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July 6, 2013

ain't just a river in

I know only as much as your average newspaper reader about Egypt and its recent regime change, so this is not to be a policy proclamation.  Like you know how David Brooks divides it (like everything) into a binary problem (don't read David Brooks; read Max Read making fun of him) of dudes who approve of the ends versus dudes who disapprove of the coup-like structure of the means?  I have no opinion of it.  It happened and it's not my country.  I mean, it doesn't take a genius to know that the Muslim Brotherhood will not go quietly, but that's John Kerry's problem.

But here's a thing: Egypt is the latest manifestation of a unique problem we're newly encountering.  Namely, we've left the era of good guy/bad guy foreign policy behind us.

So take the Cold War.  Good guys us vs. bad guy Commies.  And your post 9-11 world, good guy West vs. bad guy terrorists.  Now, we're being confronted by some rather large international crises in which it's not so easy to pick the good guy.  Syria is a good example of that, as was Libya.  Egypt, obviously.  And even the entirety of South America, where the University of Chicago-installed regimes are actually a bit on the repressive side, and the Leftists that overturn them end up being a little too dictatory.  We left black and white behind us a long time ago.

This is of course a bit simplistic and totally begs the question of whether or not the U.S. is now or has ever been the good guy, but it's what I'm thinking about this humid Saturday morning.  To the extent we involve ourselves in any of these issues, it will be impossible to do so without getting our hands dirty.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:24 PM

July 3, 2013

the crushing burdens of big business

Buried in this predictable yet still depressing story about the actual average federal tax rate paid by corporations (12.6%, for what its worth) is an even more depressing and much less predictable nugget of information concerning Big Business' "fair share":
At the same time, big companies are shouldering a smaller part of the overall tax burden than in the past. As a percentage of federal tax revenue, corporate taxes have fallen to 9 percent from more than 30 percent in the 1950s. Overall, corporations paid about $242 billion in federal taxes in 2012, compared to $1.1 trillion taxes paid by individual taxpayers.

See now, I remember a couple years ago (maybe more than a couple?) looking into this, and my recollection is that around the 1940s, businesses and personal income tax were roughly equal shares of all federal tax income, and even in the 50s, when personal income tax share began to grow, business tax share was still around 30%.  (Actually, no need to rely on my recollection.)  And the burden borne by individuals continued to grow as the corporate burden shrank, but if you'd ask me two days ago what the corporate share was, I would have said somewhere in the low twenties, 22% maybe.

Which of course is way off.  No, the big businesses who won't shut their gobs about how unfair the taxes they have to pay are actually paying nine percent of the money the government needs to run.  Nine whole percent!  That's like, only one percentage point below ten percent!

But funny that 22% is the number that I would have picked out of thin air, because that is exactly the relationship between business contributions and individual contributions to federal income — they pay 22% of what we flesh 'n' bloods pay.


Posted by mrbrent at 9:40 AM

July 2, 2013

david brooks' special gettysburg commemoration

I hate to spoil anyone's kicker, even if it's David Brooks, but below please find the kicker/final thoughts of David Brooks' column running in this morning's NYT:
These letter writers, and many of the men at Gettysburg, were not just different than most of us today because their language was more high flown and earnest. There was probably also a greater covenantal consciousness, a belief that they were born in a state of indebtedness to an ongoing project, and they would inevitably be called upon to pay these debts, to come square with the country, even at the cost of their lives.

Makes today's special interest politics look kind of pathetic.

As you may have sussed out, David Brooks is waxing rhapsodic over the expressed patriotism of those who fought at Gettysburg.  (Well, if you read closely, mostly the officers who fought at Gettysburg, but only so many words a column, right?)  And David Brooks, with that last little sentence, dismisses the totality of the 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Why is David Brooks doing so?  Because David Brooks thinks that the ability to dupe oneself that the reason that one is killing someone else is because of some nebulous concept like, "My country is better than your country!" (which sounds a whole lot better than, "Greater economic forces require wars to be fought and the property-less to perish!" but whatevs).

David Brooks says, "Convenantal consciousness," I read, "easily manipulated delusion".  In fact, I propose that if you are the type of person to love a concept so much that you are willing to fight or die for it, you need to reevaluate.  For example, the continued physical safety of family and friends?  I'll fight for that.  That's a desired outcome, not a concept.  But, "freedom!"  If that's the best you can articulate it, then you're an idiot.

Keep in mind also that this battle whose 150th anniversary David Brooks is commemorating, Gettysburg, is one that roughly a third of the participants were killed in the commission of, a little more than 50,000.  (And ask some dudes on the bottom side of the Mason-Dixon flying the Stars 'N Bars what those boys were dying for.)

"Makes today's special interest politics look kind of pathetic."  Jerk.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:13 AM