June 09, 2006

WEEKEND SPECIAL: DENNY DIMWIT ON PRIVATIZATION



Goat Rope is pleased to feature another learned commentary from bantam rooster and noted free market economist Dr. Denton "Denny" Dimwit. Dr. Dimwit is director of the Goat Rope Farm Entrepreneurship Center and is an ardent admirer of the WVU Entrepreneurship Center.

Once again, we must state firmly and clearly that Denny Dimwit is NOT ghostwriting for the weekly political columnist of the (WV) State Journal. This persistent rumor has reached the level of an urban legend. We believe that while both writers tend to be repetitious and agree on the virtues of the market, any reader would have to admit that Dr. Dimwit and the columnist in question have different writing styles and that the former is much more subtle and nuanced. And, to our knowledge, the latter has never weighed in on the subject of BIG hens.

And, while Denny Dimwit often expresses opinions that differ from those normally featured in the Goat Rope, we are convinced that this sharing of diverse viewpoints reduces the tragic polarization of our times and promotes a climate of mutual respect and deep listening.

THE DIMWIT DISPATCH

Crudapalooza! Where did you get the losers who write for this blog anyway? What pile did they crawl out of? I'm getting sick of looking at goat pictures too. It's bad enough to have to live in the same barn with them.

You've had a lot of really stupid stuff in here lately about privatization. What's wrong with privatization? Privatization is AWESOME. The only thing you really need government for is to privatize stuff and keep it that way. And they should contract that out too.

I can prove it micro and macro economicostatisticametically.

Check out the picture. That small dark handsome guy on the left is me. That's micro. See that BIG hen in that picture? That's macro. Yowza! She's with me, got it? Hands and feathers off, Jack!

That's privatization and that's the beauty of the market.

That's the truth. You bet your cloaca.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

FIRST ROUND VICTORY ON ESTATE TAX REPEAL



Caption: Venus had a little too much to drink celebrating this victory.

This hasn't been the best of weeks for the nation's ruling coalition.

First, the domestic Taliban-supported constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages failed to pass the Senate, an effort that was more cynical sideshow than serious effort. Polls showed that while most Americans did not approve of same sex marriages, they opposed messing with the constitution by an equal margin

Close on the heels of a defeat for the theocrats came a setback for the plutocrats. Yesterday, the procedural vote to repeal the estate tax on people who inherit great wealth failed to gain the needed 60 votes. The actual count was 57-41, with two Senators who would probably have opposed repeal not voting.

This means the Senate leadership will not be able to fully repeal the estate tax. This is a win for all who favor fiscal responsibility, economic justice, and sane budget priorities and is the result of the hard work of a diverse nationwide coalition. Repealing the tax, which only impacts the richest 1 percent of Americans, could have cost the nation $1 trillion over 10 years.

It's not clear at this point what the next move will be. One possibility is an effort to pass a "compromise" such as one proposed by Senator Jon Kyl, which would be almost as expensive as full repeal. For an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, click here.

The other possibility is that the oligarchs will try to use the failure of repeal as an issue in the coming elections. This is pretty bizarre, since it's hard to put a populist face on a tax that only affects a tiny handful of Americans who inherit fortunes worth millions of dollars.

This has already be said many times before, but here goes again: the very rich benefit the most from the USA and would never have been able to accumulate or inherit anything without the public investments that make it possible for people make, keep, and enjoy their wealth.

There is still an need to educate the public about the issues, but polling research shows that most Americans don't want the estate tax to be fully repealed and the more they learn about it, the less likely they are to support repeal. According to the Coalition for America's Priorities,

Voters think the estate tax is at the bottom of the list of taxes that should be cut. When read a list of potential changes to the tax system, repealing the estate tax ranks last and is opposed by 55% of voters.

Voters think one of the two best ways to reduce the budget deficit is to keep the estate tax. The other is to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Voters would much prefer to see Congress use funds for a variety of purposes other than repealing the estate tax. Strong majorities preferred every option they were presented from spending the money on health care for veterans and the uninsured to shoring up Social Security.


So, congratulations, folks! Stay alert for the next round and try not to let your goats drink too much in celebration. They can be mean drunks.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

June 08, 2006

STRIKING A BLOW FOR DECENCY



Caption: Venus never has a wardrobe malfunction.

El Cabrero's heart leapt while perusing yesterday's newspaper on seeing the headline "House bill raises fines for indecency tenfold." Finally, it seemed like they were doing something rational. Indecency is rampant in our society. Consider:

*Starting an unnecessary war that has cost the lives of nearly 2,500 US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis (not to mention nearly $300 billion so far that we know about) is pretty indecent.

*Cutting $40 billion in programs like Medicaid, student aid, and foster care to pay for more tax cuts for the rich while STILL increasing the deficit, as Congress did earlier this year, is pretty indecent.

*Refusing to raise the federal minimum wage for nearly 10 years is pretty indecent.

*Cynically pandering to the domestic Taliban with a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (see Monday's post) is pretty indecent.

*Leaving no millionaire behind by repealing the estate tax (which is on today's agenda in the Senate) is pretty indecent.

The list could go on and on.

For a few seconds, it seemed like we were finally getting somewhere. Foolish goatherd...It turned out that the bill in question, like the Vice President during the Vietnam War, had other priorities. Wardrobe malfunctions, to be exact.

According to the article, "The government's power to punish broadcasters for indecent programming such as the 2004 Super Bowl 'wardrobe malfunction' would increase tenfold under legislation Congress is ready to approve."

Breast revealers, beware!

