Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And so the 2012 campaign begins…

While serious issues get pushed to the back burner, it is obvious that the presidential campaign is underway as Donald Trump makes a fool of himself and President Obama uses his office to start countering political campaigns. I know mudslinging and misinformation have been a part of campaigns since elections have been held, but the modern main-stream media really adds fuel to the fire. Anyone ever heard of research. I start to wonder if media has any journalists left, or if they all are simply reporters. Political blogs are even worse. One egregious example is from a progressive blogger who tweeted, "When will [Michele Bachmann] produce her birth certificate and prove she's from this planet?" Honestly? I don't agree with Representative Bachmann on many things, including the fact she questioned President Obama's birth certificate. Or there is this article asking Sarah Palin to produce her college papers. I think she is completely misguided and then tries to distract people by saying "Don't let the White House distract you from real issues." Then look at the "@" replies to her tweet. The political rhetoric is so childish it sickens me. This kind of childish rhetoric degrades the political conversation and provides no platform for compromise or discussion.

Let me get out a few facts about the "Birther" conspiracy. The people pushing need to understand the purpose of the "natural born Citizen" clause as stated in our Constitution. It was meant to prevent a dual loyalty, i.e. to prevent someone from making decisions that would benefit another country over our own. All presidents go through an extensive process within their respective parties, so any doubt as to a person's loyalty would be exposed long before any election. The electors in the Electoral College also provide a buffer (albeit weak) to preventing a rogue candidate from being elected. This was one of the reasons the Electoral College was set up in the first place, because the Founding Fathers knew a pure democracy would never survive. Instead the set up a democratic republic - so if someone ever tries to tell you we are a democracy, make sure to tell them they are wrong. By having a "filtered majority," we prevent mob rule and in a sense gain more control over our government.

Neither party seems to get it, because as the Republicans go after President Obama over his birth certificate, this Democratic blog seems to think the Constitution mandates the President to make us a moral beacon in the world. They are right that the job of the President is to "...preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution...," but even our first President warned us to stay out of foreign entanglements. There are people in the world who don't believe in the freedom we have in our country, and we can't force them to change their mind. The President's job is to make sure we always have our freedom here. It ends at our borders.

So, in the worst-case scenario someone were to be elected that was not a "natural born Citizen," we would still have options. It would be obvious rather quickly if an executive was granting favors to a particular country or set of countries. The President can't make law. Even the President's ability to make war is a bit more limited since the Korean and Vietnam conflicts brought up the whole issue of a declaration of war. If the President were to be caught showing dual loyalty, he could be impeached by the House and brought to trial in the Senate. There are even mechanisms in place for the Vice President to take over temporarily if the President is thought to have lost his capacity to lead. We have a pretty good system to prevent a rogue President.

With President Obama specifically, conservatives really just need to stop. Use some logic. First, President Obama has hardly deviated at all from President Bush's policies of spending and war-making. So, how is it that President Obama's policies could be construed as anti-American? Second, let's just say the "birther" campaign were to be successful, then we would get Joe Biden as President? Is his policy going to be that much different?

The bottom line on the "birther" issue is that it is pretty clear President Obama was born in Hawaii. Perhaps the information is not perfectly crystal clear, but I don't think his loyalty is in question. If anything, it should show us that we need to improve our documentation of all people in the United States to prevent terrorism, identity theft, medical record, etc. There is a whole host of things that cold be improved if we came up with better ways to document, identify, and protect individuals. It also should show us that the "natural born Citizen" clause, along with the 14th amendment, should be reexamined and clarified.

One other campaign issue that is in full swing is the economy. Here again, both sides need to get off their power trip. A hardcore, left-wing website claims that Greece's austerity measures have worsened their economy. There is a basic rule in any scientific study which is: Correlation does not equal causation. So Greece's economy got worse, and it just so happens that Greece cut government spending, so it must be that reduction in spending that caused the economy to worsen. It's not true. Think of it this way: If government spending could improve the economy ad infinitum, why doesn't the government simply spend more? Does anyone really think that if the United States government doubled its spending that the economy would rocket off into massive growth?

