July 08, 2006

WEEKEND SPECIAL: DENNY DIMWIT DISCOURSES CIVILLY


Goat Rope is pleased to feature another learned commentary by bantam rooster and noted free market economist Dr. Denton “Denny” Dimwit.

Dr. Dimwit is director of the Goat Rope Farm Entrepreneurship Center, one of West Virginia’s leading animal-led policy centers, which is in our opinion at least as intellectually rigorous as most human-led institutions of a similar bent.

It is our profound hope that by providing space for divergent viewpoints we are countering the tragic polarization of our times and promoting a culture based on profound mutual respect, deep listening, and civil discourse.

THE DIMWIT DISPATCH


Crudawackadoodle! This blog puts the “duh” in dumb! The wingnuts who put this thing out have jumped in every pile they could find this week.

Minimum wage—who needs it? You should pay for the privilege of working. And that cat had better steer clear of me if he knows what’s good for him. I’m the mayor of this town, got it?

And all this stuff about taxes and the national debt—who cares? That keeps the bankers in business. The best way to create wealth is to give it to someone like me. Exactly like me, as a matter of fact.

And don’t even get me started about the peacocks.

The only legitimate business of government is to privatize stuff—and they should contract that out too!

And speaking of private, check out that picture. The little handsome guy is me. And see what’s beside of me? The BIG hen? That’s private, Jack! She’s with me, got it? Yowza! Hands and feathers off, OK?!

That’s the beauty of the market.

And that’s the truth. You bet your cloaca.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

July 07, 2006

TAXING SUBJECTS



Caption: If they were people, these baby peacocks would inherit a growing share of debt.

It looks like younger Americans, including those yet to be born, are or will be living, pretty much literally, on borrowed time.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the tax cut policies of the Bush administration have dramatically increased the burden of national debt.

Average Americans wind up as net losers as their share of national debt typically is much larger than any gains they may have realized from tax cuts.

It's kind of like the old good news/bad news jokes. The middle 20% of American families received around $1,855 in tax cuts from 2001 to 2006. That's the "good" news. The bad news is that these policies added $8,936 in national debt for each family member, a net loss of $7,081.

The only winners in the scenario, and this may be a pyrrhic victory, are the wealthiest one percent of Americans. This group, with average incomes of over $1 million, gained $84+ K per person from the tax cuts. The per person share of increased debt for this group is $54K+, which means a net gain of over $30K per person.

The average West Virginian from a middle income family gained less from the tax cuts ($1,569) but saw per person national debt share rise by $8,412, a net loss of $6,843. The wealthiest one percent of Mountain State families were the only ones to come out ahead here as well, but by a smaller margin. Gains from tax cuts averaged $4,257 when subtracted from the increased share of national debt.

While ideologues of oligarchy have made a lot of noise protesting the so called death tax on people who inherit large sums of wealth, they have in effect imposed a birth tax on millions of Americans.

As Diane Lim Rogers of the Brookings Institution wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle,

The "birth tax" is a true cost imposed on all American babies. It cannot be repealed, no matter how upset Americans eventually get about it. Through the harmful effects of deficits on national saving, these future adults will be less likely to have the means to pay off these debts and are in danger of facing a lower standard of living than adult Americans today.


The problem is short term thinking. Even the wealthiest Americans aren't likely to come out ahead in the long run.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

July 06, 2006

ANOTHER STATE RAISES ITS MINIMUM WAGE, PRESSURE BUILDS IN CONGRESS


Caption: Seamus McGoogle continues his tireless work to raise the minimum wage.

Pennsylvania will be the latest state to raise its minimum wage. This is the third state to do so since West Virginia did (sort of) in March.

The bill will raise the state minimum to $6.25 per hour on Jan. 1, 2007 and to $7.15 per hour on July 1. For employers of less than 10 workers, the increase at a slower rate, moving to $5.65 by Jan. 1, to $6.65 by July 1, and to $7.15 by July 1, 2008.

Employers of workers under age 20 would be able to pay the current minimum of $5.15 per hour for the first 60 days of employment.

Way to go, Pennsylvania!

