Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Use Tax: The Phantom Tariff

The Use Tax – An Unconstitutional Tax:

I assert that the Use Tax (RCW 82.12.020) violates The US Constitution Article 1, Section 9.

1)      Art. 1 Sect. 9 States that “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.”
a.       The USE tax, as defined by RCW 82.12.020 applies a tax against goods purchased from outside the state for use within the state.  While the stated purpose is to permit use within the state borders, I assert that the tax acts as a protectionist tariff to dissuade purchasing of goods and services outside the borders of Washington State
b.      A definition of a tariff is tax or excise which is levied against a good for the express purposes of permitting import into a nation or jurisdiction.  Art 1, Sect. 9 of the US Constitution prohibits taxes on goods imported from other states.  I assert that regardless of it being an individual or a company or local government, the USE tax violates this statute.
c.       Furthermore, The Washington State Legislature does not have the jurisdictional authority to compel companies residing outside the state without a physical presence within the state which sell goods and services to collect any taxes from residents or businesses.  Such an act of compulsion violates the sovereignty of another state’s jurisdiction.
d.      Further, The US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9’s language infers that articles being exported from a state would also be imported to another state, and would also not be subject to tax.  As the relationship between export and import are indistinguishable and inseparable.  Hence forth, the statute also infers that where there is an export, there is also an import to some other destination within the United States, and also established per “The Federalist, No. 42.”  I, therefore, assert that the tax referred to by Article 1, Section 9, applies to importation to a state as well as export from a state.
2)      The state has used the phrase “There is levied and collected from every person in this state a tax or excise for the privilege of using within this state as a consumer any (the subsections of this law list the specific conditions) whereby inference, the law is designed to usurp the Constitutional mandate of Article 1, Section 9, prohibiting taxation of goods imported from one state to another.  It is, by definition and practice, a duty, tariff, and/or tax as defined even though, by name, a tax on the use of all goods in the state. 
a.      Further, this is a proper inference to make, citing Chief Justice John Roberts in NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS vs.  SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES.  Justice Roberts used similar reasoning to assert in Section III, P. 15

“§§860(h)(1), 6324A(a), 6601(e)(1)(2), 6602, 7122(b). There would, for example, be no need for §6671(a) to deem tax to refer to certain assessable penalties if the Code already included all such penalties in the term tax.  Indeed, amicus’s earlier observation that the Code requires assessable penalties to be assessed and collected in the same manner as taxes makes little sense if assess able penalties are themselves taxes. In light of the Codes consistent distinction between the terms tax and assessable penalty, we must accept the Government’s interpretation: §6201(a) instructs the Secretary that his authority to assess taxes includes the authority to assess penalties, but it does not equate assessable penalties to taxes for other purposes. The Affordable Care Act does not require that the penalty for failing to comply with the individual mandate be treated as a tax for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act therefore does not apply to this suit, and we may proceed to the merits.
                                                                          i.      We see in the above passage that the Chief Justice is using inductive reasoning to assert that regardless of the name, it’s function (the individual mandate enforced by the IRS, even though called a “penalty” is still a tax by function.) 
3)      Therefore, following this same form of reasoning, I assert that the USE TAX is indeed a form of import tax for engaging in commerce outside the state. 
a.       In RCW 82.12.020(2), which states
                                                                          i.      The provisions of this chapter do not apply in respect to the use of any article of tangible personal property, extended warranty, digital good, digital code, digital automated service, or service taxable under RCW 82.04.050 (2)(a) or (g), (3)(a), or (6)(b), if the sale to, or the use by, the present user or the present user's bailor or donor has already been subjected to the tax under chapter 82.08 RCW or this chapter and the tax has been paid by the present user or by the present user's bailor or donor.”
4)      I further assert, that because the USE TAX’s application would only apply to out-of-state purchases for consumers, and to businesses for use of goods purchased in-state, for business use in which RCW 82.12 would not apply, that the USE TAX’s function is indeed, a tariff, duty, or tax on out-of-state goods brought into the state for consumption.
a.       Further, The Federalist, No. 42 discussed the justification of this statute of The Constitution by writing in length about the consequences of inter-state taxation.  That such taxation is harmful to the population, and unfair to the neighboring states.
                                                                          i.      The defect of power in the existing Confederacy to regulate the commerce between its several members, is in the number of those which have been clearly pointed out by experience. To the proofs and remarks which former papers have brought into view on this subject, it may be added that without this supplemental provision, the great and essential power of regulating foreign commerce would have been incomplete and ineffectual. A very material object of this power was the relief of the States which import and export through other States, from the improper contributions levied on them by the latter. Were these at liberty to regulate the trade between State and State, it must be foreseen that ways would be found out to load the articles of import and export, during the passage through their jurisdiction, with duties which would fall on the makers of the latter and the consumers of the former. We may be assured by past experience, that such a practice would be introduced by future contrivances; and both by that and a common knowledge of human affairs, that it would nourish unceasing animosities, and not improbably terminate in serious interruptions of the public tranquillity. To those who do not view the question through the medium of passion or of interest, the desire of the commercial States to collect, in any form, an indirect revenue from their uncommercial neighbors, must appear not less impolitic than it is unfair; since it would stimulate the injured party, by resentment as well as interest, to resort to less convenient channels for their foreign trade. But the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain.
b.      In this line of reasoning also, we must conclude that the USE TAX violates The US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, on the grounds that the USE TAX is being used as an import tax by function.


