Jason Smith, if he didn't exist, someone would try to invent him. Currently in Austin, Texas.

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Privacy is protected as both commodity and right; public forums are protected as neither. Like old-growth forests, they’re few and irreplaceable and should be held in trust by everyone.

Imperial Bedroom, Jonathan Franzen

My commentary isn’t related to the thesis of the essay, but this is something I have been curious about. As we experience more of our lives through digital expression on corporate lands is there the ability for the creation of a digital public space?

Facebook owns rights to my expression on its medium. They can remove what I say. My speech is not free.

While government run public space sounds more intrusive it will afford all of the protections of the constitution. It must. A corporation, as private entity, is free from these restrictions.

I have no possible solution or direction of thought in this regard. If the answer were clear to me I’d probably have to run for office.

Mitt Romney will never disgrace the office. He will set an example of moral rectitude. But don’t expect him to sit down and feel your pain.

Romney in Crisis - Two Dark Spots in Fortunate Life - NYTimes.com

I really do wonder about this. I’m not sure complete moral rectitude is a requirement for holding public office. Did JFK or Bill Clinton’s infidelities inhibit their ability to govern? Obviously, Bill Clinton’s did bring the government to a halt, but it was really Newt Gingrich getting revenge for seat placement on Air Force One. Seriously.

LBJ’s using public office to enrich himself or Nixon’s misuse of federal power are clear moral failures that I wouldn’t want in a president, but they did have major accomplishments in their terms as president.

On the “moral rectitude” front Jimmy Carter and W. Bush could both be said to be prime examples, but their presidencies are anything if cited as some of the best we’ve had.

Finally, Obama is clearly as moral as Romney is. There is no question about his fidelity or family values. In regards to greed and avarice Obama might have an edge, but that could just be the circumstance of not having hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Though, greed and avarice might not be moral qualities that disqualify ones ability to perform in office. In Romney’s case probably not, but as I mentioned with LBJ definitely a problem.

The point. Our elected officials are human, and as such will have their imperfections and vices, but to use morality instead of ability to govern or political ability to pick leaders might not be the best criteria and one that is most likely to lead to profound disappointment.

Post script, Grant was in the thrall of dipsomania.

Raising Taxes– It’s Complicated

So, this is all unsupported by fact and purely intuition.

Wages for the middle class have been stagnant and in some cases fallen relative to what they were thirty years ago. The odds are, dollar for dollar, I am earning less today than my father would have for the same job at the same point in his career. From the end of WW II through the mid seventies this wasn’t the case. Wages actually rose faster than the pace of inflation. All of this has been discussed before and by better writers than myself.

The growing income inequality and lack of wage gains led to the necessity to have two-income households to increase standard of living, and then credit expansion. This has also been discussed in print a great deal.

I have been struck by the unwillingness to raise taxes as a real policy option in the debate surrounding our countries long term deficit. We can’t even return them to levels paid in 1999. A very prosperous year and the type of economic year we would desire.

In the last decades wages were stagnant and taxes were cut. To reinstate these taxes for the middle class would be a very real decrease in earnings. Duh, it’s a tax. My point is that had income inequality not been as exaggerated over the last decade and the gains in our economy spread more evenly then the middle class might reasonably be able to begin to pay a higher marginal tax rate without terribly adverse effects.

This is debate about wages. I don’t know the proper solution, but on the whole the American worker has increased productivity and become more valuable while somehow not being given increased compensation. This is the problem that needs to be addressed by business leaders in our country.

I don’t think it would be easy to pass a tax increase if we all were earning more, but that it would be a more reasonable conversion.

Unrelated: why can’t the capital gains tax be progressive as well? Why not increase taxes on the gains realizedas you hit higher and higher brackets?

Extra Extra

The full text of a twitter rant yours truly engaged in. Presented here in its entirety in reverse chronological order.

On The First Amendment…

In an escalation of the sometimes fiery language that he has used throughout the race, Mr. Santorum declared that colleges were no longer a “neutral setting” for people of faith and described how he had become sickened after reading John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech calling for the rigid separation of religion and politics.

“What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?” Mr. Santorum said on the ABC News program “This Week.”

- Santorum Makes Case For Religion In Public Sphere, NY Times

What a gross misunderstanding of the separation of church and state. This is not what John F. Kennedy meant, and not what the First Ammendment means. Surely, Santorum must recognize that the American government is a secular institution and that it must be. A majority of our citizens may profess a belief in the Christian God, but there are a myriad churches and there is not an agreement on what their belief means for how our nation should be run.

Furthermore, what do his comments mean for Christians who do not share his views? Is their faith somehow invalidated because they are wrong in not agreeing with him? If asked such a question Santorum would say that is ridiculous, but he must recognize that these are the types of implications that he is making and that they deserve this level of scrutiny.

Here a few quotes from Kennedy’s speech to the Greater Houston Misterial Association:

"I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all."

"I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all and obligated to none, who can attend any ceremony, service, or dinner his office may appropriately require of him to fulfill; and whose fulfillment of his Presidential office is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual, or obligation."

"I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views — in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.”

The full text of his remarks can be read here.

Kennedy does not abolish the ability for personal belief to influence how a decision is made, but is making the necessary statement that the President does not make decisions for himself or his church, but for the whole country. His views represent a humility that while he would personally choose to live one way he is not arrogant enough to believe that everyone should or will be forced to agree with him.

Kennedy even goes so far as to promise having the moral wherewithal to remove himself from office should he be unable to fulfill his duties. This is what I expect from my elected leaders.

In a clarification Santorum had this to add:

"The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

Which church?

On Propaganda & The Mormon Church…

The following are my personal opinions relating to the Pro-Mormon ad campaign I have been seeing ads for. I do not believe that anyone should be limited in their religious belief, but I do believe that they should be able to soundly defend their beliefs and that no belief system is above question.

I have a problem with propaganda. The billboards and advertisements proclaiming that “I am a Mormon” offend me. To base the credibility on an entire religion on the fact that it also has some very nice and normal people as members is loathsome. At its heart Mormonism, like all religions, is a missional organization. They desire converts to accept their beliefs. Beliefs that are outrageous and have proven malleable with time. If you desire to convince someone to accept your beliefs then do so with your scripture and with your arguments, but not with a syrupy campaign about what nice people also happen to think the same way as you.

Read more

On Elites…

"Newt Gingrich, whose campaign was twice left for dead and came back to win a landslide victory in South Carolina, used his victory speech Saturday night before a raucous crowd of hundreds to attack the “elites in New York and Washington,” whom he identified as President Obama and the news media."

-Gingrich Has Kind Words for Rivals and Venom for ‘Elites’, Nate Silver- NY Times

If he is defining an elite as anyone who holds a position of power how could Gingrich himself not be considered an elite? The House of Representative has had sixty-one speakers in its history or which Gingrich is one.

I’m sorry, but anyway you look at it Gingrich has been an elite in Washington and would like to be again.

Rick Perry & A Flat Tax

Q: But for those at the top, it is hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of dollars for them.

Rick Perry: But I don’t care about that. What I care about is them having the dollars to invest in their companies. To go out and maybe start a business because they got the confidence again because they actually get to keep more of what they work for. If that’s what comes, I’ll take that criticism. Because what I’m interested in is getting Americans working.

Rick Perry is proposing a 20% flat tax. If you are already against a progressive tax system my commentary on this will be mostly meaningless.

The effective tax rate on the top incomes in our country has fallen for the last twenty years, and we have not seen a commensurate investment in business and job growth that Governor Perry claims will happen with a tax cut.

My issue here is with how wealth is created and what the extremely wealthy do with their money. If you have a job and are earning this kind of income it is unlikely you will use your money to start a new business employing hundreds of out of work Americans tomorrow. You are already tremendously successful and being rewarded for it. The earnings will, most likely, be invested into the stock market. Those companies will work to create the best possible long-term growth strategies.

This probably means pursing growth in a BRIC1 country. The money invested in American multi-national companies will go to support their growth in an area that will give the most return on their investment. This isn’t a bad thing, but when proposing a flat-tax under the guise of propelling domestic growth an understanding of the flow of capital in a global economy is necessary. It will not result in a substantial reshaping of our economy or growth in jobs.

I have spoken about income inequality before. How we address this is still unknown to me, but as a nation there are better uses of our national resources than a flat tax that will actually result in a stronger, and hopefully, more equitable economy.

This tax plan will never be implemented, but I am weary of hearing people talk about the wonders that a flat tax of any kind represents.

1. Brazil, Russia, India, China

Nationalized Healthcare Works.

"The results question why we need a big set of health reform proposals … The system works well. Look at the US and you can see where choice and competition gets you. Pretty dismal results."


Using the latest data from the World Health Organisation, the paper shows that although Labour’s tax-and-spend strategy for the NHS saw health spending rise to a record 9.3% of GDP, this was less than Germany with 10.7% or the US with 15%.

-NHS among developed world’s most efficient health systems

Yes, the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that the United States health care system was, “among the least efficient and effective.” This is hardly news.

There is a very real need for substantial health care reform in this country. It will not be easy, but conversations must be grounded in fact. The British health system saves more lives than the American one, proportionally, at a cheaper cost to their society.

I admit that these changes cannot take place over night, but we must put aside preconceived notions and perceived moral high ground about free markets and American exceptionalism to actually set about the work of improving the state of our nation as a whole.

The House Of Representatives

Following the Debt Limit Debate? Well, I am. This is the type of thing I love. Yes, it’s dysfunctional and looks terrible for everyone, but I always watch these things waiting for the behind the scenes deal making to be made public once a law is passed.

Currently, I think that a bill might not be passed, and we might actually default on our obligations. There couldn’t be a worse case scenario. Nobody wants that. Except for a group of Republicans who are convinced that they, somehow, have our national best interest at heart.

Our legislative body must be able to compromise. It is the only way that they can work. I am not saying that the Democratic party has offered the ideal solution or that I disagree with the Republican aims of removing government waste. I might, and probably do, disagree with what is considered waste, but I am all for being a good steward of public funds.

This particular situation is not the time to make a principled stand. Congress has made obligations and they must give the Treasury the authority to meet those obligations. To pass laws and then somehow act like there’s no money to pay for them is absurd. They must take responsibility for their actions.

TL;DR - My current outlook is bleak with a dash of frustrated. Let’s hope I’m proven wrong.

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