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Category: Politics

Color Bind
The conservative political community was in the highest of high dudgeons last week. Some staffer at MSNBC had tweeted about the latest “adorable” TV ad for Cheerios. The ad features a bi-racial couple and their child, and our tweeter imagined that “maybe the right wing will hate it.”

The outrage on the right was absolutely molten. How dare MSNBC suggest that conservatives are bigots!? Us, racists? Ridiculous! Here, look at this guy… he’s an actual black conservative! And do you see this bi-racial family? They believe, as we do, that we should trust in people, not in the government. This only proves how hateful all liberals really are!

And you know what? That hot outrage had a very good point: not all conservatives are bigots, and it is wrong to suggest that they are. In fact, MSNBC itself agrees. They cut loose the offending tweeter and apologized with the usual liberal effusiveness to everyone who might have been offended by the tweet.

How could that (now unemployed) tweeter have made such a misguided and hurtful gaffe? What could he or she have been thinking to have concluded that the right might be racist?

Well, I suppose that the tweeter might have been confused by the various efforts around the country to prevent voter fraud. All of these anti-fraud efforts — every single one — were conceived, passed, and signed into law by Republicans. The effect of these new laws has been two-fold: they put a stop to the frightening (though non-existent) epidemic of voter fraud, and they prevent many thousands of qualified voters from exercising their right to vote. Those who are turned away by these restrictions tend overwhelmingly to be black.

Even so, this could be nothing more than a big misunderstanding. After all, Republicans do trust people, not the government. They would certainly prefer that individuals be allowed to exercise their Constitutional rights rather than have those rights denied by government overreach, wouldn’t they? Of course…but how can we be sure?

Well, I decided to take an imaginary poll of every Ku Klux Klan member in the country and ask them which of the two major parties they felt most comfortable with. Did you know that every single one of these certified, died-in-the-wool, card-carrying bigots answered “Republican”? I can see how someone might get the wrong impression about the kind of people who inhabit the right wing.

But that does not excuse our tweeter. One should not make generalizations about people, especially on such an incendiary subject. No, not all right-wingers are racists. Such claims are deplorable and just plain wrong. What you should have said is that all racists are right-wingers.
Decline to State
Have you ever wondered which is our stupidest state? Our cruelest? Our most incompetent? There are multiple contenders for each title, of course, but why limit our inquiry with such narrow parameters? Why not simply ask, which of the 50 is our absolute worst state?

By opening up the discussion in this way, we can excavate everything that is ugly and poisonous about America. Not because we hate America, as some might charge, but because we are true patriots. Only by recognizing our flaws as a nation can we hope for a better future for all of us.

All right, now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to mocking our country. First, let’s eliminate those states that are clearly not in contention — the entire West Coast, for starters, and any state on the Eastern seaboard from, say, Virginia north. Everybody knows these states are cooler and smarter. No offense. I’m also going to give most of the Midwest a pass because, in spite of being the home to a lot of extreme nutcases, they manage to keep most of these people in check and out of power. Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible because they are too young to know better.

That leaves mostly the Southern and Mountain West states. We can whittle our list down a bit more by asking which are refusing Medicaid expansion — a program that costs them practically nothing yet would provide healthcare to their neediest citizens. No matter what excuses come out of their mouths, their refusal to do so is nothing more than cruelty for political reasons. Of the remaining states still in the running, only Kentucky, Utah, and Arkansas pass this test (if only feebly in the case of the last two). Wisconsin and Michigan have refused to agree to the coverage, making them the only Midwestern states bad enough to still be in the running. No offense.

Fortunately for them, however, they are eliminated from the list because they pass my next test for awfulness: does the state try to teach creationism as science in its public schools? This test also lets Wyoming, Idaho, and North Carolina off the hook.

Alabama , Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas are still standing. If we now drop the states that are too inconsequential to worry about, we have our finalists:

Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. Wow, pretty bad all right..

Let’s drop South Carolina from consideration, okay? Their main claims to infamy are a particularly virulent brand of racism and a long string of bad people in public office: Jim DeMint, Strom Thurmond, Mark Sanford, Joe Wilson, etc, etc. (I won’t include Lindsey Graham; he’s just silly). Bad as it is, South Carolina just doesn’t measure up to the depth and breadth of awfulness of the other two.

So, how do we decide this? Both states already fail the tests I’ve mentioned; what are their other faults?

They each have a Bush brother, but Texas has W, so the point goes to them. They’re both unpleasantly hot, but Florida is sticky, so point to them. Both have passed laws that suppress voting, but it was Florida that screwed the pooch in the 2000 election. The governors are both putzes, but Rick Perry beats Rick Scott (or anyone else) in a clueless contest.

That leaves us tied. Here, however, one contestant begins to pull away. Florida is lame, but the Lone Star State is just plain mean. And the Sunshine State has nothing to match the assassination of a president — and his assassin. They don’t have the psychotic gun-love, or the drive for secession, or the unjustifiable egotism, or Ted Cruz, or the Dallas Cowboys. Only Texas has these, and I hereby declare it the clear winner in our search for the absolute worst state.

As I have said, we conduct this study not to divide or denigrate, but to pursue the hope that we will learn something about ourselves — all of us — that will help us become a better nation, a better people. And that something is … avoid Texas at all costs. No offense.
2.0
I’ve been having some doubts about it recently, and now I’m convinced. Civilization has become obsolete.