The Democrats started with the mistake of stating that the economy would instantly improve if the stimulus plan was passed. Joe Biden promised that the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8% (it currently sits at about 8.8%). The Republicans are saying if we don't cut spending and reform entitlements immediately that the U.S. will fall off a cliff. Is there anyone who can interject a dose of reality? They are even going so far as to say that spending cuts and lower taxes would immediately jump-start the economy. The Republicans also point to President Reagan's tax cuts as a key driver to the economic boom in the 1980s that doubled the federal revenue. Although there is some evidence that is true, further supported by cuts in the 1920s and 1960s, tax policy alone doesn't drive the economy.

The reality is there is a limit to how much revenue our government can collect and still be within the bounds of a free society. We have to understand there is a balance to taxation and freedom, and if taxes are too low or too high we put that freedom in jeopardy. In fact, the Reagan tax cuts actually made tax collections more progressive, i.e. the rich paid more as a percentage of tax revenues while the bottom 50% paid less. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon said of high taxes:
The history of taxation shows that taxes which are inherently excessive are not paid. The high rates inevitably put pressure upon the taxpayer to withdraw his capital from productive business and invest it in tax-exempt securities or to find other lawful methods of avoiding the realization of taxable income. The result is that the sources of taxation are drying up; wealth is failing to carry its share of the tax burden; and capital is being diverted into channels which yield neither revenue to the Government nor profit to the people.
Note: Link above is to another blog essay that has a nice mathematical example of balancing taxes with the freedom to invest.

We can't keep spending at current levels, but we can't just slash and burn without some thought into how to soften the landing. Tax policy, economic policy (i.e. the federal reserve and government borrowing), business regulation, personal freedom, and every other aspect of government affect the economy. We need reasonable taxes and regulation and a reasonable safety net combined with a large level of personal responsibility. The current major parties only want their own small part of that policy. It's time they expand their minds. Whoever does it first will be getting my vote in 2012.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to tax the rich

I've brought this up in a couple of previous blogs, but I thought it deserved its own special spot.  Roger Ebert wrote an artice about the "one-percenters," which is irritating in itself because I am sure he has much more money than I will ever have, so I don't know what he has to complain about.  But, he is a professed liberal/progressive, so his viewpoint isn't surprising.

Let me start with making sure everyone knows my political affiliation.  I used to believe everything the democrats fed me.  Now I best align with the libertarians, which does have a tendency to lean to the republican side except the reasons for supporting policies is usually different than the republicans.  An example of this paradigm is in the Planned Parenthood funding.  Republicans wanted to cancel funding for Planned Parenthood because they support abortions.  Democrats wanted to keep it because of the need for women's health care for the poor.  Well, republicans are wrong because: 1) Abortions only account for about 3% of Planned Parenthood's funding, and 2) Abortions should at the very least be an option when the health of the mother is at risk, otherwise you could be leaving that unborn child and the already born children without a mother which isn't a good option either.  Democrats are wrong because we now have Obamacare.  Anyone eligible for Planned Parenthood should easily qualify for Medicaid or several other programs under the new health care law.  If Obamacare covers everyone, then we don't need a separate program like Planned Parenthood.  So the libertarian (and I would say logical) choice is Planned Parenthood doesn't need federal funding because there are other existing federal programs that take care of those mothers anyway.  It saves money and reduces overlap of services.  So you see, the solution lines up with the republican point of view, just for a different, logical reason.

To get back on topic....taxing the rich. I've written previously about how no matter how high the top tax rates, the collections as a percentage of GDP have never been over 20.6%.  Certainly there is a tax rate that could be too low, meaning a point where a higher income person would be willing to pay more without working to avoid taxes but not collected (simple example, 0% taxes means $0 tax income which I think everyone understands some form of tax is necessary).  However, there is some point when taxing the rich becomes an impossible tax, because they have the means to either avoid taxes or simply not work (see more here).  So is it really fair that 1% of Americans get 25% of the income?  That's hard to say.  The conservative viewpoint is that the top 1% (making 25% of the income) already pay 40% of the tax revenue which is more than the bottom 95% of income earners (I guess that really sucks for those in the top 4.99%-1.001%).  The liberals would say that's true, but they should pay even more as they make more.  This is a bit less logical since they pay taxes on a percentage, they do pay more as their income goes up.  Whatever your viewpoint - it is true the top 1% are making more than in the past.

How do we tax the rich?
Note: Sorry some of this is almost exactly from another entry, but I wanted to emphasize and expand it.

So to the point of this entry.  Stop supporting those businesses that make the rich even richer.  Start with daily goods.  Buy food from local farmers and your local (union) grocery stores.  Buy your soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and other goods from your locally owned pharmacy.  No more big screen TVs, Blu-Ray players, iPods, stereos, etc.  No more name brand clothing.  If we took those actions, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy's, and Target would go out of business very quickly.

Stop banking at your large corporate bank and open your checking and savings at a locally owned bank or credit union.  Stop investing in your 401(k) and open an IRA CD at your local bank or credit union.  In fact, make sure all of your investments, including your union pension, isn't invested in mutual funds or large companies for that also supports large corporations with CEOs making millions.

Make sure all of the products you buy are made by U.S., union manufacturing.  Don't support corporations such as GM, Chrysler, AIG, etc., that received bailouts.  Demand your union bosses stop taking $400,000+ salaries and spending millions on campaigns (which goes to rich politicians) and instead put that money to use protecting jobs instead of buying political favors.

Let's not forget...this also means no Dairy Queen, no Pampered Chef, no Fruit of the Loom, no Geico insurance, or any of the others owned by Berkshire Hathaway.  Also, no McDonald's, BK, or other fast food.  Now Buffalo Wild Wings' CEO did take a pay cut to $1.9 million this year, so I guess that is up to you to decide if she is too rich or not.

My point is not to make a straw man argument, but to point out that we in the middle class still carry the market power.  The source of the wealth in this country is our productivity and our consumer power.  If you feel like the rich are too rich, then stop making them rich.  We all have the choice.  Until you start making a conscious effort to move away from supporting those very rich people you claim to despise, your argument of taxation or criminal action against them for making money holds very little water.  You can take away their wealth if you feel their wealth doesn't justify the product(s) or service(s) they provide by not purchasing those products and services.

Personally, I have completely closed my accounts at Wells Fargo and moved to the credit union I worked for.  I shop at Target for my consumer goods (mostly) because I still get a good deal, and Target supports the arts and other causes right here in Minnesota, so I feel like my dollars are not completely wasted.  I used to buy Levi's jeans because they were U.S. union made, but now are made in Mexico.  Occasionally, you can find some Lucky Brand that are made in the U.S., but it is hard for me to find ones that fit.  I buy meat from the local meat market, and milk is generally local no matter where it is purchased.

I'd like to see some comments - what are you doing to tax the rich?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Common sense isn't found in headlines or sound bites

I've been watching headlines go through my various social media outlets, and, to put it bluntly, it pisses me off.  The amount of spin by the 2 major parties is out of control, and the blind supporters of these parties are as bad or worse.  What is frightening is people are making decisions based on these polarized headlines or blogs or party statements.  And even when a party is making a decision that is probably for the best when you look at a pros and cons list, they justify it from a completely different point of view, which can actually cause people to lose support for their position.  Here's a few examples:

Headline #1 : Total jobs lost under the GOP budget = 30,699

This was a tweet posted by the MN House DFL.  Previous to that, the MN DFL posted an MPR story as their proof.  As the story says, what the DFL is claiming is true, but the truth is stretched to its limit.  First, the jobs actually haven't been lost yet.  Second, a number of the jobs will be eliminated through attrition (retirements, people leaving etc.) and simply not replacing those workers.  Even the MPR article states this in the verdict - the DFL leaves out important points in its claim.