1)      The relief I am seeking is that the USE TAX be declared an unconstitutional tax on the grounds that it unfairly, immorally and illegally taxes goods from other states, as would a duty, tariff, and by function, the kind of tax as described by “The Federalist No. 42, and by definition The US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9.
2)      That all USE TAXES paid in the previous Seven Years (7) or per the mandated statute of limitation as prescribed by Federal Law be refunded to their respective businesses and individual tax payers.
3)      That the USE TAX be removed from the RCW as a valid source of taxation.
4)      That the State Department of Revenue conspicuously declare to the entire nation and its businesses that it is neither mandated, nor required to render to The State of Washington, any taxes from its citizens which do not reside within the State of Washington’s territorial borders by way of physical presence of any kind.
5)      Reasonable Attorney fees as prescribed by Law.

Friday, December 21, 2012

To My Amazing Readers

Whether you agree with my views in their entirety, in part, or not at all...I appreciate your readership.  My blog is the physical (digital) manifestation of my thoughts.  My thoughts weigh on me from time to time.  Many of those thoughts dwell on you all who live day to day with no security, safety, or have a firm footing financially.  A significant number of us are a single paycheck from ruin, homelessness, starvation, and destitution.

I write what I write because my view of the world is that doing unto others extends to the workplace.  And not the "preaching" doing unto others...but DOING the "do unto others".  If there is no more important message during the holiday season is that we do unto others in all our affairs.  Romantic, financial, business, political, and at highest: personal.  Doing unto others is a value, most popularly expressed by Jesus Christ in Matt 7:12, as well as Mark 12:31, Love your neighbor as yourself.

Sure we hear the religious right spout off about how the "lefties are poisoning the moral fabric of the nation" or that liberals are "the Godless heathens who seek to secularize the entire country into forced-conversion agnostics or atheists."  However, it is clearly evident that these kinds of people use religion, fear, and a fraudulent kind of patriotism called nationalism to twist and manipulate specific demographics of the public into believing that social welfare is bad, that guns keep government from taking you away to concentration camps, and that only a sick form of theocracy can preserve this nation from the hell-fires of damnation.  They preach American exceptionalism, an ethnocentric view of other cultures, and teaches their followers to glare at those with other faiths with distrust and hostility.  This is not how we should think of others and ourselves.

The celebration of the Winter Holiday Season by whatever cultural group you belong to has always had a primary, multicultural focus.  The focus on charity.  Doing good to your fellow man.  I'm pulling this from memory, so bear with me, but St. Nicholas was a Hungarian monk who brought toys to orphans to bring joy into their lives.  Later this figure was turned into the commercialized jolly man with rosy cheeks and a red robe with 12 reindeer pulling him in a sleigh.  But, this intrinsic message of good will didn't persist because of some mass media event or some random significant event.  It persisted because cultures throughout Europe, and now the whole world recognize that good will to men in our world is a positive force.  That it's a force that persists in the hearts and minds of the every day Jane and Joe.

So let me wrap up with this:  Do good to your fellow man because its the right thing.  Good works without seeking reward, recognition, or praise is how blessings happen.  Do good only to do good.  Be righteous because it's right to be righteous.   Be kind because it's right to be kind.  DO UNTO OTHERS because that is how we would want to be treated if we were in opposite views.  The grace of God falls on all of us, my friends.  It warms our hearts, convicts our spirits, and nudges us to do good in the world.  Listen in the quiet of your mind, how he whispers and prods you to be a blessing to someone.

I pray friends that all of you have a blessed, special, fulfilling, and safe holiday.  That all your dreams are fulfilled, and finally...pray for our leaders.  Pray that our leaders hear our voice, that they give up the spirit of power and control, and embrace a spirit of good will, compromise, peace, brotherhood/sisterhood and finally justice.  Amen

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fifty/Fifty, One-to-One: Electoral Fairness

Many of us believe that elections are institutions which are sacred.  It was enshrined in our Constitution in response to Great Britain's refusal to allow our colonies a voice in Parliament.  Taxes were hefty, regulation severe, and punishment unjust.  So in response, our founders enshrined voting rights into our framework to prevent exactly that.  Over the centuries, that right was expanded to more and more demographics of people until there was full universal suffrage 

For those not familiar with the US Election system, it works like this:  Every 10 years we have a census.  That census is accompanied by a redrawing of our congressional districts which determine the shape, size, and area a particular representative represents.  So for example, Washington State (where I'm from), has 10 congressional districts.  We actually created a new one during this last census.  Our state uses a non-partisan/bi-partisan committee to redraw our map.  This ensures that all parties have a voice on how district lines are mapped.  Sometimes we end up with majority districts (Like the 3rd District, represented by Jamie Herrera-Butler-R) or contested districts which could sway either way like the 8th Congressional District (currently held by Dave Reichert-R).  As civic minded people, we have a duty to make elections as balanced and fair as possible to ensure that candidates in each district have a fair shake to make their points to their constituents.  Now, obviously not every state is going to have a demographic which yields to the 50/50 philosophy.  But we can agree that making sure that as many people get a voice as possible, that states should adopt the following policy when creating congressional districts:

1) If at all possible, districts should adopt a 50/50 mentality when drawing lines.  Most districts drawn in this manner will have a 30/40/30 split in their electorate.  30 being staunchly one way or the other (60%) then 40% leaning one way or the other, meaning they are swing voters which could be persuaded one way or the other, and not having firm loyalties to either party.

2)  If a 50/50 style district is unattainable due to voting demographics, then all attempts should be made to create majority districts for both parties as close to a one-to-one ratio.  So for example, if District A is created with a firm Republican Majority, then District B which is heavily democrat should also be created, giving those districts distinct voices in Congress.  This ensures that no voter is being disenfranchised by gerrymandering.

3) Creating districts purposesly with 70/30 majorities for any party or other lop-sided majorities while there is a way of creating districts with more 50/50 mentality disenfranchises the voices of voters in districts.

Jerrymandering is the worst form of voter suppression.  It's disturbing when you find majorities of voters in a state electing disproportionate amounts of the opposition due to immoral district drawing.  When you have 50/50 splits of both parties, but then have 13 Republicans and 5 democrats being sent to Washington from Pennsylvania...that's very worrying to me.  Legislatures should not do their own district redrawing.  A bi-partisan commission of redistricting headed by a fair and impartial judge should be drawing congressional districts to ensure that all sides are fairly represented in the Congress and in the State Legislatures.  Not being fair about district redraws hurts our Representative Democracy, and undermines the system we cherish so much.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Fraud of the "God-Fearing" Nation

There's no question that the United States is a nation that takes it's religious values seriously.  Whether you're a strong and fervent in the practice of your faith or reserved and private, Americans still hold faith as a mechanism that is close to their heart.  It's still a source of comfort in tragedy, a source of counsel during hard times, and a source of security in hopeless times.  I, myself am a "Red-Letter Christian" meaning that Christ's words, to me, have greater authority than any other scripture.  I follow his example of living, service, and empathy.  

In society, however, there are those who'd take advantage of your faith for the purposes of manipulating your view of the world to conform with those who masquerade using faith as their mask, and being something ugly, evil, and despicable underneath.  Today, those heads reared their view and made some despicable comments.  Former Governor Mike Huckabee who is a contributor and host on Fox News today told viewers in no uncertain terms that the reason God let these children and adults be murdered is because the government has systematically taken God out of the school system and that this tragedy is the result of that sinful and evil act.  

I'm not going to minimize the assertion that the spiritual world exists, that it can have influence on the here and now.  That miracles happen, justice is served in a divine way, and that God can provide for our needs in special and unique ways...most of which are subtle.  I, myself will attest that some very amazing things have happened to me in my life which reinforces this viewpoint.  But...this does not mean that God must be an institutionalized, state-funded being to be present in our lives.  Did you know that The Founding Fathers, while wise and great in many ways also were pragmatists.  They saw first hand the political corruption that occurred when you mixed religion and politics.  

For example, The Church of England is a publicly funded church, founded in the 1500s by King Henry VIII.  King Henry VIII's story is, in a nutshell, this:  Henry was married to Kathrine of Aragon from Spain.  The purpose was to bring Spain and England together as political allies.  So of course, Kathrine and Henry tried to produce an heir.  They got their daughter Mary I.  After Mary I was born, Kathrine was unable to conceive because her labor has been very hard leaving her barren.  So, because Kathrine could not produce an heir that was male, King Henry sought to divorce her.  Under Catholic edict and rules of marriage, you're not allowed to divorce except under conditions of adultery.  So, King Henry, obviously not happy that he can't get his way...expelled the Catholic Church from England, and established what is now The Church of England.  The Church is a political arm of the government, who's head, The Archbishop of Canterbury is appointed by the royalty.  The only reason that King Henry established the Church in the first place was to be rid of the Catholic Church so he could get a divorce.  He established himself as it's leader above the Archbishop, and declared Protestantism as the State religion.  

Let's go back further to a bloody time in history.  The Crusades.  The First Crusade was the effort by the Catholics to retake Jerusalem from the Moors, who had taken residence in the Holy City.  Muslims revere Jerusalem just as much as Protestants and Catholics do.  They do believe there is significance to the city and it's various landmarks of history.  The Dome of the Rock is the most popular landmark.  During this time in history, the Catholic Church controlled many nations through each nation's individual monarch.  Asserting divinity as God's representative on Earth, it wasn't hard to coerce a leader in Europe to do the Church's bidding when required.  Furthermore, the masses who were mostly ignored by their leaders often found solace in the old churches of Europe.  The church was the only source of instruction for the peasants, the only source of charity, and the only source of salvation.  With literacy very low and poverty very high, the Pope was very much able to manipulate the peasants into doing whatever he wanted with only the threat of everlasting torment of their immortal soul.  

In the Pope's campaign to retake Jerusalem from the Moors, The Pope, his Eminence Urban II, promised that anyone who served would be granted forgiveness for their immortal soul.  Now, today we would look at that promise and flip him the bird and walk away.  But being that literacy and comprehension was so lacking among the peasants, they agreed without question, and laid siege Jerusalem.  Pope Urban II started a war with the Moors for his own political gain using religion as the means of his manipulation.

Ok, if you're still with me, let's fast forward to the modern day.  In the modern day, we have Christianity with a conservative slant.  Many people equate conservatism with Christianity thanks to the rise of the conservative movement in 1980s and their huge gains between then and 2006.  During that be Christian was to be Republican.  To be a "Liberal" Christian was to be labeled a sellout, or a weak Christian or a misguided soul who didn't know the limits between Government and private giving.  The Conservative Christian movement was monumentally successful in facilitating the election of very conservative candidates such as Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ronald Reagan, George Bush '41 and George W. Bush '43.  The appeal to elect these candidates was the appeal to values.  That Christian Conservatives should vote based on values, and do so even at the expense of your own well-being.  They were successful and branding the Liberal political agenda as radical, socialist and equating that perceived socialism to evil.  To be socialist was to be communist, and to be communist was to be evil and totalitarian like Communist China or the U.S.S.R., and therefore to be liberal was to be evil as a result.  Any social spending program which benefits the working class and poor was branded as a give away, a handout, an "entitlement" to people who weren't entitled.  And people were convinced to believe this on the grounds that God doesn't bless giving when it's "forced" or coerced.  That private charity yielded more terrestrial rewards.  That your own fruits of your labor would yield great and wealthy rewards and that God would bless your hard work and generosity with more wealth and greater provision.  The conservative movement was very successful in appealing to people's greed for more by sacrificing what many believed to be "a little".  Movement: Conservatism (as Paul Krugman labels it appropriately in "Conscience of a Liberal", "Return to Depression Economics", and "End This Depression NOW!", took the faith of many, and used it to further their own political agenda spoon-feeding generations of voters to believe that if the government takes your money, spends it, and gives it to your brothers and sisters (nationally) that you won't be blessed as a result and that money will get wasted and not go where it needs to.  The Conservative movement appealed to the fears of loss by voters by feeding them this non-biblical dogma.  We are not a "Christian" nation ladies and gentlemen.  We're a nation who agrees that Christianity, and everything else is worth of basic courtesy and respect.  That people deserve to choose what and how to believe, and that it is not the role of the State to establish a "Christian Nation."  We are not a theocracy, we've never been a Theocracy, and we will never be a Theocracy because we can't.  

