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November 01, 2004

Comments

A second attack will occur in the U.S. regardless of who is elected.

Or if you'd rather discuss this (via Kos):

TONY Blair has privately admitted that he wants Democrat John Kerry to win tomorrow's US election.

The Prime Minister has acknowledged to at least two confidantes that a Kerry win would be a 'lifeline' for his own political future.

If Kerry does triumph, the result will undoubtedly help draw the poison out of the Iraq debate in Britain in the run up to a general election It would mean Blair could focus on the future of Iraq - not the disasters of the past.

And it may also soothe fractured relations within the Labour Party.

I expect the denials to appear any moment now...

A second attack will occur in the U.S. regardless of who is elected.

Agreed. Which is why I think it's foolish for the Bush team to argue they'll make us safer. It's almost as if they expect the country to forget that promise.

A story that seems to be lost in the noise of the season is this appointed administration's use of the IRS to attack the NAACP.

Given the fact revoking tax-exempt status of non-partisan groups is extraordinarily rare--the timing of this investigation smells very bad.

Which is why I think it's foolish for the Bush team to argue they'll make us safer.

What else do they have to run on?

Anyway, one could argue that "safer" is not the same thing as "100% safe". Just because a future attack is all but inevitable doesn't mean that it doesn't matter what we do to try to prevent them.

Kerry's campaign promise to never raise taxes on those making under $200,000 annually was run-of-the-mill stupid, foolish, and short-sighted. He probably doesn't mean it. Good.

Bush's campaign promise to never raise taxes on anyone and indeed further reduce taxes on everyone was run-of-the mill stupid, foolish, and short-sighted. He means it. Tragic.

And not only because of those expensive suitcases.

Right, Edward: this raises a number of, uh, shall we say, interesting points re terrorism and domestic "Security" issues: the main one being: why have we NOT been attacked (at home) since September of 2001? IS it because of anything the Bush Administration has done? IN SPITE of anything the Bush Administration has done? Another reason?
For all that the Bush/Cheney campaign has made a virtual fetish of claiming that they (and they alone) can "keep us safe": and the converse, that we will somehow be "less safe" under a President Kerry - they have been remarkably vague as to what exactly they might do in case of another homeland attack: tough-talk rhetoric about "fighting terror" and "striking back at enemies" aside.
Curiously, BOTH candidates have pretty much admitted that "safety from terrorism" can never be a 100% deal: and both candidates have then proceeded to attack the other one on just those grounds.
What the next President should do in case of another terrorist attack on US targets (even if, as is likely, on a greatly lesser scale than 9/11/01) SHOULD be a topic for reasoned discussion, and serious planning on the part of the Government: sadly, in an election season, we get little but hot air and posturing.

I also think that a lot more attention should have been focussed on what, exactly, the Bush administration has done to protect us from such attacks. It's one thing to say 'the best defense is a good offense', and quite another to say that 'offense' (invading Afghanistan, and for thesake of argument I'll concede invading Iraq) somehow removes the need to work on defense as well. I tried to discuss this here; the short version is that other than working on aviation security, we've done very little.

Wrote a post, cancelled it. Don't know if there will be another domestic attack, don't care how it gets spun, very worried about the consequences.

I am actually more worried about the economy, oil prices, and managing the Iraq war than about terrorism in America. How will Bush/Kerry spin the recession of 2005? If the economy goes south, we keep interest rates and taxes low, the deficit skyrockets, China stops buying dollars, oil goes to $75 dollars and up, the economy goes south.....we got problems.

"why have we NOT been attacked (at home) since September of 2001?"

I'm guessing for the same reason we weren't attacked between 1993 and 2001.

Whatever that is.

Anthrax love letters don't count as an "attack" then?

The real problem for both Candidates remains that Voters are not going to be voting on the Issues which the Candidates wish defined.

Bush's Problem: His Tax Cuts did not actually help the Republican base. He has lost Jobs, Replacements are lower-paying Jobs without equivalent benefits. Casualties are mounting in Iraq, with no out. The Proscription law did not give the Seniors anything, while granting health care Providers a major increase in Profits.

Kerry's Problem: He advocates a modified 'staying the course' in Iraq, but opposes the Draft necessary to share the Duty among the Military. He refuses to advocate a revampment of the Tax Code, which cannot be fixed by setting higher rates on Some. He has no practical program to settle health care and Social Security issues.

The American Voter will be entering the Voting Booth again feeling he has nothing to Vote for. He will simply be trying to avert the worst disaster. lgl

"I also think that a lot more attention should have been focussed on what, exactly, the Bush administration has done to protect us from such attacks. It's one thing to say 'the best defense is a good offense', and quite another to say that 'offense' (invading Afghanistan, and for thesake of argument I'll concede invading Iraq) somehow removes the need to work on defense as well."

I completely know that this will sound like a cop out, but outlining exactly what we have and haven't done in defense can often be very bad defense. Good defense is one of the classic problems subject to issues with self-criticism. If it isn't public, we can't tell if it is working and there may be self-reinforcing errors. If is is public but not perfect (which is the same as saying 'it exists') it is likely to reveal our weakest points to those who would exploit them instead of correcting them.

Defense in a democracy is a tough problem.

