Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Debt Crisis: Raise Taxes or Cut Spending?


Alan Greenspan once told Congress that the biggest danger we faced was that we might pay off our debt too fast. Today, he is working with the group called “Fix the Debt” to pay off the debt as fast as possible.  So, what changed?

Greenspan flipped sides because America has, among other things, a ballooning debt problem.  Part of those problems go back to the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, both of which were passed by a Republican controlled Senate using reconciliation. Reconciliation is a tool that can be used by the majority party in the U.S. Senate to pass legislation by a simple majority instead of the normally required three-fifths majority.[i]   The 2001 tax cuts passed 58-33, when all the Republican senators (with the exception of John McCain, R-Ariz.) were joined by 12 Democrats to pass the measure.[ii]  The 2003 tax cuts were passed at a point when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were already underway, followed by Congress passing a Medicare prescription drug benefit to boot. Those tax cuts passed by a vote in the Senate of 51-50, with only two Democrats joining the Republicans and vice president Dick Cheney stepping in to break the tie.[iii]

 The 2001 tax cuts affected income categories across the board but since the wealthy pay the most taxes, they received the significant portion of the benefits. The 2003 tax cuts, which included a number of measures, provided the most significant reductions in taxes on dividends and capital gains. Typically, these taxes are on investment income, which means such cuts tend to give a bigger break to taxpayers with higher incomes.[iv]   The wealthy, therefore, benefited more than anyone else from both tax cuts, since they make and have more money by comparison, but they benefited the most from the tax cuts in 2003. In fact, over 80 percent of the income gains in the years that followed were concentrated in capital gains.[v]


EFFECTS ON MARKETS

The tax cuts did produce some stock market gains during the Bush administration but those gains failed to translate into explosive job growth over that same period.  "According to the non-partisan website PolitiFact, employment levels under President Bush grew between 4.5 percent and 7 percent, depending on the employment model you choose from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When compared with other two-term presidents, that figure represents the slowest job growth since the Eisenhower administration." Likewise, unemployment levels were also largely unaffected by the tax cuts."[vi]
 
If we compare the markets under Bush to Obama today, for example, we find:
  • G.W. Bush - negative 3.5 percent annually
  • Obama - positive 20.1 percent annually
It is a fact, in other words, that the US stock market has performed better under Obama than G.W. Bush by a staggering 23.6 percentage points a year.[vii]


EFFECTS ON DEBT

Bush took office with a $230 billion budget surplus and left with a $1.2 trillion deficit. (NOTE: The "deficit" is based on the annual budget and the "debt" is essentially the total amount the U.S. owes in accumulated budget "deficits." While Bush came into office in 2001 with an annual budget surplus - thanks to Clinton - the national debt at that time was around $5.8 trillion.)

In 2001, the Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the government would wipe out its debt in 2006 and be $2.3 trillion in the black by 2011. But after a recession, the Bush tax cuts, 9/11, two wars, and the financial crisis, the reality was rather different: We were $10.1 trillion in the red. [viii]  If you calculate the cost of all of those cuts (i.e. the tax dollars that would have been collected if the rates had remained unchanged), the figure is $1.812 trillion over the length of the Bush administration. That is the largest "new cost" to the government under Bush, even larger than the $1.469 trillion spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[ix]
 
 As Duncan Black points out, “the Bush experience tells us something important about fiscal policy: namely, that when Democrats get obsessed with deficit reduction, all they do is provide a pot of money that Republicans will squander on more tax breaks for the wealthy as soon as they get a chance.”[x]

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the budget deficit will grow by $3.9 trillion over the next 10 years if the Bush-era cuts are permanently extended. If all cuts had expired at the end of 2012, however, the budget deficit could have dropped from $1.1 trillion in 2012 to $585 billion in 2013 and $345 billion in 2014[xi]

The two sides reached a last-minute agreement in December 2010 to extend all tax cuts until the end of 2012. In the meantime, the president called for a Congressional "super committee" of Republicans and Democrats to find a way to reduce government borrowing by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. The super committee talks broke down when the two sides couldn't agree over what to do with the Bush-era tax cuts. Again, the Democrats called for an end to the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, while the Republicans insisted that all reductions be made through spending cuts.

In October, Republican refusal to consider tax increases led to the government shutdown. That refusal has also led many to claim that Republicans are not interested in reducing the debt or the deficit, but are simply using the idea of “deficit reduction” as a "smokescreen" to push an agenda of more tax relief for the wealthy.  

