Proposed Tax On Million Dollar Living Spaces Serving As Second Home

“For properties valued between $5 million and $6 million, a 0.5 percent surcharge would be added on the value over $5 million. Fees and a higher surcharge would apply to homes that sold for more than $6 million, topping out at a $370,000 fee and a 4 percent surcharge for homes valued at more than $25 million.”

This would be huge in NYC where so many high end living spaces remain empty for they are just investments.

Would be great for a subway system revamp, and any leftover for remedying the housing crisis there.

www.nytimes.com/2019/03/11/nyregion/mta-subways-pied-a-terre-tax.html

U.S. Open to Direct Talks with Iran Over Nuclear Arms Development

imagesJoe Biden, in Germany today, says that the United States is open to bilateral talks with Iran regarding their development of nuclear weapons. Hopefully, now that Obama has more leeway in his second term, he will be able to fulfill his first term campaign promise to be more open to talks with so called perceived enemies like Iran and North Korea. These particular developments would be a great move for the U.S. We could possibly stop the punishment of the Iranian people (who are not all too in love with their governing body at this time so close to their elections in June) and remove some of history’s most brutal sanctions conducted by the U.N. Also, we could avert a possible attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear reactors which would rally all of the Mid-East steps against Israel even more strongly.

Read Here.

Krugman on New GOP Rhetoric

Krugman_New-articleInlineA good op-ed in the NYT regarding how the rhetoric of the GOP might be changing to appeal to more voters in the wake of their recent defeat in November, but it’s not indicative of an honest change. According to Krugman, they’re just not saying they are the party of the “Makers,” and not the majority of “Takers,” in public any longer.

Read Here.

The Fiscal Cliff and Government Spending

Analysis: Fiscal cliff could hit economy harder than many expect | Reuters.

The “fiscal cliff” is coming and there is little doubt something must be done to avoid the damage it may do to the economy.  But one important reality should be noted about how we get out of a recession: government spending plays a huge role and it can be utilized to get the economy moving again.  As noted in the article:

Many economists think every dollar of deficit reduction will subtract nearly the same amount from economic growth.

What to do? What to do?
What to do? What to do?

By that measure, the current course could cause the economy to contract by 0.5 percent in 2013, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that have been largely embraced by Wall Street and the U.S. Federal Reserve.

But research by economists in academia and at the International Monetary Fund suggests a dollar of deficit reduction could drain as much as $1.70 from the economy, making the prospective belt tightening much more dangerous.

Considering the economic facts of history, we know cuts to government spending, such as the type the Republicans in Congress and Mitt Romney are calling for, will impede the way out of our current economic downturn.  This would be downright devastating to an unemployment rate that is still progressing its way down to more healthy levels.  The truth is we need government spending and we have to bite the bullet on the current deficit levels it is creating until a more stable time comes where cutting areas of the budget are less damaging to the country.

And despite this reality, half of the voting public are still supporting the candidate most likely to cause even more economic devastation in our lives (with very little effect on his financial well-being and his wealthy supporters).  One must ask, how fiscally suicidal are we?

Inaccurate Perception of Campaign Spending

An article in the NY Times yesterday made the argument the advantage gained from money in this presidential campaign has been even between Romney and Obama.  The argument is laid out nice and clear but it minimizes an important reality of money in this campaign and its relation to true democracy.  The article only briefly mentions anything even related to this element:

But Mr. Obama and the Democrats, buoyed by millions of small donors, have raised a vast majority of his cash directly for his campaign committee, which under federal law is entitled to preferential ad rates over political parties and super PACs.

Freedom of $peech
Freedom of $peech

In all fairness, it was clearly not the intention of the authors to address the point I’m arguing but it warrants a further look.  The fact is one candidate has garnered the financial support of a far larger number of people – in awful economic times, no less – than the opposing candidate yet hasn’t translated this larger support to a larger lead in the polls despite shrewd spending, according to the article.  This should be acknowledged and recognized for what it means: money is power in political campaigns and it can win elections in a more efficient way than quality of the candidate or issue positions.  Anyone arguing this was the intent of the Founding Fathers and what should constitute equality in democracy has a seriously distorted view of the word democracy.

It is difficult to measure the actual effect of money in the presidential campaign at this time but something should certainly be noted.  Without the smaller number of wealthy donors giving millions to both the Romney campaign and the super PACs supporting him, the race would not even be close right now.  If Romney and Obama’s donors were restricted to giving only capped amounts to their candidate of preference or their super PAC, Obama would be dominating because of the better ground game.  For now, as mentioned in the article, they are keeping pace with Romney because of a more strategic use of funds.