Oh, I acknowledge that it has advantages over other forms of group living. The hunter-gatherer system has a certain romantic appeal, but who wants to live like a wild animal? An agricultural society would be placid but numbingly dull. Civilization, on the other hand, gives us plenty of choices. It produces tons of cool stuff. It’s fun, it’s sexy, it’s edgy. Plus, I really believe that this is the kindest, most polite, and least murderous time in human history. On balance, that is, all things considered, relatively speaking.

But look at the downside. Along with that cool stuff created by technology comes more ingenious and deadlier weaponry. Civilization has spurred overpopulation, so that humanity itself threatens to be a plague upon the earth. And now, civilization’s dependence on commerce and consumption has involved us all in a slow motion self-immolation — a long, lingering death for us and half the life forms on earth.

So there’s that. What’s more, my belief that we live in the kindest and gentlest world ever is based on per capita calculations. Since the earth’s population has septupled over the last 200 years, the absolute numbers for these variables have actually been quite horrifying. Civilization, perhaps the greatest invention in human history, looks like it may be on course to self-destruct before the end of this century.

That gives us only eighty-six years to fix it. Or we’re all dead. But hey, no pressure. We don’t have time to invent something new to replace civilization, so we’ll need to do some drastic tweaking on the fly. Here are my top three recommendations:

Cut back. I guess we’re stuck with commerce and free enterprise, but who needs all this consumption? Just a little would be fine — enough to be comfortable, but not enough to tap out the planet’s resources. Violators, I’m afraid, will have to be disciplined.

Eliminate private wealth. It’s also time to admit that large concentrations of money tend to breed all kinds of bad outcomes. People just can’t be trusted with all that moolah. Much better for the greater good to have everyone own everything. All of your other freedoms, of course, would remain intact.

Stop having intercourse. It only leads to more people, you know, and we’re crowded enough already. Fortunately, civilization itself has already provided the answer to this problem. The digital revolution has birthed this weird self-centered universe where we can be alone and all together at the same time. Sure, it’s creepy, but at least people aren’t actually touching each other, and that’s a good thing. Perhaps the development of fully functional robots might also be part of the solution.

Maybe “obsolete” is the wrong word. Clearly, however, civilization needs a serious upgrade. And while we’re at it, it’s also time for us to grow up. If a One World Government is necessary to make all this happen, then that’s what we'll have to create. We can no longer afford to cling to such childish notions as patriotism. To do so would be uncivilized.
A Million Dollar Idea
The fantasy of tax reform is always beckoning to politicians on both the left and the right. They are on high alert now, because a moment is approaching during which something major might actually get done about our current tax system. There will be talk of the flat tax again, and the national sales tax, and its cousin the VAT — all of which will shine briefly then die of suffocation in Washington. It is into this vacuum of hopelessness that I would like to introduce my own humble vision of a kinder, saner tax system.

I call it the Million Dollar Idea. It envisions a system under which individuals would be limited to a net income, after taxes, of one million dollars. To enforce the limit, we’d return to a steeply graduated income tax. I see that sliding scale beginning to slide at about $20,000 then get steeper and steeper until it gets to the million dollar mark and hits 100%.

Deductions would be allowed, but I think this might be a good time to rethink that whole system as well. In my view, charitable contributions, including donations to non-political non-profits, should still be honored. I am open to negotiation on other deductions, but the simpler we keep it the better. We must be very careful, in any case, not to allow any loophole that might undermine our goal of limiting income.

I will also negotiate on the million dollar limit. If our leaders, in their wisdom, wanted to make the limit lower, then they would have my blessing. At a million, I think we’re being quite generous. I’m not rich myself, so my point of view might be skewed, but that seems like a very large amount of spending money to have available over the course of a year. Plus, it’s a nice, round number that would work well on a bumper sticker.

If we even need bumper stickers, that is. I am confident that the wisdom and the moral righteousness of the Million Dollar Idea would be immediately evident to most of us. Not only is a tax-free million plenty of money to get by on, I think a lot of people would say that taking more would be a sinful.

Yes, sinful. Greed is still a sin, isn’t it? We tax cigarettes and liquor and marijuana, why not avarice? The current system encourages and rewards greed; that cannot be healthy for our society, much less our immortal souls. Ask Pope Francis; he knows what I’m talking about.

If you’re concerned about how this unusual stricture might affect our economy, you shouldn’t be. There might be a little chaos at first, but that would be just the kind of problem that markets would actually be good at solving. The only pain caused by the new system would be experienced by the rich, and that would be a refreshing change of pace. I’m not certain, come to think of it, that we could even call it pain; a mild tingling sensation would be more like it.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor would narrow, and maybe — just maybe — we might all begin to see that our fate and fortunes really are tied together. And who knows? A greed tax might just head off the coming revolution and save the lives of a whole lot of investment bankers. You see? Everybody’s a winner.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t such a humble vision after all. I want to revamp the tax code, salvage our free enterprise system, and save the soul of capitalism. Not that Washington cares much about humility. Or greed, for that matter. It’s money that gets the most attention there, and with billions of dollars at stake, I guess the Million Dollar Idea has as much chance as any other tax reform proposal — which is close to none.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon