Reflections on a Re-election

Barack Obama won his next four years in the White House.

To say that I’m relieved right now is an understatement. Considering how much has been at stake for this election, both for me personally and in the scope of the Big Picture for the Country, I was honestly scared for what I would have to do if we would’ve ended up with a President Romney. I’m relieved. Exhausted mentally, on all accounts, but relieved above all.

You’ve seen my writing on the topic of politics. I’ve ranted up a small storm every time the debates were on. But all kidding aside, this has been a nail-biter.

The issues on the line were ones that directly impact both of the working generations: that of our parents, the baby boomers looking to retire, and the young people – their children, really, or, well…people my age, to put bluntly – who are just entering the workforce fresh after college. Social Security will be the way most of our parents will pay for retirement. Not everyone has a 401K. Not everyone has or will have a pension. Not everyone’s kids will be able to afford to take care of them. And if you consider that the kids of this equation – the voting bloc aged from 18 to 30 – are so saddled with debt from student loans that they’re forgoing having any sort of a life of their own so they could pay it back, then you have to wonder how the kids and the parents will be able to take care of each other.

All of this, to a middle-class working woman with student loan debt, with a valid concern about reproductive rights, with a very valid concern about how much money I will be paid for my work, and an extremely valid concern as to whether or not I would ever be able to stop working later in life, is pretty damn important.

And yes, I will be up front about the fact that I judge a country’s leader by the way he leads his own life, in addition to where he stands. The people who say that both candidates are the same could not be any more wrong, in both the personal and public aspects of the persona. Obama had proved that while he’s far from perfect, he has it where it counts, and had taken chances on decisions that had, so far, paid off. Romney had proved that he values his secrecy far over his candidacy, and he had paid for it with this election.

Secret life and private life are different, let me just say. You’re entitled to the latter, but not the former. And if you are running for public office, both will be combed through thoroughly, and nothing would be left to chance. No, the two candidates are not the same. Last time I checked, Obama doesn’t have a lower effective rate than his own cleaning guy. Obama had never exported my job to China. And Obama definitely never had a plan that boiled down to, “First put me in the office and I will tell you”.

But most importantly, this election had highlighted the GOP as it really is, and just how far it was willing to go to get the results it wanted. Florida governor Rick Scott got slammed in court over voter suppression, and voter intimidation, and he still persisted in attempting to suppress. There has been a historic number of smear campaigns – and I’m not exempting the Dems from it; I’ve seen maybe two anti-Romney ads that were more factual than insult-based (then again, my TV-watching is limited) – in the media. And with stances like that of Todd Akin and his utterly despicable “legitimate rape” remarks, as well as Paul Ryan having the brilliant (read: absolutely nightmarish) idea about rapists suing for and having visitation rights to the children that were born of their crimes, we got to see exactly how divorced from empathy the GOP has become. Truly, the entire attitude of the GOP came down to, “We got ours, you’re on your own”. Great – except life doesn’t work in the Ayn Randian style, and never will. No one gets anywhere on their own.

Oh, and the budget ideas…I don’t even want to start on it. As I discussed in my Debate and Taxes post, there’s no way, mathematically, that tax cuts generate revenue. Dwight Eisenhower was likely generating electricity from spinning in his grave, and he was the last Republican to balance the budget.

Another thing that this election had highlighted for me is the aspect of human nature that clings to belief in the face of facts, the part of people that would rather go for a lie than hard facts. We’re told, by self-help gurus, coaches of all sorts, and well-meaning friends and relatives, that if you want something badly enough, believe in it, a la The Secret. If you want something, picture yourself already having it.

But what politics and The Secret alike fail to consider is that if the facts do not back the possibilities, and if there is no underlying solid base to the end result, then no amount of wishing, hoping, or praying will yield you your desired result. That’s just simply not possible. Think about it in the terms of interviewing for a job. You might be the best person for the job; you walk into the interview and talk up your best game. Your resume stands up to cross-examination. However, if you have no qualifications necessary for the position, there is no chance you’ll get it. You can’t interview for a financial management position if your background is in communications. You can pray, yes. You can hope, yes. You can visualize yourself in that position. But unless you have done something to get the qualifications (work/intern at a financial firm, get a second degree in finance, etc.) for the job, you cannot walk into it and hope to get it just by a wing and a prayer.

Human nature is to cling to the ideal in the hope of having it come true, and rarely do people as a whole stop and reassess just how realistic those ideals and hopes happen to be. The conservative base has divorced from reality when it had shown its hand on social issues, and continued to hope that, despite the overwhelming evidence that the majority of the country did not subscribe to the same social value set as themselves, their world view would win out. Had they actually stopped, looked outside their ideology, and looked at what people – especially young people, who are their own children and coworkers alike – really live like, they would see that their own view isn’t really reconciling with the reality of the current generation. But instead, they thought that if the other people would just see their world view, they’d know that they’re in the wrong. If they could only have the good old days, they would see just how great things were. After all, it worked well for them.

Never mind that for a lot of people, it really didn’t work that well, but I’m more into dissecting the mindset.

The fact of the matter is, a lot of the people who had bought into Romney’s sales pitch – and let’s face it, this campaign was a massive sales pitch; this applies to both sides – had completely ceased to analyze and read between the lines. The statement that they had clung to was, “I can defeat Barack Obama!” and for those people who were not okay with the president for whatever reasons (it will take too bloody long to get into why they weren’t okay with him, so I will not), that was enough. They had not  stopped to consider that Mitt Romney had not demonstrated where, precisely, he was a better choice than Barack Obama. Foreign policy? Taxes? Social issues? Jobs? Nowhere had he demonstrated sufficient consistency and knowledge. And on close analysis of his campaign, he had turned his coat on issues so many times that no one even knows where he stands anymore. But they heard, “I can defeat Barack Obama!” and that was enough. The bubble was set and sealed, and people got comfortable with it and in it, while the rest of the world looked on, analyzed, dissected, and saw the bubble for what it truly is.

Ignorance of the facts does not work. Ever. If an ostrich buries its head in the sand, sure, it cannot see what’s going on and is comfortable and secure because of an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. But at the same time, the backside of that ostrich is fully exposed and ready to take a kick. Facts catch up and kick very hard when ignored, and it hurts a hell of a lot worse than taking the hit head-on. And what we have seen in this election was an ignorance of the facts that, in the case of the far right with the tea party, etc. was just plain frightening.

I got into a thing on FB with someone who insisted that cutting taxes brings in revenue. Mathematically, that’s wrong. Logically, that’s wrong. And yet it was a belief across nearly half the country that that was the case, even though any IRS agent will tell you that it’s not. And no one on the right bothered getting a pen and paper and setting up a few equations to see how it worked. You don’t need to be a math genius to know that if you have an x = y setup, you cannot have 1/2 of x = 2y. In fact, any public elementary school teaches you this.

Mitt Romney was one of the original pioneers of outsourcing, and Bain Capital records and articles support that. And yet, people believed that he would bring the overseas jobs back. Someone please explain to me why, precisely, would someone do away with something that he had directly profited from? If money does the talking, then the income that companies in this country had made because they had outsourced their labor should be speaking volumes. Bringing jobs back into the US would have decimated many companies’ profit margins. And why would they do that, then? No one on the right had asked this.

Paul Ryan had admitted that the Romney budget plan was trickle-down economics. Considering that that’s what had precipitated this mess to begin with when Reagan had implemented it, it’s amazing that the right had not asked the key question of exactly what would trickle down, if, as stated above, letting wealth and profit go anywhere would kill the profit margin.

The red states who had overwhelmingly voted for Romney are also the poorest states in the country, where use of public assistance is the only way for some people to survive. Mitt Romney had said multiple times that he would do nothing for safety nets, and in the infamous 47% video, stated that those people considered themselves “victims” and that he wouldn’t worry about them. Those red states are among the highest rates of public assistance – and they voted for the man who was perfectly fine with eliminating their only source of survival. They hadn’t stopped to consider that hey, if this guy wins, I won’t have a red cent to my name, or any way whatsoever to survive. That was a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, and it was stunning in the worst possible way.

This election campaign and watching the result has been an overwhelming exercise in watching the power of the human mind as it saw what it had found attractive and clung to it despite massive amounts of proof that what it was clinging to was nothing like the reality. Had I still been in college, I would’ve used this election for a thesis. Hell, if I go back for the Master’s in Psych that I want, I would very likely use it.

But there is a silver lining to having gone through this campaign as an observer: this election had also shown me exactly what people can do if they stand up and stand together. Just the financial aspect of Obama’s victory is evidence enough. Think about it: Romney had an absurd amount of wealth at his disposal, not just his own but that of donors, all as wealthy as himself. He got defeated by grassroots contributions. Small, $3+ contributions, given repeatedly by millions of people, had all stacked up to a presidential victory. Yeah, I donated too, a couple of times, at $10 each. But those $20 that I tossed into the pot had helped. As the saying goes, nickels and dimes make a full jar. It all added up, and it had a lot more influence than the conservative SuperPACs. In Florida, where voter suppression had made the news on an almost consistent basis, people had turned out to vote in record numbers, with lines going for miles. We’ve seen it with the alcohol during the Prohibition,  and we’ve now seen it with voting: if you want something to be as popular as possible, disapprove of it and attempt to suppress it.

