The Restoration of Individual Rights–My Platform Continued

When I talk about the restoration of individual rights, I’m not talking just about a return to habeas corpus, a rededication to the Constitutional principles upon which this country was founded, and an end to torture and show trials, but I also mean that we need to be rededicated to privileging the individual over the corporation.

Take, for instance, taxes.

I love a good fight over whose hard-earned tax dollars are being wasted on what and how it’s unfair that rich people should have to pay so much, blah blah blah.

But who is a legal person who’s all the time getting tax incentives?

Not me and you.

I mean, when was the last time Nashville offered you money to keep you from leaving the city?

We argue about Uncle Sam in our wallets, but why aren’t we insisting Uncle Sam get a firmer grasp on the money in corporate coffers?  If corporations are legal persons, why aren’t they paying taxes like legal persons?

But it’s not just that.  It’s that we are at the whim of corporations who blow off our mountain tops, pollute our air and water, and negotiate deals with local governments to look the other way.   Erin Brockovich aside, most of us can’t sue our way into getting these corporations to do right by us.  We need the government to step in and monitor this stuff and to impose consequences in ways that we, as individuals, cannot.

Clearly, this ties in with my other two platform… platforms?  Ha, I suck as a politician.  But I would like to see a party be a party of the people and not be in service to corporate interests.

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34 thoughts on “The Restoration of Individual Rights–My Platform Continued

  1. I believe the individual ideas or policies that make up a platform, are referred to as planks. I think we need public financing of all elections, but I don’t see any pols courageous enough for that fight. Public financing of elections would certainly help put corporations back in their place, as well a more union friendly administration.

  2. You already had my vote with your three points. (Okay, you had my vote with your boob freckle, but that’s neither here nor there.) I’m totally in agreement on this one, though. If it has legal personhood enough to sue me on its own, it should have to pay taxes.

    We need the government to step in and monitor this stuff and to impose consequences in ways that we, as individuals, cannot.

    This, for me, is the cornerstone of my liberalism. Not incidentally, it’s also why I laughed when you talked about the “goodhearted but misguided” thing in your other post. While I agree that low-level discourse tends to take that path (“oh, you’d totally agree with me if you could just understand where I’m coming from!”), my liberalism comes from pretty much exactly the opposite place – people in groups aren’t naturally all that good or smart, and we need to make systems that will deal with the consequences of that, especially when the problems are with entities and phenomena that can’t be addressed on an individual level.

    To make a really bad analogy – it’s like being on a cartoon team. The individual members that make up the team are powerful enough in their own right to deal with day to day matters, but in order to take on big issues, sometimes you need to form a giant robot and kick some ass.

  3. Public financing of elections and public financing of the court system, Missus. I can’t believe that the abuse (and, of course, there would be abuse) would outweigh the good of making the courts truly available to everyone.

    Ha, Mag, I bet the boob freckle could get elected to public office. As for me… Probably not.

    Slarti, I think we’re in a game of chicken with the multi-nationals, but, if ever there were a time to keep driving straight, now is it. At least now, we’re a desirable market and we can force some changes by being willing to cut off access to our markets.

    For instance, it seems to me that, if we want to keep businesses from going overseas, we could deter that by requiring everyone who wants to sell products in the U.S. to pay their workers what they would have to pay U.S. workers.

    But it would only work right now because we have cultural supremacy. The rest of the world does look to us to see what to watch, what to wear, what to listen to (to some extent). Our power is in our ability to set trends.

    If that shifts–if China or India becomes the place the whole world looks to to see what’s going on (even if they disagree with what’s going on there)–we lose our negotiating power.

    That’s why I think that, if we’re going to rectify this situation, we’ve got to do it now. Otherwise, we have exactly what you say here–multinational corporations that are more powerful than our government.

  4. no, not public financing of elections. just no direct individual financing of elections, either.

    candidates to run only under the aegis of some organized party that people may join as members. if Joe Schmoe can neither get a party to nominate him as their candidate, nor even start his own darn party, he’s not politician enough to damn well run.

    candidates’ campaigns to be wholly financed out of their party’s war chest. no gazillionaires pumping their own funds into running for political office.

    parties to build their war chests solely out of membership fees from people joining the parties. each party gets to set their own membership fee — a dollar a year or a million for life, whatever they feel like, but it’s to be the same, one fee for everyone who wants to join. no donating umpty jillion bucks toward some party’s campaigning.

    mass media can report the parties’ press releases as they see fit, subject to some basic fairness doctrine with only moderate-sized loopholes in it. this reportage can be funded however those mass media feel like, of course; that’s why the fairness doctrine is needed.

    who’s with me on this?

  5. We are really on the tail end of the multinational “make money here, but invest over there” deal. This happened to the rest of the hemisphere throughout the last century and one of two things happened. Either the countries involved swung hard right (military dictators or otherwise), fucked over the majority of their people while providing luxury for a few, and crawled in bed with the multinationals OR they changed their policies and corporate law to respond to the new reality, nationalized some shit (or threatened to), and got slapped by the US and the World Bank for their troubles. Neither solution really produced sustainable or desirable social/economic effects, but the point is that governments DO respond to the presence of multinationals and laws/policy/institutions can change. They just usually don’t change in ways that produce equitable outcomes for working people.

  6. I dunno, Nomen. Seems to me that the Gazillionaires’ Party wins every time. I recognize that not every single gazillionaire agrees on politics, but I believe that enough of them do (the Don’t Tax Us-ers) that they could fund about two or three times the campaign even the most popular little-guy candidate could.

  7. I’m afraid many multinationals are beyond the grasp of our puny little government.

    It’s a brave, new world.

    Not really. The multinational corporation has been around in some form for roughly four centuries. In fact, one of the first multinationals was the East India Trading Company, whose excesses are what the founders of the U.S. were really rebelling against (King George was just doing the EITC’s bidding). The founders dealt with the multinational by setting up a government that refused to bow to it. The English tried to enforce the EITC’s mandate through force of arms, and failed. That’s a clumsy recap, and I hope Bridgett has time to straighten it out.

    The point, though, is that no corporation is beyond our government’s reach. The problem is that our nation’s laws have been abused in service of consolidation and malignancy of corporate power. We as citizens need to get off the narcotic corporate teat long enough to put the corporation back into its place.

  8. Just to be clear, I believe everyone should have equal access to the courts. Politicians would serve regular folks better, if they were not beholden to their big corporate donors.

  9. “…most of us can’t sue our way into getting these corporations to do right by us. We need the government to step in and monitor this stuff and to impose consequences in ways that we, as individuals, cannot.”

    Maybe we need the government to step in and make the court system a more effective tool. Using government to empower all individuals over corporations sounds like it would be less prone to lobbyist influence than government regulation programs.

  10. Pingback: SayUncle » In which I clarify for my liberal friends about rights

  11. “If corporations are legal persons, why aren’t they paying taxes like legal persons?”

    First of all, corporations don’t pay taxes. Corporations only collect taxes from their customers. If you try to increase taxes on corporations, they simply collect more from their customers to pay that expense.

    ONLY individuals pay taxes. Increasing taxes on corporations only increases the price of the goods or services they provide…in other words, the only people penalized are individuals, not the corporations themselves.

    Secondly, increasing the costs of goods and services decreases the demand. If taxes are raised high enough to actually do harm to the corporation’s sales, that decreased demand results in decreased production. Decreased production results in decreased need for employment. Punitive taxation on corporations does nothing but harm individuals by damaging the economy.

    Thirdly, profits that corporations make are not insular. Do you own stocks, bonds, mutual funds? Do you have a savings account? A 401K, IRA, Health Saving’s Account or retirement fund? Do you pay for car insurance? Homeowners insurance? Life insurance?

    All of those things rely on investments in corporations to thrive. If you are involved in any way in any of the above endeavors (and more that I couldn’t think of off the top of my head) YOU are an owner of the evil corporation that you hate so much. You profit from their success. I would think you’d be rooting for them, not wishing for them to be punished for lining your pockets.

    “But it’s not just that. It’s that we are at the whim of corporations who blow off our mountain tops, pollute our air and water, and negotiate deals with local governments to look the other way…..We need the government to step in and monitor this stuff and to impose consequences in ways that we, as individuals, cannot.”

    You don’t think they do that now? You obviously are not a student of history if you are unaware of the dramatic advances we’ve made in the past hundred years in terms of reducing and abating pollution and ecological damage.

    The ironic thing is that these advances would have most likely occurred without governmental intervention.

    Concern for the environment comes with affluence. Have you ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs? It’s hard to find the energy to be concerned about industrial pollution when you have a very real concern about where your next meal is coming from or whether you’re going to be able feed your children this week.

    As the wealth and affluence of the average American has increased, their concern with moral issues such as the environment and animal rights is increased. As less people have to worry about feeding their families, they have the means to be more discerning about with whom they choose to do business. The best way to get a corporation to pay attention to you is to hit them in the wallet.

    Do you think all of these hybrid cars that have been coming to market lately are a result of government intervention? They are a result of public outcry and a market for them. If companies can profit from being environmentally friendly, they will be.

    Government regulations and oversight are a necessary evil to prevent the unscrupulous from abusing the system, but the most effective check on abuse is customer feedback (i.e. voting with your wallet). The government is not the be-all and end-all solution to all the world’s problems and, in many cases, it IS the problem.

    One more point and I’ll get off my soap box. What makes you think that the courts would uniformly grant relief to the common citizen? If we each had the wherewithal to try to “sue the corporations into doing right by us” why do you assume that the courts would side with us?

    Judges and lawyers are people too. Subject to the same prejudices and foibles as any other human being. I think you may rely a bit too much on Hollywood for the basis of your worldview. With that in mind, by the way, the only winners under our system of tort law right now are the lawyers. Especially when, as in the “Erin Brockovich” case, the lawyers are buddies with the judges presiding over the arbitration.

  12. Corporations are taxable entities. The corporation itself must report its earned profits. This is a highly significant component of the traditional corporate structure, and in fact efforts to avoid this tax (and get company profits reported on individual tax returns) are behind the drive toward LLCs and S Corporations.

    I have no idea how Mr. Sailorcurt thinks that “corporations collect taxes from their customers” except, I suppose, in the sense that we provide their profits, and that’s what they are taxed on (but this is pretty terrible reasoning because then all our individual taxes are actually “collected” from our employers; a great thought game to ease the sting of April 15 but probably not true).

    I assume Aunt B. was not making this mistake since the wording of her plaint was much more like “why don’t corp’s pay taxes in the way/to the extent that individuals do.”

  13. We’re all friends here, no need to call me “Mr.”

    I don’t know how this worked out but I’ve actually been involved in two threads related to economics today. In the other, a commenter named “DJ” put it as succinctly as I think I’ve ever seen it:

    “ALL taxes are ultimately paid by whoever cannot pass them on to others.”

    Corporate taxes are an expense of doing business, just as payroll, electricity, building maintenance, shareholder dividends etc. All of these expenses are passed on to the customer through the price of the goods or services that the company provides. There are obviously other factors which affect the charged prices but the bottom line is that taxes are nothing more than an expense to be factored into the equation and passed on to the customers….i.e. me and you.

    As far as your point about “individual taxes are actually ‘collected’ from our employers”…you could look at it that way because without our employment and resultant salaries, we wouldn’t have to pay income taxes. Of course, either way, those are also nothing more than expenses related to doing business and are passed on to customers just as “corporate taxes” are.

  14. If we each had the wherewithal to try to “sue the corporations into doing right by us” why do you assume that the courts would side with us?

    That would depend heavily on where the laws place the burden of proof. As it is, corporations are able to amass more resources (usually cash funneled through lobbyists and campaign contributions) to get the laws written in their favor.* They can also throw more firepower at the point of attack when it comes to battling individual citizens. As if that weren’t enough, the corporations (and their wealthiest beneficiaries) pool money into think tanks that focus on polluting our public discourse with pro-corporate propaganda. Add in the curious elevation of economics to a virtual hard science in many university curricula, and you can see how the deck is stacked against the little people.
    Your little dig at trial lawyers, Sailorcurt, kind of lets me know who you tend to sympathize with. It’s the trial lawyers– occasional hefty paydays and all– who represent the individual citizen (or the group in a class action) against the immortal corporation and its team of lawyers. “Tort reform” is little more than a euphemism for snatching more cards from the individual citizen and giving them to the corporate world.

    By the way, Maslow’s Hierarchy doesn’t account for lobbyists, campaign financing, advertising, and corrupt corporate media. Neither does your rosy, textbook economics lesson. Where’s Rodney Dangerfield when you need him?

    *It was the railroads (in the 19th century) that used this process to bend our legal framework into giving corporations ‘personhood’ in the first place.

  15. Corporate taxes are an expense of doing business, just as payroll, electricity, building maintenance, shareholder dividends etc. All of these expenses are passed on to the customer through the price of the goods or services that the company provides. There are obviously other factors which affect the charged prices but the bottom line is that taxes are nothing more than an expense to be factored into the equation and passed on to the customers….i.e. me and you.

    Yes, but this is an artifact of the way the system works, not a necessity. If we wrote the laws right and enforced them, things would work differently. Sure, there’d be slippage – some companies would find ways to slip the money through the cracks – but that’s the case with any system; there’s always someone ruthless enough and ballsy enough to try something. An inability to change everything, however, is no excuse to change nothing. Washing my hands often isn’t a foolproof way to avoid infection, but it’s helpful and it’s a damn sight more effective than doing nothing.

    Not only that, but I’d be willing to pay a little more for a product and have the costs of the company’s taxes distributed to me and a wide array of people than to have to shoulder their burden directly in my individual tax load.

  16. Exactly. If I paid an extra dollar (or even two) when I bought a Microsoft product rather than the twenty I’m paying for their missing bit of the tax burden, I’d feel that was a deal.

  17. I absolutely agree that the system is corrupted by lobbying and campaign contributions but that is in no way restricted to corporations. One of the most powerful lobbying groups in DC is the Teacher’s Union (NEA). Another is the AARP. Tort lawyers are high on the list as well. Why single out corporate interests for your ire? And what does that have to do with whether corporate taxes are passed on to customers or not?

    To what pro-corporation propaganda are you referring and what bearing do think tanks (whether funded by wealthy corporations, wealthy unions or wealthy left-of-center trust funds) have on this discussion?

    What, exactly, constitutes “polluting” discourse? What constitutes “propaganda?” If a contention that I’ve made can be demonstrated to be false, please feel free to do so. That’s what “discourse” is all about.

    The scientific study of the functioning and patterns of economic systems is somehow “elevating” the field of economics beyond its proper place?

    I’m afraid you lost me there.

    How was my comment about lawyers a “dig?” Was my statement inaccurate? Was it slanderous or offensive? If so, how so?

    Tort lawyers are hardly a sect of monks who have sworn oaths of poverty for the good of mankind. Even so, I don’t have anything against them per se. They have the right to charge as much for their services as the market will bear just like anyone else in a free market system. I just don’t ascribe to the theory that their motivations are somehow more noble than, say, a corporation that makes millions (or billions) of dollars manufacturing and selling widgets that make our lives easier or more enjoyable.

    I also don’t think their opposition to tort reform is as altruistic as you seem to think, but that’s a discussion for another time.

    Finally, your last statement simply defies comprehension. The only thing I can attribute it to is a meaningless attempt at a pithy ending.

    My reference to Maslow was related to my point that affluence enables concern for higher level needs. It doesn’t attempt to “account for lobbyists, campaign financing…” so that statement was patently without point. Where, specifically, does my rosy, textbook economics lesson go astray? Where does Mr. Dangerfield come into play? Maybe I’m just dense; I assume it has something to do with his “I get no respect” routine, but I’m just not connecting the dots here. Did I disrespect someone? Or were you attempting to disrespect me? Sorry, just not getting that one.

  18. Why single out corporate interests for your ire?

    technically, we shouldn’t. but corporations should be at the top of the list, because the groups of people represented by entities such as the unions, the AARP, and tort lawyers, are groups of individuals which i can either join or influence without having to buy up any majority of their outstanding stock. they are groups of people far more likely to be interested in, and concerned about, my welfare than any corporation ever will be.

    they are groups of people who are, on the whole, likely reasonably sane. corporations, as has been noted, are more likely sociopathic.

  19. The problem with your economics review is that is continues as though corruption and the purchasing of political influence don’t exist. Sure, you acknowledge it in your latest response, but it doesn’t factor into the course of your earlier dissertation. That’s what I mean about Maslow. It’s great that you know of it, but it is your citation of it that is a bit off target. Maslow’s theory is based in psychology, and it is somewhat lacking when applied to larger interactions of systems (i.e. economics and politics). And when individuals are subjected to the machinations of such systems, Maslow’s pyramid can get a little discombobulated (which is the whole point of political advertising and the right-wing think tank propaganda, for example; it is usually designed to convince one to act against one’s needs and interests). Factor in the increasing polarity of wealth distribution in this country, and it gets even loopier for most individuals.

    Sorry for the oblique nature of the Rodney reference. I was thinking of “Back to School,” where Rodney the accomplished businessman interrupts his pedantic econ professor’s classroom exercise of constructing a theoretical “widget” factory. Rodney points out that the professor’s textbook progression leaves out such realities as labor negotiations, corruption, etc.

  20. Yes, but this is an artifact of the way the system works, not a necessity.

    According to whom? As much as Church Secretary would decry economics as a “hard science” there absolutely are immutable laws that cannot be ignored.

    If we wrote the laws right and enforced them, things would work differently.

    How specifically? Give me some examples of laws that would alleviate this “problem”? Are you talking about caps on profits? That’s the only thing I can think of off hand. Do you have other ideas?

    Not only that, but I’d be willing to pay a little more for a product and have the costs of the company’s taxes distributed to me and a wide array of people than to have to shoulder their burden directly in my individual tax load.

    “shoulder…directly on my individual tax load” sounds scary but it isn’t even remotely the case. If it were, you couldn’t afford it. The tax burden would be spread out amongst the entire income earning population. You wouldn’t have to shoulder it personally.

    Exactly. If I paid an extra dollar (or even two) when I bought a Microsoft product rather than the twenty I’m paying for their missing bit of the tax burden, I’d feel that was a deal.

    You’ve got it exactly backward. The tax burden passed through a company to its customers is spread to a much smaller cross section of society than if the same burden is spread amongst the entire population.

    To make your statement valid, you’d have to reverse it: If you “paid an extra twenty dollars when I bought a Microsoft product rather than the dollar (or even two) I’m paying for their missing bit of the tax burden…”

    Would you still feel like it was a deal? Maybe, maybe not, but your original contention was flawed.

    How about this: How about getting rid of the entire tax code and starting over?

    Have you ever heard of the Fairtax?

    http://www.fairtax.org/site/PageServer

    I’m not a believer in Utopia and I don’t think that a use tax would be the be-all and end-all solution, but I do think it would be much preferable to the monstrosity of a tax system that we have to contend with today.

  21. Sorry for the oblique nature of the Rodney reference. I was thinking of “Back to School,” where Rodney the accomplished businessman interrupts his pedantic econ professor’s classroom exercise of constructing a theoretical “widget” factory. Rodney points out that the professor’s textbook progression leaves out such realities as labor negotiations, corruption, etc.

    Oh…I get it now. That actually was pretty good now that I understand what you were referencing. Sorry for my cranial density.

    I really would like to continue this conversation tonight but my wife just got home and she’ll start throwing things at the computer any minute now. I may come back and trudge forward tomorrow if you’re still interested in the discussion.

  22. According to whom? As much as Church Secretary would decry economics as a “hard science” there absolutely are immutable laws that cannot be ignored.

    What law says that companies have to act like assholes? There are plenty of economic and sociological theories that point out that they are likely to act like assholes, and still more that point out how and why they are encouraged to act like assholes, but none that say that it is an “immutable law” that they have to. I’m using “necessity” here in a rather narrow fashion – the language of philosophy, not the everyday colloquialism.

    In that sense, there is absolutely no reason that companies have to turn around and dump their tax burdens on their customers. They could just as easily budget a separate line for taxes (exactly the same way programs, divisions, consultants and everything else gets budgeted for), and leave it at that. Be happy to take a little less profit and give the same service.

    It’s not likely, under the current system. There’s no reason for it to be so. Companies operate under the aegis of a slightly skewed ‘rational self interest,’ within a system that prizes certain types of efficiencies over others. I get that. Under that system, if a large corporation tried that (and was transparent enough that other people could see it), stockholders might pull out because the company wasn’t being as efficient as it could be. That’s all true. But it’s not inherent in anything about life, or money, or people grouping together… it’s all constructed, right up (or down) to the things we value, the way we understand efficiency and rationality, and the “laws” of economics.

    For those who haven’t heard this lecture from me (probably, well, the one person I’m talking to and maybe a lurker or two who hasn’t seen me say it), saying that something is constructed does not in any way mean that it isn’t real. An army is a construct, but it’s sure as hell real when it tries to invade you. And so on and so forth; just because it’s made up doesn’t mean you don’t have to deal with it every day.

    What’s important to keep in mind when one is talking about constructs, however, is that they can be changed. If enough of us thought it was a good idea, we could all decide that “army” meant “group of people who wander around doing interpretive dance and pleasuring women at a whim” instead of “national monopoly on legal organized violence.” It’d have to be a damn lot of us (say, 90+ %, and they’d have to include a lot of the people in charge), but it could happen.

    A more apropriate example would be in this case – we’ve constructed our ideas about what companies should and shouldn’t do (should cut costs, shouldn’t be too touchy-feely) , what is and is not appropriately within their purview, and how we prioritize different competing needs (the bottom line trumps, say, employee happiness most of the time). Over time, some of those conceptions have shifted… the loss of pension programs and the rise of 401(k) plans is absolutely an expression of a change in values and ideas about what companies owe their employees. They’re not static at all.

    That’s what I’m saying. We could, in various ways, reimagine the way corporations are supposed to work. We could prioritize employee wellbeing (bring back pensions, expand family supports, increase flextime and alternate schedule packages, etc.) over the bottom line, if we so chose. And yes, it’s possible to do it and still remain profitable, if not always as wildly profitable as in the current model. We could prioritize the public trust and restoration of the commons over that bottom line. We could make ethical behavior a baseline, rather than a nice bonus.

    And yes, I think we can do some of this with laws. Not only with laws, of course… but not just by wishful thinking and grassroots movements either. Laws send messages. If we say that a certain kind of behavior is criminal and we actively enforce that ruling, we are saying as a society that this is Not Okay. And as time goes on, more and more people (mostly kids) get the point that doing this is Not Okay, and you move to a new baseline. We can see that progression with Civil Rights issues, but we can also see it with things like journalistic integrity, company benefits, and so on and so forth.

  23. Well, I cheated on that example. I’ve never bought a Microsoft product in my entire life, I don’t think. Use, yes (my college uses Microsuck) but buy, no. I can see what you’re saying, but unless my thinking about this is way off, people around the world buy Microsoft products but only US citizens (and really, only that third of US citizens that are income-earning adults in the right brackets) pay US income taxes. Right? So they can take some of the profits that they are making globally and put it back into the US economy.

    Hmm…I think that’s where I came in on this yesterday.

  24. I cheated and came back to check the thread. Don’t tell my wife.

    Homen Nescio: Corporate Shareholders aren’t people too? All special interests place the priorities of their membership above any other. AARP may “care” more about its members than the corporations do, but the corporations “care” more about their shareholders than the AARP does. You imply that the concern of the AARP or the NEA or the NRA for the concerns of their members are somehow more noble because they represent people. Corporations represent people too. They are called employees and shareholders.

    I don’t have time to do Magniloquence’s comment justice right now and I’d like to ponder it a bit more before responding.

  25. Corporations represent people too.

    no. fundamentally, corporations represent their profits. they even have a legal responsibility to place that motive foremost, which is part of what drives them to an analogy of sociopathy.

    don’t try to pretend that the shareholders of any even middling corporation have enough power that the corporation could be swayed by appealing to the shareholders’ better natures; if that were so, the saying “hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook” would not have become a banality. if that were so, the shareholders’ meeting would be considered a more important and significant event in the fiscal year than the release of the financial statements, or the various SEC filings — we all know it is not thus.

    absolutely do not try to convince me that any more than quite small corporation gives two hoots for its employees, unless maybe they’re unionized; if that had ever been true, labor unions would not have had to be invented in the first place. (besides, i not only have a job myself, i have friends who also have jobs; i know by experience how much American corporations care for their employees.)

    corporations represent only their profits — and in this, modern western corporations appear to be unique among human organizations. the other types of organizations you mentioned genuinely do (at least, should) represent much more complex and nuanced interests. therefore, they can be approached by other means, and are more amenable to more civilized means of convincing. corporations usually have to be hurt before they’ll change their minds, and have to be hurt financially; if you can’t wield at least the threat of that against them, they’ll ignore you.

  26. Have you ever heard of the Fairtax?

    yes. it’s one of those things like “black light” or “honest politician”, where the very name of it is oxymoronic; if instituted, there would be nothing the least bit “fair” about it, nor would it be likely to work.

    showing all the relevant, or even the most important, flaws in it is not something that can be done in a blog posting. much like creationism, the website you linked to throws up blatant falsehoods at a rate of several per paragraph, each of which could easily take a page of debunking; one would have to spend an order of magnitude more time tearing it apart than was spent slapping it together.

    i’d encourage people to read said website long enough to spot some claim that sounds too good to be true (they’re thick on the ground there!), then investigate that claim; more often than not, you’ll poke a hole of your very own in that pipe dream. or if you’re at all versed in economics, you can just read until you find a claim whose theoretical basis is in any way familiar to you, and investigate it; again, more often than not you’ll prove it bogus. (the way the “fair tax” people use the word “progressive”, for instance. hint: it’s not how any other economists would use it wrt. taxation!)

    then keep in mind how far you got in the “fair tax” pile of wild claims, how many more similarly suspicious claims there are, and how much time and effort you’d have to spend thrashing them all just to show that it’s all a tissue of lies — and at that point, you’ll know what any evolutionary biologist feels when confronting most creationists.

  27. nm, no, i’m just an interested layman who happens to not much like creationism. it’s one of several phenomena i’ve had to work to wrap my head around in order to get some handle on U.S. domestic politics, and it’s not the most attractive side of this country in my eyes.

  28. We’re getting way off track here, but it’s still interesting.

    no. fundamentally, corporations represent their profits. they even have a legal responsibility to place that motive foremost, which is part of what drives them to an analogy of sociopathy.

    Why, exactly, do shareholders own shares? The profits ARE the interests of their shareholders. That’s what they’re there for.

    The AARP is a fairly broad group that represents the interests of the elderly…often to the detriment of the non-elderly.

    The AARP is a cold hearted, uncaring organization that would have struggling young families who are trying to purchase homes, pay their bills, feed their kids and build up a retirement nest egg pay for the prescription medications, medical bills and retirement incomes of the elderly who often have vast sums of wealth built up in capital assets like paid off homes, investment accounts and $50,000 recreational vehicles.

    The NEA is a heartless organization that cares nothing of the ability of parents to choose the most suitable educational experience for their children in a selfish and uncaring desire to ensure the job security and incomes…regardless of performance or effectiveness…of their constituency: teachers.

    The NRA is an evil organization that cares nothing about the victims of gun crimes and coldly endorses and supports the agenda of the gun industry.

    As I said…any special interest can be cast in the light of selfishness and greed if you look at it from the right perspective. Any special interest can also be cast in the light of doing yeoman’s work in adhering to their stated purpose and watching out for interests of their constituency.

    That’s not inherently evil…or inherently noble. That’s what they’re there for.

    As far as companies being unresponsive to individual shareholders…Try an experiment: Write a letter to the AARP and tell them that you don’t like one of the things that they support. Pick one…it doesn’t matter which one…you don’t even have to have a legitimate complaint against it, this is just an experiment. Write them an eloquent letter explaining that you would like them to stop supporting X cause or you will withdraw your membership and/or never join.

    Come back and let us know how responsive they were to your input.

    Any interest will be responsive to a large enough group of their constituents…and will be patently non-responsive to a small group. That’s just life.

    I simply fail to see how corporations who will basically throw anyone else under the bus to advance their own interests are any more evil than any other entity that will do the same thing.

    I know why it is different for YOU. It is different because you agree with the agenda of the other groups and disagree with the agenda of the corporations (and probably the NRA, which I intentionally used as a parallel to the AARP and NEA to illustrate the point in an underhanded way).

    there is absolutely no reason that companies have to turn around and dump their tax burdens on their customers.

    Actually, there IS a very valid reason: As Nomen pointed out, corporations have a legal obligation to their shareholders to maximize profits.

    Not profits for the government or profits for society at large, but profits for the shareholders.

    Companies can be assholes…but should avoid being too much so because maximizing profits is a constant balancing act. If a company is enough of an asshole to its employees, those employees will seek employment elsewhere and/or go into the business themselves. Companies have a vested interest in holding on to the best, most experienced, most efficient employees, but there must be a balance between making those employees happy and the expenses involved in doing so.

    Basically, what you are saying is that everyone should be happy with a little bit and we should all play nice and share.

    I agree.

    Too bad the world doesn’t work that way. Human nature itself dictates that it won’t work that way. The failure of Socialism every time it is tried demonstrates that human nature doesn’t work that way.

    The highest motivator for humankind is the survival instinct. That natural instinct tends to translate into advanced societies in the form of greed. The free market isn’t perfect…but it has unequivocally been demonstrated to be the best thing going. Harnessing the greed of each individual person and enabling them to pursue the fulfillment of that greed to the best of their abilities, drive and desires is demonstrably the best way to assure the most affluence for the most people.

    Not everyone will be “rich” and some will be “richer” than others. But you cannot ignore the basic fact that the poorest of the poor in countries that most enthusiastically embrace the free market are richer than the majority in countries that do not.

    I’ll not begrudge Bill Gates et. al. their billions if their success means I am able to maintain my 2.33 bedroom home, 1.9 cars, 2.24 televisions and 1.86 children, pay my cable and cell phone bills and put steak on the table once or twice a week.

    it’s one of those things like “black light” or “honest politician”, where the very name of it is oxymoronic; if instituted, there would be nothing the least bit “fair” about it, nor would it be likely to work.

    I guess that depends upon who’s definition of “fair” you use.. That’s a pretty subjective term. Does “fair” mean “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need”, or does “fair” mean “The real democratic American ideal is, not that every man shall be on a level with every other man, but that every man shall have liberty to be what God made him, without hindrance.”?

    I would assume that they chose the name for marketing purposes but I didn’t have any input so I don’t really know…but considering that the term “fair” is so relative and subjective I’d say that it’s just as accurate (or inaccurate) as any other that they may have chosen.

    I’ve seen argument after argument against the fairtax plan and virtually every one of them has been based upon assumptions or strawman arguments. Of the few valid arguments I’ve seen, not one has been a “show stopper” that demonstrates that the plan flat out won’t work.

    Do I think the Fairtax is the ultimate solution and will lead to taxation utopia? Of course not. Do its proponents seem to be trying to sell it that way? Yes.

    Just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that it isn’t better than the monstrosity that we have to contend with today.

    And, Finally:

    So they can take some of the profits that they are making globally and put it back into the US economy.

    How you can put something “back” into the US economy that was never there in the first place is a bit beyond me, but even so; that’s one of the causes of companies selling out or moving to overseas locations. US companies, unlike most foreign competitors, ARE assessed taxes on overseas profits. Granted, they are given credit for taxes paid to the foreign countries in which the profits were made, but if those taxes are less than they would have paid on domestic earnings, they have to pay the difference. In other words, any way you cut it, foreign profits are taxed at the same rate as domestic.

    That is not true of many foreign based companies that do business here. Their home countries don’t tax them on profits made in the US. Add to that the fact that their home countries tax them at a lower rate even for domestic profits than a comparable US company and you set the stage for previously US owned companies moving their headquarters operations…and a significant chunk of their tax payments…overseas.

    One of the “immutable laws” of economics to which I was referring is that there is a point of diminishing returns. If you try to charge more for a product or service than the customers are willing to pay, your profits will decrease, not increase. Taxation is exactly the same. Taxes can be made high enough (and, in my humble opinion, have been for a long time) to actually decrease the amount of economic activity that generates tax revenue to begin with.

    That is why, following the tax cuts of Kennedy, Reagan, Bush et. al., tax revenues actually INCREASED rather than decreased. The lowered tax rates spurred economic activity which resulted in a higher volume of “taxable events” and higher revenue.

    This is not a “rosy, textbook economics lesson”, this is verifiable, historical fact.

    Anyway, as much as I’m enjoying this conversation, I think I’m going to have to leave it off here. None of us is going to change the other’s mind and it is simply occupying too much of my time…as we all know: time is money.

    Thank you all for being gracious hosts to a potentially unwelcome visitor. The conversation was stimulating, thought provoking, cordial and respectful. All the ingredients for a good time.

    My compliments.

  29. you agree with the agenda of the other groups and disagree with the agenda of the corporations

    what have we here, let’s see now…

    (1) Curt can read my mind, to know what i agree and disagree with.

    (2) corporations all have one agenda, with which i disagree. or if they have several, i disagree with them all.

    (3) all those other non-corporate NGOs out there all have one agenda, with which i agree. or if they have several, i agree with them all.

    i think this says more about Curt than it does about me.

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