But the question that should be asked is “would Romney be even with Obama in the general polls without an overall advantage in money?”  The answer is almost assuredly, no.  Romney should be given some credit for not making any devastatingly bad mistakes in the eyes of the general public, such as making a costly choice in vice-presidential running mate.  But even most on the right would admit he is not the greatest of candidates and in some ways is simply an awful choice to try to rally behind.  The right is not really excited about him and recognizes he is just not that great of a presidential candidate.  Which brings us to a final point.

If a presidential candidate, supported financially by a small number of people in comparison to his opponent and supported reluctantly by his own party, still has a chance to win the election because of the wealth of his donors, isn’t something seriously wrong with our electoral system?  It’s a sad state of affairs but I suppose we are stuck with it for the time being.

Romney’s Ridiculous and Immoral Position on the Navy

Much has been said about Mitt Romney’s assertion the Navy is in need of an increase in funding to grow the number of ships it uses to patrol the seas.  I previously addressed this argument briefly but it deserves a little more scrutiny.  A recent article in the CSM does just that with a very important measurement of what is being debated:

In 1916 the US ranked third in naval power in the world. That sounds impressive, but it still placed the US behind Germany, which had roughly 19 percent of international naval strength, and Britain, which then had 34 percent.

The picture is much different today. The US controls about 50 percent of world naval power, according to Professors Crisher and Souva. No other nation even comes close. Russia is in second place, with a comparable figure of 11 percent.

A necessary increase in Naval power, really?!
A necessary increase in Naval power, really?!

The key point to remember about Romney’s position is the alleged need for the increase in Naval spending: the lack of ships.  In other words, it is an argument about sheer numbers and clearly not about capability or possession of military force.  And as every military historian knows, all battles and wars are won by the side with the highest number of weapons and soldiers…except they’re not.

But we still apparently need this increase in naval spending at a time when many are calling for cuts in most other areas.  Which is the part that makes the least sense.  Romney has made it clear he wants to cut plenty of social spending in order to make these defense spending increases and keep the deficit down.  What good will increasing our control of world naval power from 50 percent to, say, 55 percent really do?  What is to truly be gained from doing that?  Are we on our way to a prolonged and bloody showdown at sea with the fearsome Al-Qaeda Navy?  Oh wait…

The truth is Romney is proposing a spending increase in something that is inherently destructive to mankind and obviously unnecessary at the cost of cutting funding to items that are inherently constructive to society and critical for those not lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family (like someone I’ve mentioned).  The moral absurdity here should be abundantly clear.  Yet Romney continues to make the case he is running for president not just for 47% of America but 100% and is a man that cares for all U.S. citizens equally.  Simply not true considering his policy choices.  When you make proposals like his, your moral code is very transparent to everyone.

He wants to make sure we can make more war at the cost of taking away from those in need.  Just as Jesus taught us, right?

Romney and Obama Silent on a Big Issue in Third Debate

An article in the CSM points out one of the more surprising realities of the third presidential debate: a complete failure on both candidates’ part to mention the drug war in Mexico and the 60,000+ casualties it has claimed in the past six years.  One quote from the article sums up the bizarre nature of this issue and is a reflection on the American media’s attention span:

Mexican academic Sergio Aguayo added, using a more commonly cited figure for Mexican deaths: “They talk about a humanitarian tragedy in Syria (30,000 deaths) and still don’t say anything about Mex (some 60,000). Will they?”

There are lots of elements deserving blame for the failure to address this issue by the candidates.  One is most certainly the media.  The old adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” will always apply but with one caveat.  If it bleeds slowly, it never leads and sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  There is no doubt the number of deaths in Syria are happening at a quicker pace than Mexico.  But not by much and not by enough to completely ignore the most devastating issue of the country on our southern border.

Debate #3
Debate #3

Another factor is the controversial nature of two domestic issues connected with the Mexican Drug War, the U.S.’s gun and drug policies.  The third debate was about foreign policy so no surprise these issues did not come up.  But both are directly connected with the violence in Mexico and having a debate about the drug war there must include a look about the causes at home.  Unless some reasonable changes are made to these policies, the violence and body count will continue to escalate because of our turning a blind eye as a nation to the Mexican population.