To me the tweet is very misleading because it insinuates the jobs have already been lost.  Even if they had, the GOP has only been in charge of the MN legislature for only 2 months.  It would be like the GOP trying to take credit for the unemployment in MN dropping.  They haven't had enough time for any of their actions to have large effects on the MN economy.  Besides that, state government action has very little effect on the economy or jobs.  The jobs referred to in this headline are government jobs, which is one of the biggest ways to save money in government.  Even President Obama's debt commission suggested eliminating government jobs through attrition by replacing 3 workers with 2 new ones.

Headline #2: Harry Reid says social security is fine.

In a sense this is true. But take a look at the details.

If you look at this Washington Post article, you will see that even Social Security's own actuaries have said if we don't start reforms now,  payroll deductions will increase by 16.1% in 2037, and benefits will be reduced by 22%.  Thinking of my own parents, uncles, aunts, and other relatives that will be heavily dependent on social security at that point.  A 22% cut would be devastating.  Social security is already spending in the red ($54 billion in 2010).  None of the money is actually there since it was borrowed back to the federal government, which means our retirees are dependent on foreign creditors to pay part of the retiree benefits.

I don't know too many of my friends that have confidence in social security being a big portion of our retirement by the time we are of age.  It would be ludicrous to think so.  Let's start working on changing it for our generation so our parents and grandparents can spend their retirement confident we will take care of them, knowing we made the right choices on their (and our) behalf.  Raise the age of full benefits for those under 40.  As much as I hate to think about it, raise the payroll tax a small amount.  Let's change the social security tax window to increase collections.  We need to take care of our older generations, and  I would be proud as someone younger to do so if it is done correctly.

Harry Reid is right, technically the trust fund wont run out for 20 years.  But that evaluation has serious problems.  We have to fix it, or as I've said many times, we will leave alot of people with nothing.

Headline #3: NPR funding is vital to the nation.

I love NPR, and more specifically MPR.  Who doesn't love Car Talk, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, A Prairie Home Companion, the great news coverage, and many other things they provide.  But is the funding from the government vital?  Here's where I have a problem with the justification.

First, by NPR's own admission, government financing only accounts for 5.8% of the overall revenue for public radio.  I don't know too many companies that haven't had revenue go down in this recession, so is it unreasonable for NPR to have to make some cuts if they lost 6% of their revenue?  Second, government funding for NPR was originally put in place so they could be an independent news source free from influence by businesses or other outside influences.  Note: I couldn't find a good resource for this point, so I won't expect it to have as much weight, but I am making it anyway. 22% of public radio finance now comes from businesses (and don't we all love those underwriting messages in our programs).  It is hard to believe that some of the programming doesn't carry some bias to those companies and organizations that sponsor programs.

Finally, is it really fair to say that everything NPR does is vital to the nation?  I love the weekend programming, but does Car Talk really educate the public (or is that its primary mission)?  No, they entertain, and we should have the option of patronizing the entertainment of our choice, and not be forced through taxation.  Full disclosure: I used to contribute yearly to MPR until I saw how much tax money is given to public radio.  It was disturbing to me, especially when you see the salaries of some of the people that work there.  I will say if all public funding goes away, I will contribute again because I do enjoy the radio and online content.  I just don't want to pay twice.

Headline #4: GE paid no taxes.

The New York Times really worked hard to stir the pot on this one.  It was a very cleverly written article, which made it seem GE not only didn't pay taxes but they were getting a $3.2 billion refund.

This article does a pretty good job of explaining what the article is really about.  GE did dramatically reduce their tax bill from the normal 35% corporate tax rate (second highest corporate tax in the world by the way).  There is no company in the United States that pays 35% of their profit to the IRS.  That's why every large company has accountants and lobbyists - to make sure they don't pay too much.  Even small companies take write-offs to reduce their tax burden.  It's not unusual.

