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John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged 
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
Here's one:

State budget deal includes tax break for family firm
The roughly $30-million provision will let the Humboldt Redwood Co., owned by the influential Fisher family, deduct old losses and will cover penalties and interest.
October 06, 2010|By Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times

Buried in the details of the deal to close California's $19-billion budget deficit is a roughly $30-million tax break crafted to benefit a company owned by members of one of the state's richest and most politically influential families, according to a legislative analysis obtained by The Times.

The provision, which will allow the Humboldt Redwood Co. to deduct $20 million in old losses from future taxes, is also expected to cover penalties and interest for the firm co-owned by three sons of Donald G. Fisher, founder of the Gap and Banana Republic, said company Chairman Sandy Dean.


Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:17 pm
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
DanHenderson wrote:
One of these days I would *love* to see someone knowledgeable go through the entire US Federal Income Tax Code and pick out the provisions that are so arcane and convoluted, they were obviously put there to benefit one single very influential taxpayer. I understand there are many of them. Then the fun game will be to identify the taxpayer.


You have... an odd concept of 'fun'.

I don't think it would be difficult. Heinlein's comments on the complexity of the code in Expanded Universe were dead on. I'm in favor of zero-sum metalegislation: No law can be passed without removing another one. The tax code must have a maximum length. Readability to be a Gunning fog index <= 15.


Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:34 pm
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
Well, TINA, I haven't and wouldn't argue that the US income tax structure is fair and balanced. :)

One of the biggest problems is that the structure has not been allowed to increase any bracket's taxes without massive political repercussions, otherwise it would be relatively simple to reduce here and increase there to try to work towards fairness and parity. (I am making the base assumption that the system needs to generate X amount of revenue, so cutting across the board, as reform pols often propose, is not a workable solution. Take the "choke government funding" argument to another thread, after reading the history of Prop 13...)

So the only increases, overt and through sleight of hand with deductions, allowances etc. have been targeted against those with the most money and least political power, that is, the middle to upper bracket working class. No point in going against those lower; blood, stone, etc. Going after the wealthier is politically difficult at best and suicide in most cases - especially for pols who depend on a small number of major donors rather than those who draw from a broader populace.

So you end up with a system that is fair across the board in big strokes, but as you reduce the granularity of the scale you find many peaks and valleys where taxpayers fall into deep bracket crevasses (while their neighbor gets every break).

I'm all for taxation reform but I have yet to hear a workable plan (starting with the idiocy of flat-tax, which comes up about every four years). The problem here is that NO workable plan is going to be simple, and NO effective plan is going to be politically neutral.

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Fri Oct 08, 2010 7:47 am
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
JamesGifford wrote:
(I am making the base assumption that the system needs to generate X amount of revenue, so cutting across the board, as reform pols often propose, is not a workable solution. Take the "choke government funding" argument to another thread, after reading the history of Prop 13...)


The more sophisticated version of that argument holds that we are always on the far side of the Laffer curve.


Fri Oct 08, 2010 9:13 pm
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
PeterScott wrote:
JamesGifford wrote:
(I am making the base assumption that the system needs to generate X amount of revenue, so cutting across the board, as reform pols often propose, is not a workable solution. Take the "choke government funding" argument to another thread, after reading the history of Prop 13...)


The more sophisticated version of that argument holds that we are always on the far side of the Laffer curve.

You mean the "laughable Laffer Curve"? It has only two values, tax rate and revenue, and what conceivable economic model can adequately or even realistically be represented in only two dimensions?

Plus its underlying assumptions are manifestly false-to-fact, as there are numerous examples of 100% tax rates (all command economies, in fact), which do not run revenues to zero, and even a zero tax rate does not necessarily mean zero revenues -- though it might mean zero revenues from those taxes. Among the many variables the Laffer Curve leaves out is "what kinds of taxes?" Plus there are many revenue streams, in an absolute sense, possible and actually used that don't involve taxes per se. So the Laffer Curve does not even represent a theoretical version of a real-world situation.

And here's a sentence you will never see me render in any other context: George HW Bush was right: voodoo economics.

Jim, I question the assumption that there is an "X" amount of revenue the tax code needs to generate as insufficiently defined. The value of "X" depends on the functions of government you view as appropriate. That is, you are referring to a variable based on political and social values that relate only tangentially to the inherent functions of government, rather than to an economic function based on a definable range. If your x-setting function suddenly decides that it is a function of your state to re-build the economy around Easter-egg production (which is only about a little more silly as some of the real-world examples we've seen in the last two thousand years). That "X" revenue assumption is too fuzzy to be useful.

To give a counter-example, let us suppose that the functions of government are designed to accommodate the revenue derived from a pre-determined tax rate.

