Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thinking of "Wealth" and Taxes

I believe that our current US taxation system unfairly taxes many of our poorer people and is unduly generous to many amongst us who can readily afford to pay more in taxes. I can't lay out a simple formula for exactly how things should be changed, but certain things jump out at me.

Working is fairly heavily taxed. Most workers pay quite a few taxes related to their work.

Wealth - is often very lightly taxed. IF one makes huge amounts of "taxable income" it is certainly taxed. Relative to the "normal worker" who might in the US work and earn roughly $40-150,000 or under $100,000 or under $75,000 - if you wish - the person with wealth need not necessarily pay a lot in taxes.

I would think, logically thinking, that IF beyond perhaps a base exemption of $500,000 maximum in home value for a Single residence (not a vacation home and a primary residence), those whose worth is in excess of benchpoints of say: $1,000,000, $10,000,000 and $100,000,000 might logically be expected to pay certain minimums in taxes based upon their wealth.

I'd have no problem with the individual or couple who is worth $10,000,000 paying a substantial amount of taxes in interest/dividend/capital gains income - which might be above the "benchpoint" and thus not due a "wealth tax".

I would have difficulty though in general with the idea that a household whose worth might be $10,000,000 paying say: $20,000 or even $50,000 in income taxes in a given year. Saying that this is a "small business owner" or otherwise "humble" individual or couple seems to me to mock the idea of what a "worker" really is.

I would think that a progressive "wealth tax" which would have several benchmarks and exemptions that would take into account federal income taxes paid by the household would be a good idea. Obviously keeping estate taxes for the wealthy would also be important in this area.

When talking of taxes, I presume that Someone has to pay the bill. Most people do pay and often pay as much as they can afford and should have to pay. Taxing wealth seems one way to make things more fair in allowing us to have necessary government services without creating tax burdens that are impossible or simply unfair for those of middle and lower income.


The "Overly Male Syndrome"

Reading of the actions of various Male politicians and other Men and Boys leads me readily into the slippery slopes of what I will call The Overly Male Syndrome.

There are at least several themes of how many of us Men are raised as boys which certainly might help lead us to be "different" from women in some pretty bad ways. I don't see a single, clear path as our experiences certainly vary. What doesn't differ is the propensity for certain characteristics which harm many others as well as often ourselves.

Some of these experiences we may face from babyhood on may include:

1. It's a tough world - so you've got to stand up for yourself and be independent and strong.

2. You've got to "be a man" - and be independent of and reject anything that is "feminine" - including your mother.

3. You are special because you are Male (and not Female).

As boys we have biological differences which affect us developmentally. Often we are slower than girls at developmental areas such as toilet training. Our play behavior from an early age is often very different from girls focused more on manipulating objects and less on cooperative play. While some of this may be related to our socialization, it also is affected by our biology as males. We have higher rates of things like autism, attention-deficit disorder and other areas which make learning in school problematic.

How we are treated by our parents, caregivers and others greatly affects how we end up as adults.

"It's a tough world..." type experiences may help us be independent as adults. They also help teach us to "defend our honor" and often to defy authority.

Rejecting the feminine - has various affects upon us including pressuring us to a narrow view of what is acceptable for ourselves as well as other men. Homophobia and violence directed at men because they aren't "real men" or women because they aren't male can come naturally out of this.

Our being "special" because we are Male and not Female affects us in many ways as adults. We can do things to women that we'd not imagine could or should be done to men and not see how inappropriate we are. These may go from not really listening to women to enslaving - buying women and even killing them.

The horrific things that we do to women - as men through rape, domestic violence, much childhood sexual abuse, stalking as well as verbally abusing partners, former partners, classmates/workmates and women and girls we don't even know are a "crime" or "continuing holocaust" in the best use of such words.

