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A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Friday, November 11, 2005
WHAT "Get a Free $500 Best Buy Gift Card!" REALLY MEANS: Checked out one of those horrid little emails that promise money or a gift card, to see what they are about. I put in the false name, the email address from mailinator the friendly disposable email company, and then followed up on what I had to do to get the money!!! This offer is from these guys and it all seems quite easy:

Basically fill in two easy offers, like making a bid on Ebay or get some Columbia house DVD's. But, its not. There is another page, with two offers to make. The second page, there are some more offers which are more expensive, and, you guessed it, another page, with more offers. Do I have to fill in two offers a page? The terms and conditions say the following, buried in mountains of legalese:

"Members must complete two (2) offers on each of the three (3) featured offers pages. To complete an offer you must use accurate information on the advertiser site. Failure to do so will results in termination of your membership and all previous completed offers will be forfeited. "

So that is the story. I have to get the free credit report and the credit card offer as well as the Ebay bid and the DVD's. But then, I have to get the car loan and the satellite TV deal as well. Now I have to get the car loan, because, there are only three offers on this page and two of them are satellite TV deals with just about the same deal. So, I hope this loan is worth it, but I have a feeling that I can do better somewhere else...

So, I will get the $500 gift card, but I had better be interested in getting a whole bunch of stuff I am not really interested in... I love capitalism!!!!!!!!
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Thursday, November 03, 2005
WHY A WOMAN"S RIGHT TO CHOOSE IS NOT ABSOLUTELY AN ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO PRIVACY: I wondered over to Digby today, via Atrios. and read this extraordinary passage about a "woman's right to choose:"

"And if men choose to define their "concept of existence, of meaning, of the mystery of life" as being pregnant, the law should give them equal rights to the female body that is actually, you know, biologically pregnant. That's called equality."

No, that is called an argumentive fallacy of the excluded middle. One does not have to make the claim Digby makes that opening the possibility to male co-responsibility for pregnancy requires an equal say in what happens.

Claim that Digby doesn't like: "The fetus may be physically growing in the woman’s belly, but in the geography of the psyche, it is inside the man as well. To exclude expectant fathers from juridical notice on grounds of biology is to miss the importance of pregnancy in a man’s concept of himself as a parent and a procreative being and his vision of the meaning of his life."

Claim that Digby then advances: "I suspect that this guy's concept of himself would be less enthusiastic about sharing the burden of pregnancy if the geography of the testicles were squeezed in a vise for 18 hours as he tried to expel a cantaloupe through his penis. It would very likely change his vision of the meaning of his life, as well."

I dislike this argument for a couple of reasons. First, continuing what I started with above, I want to say first, that if the law says that women have to obey their husbands decision in this matter, than yes, I can understand why folks are upset, and why they are going to fight this as a kind of coercive notification law. But if the issue is about just telling the husband of the preganancy--well then yes, I think Digby's argument is missing alternative possible outcomes. Such outcomes might include a frank discussion about the state of the marriage, what the partners want, etc. Such conversations are never easy, but they should take place. And, frankly, pregnancy (expected or otherwise) is an amazingly potent starter and sustainer of such important conversations. If one believes that a marriage is about a meeting and bonding of equals, it would appear clear that a husband has a right to have his opinion heard/asked for in a decision like this. He has some responsibility for the fetus' creation (unless this will be a virgin birth). On that basis alone, he is owed that much at least.

What if the woman says nothing to the man? Then, if you are a Kantian, you would have no hesitation in saying that the woman was using her husband as a means to an end, as someone to be manipulated. Good luck to the success of this marriage!

An argument will be advanced that this is really a problem of inequality in a relationship. What if the husband seeks to coerce the woman with threats of force--economic. physical, or emotional, due to an inequality of resources? Is this a problem of the pregnancy or a problem with the marriage or the concept of marriage itself? A symptom or a cause of stress? The bottom line is that if this the bottom line problem, the argument advanced is not really about a right to privacy, its about what is the function of a marriage in our day and age. If that is true, then the liberal elements that are up in arms about this issue, need to be more honest about what the issues are. But doing that would be horribly controversial and against mainstream American values about what marriage stands for.

