Friday, October 17, 2008

Now You've Got Me Going

There are a few things about presidential campaigns that bug me in general. They are too long. Do we really need to hear from people for nearly 2 years? Candidates tend to share the same ideas over and over again, and it's no wonder since 2 years is too long to campaign. Both sides use half-truths to distort reality. Much of the general public takes what the candidates at face value, and when they investigate, they tend to use news sources that support their ideology thus perpetuating the half-truths. The list goes on and on.

This year the word "socialist" has been brought up a lot, and I can see why. Some of Obama's policies on the surface seem to lean to a socialist ideal--create an egalitarian society by "redistributing wealth." I'm not sure that's a fair label, though. As for his tax policies, Obama is not raising taxes on the wealthy--he is eliminating tax cuts given to the wealthy and reducing the tax burden on the majority of society. And these tax cuts occurred because the money was flowing, but now that the flow has dried up a bit it's time to stop. We need to find the money somewhere and this is a fair first step in my opinion. I see this as establishing a fair taxation policy. If a department store sells a product at a discount because business is great and then faces a dip in profits, they will likely restore the price of that product to the original one. It makes sense. Obama has said time and time again his policies will reduce the tax burden on 95% of America and also 95% of small businesses. This just seems more fair to me.

And while we're on the topic of capitalism v. socialism. Capitalism is fundamentally based on greed. Call it what you want, but ultimately capitalists will reward those who find the best and most ingenious ways to create wealth for themselves. As has been evidenced by so many problems over the past few years, most large corporations are looking to be profitable from the top down, even if it places its workers in harm's way. This is capitalism at its core, and it doesn't work for long. This type of business model is bound to experience ups and downs, but now that the down is a big one the capitalists are looking for government assistance. Doesn't this go contrary to true capitalism? Why should the government have to assist private corporations who through their own gambles have royally screwed up?

Don't get me wrong, I understand to a small degree the ramifications of allowing some of these financial giants to flounder, but I find it ironic that those who made out quite well during the "good years" can't find a way to make it through the "lean years" without a handout. It is also interesting to me to see how big bad capitalist corporations continue to lean on and expect government assistance to remain profitable. That's not pure capitalism as I understand it.

Let's face it, our society as a whole is to blame. Our president in 2001 told us the best way to fight terrorism was to shop. Capitalism at its core, but one of the stupidest financial plans I've heard in my lifetime. We spent our way into personal financial difficulties while padding the coffers of the wealthiest Americans. We convinced ourselves that home ownership is the key to financial success, whatever its costs. We can see that there are a lot of people who had no business owning a home. They didn't have the resources to truly own and maintain a home without suffering in other areas.

Honestly I'm one who believes the government isn't obligated to provide everything to everyone. As I sit here I'm composing a "my beefs with health care" post in my head. In a perfect world capitalism would succeed, always with an eye toward being sure the masses that support it are cared for. CEOs would make a little less to ensure their employees could continue to be profitable. Japan has operated that way for many years and when I was there I saw very little poverty. And people lived well, too. When a company lost money, the CEO did not take a bonus. It would have been irresponsible to lay off employees while collecting large compensation packages.

There is no quick fix for our economy, but capitalists should take a look at the socialist principles some of our largest companies are beginning to espouse now that free markets haven't treated them so well. Even capitalists have agreed to live in a society of rules. The fact of the matter is we all have a responsibility to care for that society or none of us will succeed.

Let me throw out a couple of teasers to get your motors running: universal health care and the value added tax. Enjoy!


Lena said...

I'm sorry, but no matter how you word it- if your taxes go up- it's raising taxes. That's just sneaky wording to make it sound better. I think these corporations will be/or should be sorry that they are getting this help from the government. They made huge mistakes in their financial dealings and should suffer more consequences for it in my opinion.

What I see in the future is more of my liberties being taken away from me and I have to tell you, it makes me very nervous to see what the next 4 years will bring if we have Obama as Pres and a liberal Senate and House. The mindset that I hear from these people is that they don't think the average person can take care of themselves or their families and certainly don't know what is best for themselves- so they will just take care of all of it for us. That includes making sure our children get good educations. Yikes! Where will they want to put more regulations next? Around our children. A neighboring town here just implemented a daytime curfew for children under 18. This means that (if I lived there) my 10 year old kid can't be outside riding her bike in the neighborhood until after 2:30pm. The older kids can't go get afternoon jobs without a huge hassle. They said a homeschooler can carry a note and "shouldnt" be bothered but if they are- at least they have a defensible reason for being out. What??? When did it become the city's job to make sure that I am keeping track of my children?

Okay- I went off on a tangent but I am only for sharing the wealth in a society governed by God under the Law of Consecration. I personally am for a flat tax but that will never happen because that would leave some people with way too much money I guess. So what if someone wants to be rich and have lots of "things?" Shouldn't they be able to if they worked hard to build themselves a reputation to get that position or build that company? If they grind it into the ground, there goes their reputation and company. If they want to be greedy- so be it- that is their choice. BUT I think you will find that America is very good at taking care of their own. Check out this link about the statistics for charitable donations in 2007: Here are a few things from there that I'd like to point out:
"Charitable giving in the United States is estimated to be $306.39 billion in 2007, exceeding $300 billion for the first time in history, according to Giving USA 2008, the yearbook on philanthropy released today by Giving USA FoundationTM.

Every type of public charity receiving donations saw gains in 2007."

"Presidential campaigns raised $580.4 million in 2007, according to the Federal Election Commission. That is less than one-quarter of one percent of the $306 billion raised for charitable purposes."

I would venture to say that the trend won't continue if you take more money away from the people giving to charities. They are usually much better at taking care of those in need than the governments welfare programs are.

I don't think Americans are greedy in general. I don't think people who are rich are greedy in gerneral. I think that those who are truly greedy and without feeling for those in need are a VERY small minority. If a company wants to put money in a CEO's pocket instead of keeping workers who who won't have anything to do because the economy isn't good enough to keep them working- where is the harm in that? Should a company NOT fire people just to give them a job, any job? No- that would be bad business. How long could a company last doing that? That would put more people out of a job in the long run. I doubt that they fire people just so they can give someone else a huge bonus. Of course there are exceptions to everything but we can make rules and regulations for all based on the atrocities of the few.

Sigh. This is all over the place. I have a feeling you and Mark and Peter and I could have some GREAT discussions ;)

Lena said...

Oops- that was Mark- I guess I should say you Stacy, Peter and I would have some great discussions ;)

Dr. Mark said...

Just to be clear, I don't think government is the answer to most of our problems. Even with such levels of charitable contributions, so many people are slipping through the cracks. From what I've seen and experienced, America takes care of its own when its own are in the same circumstances. Not everyone belongs to organizations, communities, or church bodies that have resources to help. Government can have a role, albeit a small one, in catching what Americans miss. What we've been doing for the past ___ years (you can decide where it started) has not been working for everyone, though.

I agree that the flat tax or a value added tax (VAT) is the most fair, but there isn't enough mainstream support for it right now. I ultimately think prosperity doesn't happen in this country without the cooperation of others, so giving back is not too much to ask of anyone. The tax less and spend more philosophy of the recent past hasn't served us well so maybe it's time to spend less and collect more. I believe the Obama plan is to raise taxes by around 3% on the top 5% of Americans. In the grand scheme it doesn't seem like a lot to me.

I've never thought prosperity has necessarily involved greed, but there are numerous examples where it does. If you've got it, spend it how you want it, but recognize that we do live in an interconnected society and the failure to take care of everyone will eventually cause it to fall apart. I think that's what we're seeing now.

On your tangent, education is another area that both sides could really look at. And the curfew, ridiculous. We definitely need to find ways to encourage individual responsibility without letting those children without adequate supervision and parental role-modeling missing out.

This is another reason all of these campaigns drive me nuts. Most of us seem to put our politics somewhere around the moderate side of things, but each party is so hell-bent on pushing the the more extreme agenda that it's silly. Sigh. What to do . . .

emily said...

I agree that the campaigns are WAY TOO LONG. In some countries, they campaign for a month before the election (by law). I wish we could do it that way. Seriously.

I also don't think that the government should be bailing out the idiots. I wrote all my senators/reps to beg them not to support the bailout. I think capitalism works (China is proof of that. They may call themselves communists but they're becoming increasingly capitalist every day) and I think the bailout is stupid.

terahreu said...

Growing up in a socialist country I have strong feelings for both sides. I see the positives, and I see the negatives. Obviously every form of government has its flaws. In addition, in one country socialism may work brilliantly and in another, monarchy is the only way to go (the UAE is a good example of this).

Socialism and capitalism come with costs, not just monetary either. For example, universal health care sounds good for the moment, but if your father is almost dying of a heart attack and they can't seem to find a bed for him in the hospital, it becomes personal. My child can't get sick in Canada because I would be sitting in a emergency waiting room for over 6 hours. This is no exaggeration. I could go on an on, but I won't.

At this moment, capitalism has been greatly challenged and I am not sure if we really have to do one or the other (socialism or capitalism). I never understood the black or white approach to American politics. In Canada, we have a few parties that run and each stand for something different, not opposite. There are many grey areas and I think as a citizen, one should find the issue he or she is most passionate about and go with it. In the US it is more like all or nothing.

Socialism should scare people, but at the same time it doesn't mean that we must adopt all of the socialistic ideals. Why not a little of both?

I am sure I could write something far more intelligent, but I have kids screaming and guests at the door. Here is my rough copy.

Boquinha said...

What a great discussion! I agree, Lena, that you, Peter, Mark and I would have some really great discussions! I can tell you're someone who thinks for herself and I love that. I get tired of people who just say what they think they're supposed to say with no real thought of their own.

Really quick thoughts--

I am against the bailout. And the bailout is NOT Capitalism.
I would love a value-added tax.
Interestingly enough, I'm not one for a lot of government involvement, but since it seems inevitable, I lean more liberal than conservative on issues and attitude/views and my gut says Obama is, while not perfect, a very good man.
Whatever happens domestically, I am very confident at Obama's ability to put the U.S. back on the world map of respect. People in other countries already really like him and I trust in his vision and the way he carries himself and many of his global views . . . he's the guy I want representing our nation.
I love Michelle Obama and am excited to have a woman like that in the White House as First Lady.

Terah, love your views given your world travel experience especially. Vote absentee! :)

Great post, Sweetie!

terahreu said...

What I meant to say is, 'Socialism SHOULDN'T scare people.' I grew up in a socialist country and I am no worse off for it.

jaredski said...

The current problem isn't the result of capitalism run amok. It's the result of government meddling in capitalism. If we had true capitalism, there would never have been a "Frannie" enabling irresponsible lending. There never would have been a community reinvestment act forcing banks to make loans to people who couldn't pay them back. These are anti-capitalist programs. So don't blame this mess on capitalism.

I think since the government got us into this mess, it has to have a role in getting us out. I'm extremely uncomfortable with government ownership of banks, because it means politics rather than merit will determine who gets loans. That's a recipe for disaster. The government must stabilize things, then get out ASAP.

One capitalist idea that needs to be addressed is corporate governance. Boards of directors are the ones who need to regulate CEO pay and conduct, not the government, and those boards are not doing their jobs. Big shareholders are to blame. They need to throw the boards out and get responsible people to run these companies.

I do believe that there is a role for government in capitalism. The SEC is a good idea, and there needs to be some regulation of derivatives markets. That's what has amplified this mess into a disaster.

Dr. Mark said...

Jared, I actually can agree with a lot of what you say. My point in all of this was that labeling Obama as "socialist" is a bit unfair. His proposed policies don't reach that far. Ultimately a blended economic style is probably best. Capitalism without limited government intervention hasn't proven to take care of everyone, and part of living in a country and sharing a society is seeing that all people have fair opportunities for success. This problem's been brewing for quite some so singling out one person's policies as a cause is a bit simplistic in my mind.

One of the things that irks me most now is that there is a lot of finger pointing and blaming, but I have yet to hear one person come forward and say, "I screwed this one up by ________. Let's make it right." And I'm sure a lot of people could truthfully take some of the blame for this mess.

Dr. Mark said...

Let me clarify my last comment:

Capitalism with the government's selected interventions hasn't done much for the long term stability of the American and global economies, unless I missed something somewhere.

We need to update our thinking, at least in the short term, to fix the mess.

jaredski said...

I agree that there must be limited government involvement. But there is a whole spectrum of involvement from communist central planning at one extreme to complete laissez faire capitalism on the other.

Obama is clearly way left of center on that spectrum. His solution to everything is a big expensive government program. His method of funding all this government largesse is sketchy. This sounds a lot like George Bush. Cut taxes and raise spending. Where's the change in that?