Uncommon Sense

January 26, 2023

A Private IRS?

I was reading a post about how a credit agency (Equifax) has become a private  version of the Internal Revenue Service. The claim is based upon a service provided by Equifax to verify people’s incomes (and other things).

At one point it was stated that IRS information is private (kinda sorta, of course, ask Donald Trump) except for a short time in the 1920’s when progressives got tax filings made public. This last part was written sneeringly (at least I so perceive).

Recently I read a response from a Swede (to the DJT tax forms kerfuffle) and she claimed that in Sweden, tax returns are public documents. She can go to any tax office and request a copy of any citizen’s tax forms, pay a small processing fee, and voilà!

If you stop to think about it, once Americans believe they are being treated unfairly, they begin to revolt. And tax fairness is a big issue. So, having tax returns freely available would be a good thing in an open society, no? It would deter cheaters for one and reinforce the fairness of the system or allow us to focus on aspects that are unfair and deal with them.

So, who would want to keep these official government documents secret? Gosh, you don’t think the rich want people pouring over their tax documents, uncovering all of the cheats, scams, and lies they incorporate, now do you?

Again, the rich are the tail wagging our political dog. They even encourage us to sneer at progressive’s efforts to make our society more visible.

January 24, 2023

Modern Day Villains

We, as a society, consume a great many entertainments, many of which are visual: videos, shows, concerts, etc. In the “movies” many plots require some dramatic tension and a good guy-bad guy axis. Someone to root for, someone to root against. And the villains fall into somewhat nice categories: we have sociopaths and psychopaths, whose thinking is bizarre to us, but fascination, currently we have quite a few zombies who have no personality but pose an existential threat nonetheless. (Nobody tries to figure out why the zombies are doing what they do, they just run.) And the usual coterie of “bad guys” includes drug dealers, people who cheat on the spouses, etc. It is rare that a new bad guy, like Hannibal Lecter comes along.

By far the most common bad guy in today’s videos is . . . drum roll, please . . . corporations, evil corporations, not just corporations that run over you because they didn’t see you in their driveway. Corporations that are driven only to make profits and to Hell with any opposition to those efforts.

Here is Bernie Sanders chiming in on one such corporation (Cal-Maine Foods):

Bernie Sanders (Twitter)
Corporate greed is the producer of Egg-Land’s Best, Farmhouse Eggs & Land O’Lake Eggs, increasing its profits by 65% last quarter to a record-breaking $198 million while doubling the price of eggs & reporting no positive cases of avian flu. Yes. We need a windfall profits tax.
11:37 AM · Jan 15, 2023·

And these corporations haven’t exactly been subtle about their machinations: the CEOs of America’s largest companies got on their quarterly investor calls and chortled about the willingness of “consumers” to blame inflation for the prices they were jacking up . . . because they could.

Republicans stickered gas-pumps up and down the country with Joe Biden “I Did That” stickers, even as gas companies declared record profits and boasted to investors about how they were able to tap directly into drivers’ wallets under cover of inflation.

It doesn’t look like any other villain will knock corporations out of their #1 spot at all soon. They just can’t help themselves, reinforcing their “bad guy” image over and over and over.

As I had said often enough, the Achilles’ Heel of capitalism is that it places no restriction on greed.

December 30, 2022

OMG, Making Trump’s Tax Returns Public! It is an outrage!


It is not.

These are government documents and citizens have a right to see those not marked Top Secret or above.

In an actual civilized country, Sweden, any citizen’s tax return can be acquired by any other Swedish citizen who goes to a local tax office, fills out a form, and pays a small fee (for duplication costs). In Sweden, all tax returns are public documents, as they basically are here, except in the minds of those who want to hide their crimes. Or who want to lie about how much they make or about how much wealth they have.

Think about it. We are asked by our government to fill out extensive forms to determine how much tax we should pay. Why would those forms be secret to all other taxpayers, who may be suspicious that fraud is occurring elsewhere in the system? The answer is short—they should not.

Oh, did you see where Trump wrote off a $70,000 “business” expense for “hair care”? Any claim of him being a good businessman should end at that fact right there.

December 9, 2022

Good Ideas Coming Out of the Walls

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:03 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It is often that conservatives suggest things like drug testing for welfare recipients, and means testing for Social Security benefits, and identification papers to be able to vote. They think the “takers” should be branded with a letter T on their foreheads so we will know whether they are worthy of respect. (Well, they haven’t gone that far yet, but I also haven’t read much of the alt-right literature.) They should therefore like the following offering regarding means testing for federal government leadership positions.

On Quora recently the question was asked “Has the US taxpayer been subsidizing European welfare states, as conservatives increasingly proclaim?” Which drew this response:

No. We have been subsidizing conservative welfare states, the poverty leaders in the U.S., Kentucky for example. It is downright sordid that a senator (Moscow Mitch McConnell) from the biggest leach state in the union has had as much power as he’s had.

There should be a rule that when a state’s snorting of tax payer dollar lines exceeds how much they contribute in taxes by a reasonable amount, the state’s senators and reps can’t have leadership positions in our government. It’s not fair to the productive states. If you’re freeloading off the rest of us like Kentucky, you should be disqualified from leadership.

December 1, 2022

Democrats are Pro-Labor . . . Aren’t They?

Not for the last 40 years or so, no. I remember when Mr. Obama was elected. A piece of legislation dearly sought by unions had been stalled and when he was elected, well, it would be pushed through by the Dems, right? The legislation was to go back to the labor law when a union could essentially gather membership cards from a majority of a workplace’s workers and that would give the union standing to represent those workers in negotiations. Card campaigns were cards that stated that a worker wanted a union to represent them, just as a lawyer has a client sign a contract that states that they are representing them as a client. That was the law for many, many years. Mr. Obama ignored that legislation and it died on the vine.

Many other instances of labor being ignored have occurred, I am sure, but most recently President Biden showed the Dems true colors by forcing a labor settlement to avoid a railroad strike. The railroad workers were negotiating to get paid sick leave. Do you have paid sick leave? Can you imagine what your life would be without it? Railroad workers were told they could use paid vacation time if they needed to see a doctor or had to go to hospital. How would you feel if that were the case in your job?

President Biden, along with all of the other Dems, has stated clearly that the Dems, like the Repubs, are behind their rich donors and not you and not me.

As one wag put it, the Dems look union people straight in the eye and say “You’ll never get anything you want if I don’t win; but once I win, I can’t do the things you need, because then I wouldn’t be able to win again.” (Hamilton Nolan in The Guardian) Gosh, they couldn’t possibly offend the rich, now, could they?

* * *

Last year, adjusted operating margins for the five largest US railroads were 41 percent. Ten years ago, they were 29 percent. Two decades ago, they were 15 percent. Even compared with other transportation companies (which are doing extremely well)— trucking, parcel, air freight, maritime shipping, airlines – today’s railroad profits are humongous. (Robert Reich)

Railroad workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, railroad employees are approximately twice as likely to die on the job as the average American worker. The risk is shared by conductors, signalmen, track laborers and others, and even non-fatal injuries can be serious, leading to chronic pain and other debilitating issues. (Arvin J. Perlman)

Just Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Master and . . . Wait

The Christian religion was created mostly by Saul of Tarsus (who changed his name to Paul). It is now called Christianity as if it had something to do with the teachings of the character Christ in scripture. It does not.

Evangelical Christians are fond of saying that “if you accept Jesus into your heart as your Lord and savior, you will be saved.” That is saved from the eternal torment invented by Christians and latter day Jews, Hell.

But if you read scripture, a different tale is told. For example in Matthew 25:31-46, it says:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Wait, where is the accept Jesus into your heart as your lord and master?

In fact, this seems to contradict a basic precept of Paul, that “faith” is all you need, not blindly following the commandments of Yahweh to do things.

Faith, Not Acts?
If you look at what Jesus listed in Matthew as the things that must be done, acts not faith alone, Jesus’s standard of judgment requires you to be:
Feeding the hungry
Giving drink to the thirsty
Taking in strangers and caring for them
Clothing the naked
Caring for the sick
Caring for those in prison

Nothing on that list requires faith at all, does it?

And Paul also stated, “They that do not work shall not eat.” Can you possibly winkle this precept out of Jesus’s list of acts needed to be “saved”? I can’t.

It is almost as if Paul had a different master than Jesus. It seems that Paul wanted us to obey the authorities (even pagan authorities, like the Romans!), pay our taxes (especially Roman taxes), get a job so we wouldn’t be a burden on the state, and you needn’t do all of those things that Yahweh and Jesus said, those are yucky . . . eww!

Oh, and be sure to vote Republican when voting is invented.

<Voiceover: “I am the Apostle Paul and I approve this message.”>

November 29, 2022

Wow, Just Wow

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:28 am
Tags: ,

Altogether, the top 25 richest Americans had a collective net worth of $1.1 trillion, for which they paid $1.9 billion in federal taxes (that’s less than 1%). They pumped $1-billion of that into the recent federal election. It wasn’t to protect your interests. (Barry Gander)

The Education Voucher Program Scam

Filed under: Business,Education — Steve Ruis @ 9:04 am
Tags: , , , ,

There is a rule of thumb I apply when researching over-the-counter drugs and medical devices. I do an Internet search basically asking “does XYZ really work?” or the equivalent. If the top ten hits are mostly websites clearly sponsored by the creators, I know it is a scam. Those sites are part of their marketing plan. If the reviews by the general public are largely negative, these “positive” reviews dilute them down. They basically are guaranteeing that positive “reviews” are the first thing that comes up in such a search.

If you do a similar search for information on educational voucher programs, you will get a similar response, all heavily positive data and reviews. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of the “data” and reviews are bogus, paid for by the rich assholes taking financial advantage through such programs. (It sure isn’t the students because independent research shows that students using vouchers perform more poorly that students who do not. “There is credible research on one side—that vouchers are largely a negative force for student outcomes—and politically oriented reports on the other. That’s it.”—Josh Cowen)

If this is a topic that interests you, here are the specifics:

Josh Cowen: A Citizen’s Guide to the Researchers and Funders Behind Vouchers

November 28, 2022

Farming Was Invented to . . .

In breezy accounts of human pre-history, agriculture was invented for all of its myriad benefits (or list of other bogus benefits to the farmers). And then . . .

But, really, people started farming in at least 14 different places, independently of each another, from about 10,500 years ago. And that story isn’t complete, since no stories founded in archeology are complete (or possibly even can be).

The best guess is that hunter-gatherers planted small plots of a number of plants that could be harvested before they packed up and left. And most hunter-gatherers didn’t stay in one place for long, so whatever was grown had to reach maturity rather quickly, so forget apple trees, grape vines, and other long duration efforts. Experiments quickly determined which crops could be both grown and harvested quickly and then utilized quickly. Soft fruits would spoil as would soft vegetables. Some roots would last longer, but grain turned out to be the superfood. It grew fast, could be harvested, and then dried and stored.

I can’t imagine any hunter-gather troop going “all in” on grain growing, though. These people were often in quite temperate or tropical environments, without harsh winters with their food acquisition difficulties. They were often on or near rivers which provided both food and transport. And, the hunter-gather diets was quite varied. Why trade a rich diet that included fish and shellfish, small game, fruits, nuts, and vegetables  for one that was almost all grain. (Archeologists have pointed out that as large scale farming took hold, humans shrunk in size and had worse health that before.)

The advantage of farming is that by farming storable surpluses of food could be set aside to provide sustenance in times of need, but that was the primary feature. The primary feature was that agricultural produce could be taxed! And, an “elite” class of people could do the taxing and so not have to do the work associated with food acquisition. As farming became more productive, labor became more specialized with some making clothes and little else, others making wood utensils and furniture and little else, etc.

But farming is labor intensive and farming is far more laborious that hunting and gathering. Many did not want to do the work, so the elites found “ways” to make it so. It is no coincidence that large scale slavery took root around the time of large scale agriculture.

To a hunter-gatherer the idea of plants to be harvested right outside of your hut’s door, rather than miles away, was attractive, hence the small plots and hence the multiplicity of times agriculture was “invented.” But only elites wanted large scale agriculture. It seems to me they go together. No large scale ag, no elites. No elites, no large scale ag. It is interesting the number of stories I have heard about Polynesian cultures in which the “king” could be ignored if he spouted nonsense. Food was available in abundance all around and in the sea. The “king” had no social leverage. For a starving people, an elite with stored grain has a lot of leverage. (Coming up—a look at how this played out in the Roman Empire.)

Postscript Shakespeare stated in Henry the VI, Part 2 “The first thing we do is kill all of the lawyers.” He should have said “The first thing we do is kill all of the elites.” But at that point that ship had sailed, the “kings” had stored up so much grain that they had wealth and armies and mini-me kings galore and Shakespeare needed patrons, so he couldn’t afford to offend those who possessed wealth, and thus the modern world was created.

November 22, 2022

Which Issue is the Newly Republican House Be Most Focused Upon?

Republicans were elected to office promising to do something about crime, inflation, high taxes, etc. but the first thing announced to be at the top of their agenda, is . . . well, you guess, from this list:
1. crime
2. inflation
3. high taxes
4. abortion
5. Russian war sanctions
6. the new IRS hires
7. the President’s son, Hunter Biden.

Well, what do you think? Yes, it is Hunter Biden! If you correctly guessed that is the case, your winner’s prize will be shipped to you within the next 30 days. This is the greatest issue on the Republican political radar facing this country.

But Republicans are multi-taskers! While they are busy investigating a private citizen, they will also be busy trying to rescind the funding for the 87,000 new IRS agents recently authorized. So, their first crime legislation is making it easier for tax cheats to evade paying taxes. (And since those new agents were to specifically target rich tax evaders, we are not at all surprised, are we?) I am sure those rich criminals will be grateful and pony up campaign donations with the money they save from cheating on their taxes.

Oh, remember the rapid anti-communists of the GOP’s past? The “New Republicans” will also try to prevent any more aid being provided to Ukraine in its defense against invading Russian armies. I guess they learned that “Aid to Putin” was a good thing from Donald Trump.

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