Monday, January 09, 2006

The latest pulse on leaders' heartbeats

--Vice President Dick Cheney checked into a D.C. hospital Monday morning for what was described as "shortness of breath." The culprit was a foot medication Cheney takes to ease the pain of constantly putting his foot in his mouth.

--Reports indicate that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is once again breathing on his own. Which is good, because that's the one thing we ask for in our leaders these days.

--Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said during confirmation hearings Monday that fair judges do not let agendas or partisan politics influence their decisions. In a related item, Alito thinks fair judges are stupid.

--The New Jersey legislature adopted a moratorium on the death penalty Monday, noting that living in New Jersey is enough of a death sentence.

--Several incidents of Bird Flu have been reported in Turkey. They will be fried in Greece.

--At least 76 dogs have died in the U.S. as a result of eating tainted products from Diamond Pet Foods. The company is recalling several product lines, having figured out that diamonds aren't the best thing to feed dogs.

--The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 11,000 Monday, its highest showing since 9/11. Imagine's taken four-and-a-half years to get our economy back up to where it was on the worst day in our history.

--Honda showcased the first of its prototype fuel-cell vehicles this past weekend, saying that the cars will be more readily available as soon as hydrogen becomes more common. Hello? Hydrogen is 99 percent of all matter in the universe! I hear Congress alone accounts for 75 percent of it.

The automaker also announced plans to market the "Home Energy Station," a personal hydrogen-fuel pump powered by natural gas, which is expected to ease the burden on fossil fuels. So how, exactly, does a pump powered by natural gas supposed to do that? That's the best automotive joke since the Pinto. Damn you, Halliburton!

--In sports news, the NFL playoffs have commenced. Or, as Saints fans refer to it, something to watch until the draft.

--And finally, a wild boar was discovered sound asleep in a bedroom Monday. However, the White House announced that he belonged there, and that really wasn't a nice thing to say about the president.


Michael said...

Hydrogen is abundant in nature, yeah, but not in the right form for fuel cell cars. It's getting it in that form (and figuring out a safe way to transport and store it) that's the roadblock.

Also, natural gas (mostly methane) isn't really a fossil fuel. It's found in oil beds, sure, but it's also the main component of marsh gas, cow farts (and human ones, for that matter), and landfill effluent. There's a whole class of bacteria that make it, if memory serves--if we could harness enough of them, we could make all the natural gas we wanted.

Neil Shakespeare said...

I think we need some supernatural gas.

Nick said...

Wild boar in a White House bedroom? Since when does Bush allow Teddy Kennedy to sleep over?

Being that you're someone who thinks the stock market is total BS, I find it odd that you should try to use it as an indication of our economy.

Flamingo Jones said...

Damn...these are all good. Alito and the wild boar are more hilarious than usual even. Nice work.

Ian McGibboney said...

Michael, it's a joke. The natural gas thing I didn't know, though. Still seems weird that it takes one fuel to operate another, though, doesn't it?

Neil, we already have supernatural gas. Most of its sources are in office now.

Nick, just because I don't play the stock market doesn't mean I can't point out that it just returned to 9/11 levels. But I'll give it up if you give up arguing that Reagan's economy was so great because of the same indicators.

Flamingo, thanks.

Nick said...

I don't think I've ever tried to argue that the Regan economy was great, other than my dad telling me that it gave him an opportunity to advance financially to start his family.

I have NEVER argued that the stock market is an indication of how the economy is doing. However, if the Down Jones is a fair indication of consumer confidence, and I don't know if it is, then it makes since to me that confidence was at a great high right before 9/11 and has struggled for that last 4 years to get back to that level after we had suffered the greatest attack ever on our shores.

Can you identify where I've argued that the economy is good/bad because of the stock market? However, I did here a report today that unemployment is at 4.9-5.0% right now. Now maybe you can check because I'm not sure, but isn't that the best or almost the best we've had in 50 years or so?

And before you try to give an arguement that these jobs are no good or not ideal, I recall this old saying: "Sometimes, instead of just sitting idle and wait for your boat, you might just have to swim a little to it."

Just think if the Repubs. and Dems. both came together to end NAFTA and put a major hold on outsourcing of American jobs. Of course, both parties are controlled by money, meaning that will never happen.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, Republicans are always saying how the 1980s were this time of unparalleled prosperity, and it was all due to his supply-side economics which jumpstarted the economy. Supply-side economics rely on tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations, with which they're expected to invest in new employees and resources and such. This led to positive economic indicators, even as the stock market (and, correspondingly, the job market) crashed heavily in both 1982 and 1987.

The stock market is based entirely on expectations, which is why it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: if value plummets, for example people are afraid to buy, and those who sell are afraid to keep it. The resulting lapse in confidence affects the job market and consumer spending because companies can't afford to hire and people have no money to spend. This happens regardless of whether or not you have a stake in the market.

Personally speaking, I can attest to how the ups and downs in the economy affected my family. Every rough patch we've ever had corresponded with a recession. Why? Because when you're middle-class or lower, every economic action ultimately affects you. It might be something as small as your boss not being able to give you a scheduled pay raise. Or as major as being laid off. (And for what it's worth, I also don't like NAFTA. You side milks it just as much as Clinton did, however.)

As for those unemployment rates: I'm not impressed. Five percent is still too high for me, though I read once that regressive economics rely on that rate to function properly. And while it's far from the worst rate we've had, remember that that rate only counts those currently on unemployment benefits. And between recent cuts in such and Bush's effort to reclassify menial jobs, the rate means even less. It certainly doesn't feed me, that's for sure.

Finally, your little quote about available jobs just sucks. We have what is probably the most educated out-of-workforce ever, and I would certainly question your willingness to get an envelope-licking job with a four-year degree had you not lucked out. What are we teaching our kids by saying, "Education is important, but in the end you'll all be fighting for the same scraps anyway?" I guess that doesn't matter as long as Halliburton has its tax breaks.

Nick said...

All that's fine I suppose, just remember, your previous accusation of me using the stock market to say the Regan economy was great is false. I've never used that arguement.

Like I said, my comments about the economy come from the personal experiences of my family, just like yours do. I don't know what a combined income of $40-45k/yr. was in considered in the mid & late 80's, but that's where my family was. My mom was a teacher at a Catholic elementary school in Broussard. She didn't make $20k there. My dad was in the 30's at his job. He eventually left Blue Cross/Blue Shield b/c there was no way he could move up in the company or income.

Their economic situation obviously imporved under Regan and Bush #1 as presidents because we moved from Broussard to a nicer house in Lafayette in 1992, the year Clinton came in.

And now, I will contrast the right wing talking point that Clinton got us into a recession because my parents' situation continued to improve. That was obvious in the fact that my dad would take us out to eat, and when I was in high school, he and my mom were for the first time both driving vehicles in which they were the first owners.

All of this leads me to believe 2 things: 1) Presidents and their ideology don't control the economy. Consumers and employers do. 2) People can make their way in the business world regardless of politicians

And to answer your question, if I had to take a envelope licking job to pay bills and eat, sure I would. Remember, many people in the same profession as myself were working as carpenters, furniture salesman, and waiters, to name a few, a few years ago when gas was under $1/gallon.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, politicians do affect the economy. If this weren't the case, Bush would not have pushed so hard for his wretched tax cuts, for example. And though the old maxim is true that presidents get both the credit and the blame for the economy, some (Bush) deserve it more than others.

For what it's worth, my family makes as much now as your family did in the late 1980s, when you were "suffering." It has to go a lot farther, too.

I like to use the car analogy (and while this a complex issue involving far more than this, I think it says a lot): from 1990 to 1992, our family of five had one steady income and one car. That changed somewhat over the next decade, and by 1999, we had four cars (six if you count my late grandfather's wagon and the truck my brother was using for parts for his other truck, but which worked in itself). Seven years later, we're back to one working vehicle for four people and one steady source of income. This isn't because we blew our money or didn't spend smartly; the latter is innate in us. It's a matter of something breaking and us not being able to fix it. And when times are tough, as they've been for the past few years, those broken things add up.

Yes, a lot of people have it worse. Far worse. But don't feed me some line about how national trends don't matter. They do.

Nick said...

Did I ever say we suffered or try to insinuate we did? I'm just making a point that some people did benefit during Republican economies, however, I never stated that it was becuase of the economy. And Bush giving tax cuts was a good thing because EVERYONE who pays taxes got a cut. He even increased the child tax credit. Was that a bad thing?

Ian McGibboney said...

I'm certainly not trying to one-up you. But I do think you should know where your family stands on the economic ladder, since you claimed not to know.

Also, I am fully aware that GOP economies are good for some people. And that's the problem--SOME people. The policies of the last 25 years have increased the gap between the rich and the poor because of the regressive system. Before that, the top, middle and bottom sectors grew (and shrank) together. I'm oversimplifying, but the point is that the supply-side economics of the Reagan and Bush eras are tilted heavily toward the rich, and it doesn't trickle down as it's supposed to, whereas a progressive tax-structure benefits everyone.

Maybe I should write some more bits so people remember the point of this post in the first place.

Nick said...

The problem with a progressive tax is: 1) It seems to almost punish a person from being successful. 2) Right now, according to our tax system, if you make more than a combined income of 92,999/yr., you are considered rich. That's a good bit of money in south Louisiana, but try that living in NY or Baltimore.

And yes, some people do get into a butt-load of money while being dumb (lottery, inheritance, one of the few lucky in stocks, etc.), but that's not most people.

Still, with my family as an example, just before I was born, my parents were living off of my mom's income as a school teacher alone, probably around 15k/yr. at the time. Eventually, my dad finished college, found a way to move up, and this past yr., made in the region of 100k. Should he suddenly have his tax burden significantly raised due to a progressive system? I mean hell, can a person who had to live off of his wife's 15k/yr. salary for a few years with a kid be given a chance to enjoy remodeling his house, have a boat, enjoy his life, and also save to be able to support a metally disabled daughter (my sister) for the rest of her life?

Also, while he may hate paying taxes, my dad and mom spent hundreds of dollars buying bed sheets, food, etc. to bring to the Cajundome after Katriana, they gave away a bed to a Katrina family in need, which my dad and I delivered, and after Rita, my dad went to a meeting in Vermilion Parish and offered the assistance of he and I, and our boat, to help rescue stranded people.

He, just like myself, as never had a problem giving money, possessions, and/or time from ourselves to help people who need it more. But the idea of having to pay more taxes to a government that, regardless of which party is in control, is incompetent in keeping track of the money to make sure it's well spent, is something that we oppose. As I've stated before, if our government wanted to raise taxes on us so that any soldier who has ever fought in a war for us never has to pay taxes again, we would gladly pay that.

A progressive tax would just ensure more pork barrel spending, at the same time, punish the people who became successful honestly. I mean, honestly, if I'd ever get into that "rich" category, a progressive tax would just inspire me to work less. Rather than pay that extra tax money, I could just spend more time with my wife and children. I'd go fishing more.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick: "It seems to almost punish a person from being successful."

So I suppose it's better to punish everyone who is just trying to make a living?

Rich people will always complain about paying taxes. But they have so many tax breaks, exemptions, accountants, lawyers, etc. at their disposal that feeling sorry for the relatively small percentage they pay to begin with isn't easy.

And while different incomes represent different proportions in other places, consider too that some states do not have state or other regional taxes that others do. And no one at $90,000 struggles anywhere, unless they are extravagant.

And, despite running the risk of pissing you off, I do think your dad should have to pay more taxes with his income spike, just like anyone else who moves up in a tax bracket. People who are fortunate to make that much money do so because of our economic and governmental system, which sustains itself through a tax base. Also, as I already mentioned, exemptions galore. Which is why the idea of Bill Gates donating computers to the Lafayette Public library didn't move me (though I was grateful he did it).

All incomes have payroll taxes charged to the first $61,000. That's often overlooked in the tax conversation. But indeed, they're the very same taxes that you bitched about constantly as a freelancer. As you already know, the significance of those diminish as you get higher on the ladder. My point being that a good tax system is basically "six of one, a half-dozen of the other." And ultimately, a progressive tax setup helps everyone (including rich people) in the longer run. Maybe you'll have to wait on a boat for a couple of years; but you know what? I'd like to have a car too.

Nick said...

How is everyone trying to make a living being punished? Remember, a tax cut was given to EVERYONE. Child Tax Credits were were raised for EVERYONE, regardless of income. Therefore, how is George W. Bush, who I'll admit is responsible for alot of bullshit, causing struggling tax payers to pay more in taxes? Everyone got a break!! Whether or not the tax break was enough is debatable, and I think with better federal money management we could get more cuts, no one is paying more in taxes because of his proposal.

Now, I will say this, he and his administration are about to raise taxes. Will they tell us? No. However, all indications are that this new commission he appointed to "simplify the tax code" will simplify it by eliminating clauses for reductions. I wrote about my opinion on this on my site a couple months ago, and this is a main reason why I will not vote for anyone with strong ties to the Bush administration in '08.

Also, in reference to my dad and his situation, what if raising taxes on people like him causes them to not give as much money to people such as hurricane evacuies? You see, our family philosophy is that with all this big government and NAFTA bullshit, it's more important than ever to keep our money local. Like I said, we probably give out just as much money as we would have to pay if taxes are raised, if not more. However, we prefer that we can dictate where the money goes to, mostly to help people in our own state. Which is why, in a recent e-mail I sent to you, if there's any help you or your family needs, let me know. Our trust in government managment from either party has fallen to nill. Let us decide where to put our own hard earned money.

Nick said...

And in reference to the boat, which he and I both put forth our money for, it's a 17 ft. aluminum boat, not some lavish thing.

Like I said, my dad is saving for my sister, which you should understand the reason for from past conversations and when you worked Mrs. Robin's cross-country camp. I've already told him that any money he and my mom leaves behind needs to go to her. Because of her condition, she may never be able to drive or live by herself. Therefore, the possibiliy of having to support her may be a reason for our supposed stinginess or our tax dollars.

Ian McGibboney said...

About W's wonderful tax cut: the $300 check that everyone (not me) got in 2001 was nothing more than an advance the following year's taxes. I had a far-right friend who waved his check in my face when he got it and taunted me about it. I told him just what I'm telling you now. Sure enough, a year later his taxes were $300 higher. He didn't make a lot to begin with (still doesn't), but his "cut" represents just how scarewed most people were by that farce. The barons ran off with the real cuts, and the rest of us (not me) were thrown a bone.

Bush wouldn't even have to raise taxes if he hadn't ended such windfalls as the Inheritance Tax, which affected the richest of the rich (the Hiltons wouldn't even have had to pay it). As it is, all he needs to do to pay for his precious war is to rescind the tax cuts he put into place in 2001. Hell, in what other war have the citizens notr had to sacrifice? The idea that Bush would ontinue to cut taxes in the face of spiraling deficits boggles my mind. But remember, he set himself up in that hole.

As far as evacuee business, I'd love to donate myself, and I did what I could. The fact is, most charitable donations are tax-deductible (and are strictly voluntary), so I don't think that argument holds water. Basing a tax code on what might happen down the line (e.g., it might stop you from donating or hiring) is dubious, as we already know with "trickle-down" theories.

As for your boat, you're missing my point. A boat is a luxury, and you're forgetting that people in my situation have an equal yearning for indulgences. But, for one example, I'd like to have a car to facilitate my job search. But I understand that as long as I can't pay the bill, I'm not going to have one. So forgive me if I don't sympathize.

I'll reserve comment on your sister, because you know her better than I do. But I will ask you if she's gotten worse since I last talked to her. You make her sound worse than I know her to be.

Nick said...

About Rebecca, let me put it this way, she will probably never drive. She is actually at the local community college trying to get a 2 year degree in child studies. That is way more than my parents ever hoped for, as they were just happy enough with her graduating high school. The fact that she may never drive will be a burden on either my parents or myself, whether financially or time wise.

Cherie and I are already planning for future plans of her living in a small 1 bedroom house behind us, therefore, one of my main resistances to paying more taxes when I don't trust the government.

About the tax deductable stuff for Katriana and Rita, rest assure, my dad and I wouldn't know where the hell to locate those recipts. You know, some Christians and conservaitves actually donate money and time without giving thought to tax breaks.

Personally, and I'm sure I speak for every member of my family (except for my SOB drug addicted uncle) when I say that we would gladly pay more taxes to help our troops. Again, another problem with this Bush administration. There is no excuse whatsoever for troops to be in Iraq without the proper body armor. When my dad heard about that, I was there watching the news with him. He stood up and shouted, "Those ass holes in Washington, I'll go help build the fuckin' armor myself. Just give them the shit to win this war!!"

The whole point is that you can't just quantify a group of people and punish them based on their economic status. Some people have real reasons for not wanting to pay more in taxes, such as family responsibilities and wanting the option to donate their own money where they see fit.

Nick said...

Also Icon, on a less serious note, what have you been drinking? I noticed in your last comment to major spelling and/or grammer errors. That's comming from me, someone whose spelling who like to criticize, plus I'm about 8 or 9 beers down on my Budwiser 12 pack at this time. Are we drinking the same stuff?

Also, I haven't paid more taxes since Bush's cuts, and that's included that neither Bush, Repubs, nor Dems. have done anything to help self-employed businessmen.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, I made three errors, which I admit is bad for me. But consider this: I'm writing a post, playing online Scrabble, talking to Flamingo via IM, and fielding your many comments at the same time. So that's actually pretty good. Also, I don't drink. But I do stay up at night.

As for the charity, I'm sure you're not doing it for tax reasons. But have you considered that maybe some of these people wouldn't need so much help if the tax burden shifted? Bootstraps and all that?

As far as armor goes, that does piss me off. The problem with our taxes is that nobody wants to pay them, and they don't go where they should. That said, I think it's a bad idea to itemize taxes. Instead, we need to hold the Pentagon and Halliburton accountable for the billions they can't find, just as one example. Maybe then we wouldn't have such a financial crisis.

Nick said...

1) Haliburton, last I checked b/c I am in the oil business and am also trying to get into energy investments, is losing money in Iraq. The fact alone that an energy involved person, such as myself, wants nothing to do with themor their stock should tell you enough.

2) On of different note, I'm sure you've heard about the Blanco recall getting underway yesterday. I recently sent a letter to the editor for the Advitiser about my experience in trying to help Mrs. Landry in this recall effort. You might be surpirsed, as I am actually raining on her effort, though I am for the recall. More about my experience with her camp will be written on my blog.