No Peace, As Long As Tr-mp Remains

Anson Burlingame, former blogger and current contributor to the Joplin Globe’s editorial page (as a concerned conservative citizen), wrote a response to my post about Paul Ryan being “The Most Corrupt Man in America.” Here it is in full:

Duane,

I note that only a few, three actually, have commented on your last three blogs, all three just more rants of everything wrong with Trump. No reason for me as the lone conservative to comment as your only solutions offered are to impeach and remove from office Trump, “unpresident” Pence, and imply the same path must be taken with the third man in line for the Presidency, the “most corrupt man in America”. In other words clean house and restore government to single party power, your party. My column in Sunday’s Globe was my response to you and yours.

In the meantime I have now been introduced to three ideas that offer insight into American politics today. The first is McMaster’s book, Dereliction of Duty. What happened related to Vietnam after JFK’s death is still going on today, particularly during the Bush/Obama Years. Read the book to get my gist.

Second is the new Netflick movie, War Machine, a glimpse at the McCrystal months in Afganistan.

Finally is a new initiative called Poverty Inc., new to me at least. If one watches the video (PBS) and considers how our local Water Gardens program tries to help the poor (teach a man to fish, not just giving away free fish) you see a counter argument to the way the world tries to deal with, say, poverty in Africa, today.

The information provided on all three “things”, how we screwed up in Vietnam, big time, why McCrystal (and everyone else commanding our military (starting with two different Commanders in Chief) in that sad affair called Afghanistan) failed and why current efforts related to world poverty are failing are all ideas that need exploring, today, again.

In the meantime, all you contribute to those issues is wait 2-4 years, clean house and start again to screw it all up, again!!

My point is America will not make headway against complex issues as long was we try to govern with Hatfield’s and McCoy’s in charge, one or the other.

Anson

I haven’t had time lately to answer too many of the comments posted on this blog, but I quickly wrote the following response in reply to Anson, and I post it here because I think you all need to be reminded as to why I am so fixated on the damage Tr-mp is doing to the country and to our interests around the world. It’s not just a matter of Republicans versus Democrats, liberals versus conservatives; it’s not just a matter of me wanting my party, the Democratic Party, to rule:

Anson,

While I appreciate the fact that you are willing to explore what are new ideas for you, I don’t see what any of them have to do with our present dilemma. McMaster’s book on Vietnam is an elaborate detailing of what we already knew (I have written at least twice about Johnson’s colossal mistake of escalating that war for bullshit reasons). War Machine is a look at what anyone can see is a difficult problem in Afghanistan, considering the complications involved (how many times have we discussed that on this blog?). And the “Water Gardens” idea is not a new one, (I have written about it—quite critically—at least once or twice now and maybe more).

You continue, though, to ignore the dangerous situation Tr-mp’s “presidency” is putting us in, in terms of U.S. strength, both moral and political, in the world and what losing that strength can and probably will mean. As I recall, you were quite critical of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy (whatever that was supposed to mean) and other aspects of his international leadership or, in your case, his lack of it. Now, all of a sudden, world affairs and how the U.S.’s role in them is quickly diminishing—we are in fact becoming a laughingstock—is secondary to some new or newly expressed or newly valued notion of yours that we need to make peace between the Hatfields and McCoys.

Well. I will not make peace with people who think Tr-mp is the cure for whatever is making us sick. Why? Because Tr-mpism itself, which predates Tr-mp, is the disease. I have laid it out before: changing FCC rules on equal time led to Rush Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio, which began the whole “fake news” bullshit. That led to Fox “News,” which televised the same bullshit. Drudge and Breitbart on the Internet was another form of the same destructive bullshit. And now, voilà, we have the bullshitter-in-chief. No surprise. He didn’t spring from a vacuum. He sprang from a shallow pool of know-nothings, people in the conservative media complex who figured out how to monetize the deprecation of real journalism in favor of a web of misinformation and lies.

So, no. I will not make peace with such people. We are surely in a slow-moving, non-shooting civil war in this country. Just as Lincoln figured out there was no peace-making with people who not only valued slavery as an institution, but valued it over their own goddamned country, so have I figured that out. Until Tr-mp and Pence are gone, and until Tr-mpism is pushed back (it will never die, as the Civil War and its aftermath has taught us), you will get no peace from me, in terms of a willingness to compromise with people who think Tr-mp and his behavior are good for the country—and, unfortunately, that includes most Republicans. And, quite unfortunately, that includes people like H.R. McMaster, who once enjoyed well-deserved sterling reputations, but now find themselves corrupted by Tr-mp.

Duane

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12 Comments

  1. To underscore your points here and elsewhere in this blog, I wrote the following a few days ago on Facebook:

    “The sad part of this insanity is that it was all predictable. Anybody with half a brain listening to Trump for five minutes saw this coming. The question now is not in choosing descriptors for his behavior, the question now is how to get rid of the sumbitch before he gets us all killed.”

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    • Herb,

      I’m sorry I’ve been so busy (away from the computer) that I haven’t had time to get involved in the discussion going on here. Some days there is just enough time to write something down that bothers me.

      In any case, obviously I couldn’t agree with you more. It was all foreseeable. I started writing about Tr-mp several years ago. I think my first post about him considering a run for the presidency was the one I posted on November 18, 2010. Think about that. Almost 7 years of this stuff. And still 63 million or so of our fellow “citizens” decided his buffoonery is just what the doctor ordered. I wrote back then:

      Donald Trump’s life, past and present, is God’s way of rubbing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s terrible truth in our face: the rich are, indeed, different from you and me.

      They are different. At least those with wealth and a wealth of personality disorders, some of which are disguised as machismo. I also wrote in that early piece:

      A man who thinks he can be president bases his opinion of our country’s standing in the world, and our President’s ability to lead, on what his Chinese business friends tell him about America.

      As I said, America is in a strange place these days.

      Man, I didn’t know how much stranger America could get. And I am with you when you say the question now is how to get rid of him before he does get all or at least some of us killed. That’s my main focus. I will follow the policy debates, for sure. The GOP has demonstrated they are going to go after a reactionary agenda, no matter what. But as I tried to make clear, at this moment in time, getting rid of this “presidency” has less to do with ideology than with keeping us from deteriorating as a democracy any further than we have already. I continue to believe that as long as Tr-mpism is in the White’s House, we are in serious trouble existentially, at least as a stable, respected democracy.

      Duane

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  2. Robert J. Roberts

     /  May 31, 2017

    My Dad, rest his soul, had a saying he used when a public figure made an outlandish statement or pulled off an action that horrified the gentle, reasonable people. He would say, “Boy, he really tells it like it is.” When Trump was campaigning he did both of those. He was “telling it how it was,” and further, telling it like he planned to change government. Most people didn’t believe him, but he has blundered forward with his stupid pronouncements and actions. He appeared to be a bully, a liar, a braggart, and in possession of most of those traits we in a reasonable society reject, and continues to do so. He is continuing to show what an ignorant ass he is. American voters should have listened when he “told it like it is.” I only hope the U.S. can survive another war, which he will probably begin when some foreign nation insults him.

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    • Robert,

      I share your fear of “another war.” My thoughts on that matter turn toward Iran on one hand, and Eastern Europe on another. His visit to Saudi Arabia was essentially an attack on Iran, which has since elected a relative “moderate” as the head of government. And we all can see his fondness for Russia, which has its eye on its old empire in parts of Europe.

      Then there is the way Tr-mp is handling the North Korea issue. He has openly outsourced that problem to China, which has figured out how to play Tr-mp (not that hard a task). Who knows what Tr-mp will do if he begins to see NK’s missile launches as personal insults to him.

      We are in dangerous times and those who told us not to worry because McMaster and other “adults” will keep him in check were wrong. McMaster, at least so far, has defended some of his most outrageous acts. And unless McMaster is hanging around Tr-mp in order to keep the worst from happening, all the while sacrificing his reputation for the good of the country, I’m afraid he won’t be of much help.

      Duane

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  3. Personally, my disenchantment with the conservative side of politics really began with the elevation of Newt Gingrich to the office of Speaker of the House. My observations of Gingrich were simple: He is the kind of man and leader for whom I would never work. I would quit and take my chances on the job market rather than submit to a man like him. (And you should know that I have never been a particular fan of Bill Clinton, although my opinion of him has moderated a lot over the years). I have a history of this; it is why I left the U. S. Navy after ten years of service – two of the three Commanding Officers I served under as an officer were not people I respected or could ever respect, so I gave up the opportunity to “retire at 20” and went into civilian life, a decision not lightly undertaken.

    In my estimation, George W. Bush was acceptable as President, but Dick Cheny was despicable. His rise to power and influence over Bush sealed the deal for me. Involvement of other like-minded individuals like Rumsfeld and the other Neo-cons just made it worse.

    In Trump’s first political speech, I knew he was another like Gingrich, Cheny, and Rumsfeld just by the way he talked and that he denigrated an entire ethnic group so casually and without factual basis. I would never work for an individual like Trump, and I think he has no place in the national politics of our country. Nothing that has happened since then has changed my mind; to the contrary, his behavior has strengthened my opinion. And I’m not talking about his lack of knowledge or terrible policy decisions, I’m just considering him as a human being.

    No.

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    • Michael,

      It’s funny how we arrive at the same place from different beginnings. Believe it or not, I was a fan of Newt’s way back when. Now when I hear him talk, I get kind of sick thinking that I once admired him. I don’t know what the hell was wrong with me, thus this blog.

      I admire your willingness to refuse to work for people you didn’t respect. I have worked for such people over the years and I had the luxury, as a union representative, to fight them back. I pity people who don’t have that luxury.

      I agree with you about the qualitative difference between Bush and Cheney, although I am very disappointed that neither Bush I nor Bush II have had anything to say about what Tr-mp is doing to the country. George W. could still make a difference if he stood up and said what many Republican are thinking: this man is a dangerous fool and we need to stop him before he does something that can’t be fixed.

      And as far as Tr-mp as a human being, I’ve been writing about him since at least 2010 on that front. I tend not to like narcissists, especially one that is so intellectually challenged. The people around him, knowing his disorder, issue statements that sound like he’s a cult figure and they are his cult followers. They are making fools of themselves, as so many on the right have done by embracing such a tragically flawed character.

      Duane

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  June 1, 2017

    This particular blog should be entitled “No Peace until the Democrat Party totally dominates the Federal Government”. What a sad state of affairs that would be as well.

    One of my sons works in an international law firm that has Boehner as a paid advisor (along with others, including democrats as well). My other son works within a French international conglomerate. He recently attended a meeting with four other senior executives of the company with Ted Cruz. I have asked both to share the insights gained from Boehner and Cruz and await a response.

    Boehner has already publicly proclaimed how Trump is a disaster. No word on that thought, yet, from Cruz. But we can bet all our bippy’s that Cruz will be in the 2020 race, for sure.

    One son represents “Big Law” and the other “Big Business”, both firms operating on the international level. They both listen to liberal and conservative politicians (and pay them for the advice rendered) then make decisions in the best interests of their respective organizations. Most of you herein would immediately condemn them, just because of their jobs and of course their income levels.

    We all agree herein, even me, that Trump is a narrsicistic buffoon and the country needs to leave him in its wake. It will be interesting to see how Cruz campaigns in the future given the political mess Trump will leave behind and how long the turbulence of that wake might last. Given the possibility of a Bernie/Warren ticket on your side we will again face Hatfield’s and McCoy’s at each others throats in 2020. Any guesses as to any Dem or GOPer that can find a path to a middle ground nomination for his or her Party in the coming election?

    Just a few other points, questions for any liberals that care to answer:
    1. What would YOU do about North Korea today, other than call for the civilized world to “demand”, again”
    2. What would YOU do to increase growth in GDP to get it into the range of 4-6% growth per year and at the same time improve income inequality. Can we do both at the same time? If not, which must come first as a matter of priority.
    3. What is the max fed income tax bracket YOU would call for and at what level of income should that tax rate “kick in”?
    4. How to we the people fund just Medicare such that it is sustainable, meaning no deficit contribution from just that one program?

    Once I get such insight into what YOU really want AND how to get it, I will ask my sons how they would adapt their approach to law and business in the face of such realities. One thing I do know is adjust they would and still have a great law firm or business to carry on in a crazy world today.

    Anson

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  5. Anson, you are missing the point if you really think that I want one party to dominate the government. Let me state unequivocally I do not hope for that. I also would not form my opinion of your sons just because they are successful and work in big business. So erase that from your conjecture, please.

    I form my opinion about people based on their behavior, behavior towards other people and towards organizations, particularly people and organizations they do not agree with. The central characteristic, to me, is how individuals react to those they disagree with, and the main method Gingrich, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Trump and most of his staff (Miller, Bannon, Flynn, Conway, Spicer, etc.) use is to put you down, belittle you, make fun of you; in any way possible make your opinion not worthy of consideration. They do this, I suppose, because they do not have the skill or motivation to have a reasonable discussion about the differences. That, by the way, as also a characteristic of both of the Commanding Officers I worked for that I could not respect. They both behaved consistently in that manner.

    Your tactic of telling “us” what we want, as in the opening statement of your response, is that same approach. You articulate (wrongly, I believe, and absolutely in my case) what we want in such a way as to make it seem ridiculous and unreasonable. Then you go on to “suppose” how we would treat your sons, and ascribe a motive to us that does not exist, at least for me, and, I believe, for most of the like-minded followers of Duane’s blog.

    So you, for your own reasons, have decided to use the time-tested method of treating people who disagree with you with disdain and without understanding them. I predict it won’t work for you, either. It never does unless the perpetrator has the power to enforce his/her opinion.

    Here are my answers to your four questions.

    1. What would YOU do about North Korea today, other than call for the civilized world to “demand”, again” I think you mean “What would I do about North Korea, other than ask the civilized world to demand that North Korea desist in their quest for nuclear weapon capability?”, so I will answer that question.
    I would pressure China heavily, using trade, diplomacy, economic power, and any other lever I have to get them to pressure North Korea to stop. If we have it (and I think we do) I would demonstrate that we can take down an ICBM-type (or cruise-type missile, if we can do that – it’s harder to do , I think) missile once launched towards us or our allies. I would NOT engage in saber-rattling with a despot who is saber-rattling; that is exactly what he wants.

    2. What would YOU do to increase growth in GDP to get it into the range of 4-6% growth per year and at the same time improve income inequality. Can we do both at the same time? If not, which must come first as a matter of priority.

    This is an issue that has a plethora of approaches; the following are just some of them. I would raise income tax on the very rich. (This also answers question # 3, so you get two for one, a really good deal.) I’m not an economist, but I think that the tax on incomes in the top 6 to 7 % should be raised to a level of about 50 to 60%. I would not raise the corporate income tax, but I would look hard at the tax breaks corporations get right now and remove some of them.
    One thing that ties into question # 4 is that if we had single payer medical care, every corporation in the country (except insurance companies in the medical insurance business) would get about a 15-20% break because they would no longer have to pay for medical care for their employees. I know, I know, they now get some of that back as an expense on their taxes, but I think they would still have a net gain.
    The “trickle down” or “voodoo” economics, as Bush I called it ,doesn’t work because of the simple fact that rich people and corporations are good money managers, and they make risk-based decisions, not decisions based on employing the maximum number of people, hence the increased taxation. I would use the revenue from those taxes to give the DOE (and maybe other Government departments) more money to fund practical approaches to renewable energy development, and to training people displaced from fossil fuel jobs, to be done in such a way that they don’t have to move from their current homes (at least at first) unless they want to. Computer based work and training can work well to start this, and increase computer skills in a portion of our workforce that may not have them.
    Growth of the type you are talking about in GDP necessarily requires longer term- thinking. You don’t get sustained growth in GDP by managing on a quarterly basis (although you do have to still manage those quarters, too). I would use government funds to Increase education of our workforce, our American people, by making community colleges available to all for no or very low fees. I would restructure the student loan program to make it recoup only the funds loaned, with no profit. You could fund such a program and it should run way out into the future with no overall loss of funding, if payback was performed diligently and fairly. An educated populace (from the GI Bill, mostly) gave the USA one of the most brilliant growth periods in our history right after WWII – figure out how to duplicate that, and start the funding with tax money, then sustain it with tax policies that encourage companies to do longer term thinking and education of their employees.

    Other business areas that are amenable to the above Fund-Manage-Sustain process are R & D, Robotics, Aerospace, Pharmacological, Geophysical, food production, Habitation development, oil/gas production, transportation (cars and trucks), and infrastructure maintenance and development. The list goes on. The idea is to use government funding to start, to focus, then manage the effort to success or admission of failure, then move the successes to private enterprise to sustain them. This mitigates risk for private enterprise, but allows high-risk, potentially high-return projects to prove themselves or fail if they don’t work.

    3. What is the max fed income tax bracket YOU would call for and at what level of income should that tax rate “kick in”? I think I answered that above, but I am open to further question.
    4. How to we the people fund just Medicare such that it is sustainable, meaning no deficit contribution from just that one program?
    California is undertaking just exactly that effort right now. It is difficult to determine, with all the rhetoric going back and forth, just how it will work. I suggest the the USA watch this carefully to see how it goes, then take the good parts from this grand experiment and apply them to the country at large. Germany, France, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, and other !st world countries have done it and are doing it, so we great innovators and pioneers in the USA should be able to figure it out. The mechanics of how to do it are not the problem, it’s overcoming the political aversions that constitute the problem. Even the way you asked the question above indicates that issue. It can be shown with (gasp) mathematical and statistical analysis that we really are paying for medical care for almost all our citizens, just not very efficiently, though emergency rooms and public hospitals.

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  June 2, 2017

    Michael,

    Your criticize me for being too abrupt and “harsh” in the way I ask questions or respond herein. You are absolutely correct. The online world is a dog eat dog forum and I respond in kind herein. I can assure you however that if you and I alone had discussions my tone would be far different. I am capable of listening and responding without ranting and raving.

    My post above was quite different when I started typing it. It was to you so to speak. (I deleted it as it sounded too personal). We have a common background, Navy nuclear power. You left at the 10 year point and I understand why. I almost left at the 8 year point, upon completion of my Engineer Officer tour on an SSBN. I was “talked out of it” by the COS of COMSUBPAC and I am glad he persuaded me otherwise. I was considering leaving due to low pay and “harsh hours”, months of separation year after long year. At that point I had completed 10 SSBN patrols in the past 5 years, a total of about 2 years underwater completely cut off from ….., etc.

    The reason I changed my mind was simple. First the challenge of “command at sea” was something I greatly desired without knowing then whether I could “make the cut” to just get there, much less do well. Second was the “band of brothers” I worked with, for and had some working for me. I had a total of 16 men in my 23 year career under whom I served, my “skippers”, Squadron Commanders and later, 6 different flag officers. Only one of those men, all nuclear submariners, was a “lousy skipper”. I was his XO. But even he was an honest, hard working man, smart as well. In each and every situation over 23 years I learned a lot (some “negative learning”) from every one of them. I would salute each and every one of them today if we met on the street, even the “lousy skipper” because each and everyone of them gave it their best shots at executing whatever “missions” were assigned.

    My ultimate failure, and it was a failure on my part for sure, was my own inability to work within the huge bureaucracy of Washington DC. It was crazy to me as a junior Captain in the Pentagon and remains so to me as an old man today. I could regale you with examples, in the military and later within the DOE of all the bureaucratic obstacles encountered but so what. Just leave it to be said that if I could have remained in “command at sea” or later “President of Rocky Flats” I would still probably be “working” and going to work each day looking forward to the next challenge.

    I make that point because I totally distrust large organizations that are mired in bureaucracy. So when I hear about huge problems my default response is “don’t give it to a bureaucracy to solve”. It will just never get done, right, if left to the “masses”. Sure, everyone should get to “vote”, put their own oars in the water to suggest how to solve a problem. But ultimately it takes exceptionally strong leadership, at EVERY level in a bureaucracy, to make the correct choices and succeed or the not so good choices and fail and be held ACCOUNTABLE for such failures. Everyone of those 16 men, plus me, LEARNED from our own failures, saw what we did wrong, fixed it so it did not happen again, and moved on to the next set of issues. I would add that the mark of failure was in each and every case some form of degradation is completing the “mission”. Not a single one of those men, leaders, worried at all about how “popular” they might be. On the other hand none of those men were “tyrants” except the granddaddy of them all, Rickover. I figured out how to avoid him by doing my own job right and avoiding any confrontation with HIM, EVER, (except once which is a marvelous “sea story” but too long to relate!!).

    Most of the responses your read from me herein are directed at, to, Duane. Herb is the only other one herein that I know personally and we get along just fine man to man. We laugh, bemoan the “state of the country” etc. and while he wants to impeach every GOP president since 9/11, we, again, get along fine.

    More to the point, I appreciate your responses above offering ideas how to solve huge problems. There is not a single one that I would discount out of hand saying BS, BS, BS. Just addressing the Medicare, JUST Medicare, obviously we can “pay for it” as a nation. But we have failed to do so for the last 50(?) years. Why? Failure of leadership, bureaucratic bungling, failure to have the guts to make a decision and move on with the end result a HC program (actually one piece of it) that is sustainable, effective and can be “afforded”. If our bureaucracy (federal government) cannot fund Medicare how in the hell can it afford to fund and sustain single payer care. The “everyone else does it” does not work with me by the way. “Everyone else” is not America. We, like they are unique and must find out own way.

    I don’t have a major qualm about a 50% tax rate on the “rich” as well. That is what JFK brought “it down to” in the early 60’s. But you know and I know for sure that just taxing the “rich” at 50% will NEVER pay for all that “America demands from government, today”. That 50% rate does NOT solve the 47% problem at all, the everyone must put skin in the game problem. And when the amount of skin gets too large, then stop trying to solve problems with more money. I do however strongly disagree that our business tax rate should remain at 35%. We cannot spend our way out of huge problems. But we can grow our way out of them, together.

    I respect Duane’s intelligence and hard work. My primary complaint against him is his one size fits all solutions and don’t try, ever, to suggest otherwise. Duane, like most of us, cherry picks his “graphs” as if such graphs solved the problem, no counters allowed. I used to brief “4 Stars” in the Pentagon and know quite well how to put graphs in a brief to make the points I wanted to make. But I also learned how “those guys” could blow me out of the water, time and again. I once went into such a briefing with a target pinned to my chest. My own 3 Star told me the target was about 12 inches too high. Said another way, cover your balls Anson, and I moved the target down.

    Keep commenting Michael. I read and learn from your efforts.

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      Though I’m loath to take up any more cyberspace, you piqued my interest in the questions you posed above:

      1. What would YOU do about North Korea today, other than call for the civilized world to “demand”, again

      2. What would YOU do to increase growth in GDP to get it into the range of 4-6% growth per year and at the same time improve income inequality. Can we do both at the same time? If not, which must come first as a matter of priority.

      3. What is the max fed income tax bracket YOU would call for and at what level of income should that tax rate “kick in”?

      4. How to we the people fund just Medicare such that it is sustainable, meaning no deficit contribution from just that one program?

      Notwithstanding your son’s interest one way or the other, I would respond to those questions with my own opinions:

      1. The road to peace with North Korea runs through China. That seems to be the consensus of those in the know.

      2. The growth in GDP will not get to the 4-6% range in the foreseeable future; i.e., decades. I’m a demand-side economist, so the key for me is the increase in demand for goods and services. That means more jobs and higher incomes. But companies these days minimize labor costs as much as possible, mainly through Artificial Intelligence (robotics) and through wage increases that barely keep up with inflation. As a result, corporate profits have been running at all time highs over the past few years. So, it’s no wonder businesses are fighting the increase in minimum wages. Meanwhile, the rich get richer – etcetera, etcetera.

      3. My take on income taxes is to throw out the current code entirely and replace it with a variable rate income tax. For individuals, I would eliminate all the current deductions, credits, exemptions and the like, along with the types of taxpayers – no more joint returns. Those with incomes less than $30K would pay no income tax. Those with incomes of $30K or more, would pay a rate determined by an estimate of taxes needed for the next year’s budget after accounting for other sources of income. The last time I ran the numbers on this, the rate came out to about 20%, and does not include payroll taxes (social security and Medicare). So the rate would change each year in accordance with the budget. No more social engineering by the feds.

      I would fix the corporate tax rate at 25%. It would be calculated on the basis of what accountants call EBITDA, which is the abbreviation for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.” There may be a few other business deductions I’d eliminate too.

      4. Funding Medicare is as easy as adjusting the Medicare tax rate of 2.90% – 1.45% each for the employee and employer – to a variable rate similar to that described above. That is, the rate would assure that projected income from Medicare taxes is sufficient to pay actuarially determined benefits. (I would do the same with Social Security.)

      Of course, my suggestions for #3 and #4 would never be considered by a tax-averse Congress. Such radical changes would require significant political will. But Congress is filled with political cowards who serve their own self-interests rather than the interests of the people.

      Herb

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  June 3, 2017

    Michael, Herb and Duane,

    Finally, we get to real numbers and ways to compromise based on three relatively simple questions. I agree, in principle, to what Michael and Herb suggest on the four questions posed. Here is my response on “the four””

    1. The only solution to NK is through China, or else…..! Yet Duane criticized Trump for trying that pathway. The “civilized world” can “talk itself to death” but NK won’t budge. China alone can apply the diplomatic and economic power to sway NK to a near direction. For the first time in about 50 it seems the China might just be exerting such pressure on NK.

    IF the China pressure is NOT applied with “rigor” then what else must be asked? First, stand by for another round of “Star Wars”, anti-ballistic missile defenses, for Japan, western Pacific territories (Guam, Hawaii, etc.) and eventually the continental U.S. We already have a “pretty good” defense in that regard, Aegis class cruisers/destroyers. But it takes money to keep them at sea on a continuing basis. Perhaps the THOR should be expanded to other Pacific regions other than SK as well. By the way if SK does not want that protection, fine. Don’t provide it and at the same time withdraw the 30,000 Americans that have been there for 50 years. Let SK negotiate its own way out of the threat of NK.

    2. Medicare is easy and I agree completely with Herb. The cost of that program must be provided, each year, by federal government revenues. If we want it we tax “something” at the rates needed to pay for it. Forget the original idea of “trust funds”. We can’t trust politicians to keep Trust funds (or pension funds, etc.) fully funded. There will always be an “emergency” used to justified taking “just a little bit” out of such funds and here we are today.

    Medicare is designed to protect every American after they reach the age of 65. Why not tax “every American” age 18 or older, every year, at the rate needed to pay for Medicare, every year. If costs go up, raise taxes and the reverse as well. No more, “I paid into the system and it is my money”. Nope, it is taxes, not your money, just like a submarine is not your submarine because you paid taxes. If people between the ages 18 – 65 cannot pay their taxes use fed revenues to pay their share into the fund, another added cost to Medicare alone and tax rates go up for everyone else when that happens, year to year.

    Finally, ration Medicare (and Social Security) based on annual income from all sources for everyone over the age of 65 (actually I would raise that age to at least 70, today). Anyone “making” over, say $150,000 per year in their retirement years get no SS or Medicare UNLESS they have huge medical bills that take that annual earning down to say $80K, certainly a livable earning in retirement. So if an older American made $150K “this year” and got hit with a huge HC bill of say $100K, Medicare would cover $30K of that cost that year.

    3. The only way to grow GDP is to leave more money in the hands of consumers and businesses in America (70% of GDP is consumer spending as I recall). Raising taxes lowers GDP (or at least causes it to grow less), like it or not. Forget all this about government spending (paying people) doing anything sustainable to grow GDP. Yes, a surge in government spending can get us out of recessions/depressions, but once out if it, government must go back to pay as it goes, which must INCLUDE payments to REDUCE debt, not just pay the interest on same. Same with War. Do it, pay for it, each year we choose to fight. Read Dereliction of Duty. Johnson pulled every dirty trick in the book to pass Great Society Legislation while shortchanging the effort in Vietnam. Look what that got us. We put in place deficit multiplying domestic programs and lost a damned war. When will we stop doing those kind of crazy things I wonder. The answer is “when we go broke”, of course.

    Remember, the interest (only) we currently pay on debt would completely fund Medicare (and maybe even Medicaid) today. Rob Peter to pay Paul today and look what happens tomorrow. But, as everyone knows, no politician in a democracy, or at least very, very few could give a fat damn about “tomorrow” when they must be re-elected in 2, 4, or 6 years. If we find a way to remove the incentive for them to be re-elected then maybe, just maybe a “few good men and women” will look closely at the future, not “today”.

    Term limits for individuals won’t work however. It gets individuals out of government, but it can (but hopefully not) keep single party power around for a long time. Term limit political party majorities anyone? That sure might cause a conversation!!! But the “natural dynamics” in a democracy means we the people have always kicked majority power parties out of office all the time (if we wait long enough) over the last 230 plus years trying to govern.

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      I don’t have time to respond to this whole post, but I do want to correct something you said about China’s role in the North Korea problem: “Yet Duane criticized Trump for trying that pathway.” No. That wasn’t my criticism of the policy. To be specific, I don’t think we can totally outsource the problem to China, like Tr-mp has done. Why? Because I don’t trust them. Second, Tr-mp has said some stupid things to lots of world leaders in the past few months. Most of them are rational enough to know Tr-mp is a bullshitting narcissist. But we can’t count on that freak in North Korea to behave rationally. It’s stupid to expect him to. My biggest criticism of Tr-mp is his idiocy, on this and other matters.

      Finally, you said, “The only way to grow GDP is to leave more money in the hands of consumers and businesses in America (70% of GDP is consumer spending as I recall).” No. That supply-side stuff, as we have seen, has its limits. Ask Kansans. There are many ways to grow GDP (like infrastructure investment by the government), but the key is to “put more money in the hands of consumers,” who buy shit. That only makes sense. One way to do that is through job creation that provides decent wages and benefits. And, contrary to your supply-side friends, we can create jobs by more evenly distributing income through things like progressive taxation. Your rich and semi-rich friends might like it, but giving them big tax cuts will do almost nothing for the economy (again, ask Kansans). But taxing them at higher rates, then using that money for infrastructure, etc., and helping poor and low-income folks (who will spend every damn dollar and add to GDP via the multiplier effect) through government programs will do a lot. And besides that, it’s the right thing to do.

      Duane

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