Do you have any idea what it feels like to know that together, united, by contributing even the cost of a bagel on a weekly basis, many of us can overpower the wealthy individuals who are in control of the coffers and the media? Do you know how utterly empowering that feeling is, to know that yes, even though your contribution was minuscule, you made a difference? Do you know what it feels like to know that efforts to suppress a hard-won right have backfired despite the opposition just because people had decided to come together? It is something that you cannot ignore. And it confirmed what I already knew: united we stand.

The US motto is not, and has not been “In God We Trust” until the 1960s. I will, forever and a day, acknowledge its original motto as the real one, and it was borne out of the end of Civil War: E Pluribus, Unum. Out of many, one. After the Civil War, that’s when people had started saying, “The United States is” as opposed to “The United States are“. That’s what this election was about. That was the attitude that had turned the tide against the Big Money aspect of the campaign. And that’s the attitude that’s going to pay off. Not the, “You’re on your own, we got ours, why aren’t you doing X or Y?” attitude, but this. Out of many, one. That was what I had seen happen in NJ and NY after Sandy had slammed into our region. People ceased to give a damn for politics, wealth, and money, and instead had just turned to helping each other out.

That, really, is what I hope to see in the next four years. The smear campaigns are over. The votes have been cast. The president has been reelected. It’s DONE. Now we actually have to live, and coexist, and make things happen. Let’s do that instead of grandstanding on stances and rhetoric that, when dissected, have inherent flaws across the board.

K.G.

PS: Please stop with the whole, “Both parties are the same” line. They’re not and never will be. The right has been taken over by violent maniacs from the minute that Obama had won the nomination prior to the 2008 campaign. While the Democratic party was far from perfect from day one, the one massive difference between the kooks on the left and the kooks on the right is that the kooks on the left had gone largely ignored. The kooks on the right, known as the tea party, had taken over the party in full and the reps of the party actually and fully believe the stances of the kooks. The extreme leftists had gotten largely ignored. Yes, they exist, but not once has it happened that a Democratic voter/supporter/citizen would resort to violence and threats on the opposite side of it to make a political point. Democratic candidates had been shot at (Giffords), and had their offices vandalized (mutilated cat on an AR rep’s front door). Liberal institutions had gotten vandalized, broken into, and attacked repeatedly (look up the several bombings of abortion clinics, GYN offices, Planned Parenthood; murder of Dr. Tiller). But you do not, ever, see a Democrat attacking the headquarters of Focus on the Family. I didn’t see a liberal spray-paint a conservative office. I don’t see liberals picketing funerals. I don’t see liberals threatening to attack a candidate. But already, the conservatives are starting to threaten violence because Obama won the second time. So don’t get me started on the “both parties are the same” myth.

If you haven’t done it yet…

Vote.

Yes, it’s a public service announcement. The election season being what it has been, I won’t let this go unsaid. Vote.

It’s standing on the line, punching a few buttons, filling out a form and scanning it, or whatever. But do it. Vote.

This right hasn’t always been around. The United States is still only 234 years old, and as far as other countries’ ages are concerned, it’s barely out of diapers. The United Kingdom, England, its parent country, is over a millennium old. Don’t think for a second that you leave the British Empire without fighting for it tooth and nail. That’s what your right to vote has been born from. Don’t forget that until the conclusion of the War of 1812, the British government hadn’t even recognized the US as a country. Your right to vote has been fought for time and again, and it’s still being fought over now.

Vote.

Moreover so if you’re not a born citizen but got that way through naturalization. Moreover so if you are not white and male. Moreover so if you’re a woman. A college student. Someone who just hit 18 and is voting in their first election. For you, that right has been a dogfight through the years, and at no point had it stopped, if the suppression efforts (Florida, I’m looking at you) are any indication. You may laugh or scoff when people say “vote as though your lives depend on it” – well, they do. The president elected here will directly impact the course of the country for the next four years, and your life can change drastically over that period. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and tempt Murphy’s Law.

Ask yourself carefully what candidate is better for the country. Not just for you, but for the country. Use math, logic, and common sense. Do things add up? Does that person have a plan? Does that plan make logical sense when laid out in equation format?

Then go out there and cast. your. vote.