After all, as Timothy Noah explained, when we look at all the evidence "it seems to lead to one inescapable conclusion:"

“The GOP is not interested at all in tax reform, and it's only mildly interested in deficit reduction. It is mainly interested in tax reduction. All you need to do is look at the history of the past thirty-two years. The GOP has intermittently been interested in lowering the deficit whenever a Democrat was in the White House, but it has always been interested in lowering taxes. It has never not wanted to lower taxes. That's how they got so low!”[xii]


In October, seconded Noah’s sentiments by explaining how, “for most Republicans, deficit reduction is (in fact, just) a smokescreen.”

 What they really want is “smaller” government, by which they mean government that taxes less and spends less on domestic programs. (On defense, Republican small government orthodoxy tends to wane.) Republicans want smaller government when deficits are high and when deficits are low. But when deficits are high, they pour old wine into new bottles and pretend that smaller government and deficit reduction are the same thing.[xiii]


IS "DEFICIT REDUCTION" JUST A REPUBLICAN SMOKE SCREEN?

Peter G. Peterson is the guy, far more than most, who has managed to transfer his hatred of paying taxes into a national fear of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security 

    "The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem." ...  Even before the 2012 Campaign to Fix the Debt, Peterson poured millions into a multifaceted effort to support the Simpson-Bowles Commission and its $4 trillion austerity package, a plan that would cost the nation four million jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and "destroy Social Security as we know it," according to Social Security Works."[xiv]

Beinart makes a valid point, but it may not necessarily be a "smokescreen" to try to lower your own taxes by reducing the deficit, especially if it is, in fact, your taxes that may well be used to reduce that deficit. Instead, it may just be an example of how the wealthy, who have their own unique perspective on the world, use a different vernacular when discussing it.

  

SPENDING PROBLEMS

In part, people like Peter G. Peterson and the Republicans are right. Federal entitlement spending over the past 50 years has grown significantly, but it has done so more under Republican presidents than under Democratic presidents.

As Nicholas Eberstadt wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “entitlement spending in 2010 at all levels of government totaled $2.2 trillion. That equals $7,200 for every man, woman and child in the country. It approaches a staggering $29,000 for a family of four.”  Eberstadt, however, summarizes the past 50 years this way:

From a purely statistical standpoint, the growth of entitlement spending over the past half-century has been distinctly greater under Republican administrations than Democratic ones. Between 1960 and 2010, the growth of entitlement spending was exponential, but in any given year, it was on the whole roughly 8% higher if the president happened to be a Republican rather than a Democrat.[xv]


FIXING THE PROBLEM:  TAX INCREASES VS SPENDING CUTS

The difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to deficit reduction is this: Republicans are obsessed with the debts, deficits, and spending, side of the Economy Coin and totally discount and tend to ignore the other side of the Coin that Democrats also try to focus on, which is jobs, investments, and revenues.[xvi]  Since the debt is essentially a total amount of accumulated annual deficits, considering both is important when trying to find a solution.[xvii]

On the one hand, the deficit,  according to the Nobel Prize winning professor of Economics from Princeton, Paul Krugman, “is a side-effect of an economic depression, and the first order of business should be to end that depression — which means, among other things, leaving the deficit alone for now."

Krugman has a point. As the chart below shows, the deficit, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product has been going down since 2009. And if we continue to strengthen the economy it will continue to decline, even without the kind of major spending cuts Republicans are calling for.




On the other hand, Krugman explains that the problem with the debt comes from the “weakness of the economy,” which “has led directly to lower revenues; when G.D.P. falls, the federal tax take falls too, and in fact always falls substantially more in percentage terms.” For Krugman, this means it is “likely that full economic recovery would raise revenue by at least $450 billion.” Hence, he adds:

 The depressed economy has also temporarily raised spending, because more people qualify for unemployment insurance and means-tested programs like food stamps and Medicaid. A reasonable estimate is that economic recovery would reduce federal spending on such programs by at least $150 billion. …Putting all this together, it turns out that the trillion-dollar deficit isn’t a sign of unsustainable finances at all. Some of the deficit is in fact sustainable; just about all of the rest would go away if we had an economic recovery. [xviii]

Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke appears to agree with Krugman that focusing purely on deficit reduction would do more harm than good to America's current economy. “Given the still-moderate underlying pace of economic growth,” Bernanke says, “this additional near-term burden on the recovery is significant. Moreover, besides having adverse effects on jobs and incomes, a slower recovery would lead to less actual deficit reduction in the short run.”[xix]  Republicans who believe large spending cuts are the only answer may find it easier to achieve their goals by paying more attention to Democrats who agree to some spending cuts but argue that budget cuts must be balanced with increased revenue from taxes.