If it wasn't for the fact that I already do and know that they are neither placid nor self-contain'd, I'd follow Walt Whitman and "turn and live with the animals."

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: INCREASED TENFOLD

June 07, 2006

DEMOCRACY OR ARISTOCRACY: IT'S YOUR CALL (LITERALLY)



Caption: Like Ferdinand the amorous peacock, supporters of estate tax repeal are turning their backs on the nation that made their wealth possible.

You’ve read about it. You’ve heard about it. Today, you can do something about it. The Senate is about to move on repealing or drastically reducing the estate tax as soon as today. For some of the political dynamics as reported by the New York Times, click here.

As noted previously in the Goat Rope, the campaign to repeal the estate tax has been funded by a handful of extremely wealthy families.

This tax only applies to those who inherit vast amounts of wealth. Some have referred to estate tax repeal as the Paris Hilton tax break. Surviving spouses and charitable contributions are exempt. Repealing it could cost up to $1 trillion over the next ten years. That money could be used to reduce the deficit, shore up Medicare and Social Security, make higher education more affordable, and/or invest in infrastructure. Repeal would also negatively impact charitable giving.

El Cabrero may be somewhat coarse, perhaps due to the cabrine company he keeps, but there is something weird about a worldview where it’s OK to tax the meager wages of people who work but not the idle wealth of people who inherit. And, more to the point, the rich benefit far more from the mere existence of government and its array of services than anyone else. Things like a legal system, law enforcement, roads, research, patents, education, etc. make the accumulation of wealth possible to start with.

Advocacy groups such as the Coalition on Human Needs are urging people across the country to call their Senators today with this message: “Please vote no on any effort to repeal or drastically cut the estate tax. With all the problems this nation faces, the Senate should not be wasting our national resources and its time on a giveaway of hundreds of billions of dollars (or even more!) to a handful of multimillionaires.”

A toll free number to the Capitol Switchboard has been provided by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker social justice organization: 1-800-459-1887. The AFSC welcomes groups to circulate and use the toll free number in support of non-partisan budget goals

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

June 05, 2006

WAITER, THERE'S AN ANTHROPOLOGIST IN MY SOUP


Caption: Dr. Big Jim Fuzzy Rooster has attempted ethnographic research among chickens, but his strange looks have limited his success.

Who would have thought that majoring in anthropology would ever be a practical decision? Yet a fascinating article in Business Week titled “The Science of Desire” shows that this is in fact the case as major corporations increasingly turn to ethnographers and other social scientists to perfect their marketing strategies.

According to the article, “The beauty of ethnography, say its proponents, is that it provides a richer understanding of consumers than does traditional research. Yes, companies are still using focus groups, surveys, and demographic data to glean insights into the consumer’s mind. But closely observing people where they live and work, say executives, allows companies to zero in on their customers’ ‘unarticulated desires.’”

Holy Jurgen Habermas’ theory of the internal colonization of the lifeworld by the system, Batman!

According to that contemporary German philosopher, “the imperatives of autonomous subsystems [such as corporations or other bureaucracies] make their way into the lifeworld [i.e. our personal space where we’re off the clock, so to speak] from the outside—like colonial masters coming into a tribal society—and force a process of assimilation onto it."

Translation: the corporate-dominated world is no longer just interested in sucking up your labor power and getting in your billfold—it wants to get inside your head. And it’s getting better at it.

[If you have a real masochistic streak, you can read all about this in Habermas’ two volume Theory of Communicative Action, which El Cabrero once did for reasons that now escape him.]

It’s kind of fitting that ethnographers are pioneering this colonization of our inner lives, since their predecessors pretty much did the same with real colonies in the “developing world.”

Here's a thought: why don't we have some underground agents join the corporate ethnological world and tell their bosses that research indicates people don't want their entire existence to be strip mined for someone else's profits? Any takers?

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

GOAT ROPE OF THE WEEK: PANDERING AND PLUTOCRACY



Caption: No wedding bells for this guy.

This could shape up to be an interesting time in Washington as the theocratic and Wall Street wings of the ruling coalition prepare to deliver a one-two punch.

One consists of a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, a move that may also put the kibosh on human/box turtle nuptials.

(Note: the reference to herpo-eroticism comes from Republican Senator John Cornyn, who said in a 2004 speech in favor of the ban that "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. . . . Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.")

The other move involves the repeal of the estate tax on large sums of inherited wealth, which could drain up to $1 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years.

Ironically, the foot soldiers of the religious right who have been summoned to holy war in support of the former will bear the brunt of the latter if it comes to pass in the form of higher deficits and less funding for things like student aid, Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.

The institution of marriage, having sustained serious damage from the hands of heterosexuals over the years, probably won't be much better off either.

Some time ago, El Cabrero wrote a song about it. Like to "hear" it? Here it is:

AT LEAST THE GAYS CAN'T MARRY

1. We saved the good old USA--now at least the gays can't marry.
Our moral values are here to say--now at least the gays can't marry.
There's bad news from Iraq today, my job got shipped to Mandalay, the bank's gonna take my house away--but at least the gays can't marry.

2. Now things are right as they can be--and at least the gays can't marry.
Here in the land of liberty--where at least the gays can't marry.
They torture people overseas, they spy on us whenever they please, this winter folks are gonna freeze--but at least the gays can't marry.

3. Now we're standing proud and strong--and at least the gays can't marry.
Right is right and wrong is wrong--and at least the gays can't marry.
They took away Mom's Medicaid, my health care plan is a bandaid, my money's gone before I'm paid--but at least the gays can't marry.


(Full disclosure: El Cabrero is married to a non-box turtle of the opposite sex.)

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED