Budget Issues-Real and Imagined

I just read in the paper and article that discussed Obama’s 2014 budget proposal.  There was much hand wringing and it was label a no-go once it gets to Congress.  The big issue was the fact that he has proposed a reduction in Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid spending increases over the next 10 years along with increased revenues from wealthy taxpayers.  This article was accompanied by the following chart.  Now I am a Social Security beneficiary and if I look at the numbers in the figure I calculate something like a 2.3% change in the annual rate of increase  in my benefits each year. Now that assumes all the funds are taken out of Social Security which is apparently not the case.  Nevertheless that amount to $39 a month less increase in my benefits annually.  That is about $1.25 a day less increase in benefits every year over 10 years.  This is all tied to the Labor Dept. CPI-E inflation rate which is less generous than the current inflation measure.  Hey, give me a break we don’t need a huge flap over some dopey inflation number when you look at the big picture.  My questions are; why is the revenue from Corporate income taxes only 11% and what are the 16% of expenditures in other entitlements?  I think my $1.25 a day pales in comparison when you look at the total tax bill that the average person is paying.  According to the data at  usgovernmentrevenue.com the total revenu generated by the federal, state and local governments combined in 2013 was $5,375.7 Billion compared to the Federal government alone which was $2,712 Billion.  Oops I should have said $5.375 Trillion and $2.712 Trillion that seems better.  Regardless the point is that we need to look at the total picture and not get caught up in mindless rhetoric about relatively insignificant issues.  Now we pay our elected representatives to mind the store regarding budgets and expenditures and most of us don’t have the time, inclination or education to address these issues.  My real question is; do our elected representatives have the time, inclination or education either.  Moderation and Reason must prevail.Image


Taxation Without Representation

I have tried to advocate Moderation and Reason. Nevertheless I am going to write on a subject that I do not understand. Consequently I probably will draw some incorrect conclusions. If anyone “out there” understands the subject please advise me and I will gladly correct my errors.

The subject of taxation in general and property tax in particular seems to lack any adequate representation by our elected officials. There has been numerous articles in the paper discussing property tax levies that have been passed by various school boards that generally show a relatively stable tax rate which is then followed by a disclaimer that the taxes will go up because the “rollback rate” has increased. This rate, as I understand it, is set by the Department of Revenue and is based on what appears to be an arbitrary need for more Revenue. This is at a time when the state has a surplus and has yet to pass a budget for the state (including funding for schools) and if there is some legislative approval process for the “rollback” it is certainly not well advertised. This process is further muddled by an appraisal process that is not tied to market value and seems to be frequently ignored by city and state authorities when property is bought and sold. The so-called tax reform discussed in our State House doesn’t even begin to address this issue other than to suggest that the formula change the allocation of commercial property to make them subject to the same vague formula that residential and agricultural property is subject to. Now with all the hullabaloo over increased taxes at our Federal level I would like to see some similar discussion by our local governments (city and state). I would not advocate another mini “Boston Tea Party” but that does have an appealing sound to it. As an aside I wonder how it is that the Local Option Sales Tax for Cedar Rapids that was to provide funds for Street Maintenance somehow didn’t.

Now this discussion only scratches the surface of what is involved in tax reform but it hopefully illustrates the depth and complexity of the subject. Again I am no expert on taxation and welcome any help in understanding the issues involved. Remember Moderation and Reason should prevail.

Disorganization-A cause

I am opposed,to a certain degree. to organized religions, unions (be it teachers or plumbers,etc.), political parties, PAC’s, gangs, cartels, armies, etc.. I guess I am disorganized. I think there is a message, namely whenever a group elects a spokesman they should always insist on a term limit, preferably a short one. This merely speaks to the very real tendency for people to “elect” a spokesman during times of distress. Times change but the spokesman frequently does not. This does not even begin to address the influence of special interests on the governing bodies of these various institutions. Think, President, Congressman, Pope, Union Leaders, Generals, etc.. Now I don’t really believe that the vast array of organizations should necessarily be required to have term limits on their respective leaders. However, I think the question should be addressed on a case by case basis. I think for example that the life term appointments of our Supreme Court Justices is a good thing. Given that the congressional approval process is usually difficult then I think sheltering the Justices from any further political influence is probably good. However, given the time and money spent on Presidential elections I would like to see some serious consideration given to a single 6 year term. This would clearly isolate the political machinery from the post-election governing process. Some serious discussion of term limits for the Congress is also probably worthwhile although I think the value of seniority is a worthy consideration. All I know for sure is that in the interest of Moderation and Reason something needs to be done.

Faith and Gullibility

A moderate view of the faith-based community would conclude that they are gullible. They are asked to believe in doctrine and tenets based on faith with no evidence of truth other than “Scriptures”. I contend that is the definition of Gullible. Now gullible is not “bad” it certainly does not have a connotation of bad or evil. However I sense from the limited conversations I have had with members of the clergy that they would consider gullible to be a derogatory description. Gullible is commonly viewed as nearly synonymous with credulous which in fact is the acceptance of unsupported statements but without acting upon them. Gullibility implies an action taken on unfounded statements. This would imply that person of faith that follow the Scriptures are in fact gullible. This is not meant to imply that being a person of faith does not provide comfort, solace and companionship. However in the interest of moderation and reason it does imply that there should be room among the various religions to tolerate those who do not believe that the Scriptures are in fact the “word of God”. Judging by the words and actions of a variety of religions, I hesitate to say all, this is not the case world=wide. Now some would argue that my statement that the belief in the Scriptures is gullible because there is no compelling evidence for at least some of the so-called facts within the Bible and Koran, etc.. I contend that the Adam and Eve hypothesis in Genesis and the Great Flood and Noah are two compelling cases where there was considerable artistic licence by whomever originated these tales. Now there are some obvious reasons for following the general principals in the various Scriptures: social order, common sense and overcoming the fear of the unknown being some of the more prevalent. This does not explain the acts in the name of religion which essentially violates all the teachings within the Scriptures including, war, genocide, hate-mongering and plain old intolerance. I contend that moderation and reason are not foremost in the more vocal and active elements of your leading (more populous) religions, although I tend to believe that the less vocal elements are in the majority. I would only hope that they could become more vocal and actively support an agenda of tolerance.