Otherwise, you lose any and all right to remark on politics in this country. Not participating in a government that depends on and responds to the public automatically voids your right to complain and remark on what the elected candidate has done or will do. You have the right to vote for a reason. In general world history, not exercising a right usually results in its cessation to exist. If you don’t vote because there’s “no one to vote for” – then write in your candidate, that’s why the space exists. If you do not vote, then you are stuck with whatever you get, and your right to complain is gone. Free speech nothing, this is pure and undiluted cause and effect. You had the chance to have a say, you didn’t, and now you reap the consequences. The First Amendment never once exonerated people from consequences to their action – or their inaction.

Vote. That’s your action.

That’s your right.

VOTE.

K.G.

Debate and Taxes

Last night’s debate was honestly a lot better. Now I understand exactly why Obama had held back on the first one: he wanted to give Mitt Romney enough time and rope to where he’d spew everything he had to spew, and then leave it ripe for dissection. And oh, Obama dissected. I am very proud of Mr. President today.

And Mitt Romney again proved that he is deeply unqualified for any post that doesn’t involve the letters C, E, and O.

The big buzzword of right now is “tax cuts”. Tax cuts, tax cuts, everyone wants to have lower or no taxes, but guess what: the treasury is gutted, needs refilling badly, and Romney thinks that if he cuts tax rates, reduces certain types of income tax, and eliminates deductions,  it will balance out.

This made me start laughing outright. I spent way too much time working at an accounting firm, apparently, because my bullshit meter went into the stratosphere on this one within five seconds.

I’m about to drop a piece of knowledge, guys and gals, and you’re not going to like it. You’re also not going to like it if you’re a Romney fan (in case of which…please close the blog now).

This is independent of any political party.

Ready?

It’s math. And the math says that Romney is full of shit.

Mathematics does not depend on politics. It either adds up or it doesn’t. Accounting math, specifically, depends on reconciliation across the board to be shown as correct: that a series of numbers add up to a certain percentage or a sum, and add up to the same sum across two platforms. If it doesn’t reconcile, you’re doing something wrong. That’s how you know your accounting is good or not.

First of all, let’s get rid of this ridiculous idea that we’re overtaxed. We’re not. Compare today’s tax rate with that under Richard Nixon, or even Gerald Ford. The difference is palpable. If your taxes were to be computed using the Nixon Administration’s numbers, you would be screwed. It’s simple fact. Look up the archives of the U.S. Tax Code if you don’t believe me. Taxes are at an all-time low.

Second, tax cuts don’t do a damned thing to bring in revenue.

You’d think, “But two-for-one sales bring businesses loads of revenue!” True – businesses, and businesses alone. But a government/treasury is an administration, not a business, and business math, which is centered largely on profit and bottom-lining, doesn’t work here.

This is why it doesn’t work:

Cutting a price to bring on a sale and make up the price cut in volume of sales makes sense – in business. Why does it make sense? Because it is banking on an increased number of consumers paying their money. This is good when you’re selling material goods and certain services. This is how buy-one-get-one-free sales succeed. The catch to that is that you cannot predict your number of consumers. You’re banking on taking a loss, and hope that you break even/make a profit in volume. You have that option because consumers are a variable number in this case.

In taxes, this is the exact wrong approach. Why? The number of taxpayers isn’t variable. People  retire from the workforce and enter it at a relatively constant, break-even rate. The taxpayers are a fixed constant, which means that the money has to come from their wallets one way or another, and it’s a matter of who can pay how much. Their number is the same. What isn’t the same is their incomes, and having an even rate across the board, and a plan that eliminates deductions but yet doesn’t tax certain types of income completely defeats the purpose of the tax rate to begin with. Because what does a tax return depend on, and the amount of tax taken out? The type of income. Because they’re not taxed the same way. Self-employed income gets taxed much higher than W-2 income. Pass-through K-1 income is not taxed the same way as either of the above. C-corp tax and partnership/S-Corp tax aren’t anywhere near the same.

Logically, if X is a fixed constant, and 3x = Y, then 1.5X will simply not yield the full amount of Y if you’re expecting it at the same proportionate rate. They just don’t reconcile. In this case, 1.5X will bring you Y divided by 2. Remember basic division from elementary school? If you have to divide, the same denominator is applied on both sides of the equal sign.

Therefore, tax cuts do not create more revenue. They slice it.

Again, this is simple math. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a CPA to be able to set up an equation and try to work it out. Pencil and paper would do.

Let’s dissect Romney’s tax ideas. He claims that he won’t tax dividends, interest, or investment income (cap gains, accumulated interest on IRAs, etc). This right here should be a red flag. Most people do not make a significant amount of dividend income to have it make an impact on their returns. Bank interest, at the current rates, is laughable as a source of income, to where the IRS dictates you not to bother even reporting if it’s below $10. But this is the thing: if you look at the big picture of what all that adds up to, you will realize that put together, this is exactly how the wealthy had acquired their wealth as of late: all of those types of income are rooted from previous investments. Not taxing those sources of income effectively puts more money into already well-lined pockets and further starves the IRS.

And then, atop that, Romney says he will eliminate deductions. Okay, which ones? Standard deduction is something across the board; for some people, it’s irrelevant because they’d be in AMT because of their amount of income/tax rate (self-employed; or making over 300K/year; or receiving mostly passive income). For Joe W-2, who only makes a certain amount a year and is taxed at 25%, that standard deduction, added up to the tax withheld from his pay, could mean he’d get a partial or full refund of his tax liability. This does mean that Joe W-2 is not paying taxes; he had paid them in the minute he had agreed to have his taxes withheld from his pay. There is a massive difference between receiving a refund and not filing a tax return.

Would Romney then eliminate the first-time homebuyer deduction? Or the mortgage interest deduction? Or property tax deduction? So a couple who went close to broke paying for their first house would now have to shell out on a tax bill from the IRS after they’ve paid their locality tax, which can get steep in some areas, especially if the assessor hasn’t been by in a while.

Or, would Romney eliminate the student loan interest deduction? Which people of my generation will continue to use into their fifties. And sometimes, it means the difference between breaking even on the tax bill and owing on it.  Again, for the upper tier it would make little difference, because with his idea about investment income, that little credit is barely relevant. For someone making 40K per year, that and every other credit counts.

Romney’s plan is mathematically impossible to execute. The money that he will not receive by means of even partially lifting liability for passive income tax has to get made up somehow. Killing deductions does absolutely nothing. Unless you put pass-through K-1 income at a 50% rate or higher, you just will not see even a small percent of the money that will be lost by his tax cuts. If you think eliminating deductions will rectify it, you’re kidding yourself. You can’t hope to collect an extra $300 or so in tax revenue from people who can barely pay their own bills. Someone who receives a dividend check of about $2,000 can pay that $300 much easier than someone for whom that $300 means groceries for a month. So where will the money come from? Slicing defensive spending? Of course not. Eliminating corn subsidies? Nope. His own offshore accounts? Don’t make me laugh.

The math just doesn’t add up. Where will the shortfall come from? The deficit can’t take it, and if you print more currency, as has been floated around in the early days of Obama’s presidency, inflation goes through the stratosphere. Salaries hadn’t kept pace with inflation as it is; Romney’s “solutions” to the shortfall would plunge the country into poverty, one way or the next. Anyone remember Hoovervilles?

But I promise you: if major corporations who outsource their labor to China and India got taxed to hell and back (Mr. Clinton, why the hell did you sign that tax break into law?!), the problems of unemployment and treasury revenue will be rectified in short order. You want to have cheap labor? Great. Pay the hefty tax bill for it, or bring the jobs home and your money will at least tide people’s lives over in the form of paid wages. But if that’s implemented, the CEO brigade will riot. Decisions, decisions.

Oh, and China isn’t “cheating”, as Romney put it. For one, he should be one to talk, he pioneered outsourcing while in Bain Capital. For two, if another country decides to open up a plant and give your country thousands on thousands in manufacturing jobs, what do you say? “Thank you very much”. China’s unemployment is an all-time low because the American companies have exported their factories and according jobs there. China’s economy is thriving because it’s powered by American money, and that American money is a fraction of what it would cost to open and keep the same plants and factories in the US. Smart business investment for the CEOs, and an even smarter one by China to allow it. Their revenue benefits too, because more people are employed and paying tax on their earnings.

Want to make the US attractive to CEOs? Tax the living hell out of outsourcing.

The fact that CEOs don’t want to be bothered to pay the overwhelming minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for American workers is another matter altogether. Because we all know that the real reason that companies took jobs out of the US is because paying that wage is way too much money for them. (end sarcasm)

(Don’t get me started on cost of living and wages keeping pace with inflation. I could go on for weeks.)

I have no idea what Romney was thinking going on about taxes in his debate. Hel-lo, did he not think that maybe, just maybe, people who knew accounting, or worked in accounting, would be listening? Did he honestly believe that if he would repeat the same BS over and over again, it would make it magically add up?

You see, this is exactly why I like math and accounting: it doesn’t lie. It does not and never will depend on a political party. Either it adds up or it doesn’t.

K.G.