Krugman and Bernanke are not the only ones suggesting spending cuts may be the wrong approach to deficit problems. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, "set off shock waves ... in Washington" in October "by suggesting countries fight budget deficits by raising taxes" on the rich and better targeting the multinationals. The IMF "typically calls for nations in difficulty to slash public spending to reduce their deficits. But in its Fiscal Monitor report, subtitled “Taxing Times,” the Fund advanced the idea of taxing the highest-income people and their assets to reinforce the legitimacy of spending cuts and fight against growing income inequalities. "In the US alone," the global lender said, "legal loopholes deprive the Treasury of roughly $60 billion in receipts."[xx]

As Krugman cautions, we “should recognize all the hyped-up talk about the deficit for what it is: yet another disingenuous attempt to scare and bully the body politic into abandoning programs that shield both poor and middle-class Americans from harm."


THE DEFICIT REDUCTION OBSESSION
If Deficit Reduction is Not a Smokescreen, then Why the Obsession?

"Kevin Drum points us to Larry Bartels and Benjamin Page to try to explain why Washington is obsessed with budget deficits — and not, say, income inequality, climate or just plain old unemployment. As Bartels and Page point out, the wealthy have different political views from everyone else and yet have quite a bit more influence with politicians." As Drum explains:

So if you’re wondering why official Washington is all atwitter over budget deficits, but doesn’t seem to care much about unemployment, this is why. It’s because that’s what rich people care about.

More on the question of why Republicans are so obsessed with budget deficits can be found here, but basically, it may stem from an almost religious devotion to the church of "trickle down" Reaganomics that leads such Republicans, much like Reagan himself, to believe that tax cuts are the panacea for every economic problem under the sun, regardless of whether this is true or not.[xxi] And even though Reagan was a true believer, the Pope is not. 

Just this week, in fact, the Pope called "trickle down" economics an "opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts," but instead, simply "expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system."[xxii] And since Catholic Republicans constitute 61 seats in the House and 9 in the Senate, one would hope, if they are unwilling to listen to Democrats, that perhaps they may consider listening to the Vicar of Christ on earth.[xxiii] Otherwise, after they finish trying to sue the President over immigration and healthcare, they may have to consider suing God for creating money.  


 


[i]  http://usconservatives.about.com/od/glossaryterms/g/Reconciliation-Process-Defined.htm The federal budget reconciliation process is a legislative device employed by the U.S. Senate to end a filibuster, close debate and pass controversial budget bills, thereby circumventing the three-fifths rule. Because reconciliation only requires a simple majority, it is a tool primarily used by the majority party. Although the House has a similar procedure, its is rarely used since rules are regularly introduced to prevent protracted debate.
[ii] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/mar/04/alan-grayson/bush-tax-cuts-were-passed-reconciliations-50-votes/
[iii] Id.
[iv] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/mar/04/alan-grayson/bush-tax-cuts-were-passed-reconciliations-50-votes/
[v] Id. source: Congressional Budget Office
[vi] http://money.howstuffworks.com/bush-era-tax-cuts2.htm
[vii] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/stocks-bush-vs-obama/
[ix] Id.
[x] http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/on-the-economics-and-politics-of-deficits/
[xi] http://money.howstuffworks.com/bush-era-tax-cuts2.htm
[xii] http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112567/john-boehner-doesnt-care-about-deficit-reduction
[xiii] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/21/republicans-don-t-really-care-about-reducing-america-s-debt.html
[xiv] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/24/1189480/-Someone-should-Fix-this-Billionaire-s-influence-on-America
[xv]http://townhall.com/columnists/johncgoodman/2012/09/08/which_party_is_the_party_of_big_government/page/full
[xvi] http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/02/1191049/-Republicans-are-Debt-obsessed-Economy-Squashers# 
[xviii] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/opinion/krugman-that-terrible-trillion.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1386176400-mOWc4n98S0fl5UVzPDt4cg
[xix]http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/27/politics/27TAX.html?ex=1233378000&en=89f53bc5770cc55e&ei=5070 
[xx] http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/tax-rich-imf-report-shocks-establishm
[xxi] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/03/22/why-the-budget-deficit-obsession/
[xxii] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/11/26/2997451/pope-francis-trickle/
[xxiii] http://www.pewforum.org/2012/11/16/faith-on-the-hill-the-religious-composition-of-the-113th-congress/
 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why I Do Not Vote: Part 2 - American Plutocracy

In addition to being a kleptocracy - and perhaps in some ways even because of it - America has also become a plutocracy.  A plutocracy is, to borrow Lincoln’s phrase, government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy.  American historian Charles A. Beard certainly thought so. In his 1913 book, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, Beard Claimed the U.S. Constitution was written by "a "cohesive" elite seeking to protect its personal property (especially bonds) and economic standing.”[i]

Beard drew his ideas from the Historian Carl L. Becker who, in his work, History of Political Parties in the Province of New York, 1760-1776 (1909) formulated a Progressive interpretation that the American Revolution was, in fact, “two revolutions: one against Britain to obtain home rule, and the other to determine who should rule at home.”[ii]

To Beard, the Philadelphia Convention was a counter-revolution to fighting the British. In effect, Beard argued the Constitution was set up by rich bond holders (bonds were "personal property"), in opposition to the farmers and planters (land was "real property.") The Constitution, in other words, “was designed to reverse the radical democratic tendencies unleashed by the Revolution among the common people, especially farmers and debtors (people who owed money to the rich)." In 1800, the farmers and debtors, led by plantation slave owners, "overthrew the capitalists and established Jeffersonian democracy.”[iii]

At its core, Beard’s work attempted to test the hypothesis “that economic elements are the chief factors in the development of political institutions.”[iv] While it has been argued that Beard’s ideas have been decisively refuted by historians,[v] some, like Jackson T. Main,[vi] have argued that “Beard has survived the attack.”[vii] In either case, whether economic elements shaped the U.S. Constitution or not, it has become increasingly clear that, in our current American plutocratic system, economic interests are indeed “the chief factors” in the “development” of today's “political institutions.”



Lobbying

 One massive “economic element” responsible for shaping the “political institutions” of today comes in the form of lobbyists.  If you have ever seen professional tag-team wrestling on television, you’ve essentially seen how lobbying works. While one member of the team distracts the referee by arguing about the rules of wrestling, the other clobbers his opponent with a folding chair from ringside.  The referee in this match is Congress, the tag-team engaged in the ‘distract and destroy’ technique is the corporation, and the poor fellow getting clobbered repeatedly is John Q. Public.  The theory is that, somehow, the best thing for Mr. Public is for the tag-team to convince the referee to leave the ring altogether. The lesson is simple: in a capitalist system, everything can be bought. This includes the rules and more especially, the rule makers.

The wrestling match between big business and the public, however, is not two against two. It’s more like seven strapping power lifters against an invalid in a wheel chair.  The ratio of lobbyists employed by the healthcare industry alone, for example, compared with every elected politician, is six to one, according to one account. [viii] This is like six guys distracting the referee while one guy tries to sell the invalid's wheel chair on e-bay. In 2009, the Washington Post estimated that there were 13,700 registered lobbyists in Washington, which lead to the claim that the nation’s Capital was "teeming with lobbyists."[ix]  In 2011, The Guardian estimated that in addition to the approximately 13,000 registered lobbyists, thousands more unregistered lobbyists could exist in Washington as well. [x]

Those “economic elements” seem to be only growing along with, and are perhaps even contributing to, the federal deficit. Washington Correspondent for TIME magazine, Steven Gray explained:

Since 2000, the financial services industry’s spending on federal lobbying rose 102%, to $472.9 million last year, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks lobbying. Spending by the pharmaceutical and health-products industries, meanwhile, rose 139%, to $240.3 million last year. The electric utilities industry increased its spending by 139%, to $191 million, while the oil and gas industry raised its spending by 184%, to $146.5 million, last year. Both increases can be attributed in part to the climate-change debate. And business groups in general got busier in the Obama era as well. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington’s wealthiest lobbying outfit, and the Business Roundtable, which represents corporate CEOs helped push spending in business associations’ sector up 203%, to $170 million, last year.[xi]


Companies only spend money like that when they know they can expect a handsome return on the investment.

