DEWY DECIMALS

Judy: ‘Have you already found Library Thing? I think it’s pretty cool – a way to catalog your library online. A while back I considered buying a cataloging program but they seemed too expensive and/or too complex for my purposes but this is really cool. It’s in BETA and you can list up to 200 books free or pay a lifetime fee of ten bucks for unlimited listing. All sorts of neat features.’

THE WORK PENALTY

John Chamberlain: ‘Your little piece on the Work Penalty doesn’t tell half the story. Consider the case of a self-employed single mother with two children and a net income of $30,000 per year. Her marginal federal income tax rate is 15%, but she also has to pay 15.3% self-employment tax. (Being self-employed she gets to pay both the employer’s and the employee’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.) On top of that, her Earned Income Credit is ‘phased out’ at a rate of 21% of every additional amount she earns, so her total marginal tax rate is 51.3%.’

☞ True, but the Republican leadership believes that by eliminating the tax on $600 million estates our society will be more just. It’s a different way of looking at the world.

David McCorkhill: ‘Is it my imagination, or has it become the primary agenda of the modern Republican Party to create an American aristocracy? Based on their proposals for the estate tax, I could easily devise a family tax shelter for a super-wealthy clan (mere millionaires need not apply) which would virtually guarantee a large supply of money for all heirs at a vanishingly small tax rate (especially if the long-time dream of GOP tax-policy strategists of eliminating the tax on dividends were to be realized). It seems like some of these people are out to create a class of people supported by the rest of us who neither work nor pay taxes. Sounds like aristocracy to me.’

John Seiffer: ‘What most people who work for their money don’t know and too many of the wealthy won’t admit is that serious wealth is often due as much to luck or opportunity as it is to work. How hard did the heiress you mentioned work to choose her parents? Do the people on the Forbes 400 really work THAT much harder than the rest of us? Would Bill Gates [Forbes #1] be as wealthy if he’d been born in Uganda? or even France? Would Steve Balmer [#11] be as wealthy if he’d gone to Stanford rather than Harvard where he met Gates? Were the people who also invented the telephone, but were hours later to the patent office, more lazy than A.G. Bell or just less lucky? It makes sense to me that they should be taxed at least as much as those who work as hard but aren’t as lucky.’

☞ Not to mention the luck of being born good looking, the luck of being born smart, or the luck of being born healthy. All of which might be considered rewards in and of themselves, but which tend to lead to higher incomes – even after progressive taxation – as well.

The idea is certainly not to penalize people for their good fortune, but to ask them to shoulder more of society’s load. Yet not so much more as to kill incentives or take the fun out of the game. Taxation under Clinton/Gore struck what proved to be a very good balance. The rich got richer, the middle class prospered, millions were lifted from poverty, and the deficit disappeared.

Republican priorities are different, and as a result the rich have become much richer, middle class workers are earning about $1,700 a year less than they were five years ago (adjusted for inflation), millions have fallen back below the poverty line, and we have added trillions of dollars to our debt.

Another contrast is how Clinton/Gore professionalized FEMA – long a backwater of cronyism – and how the incoming Republican regime quickly restored it to its former state.

It is to that general theme that Molly Ivins addresses her latest column. If it starts out a little too sarcastic for your taste, press on anyway – you may find in it facts that will surprise you.

COMPETENCE
By Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas — So here are all the liberals going into a giant snit just because George W. Bush appointed a veterinarian to head the women’s health section of the Food and Drug Administration. For Pete’s sake, you whiners, the only reason he chose the vet is because Michael Brown wasn’t available.

If you recall, Ol’ Heckuva-Job Brownie had to go home, walk his dog and then hug his wife after exhausting himself in his triumphal handling of Hurricane Katrina. Otherwise, he’d have been Bush’s first pick.

Now, even the veterinarian doesn’t get the job — just because those professional feminists raised such a stink. What’s wrong with a vet? They know a lot about birth and udders and stuff. If the mother is having trouble giving birth, you grab the baby by the legs and pull it out — it’s not brain surgery. Then you worm ’em, you tag ’em and you spray for fleas. Why the fuss?

The only reason Bush even needed a new head of the Office of Women’s Health is because the last one, Susan Wood, quit. She was upset because the political hacks who run the agency refused to allow over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.

True, that decision was made against the advice of the FDA’s own scientific advisory panel and will unquestionably result in more abortions and almost certainly damage to some women’s health. But why would anyone expect the Bush hacks to pay attention to scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended by the professional staff? Just like the folks at FEMA, they got their jobs because they know how to set up photo-ops for Bush.

There’s a doctoral dissertation to be written about Bush appointees named during the administration’s frequent fits of Petulant Pique. These PP appointments are made in the immortal childhood spirit of “nanny-nanny boo-boo, I’ll show you.” Susan Wood resigns in protest over the politicization of women’s health care? Ha! We’ll show her — we’ll put a vet in charge, instead.

The PP appointments are less for reasons of ideology or even rewarding the politically faithful than just in the old nyeh-nyeh spirit. You could, for example, put any number of people at the Department of Labor who are wholly unsympathetic to the labor movement — Bush has installed shoals of them already. But there is a certain arch, flippant malice to making Edwin Foulke assistant secretary in charge of the health and safety of workers.

Republican appointees who oppose the agencies to which they are assigned are a dime a dozen, but Foulke is a partner from the most notorious union-busting law firm in the country. What he does for a living is destroy the only organizations that care about workers’ health and safety.

Here’s another PP pick: put a timber industry lobbyist in as head of the Forest Service. How about a mining industry lobbyist who believes public lands are unconstitutional in charge of the public lands? Nice shot. A utility lobbyist who represented the worst air polluters in the country as head of the clean air division at the EPA? A laff riot. As head of the Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund regulations? Cute, cute, cute. A Monsanto lobbyist as No. 2 at the EPA. A lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute at the Council on Environmental Quality. And so on. And so forth.

The Federal Trade Commission was finally embarrassed enough by demands from Democratic governors to start an investigation into recent price gouging by oil companies. But the investigation will be headed by a former lawyer for ChevronTexaco. Is this fun or what? Nanny-nanny boo-boo.

The terrible lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that public policy is not a political gotcha game. The public interest is not well-served by appointing incompetents or anti-competents to positions of responsibility. Public policy is about our lives.

Here’s another example: The Violence Against Women Act expires on Oct. 1 and must be reauthorized before then. It doesn’t look good. For 10 years, this law has helped improve criminal justice and community-based responses to sexual violence and sexual assault. As result, there has been an overall decline in the incidence of women battered or killed by their partners.

But as the July-August issue of Mother Jones painfully demonstrates, domestic violence remains a hideous problem. It is both a public health and a human rights issue. Homicide is the 10th leading cause of death for women under 65. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, about 30 percent of American women report being physically abused by husbands or boyfriends. Every year, more than 300,000 U.S. women are raped and more than 4 million assaulted. Funding for family violence prevention was cut by $48 million this year.

I guess it would be pretty funny, on some level, to put a vet in charge of this issue, too. But let’s not. This is about people’s lives. I’ve already seen too many people staring numbly at walls, still in shock. Let’s start by getting Congress to at least reauthorize the act. The arsenal of democracy starts with the telephone, the fax machine, the e-mail, paper and pen. Just sign it, “Your constituent.”

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.
Originally Published on Thursday September 22, 2005

 

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