of the revenues argued for by the Prexy can be raised through other means than raising tax rates. But even if the Repubs cave on that issue, the revenue being generated alone, will not be sufficient to either operate the gumment or reduce our deficit. To accomplish that, we will need to put serious spending cuts on the table as well.