Second problem: The way in which Digby dismisses psychic realities against the priority of corporeal-biological imperatives. As much as I dislike that move given the great work that Deleuze has done on what a body might actually consist of (thus an idea is just as much a "body" as one's actual physical body), let us grant Digby the basis of his cynicism. Yes, his point is that men have no real idea of what women experience when they are pregnant on a physical level, so why should they have a say? Let us grant that immediately. Yet, when that "bundle of joy" comes brightly into the world, as a PHYSICAL phenomenon, guess what we now have? Men interacting with a physical entity; and my guess is, experiencing emotions and real events not much different to the recently pregnant woman; and will do so for quite some time. So, from what I gather, Digby is making a claim to privilege the suffering of women, and the impact of pregnancy on their physical bodies in the carrying and bearing of these children. OK, that is one possible choice to privilege that part of the child-creating and rearing process above others. Yet, to do so by effacing the post-birth experience of the father? Isn't that a bit extreme?
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005
WHY PAYING THE MOST INCOME TAXES IS NOT A WINNING ARGUMENT: I am having a gentle and very civil conversation with a couple of regulars at TAIR, concerning economic issues in the current administration, and the issue of the tax cuts came up. The tax cuts were a fair recompense to wealthy folks. The observation raised was:

"Therefore, my assertion is that if an income tax cut is done, the people who actually PAY the income taxes should get the money, as opposed to giving more of the money that wage earners pay to non-wage earners. In other words, taking MY money that I work for, and giving it (in the form of refundable tax credits, etc.), to give them an effective Negative Income Tax Rate, is no better than theft - Robin Hood with a badge."

I agree that the rich pay most of the taxes. But it doesn't necessarily follow that they then deserve big tax cuts. I say this because the other side of that story--the fact that they also get the lion's share of the benefits is usually not mentioned.

To make sense of this, consider what has happened to wealth holdings for the US as a whole over the last twenty years or so. In this period, total income and wealth went up in this country in absolute terms. After the first Reagan cuts of the early 80s, we saw real tax increases for the rich. It would seem to suggest that one consequence of this action would be a redistribution of wealth from wealthy to poor folks (on the arguments advanced above).

These are the facts:
Quintile 1947 to 1979
Real Growth in Income
Top 1% + 86% (actually top 5%)
Top 20% + 99%
Middle 20% + 111%
Bottom 20% +116%

1979 to 1998 Real Growth in Income
Top 1%+ 106% (> $260,000 per year)
Top 20%+ 38% (> $83,699 per year)
Middle 20% + 8% ($37,700-$56,000 per year)
Bottom 20% - 5% (up to $21,600 per year)

Distribution of Wealth:
1976 1998
Top 1% 19% 38%
Next 9% 30% 33%
Bottom 90% 51% 29%

We can see that income increased for the top folks in this country at a startling rate (and that advantage kicks in at fairly low levels (if you make more than approx $125,000, you are in the top 10% of income earners). And most folks saw their real income basically stay stagnant.

And even with punitive taxes, as we are so often told, the wealthy not only got better off in terms of net worth, absolutely, but also concentrated more wealth into fewer hands, relative to the rest of the country.

So, how did they do it, if they are being taxed to death? A clue...

Federal Spending on Various Programs in 1997
Corporate Subsidies $69.2 billion
Corporate Tax Breaks $60 billion
Tax Breaks for Top 1% of Households $40 billion
Mortgage Interest Payments Deduction to Top 20% $28 billion
AFDC (Welfare Payments) $16 billion
Housing (Low Cost) $19.5 billion

The last two are welfare payments--coming in at $40 billion. The rest is corporate and wealth oriented pork. It comes in at $180 billion a year. That is how the rich get wealthier even with higher tax rates. These are figures for BEFORE Mr. Bush became president. The situation is far more skewed now.

Other issues: tax evasion, but that is for another time... (though we focus most resources in auditing on poor folks trying to grab a $1,000 from the EIC, most losses in evaded tax come from... well, you can guess...

Source: Economics as If People Mattered (based on census data).

Summary: Whilst it is true that the rich pay most of the taxes (whilst also evading a lot), it is also the case that the rich also get buukko dollars out of a system that they have a huge say in running. Is this really a surprise?

For me, that concentration of wealth is a danger to this republic. And that is a post for another time...
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