GE is not getting a refund.  the $3.2 billion tax benefit is a way to report what GE did to save money over the standard tax rate through various activities.  Let's say they sold a $200 item that cost $100 to make.  GE is going to record it as $200 revenue with a cost of goods of $100 and a $35 tax on the $100 profit.  At the end of the year when they write off various tax benefits, they need to put the difference back on the books to report the profit to shareholders.  Not a refund, but in a sense a correction.

GE plays the tax game like every other corporation.  In fact, one of their major tax credits is green energy tax credits.  It is so ironic that progressives push so hard for green energy tax credits, but when a corporation uses them for producing green energy, they get attacked by the same people.  Republicans are guilty too.  In 1997, they passed a tax law allowing companies to hide alot more profit overseas which costs the treasury billions.  The easy way to solve this is to dramatically simplify the corporate tax code.  Lower the rate.  Eliminate almost all write-offs.  Allow expenditures to be taken all in the year they are incurred.  This would keep the flow of money more stable, it would be easier for smaller companies to plan for taxes, and it could even spur spending since buying equipment or inventory would be one way of still getting a write-off through immediate expenditure write-off.

Headline #5: The budget for the rest of 2010

It's a tiny start, but still a disaster. $39 billion in cuts doesn't come close to filling a $1500 billion deficit (yes, I put $1500 billion on purpose so the scale of the numbers is more obvious).

The democrats got their Planned Parenthood funding.  I know it has importance, but if President Obama's health care is supposed to take care of everyone, why do we need Planned Parenthood?  Also, the democratic blogs saying republicans are against women?  Come on, get real.  We are trying to cut the budget and put more responsibility on people.  The government can't take care of everyone all the time.

The republicans got a $5 billion increase in defense spending.  Another joke.  We are in 3 wars and several peace-keeping missions.  Time to get out.  We have no clear mission in Libya, in Iraq, in Afghanistan.  If our mission is to stabilize these countries, is it working?  If we left today, what would happen?  We can't make every country like our country, so we need to keep our troops safe and our country safe by bringing them home.  Then we can cut the military budget.

As an aside: I love how the $100 million a day we are spending in Libya is used as an excuse to spend elsewhere (If we can spend that on Libya, why can't we fund programs X,Y, and Z).  Because, we need to cut them all.  Get out of Libya and cut programs X, Y, and Z.  It isn't a choice of one or the other, it should be all.

Overall, I see both parties telling have truths.  The blogs are worse.  It's politics as usual with the "That side is wrong and sucks," rather than compromise or solutions.  We need to think differently.  We need to get back to real American values of hard work, self-reliance, and liberty and freedom.  Leave us alone government, we can take care of most things by ourselves.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Government as Robin Hood

I have been having the same discussion with several people about the idea of raising/cutting taxes, increasing/decreasing government spending, who should pay what, and other similar iterations of the idea of what the government's role is with our money.  I want to give everyone a quick summary of what is happening (to the best of my knowledge), why it is bad, and then give a few basics of human psychology as to why neither party has a good plan for the future of the government.

The scariest thing right now is that while we sit and do nothing, the government is quickly pushing us towards a stagflation scenario like we had in the 1970s.  Take a look at the currency base in 2008 compared to the currency base today. The federal government has added $1.4 trillion dollars to the currency, a 140% increase.  Why does this matter?  The money supply at its basic level determines the cost of goods.  A simple example from a basic economic course uses this example:  Let's say all of the goods sold in 1 year is 10 loaves of bread.  Let's say all of the money available is $100.  That means that each loaf of bread will cost $10.  If the government now prints another $100 of currency, giving a total of $200 in the economy, the price of bread will be pushed up to $20 a loaf.  now certainly there are some other effects, as well as some lag to the pricing as it takes awhile to push that currency into the market, but you can see how in general, adding money to the supply will push up prices.  If your wages don't keep pace, the government basically taxed you without ever having to vote on a tax at all.

So why is the government putting out so much money over the last few years?  The truth is they have had to print money to finance the debt.  The amount of debt the federal reserve is holding hit another record.  Never before has the federal reserve held so much debt as assets.  This is because as our debt has approached 100% of our GDP, other nations are beginning to question our ability (or our willingness) to pay them back.  So guess what, we are financing our own debt.  Wouldn't it be nice if you could just print up money out of thin air and then borrow it to yourself?  That is what the federal government is doing.  At some point, no one is going to want to sell us goods, or they will be dramatically inflated in price, so buy your luxuries now (if you can afford them) - because there won't be too many big screen TVs or the latest fashionable jeans in your future.

The debt itself is also a problem because it diverts money from other investments.  People who have money don't store it under their mattress.  It has to go somewhere.  So, do I take a risk and buy a corporate bond or do I buy a federal bond that pays decently and can save me money on taxes?  When we buy goods from other countries like China, they have to do something with the dollars we send them.  Do they buy products back from us, do they invest in American companies, or do they buy our government debt.  Up until this point, they have bought our debt because it is a nice, easy, safe investment.  By deficit spending, the government is keeping some money out of being invested in companies or products that could increase production, thereby creating jobs and income.  Don't believe me?  Even the Congressional Budget Office agrees with this assessment.

Now for the partisan crap.  So the GOP is asking for cuts, saying the democrats are spending us into oblivion.  They are right.  Since President Obama took office, we have added $3 trillion to the federal debt.  However, the GOP has just as much or more blame at this point.  President Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, was also bad, bringing the federal debt from $5 trillion at the start of his first term to $11 trillion in 2008.  We simply cannot keep doing this.  Again, the CBO agrees with this assessment.  Both parties need to suck it up and start making cuts, no matter how bad it hurts.  We can't help anyone if the country goes bankrupt.

I see many of the liberal bloggers I follow saying we should raise taxes, especially on the rich, to get the budget in line.  It seems so wrong to take away programs for the poor such as medicare, medicaid, food stamps, etc.  The rich should pay more so those people can have a better life.  It would be really nice if it worked that way, but it doesn't.  I'm sorry to have to break it to you, but you can only tax so much.  As I said in a previous post, no matter what the tax rate has been historically, the government won't ever be able to collect more than about 18-19% of GDP.  It just won't happen.  Why?

Let's think about this.  Let's say you make $10 million/year.  That's a darn good salary.  The government takes $3 million every year for taxes.  OK, living on $7 million isn't too bad.  Now the government says we want $4 million.  What's going to happen?  Well, I might ask for more money from my employer, or if I own a company I might charge more for my product.  I want to live a $7 million dollar lifestyle.  So where do those costs get passed?  They are passed on to us who buy those products.

Or, maybe I've made $10 million over several years, and I have a nice chunk saved up, maybe I'll just move to the Caribbean and avoid paying the taxes.  Then what does the government get?  $0.  Not $3 million, not $4 million, but $0.  That tax increase didn't work out so well.  Maybe I take my company to China, or Mexico, or somewhere with lower taxes.  Now not only is my tax money gone, so are the jobs.

Here's the thing about people and their money.  They worked for it and they want to keep it.  It would be awesome if rich people would be willing to pay more (and they can, the treasury will accept any money above the normal tax bill).  We can only do so much before they take action to avoid working rather than work and see so much go to the government.  The rich will only allow Robin Hood to hit them so much before they move away from Sherwood Forest - because they can.

Think of it another way - Let's say you and/or your family income is $50,000/year.  It's a decent wage, but I don't think anyone would say you are "rich."  However, one could argue that you are rich.  At $50k/year, you are making over 2.5 times what someone making minimum wage is making, even if they work full-time.  Maybe you should pay a little more, so that person minimum wage can live more like you.  Come on, don't you think you should help them?  I mean, minimum wage is below the poverty line.

