Thursday, February 04, 2010

Contract from America

The Tea Party types are putting together what they call a “Contract from America” which strikes me very much like a party platform. I think it is essentially sending the message “these are the things we’d like done.”

They are currently in the process of winnowing down the ideas submitted into a more focused list. I’ve listed the 20 highest rated ideas, with commentary, below. I have corrected the spelling and English usage errors in the list.

Implement the Fair Tax 8692 rating
This idea has a lot of attractive elements to it. If nothing else it would significantly simplify taxes. The problem is there are lots of question about both the impact and the effectiveness of this type of tax.

Basically this idea eliminates the income tax in favor of what amounts to a tax upon consumption. It’s not a true sales tax because it includes an ongoing rebate (or prebate as proponents call it) that would effectively eliminate any taxes on people spending under the poverty level. As a matter of fact, in some cases, it could even be a negative tax where poor families would receive more in rebate payments than they paid in taxes.

The problem is that not everyone agrees the tax would work as advertised and there is concern that it may be vulnerable to fraud. Taxing would occur only once at the final sale for consumption, therefore the fear is that it might be possible to side step tax payments by disguising the purchase as an intermediary one. Also, can you spell Black Market? Think about the cross state trafficking in cigarettes.

I think this is a very complicated area and, while the Fair Tax is attractive for a number of reasons, it’s unclear to me whether it’s a good idea. - Uncertain

Legislation shall contain no unrelated amendments 4411 rating
No more “riders” tacked onto bills spending money on questionable or favorite causes. I agree with this 100%. - Agree

Congressional Term Limits 3906 rating
Absolutely agree with this 100%. - Agree

Abolish the Department of Education 3466 rating
Since I’m not 100% certain what the Department of Education does I’m at something of a loss to decide whether or not this is a good witch or a bad witch. I noticed that some of the morons commenting on this idea seem to think it would allow the states to re-institute school prayers. Clearly they don’t understand how things work.

The bottom line is I’m uncertain about this one. - Uncertain

Pass Nationwide Medical Malpractice Tort Reform 3081 rating
I absolutely agree with this 100%. - Agree

Congress shall not exempt themselves 2908 rating
I absolutely agree with this 100%. If it’s good enough for the meandering herd, then it’s good enough for those bozos as well - Agree

No lifetime salary or benefits for Congress 2876 rating
Basically you get paid for the time you serve and that’s it. This works very well in conjunction with term limits. – Agree

An Official Language of the United States 2856 rating
I agree. English should the official language. I grind my teeth every time I’m told to “press 1 for English.” - Agree

Drill Here, Drill Now 2828 rating
It’s highly debatable that this is going to solve anything. The guy that submitted this seems to think we have massive untapped oil reserves. This just flat out isn’t true. Better would be to find alternative and renewable sources. - Oppose

Interstate Health Insurance Competition 2732 rating
Why the hell not is what I say. Competition invariable leads to benefits for the consumer. – Agree

Cite Constitutional authority for creating laws 2207 rating
Anyone can rationalize anything. This wouldn’t accomplish anything. Someone can always come up with a creative explanation. If you doubt that, just check out Christian Apologetics. So this isn’t a bad idea, it’s just worthless. - Oppose

Nuclear Energy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil 1690 rating
Assuming the appropriate safeguards are in place and we have a way to dispose of all that nuclear waste, maybe. I’d like to understand a little more about the implications of this. - Uncertain

More Drilling for Natural Gas and Oil, Increase Nuclear Energy, and eliminate federal regulation and give power back to the states 1075 rating
This is sort of a combination of the two previous ideas. I seriously doubt we currently have the oil reserves to resolve the issue and I find nuclear energy questionable as a solution. - Uncertain

Federal Spending Limitations - Budget Cap 942 rating
It’s probably not a good idea to try and see too far into the future and I get the feeling this is what this idea is trying to do. On the other hand, as long as there is adequate leeway for addressing emergencies then this might be a good idea. I think it’s more complicated than it sounds however and I’d need more details. – Uncertain

2nd Amendment Rights 938 rating
I’ll let you have all the guns you want as long as bullets are restricted to target ranges and hunting preserves. – Opposed

Presidential advisers (czars) shall have no regulatory authority 899 rating
I agree with this. Advisors should be just that, advisors. Only elected officials should have regulatory power. – Agree

Bills from the House or Senate are to be Made Public 7 Days Before any Vote 836 rating
All bills are already posted and can be accessed easily from the Internet. The problem is you have to know the bill exists and its designation. I think we need a more streamlined and easy to access system. If that’s what this means, then I’m all for it. – Agree

Post all government expenditures on the Internet 575 rating
Some government expenditures are classified and have to be classified. Besides, if you post all the bills, which would include appropriations bills, this sort of becomes redundant. – Oppose

Hands OFF the Internet 472 rating
I agree 100%. – Agree

Abolish the Department of Energy. 439 rating
Like the Department of Education, I’m not certain what this department does so it’s hard for me to judge. – Uncertain

So I agree with 10, disagree with 4 and I’m uncertain about 6. In general I think all of these ideas are underestimating the complexity associated with the issue. They’re ideas that would like to grow up to be concepts that can then be matured into plans. The devil is in the details and there is usually a lot of work to be done between the idea phase and when implementation begins.

I also think some of the support is based upon unrealistic expectations as well as a misunderstanding of who controls what in some cases. Eliminating the Department of Education isn’t going to allow restoring school prayer, teaching creationism or resurrecting segregation. The Constitution isn’t going away.

I think the general consensus is if it isn’t effective, then eliminate it. However one needs to be careful that one doesn’t get a totally unexpected and unpleasant result. Just because you’re not aware of it doesn’t mean an agency isn’t performing some vital service. Often the quietest agencies are the most effective.

Still, at least 10, and possibly 16, of the ideas strike me as having merit and I’m willing to be convinced on 3 of the 4 I opposed. No one is ever going to convince me that we need unrestricted gun ownership or any gun ownership at all for that matter.

The real danger here is having a group of people, who don’t understand the complexities of the situation, trying to dictate simple minded solutions and then becoming enraged when things get bogged down due to the complexities they overlooked. On the other hand, maybe some of these things are in fact as simple as they look.

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