Sounds like most of you want the candidate that will give us the most government. Or one whose lies about tax increases are more benign than promising no tax increases. (Although a 10% increase to the prime tax payers pales against Reagan's original 50+% decrease) Or does protection mean shutting down our borders, restricting the number of international flights and cranking democracy down a notch? I still think most Americans vote for the character of the candidate, however they judge that to be. Character, it's the quiet 'stupid' of the campaign, not the economy. And that could explain the 'against' nature of this years election.

Defense in a democracy is a tough problem

Unfortunately--or fortunately---we're not a democracy.

Yes, but Sebastian, it's not as though the fact that we have done nothing to secure chemical facilities, next to nothing to secure rail, commercial infrastructure, and ports, and so forth is presently unknown.

outlining exactly what we have and haven't done in defense can often be very bad defense

I don't know -- ideally I think what we'd want to do is list general examples to convince people that we've done a whole bunch of stuff (both for domestic morale and for discouraging potential attackers), while not going into enough specifics that someone could find the weaknesses. Sort of like marketing a product -- make it seem perfect, don't publicize complete specifications that would (a) prove that it's not; and (b) give too much information to competitors.

Jade said the other day:
"Frankly, Blue, after the SC debacle of 2000--we can't call ourselves a democracy anymore. At best, we can only hope to do better in the future; to try and build a democracy in the future."

Since, we are being very detailed for reasons I don't fully understand... I guess it's more accurate to say that we were never a democracy but a republic. And anyone who wants the U.S. to become a democracy must also want to get rid of the electoral college.

However, I think we all understood Sebastian's intent.

hilzoy, I don't know what next to nothing means. It's a daunting task, urgent, but daunting none the less. HM-232 of the Research and Special Programs Administration of the DOT has required all distribution outlets of HazMat, including trucking and tank farms train all HazMat employees in Security Awareness, which includes an assessment of the hazards each entity deals with. Much has been done, far more needs to be done. This can be a campaign issue every two years for a Millennium. This also includes Threat Level training, which you always hear no one knows about. Is enough being done, soon enough? Can it be? Should it be? Would it be different with another party in office?

Character, it's the quiet 'stupid' of the campaign, not the economy.

Well, I agree with the "stupid" part... ;)

The Bush administration, which has repeatedly assured US citizens that they'll be safer if they re-elect them, now has to spin its way out of having failed to live up to that promise. What spin do they use if criticized for not stopping it?

Medium Lobster explained it best (as usual), while discussing the failure of Bush to capture bin Laden:

For only George W. Bush has the pure, hard determination to stand up to terror. And only George W. Bush has the unswerving, unfailing incompetence to allow terror to spread so he can continue to stand up to it.

Hilzoy,

Oh why, oh why? I could work with you if you would make the arugment that they are not doing enough fast enough... but next too nothing...

As a member of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard continues to play an integral role...

Highlights of the Coast Guard's port security efforts include:

Implementing the Maritime Transportation Security Act regulations, groundbreaking legislation that enhances security at ports, facilities and vessels nationwide by ensuring uniform standards of security exists throughout our U.S port environment. As of March 16, the Coast Guard has received over 99 percent of the required vessel and facility security plans required under the act.

Identifying nine individuals holding merchant mariner credentials with possible associations to terrorism through Operation Drydock, a cooperative investigation with the FBI that has also led to about a dozen arrests to date for providing fraudulent information to the government on a merchant mariner application.

Leading the world community as the U.S. representative to the International Maritime Organization in creating the first worldwide standard for maritime security by adding security amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea convention and the International Ship and Port Security Code. By successfully advancing this proposal, and achieving nearly universal agreement, we are now partnering with over 100 nations to increase safety and security at sea around the globe.

Enhancing port safety and security by commissioning new Maritime Safety and Security Teams in San Francisco, Houston, New York and St. Mary's, Ga., bringing the total number of teams nationwide to eight. Assigned to vital ports, these teams can conduct rapid, nationwide response and are capable of deployment via air, ground or sea.

Department of Homeland Security Adopts Facial Recognition Standard
Thursday, Oct 28, 2004
Homeland Security announces the adoption of its first biometric facial recognition standard designed to be consistent with international standards for biometrics used in such applications as travel documents.

Machine-Readable Passport Procedures for Visa Waiver Travelers Announced by the Department of Homeland Security
Friday, Oct 22, 2004
Beginning October 26, 2004, officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin enforcing requirements that travelers applying for admission under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must be in possession of a machine-readable passport.

Providing the Resources Necessary to Protect America
Monday, Oct 18, 2004
President Bush signs the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2005.

Secretary Tom Ridge and Deputy Prime Minister Anne Mclellan Highlight Progress on the Smart Border Action Plan
Thursday, Oct 14, 2004
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan today highlighted continuing progress on the implementation of the Smart Border Action Plan, including an agreement to engage stakeholders in a discussion on the pre-screening of commercial traffic and on work towards a pilot of full pre-clearance at the Fort Erie-Buffalo Peace Bridge.

Sebastian suggests that defense is hard to do in a democracy. I would suggest that defense is really hard to do in a capitalistic society where the biggest effort is to reduce labor costs. How can we expect security to be handled in a constantly changing work force where these jobs, which are designed to mitigate against exceedingly rare events, are constantly regarded as an area to reduce costs?