We also take what we learn out on other boys and men as children and later as adults. Many boys are brought up physically and psychologically abused by fathers, mothers and others who are feeding into the myths of what "being male" should be or is. While girls and women often internalize the hurt (and abuse themselves), we often lash out at others. We are the bullies or just the "rude men" (or worse).

We fight with other boys and men for "respect".

Many of us learn various dysfunctional ways of coping with our fears and anger. Many men live isolated lives emotionally in various ways.

My old friend Ed was a respectable math professor. He eventually married and had two beautiful daughters who are successful adults. Ed's life - looked sad to me over the many years that I knew him. I don't think that he had any "real friends", though he was certainly friendly to me and others.

Others superficially like Ed live often on the fringes of society, whether they are either "respectable" outwardly or "bums" or worse.

It is strange how the "newsmakers" in so many areas of catastrophic tragedies are male. The college and high school killers with their many guns are one example. The athlete or other celebrity who crashes their car at a high speed. The politicians like: NY's recent governor, Senator Craig, David Vitter - they're almost always male.

One thing that's sad about this is how unhappy so many of us men are with our lives. One would think with our privilege as men, we'd live long, happy lives. Often this doesn't seem to be the case.

Perhaps - eventually many more of us men will recognize that we have issues - that relate to how we are as men. If we realize this we may find it important first to develop meaningful relationships with other men that go beyond the "sports, women, booze" types of superficiality. When we begin to relate to other men, we may start learning to relate better to our children, parents and particularly with our significant others, whether female or male.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Obama and "The Experience Factor" ?

It is said by some that Obama "lacks the experience to be a good president".

It seems to me that if "experience" alone is the key factor, the Democrats have zero chance in the election.

It seems to me that the Democrats need to be able to emphasize the differences on the issues, which are many, to win the election.

I would hope that:

1.) Economic Policies - and the economy would help the Democrats,
2.) Support of Abortion rights - would help the Democrats,
3.) "The Conservative Philosophy" and "The Policies of Fear" - would scare a lot of Americans - feeling like McCain would be more of failed Bush policies,
4.) The Wars in Iraq and the threat of wars elsewhere as well as general foreign policy failures - would help the Democrats.

IF the Democrats, no matter who is nominated, can not get across that McCain is very Conservative and that Conservatism is NOT the best option in 2008, then they won't win.

It seems important in the coming months for the Democrats to:

1.) Energize the Democratic vote and move towards working together and
2.) Make efforts - that make "middle of the road" voters see Democrats as "middle of the road" and Republicans as "not middle of the road".

Statements such as Ms. F - certainly Hurt the efforts to make Democrats look middle of the road.

Democrats have a great opportunity. So far though it seems as though they are following history and taking defeat from the jaws of victory. I hope that it won't end up this way - where 4 more years of reactionary Supreme Court appointments take away Roe vs. Wade, our other rights continue to be eroded and our economy is run by the rich, for the rich.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Innocent Deaths

Eight Israelis were recently killed at a religious community in Israel. There was much outcry about innocent civilians.

Strangely when over 100 Gazan civilians including various children were killed by Israeli bombing this was "justifiable" and not a tragedy. Hamas's rockets had been shelling into Israel and in the past week one Israeli had been killed. There were seemingly no "innocent victims" here because "Hamas should have known that had they stopped their rockets, the killing wouldn't have occurred".

It is hard for me to understand how a people in Gaza and particularly children in Gaza are at fault for the misery that they've faced over the past 60 years. Given the poverty level and lack of land or resources to build an economy, is it any wonder that many people are radicalized.

The facts that many, many innocent Palestinians are killed by Israeli atrocities does not justify the killing of "innocent" Israelis. It does, however, make it more understandable.

The idea that "collective punishment" and fear of the killing of people or the destruction of their homes will somehow cow the people into "accepting reality" is a strange concept.

Similarly we may wonder why young males in our country who have been brutalized as children emotionally and physically by strict and arbitrary parents and/or bullied by other boys suddenly are killers. Passiveness may turn into aggressiveness most easily.