Throughout history, political thinkers such as Winston Churchill, Alexis de Tocqueville, and today Noam Chomsky “have condemned plutocrats for ignoring their social responsibilities, using their power to serve their own purposes and thereby increasing poverty and nurturing class conflict, (as well as) corrupting societies with greed and hedonism.[xii]

One way elites use “their power to serve their own purposes” is through tax laws.  Political scientist, Jeffrey Winters explains in his article Oligarchy and Democracy, how elites in America do this by using what he calls “the income defense industry” to greatly reduce their taxes.[xiii]  As Winters further points out:


The income defense industry is comprised of lawyers, accountants, wealth management consultants, revolving-door lobbyists, think-tank debate framers and even key segments of the insurance industry whose sole purpose is income defense for America’s oligarchs. The industry is wholly funded by oligarchs, and it would simply not exist if oligarchs did not have massive fortunes to defend. There is no parallel (much less countervailing) industry serving the material interests of the mass affluent, the middle class or the poor. The activities of the income defense industry extend far beyond mere “interest group” lobbying over policies. Its salaried specialists assist oligarchs in exerting a form of power that is unique to the ultra-rich: the defensive redeployment of their money and income across a global geography of jurisdictions, banks and offshore havens through the use of tailor-made tax instruments, evasive trusts and shell corporations.[xiv]


This system of ‘income defense’ operates “almost exclusively by referral” and serves individuals with a net worth of $2 to $30 million or more; and since the most strategic theater for implanting such defensive measures is that mercurial labyrinth called the tax codes, according to Winters, the elite fight those codes on “two fronts”:


The first is the effort to lower the published top tax rate as much as possible and also to set the income threshold for the top bracket low enough that large numbers of relatively modest income earners feel the oligarchs’ pain. The second front is making the spread between the published tax rate and actual (or “effective”) taxes paid as wide as possible. This is one of the most important and costly fights the income defense industry wages on behalf of its oligarchic patrons. In the 1970s, oligarchs paid an average effective tax rate of about 55 percent, which was almost 80 percent of the top published rate. By 2007, the top 400 income earners in America paid an effective tax rate of 16.5 percent, which was barely 50 percent of the top published rate. Thus, the industry delivered lower tax rates on which oligarchs paid a lower proportion. The richer the client, the wider the income defense spread achieved.[xv]

All of this is done off the political radar screen and there is no countervailing lobby or parallel income defense industry for the average Joe. The few public interest organizations arguing for “tax justice” on behalf of average citizens are vastly out-staffed and out-funded.[xvi]  In fact, the Senate estimates that the industry helps the wealthiest Americans avoid paying nearly $70 billion in taxes a year through "abusive offshore tax avoidance schemes" alone. The number is much higher if corporations are included.[xvii]


Of course, all of this effort to skew the political process is done – the elites will argue – with only the best of intentions.  Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, says that the present trend towards plutocracy may not be a power grab by elites bent on destroying the underclasses, but instead, quite the opposite:


You don't do this in a kind of chortling, smoking your cigar, conspiratorial thinking way. You do it by persuading yourself that what is in your own personal self-interest is in the interests of everybody else. So you persuade yourself that, actually, government services, things like spending on education, which is what created that social mobility in the first place, need to be cut so that the deficit will shrink, so that your tax bill doesn't go up. And what I really worry about is, there is so much money and so much power at the very top, and the gap between those people at the very top and everybody else is so great, that we are going to see social mobility choked off and society transformed.[xviii]


Freeland commented on the dangers to America from the effects of income inequality that such practices promote in an interview with Bill Moyers. For her, one of the biggest problems comes from what she called, “an increase of the political capture.” Political capture is the problem of people at the “very, very top, capturing the political system,” and using it for themselves. Freeland continued:


 Willem Buiter, who's the chief economist at Citigroup, he calls it "cognitive capture." Where he says, look, it's not like this vast conspiracy. It's not as if … everyone is on the payroll of the plutocrats.


Buiter’s argument, Freeland went on to explain, “was that part of the reason the financial crisis happened is the entire intellectual establishment, not just people inside investment banks, but regulators, academic economists, financial journalists, had all been captured by the financial sector's vision of how the economy should work. And in particular, light touch regulation.”