There is a thing about these elections I don’t understand at all: why is George W. Bush the candidate for the Republican Party?
Traditionally, Republicans favor a balanced budget; Bush cut taxes but failed to cut spending, producing massive deficits.
Traditionally, Republicans don’t like foreign adventures where no vital U.S. interests are at stake; they would agree with the Afghanistan campaign, but Bush started a war in Iraq that was not strictly necessary for U.S. security, with massive cost in lives and money.
Traditionally, Republicans want to keep the power of the state over its citizens as limited as possible; Bush has introduced laws that give the state more power over individuals than any time since WWII at least.
Traditionally, Republicans favor the private sector of the economy over government involvement; under four years of Bush the number of government jobs has increased while the number of private sector jobs has gone down.
Why four more years of Bush????????????

I guess it's more accurate to say that we were never a democracy but a republic. And anyone who wants the U.S. to become a democracy must also want to get rid of the electoral college.

Hardly. A constitutional republic is just another form of a democracy. Democracy comes in two forms: direct and republican. The EC is fully consistent with democracy.

No, Blue, after Bush v Gore we sadly abandoned democracy. Certainly, when John Ashcroft testifies before the Senate and equates people who dissent from appointed administration policies with terrorists--we've lost all claims toward calling ourselves a democracy.

Jadegold, enough with the exaggeration. I understand that you're not happy with the way the 2000 election was decided or with attempts to stifle dissent, but that's hardly enough reason to assert (repeatedly and annoyingly) that the US is no longer a democracy (unless your standard is perfection, in which case no country could ever be considered a democracy). In what way do you think these assertions are helping your cause?

Jadegold,
Democracy is a matter of definition. In the original Greek democracy only a very limited percentage of the people coud vote. The same for the U.S. 200 years ago; only after women got the vote could the majority of people take part, and full size democracy exists only for 40 years (ask any black man in Alabama). I agree that democracy still isn't perfect; the nice thing about U.S. democracy is that it is a proces to get there, not a finished thing.
Rob

Rob,
Because 9-11 changed everything. I don't say that faceitiously. What 9-11 did was it flashed the opportunity to unite conservatives (both traditional and the so-called Reagan conservatives) with liberal hawks to forge a new coalition that would have, if handled adroitly, been able to maintain power for the long term. By presenting the rhetoric of expanding American values abroad, the universalist crowd would have been incorporated with the traditional base of the Republican party. That's what we saw in Afghanistan, where there was 90% approval ratings at one point. I remember having discussions with people opposed to the war in Afghanistan and arguing that the Taliban's oppression of women really was beyond the pale. I remember thinking (hoping?) that Bush would be a modern day Lincoln. I remember arguing for the invasion of Iraq precisely because of that notion of spreading American values. I was never an isolationist leftist, (a rarer breed than a isolationist rightist, but I think one of the keys to the surge of Howard Dean) but someone who thinks there are universalist values that need to be respected. However, Bush has sought to have it all.

As to why Bush is still the Republican nominee and why there wasn't a challenge, certainly Reagan's rule ('thou shalt criticize another Republican') plays into it as does the Bush family's history and probably a fair bit of Oedipean psychology.

Admittedly, that is a take that is 10,000 km removed from the location, so take it with a grain of salt.

Sorry, 'shalt not'. My apologies to the Gipper.

I'll agree that many details about defense can't be completely discussed, and that this makes defense sometimes difficult in a democracy. The solution is simple enough, though: executive credibility. This Admin has really squandered it.

Of course, it's not that clear to me that our current silent policy with regard to defensive measures is that good an idea. There are many more front yard security system signs than there are security systems, and it's for a reason.

Blue: true, I exaggerated. Substitute the claim that he what he did was inexplicably paltry, given 9/11. (About the port plans: we just asked the ports to submit their own safety plans, which were supposed to meet certain standards. Last time I checked we hadn't examined a rather large number of those plans to see whether they did meet the standards. We are still only examining 5% of ocean-going cargo. Etc., etc.)

"We are still only examining 5% of ocean-going cargo"

Unless you want the economy to grind to a halt we will never be examining all or even substantially most of ocean-going (or more importantly) coming from the ocean cargo.

That is part of why we need to play offense. Playing defense in an open society isn't possible without closing the society.

Rob,

Great question... while I am not a republican and I often get accused of doing nothing but blindly defending Bush... I think I qualify for giving an answer.

"Traditionally, Republicans favor a balanced budget;"

This pains me all the way down to my credit cards that must be paid of each month. As someone who benefited from the 90's tremendously, I truly feel the budget balanced itself mainly because of the economy and secondly because it became a political weapon that House Republicans used against Clinton, but then Clinton co-opted oh so smoothly.

"Bush cut taxes but failed to cut spending, producing massive deficits."

Tax cuts good. Spending bad... and drug bill really really bad.

"they would agree with the Afghanistan campaign, but Bush started a war in Iraq that was not strictly necessary for U.S. security"

9/11

"Traditionally, Republicans want to keep the power of the state over its citizens as limited as possible;"

I'm okay with things for now. We've been invaded. I reserve right to change my mind in about 4 years.

"Traditionally, Republicans favor the private sector of the economy over government involvement; under four years of Bush the number of government jobs has increased"

Did he really have a choice with the TSA and Homeland Security? He was beaten politically and accepted defeat. The Dems won both those debates.

"while the number of private sector jobs has gone down."

Bush inherited a failing economy from Clinton. (Not Clinton's fault. It was our fault collectively.)

During a down economy... unemployment... let’s compare the first term of Clinton and Bush directly

(Disclaimer, I am not backing up my numbers with links because I am too lazy to do that. If someone is really interested go out to the gov't site yourself because that is where I originally got mine.)

Clinton/Bush
1993/2001 6.9/4.7
1994/2002 6.1/5.8
1995/2003 5.6/6.0
1996/2004 5.4/5.4

First term for each president and it’s a win by Bush.

But even better let’s compare the 20 year average of 6.1% unemployment to Bush’s average of 5.47%.

Now even better than better let’s compare Clinton’s overall average of 5.2 to Bush’s overall average of 5.47%. Darn close and Bush inherited a recession and 9/11.

Shall we move on to GDP…

Clinton
Year Nominal GDP
(billions of dollars)
1993 $6,657
1994 $7,072
1995 $7,397
1996 $7,816
1997 $8,304
1998 $8,747
1999 $9,268
2000 $9,817

Bush
Year Nominal GDP
(billions of dollars)
2001 $10,100
2002 $10,480
2003 $10,980


Now please don't anyone claim that I am saying that the economy is perfect and Bush is wonderful. But I do stand by the statement above about what Bush inherited and the impact of 9/11.

"Why four more years of Bush?"

Because I am not runing for President this year. Since I am not running that basically leaves Bush or Kerry to get my vote.

I think Bush is much more agressive in fighting the WOT and I don't think John Kerry is a viable alternative and I truly dislike his voting record in the Senate.

Other little tidbits like this...

Mass. has two tax rates 5.35% and 5.85%. A taxpayer can chose eithe program. Which one do you think John Kerry choses? But, yet he wants to raise my taxes. Yes, I know he only wants to raise them on the wealthy who so deserve it, but I don't feel like I do. He's a hypocrit.

"According to the Kerry’s own tax records, and they have not released all of them, the couple had a combined income of $5.5 million in income last year and paid $704,227 in income taxes. That means their effective tax rate was a whopping 12.8%. And it was all (presumably) done legally."

That's less than me and it makes me angry!

so, blue, you're going to vote democratic to get a more fair tax code adopted?

anyway, i thought the reason that the Kerry/Heinz tax bill was so low was significant investment in tax-free muni. bonds. Ownership society at work, baby!

Francis

Did he really have a choice with the TSA and Homeland Security? He was beaten politically and accepted defeat. The Dems won both those debates.

If Republican lawmakers are so incompetent as to be unable to enact their agenda while controlling the House, the Senate, and the Executive branch, they are too incompetent to be re-elected.

During a down economy... unemployment... let’s compare the first term of Clinton and Bush directly

By your numbers unemployment decreased under Clinton and increased under Bush. Want unemployment to increase some more? Vote for Bush. Clinton cut the unemployment rate every year. He created jobs every year. He cut the deficit/increased the surplus every year. Bush's record can not even begin to compare. Your arguments are simply silly.

And really - nominal GDP numbers? You are trying to make some point using nominal GDP numbers???????

That's less than me and it makes me angry!

You get angry because the rich pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes, yet you are going to vote for Bush.

That would be amusing if it wasn't so damn sad.

That is part of why we need to play offense. Playing defense in an open society isn't possible without closing the society.

That'd be all fine and dandy if by playing offense we were invading countries where terrorists were operating, rather than invading ones where terrorists were barely operating, if at all, and turning it into a new haven for them.

Watching Blue cherrypick years to make comparisons is amusing, though.

Sebastian,
Unless you want the economy to grind to a halt we will never be examining all or even substantially most of ocean-going (or more importantly) coming from the ocean cargo.

That is part of why we need to play offense. Playing defense in an open society isn't possible without closing the society.

I guess we agree on this, but what we disagree on is what playing offense means. It would be so easy to gum up the works in the flow of capitalism, that having even a small group of highly motivated and dedicated people who really wanted to disrupt the system makes it IMO impossible to attempt to completely eradicate them. Heavy handed attempts to marginalize them by altering our attitudes (cf abu grahib) are going to backfire. As I said earlier, I am naive enough to think that we had a chance, not only by pouring money and attention into Afghanistan, but by doing something similar in Iraq, regardless of whether the reasons were appropriate or not. But I think we have failed utterly in this.

To try and bring this back to the actual topic of the blog post, the election process is equally susceptible to being gummed up. I sit here, waiting and watching...

Speaking of spinning (via Sullivan):

October 30 - Fox poll shows Bush up by 2. Headline: "Fox Poll: Bush Up By Two Points Over Kerry" November 1 - Fox poll shows Kerry up by 2. Headline: "Fox National Poll: Voters Split." You really can't make this up. Well, as Neil Cavuto has opined, Osama was all but wearing a Kerry button.

Unless you want the economy to grind to a halt we will never be examining all or even substantially most of ocean-going (or more importantly) coming from the ocean cargo.

You don't have to. What is needed is a smart way--IOW, identify high risk shippers, ports of origin, routes, etc. Those cargoes and ships can then be investigated.

Additionally, there are non-intrusive inspection technologies that can be employed on virtually all shipments.

Of course, a significant effort would have to be applied on the 'police' front to identify phony import-export firms and front companies.

A quick note on what we have been doing and why we haven't been hearing much about it. The best offensive defense (or defensive offense) is intelligence and arrests. And the best intelligence is coming from abroad, and the arrests are often being made abroad as well. Not only in Pakistan and Syria but also in Germany, England, and France.

I remember that one of the most striking guest editorials that appeared after 9-11 was one by the director of Interpol, begging for funds and increased cooperation from the US. I think he got them both.

The reason we don't hear more about Interpol successes is i think because policework's combatting terrorism is a Republican attack against Kerry. Also, other countries tend to keep security affairs behind the scenes in a way that the US (what with its permanent political revolution) can't. And lastly, where's the political capital in praising the successes of other countries?

I'll readily admit that this may not be a determining factor in why there haven't been more 9-11 style attacks in the US, but it is one that should be considered...

Blue,

Not only was THK's tax bill low because of her substantial investment in municipal bonds, it was also low because a huge chunk of her income - about $2 million - was in dividends. These were taxed at 15% thanks to the Bush tax cuts, rather than at 39.6% as they would otherwise have been.

So if you are angry about the inequity take your complaint to the White House. It's nonsense to use Bush's tax cuts as a reason to dislike Kerry.

"...Suitcase Dirty Bomb terrorist attack on South Florida in the spring"

This is of course ludicrous scaremongering, but for the sake of argument, let's suppose this were true, i.e., a Kerry victory is certain to result in a dirty bomb attack, while a Bush victory is certain to prevent it. We still shouldn't vote for Bush.

First of all, it would take much more than a suitcase full of material to make a dirty bomb which would have any residual effect at all after 3 months.

In fact, my understanding is that the only real risk from a dirty bomb attack is the flying shrapnel. Otherwise we're talking about a temporary increase in background radiation by a factor of perhaps 2 or 3. Certainly less than an order of magnitude.

That's actually less than you absorb riding in an airplane at 40000 feet, or living in Colorado (high altitude). A few days or weeks of that barely adds up to the risk from eating a couple tablespoons of peanut butter (aflatoxin).

But then consider all the extra radioactive coal dust we're breathing as a result of the "Clear Skies Initiative". I'll take Kerry and the dirty bomb, please.

I wasn't clear in my post about Mass tax code and Kerry. It is the duplicity in his actions that makes me angry... not that he got a better rate than me.

Don't tell me you want to raise taxes on the wealthy and then do everything in your power to avoid them. That just makes one look like a hypocrite.

Blue: Don't tell me you want to raise taxes on the wealthy and then do everything in your power to avoid them. That just makes one look like a hypocrite.

That's fair, actually, Blue - as a general statement, at least. (I don't know about the specifics of Kerry's taxes: as from tomorrow, we'll either be hearing a lot more about them or it won't matter one iota.) I believe the rich ought to pay a higher proportion of their income than the poor: it costs them less in real terms, and does more for the country. One thing I do not support is tax evasion, especially from the very rich.

Of course, Bush's tax cuts are the ultimate form of tax evasion - and all his talk about how they're "directed" to those with lower incomes is more of his lies. Or hypocrisy, if you like that better: saying one thing, doing another.

The same for the U.S. 200 years ago; only after women got the vote could the majority of people take part, and full size democracy exists only for 40 years (ask any black man in Alabama). I agree that democracy still isn't perfect; the nice thing about U.S. democracy is that it is a proces to get there, not a finished thing.

Couldn't agree more, Rob. Democracy isn't perfect (what is?) but you are quite correct to say the objective of democracy is a process of continuing improvement.

That's why 2000 was a refutation of democracy; it was a step backward in terms of our laws and our principles. Think about it; we saw purposeful and accidental disenfranchisement. We saw the use of the Judicial Branch as a political campaign organization. This stuff happens in third world banana republics--not the US. We ought to be holding the US to higher standard.

Jes,

"I believe the rich ought to pay a higher proportion of their income than the poor: it costs them less in real terms"

Tell that to my wife and son who just spent his first Halloween without his father and will most likely have his first birthday without me.

I know I am responsible for my own decisions, I'm comfortable with that.

But when I make that kind of decision, I want to keep as much of the money I make as possible.

I feel I deserve it due to the sacrifices I make... in real terms.


Blue: Tell that to my wife and son who just spent his first Halloween without his father and will most likely have his first birthday without me.

Blue, if you're trying to tell us that you have an annual income of $373,000 or more, well, congratulations, buster. The highest I've ever gone is the fourth 20% - $44,000–72,000.

The highest I've ever gone is the fourth 20% - $44,000–72,000.

Heh. I have yet to crack $15,000. #$&^!ing grad school.

2000 Bush won Florida's certified vote count

Bush won unofficial newspaper counts of Florida votes including recounted ballots

If the Florida legislature had voted to determine the results, Bush would have won.

If the U.S. House of Representatives had voted to determine the results, Bush would have won.

Al Gore conceded the election to Bush, before he changed his mind.

