No Reason to Subscribe to Fortune

Let’s cut to the meat:

[I]f America fails to enact historic, structural reforms in spending, an entirely new source of revenue will be needed. And it’s likely to be enacted in haste and near-panic, as the only option to forestalling a crisis. “The gap between revenues and outlays will be simply too large,” says J.D. Foster, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former budget official under President George W. Bush. “Three points of GDP need to be closed to make budgets sustainable. Either government spending gets back near where it used to be, or we’ll need an completely new type of tax.”

The new levy will need to be big, so big that the most probable choice is a European-style value-added tax or VAT. That looming revenue machine is the phantom in the room, the tax that’s still invisible to most Americans, but that threatens precisely the group that’s supposed to emerge from all the deal-making as the Great Unthreatened, our middle class.

Now then, let me explain why a VAT — particularly a hastily enacted VAT — is absolutely not going to happen. It’s called the 16th Amendment:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Congress has two ways of taxing us. The first is a tax based on the number of people in the state. It should be obvious that it’s not entirely fair to make your tax bill based on state population without regard for your ability to pay (it seemed like a good idea in the 18th century), so the 16th Amendment had to be passed to make income tax legal. I am not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar, but I don’t see a damn thing in the Constitution or Amendment 16 that makes a national sales tax legal.

Anybody who wants a VAT had better start working on an amendment to the Constitution. That cannot be done in haste.

This article is supposed to scare you and I into insisting on austerity rather than implement this improbable, middle class “crushing” tax. Heaven forbid we should raise additional revenue through higher taxes on the wealthy at the rates they were under Reagan, or Nixon, or heaven forbid Eisenhower (all “conservative” Republicans of their day). Nope, easier to frighten you into giving up the things your taxes have paid for: well maintained roads; safe water coming out of your tap and safe food available at your local grocer; police and fire services; public schools that make sure businesses can hire literate employees anywhere in the nation; a minimal retirement income you already paid for. Nope, gotta cut back somewhere.

In Closing: scientific method suggests that when your experiment doesn’t work, you change the hypothesis; what a sleeze; let’s not lock kids up in solitary; wealth gap grows; agreed; women will die because their parents are afraid they will think sex is ok; I find it hard to believe that’s cost effective; “Just how many female-headed single-parent families with two children under 10 are there in the United States making $260K/year, anyway?”; and wouldn’t that be a waste.

Beneath the Shorties

LOL: Enjoy this meme while you can, I figure it’s dead in 3 weeks.

They just keep coming: Remember, the plot to kill Big Bird is still in play. There’s a Million Muppet March planned.

Twelve! Meeeeelion! Jobs!!!: Yeah, so?

Get it off me! Get it get it get it….: Is it just me, or does Mr. Romney look uncomfortable in this picture? You don’t suppose it could be that he’s being touched by a black man, do you?

Beating the dead dressage horse: What Romney’s tax “plan” could do to housing.

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it: Scientists found a planet twice the size of Earth, largely made of diamond. Good thing it’s far enough away that DeBeers can’t get hold of it!

Like you needed an economist to tell you that: Your paycheck is being outstripped by inflation. So if low interest rates are supposedly the cure for inflation, what the heck is the Fed going to do now??

But apparently some people do need an economist to tell you this: Here’s why cutting taxes never has and never will create jobs.

Gee, maybe saying “no” wasn’t such a good strategy: Failing to pass a Big Agriculture Giveaway  Farm Bill before leaving Washington gave some Democrats an upper hand.

Judges judge things: An Appeals Court has ruled part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Unexpected Excitement: Passengers on a Canadian airliner helped save a boater’s life. That beats most in-flight movies.

Wheat Ain’t What It Was: On modern wheat.

Not sure how to get out of this mess: Two out of three new college grads has college loan debt, and the average amount is $26,600. The scary part is that many of them won’t be getting jobs anytime soon. Just a reminder, it would take 3668 hours at minimum wage to pay that off. That’s 152 days of nonstop 24/7 labor. And it won’t be wiped out by bankruptcy.

Newsweek: will stop printing a paper edition.

But what about the economy?: Here’s an outline of the risks.

“The other 1%”: 2/3 of the bottom 1% of Americans are in prison.

Turns out it won’t turn good girls into sluts: Girls who get the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex.

Carbs: “People 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar, Mayo Clinic researchers have found. Those who consume a lot of protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to become cognitively impaired, the study found.”

And it turns out that Doing Good might Make More Money: At least that’s Coca-Cola’s theory.

Book Review: Diary of a Mad Fat Girl

This post is in connection with the BlogHer Book Club. I am being compensated for this review and received a free copy of the book itself. Join the conversation!

My first clue that Diary of a Mad Fat Girl by Stephanie McAfee might have a little disconnect was when I laid eyes on the cover: a pair of slim legs draped over a wood privacy fence, not a hint of cellulite, not an ounce of flab, topped with a flouncy pink miniskirt that no overweight woman I’ve ever known would be caught dead wearing. Now, I wasn’t expecting extreme corpulence, but our protagonist describes herself as size 16 high school art teacher. Frankly, I was expecting, well, somebody who looks more like the author.

One of the more remarkable things about this book is that it was originally self-published as an e-book! It was so successful online that the author was able to get a literary agent and a publisher. This is in fact the author’s first novel, and as such I am going to cut her some slack for some heavy-handed foreshadowing and a delightful deus-ex-machina. Whoops! I dare not say more! Nobody likes spoilers.

If you’re a fan of small town intrigue or school district politics, you’re going to love this one. Most of the major characters have known one another since they were children. The prose is amusing, the dialog perfectly suited to the characters, some of the situations delightfully silly. Serious topics like spousal abuse and homosexuality are treated with dignity. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m very picky about endings. Without giving anything away, there was one aspect of the obligatory happy ending that didn’t really fit right. Assuming you can take the sexual themes, an amusing book worth checking out

In Closing: Try to use them all!; contraceptives; urban unrest; Hail Seizure; Call Center Bill; guaranteed prisoners (somebody explain to me how a for profit company can provide the same quality for less money than a government body that doesn’t need to make a profit? Don’t yell pensions because some government agencies have proven they can already screw workers out of those); costs more and pays less; stop buying them; this must stop; on moral decline; judge speaks common sense, that someone in a public place has a limited expectation of privacy, even if he/she is a cop; nothing to hide; and what really causes heart disease.

Shorties in the Sky

Impressive: America needs roughly $2,200,000,000,000 in repairs to things like roads, tunnels, bridges and the like. You don’t suppose doing something like that might result in some kind of fiscal stimulus?

Stick to feeding the poor and preaching peace: young people increasingly turned off by the hateful political crap spewed by many churches.

Do Not Grope the Pilot: He would also like you to not take naked pictures of him, and moreover he would like you to assume he is not a terrorist.

Is it time to resign yet?: Senator John Ensign (the guy who isn’t Harry Reid) raised a whopping $18,000 last quarter. Unfortunately he had to shell out over a half million dollars in legal fees.

Color By Numbers: There are more black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850. You don’t really believe that’s because the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by black people, do you? You don’t suppose that there could be just a wee tiny bit of racism going on?

I Dare you?: D.A.R.E., encouraging children to put their parents in prison and themselves in foster care, all for the unworthy goal of the long since lost “War On Drugs.” Heck, we couldn’t even win the “War On Drugs” by re-destroying the #1 opium producing nation in the world!

Go Ahead, Make the Case for Medicare For All: Some insurance companies are threatening to stop writing policies if they are forced to follow the law in 2011 instead of a largely theoretical future date of their choosing. Yeah, you just go on and do that, suckers. In the meantime, the Feds are taking on Michigan Blue Cross for stifling competition in a way that raises prices. Nice to see them the Feds actually giving a darn about normal people over corporations for a change.

Obligatory Items on the Economy: Reich’s Perfect Storm; donations down 11% at the top 400 American charities; the problem with the economy so that absolutely anybody can understand it.

No Woman Should Have to Put Up with This Crap:Some students and the Yale Women’s Center board complained after pledges were videotaped last week, chanting about necrophilia and a specific sexual act.” Pledge activities have been suspended, but as far as I am concerned, some wealthy young [insert offensive plural noun] needs to get suspended or expelled. Let them explain to their daddies and mommies what they did on videotape and why. “Boys will be boys” my ass!

Password protection for your internet connection is a good idea: “Deputies arrested Candice Miller only after they raided the wrong house. Investigators busted into the neighbors’ house suspecting they were sending child porn. Turns out Miller’s neighbors didn’t secure their wireless Internet connection.”

The Difference Between Theft and Piracy: boils down to what you’ve got afterward.

If Only: Myth Busted! Can we move on to where you were born?

Smart people drink more: Alcohol consumption correlates with intelligence.

I guess I know what I’m wearing tomorrow: purple. Relevant.

It’s less annoying than air travel: record number of riders on Amtrak.

No I don’t really need this: but a pizza cutter shaped like the Enterprise is still pretty cool.

I promise it’s the only thing I’ll say about it here: (But expect a post over at about foreclosures later) Ladies and gentlemen I present the dumbest thing anybody has said about a moratorium on foreclosures! “For instance, in Cleveland, where there are over 18,000 vacant homes, lives Millie Davis who recently earned her Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from Cleveland State University and just bought her first home – one that had fallen into foreclosure and sat abandoned for years. Had a blanket moratorium been in place, that sale would have fallen through — not only deferring her dream of homeownership but leaving neighbors on the block to stand by and watch as their property values continue to plummet.” Now then first of all her Master’s degree couldn’t possibly have less to do with the situation. I’ve got one of those myself and a fat lot of good it’s done me. Second, I don’t think anybody is talking about going back and examining the paperwork on homes that “sat abandoned for years.” That is all water under the bridge. The priority right now is to make sure that the banks or other entities that are foreclosing on homes a) have the legal right to do so and b) follow all the applicable laws when they do it (and they probably don’t). Failing to find this out now could result in millions of homes that can’t be sold at all because nobody can prove who really owns them. Oh, and c) “vacant” and “foreclosed” are two different things, which is something I would have expected the Secretary of HOUSING and Urban Development to know.

And one last thing: great descriptions of things on TV.

Thoughts for Labor Day

I think it’s appropriate to focus on jobs for Labor Day.

The good news is that employers did add new jobs last month. Unfortunately they didn’t add nearly enough to make a dent in unemployment. Even as private employers are adding positions, cash-strapped state and local governments have had no choice but to cut them. Drowning government in the bathtub sounds great until you realize there’s lots of things government does to make the private sector possible.

The flipside of employment is, of course, unemployment. Real unemployment is much higher than the “headline” number. That’s because the number you hear on the news doesn’t include people who have given up on jobs, people who went back to school because there’s no jobs/to get training/hoping the market will be better when they graduate, part time workers who would rather work full time, etc.. Of course, it’s also alarming how long many of the unemployed have been unemployed.

It doesn’t help matters that the current administration thinks they can create jobs by encouraging companies to borrow money. Banks are still being stingy and real property is no longer something with which truly small businesses can secure loans. Besides, what bank in their right mind is going to lend money to some unemployed guy who figures he can start his own business?

We’re one of the only modern countries with no maternity leave, no mandated sick leave, and no guarantee of health care (merely an upcoming mandate that we pay the profitable insurance companies that created our unaffordable system). We also trail every modern nation when it comes to vacation time. Heck, some people have to fight for their lunch break!

Let’s hear it for Labor this Labor Day.

Acute Angle: Looks like the Review Journal is going to actually sue Sharron Angle for copyright infringement!

In closing: any prison term can turn into a death sentence; why people believe lies; fired for being paid so little she qualifies for food stamps; advice for college freshmen; Enron exec to stay in prison during appeal (good!); this is not good; Thank you, Digby, for saying what I’ve said for years, If Social Security is running out of money, how is less money supposed to fix it??; parents’ worries vs children’s actual risks; Abigail Disney on the Estate Tax; VW wants to be #1; on debt; I wouldn’t treat a dog this way; “Moby Dick with Dragons“; on racism, bad neighborhoods, and the news; and Mac Vs. PC.

Hold Your Nose and Pick One

The Nevada race for Senate continues to be close. But this week the Las Vegas Review Journal — our paper of record, serving roughly 75% of the state’s population — did a different poll. They found that 2/3 of people who support Sharron Angle wish the Republican candidate were someone else, along with 8 in 10 undecided voters.

Senator Reid isn’t out of the doghouse either: “Some 49 percent said they would have preferred another Democrat nominee over Reid, including 28 percent from his party, 66 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of the undecided or those aligned with other candidates.”

CBS has picked up the story, pointing out:

Before Angle’s nomination, Republicans were salivating over the likelihood that Reid would fall in the midterm elections in what was expected to be a demoralizing, high-profile defeat for Democrats. But Angle’s controversial positions on a variety of issues gave the majority leader an opening to portray her as too extreme for Nevada voters. Her nomination, coupled with Reid’s relative unpopularity, appears to have forced many in the state to have to choose between a pair of candidates about whom they have little enthusiasm.

So there is a question that we have to ask ourselves when we look at poll results: how many of those people who say they support one candidate will really go into that polling booth and select the other one? Where do the 66% of Republicans who wish Reid wasn’t the candidate overlap with the 68% who wish Angle wasn’t the candidate, and will some of them secretly vote for Reid? Will Angle say something between here and November so crazy that not even most Republicans can stand by her? Can Reid do anything to win over those who aren’t happy with her? Will voter turnout programs target at the unemployed matter in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation?

All these questions and more will be answered by November 2, 2010.

In closing: stop the rape; American birthrate at a new low; the Department of No Shit Sherlock (where did Susie find these great people to cover her blog while she’s away??); fighting for freedom, free of freedom; what on earth was the woman who tried to smuggle a baby tiger in a suitcase full of stuffed tigers thinking?? (cute little guy); when it comes to the GDP revisions, don’t forget to look at the huge gap between imports and exports (latte, anybody? Shame we can’t seem to export those); someone did a study showing children are likely to be underinsured (remember, children have no employers); 5 years after Katrina; how huge families make ends meet; garden porn??; riiight, nothing to do with fear-mongering talking-heads; and two blasts from the past that are relevant again, on public schools and Social Security. School starts Monday in Vegas and many other places; drive carefully.