Freeland concludes that, as cognitive capture increases, so too will elites “think of themselves as acting in the collective interest, even as they act in their personal vested interest.” Social mobility, as a result, which is already decreasing in the United States, will become “increasingly squeezed” even as “particularly powerful sectors, (such as) finance, oil,” and even possibly “the technology sector” will be standing in line to get “lots of government subsidies.” The reason “the plutocracy is so enthusiastic about cutting entitlement spending” Freeland concludes, “is because they don't need it. “But they're very worried about their tax dollars funding it.”[xix]

  
CONCLUSION

Putting aside the carnival of lies and manipulations that our political system necessarily engenders and relies on, as someone once pointed out, “The idea of an election is a joke; it’s not an election, it’s an auction.” Candidates deliberately steer clear of any major issues during a campaign because they know elections are won not by explaining positions but by gloating about qualifications.  Trying to bypass the best smoke screens money can buy and marketing campaigns can design by voting for a particular political party is no use either.  While politicians love to talk about their differences, the truth is that Democrats and Republicans vote alike 84% of the time.  They do so because America does not have a two party political system but instead, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, “America has a single business party comprised of two factions.” 

Today, that single minded yet two-headed political party increasingly serves what Adam Smith referred to as the “masters of mankind.”[xx]   Those masters are the check writers, and they determine who will become the law makers.  These “principal architects of policy” as Smith called them, make certain that their own interests are "most peculiarly attended to.” The “vile maxim” those architects live by, which Smith says, “seems true in every age of the world,” is “all for ourselves and nothing for other people.”[xxi]  

While one of the more obvious ways of achieving that “vile maxim” is through commerce, another more surreptitious yet effective method is through politics. As a result, politics is simply, as the social philosopher John Dewey put it, “the shadow cast on society by big business." Voting, therefore, is like trying to move a mountain of economic dogmatism by pushing on its political shadow with the feather of a ballot, once every couple of years. It is to believe that all the problems we face today can be remedied by the very political system that has not only helped create all the problems we face today, but is itself one of the biggest victims of those problems. It is to believe that politicians serve those who cast a ballot instead of those who pay the campaign bill.   Hence, voting for a political candidate today is like betting the Chicago White Sox will win the 1919 World Series,[xxii] and for the same reasons. Simply put, the game is fixed.  

 When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited his friend Thoreau in jail, he is said to have asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” To this Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is, what are you doing out there?” While Emerson felt the imprisonment was pointless, Thoreau, rather than trying to reform society as a whole, was simply trying to distinguish right from wrong. Failing to do so, Thoreau felt, would eventually lead people to lose the capacity to make the distinction at all, leaving them morally numb. Like Thoreau, my decision not to vote is not intended to reform the political system or change society. It is simply an attempt to prevent myself from becoming as politically numb as our system is democratically indifferent. Having seen the forest for the fraud that it is, and the many trees it relies on to maintain that fiction, the question is not why I choose not vote, but why anyone would. 





[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Economic_Interpretation_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States
[ii] Id.
[iii] Id.
[iv] An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (New York, 1913), p. 6.
[v] Peter Novick, That Noble Dream (1988) p 336. Ellen Nore, Beard’s biographer, concludes his interpretation of the Constitution collapsed due to more recent and sophisticated analysis. Ellen Nore, "Charles A. Beard's Economic Interpretation of the Origins of the Constitution," This Constitution: a Bicentennial Chronicle 1987 (17): 39-44
[vi] Jackson T. Main is a member of the History Dept. at San Jose State College, San Jose Cal. His Manuscript on the Antifederalists in American Politics, 1781-1787, won the Institute’s manuscripts award in 1959.
[vii] Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Va. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 17, No. 1,  (Jan., 1960)
[viii] Paul Harris (19 November 2011). "'America is better than this': paralysis at the top leaves voters desperate for change". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
[ix] Brad Plumer (Nov. 8, 2011). "Corporate lobbying is a very exclusive club". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
[x] Id.
[xii] Conservative thinkers: from John Adams to Winston Churchill. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. 2006. pp. 19–68. ISBN 1412805260.
[xiii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutocracy
[xiv] http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/03/26/18710102.php
[xvi] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-winters/americas-income-defense-i_b_772723.html
[xvii] Id.
[xviii] National Public Radio (October 15, 2012) "A Startling Gap Between Us And Them In 'Plutocrats'"
[xix] Chrystia Freeland (October 2012) [1] Moyers & Company
[xx] The Wealth of Nations, Chapter IV, p. 448
[xxi] Id.
[xxii] That series is often associated with “the Black Sox Scandal,” when several members of the Chicago franchise conspired with gamblers to throw (i.e., intentionally lose) the World Series games.

The paradox of love is that it is as much our primary source of strength as it is our primary source of weakness, and that we can only enjoy...