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 
          ~ The First Amendment, The US Constitution

The Pharisees, desiring to trap Jesus, asked him a question.  "Teacher, is it good for us to pay taxes?"  Sensing their hypocrisy, Jesus asked "Who's face is on the Denaris?"  "Caesar's." replied the pharisee   "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, render unto God, that which is God's."  They were all amazed and left him.  (See Matt 22:15-22)

So now let's fast forward to today, where a gunman walked into an elementary school and butchered twenty children and eight adults.  Most reasonable and sane people would agree that such an event is extremely terrible, heartbreaking, and just as pure Hell as you can get short of being there.  We have Mike Huckabee, who could have just said, "My prayers are with the families." and left it at that.  But no...he had to use this tragedy to exploit the fears of people who are God fearing, but don't know anymore than what they're told about the Nature of God.  Mike Huckabee is asserting that because the Court removed mandatory prayer from public schools, because these justices enforced the law as it is written, that they enforced the Anti-establishment clause of The US Constitution, that God allowed a gunman to kill 28 people brutally as punishment.  Nothing is more spiteful, hateful, and evil as this comment is.  Watch the whole comment for yourself:

Nothing is so horrible to blame God's alleged absence from a building for a massacre happening.  

Friends, tonight I just want to say that each individual person is responsible for their individual faith.  Government cannot tell you to believe in something religious.  It defeats the whole purpose of it.  To blame judges for executing the Law of the United States as they are charged to do for the massacre of 28 men, women, and children is an appalling thing to say.  It's an attempt to play on the fears of those who love their children, and to coerce them into demanding that "The State" do something that the State is not permitted, both morally and legally to do: State-sponsored Religion taught to your kids in a public school.  Nothing is more destructive to a society when the government starts dictating what is and isn't right in faith matters.  It's even more destructive when they strive to integrate Church and State in public institutions for the purposes of conditioning your children to believe a certain way.  Liberals believe that every person has the right, obligation, and duty to decide their own path in life on your own, or with people you CHOOSE to allow to guide you.  The whole debate comes down to one phrase: Free Will.

Wages, Wealth Inequality, and Violence

As many of you well know, I like to write about issues revolving around wages.  Wages and access to resources are the root of most social problems.  You can even make that case in race relations and relations with other categories of minorities.  Today, 22 children and 8 adults were killed brutally by a gunman in Connecticut.

I would argue that people act outside the order of the laws and institutions when they are unable to gain access to resources that are necessary to meet basic needs.  That lack or difficulty of access can drive the stress levels of people to points where the stress becomes unmanageable   Feeling like they have no recourse to change their circumstances, people become reclusive, antisocial, and paranoid.  Also, these people feeling they cannot change their circumstances, their actions begin to manifest in more desperate and extreme ways. If people cannot meet their basic needs in the system in which they exist, they will step outside that system to meet those needs.  If they cannot step outside that system to meet their needs, they will lash out against the current system violently in an effort to create awareness and draw attention to their pain and suffering.

In the United States, wage inequality and wealth inequality are very high.  Much higher than the rest of the developed world such as Europe.  In Europe, wealth inequality and wage inequality is lower than here in the US.  Further, the crime rates in many European states are significantly lower as a result.  The safety net in this country is sorely lacking in its ability to catch people caught in circumstances beyond their control to prevent.  The severe uncertainty caused by the loosely regulated labor market, and loosely regulated wages have created a very stressful living environment for the every day American.  Where as in Europe, if a citizen in the 27-nation bloc leaves their job for whatever reason, their basic needs are taken care of and they are taken care of until they secure new employment.  And of course one of those biggies is their healthcare.

Violence in society is caused mostly by not being able to gain access to basic need resources.  Some of it is caused by people who are genuinely mentally disturbed, others who are psychotic, and others who are emotionally broken.  Some violence is calculated out of a need for power.