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reports that the US House of Representatives may move to increase the federal minimum in spite of the distaste of the current ruling clique for this measure:

With Democrats plotting to make the minimum wage a major issue in this fall's congressional races, House Republican leaders are conceding that they may have to yield to pressure for an increase to the federal standard, which has been frozen for nearly a decade.


In late June, a majority of US Senators voted to increase the minimum, but the ruling faction defeated the increase by means of a technicality which required a 60 vote majority.

It is unclear at this point whether the congressional leaders would accept a "clean" minimum wage bill, i.e. one that doesn't undermine other labor standards.

One thing is clear: momentum continues to build at the state and federal level to take this long overdue step.

For recent developments on state and federal minimum wage struggles, check the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: WAY HIGHER THAN THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE

July 05, 2006

MONSTERS TO DESTROY


Caption: This man has become a monster.

John Quincy Adams had a distinguished career as a public servant. The son of one of the key founders of the nation, he served as diplomat, congressman, secretary of state and president. He was also an early and vocal opponent of slavery.

In 1821, he gave a speech that set forth the best of what the United States stands for and warned of consequences of departing from that high standard. His words now seem like a warning and a prophecy.

Recalling the values set forth in the Declaration of Independence, Adams said:

America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government.... She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.


Adams believed that the United States would be strong and would be a positive force among the nations of the world to the extent that it led by example and lived by the values it professed. But if it succumbed to temptations of empire, it did so at a great cost to its citizens and the world at large. Indeed, echoing the words of Jesus, he warned that it would be in danger of losing its soul even though it gained the world.

He said of the nation, "Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."

Were America to depart from its ideals and engage in aggressive actions beyond legitimate self-defense, he believed, "she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force."

He warned that though the nation "might become the dictatress of the world. She would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit."

Adams' warning about the perils of gratuitous monster-hunting is one that should not be taken lightly. As the philosopher Nietzsche said, "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

July 03, 2006

INDEPENDENCE DAY


Caption: In lieu of fireworks, Ferdinand spreads his tail feathers to celebrate Independence Day.

This July 4th Goat Rope celebrates those who made the American Revolution and forged the Republic. Mark Twain once said something like "The older I get, the smarter my father gets." The older El Cabrero gets, the smarter the Founders seem to get.

The American Revolution is always unfinished as we continue to struggle over exactly what being "created equal" means and exactly who "We, the People" are. No one summed that up better than the great African American poet Langston Hughes:

Let America Be America Again

By Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?


I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

July 02, 2006

REGARDING THE ESTATE TAX, MILITARY GOATS, AND AMOROUS AGGRESSIVE PEACOCKS


Caption: In a moment of uncharacteristic delicacy, Venus tactfully shields viewers from a rear view of a displaying peacock.

As Independence Day approaches, it's good to know that a little of the Founder's spirit of civic republicanism lives on. Last week, billionaire Warren Buffett, said to be the second wealthiest person in the world (behind Bill Gates), urged Congress to keep estate tax on people who inherit vast fortunes.

Shortly before, Buffett announced plans to leave $37+ billion to charity. In what has got to be the best line in the whole estate tax debate, Buffett said "It's a very equitable tax. It's in keeping with the idea of social equality of opportunity in this country, not giving incredible head starts to certain people who were very selective about the womb from which they emerged."

In other neglected stories from last week, the Associated Press reported that "A British army regiment's ceremonial pet goat was demoted in disgrace after it marched out of line before a host of dignitaries during a parade to Mark Queen Elizabeth II's birthday..."

The goat, a descendent of an illustrious ancestor given to the regiment from the royal herd in 1746, was busted from the rank of lance corporal to fusilier (basically a private). Soldiers will no longer be expected to salute, the report notes.

El Cabrero has mixed feelings about this one. Part of him wishes to extend the goat, named Billy, US citizenship and political asylum. On the other hand, his experience finds goats to be a surly, malcontented and mutinous lot.

Finally, some residents of Arlington Texas have reported that cars and people have been the targets of attacks by male peacocks. The peacocks have become "uncharacteristically aggressive as four males seek the attention of one hen. Holy supply and demand, Batman!

Things were rough enough on Goat Rope Farm with a two to one ratio. Far be it from El Cabrero to dispute with the great Walt Whitman, but I must again say that there are no "placid and self-contain'd" animals around here.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED