Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bush's Tax Cutting "Success"

To those of us on the right who believe in limited government and a strong foreign policy based strictly on America's national self-interest, President Bush has been a great disappointment, to say the least. But their is one achievement we can be pleased with...his income tax rate cuts. An article in the Nov./Dec. 2007 issue of The American (published by the American Enterprise Institute) written by Stephen Moore examining the modest Bush tax cuts puts the lie to the Left's never-ending claim that the "rich" don't pay their "fair share" of the tax burden.

As the chart in the article shows, the top 1% of income earners paid 37% of the federal government's total income tax revenues, while the top 25% paid 85%. The bottom 50% paid 3% of total taxes. The percentage of taxes paid by the highest earners has risen despite the fall in their tax rates.

In addition, federal income tax revenues have risen substantially. According to Moore, "The Congressional Budget Office reports that, since the 2003 tax cuts, federal revenues have grown by $745 billion—the largest real increase in history over such a short time period. Individual and corporate income tax receipts have jumped by 30 percent in the two years since the tax cuts."

Thus, the tax cuts worked just as the "Supply-siders" advertised- they increased the share of taxes paid by the highest earners (i.e., the most productive citizens) while also increasing substantially the tax take of the government.

But is this a successful tax cutting program? That depends on how you look at it. To some on the Right, these figures represent success because they led to the growth in tax revenues, "proving" that tax cuts "work". (The Left should be ecstatic about the government's tax take, but they are too blinded by their hatred of the successful and the productive.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I love tax cuts...any tax cut. I've never met a tax cut I didn't love. The more of our earnings we get to keep, the better. And, as Moore points out, "It’s also one of the simplest concepts in economics: lowering the tax rate on production, work, investment, and risk-taking will spur more of these activities and will often produce more tax revenue rather than less."

What bothers me is the constant drumbeat of the tax cutters in claiming increased government tax revenues as one justification for the cuts. This is playing right into the Left's world-view that the people work not for themselves but for the government. Our side should take heed of Milton Friedman's advice that "if you cut taxes and the government's revenues rose, you haven't cut taxes enough".

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Thanksgiving Message

Reprinted below is a thanksgiving message that I think captures the true essence of Thanksgiving, a holiday practiced only in America. Regardless of how one believes he came into existence (God or nature), the reality is that man is a being of self-generated action based on reason who requires certain social conditions for his survival. America was the first country founded explicitly on those conditions; i.e., a country where every individual owns his own life and possesses inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and to the pursuit of his own happiness, coupled inextricably with the obligation to accept the reality that all people are equally endowed and to treat them accordingly.

It is thus that America, born of the enlightenment ideas of individualism, capitalism, and republican government, achieved in the span of a mere two hundred-plus years (following centuries of stagnation) it's spectacular standard of living. The ensuing essay correctly recognizes where the credit for America belongs- to any man or woman, on whatever level of ability or accomplishment, who contributed to American greatness by doing an honest and productive day's work in pursuit of his or her own well-being.

Thanksgiving: A Most Selfish Holiday

By Debi Ghate

Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We're taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.

What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?

Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as "a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production." She was right. This country was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land and build spectacular cities, shaping what is now the wealthiest nation in the world. It's the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great achievements, and enjoy prosperity. We uniquely recognize that production leads to wealth and that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. It's no accident that Americans have a holiday called Thanksgiving--a yearly tradition when we pause to appreciate the "bountiful harvest" we've reaped.

What is today's version of the "bountiful harvest"? It's the affluence and success we've gained. It's the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy. It's the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It's the good life.

How did we get this "bountiful harvest"? Ask any hard-working American; it sure wasn't by the "grace of God." It didn't grow on a fabled "money tree." We created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting excellence for ourselves and our loved ones. What we don't create ourselves, we trade value for value with those who have the goods and services we need, such as our stockbrokers, hairdressers and doctors. We alone are responsible for our wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday.

So, on Thanksgiving, why don't we thank ourselves and those producers who make the good life possible?

From a young age, we are bombarded with messages designed to undermine our confident pursuit of values: "Be humble," "You can't know what's good for yourself," "It's better to give than receive," and above all "Don't be selfish!" We are scolded not to take more than "our share"--whether it is of corporate profits, electricity or pie. We are taught that altruism--selfless concern for others--is the moral ideal. We are taught to sacrifice for strangers, who have no claim to our hard-earned wealth. We are taught to kneel rather than reach for the sky.

But, morally, one should reach for the sky. One should recognize that the corporate profits, electricity or pie was earned through one's production--and savor its consumption. Every decision one makes, from what career to pursue to whom to call a friend, should be guided by what will best advance one's rational goals, interests and, ultimately, one's life. One should take pride in being rationally selfish--one's life and happiness depend on it.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize what we are truly grateful for, to appreciate and celebrate the fruits of our labor: our wealth, health, relationships and material things--all the values we most selfishly cherish. We should thank researchers who have made certain cancers beatable, gourmet chefs at our favorite restaurants, authors whose books made us rethink our lives, financiers who developed revolutionary investment strategies and entrepreneurs who created fabulous online stores. We should thank ourselves and those individuals who make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable--those who help us live the much-coveted American dream.

As you sit down to your sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner served on your best china, think of all the talented individuals whose innovation and inventiveness made possible the products you are enjoying. As you look around at who you've chosen to spend your day with--those you've chosen to love--thank yourself for everything you have done to make this moment possible. It's a time to selfishly and proudly say: "I earned this."

Debi Ghate is associated with the Ayn Rand Institute.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


*Take this with a pinch of salt.

It looks like winter in the Eastern US will come, and go, before it even officially begins. According to AccuWeather's long range forcaster Joe Bastardi, this winter will be very mild; as much as 4 degrees above average. But we will first go through a cold snap between mid November and mid December. "But Thanksgiving could be frigid, ushering in a sudden plunge in the mercury and possibly snow", said Bastardi (New York Post, 11/14/07). "[T]emperatures will dip quickly to be colder than normal," he said. "But then they'll flip back up to remain above normal for the rest of the winter." Christmas could be balmy.

These long range forecasts have only a 70% accuracy rate, so don't make too many golfing plans. In fact, I just checked the 7-day forecast for central New Jersey, and it's calling for 54 degrees on Thanksgiving eve, not exactly blizzard temperatures. So it already looks like the early cold snap will be delayed, at the very least.

Global Warming Fundamentalists shouldn't get too excited, though. The predicted mild winter is caused by a naturally recurring cycle called La Nina; an abnormal cooling of the Pacific Ocean water temperatures.

*The meteor may have met its challenge.

A new theory on the great dinosaur extinction may be emerging, according to the Geological Society of America, which states in a press release;

"Boulder, CO, USA - A series of monumental volcanic eruptions in India may have killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, not a meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico. The eruptions, which created the gigantic Deccan Traps lava beds of India, are now the prime suspect in the most famous and persistent paleontological murder mystery, say scientists who have conducted a slew of new investigations honing down eruption timing.

'It's the first time we can directly link the main phase of the Deccan Traps to the mass extinction,' said Princeton University paleontologist Gerta Keller. The main phase of the Deccan eruptions spewed 80 percent of the lava which spread out for hundreds of miles. It is calculated to have released ten times more climate altering gases into the atmosphere than the nearly concurrent Chicxulub meteor impact, according to volcanologist Vincent Courtillot from the Physique du Globe de Paris."

The gathering of scientific knowledge is a long, painstaking process that generates theories that hold up until they are either proved conclusively or superceded by new knowledge leading to a revised and/or a new theory. Another example is the steady state theory of the universe, which held that the universe is a stable, virtually unchanging world; until it was discovered that it is actually expanding, with all stars and galaxies moving away from each other at an accelerating rate. This gave birth to the "big bang" theory, which holds that the entire universe started when a marble (or smaller) sized speck exploded. I suspect that this rather incredible idea will pass as well.