They key to reducing crime and reducing to increase access to resources through more jobs, higher wages, and a more stable social safety net to hold people up until they get on their feet.

As I was writing this, I was holding back tears.  Because I see and feel what these people do, and I know most of it is out of unmanageable stress, grief, and depression.  A richer working class is the only way to combat this kind of violent antisocial behavior.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Good Governance and Religion

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

~Matt 7:9-12 ~Jesus Christ 

Perhaps you're wondering why I started this entry with scripture reference?  Because, while many out there decry the attempts to legislate religious adherence ..sometimes we need to remind everyone that there are some strong and effective lessons in matters of faith that do directly affect our nation's governing style...or sometimes an individual's governing style.

There are many on the right who contend that religions conservatism demands that everyone stick it alone...that one's hard work reaps rewards (often quoting Galatians 6:7: Our actions have consequences. We "reap" the consequences of the deeds we have done.")  However, I contend that, while this philosophy is true...for the purposes in matters of public policy, it's not entirely true.  Both Republicans, Democrats, and everyone all along the political spectrum all agree that you get out of life what you put into it.  If a student studies hard, he or she may get a scholarship to attend a higher school of learning.  If one works hard at their job, they'll hopefully get promoted and given more responsibility.

Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?)

Furthermore, the scriptures also teach basics in how to interact with mankind.  Most of these ideas in the day they were noted and documented were considered quite radical.  For example, "Doing unto others..." was a direct affront to many legal systems' demands for equivalent degrees of justice.  The whole "eye for an eye" or Hammurabi's code, or other Mesopotamian legal systems.  I would argue that Jesus understood that while vengeance was not good for the soul or for the accused, that it was also a hurdle to human progress as a whole.  Setting aside the divinity part of Jesus for the moment, and focusing on his words and teachings, we see that Jesus' words were meant to enrich human beings, and bring them up to a new level of social progress.  Further, upon examination of the words of Solomon, referenced in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, we see that Solomon gives us some profound social lessons which are quite neglected by modern political thought or even outright dismissed as valid.

Starting with Solomon, Proverbs by far has to be one of the most political books of the Bible.  Solomon, for those who don't know, was considered the wisest men in the Bible.  In the book of 2nd Chronicles 1:7-12, this exchange of dialogue happened between God and Solomon:

That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth.  Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”

But one thing that any Christian will tell you, asking for wisdom is like asking for patience.  God generally, from even my own experience...teaches patience and wisdom alike.  Solomon's reign was, to say the least VERY turbulent and difficult for the Nation of Israel.  Suffice to say, Solomon was not the smartest of people when it came to matters of his personal life...and failed miserably to serve God exclusively.  His people suffered greatly because of his inept leadership and failure to have a backbone.

There was a great deal of good that came out of Solomon's rule however...was his learned lessons.  These lessons were enshrined in the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes where, for generations to come, people could absorb the wisdom that he gained from his mistakes and foolishness.  And some of those lessons are applicable to this very day.  And those lessons aren't "government" lessons or "legislation" lessons...but personal lessons on how a ruler should govern his kingdom on a fundamental level.

Proverbs 10:15 - The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

Why is this scripture so significant that I would share it?  The above verse demonstrates that Solomon had governed in a manner that has favored his rich friends and allies.  Such honorings resulted in the poor (poor, in this context meaning the labor or working classes) having a poor and distasteful opinion of Solomon.  He also had understood that when you squish the working class under your foot, then who'll do the labor necessary for life to move?  And without that labor, the wealthy are now poor, because their riches won't pick food, or tend farms, or mill wheat to bread.  Solomon understood the necessity of having a respected and well-treated working class to ensure that life didn't come grinding to a halt.

Furthermore, on a similar topic...Solomon's reign also accompanied very high taxes.  Taxes which were very hard on the labor class because they were the most affected by it.  His taxes were the near cause of ruin for Solomon's empire.  When he had taxed his people into poverty, he began selling them to pay for his extravagant tastes.  Unfair policy leads to discontented people, and a ruined realm. 

How about this verse?

Proverbs 11:1 - The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.

In a few words, Solomon learned it's not nice to cheat people...cause the consequences are severe if the offended party finds out.  And there are, of course, other more religious oriented consequences when this verse is explored in other ways.  But the point was to engage in commerce fairly and justly.

Proverbs 11:26 - People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.

To many in this time in history, grain was a good as gold.  Many working class people depended on having grain to make the foods they needed to survive day to day.  Furthermore, people who did hoard grain caused it to decay and die.  Grain is perishable and eventually it would go bad.  So the wealthy persons who did hoard grain did so because they could.  The same analogy could be used for today when looking at the Billions of dollars hoarded by the wealthy, which is literally not going anywhere.  It's not being used to invest in jobs, build up wages, or empower others to live a lifestyle that they do deserve and need to have.  Solomon understood also that wealth has to go places, or it's literally wasted and becomes pointless.  Hoarders hoard only because they can, and that their hoarding creates an environment which causes a stagnant or decaying society.

Proverbs 15:22 - Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

This is kind of common sense.  Solomon knew that having a few critical voices in your ear can help you come to well-reasoned views and positions on issues.  Solomon often ruled with impulsive and reckless desires.  And it cost him every single time.  So, as a rule of thumb he said to surround yourself with counselors to administrate wisely.

Ecclesiastes can be summed up in a single statement:  "I did it all, and gained nothing from it."  What I mean by this statement is, that Solomon is looking back on his life and saw that he did everything his heart desired and really was no better off from it...and many times, he was worse.

Let me refocus you all, when talking about the above references...these passages aren't declaring to mankind that you MUST govern one way or another.  It's a guide to individuals who'd govern others.  Solomon was a king, and his decisions affected everybody.  Now a days, most democratic societies have several dozen or hundreds of legislators to speak for the governed.  However the rules don't change whether it's a king, or a Member of Congress.  Solomon's words request that we rule fairly, reasonably, and with wisdom and understanding.  And such concepts are not bad advice one bit.  And it's useful that we have his account and his lessons and wisdom to draw upon.  I do recommend that everyone read Proverbs, the entire book.  Even if you're not a religious person, there are some great pearls of wisdom in there that are both pragmatic, reasonable, and certainly intelligent.

In addition, Jesus also brought a sense of fair play to to everyday life.  Treat others as you would like to be treated is culturally intrinsic to all aspects of politics.  If you don't want war, don't be warlike.  If you want good relations, don't screw them over and steal their stuff.  If you want respect on the international stage, then lead in a way that's productive, and prove to the world that we are worth of emulation.  If you want a peaceful world, start by showing how peaceful you are.

Over all, there are lessons from scriptures we can learn, and apply to life as a whole.  In politics, this is even more true.  The problem we face with religion in politics is when the political machine starts trying to mandate adherence.  We cannot force morality, or spirituality.  Such concepts are highly destructive and dilute the purpose of the faith's core message.  You have to choose salvation.  Just as Muslim's believe that if you're forced to recant your faith at bullet point, just do it, because you know in your heart it's not true.  Same goes for Christians.  You cannot legislate morality or faith.  It's up to individuals to embrace it voluntarily without coercion or manipulation.  To do it any other way is fake and counterfeit.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

No Dice without Higher "Rich-People" Taxes

Many of us are concerned about what the future holds for us as a nation.  The "Fiscal Cliff", or as Charlie Pierce from calls it "The Fiscal Gentle Incline" is a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to deal with the deficit problem.  This agreement was bipartisan originally, and was supposed to serve as incentive to make a deal.  Neither party wanted Sequestration to go into full force because it hurts everyone equally.  During the Presidential campaign, both candidates voiced their opinion regarding the spending and taxation habits of the Federal Government...and the public decided that a more populist and economically liberal position was preferred.  As a result, The Democratic Party has been empowered with a strong mandate to make their ideas a reality.

For those that remember the debates last year when the Debt Ceiling was looming over everyone's head, the President, in an effort to avoid any potential possibility of a Default of US Debt, the President caved to Republican calls to extend the tax rates on the top 2% of tax payers for two years.  Republicans got their way and the artificial crisis was averted.  However, the president also promised that such a move would never happen again.  And this time he's correct.  The Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats hold all the winning cards right now and the GOP has been backed into a corner.  The GOP has put themselves squarely into a very tight and unfortunate box.  One side of the box is the Public.  The public has overwhelmingly supported higher tax rates for the wealthy by a 12 point margin in most major national polls. Further, the public has also voiced that if we go over "The Fiscal Gentle Incline"...that Republicans will feel the brunt of the public's wrath.  Furthermore, the GOP has a funding problem...because of their "pledge" that they never raise taxes, thanks to Grover Nordquist, the GOP is afraid of their fundraisers who they fear will cut them off from their bottomless moneybags if they don't support their championed causes.  GOP leaders are deeply conflicted about how seriously to take this pledge.  On one hand, there's the ability to fundraise, which Republicans are very good at due to their many numbers of rich supporters...but, then there's voters who are quite pissed about how dysfunctional the government has become due to the severe amounts of partisanship present in Washington today.  Much of that anger is directed at the Republican caucuses of the House and Senate.  There are many GOP lawmakers who are beginning to abandon this pledge out of necessity and pragmatism.  It's hard to win elections when you do very unpopular things to the public.  And right now...we have a functional revenue problem regarding the United States Government.  Simple math of the budget numbers show over and over again that simply removing deductions for the wealthy will not create the revenue numbers necessary to close the hole.  Further, the deductions that Republicans have proposed have been non-existent.  There are no specific deductions mentioned that they would part with.  It's the same proposal that Mitt Romney proposed when he was running as the GOP candidate, and lost on. Even if they were to remove every wealthy deduction, it still would not generate enough revenue growth to make any noticeable dent in the deficit.

There are other reasons the President is unwilling to cave on the top rate.  As incomes have fallen for the middle class, the incomes for the wealthy have increased substantially. If most of the taxes were paid by the middle class, then this would be a non-issue. But right now, we're having revenue problems. As a percentage of GDP, the Government is only taking in 10% according to The World Bank, and 9% according to the Non-partisan Tax Policy Center of that by way of taxes. It may seem like a lot of money, but not when you have a 15T$ tax base. If we have rates of 36% but are still only getting 9-10% of the total national economic activity from income taxes...there's something functionally wrong. I would strongly prefer we not go over the "Gentle Incline" if we don't have to...but for the president to get his way and to force some compromise from Republicans, he's willing to let it happen. The top rate issue is not open to negotiation The President because he caved to Republicans last time and it cost him a bit. It's time for the wealthy to pay a fair share, and it's time to get people back to full employment, full middle class wages, and to jump-kick wage growth again.  Wage growth will come with ensuring that all players play by a fair and equitable rule-book ..which is currently not happening in our economy today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Socialism: The Biggest Misused Label Ever

So, I hear all the time that "Obama is a socialist."  So before I go into why, I think we should properly define some words:

Socialism, in it's raw form is the public ownership of the means and ways of the production of goods and services.  The most basic example of this would be, government harvests food, processes food, and sells food to consumers.  It is the only producer in the market (realistically there is no true market in Socialism).

Mr. Obama is NOT a Socialism by definition because Mr. Obama has never advocated the government ownership of private companies.  Hugo Chavez is a socialist, because he has actively nationalized companies into state-owned entities.  Sweden is partially socialist, it's oil industry is state-owned and run and it has a government owned/run healthcare system.  Many European States are, what is called Social Democracies, in that the primary focus of governments in these countries is the welfare of their citizenry.

The United States is decades behind Europe in this area, and for now, the progress towards a European Model is going to move at a snail's pace.

Now, if you're actually curious about what the United States Socialist Party believes in, you might want to look over their viewpoints @ and compare them to the views of The Democratic Party @  When you compare the platforms, they are NOT the same thing, and President Obama IS NOT aligned with the Socialist Party or any arm of them.

Now I will concede one or two things about Democrats.  There are some Democrats who believe in SOME Socialist ideas, such as nationalized health care in the form of a single-payer system.  And there are Democrats who would nationalize other arms of the economy to create better equality for all.  But having a few socialist ideas which they genuinely believe are good ideas does not mean they are 100% Socialist, nor do I believe that Republicans who embrace some Fascist leanings are 100% Fascist.

Like with all political ideologies, there is no good or bad in any of them, in that ideas in their raw form are neither moral or immoral.  Morality is subjective to the culture in which ideas are judged.  In one way, this society may say "Yes, state ownership for everything, for we, the people."  And others may say "Hands off my money, the state is looking out for our well-being by directing everyone's personal behavior."  Just as with Dictatorships, Monarchies, Oligarchies, and other authoritarian forms of government.  If you have a strong, just, fair leader...technically...anything can be used for the progress of the greater good.  It's just rare to see, as human nature tends to be selfish and corrupt when power is injected into their being.