March 9, 2010 archive

What about an added sweetener tax instead?

Once again the debate over a “soda tax” is going strong here in New York and throughout the entire nation. The pros and cons of this tax are complicated but something needs to be done. Except what is being floated around here and by many governments in a nation of drinkable disasters is really both a natural sweetener tax and a promotion of artificial sweeteners.

The embattled Governor David Paterson proposed it last year as an “Obesity Tax” before public outcry temporally crushed it. The outcry was over this tax being a regressive tax that poor people would be forced to pay with little thought about parents telling their children “No you cannot have 87¢ for a Coke but you can have 75¢ for a Diet Coke.” When diet sodas are exempt, since budget conscious shoppers will find drinks with artificial sweeteners and other chemicals to be money saving choices, it translates to government preaching better living through chemicals.

This tax seemed dead until Michael Bloomberg began presenting it as what it really is, an income generator. Now with Bloomberg’s endorsement this tax is getting the “full court press” again and Paterson is holding multiple meeting on taxing sugary drinks. Meanwhile there are dueling TV ads here now but little thought about what is being taxed to curtail empty calories through a straw. In this battle of interest groups  is anyone actually thinking?

Coffee Party hits 100,000 members

Not bad! I don’t have much more to say about this, but I will quote myself, from OpenLeft, about one of the most significant things  – perhaps THE most significant thing – that the Coffee Party is doing. The Coffee Party is creating democratic infrastructure – a means for people of diverse beliefs to meets, on items of mutual concern, even if of different perspective.

hopefully, they will not even try to enforce conformity at the local level, where policies would be decided by the local members. (According to my reading of their website, they don’t have a top-down structure, except for some basic principles such as civility, and the principle that government is a necessary part of the solution of many of our problems. Thus, they can’t enforce conformity across chapters.)

What intrigues me most is that they are creating democratic infrastructure – whether they realize it, or not. Corrupt politicos and lobbyists have extensive infrastructure already in place to corrupt Congress – e.g., K-Street. But where are the meeting spaces – which is part of the infrastructure – that citizens who share similar concerns can meet? Even if those citizens, like the Ancient Athenians, have radically different perspectives on how to deal with those concerns? Where can such citizens in modern day America meet and start to forge alliances, unfettered by a corrupted Democratic or Republican machinery?

Ancient Athens had what I can only view as a vigorous democracy (for eligible citizens, anyway). It certainly was not vigorous because citizens would share separate spaces, and just make snide remarks about opposing groups. There was plenty of head-butting, which could even lead to formal ostracism as a means to tone down any perceived threats to stability, but the head-butting was face-to-face and everybody knew that, at the end of the day, they were most all in the in the same boat. (Indeed, the small size of the polis, coupled with the ancient Greeks’ penchant for fighting with each other, made cooperation a life-and-death matter.)

It remains to be seen if the originators of the Coffee Party will make any attempt to co-opt the enormous potential they are tapping into, for the sake of Democratic Party purposes. IMO, independents and of course Republicans will immediately revolt if this is attempted. But note that, as long as the movement takes off before any such attempt at co-option, it will actually become  well nigh impossible to co-opt, later on.

I think this is the best thing to happen in American civic life in a long, long time.

Why we are headed for a double-dip depression

  It may be the one-year anniversary of an amazing stock market rally, but economists are sounding rather pessimistic these days.

 A growing expectation of a double-dip recession is evident in a new poll of financial executives…the poll found more than half of financial executives predicting another downturn, and most expecting jobs recovery to lag into 2011.

 The predictions don’t end with just this poll. Nouriel Roubini is also warning of a second leg down, and even more disturbing is this report.

Sucking Our Nation Dry

No, this is not an essay on some X-rated movie.  It is about how the government and Wall Street have continually conspired to take and use any new money it can get its hands on, which, now means YOUR money.

The latest new “idea” floated by FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair is to have state pension funds buyout failed banks.

Now, I am not totally ignorant about economics, nor, am I a studied professor on the subject.  However, I’m not sure who could glean any meaningful information out of the following:

In a speech to the National Association for Business Economics Washington Policy Conference, FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair outlined what she called “a pre-funded resolution mechanism,” but did not specify what exactly that is. She instead said it would be “similar to the FDIC’s receivership authority for failed banks,” exposing only shareholders to risk, as opposed to the bank bailouts that saw billions of taxpayer dollars funneled into a near-crippled financial system.

“Shareholders and creditors would bear the losses, not the public,” she explained. “But, the process would be orderly and help prevent a catastrophic collapse of other firms.”

Go ahead, do your head shake to clear the cobwebs, and let’s talk about the latest plan for the government to get their hands on YOUR money.

Overnight Caption Contest

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