Friday, February 5, 2010

This is not even subtle.

I think everyone's probably noticed by now that Republicans hate pork - not the meat, but the spending practice. What counts as pork is subjective, but if a Democratic senator wanted $35 billion to spend on some project in their home state, I'm guessing they would place it squarely in the "pork" category no matter what it was.

But when Richard Shelby wants $35 billion to be sent to Alabama, it's not pork. No, it's a "lucrative US Air Force tanker deal". The fact that he hasn't gotten it yet isn't an effort to curb wasteful government spending, it's an "unaddressed national security concern", and so he is totally justified in what amounts to  throwing a tantrum.

I wish I could say this surprised me, but it's just the latest example of the contradictory positions held by people on the right. Conservatives of all stripes oppose government intrusion into the lives of private citizens, while also opposing equal marriage. They support "freedom" and "liberty" and then throw a shitfit when we dare to suggest giving terrorists a trial by jury, as if they think any jury or judge might acquit them.  The same people who propagate racist myths about "welfare queens" turn around and express their outrage that abortion rates are significantly higher among women of color. Chuck Grassley opposes both a national healthcare system and "big government", and then tells people to go work for the government if they want a good insurance plan. John McCain thinks that we should respect the military's judgment on all of their policies, except when they disagree with him. And the entire Republican party is totally opposed to wasteful spending, with the definition of "wasteful" changing as it suits them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Imagine nothing but toll roads.

I subscribe to The Simple Dollar (because it's a neat blog with pretty good advice) and in the author's most recent roundup post was a link to another post, at another blog, with the subject line "The Hypocrite Test: Should Rich People Pay More?" I cleverly deduced had a feeling that this post was about taxes somehow, so I clicked on it.

I was correct. The author of this post begins with the following scenario, in which the reader is supposed to imagine that they've been working hard for twenty years, and have gone from having nothing to having a very nice house in a very nice part of town (where they now live with their family and their possessions, some of which are also nice.) This nice new house needs a nice new boiler, because apparently the one it came with was not so nice. So they call a contractor, who:
...pokes around a bit, then hands over a proposal. $15,000. Youch!

Sounds out of line, so you thank him and send him on his way.

Later that day, you run into an old friend who lives “down the hill.” You mention your need for a new boiler and are surprised to discover he’s in the market for the exact same boiler. And, the one he’s replacing is the very same one you have. AND, he also just got an estimate from the same contractor…for the exact same amount of time, same equipment, same job.

But, your friend’s estimate was $7,500. Half of yours.
The author asks if this scenario is fair or not, and specifically tells the reader to think about why it is or isn't fair and keep that line of reasoning in mind. The author then goes into the next scenario. Guess what it is.
This time, you’re the guy living down the hill, earning a modest living. The contractor is now the government, the estimate you and your wealthy acquaintance received is your tax burden and the benefits are the services provided to both of you by the government.
The instinctive conclusion that many readers will come to is that neither situation is fair. This makes sense if you assume, as the author does, that these to situations are "the same issue, just set in a different context" - a transaction is fair if you get what you pay for, and since taxes don't work this way then they must not be fair. I was tempted to make this assumption as well, but when I took the time to consider the analogy, I realized that it was flawed.