Saturday, January 5, 2008

Is this a Democrat or Republican?

Here's some tidbits on a particular candidate. Compare them to the alleged ideology of the two main political parties and try to decide who the candidate is... or at least which side of the proverbial aisle he/she claims to be on.
  • Spending increased by more than 8% per year — three times the rate of inflation.
  • Increased the number of government workers increased by 20 percent.
  • Increased average citizen's tax burden increased 47 percent.
  • Raised gas, sales, income, and cigarette taxes — covering everything from groceries to nursing home beds.
  • Calls for a national smoking ban (and we thought California's ban was over the top!).
  • Opposes school choice.
  • Called for increased federal spending on a variety of programs from infrastructure to health care including more energy subsidies including for ethanol.
  • Supports increased agricultural subsidies.
  • Opposes President Bush's veto of the proposed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
  • Is skeptical of most proposals for entitlement reform.
  • Rails against high corporate profits and attacks free trade agreements.
  • Raised the minimum wage and increased business regulation.
  • Says it is "a biblical duty" to pass more regulation to fight global warming.

In case you weren't keeping score, every one of those points above has, historically, been attributed to the Democrat party. The only one that sticks out is the reason for the global warming regulation. No Democrat would have invoked the Bible.

The above actions and beliefs are from none other that the GOP front-runner, Mike Huckabee. But hey, he's anti-gay and anti-abortion - and that's all that matters to the Evangelicals, right? It's OK to sacrifice all the rest of your freedoms as long as those very narrow issues are addressed. Brilliant.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Selecting a Political Proxy by Proxy

It has become a staple of the election season. Every election cycle, we get treated to a parade of names splashed across the media. Pairings of politicos with papers, pundits, personalities and power-brokers stream across the news-tickers like up-to-the-minute stock quotes. But to what end? The resultant undulation of poll numbers like waves raised by a boulder in a pond tell us that these endorsements actually mean something to the alleged "voting public." But why?

In the small beginnings of representative republics (which America is by design and still purports to be), people generally knew the people that they were sending to office - and vice versa. The typical "campaign" was nothing more than

"I like Chuck the blacksmith. He is pretty wise. We all go to him for advice and counsel anyway. He also knows how to make his point very well... maybe we should send him to [Capital] to speak for us here in [Podunk]."
There are two very relevant, core points in play in that simple scenario.

  • Our citizen knows Chuck, knows his character, and knows what he feels about issues.
  • Chuck knows the citizen, knows his needs, and knows what he feels about issues.

Even if Chuck didn't know everybody by name, it is likely that he could easily be approached by people in his district that had a concern that they wanted to bring up. It was also likely that if a given citizen didn't know Chuck directly, he likely had dealings with someone who did.

"Well, I haven't met ol' Chuck the blacksmith, but Ralph the baker says that he's a good man and knows what he's talking about."

There was no "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" necessary to find someone who could give an adequate assessment of Chuck the blacksmith.

As the population grew, the number of people that a representative... uh... represented... grew as well. Where Chuck the blacksmith may have gone off to Washington to speak for a few hundred or a few thousand people... today's politicians represent hundreds of thousands of constituents. At that scale, it is logistically impossible for a representative to personally know all the members in his (or her) district. Likewise, it is impossible for this person to know what their wishes are or what is in their best interest. It is because of this that most Representatives hold more allegiance to their political party (and the inherent ideals) than to their constituents. That, however, is tinder for another post at a later time.

The other side of this equation is that it is impossible for the citizens to know the person they are selecting to speak for them on matters. They can't even ask Ralph the baker for his opinion since it is just as likely that Ralph has never met our modern-day Chuck. That puts our lowly citizen at a decided loss...

"Who is Chuck? What does he believe? Does he care about my issues?"
Added to this interesting mix is the fact that most people in America have very little, if any, idea about how [insert a seat of government here] works. Our educational system ejaculates students into the world that know that the Pilgrims landed on this continent but with little true understanding of why. They know that there is a document that begins "We the people..." but don't know what momentous occasion it heralded. They know that we have a Constitution - but very often mis-understand and mis-quote (typically with the blank-eyed rote repetition of the superficially knowledgeable) its contents. What that means is that a significant, almost overwhelming, portion of the populous doesn't actually understand what is being said (sold?) by those either already in positions of governmental power or by those who strive to be so.

All of the after-the-fact complexity that government has interwoven into their purported job descriptions only serves to obfuscate their real roles - and likewise their real stances on issues. Not many people are able to even notice when a politician's sound-byte contradicts a Constitutional principle. Most people wouldn't even notice when a politician's sound-byte on an issue contradicts that same politician's own stance from a day before. There's simply too much for most people to grasp. They have neither the tools nor the patience.

However, since the people are given at least the appearance of having a choice (shell games like gerrymandering aside), they like to believe that they are part of The Process. But whom to choose? Gone are the Ralph the Bakers that we can ask. I don't discount the influence of hearing the babble of friends, family and co-workers. Certainly, that plays a part - but is as reliable as the theoretical "wisdom of crowds". It definitely has a familial and even regional effect - very similar to the premise "we worship the Gods of our fathers." If you are born into or live in the midst of a predominant mindset, it is likely you will absorb some of its dogma.

No, people like to put their trust in an institution. Often, there is the comforting belief that "an organization knows better." Yes, this is a spin-off on the "wisdom of crowds" but with one additional trump card: credibility. People assume that something bigger than themselves (or their direct peers) must also know more than themselves. If the person trusts that entity - they become a de facto Ralph the Baker... albeit one with which they are almost as unfamiliar as the political figures they are seeking information on.

There are plenty of examples:

  • Newspapers report the news - they must know all the ins and outs of how The System works, right? Who better to turn to for information!
  • Religious organizations are ethical - they must know which candidates represent the important societal issues!
  • Labor unions stand for the "common man" - they must know which candidate is going to work for me and my family's best interests!
  • Political bodies (including parties) are already part of the The System - they must know who will support their very same issues.
  • [A special interest group] supports [cause] - they will obviously choose the candidate that will advance my pet issue (unspoken implication: "which is not only Constitutional valid but more important than any other governmental responsibility")!

There are a few problems with all of the above. First, those organizations don't truly exist as a thinking entity - they are a collection of individuals... each with their own agenda, their own perceptions, and their own conclusions. Certainly, in the case of some organizations, religious organizations for example, there may be a single figurehead that may, to some degree, speak for the group... and even set the course in general - but by and large, they are a group of people that project what is really an aggregate into some sort of homogeneous image. In the end, however, the lone voter avoids making a decision as to whether to trust the candidate by deciding whether or not to trust the group's wisdom and subsequent stance on that candidate. There has been an extra layer inserted into the process. To pervert the chain even further, there may have been other entities involvement into whether or not the proxy group, themselves, should be trusted in the first place. Yet again, another layer between the individual and the person they are allegedly making an informed choice about of their own free will.

What's worse is the de facto nomination of individuals as the surrogate thinker. These range from the mildly annoying such as talk show hosts to the completely inane such as a Hollywood or music-industry figure. It is one thing to subscribe to the candidate of a political talk-show host such as a Rush Limbaugh - his listeners know his stance on political issues to a great degree. Michael Moore is also someone who has made his views known on a variety of issues. You know what you are getting into with these people. However... what are Oprah's political views? She is a very visible talk-show host... but her topics are once removed from the arena of politics. Sure, we may know her beliefs on life issues - but how many of them map over onto political issues? How many of them should? So how relevant is her endorsement? And how transparent? And yet, when she announced her support for Barrack Obama - the media was sucked in to cover it so swiftly it was as if the cliff was crumbling towards the lemmings faster than the lemmings were running to the cliff. And because the media cared about Oprah, so did the people (note the 2 layers of proxy).

With the entertainment world figures, the association is even more flawed and bizarre. While we know something about Oprah's views, what do we really know about an actor or a musician? The actor was in a movie written by someone else, playing a role conceived by someone else... and yet we associate them with... what? Perhaps the musician wrote lyrics that moved us... or the author wrote fiction that inspired us - but those are likely as trustworthy as believing that Stephen King actually thinks there are children in the corn and nasty stuff happens when you walk out into the fog. But there are those that trust these people as their political proxies. [Some actor] believes that [candidate] is evil - therefore, so shall I. [Some musician] believes that [candidate] will [do nifty thing] - therefore, I will support said candidate.

Put that simply, it seems ludicrous. And yet it happens every election cycle. If it didn't, it wouldn't be newsworthy. (Of course, the claim can be made that much of what is covered by the media is not necessarily newsworthy.) And yet it parades on... Why? What does that say about the American public that we trust so many other sources of opinion above our own? What does it say that we pay more attention to the lives and personalities of the candidates on "American Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars" than we do to the people who, literally, control our every day lives? (The fact that people don't even grasp that last fact is actually rather startling as well.)

Does it say they don't understand? Possibly.

Does it say they don't want to take the time? Probably.

Does it say they don't care... ?

I don't know the answer to that - but I know it scares me to even consider it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New baby = environmental tax?

Well, they are seriously considering this in Australia. If you have more than two children, you would be forced to pay a $5000 (Australian Dollars) baby tax at birth and an additional $800 per year in order to offset the carbon usage that the kid will supposedly use.

Professor Walters said the average annual carbon dioxide emission by an Australian individual was about 17 metric tons, including energy use.

"Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society," he wrote.

OK... think between the lines a moment. Let's skip over the debate about the legitimacy of the idea of carbon taxes, etc. on this and look simply at the money flow...
  1. The carbon tax is paid to the Australian government.
  2. The Australian government pays Mother Nature. Uh.... then what?

I suppose the government could do something token with the money like planting trees or something - but would they? And how would you know that your $5000 + $800 per year is actually being used in such a way as to truly replace the carbon your rug rats are burning? Do they give you a receipt? Do they give you a little framed certificate like the Star Registry people that give you the directions to your kid's particular tree(s)? Or does the money disappear into the coffers?

The bottom line is that they are just collecting more money that they are then not forced to be accountable for. Nothing new here.

I did like one quote in the article, however.

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway said it was ridiculous to blame babies for global warming.

"I think self-important professors with silly ideas should have to pay carbon tax for all the hot air they create," she said.

How brilliant is that?

Update on guns in Omaha mall

This is a follow-up to my post about concealed weapons being banned in the Omaha mall.

Well, a blogger has posted pictures of the signs at Omaha's Westroads mall that state that concealed weapons (or even openly carried ones, I suppose) are were not allowed in the mall.

Here's an amusing tidbit, however... a further along, he shows pictures of the same spot - where the signs were removed. Good call.

Perhaps the most moving point is in a further blog post on the same site. Here is copied a first-hand account of the shooting. The kicker is this - the man has a gun but, despite having taken the training class, has not bothered to get the "concealed carry" permit. His reason? He isn't allowed to carry at all in the places where he would need it the most. That came back to haunt him that day in Omaha...

I do not have a Concealed Handgun Permit. I have completed the training class, but I keep putting off applying for the permit because I think it is useless. In the places I would need a gun most, I am not allowed to have it. I will not be a person living in fear and not go to Van Maur because they don’t allow guns.

My point that Open Carry needs to be easier in Omaha, and places like Westroads need to take down their “no guns” signs.

If I had my gun deeply concealed, I wouldn’t have been able to draw it very fast. However, If I had open carried, I could of drawn instantly.

Either way though, I could have drawn and taken a clean shot. However, in both cases, regardless of the laws, I am not allowed to carry a gun at all in Westroads Mall. If the laws did not oppress my rights, I would carry a gun most places (except work). I would certainly have had it in the mall as mall shootings have been on my mind since the incident at a mall involving a shotgun back in February.

My wife is somewhat cautious about guns as is my sister-in-law. After this event, both are now pro-guns. In addition, I will never again be caught without a gun.

I later learned from the news that people were shot at customer service (to my right) and the children’s section (in front of me, off to the left). This means it was only luck this guy did not target me, as I was closer to him than some of the people he shot. I have a second chance at life.


I were allowed to carry a gun, I would have and I would have used it. That is a hard fact. I am not trying to be a hero and say that I would have tried to save lives. I am saying that I was trying to save my life, and if my family was there, their lives as well. There is nothing "hero" about what I am saying, it's about survival.

Doesn't that about say it?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Concealed weapons banned in Omaha mall

This article from the Omaha World Herald dated March 28, 2007 reports on how Omaha businesses have elected to post signs saying that they don’t allow concealed weapons on their premises. Included in the article is Westroads mall – the most famous shooting gallery in the country this week.

Here’s a couple of excerpts, but I recommend you read the whole article.

Almost three months after the start of a state law allowing people to carry concealed weapons, signs banning guns from privately owned businesses haven't exactly popped up all over the Omaha area.In fact, although some chains such as Bag 'N Save have posted signs and shopping malls such as Westroads Mall have added "no weapons" clauses to their posted codes of conduct, many small businesses haven't seen the need. And at least one that did later reconsidered. Under the law, concealed handguns are banned from some businesses, including bars and financial institutions. Other businesses and employers can ban concealed weapons from their property by posting a sign that guns are not allowed.

And the award for the most obvious comment goes to this person:

At Countryside Village, Diana Abbott, manager of the Bookworm, which does not have a sign, laughed at the question."It's not like a robber is going to look at the sign and say, 'Oh, I'm not going to rob the place.'"
This is very similar to the Virginia Tech massacre where the State of Virginia had chosen to NOT allow concealed weapons on campus. Dude went out and mowed down a couple dozen people. What if any one of them or one of the bystanders had been packing? He probably would have been stopped at some point. Same thing with yesterday in Omaha. Do you think the people in that store/mall were glad that no one else around them had a gun? Or perhaps they were hoping that someone nearby them (or even they themselves) had a gun tucked away under a jacket or pant leg.

What an interesting quandary… the police logistically can’t protect us with enough speed to prevent things like this from happening. They can only react after the fact. And yet, the government insists that we can’t protect ourselves either. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to make sure that we are not allowed to. Anyone wonder what the point of that is?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Save me from myself, Mrs. Clinton

In the first days of December, Mrs. Clinton came out with an entirely new tack for her. She called for a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures as well as a five-year freeze on the rates of adjustable mortgages. (choose your source) This is such a blatant invasion by government into the free commerce of the private sector that it is almost a spectacular display of chutzpah that it is being suggested openly rather than under a cloak of darkness. And it is not just being proffered by a secure, sitting Congressman (Congresswoman not only sounds kinda silly but may be inaccurate anyway.), but by one actually betting their future sought-after political office on what they say on a day-to-day basis.

Note that these loans were all allegedly perfectly legal contracts when they were written and entered into. If the issue were that they were illegal, that would be what is being addressed here. And Government (be it State or Federal) would be well within their rights to investigate the situation, nullify the contract and prosecute accordingly... because a law would have been broken. However, since that doesn't seem to be the case, it is difficult to ascertain the premise on which Ms. Clinton's request/demand/expectation (it's never just a request with her) is based.

According to Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, a document, which, by now, Ms. Clinton should have had an opportunity to familiarize herself with, Congress has the power to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes". This is commonly referred to as "The Commerce Clause." There are three sections to The Commerce Clause, "Foreign...", "Interstate...", and "Indian..." respectively. Unless the banks involved in the mortgage loans were either outside the U.S. or on Indian reservations, the 2nd section ("interstate") of the clause is the only one that could possibly apply. However, even if the Interstate Commerce Clause applied for whatever reason, it remains that the Constitution only says that Congress has the power to regulate. Left alone, that power is not law. Congress' only ability to do anything with that power is to draft and submit a law.

It is no secret that Congress has done their utmost of the years to take the solid granite block concept of free market economics and whittle and carve and chisel it until what remains is barely able to sustain its own weight. They have passed untold laws that have gone over and above the power granted by the Commerce Clause. In fact, most people don't even realize that there is a limitation on this power. We have many government-spawned regulatory bodies that tell us what we can and cannot buy, sell, or trade; how, where and when we can advertise; and what terms we can and cannot set for those sales. It would be pointless (and off-topic) to go into the complexities of the commerce laws that the Federal Government has passed. The point does still exist, however, that - even in light of all those laws on the books - the contracts that were put into force between the mortgage lenders and the borrowers... were legal.

The Executive Branch of the Federal Government exists solely to enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislative Branch. (Again, not time for a digression into the Judicial Branch's foray into writing law.) That means, in theory, if Congress didn't write a law that in some way covers a specific action, it isn't illegal. No one other than Congress can make it illegal. If the act isn't illegal, it is not within the Government's purview to take any sort of action on it. After all - The Legislative Branch makes laws, the Executive Branch enforces laws, and the Judicial Branch administers the courts when laws are broken. Notice that Government's only power to meddle in the private sector are through the common conduit of law. If there is no law, the Government has no role.

Which brings us back to the issue du jour for Ms. Clinton. If there was:

  • a contract between two ostensibly competent parties,
  • entirely involving commerce in the private sector,
  • that were constructed so as to not violate any laws in force at the time,

... what business is it of Government's?

Ms. Clinton's purpose here is allegedly that she wants to help the poor, struggling families who are about to lose their homes. Let's forego the titular purpose of this blog for a moment and take her at her word. Let's also lay out some other premises that should cover the majority of the situations involved here. The people she is trying to save:

  • were not forced to purchase a house at that time,
  • were not forced to use credit to purchase the house,
  • were not forced to select an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) over a conventional fixed rate one,
  • were not forced to agree to terms that later became inconvenient (e.g. prepayment penalty riders),
  • were not forced to stay with that mortgage (inconvenient penalties not withstanding) as the rates rose.

To sum up, the people involved exercised their freedom and entered into an agreement with another party that, at the time and to the best of their knowledge seemed agreeable to them. Apparently this is what Ms. Clinton finds so scandalous. Given her track record of indirectly implying that the people of this country, as individuals, are incapable of making proper decisions on their own (her health care plans being a prime example), it would logically follow that she believes that the average home loan borrower is incapable of entering into a financial contract with the legal burden of mental competency. Therefore, by applying this assessment with the broad brush of sweeping generalization, she would perform what amounts to a de facto class action judgement via edict and render the contracts that were entered into - in good faith - null and void. (Or at least suspended for a time.)

Even with only a short suit of creativity, this sort of mechanism can be applied in an impressive myriad of ways. In short, any action or decision that, in retrospect, became harmful to an individual should be forgiven. Actually, it only needs to be simply regretted rather than harmful. However, unlike bankruptcy which has its burdens of proof, penalties and long-term ramifications, the person escapes relatively unscathed from the "Hillary suspension." It amounts to the ultimate financial mulligan. It's as simple as saying "I didn't like what came out of my decision, so I'd like you to cut me a break." Not bad - unless you are the one on the other side of the transaction.

This mentality can actually be taken even further - and already has if you recognize the signs. For example, let's say that a retailer sets a price that he wants to sell his product for. For the most part, a seller is free to do that. In a free market, that price is an offer - not a demand. No on is forcing a buyer to agree to it. If the buyer does not agree, there is no transaction. If some buyers do and some do not, it is up to the seller as to whether or not he likes only selling to some people or whether he wants to entice more of them to purchase his product by lowering his price. He can even choose to sell his product to person A for one price and person B for another price. (For example, different negotiated rates for exactly the same product happen all the time between businesses.) There are a number of instances of the concept of "choice" in the above series. The choice to offer for sale, the choice of price, the choice to purchase, the choice to pay a price. All are free choices in a free market.

However, if the government comes along and says, "we understand that you normally sell your product for $X, but to this person we are going to insist that you sell your product for $Y instead," choice has been removed from one of the parties. This happens all the time in our over-regulated, quasi-free market.

One example... After hurricane Katrina, government tried to force insurance companies to pay of claims that were specifically not covered. Some companies chose to raise their rates for future hurricane coverage in order to cover what had become a massive liability for them. Government tried to force the companies to offer lower rates than what they needed to. Some insurance companies did not want to get involved in the issue in the future and chose not to sell insurance in Gulf states any more. Government then tried to prevent those companies from pulling out or force them to offer hurricane insurance in those states once again.

"Gray-out" Davis' price controls on electricity in California only led to the utilities not being able to purchase power from other states when it was needed. The result was rolling blackouts statewide. So, despite having their electric rates frozen at arbitrarily (and unsustainably) low levels, Californians went without reliable power for a good portion of the summer of 2001. (I could have littered this paragraph with all the requisite bolded "chose" words, but I figure at this point, it should be intuitively obvious to most people that they should be in there.)

There are other examples of where government has interfered with the market - allegedly to help the (euphemistically) "less fortunate" - and it has resulted in disaster. But even if the government managed to exorcise the spectral "law of unintended consequences" that is endemic to any large governing body, and instead wielded some Midas-like power, it still would not be their job (via the power granted to them by the consent of the governed) to step in and make changes to any private contract or transaction. It is simply not their business to meddle in our business, so to speak.

So we return to Hillary's proposal... which, at the moment, is theoretically not in the purview of the Federal Government. Why bring it up then? It sure does sound nice. After all, Auntie Hillary (it's OK to call her that since, as a member of "The Village", she has shared in the responsibility of raising us) would like to kiss it better and make the boo-boo go away. Who wouldn't want that?

The timing and nature of the idea couldn't be better - or more obvious. With the election season pre-game show coming to a close and the first round about to begin, Hillary knows that she is being scrutinized. She is also well aware that the turnip that is her health care proposal is not going to yield any more accolades or acolytes than she has already squeezed out of it after 15 years. She was in need of one last, preferably timely and topical, broad-appeal proposal to unfurl like the a banner streaming hope behind her as she appears, galloping at the cavalry van.

But that's not really all that different from most political proposals made during a campaign, is it? We can hardly fault her for trying to come up with something splashy in time for the mighty Dioscuri, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Really, Hillary's true purpose, with this and many of her other proposals, is actually "hidden" in plain sight. Take the generalized ideal that she proffers:

By enacting this plan, the Federal Government will be able to help you get what you want and need.

Through a linguistic slight of hand, she has directed the attention of most people (and most importantly, her potential voter base) to the one hand of her sentence... "get what you want and need". To witness the power of the enticement of this mental analgesic, look no further than a common theme in questions from the public to candidates in debates and the misnomered "town hall" meetings. Surprisingly often a person will ask, "how will you help [me]?" or "what can I expect that you will do for [me]?" or "will you promise to fix [me]?"

So, with the audience fully entranced by the visions of sugar plums, there is little risk that there will be left-over consciousness to ponder what the other half of the statement entails. What people fail to realize fully in their heroin-like euphoric trance is that, "by enacting this plan, the Federal Government" has surreptitiously taken up a little more residence in your life - the wave-by-wave erosion of the beachhead of your freedom. It's made even more clandestine by what you seem to be getting out of the deal in the short term. Even the frog is comforted at first by the slow, even soothing warming of the waters until he is no longer capable of hopping out.

And thus, the mortgage proposal falls into line with other offerings from Ms. Clinton. Under both the rousing fanfare to the Power of the Masses and the soothing lullaby of the nurturing nursemaid, is masked a steady tattoo of deprecation.

You can't do it. We can do it for you. Submit.

It's all there when you think between the lines.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

AMT reluctance exposes Congress' real motives

The fact that Congress has been reluctant for years to repeal - or even adjust - the Alternative Minimum Tax exposes something very telling. It is obvious that the fact that the AMT is encroaching on the middle class is a result of a phenomenon that is particularly endemic to governing bodies - the "law of unintended consequences". By not indexing the AMT to inflation when it was instituted back in 1969 - and leaving it that way for the almost 4 decades since - they created one of the most stealth taxes ever seen. In fact, it is almost surreal that it has taken 38 years to boil this frog. After all, how many of the current hoard of zombies that haunt the halls of Washington were around when the AMT was created? (Ted Kennedy being the obvious standard-bearer.) While it is unfair to hold the current class of Congress responsible for the initial installment of the AMT, it is entirely up to them as to what happens to it now... or last year, or next year.

But they won't. They will spend many hours wearing out the rubber-stamp cliches, certainly. Check out some of these quotes:

Jim Manley, a spokesman for the Senate Majority leader, said. "Senator Reid is committed to paying for AMT relief, but the Republicans have made it clear that they are not." If you pick apart the two phrases, the only issue is that Reid wants to keep the tax money - that they never should have been getting - in Washington where as the Republicans realize that they shouldn't be getting this revenue in the first place were it not for a mathematical oversight 40 years ago.

A spokeswoman for Senator Obama of Illinois said only that he "supports a fiscally responsible fix to the problems with the AMT" and would look carefully at legislation the Senate considers. "Fiscally responsible" to whom? It should be intuitively obvious, even to the most casual observer of political regurgitation, that Obama is wanting to be "fiscally responsible" to government - not responsible to the people he purports to represent. He doesn't care if the people come up shorter on their take-home pay this year, as long as government doesn't have to give back their happenstance windfall.

At least Charles Rangel is honest about it. The gravel-voiced chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said he instead would attempt “the mother of all tax reforms”: total repeal of AMT, with lost revenue paid for by massive taxing of the rich. So - again we pause to think a bit between the lines:
  • The AMT was supposed to hit the rich who were not paying taxes.
  • They goofed and now it is hitting the middle class.
  • To pay for the removal of the middle class from the AMT roles, we are going to charge the rich more despite the fact that they are already paying the AMT (and most of the country's tax burden anyway).

So... to encapsulate the general reaction... "We can't do that," they state with pompous certainty. "What will it cost us?"

My response to this line of reasoning is "why can't you?" In truth, it doesn't cost Congress anything at all to remove the AMT. It costs the taxpayers to pay it. Therein lies the problem. Congress believes that our tax revenue is their money. If they cut a tax revenue stream, they truly believe that they have to replace it... or do with less. I don't see a lot of serious consideration about what it will cost the taxpayers... either via the AMT or the other taxes that they want to install to replace the "lost" revenue.

In fact, by costing the proverbial "average household" extra money, they are in fact asking us to rearrange our spending priorities to accommodate less disposable income. That is, we have to either cut back on certain things we are used to having or not take on new discretionary expenses. Why can't we expect Congress to follow that same logic - i.e. cut back on certain things that they are used to having or not take on new discretionary expenses?

The truth is, they don't want to cut back on their expenses - and really don't think they should have to. That is why they are balking at doing anything about the cash cow that is the burgeoning AMT receipts... at least until they can make it up some other way. They don't care about us being able to buy what we want for ourselves - only about continuing to be able to buy what they want for us (whether we want it or not).