It is not "a refutation of democracy" when Bush won in every scenario possible. (Unless all of the miltary absentee ballots were disallowed, which was the Gore strategy.)

You said it yourself, Blue: I know I am responsible for my own decisions, I'm comfortable with that.

Many folks can make more money if they're willing to make certain sacrifices. For some, that means working overseas. For others, it may mean working a second or third job.

It's choice. But I've never heard of anyone refusing to take a higher paying job because he or she didn't want to pay more taxes.

I feel I deserve it due to the sacrifices I make... in real terms.

Blue, you talk about sacrifices as if the only reason you work more and, hence, spend less time with your wife and son is to provide them with a better life, when, as you note yourself, you're missing birthday parties and other events that actually comprise their lives. That's not better, IMHO.

Isn't it true that you work in a way that forces you to be away from them at such moments because of forces beyond your control? Forces that make the bottom line for a company better, but not actually the lives of its employees? Yes, someone must run things even during holidays, but it shouldn't be someone who sees it as a sacrifice. Not if they can avoid it and still get by.

Seriously. What's better than spending Halloween with your son? I watched a father in the subway on Halloween who looked like he didn't make too much money, and his about 8-year-old twins wore what looked like simple home-made costumes, but they were dancing and laughing up a storm, really enjoying themselves. All of them. It made everyone around them smile too. Maybe they'll not have a Harvard-level college fund waiting for them when they turn 18, but look at the memories they'll have.

I wouldn't offer this observation to someone who hadn't described their job as a "sacrifice." You can balance a demanding career and family and enjoy both, but when one is so draining you consider it a "sacrifice" it's probably time to re-evaluate your priorities. Just sayin'...

It is not "a refutation of democracy" when Bush won in every scenario possible.

Except the scenario, unthinkable (evidently) to Bush supporters, in which every ballot was counted, and counted according to the clear intent of the voter.

In which case, Al Gore wins.

Or except the scenario (also unthinkable, evidently) in which Jeb Bush decided not to use scrub lists that would illegally disenfranchise tens of thousands of black voters, who overwhelmingly tend to vote Democratic.

In which case, Al Gore wins.

Unless all of the miltary absentee ballots were disallowed, which was the Gore strategy.

And again the lying meme. The Florida Democrats attempted to have the unpostmarked (and hence invalid) military absentee ballots disallowed: the Republicans spun this into a "Gore hates the military": and the attempt to challenge genuinely invalid ballots fell.

DaveC: Nice talking points but factually untrue on most counts.

Jes,

As I mentioned to Hilzoy the other day... I am in the middle of a 20 day in a row gig... it includes Saturdays and Sundays and I work about 12 to 14 hours/day.

I travel all over the world for work. I would guess that I work atleast twice as many hours/year as the average worker.

I make my money the old fashion way... I work my butt off for it... and I freely admit it has to be pried from my hands.

For your future reference, you really need to make atleast 500K for it to be worth an accountant and lawyer's time to really help you... uhmmm avoid taxes. Even then, you are really just redirecting your tax savings to your accountant/lawyer.

Think about how much an accountant really makes doing someone's taxes who makes 100K. Are they really going to be "creative" when they might make only a couple of grand and have the IRS breathing down their neck. Accountants get much smarter/clever when they might make 40/45 grand off one client.

I think what is often not understood by people who aren't considered wealthy is that many of the people who they might consider wealthy don't feel it, because so much is sacrificed in order to achieve it... so we just feel like we earned it and we should be the one to keep it.

Blue,

I'm not sure what duplicity you are talking about. Is it the business about 5.35% and 5.85%? I live in MA and am unaware of that choice. I just looked at my 2003 return and saw no such option.

But suppose it exists. Are you really criticizing THK for paying the minimum legal amount? Are you prepared to criticize people for taking legitimate deductions?

For your future reference, you really need to make atleast 500K for it to be worth an accountant and lawyer's time to really help you... uhmmm avoid taxes. Even then, you are really just redirecting your tax savings to your accountant/lawyer.


Huh? I'd like to see the rationale for this. I'll make a sweeping statement:* if you make over $150K and you itemize and you're not using an accountant or CFP--you're probably throwing money out the window.

* Standard exceptions apply; especially if you're a financial-type.

Edward,

"Isn't it true that you work in a way that forces you to be away from them at such moments because of forces beyond your control?"

Not to get spacey on you, but I truly don't see it that way. I see all events in my life as my choice. I think that is what drives my success. But, just because it's my choice doesn't mean that its not still a sacrifice.

"I wouldn't offer this observation to someone who hadn't described their job as a "sacrifice." You can balance a demanding career and family and enjoy both, but when one is so draining you consider it a "sacrifice" it's probably time to re-evaluate your priorities. Just sayin'..."

I hear you and I'm with you to an extent. Many people have certain goals they want to reach within given timelines. I'm happy doing what I do... I just want to keep more of the reward.

If it means anything... my 10 month old has over 6,000 frequent flyer miles and has been to 27 states in this great country of ours.

Of course, I had to pay for that too...extra hotel room for nanny... 3 extra airplane tickets... extra rental car... and the expense of feeding everyone on the road. Tickets into Disney World... Sea World... tickets into Disney Land... the list goes on... but heck it's a all deduction right? Unfortunately, no.


If it means anything... my 10 month old has over 6,000 frequent flyer miles and has been to 27 states in this great country of ours.

I'd say it does mean something. Sounds like quite a gift to your son to get to travel like that (I always wished my father had been a ship captain and I could travel from port to port as a kid myself).

I'm happy doing what I do... I just want to keep more of the reward.

But how much is enough? At what point do the more wealthy of us get philanthropic? Seriously...isn't that important too?


Edward,

"But how much is enough?"

I think that real point is that I should have the freedom to do with my body and mind as I choose and what those produce. It should be my choice.

In no particular order the gov't needs to keep enough to pay for good roads... strong military... great education... jails...

I might add a few more but I would left out medical care intentionally.

I believe most issues should be managed at the state level if possible.

I beleive money should be collected at the state level and should flow up to the federal gov't and down to the counties.

I would rather have a sales tax, than an income tax.

Also, I mean this in all seriousness... the conversation with me doesn't even begin until they are working as much as I do. Show me some poor person working 80 hours/week... and I will show you someone who won't be poor for much longer.

"At what point do the more wealthy of us get philanthropic? Seriously...isn't that important too?"

No, its not important except on a personal level.

My taxes already feel philanthropic.

My taxes already feel philanthropic.

Fundamental difference of opinion there, I guess.

Carry on (homonym intended).

"Fundamental difference of opinion "

I would say fundamental difference of experience...

Blue,

My income is considerably less than $500K and I find it quite worthwhile to use an accountant. Without any shenanigans, consider the following:

1. Time and headache saved. Given your work schedule surely it's worth it to buy yourself some leisure time.

2. Avoiding errors that can be costly, both in terms of paying unnecessary taxes and in terms of incurring penalties, etc.

Just to give the other side of the argument though, I once saw an interview with Henry Block, the "H" of H&R Block. He was asked whether he did his own taxes and said yes. In fact, he said, everyone should do their own taxes, just to get an annual picture of their finances.

Blue, if that's been your experience, then you found a crooked accountant. It's worthwhile shopping round for a good one, who won't rook you and who will want you to come back again and again year after year: who isn't interested (no good accountant is) in cheating the Revenooers, but in making sure you pay every penny you owe and no more.

(Tax lawyers I have no experience of.)

You didn't mention whether you actually are rich - let's say in the top 5%, with an income of at least $147,000 per year - or whether you just think you're rich and in fact fall into a middle tax bracket - fourth 20%, say. Since you brought it up, it would be cool of you to satisfy my curiosity. Are you one of the wealthiest 200,000 people whom the Republicans prefer not to tax?

The advantages of using an accountant or CFP goes far beyond saving time. A good accountant or CFP will not only identify your maximum allowable deductions but will assist you in planning what future actions you can take to not only limit tax liability but to plan for your financial goals (retirement, college for the kids, new home or investment property, etc.)

They're cheap and you instantly get a ROI.

Blue asserted: Also, I mean this in all seriousness... the conversation with me doesn't even begin until they are working as much as I do. Show me some poor person working 80 hours/week... and I will show you someone who won't be poor for much longer.

I'll show you some people who are working 80 hour weeks: José Luis Cruz. Fernando Gomez. Miguel Diaz Hernandez. cite. Garment workers who work at piece-rate.

And the problems just got worse under Bush.

Your fantasies that hard work brings riches are just that, Blue: happy fantasies. Even for you - unless you're about to claim you do fall into the upper 5% (which I confess I doubt, though I will take your word for it if you say it's so...)

Bernard,

I'm not sure what your point is... I never said one shouldn't use and accountant and that it wasn't worthwile for one to use an accountant. I only said an accountant doesn't make that much money on someone who makes under 500K so they can't be as creative in helping you manage your money.

Next time you go to your accountant talk to him about setting up a trust for you. Ask him about the different kinds of trusts. I bet your accountant doesn't know very much about it... because he's busy working with people like you.

Also, you are going to need a lawyer to help you get that trust set up. So next time you go to your lawyer... what you don't have a regular lawyer?... oh you do... does he specialize on setting up trusts?

And we haven't even talked about off-shore accounts, muni's and so forth.

Do you get my point?

One, most people don't deal with lawyers or accountants who specialize in these type of areas.

Two, most people can't afford the ones who do specialize.

The system is broke... I'm all for change

Bernard,

"Are you really criticizing THK for paying the minimum legal amount? "

I am criticizing people who choose to pay the minimal
amount themselves and desire to raise taxes on others.

Jes,

"Blue, if that's been your experience, then you found a crooked accountant."

Tax avoidance is not illegal. Tax evasion is illegal.

I am most well within the top 5%. Even though my parents have very humble backgrounds I have always found it interesting that in my large family all of us are in the top 5% and we are all in different fields.

Let me clarify... if you are in this country legally and you are working 80/week and you live a humble life... then you won't be poor for long.

And we haven't even talked about off-shore accounts, muni's and so forth.

Are you kidding?

Blue: Tax avoidance is not illegal. Tax evasion is illegal.