One last obvious aspect to blame would be the moderator of the debate not asking a specific question about the Mexican Drug War.  We could blame Mr. Schieffer but let’s not forget one reality about politicians.  They answer the questions they wanted asked of them and not always the actual question that was asked.  Which means the increasing violence and civilian casualty count in Mexico is so far out of the minds of both candidates that they can spend an hour and a half on foreign policy and not mention it once.

We are left to wonder what the body count in Mexico would have to be to get some attention in a presidential debate solely on foreign policy.

The Scariest Gaffe From Romney in Third Debate

One question from moderator Bob Schieffer in the third presidential debate was somewhat interesting and the answer given by Mitt Romney was very startling.  This is the exchange I am referring to:

Bob Schieffer

What if — what if the prime minister of Israel called you on the phone and said: Our bombers are on the way. We’re going to bomb Iran. What do you say?

Mitt Romney

Bob, let’s not go into hypotheticals of that nature.

Debate #3
Debate #3

Romney essentially dodged the idea of this question (along with Obama, in all fairness) but we should ask: is that a good thing?  It would seem the answer is no when considering history.

A president, or any leader of an organization for that matter, should be ready for the unexpected, particularly the negative and disastrous kind of unexpected.  Pondering hypothetical situations is part of the job and the person in charge should be taking time to do this so they are actually ready in case these things happen.  Asking what the response would be to an Israeli attack on Iran is worthy of our time and both presidential candidates should have a reasonable response to this inquiry.

And the reason being prepared for these hypothetical situations matters?  Has anyone forgotten this quote from the recent past: “the most important failure was one of imagination.”  No one should have trouble remembering this finding from the 9/11 Commission Report.  The problem here is the guy running to be president apparently has forgotten one of the failures that led to those terrorist attacks.

To some extent, the president is one man and is not capable of considering every unexpected scenario in every area of the world the government touches.  However, the question asked was not exactly out of left field.  It’s not as if the Israel-Iran situation has not been in the works for an extended period of time and it has also been one of the most important foreign policy issues of this entire presidential campaign.

Being incapable of even broaching this question as the guy wanting to be in charge of the country is…well, questionable.  We can only hope that if Romney is given the job of president and is presented with this situation, he will have a better answer ready for reality.

Foreign Countries Look at Themselves through U.S. Prism

A very interesting article in the NYT about how other powerful world players (Russia, China, Brazil, Japan, etc.) are perceiving their own political processes through the media’s coverage of the American Presidential Race. Very good.

Read Here.

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Romney’s Most Ignorant Statement From Debate

Let’s face reality and admit Mitt Romney was not the same in debate number three as he was in number one.  He simply does not look good on foreign policy, ever, and some of the statements he has made on it are both ignorant and dangerous.  But the two lines that really caught my attention for their abundance of fantasy were the following:

Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.

First off, let’s quickly point out the irony that he is claiming America has never dictated to other countries in a segment about how America should dictate policy to the country of Iran.  In other words, he could have said, “No, America has never told another government how they should conduct their business.  Now, here is how I want Iran to conduct its business.”  It would have at least gotten the laugh it deserved from the audience if he had said it that way.

Debate #3
Debate #3

Any instance in which America has conducted a military operation in another country or placed sanctions on them, we have dictated policy to their governments.  Using sanctions or the military in another country automatically says, “we don’t like the way you are doing things so we are stepping in and doing things our way.”  It’s pretty much the definition of dictating to a country.  Pick your foreign policy conflict here and you have an example.

And the idea we have “freed other nations from dictators”?  Yeah, just like we freed Egypt from Mubarak…right after we propped him up as an ally for three decades.  (We didn’t do the actual freeing, by the way.)  Or after we freed Iraq from our former ally Saddam Hussein.  Maybe he means after we free the Saudi people from our close ally, the royal family?  Or after we free the Uzbek people from Andijan Massacre conductor and former ally, Islam Karimov?

Romney questioned the idea of the United States having to apologize for our previous foreign policy decisions.  It is exactly this mentality that gets us into situations we eventually have to apologize for.  The notion the U.S. has a spotless record on foreign policy is simply ludicrous and suggesting we only depose of dictators and do not ally ourselves with them is just fantasy.  This is the type of thinking that makes citizens of other countries, particularly the ones who have had to live under a dictator we supported, hate the United States.

A little humility and a lot of looking at actual facts would go a long way in bandaging those wounds.  Clearly, Romney has no interest in doing this and the likelihood the hate increases seems high if he is sworn into the Oval Office in January.