The scary part about the above thought is that it could happen.  What is "rich?"  Should it really be up to the government to decide who has too much and who doesn't have enough?  Maybe you shouldn't be allowed to buy that second big screen TV.  That money could buy 2 months worth of food for a poor family.  Maybe you should be limited to a 1200 square foot house - why do you need more room?  The extra money could go to house the homeless.  I'm not trying to be facetious, I am trying to make a point.  I know we can make an educated guess as to what is rich or poor, but should it be up to the government to decide how much is too much?  If I am making $50,000 a year now and get a promotion because of my hard work and now make $100,000, should the government take away my extra $50,000 since I didn't need it before?  Do I need it now?  Probably not, but it will certainly improve my life.

The other more delicate matter is the idea of someone's worth.  Do you feel a nurse making $30/hour deserves that wage than some 19 year old flipping burgers?  Of course.  Just as a CEO of a large corporation gets paid big bucks because his/her company makes tons of money for shareholders.  Sometimes people are limited by their intelligence, their drive, or any number of factors that make us all individuals.  If we all had equal drive and equal intelligence, wouldn't we all just have built our own Apple computers in our garage?  We have to acknowledge our limitations.  In fact, some people might simply be poor at managing their money.  Why else would 1/3 of large lottery jackpot winners go bankrupt?  Sometimes, we can't save people from themselves.  And some people do have more value to society than others based on what they contribute.

Certainly there are people that need help.  I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't help the poor, the elderly, the mentally or physically disabled, but there is a limit to what government can do.  It is hard to send money off to the government because we don't usually see the results.  Think of how good you feel when you donate to Goodwill or The Red Cross.  That is because we can see the good those organizations do in our community.  Because we have allowed the government to take over so many of those roles, we don't see the effects in our community because it happens behind the veil of government.  The bigger problem is because we are forced to pay taxes, it is more difficult if not impossible to hold the government accountable.  If I donate to the Red Cross and don't like the way my money is used, I can donate to the Salvation Army the next year.  With the government, I just have to keep paying.

The bottom line is people are self-interested.  It is biology.  It is in our DNA.  We will always try to get more and be better for ourselves and our family.  And what is wrong with that?  Don't we want our kids, our family to have a good life?  We have to stop acting like rich people are evil for being rich.  They might have alot more money compared to many of you, but you have much more than many others as well.  Life isn't always fair.  Get used to it.

Here's how you can make a real difference.  Do you hate seeing CEOs of corporations getting rich?  Stop buying their products.  Quit using your services.  I love it when an uber-liberal tries to spout off about these evil rich people and how we need to stop them as they pull into Wells Fargo to get cash from their ATM while wearing jeans they bought at Macy's and a t-shirt from Wal-mart.  Ditch your corporate bank, and visit your local, hometown bank or credit union.  Don't buy from Target or Wal-mart, instead shop your local grocery store.  Buy your toiletries from your hometown pharmacy.  You do have the power to be rid of rich CEOs.  If everyone ditched Wells Fargo or Bank of America tomorrow, they would close down their doors pretty fast.  If everyone went with a few less bottles of water and took better care of their underwear and stopped shopping at Wal-mart, they would fold up in short order.  Don't buy a kindle, a nook, a iPad, etc. - buy used books from your locally owned thrift shop or visit your library.  Want to support unions?  Only buy union made products - clothes, cars, cell phones, televisions, etc.  Make sure everything you buy is union.  That is how you show support and make a difference.

I think the best path we could take is to simplify the tax code.  Quit pandering to every special interest through countless forms and worksheets and make it simple.  Base taxes on a flat percentage after exempting the minimum wage.  For a couple, that would mean an exemption of about $30,000.  I would bet most real middle class would see a tax savings since the exemption would be large than most tax write-offs anyway (mortgage interest, IRA contributions, etc).

We can't turn the government into Robin Hood.  It won't work.  We still carry our animal instincts to do what's best for ourselves.  Let's not ignore that fact.  And please, stop being a hypocrite.  You can't hate the rich and then support their cause by patronizing their low prices or convenience.  You can't act like you want to make a difference, but only make it when it is convenient for you.  And please, let's help each other and our local communities and stop having the government do it for us.  Do you want to be in charge of your money, or do you want those in Washington DC controlling it?  I'll pick the former.