Huh? What are you talking about? I was advising you that if you'd found it "wasn't worthwhile" using an accountant to do your taxes because s/he charged too much, then you found a crooked accountant: a good accountant charges a reasonable amount to do a tax return, hoping for your repeat business. (You asserted this at 10:55 AM, btw.) Shop around. Find one that won't overcharge you.

Let me clarify... if you are in this country legally and you are working 80/week and you live a humble life... then you won't be poor for long.

Wrong, Blue, as you'd know if you read the links I posted, especially the third one - rather than just assuming that anyone working an 80 hour week with a Mexican name must be in the country illegally.

"I am criticizing people who choose to pay the minimal
amount themselves and desire to raise taxes on others."

I really don't get this argument. Surely anybody could voluntarily give their entire salary (or savings) to pay down the debt. The fact that a candidate doesn't do that, and only pays the amount of tax shown due on his return, shouldn't disqualify the candidate from saying he thinks the law should be changed so that he owes more.

Kerry is playing by the rules, but says the rules should be changed, what's so hypocritical or hard to understand about that? You might have a point if he (or THK) was engaged in aggressive tax shelters, but they're not.

My .02 on tax prep. is that anyone with a slightly complex return (such as itemized deductions) should buy turbotax (or whatever program you like-- they're all pretty much the same), but I don't think there's any benefit to hiring an accountant for tax prep. unless you have rental property or your own business. Turbotax can handle complex individual returns quite well, and for less money.

By the way, any mutual fund company would be happy to help you invest in a muni bond fund. There's no secret to how to do it, it's just probably not worth doing unless you are in the top tax bracket (and even then you might find it not that rewarding).

More importantly, I have to agree that if the Horatio Alger fable was ever true in America, it's not true now. With all due respect Blue, I'm sure there are millions of people in the US who work more hours than you, live humbly, and earn a small fraction of what you earn.

Jes,

I did read those links... so lighten up...

"Mexican name must be in the country illegally."

Where the heck did I mention anything about being Mexican?

Let me also add as long as no laws are being broken...


Jade,

Have you ever hired anyone to help you manage your money? Having an accountant fill out tax forms for you is not having someone help you manage your money. No accountant is going to sit down with someone who makes $100K/year and do the things that Kerry or anyone with that kind of wealth would do. They couldn't possibly make enough money off of you to make it worth their time.

I think you guys are comparing your oranges to my apples.

Doh,

"You might have a point if he (or THK) was engaged in aggressive tax shelters, but they're not."

I don't think we can comment on their tax shelters. They haven't released all their tax info.

But, it we are going to speculate it would be naive to think they didn't utilize aggressive tax shelters.

"but I don't think there's any benefit to hiring an accountant for tax prep. unless you have rental property or your own business. Turbotax can handle complex individual returns quite well, and for less money."

Guys, we aren't even talking about the same things here. This conversation is a joke to anyone who has money.

Where the heck did I mention anything about being Mexican?

Ahem, Blue. You asserted 11:44 AM: Show me some poor person working 80 hours/week... and I will show you someone who won't be poor for much longer.

I offered as a counter-example (12:49 PM) four or five named people (all of whom, as it happened, had Hispanic/Mexican names) who were poor, working 80 hours/week, and who were plainly going to stay poor, given how little they were being paid for their long hours. So, obviously, I have shown you people (even though you ignored the information in the links provided) who refute your happy Alger-fantasy.

Your response (01:07 PM) was illuminating: Let me clarify... if you are in this country legally and you are working 80/week and you live a humble life... then you won't be poor for long.

What else am I to conclude but that you decided, sight-unseen, that the people I'd named must be in the country illegally - and clearly (since you had no other information - unless you really want to claim you'd read everything on all three links in 18 minutes? thought not) on no other basis but that they had Hispanic names?

And, since you brought it up, where does your income fall?

People who work 80 hours and stay poor would do better to find other jobs.

Jes,

I can only think you are trying to be difficult... read your own cites...

"The Chinese workers in question, mostly immigrant women who do not speak English, are proud and not afraid of working."

Chinese not Mexican!

" the average American -- and especially the average woman -- is working longer hours while wages fail to keep pace."

"Women are working many more weeks per year and hours per week"

No ethnicity here mentioned!

How ironic that you accuse me of not reading when you ask:

Now Jes says:
"I'd named must be in the country illegally "

But in your own darned cite that I read:
"Many of the workers are in this country illegally,"

And then you ask:
"And, since you brought it up, where does your income fall?"

And I answered long ago:
From 1:07

"I am most well within the top 5%. Even though my parents have very humble backgrounds I have always found it interesting that in my large family all of us are in the top 5% and we are all in different fields.

So tell me Jes... what's your deal?

And I didn't have the intention of bring my income up. I was speaking about Kerry:

"I wasn't clear in my post about Mass tax code and Kerry. It is the duplicity in his actions that makes me angry... not that he got a better rate than me."

"- unless you really want to claim you'd read everything on all three links in 18 minutes?"

I guess what we can conclude here Jes is that I am a much faster reader than you. ; -)

But just so you know... I started with the 2nd cite first... don't know why my mouse must have just been near it... then the 3rd cite and then the first cite.

And just so you know... one of my businesses that I started was with an immigrant... unfortunately it failed. I lost money he lost his time... he had a day job and worked nights. It seemed fair to me.

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