Thursday, November 24, 2011


I am grateful for protesters.

I am grateful for fact-checkers.

I am grateful for the right to vote.

I am grateful for freedom of expression.

I am grateful for the ability to reason.

I am grateful for diversity.

I am grateful to those who challenge my beliefs & positions.

I am grateful for the countless ways in which science has enriched my life.

I am grateful for the patience of science in addition to its beauty.

I am grateful for having discarded religion.

I am grateful for a lot of things, but on the whole I think I'm more worried about the world in general than I ever have been, and--at the risk of further hyperbole--I do believe the upcoming elections will be some of the most significant of our generation.  Each of the above points reflects in some way the foundations of my concern.

So for my American friends this Thanksgiving, as we spend time with family or friends or by ourselves, let us each reflect for a moment on what we're truly grateful for.  If you're the type to have a blessing of some sort before your meals, please try to work in something for which you're grateful that actually gives some credit to people on earth, here and now, doing real work to help make the world a better place.

For my friends elsewhere, have a great day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ramblings: Regressive taxes, 9-9-9, Eric Cantor Scared to Face #OWS Protesters?

A few days ago, when I heard that Eric Cantor was going to speak at Wharton (topic: income inequality LOL), my initial response was to tweet that he should listen at Wharton, not speak. The Norquist-pledge-influenced policies he advocates, among other things, would produce a far more regressive (that means tough on those with low-income, Fox viewers... not EVIL) tax system in which it would be even more difficult to get ahead, because it is designed to constrain the ability of people with ability to succeed.

There are only so many hours in a day. When you're only able to earn minimum wage, or slightly above that, every cent you earn tends to go toward basic survival needs: food, shelter, clothing, transportation. Thus, any tax which affects those basic needs will hit the low-income sector much harder, proportionally speaking.

What regressive tax policies accomplish is basically twofold: they force low-income earners to devote more of their lives to earning money, because a disproportionate amount of their income (read: ALL) is affected. Secondly, they enable those with much higher incomes the opportunity to have more of their income come from sources that are taxed at even lower rates, if at all, because the higher income groups are affected comparably little by regressive policies. And if they are Eric Cantor's regressive policies, then those higher earners are much more likely to wind up paying even LESS in taxes.

Here are some basic, simple numbers to consider: if a family of four spends $2400 per year out of pocket on groceries ($200/month), that $2400 in spending is not currently subject to taxation in the form of sales taxes, etc., because groceries aren't taxed.

However, you have amazingly short-sighted people like Herman Cain pushing a plan which would instantly tax that $2400 at 9%. So the effect would be that these hypothetical families of four would have to find $216 per year from somewhere, in order to continue feeding themselves.

This doesn't sound like much, but you must think in terms of the *effective* tax rate on families with different incomes. The family of four whose after-tax income is, say, $20000 per year will feel a 1% increase (again, simply put). The family of four whose after-tax income is $3000 per year will feel a 7% increase. This is what results from a regressive tax policy.

The idea of Eric Cantor, one of the Princes of regressive tax policy, speaking AT WHARTON on the topic of income inequality, evidently inspired too many OccupyWallStreet protesters that our esteemed Majority Leader couldn't handle the pressure.

Brad Dayspring's form-letter excuse, which had no basis in reason, didn't help. Oh, what? The speeches at Wharton aren't public?? Well then, we have to cancel on principle.

Or, the fact that this speech--like pretty much every other speech at Wharton--would have been open to the public (including #OWS protesters) was too much for Team Cantor to handle...