Friday, September 21, 2012

Everything You Own in a Box to the Left

Let me start with a major disclaimer (despite the fact that my wife hates my ridiculously long disclaimers--just get to the point already!).  I did not major in political science or economics, I really only have an elementary understanding of history and our system of government, I'm not an expert by any measure.  I'm a simple 30 year old white american male who likes to read the occasional news article and tries hard to understand the world around him.  The following ideas are solely my opinion and I welcome comments and suggestions, including giving me an education if any of my assertions are entirely off-base and unfounded.  This is simply how I see it.  And why I've decided I'm a Democrat.  It just makes more sense to me.  

Let's talk about taxes.  The truth is that despite all the promises we've heard time and again, taxes will never go away, and will probably never change that drastically.  The only difference is who is paying how much and what our money is being used for.

Under a Democratic government, we all pay taxes but the burden is shared. We are taxed in accordance with our income.  If we make more money, we can afford to shoulder a little bit more of the burden.  Our tax dollars are then used for lots of different things.  The government builds roads, gives us teachers to educate and law enforcement to keep us safe, now (finally) is starting to provide us healthcare, makes sure that businesses in a competitive marketplace all play by the rules and don't cheat their way into success, gives us support when we're down and out until we can get our feet under us again, invests in small businesses, supports the arts and sciences, and pays down our debt so that we don't run into even more problems later on down the road.  All of these things lead to more money for all of us in the end because each of these things contributes back into an economy from which we can all reap benefits. 

Under a Republican government, the majority of the tax burden falls on one demographic, the middle class.  People who make lots of money are given a tax break because hey, if they all have money, then surely they'll spend more money and make our economy better.  It sounds like a nice idea but there are a few major problems with it.  For one, it's often way easier for people with lots of money to keep it in accounts "offshore" where they don't have to pay as many taxes so we don't really get that economic injection that is promised.  And sure, they have to spend that money eventually but that's an awful lot like putting all our eggs into the proverbial one basket.  According to my understanding of investing, the best strategy is not to put all your money into one stock but to diversify your portfolio.  Wouldn't that also make sense for our economy?  Instead of putting all the money in the hands of a small group of people in the hopes that it will trickle down, doesn't it make sense to diversify our investments so that there are more ways in which the economy can grow?  Why would we want  the success of our economy to depend upon the spending habits of one small demographic?  Especially when that demographic is often so creative with the ways in which they avoid paying taxes?  If they're not investing in the economy now, what makes us think they will down the road?  

The other problem I see with a Republican government is that once those tax dollars are collected they are really only used for one thing.  Defense.  Sure, they'll keep some other programs on board just because it would be political suicide but they'll slash the budget for all of them using the justification of "we have to cut the deficit".  If the deficit is such a problem, why are we handing out tax cuts to people who have a million ways to get out of paying their taxes anyway?  The one budget they won't talk about cutting is defense.  Which makes sense because that's infinitely larger than any of the other programs in our budget combined. 

Now, defense is interesting because at the surface you would think the only way it's contributing to our economy is by keeping it safe.  But it's a lot more involved than that.  The number of businesses in this country that rely on multi-billion dollar contracts with the Department of Defense is quite surprising.  In order to continue keeping people employed they need to keep researching and making new stuff.  In order to do that, they have to continue turning a profit.  In order to continue turning a profit, they need people to buy their shit.  Since most of their production lines are focused pretty specifically on conflict, the Department of Defense is their main customer so they need the D.O.D to keep spending money.  In order for we the tax payers, who fund the D.O.D., to continue approving of the government buying all this shit, there needs to be a good reason.  And a good reason typically looks like a war, or at least a small-scale international conflict.  So really, if you think about it, this type of economy needs conflict in order to survive.  

There are a number of problems here.  First, this type of arrangement only keeps money circulating within a small sector of the economy.  We don't really all reap the benefits as much as we do when the economy is more diversified.  When more people have a closer to equal share of the pie in their hands.  That's not socialism.  That's just common sense.  It's a competitive marketplace; it's a free market done in a fair and just manner.  

The other problem is that it is an economy based primarily on fear.  Again, for this system to work we need the D.O.D. to keep buying cool stuff from all these defense contractors.  But we also need all the taxpayers to feel good about that.  If everything in the world seems cool and all peachy keen, we the people are going to be much less likely to feel supportive of our tax dollars going to things we don't really think we need.  Then we might start wanting to spend those tax dollars on things that would actually improve the infrastructure within our own borders.  Or even worse, we might start wanting to spend money helping all of the soldiers coming back from these wars we've sent them to.  Or, could you even imagine this?  We might want some of those tax dollars back in our own pockets.  In order to keep this tragic chain of events from actually occurring, we the people need to keep supporting and believing in the various conflicts in which we are involved around the world so that we don't mind spending billions of our hard-earned tax dollars to keep our defense budget growing exponentially.  

In order to keep supporting these conflicts, we have to believe they are necessary.  The easiest way to ensure our continued support is to instill us with fear about all of the terrible things that will happen if we don't do things this way.  

Enter Fox News.  And Rush Limbaugh.  

So, anyway, that's what makes me a Democrat.  I have no problem paying taxes if I believe that what my money is being used for will in some way benefit mine and my family's future, along with the future of my neighbors. I don't believe that an economy of every man for himself really works.  We are stronger when we work together and share the load.  And I think that diversifying the types of things we spend our tax dollars on makes a lot more sense and benefits all of us (except, I guess, people with crazy amounts of money since they can afford to build their own roads).  I know that at the heart of conservative thinking is often a deep-seated distrust of government so let's not trust them with our money.  Instead, let's trust the super-rich who will then trickle that money down to us.  I don't know, I guess I just have a little more faith in an institution over which I at least have some control through the power of my vote as opposed to some guy I've never met and have no influence or voice with.  But that's just me.  

I certainly do not intend to communicate here that I think Democrats are perfect, I don't.  I think all politicians (or most anyway) really believe that their way is best for the country but they're human and prone to corruption (an ever-present risk in positions of power).  And I don't even really think that the current Republican platform touches at the heart of what it means to be conservative.  If it did, I might have different views.  I'm not even crazy about the fact that we really only have two choices in our electoral system but until things start to move in a different direction, I'm going to go with the party that appears to line up a lot better with how I understand the world around me.  

So, yeah, I lean to the left.  To the left.  

I welcome all comments and feedback.  Let's start a discussion!   

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