*Meanwhile, the histeria continues...

It's a good thing the meteor theory isn't related somehow to "global warming", or these geologists might find themselves thrown into the clink for being "meteor extinction deniers". According to the AP, Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate official stated that "Failing to recognize the urgency of the message [on global warming] and act on it would be nothing less than criminally irresponsible" (emphasis added). This kind of silly, and scary, blather is common throughout the "green socialist" (as Steve Forbes calls it) movement and is strong evidence in my mind of the thinness of the global warming case. True scientists are natural skeptics who welcome any and all study and opinions, because getting to the truth means vetting of all of the facts. And they certainly don't go around threatening others.

Such is the nature, and danger, of the convergence of state and science.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bush's Collapsing "War On Terror"

"In war, there is no substitute for victory"- General Douglas MacArthur

Recent events in Pakistan, with President Pervez Musharraf declaring marshal law featuring the dissolution of the supreme court, suspension of the constitution, mass arrests of political opponents among other things, has underscored the abject failure of the Bush Administration's entire strategy in our mis-named "War on Terror". Called a "Forward Strategy for Freedom", the plan was to spread "Democracy" throughout the Middle East, thus neutralizing the main breeding ground for terrorism.

But "Democracy" does not mean freedom. In the absence of a firm and unequivical philosophy of individual rights and the proper role of government embodied in a constitution, democracy means unlimited majority rule. This failure to distinguish between a democracy and a constitutional republic (which is a growing problem even in the United States) is backfiring across the mid-east and has greatly increased the strength and long term threat to the West of Islamic totalitarianism.

By equating the "right to vote" (which is a derivative, not a primary right) with freedom, voters across the region (who have no belief in the doctrine of the separation of religion and state) have gleefully installed into power or strengthened
Islamic forces hostile to true freedom. In Iraq, a constitution based on Islamic Law was allowed by America to be enacted. Subsequently, a Shiite-dominated government with strong ties to the Iranians was elected leading to the possibility that we may have created a second Iran.

In other elections, the terrorist group Hezbollah made strong gains in Lebanon, and the Palistinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza) saw the rise to power of Hamas. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (an early precurser to the modern Islamic Totalitarian movement) is winning elections and gaining influence there.

In Pakistan, the superficial democracy under the dictator Musharraf (who seized power in a military coup in 1999, then got himself elected in a disputed election) has given way to outright authoritarianism. The move was triggered, at least in part, by the threat posed by a resurgence of Islamic Fundamentalism there. Thus we are now in the position of having to support a dictator who has been an "ally" in the "War on Terror" and to whom we have given over $10 billion in aid over the last six years, thus contradicting the entire "Foward Strategy of Freedom". Or we call for Musharraf to submit to "democracy" and run the real risk of yet another electoral victory for Islamic Totalitarian forces, this time creating a nuclear armed Islamic state. Conditions there look eerily similar to 1979 Iran just prior to the fall of the Shah, the American embassy hostage crisis, and the rise to power of the Ayatollahs.

Nowhere in the region has the "democracy" crusade given rise to a movement for freedom. On the contrary, Islamic Totalitarian forces have made gains under democracy that they couldn't have dreamed of prior to 9/11, all with the blessing of our democratization strategy. At the same time, true secular liberalization forces, such as they exist, are demoralized and in retreat around the region.

The President Bush that I (and most Americans) once supported no longer exists. Where is the Bush that declared "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists". Where is the President Bush that equated, correctly, states that sponsor terrorism with the terror organizations themselves, vowing to remove them from power. Where is the Bush that vowed to act in America's self defense regardless of "world opinion". Perhaps that President Bush never really existed.

Today Afghanistan and Iraq have turned into "welfare wars", with money and blood being spent with no end in sight. Syria and especially Iran aid and abet with impunity the killing of American Soldiers. And both Hezbollah and Hamas receive material and logistical support from those two regimes, especially Iran. Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Taliban gathers its strength unimpeded (apparently) in the mountains of northwest Pakistan. The perception in the Muslim world seems to be that America will be defeated and retreat. This has emboldened the primitive enemy that we face.