The problem, it seems to me, is that in the current Beltway view, taxes have become completely disconnected from the needs or function of government. And the fact that the Laffer Curve has become a powerful instrument is a function of that pathology. The Laffer Curve, after all, is designed to illustrate a philosophy of maximizing revenues based on the tax rate. What conceivable business has the state of "maximizing revenues," if the rationale for taxes is to pay for the service functions it performs? If the function of internal revenue is to collect enough money to pay for the service functions, the use of the Laffer Curve would be reversed from what it was proposed to do.

Sorry for the burst of Laffer Curve, but I'm reading The Big Con right now. It's highly one-sided but valueable nonetheless. And that brings us back to the theme of this thread, doesnt it?


Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:56 am
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
BillPatterson wrote:
You mean the "laughable Laffer Curve"?

Simple tools provide simple answers.
Quote:
Jim, I question the assumption that there is an "X" amount of revenue the tax code needs to generate as insufficiently defined.

I am not arguing that tax revenue is a must; I am positing the assumption that, as the present model works, there is some arbitrary X amount that must be raised from the tax base. That can be taken many ways (likely into a myriad arguments that no such taxation is necessary, proper, etc.) but I was making a point about the distribution of that revenue, not about the revenue itself.

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Sat Oct 09, 2010 10:12 am
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
BillPatterson wrote:
The problem, it seems to me, is that in the current Beltway view, taxes have become completely disconnected from the needs or function of government.

That's half the problem, yes, and it stems from two things.

The first is a country that has grown so large and complex that the tax situations of the past, and of simple yellow-pad doodling comprehensible to the average citizen, are no longer possible. Any workable tax system is going to be phenomenally complex, and all attempts at reform have to begin with that assumption - that it's going to be the province of specialists and cannot be reduced to language that Joe Sixpack can snack on in a USA Today 'Splaino-Box.

The other part is a populace that has been conditioned for 35 years that "tax" is a four-letter word (in the sense that four-letter words used to shock just by being said - been a fuck of a long time since that was true). It's been 30 years or more since a politician could stand behind legislation or changes that included a tax increase, no matter how reasonable, appropriate and necessary, without risking political suicide. All Tax Increases Are Bad. Period.

So we have an ingrained, ingrown, intractable situation akin to brain surgeons who can't practice their art because (1) Unca Joe just doesn't understand the physiology and techniques, and therefore won't give permission 'cuz he "should" be able to understand it all; and (2) can't use scalpels because, you know, sharp things really really scare everybody. (Tax adjustments are usually presented by the media and detractors with language equivalent to, "He's going to take a sharp object and slash off Mammy's scalp, then use a power drill and saw to chop open a hole in her skull, and then ram his fingers down into her brain.")

The result is an overall taxation system that has to be run by sleight of hand and deception, turning a fearsomely complex system into a nightmare.* There is no solution short of re-conditioning the populace to understand the underlying realities (in part, that it's too complex for even a brilliant economist/legislator to fully grasp, much less Joe) and that blind hatred of government and taxation while demanding the products of government as an inherent right is a self-cancelling and corrosive stance.

Government's job is largely unpleasant. The notion that we can all watch real, real close and then insist that we never see anything bad and that every bit of it must be made comprehensible to Joe... nonsense. To a certain degree, the public needs to stay out of the machinery and wait outside the operating room while experts do their job unimpeded... and in the long run, as it was before Nixon/Reagan, the feedback of elections will control the actions of the experts. Anything else turns it into what we have: smoke and mirrors and looking-glass games where everyone pretends they understand what's going on and no one does.

* Visualize this: a 747 with 500 people on board who vote on every single movement of a control surface. Going to be quite a flight, as long as it lasts...

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Sat Oct 09, 2010 10:28 am
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
"fuckuva" adj. indicating something immense, overwhelming, unjust, mean, or just plain horseshit- literal translation "F-ed!"

"is that lady with the rolling pin in her bony mitt Mrs. Grundy ? fuckuva way to be greeted !"

:lol:

Nick


Sat Oct 09, 2010 6:30 pm
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
I think, Jim, that your rant exposes the truth behind a proposition of mine, that a country's people get not the government they want, nor the government they need, but the government they deserve. Any argument that the problem is due either to the f****wits in Washington or the f****wits in the populace is misattributing at least 50% of the blame.


Sat Oct 09, 2010 8:42 pm
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Post Re: John Scalzi critiques Atlas Shrugged
PeterScott wrote:
I think, Jim, that your rant exposes the truth behind a proposition of mine, that a country's people get not the government they want, nor the government they need, but the government they deserve.

"At 40, every man has the face he deserves." I guess the same is true of a country.

Wait... what rant?

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
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Sat Oct 09, 2010 8:53 pm
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