This is not to say that President Bush hasn't had some significant successes. For example, we haven't been attacked on our own soil since 9/11, despite repeated attempts by our enemies. But at this juncture, the big picture is deteriorating badly. The growing power of totalitarian Islam across the Middle East portends a much bigger and bloodier war down the road. I hope I am wrong. There is always the possibility that developments behind the scenes paint a more optimistic picture. For example, although details are sketchy, Israel apparently destroyed in an aerial attack a Syrian nuclear facility (possibly provided by North Korea) in September. But I doubt it. Bush is a lame duck. The appeasement-minded Democrats are ascendant, and Americans are confused and demoralized.

What is needed at this point is fresh thinking on the nature of the enemy we face and the proper strategy to combat it. Time is growing short. It took Hitler just 5 years to build a military powerhouse out of an economic basket case and launch World War II.

I was an early supporter of the President's war strategy, believing that the removal from power of the Taliban and the Saddam regime (which I still believe were the correct moves) were part of a plan for the destruction of the Iranian theocracy and the neutralization of other terror-supporting regimes such as Syria. I supported the cover we gave the Iraqis while they set up their "democracy". It's time, now, that our leaders recognize that democracy grafted onto a mystic culture that neither believes in nor understands freedom is a formula for mob rule, and the mob that is now taking over is our enemy.

Despite a temporary (I believe) lull in the terror in Iraq, the "War on Terror" has crumbled into an incoherent mess, as events in Pakistan indicate. President Bush should use his remaining time in office to reformulate America's war strategy around the goal of destroying the Iranian and Syrian regimes, and releasing the Iraqi's to their own fate.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Comments on the Recent New Jersey Election

New Jersey's $450 million bond issue to fund stem cell research was the highlight of the recent otherwise ho-hum election. This referendum was defeated by a solid 53-47% margin which was a surprise to nearly everyone. The defeat has reverberated around the nation because New Jersey is considered to be a "liberal" state which should have made passage easy.

Various reasons have been given to explain the defeat. The most prevalent explanation is that N.J. voters, fed up with high taxes, budget deficits, and fiscal mismanagement, simply registered a protest against Trenton politicians. Considering that the state has been a bi-partisan fiscal mess for a long time, this explanation may be just a little too pat.

Considering the controversial nature of stem cell research, it seems more likely that most voters' motivation on this issue had little to do with state finances and a lot to do with individual conviction. On this, it is generally assumed that a yes vote means support for stem cell research, while a no vote indicates opposition.

But the issue here is not stem cell research as such, but the morality of "public" financing of it. My "no" vote on this bond issue was based primarily on the belief that opponents of stem cell research should not be forced to pay for something that contradicts their beliefs (religious or not). In addition, proponents of stem cell research should be willing to fund such research as private individuals through donations, direct investments in private companies, or some other means. They have no right to impose the costs of their beliefs on others through the taxing powers of the state.

I make these comments as a strong supporter of this very promising area of medical research. All aspects of stem cell inquiry, including embryonic, should proceed unfeddered. I do not believe that an embryo is a human being. An actual, living , breathing person is. An embryo is, in fact, a potential human being, and to the extent that embryonic study yields treatments to alleviate the suffering and/or prevent the deaths of actual human beings makes this area of research highly moral; moral, that is, if man's life is the standard of value.

Never-the-less, to support stem cell research on the basis of man's value while trampling on the rights of those who may disagree is a contradiction in terms and negates the moral argument in its favor. Public (i.e., coercive) funding of stem cell research is a violation if an individual's right to act on his own judgement and is therefore immoral.

I don't know how many people view this issue as I do, but my vote against the $450 million stem cell research bond issue (public question #2) for the above-stated reasons just may be one explanation for its defeat.

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