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Comment Or just a gravity-battery. (Score 1) 635

Some systems use pumped storage; you have a low reservoir and a high one. When you have extra incoming energy, you use it to pump water upwards; when you need to get the energy back, you let it run a turbine. There's transaction costs in the pump's inefficiencies, leakage, evaporation and so forth, but it's a pretty simple system and should be attachable to most any intermittent power source.

Also, that's Neal Stephenson, not Neil Gaiman.

Comment Agonizers. (Score 1) 406

Am I the only one who saw the rising popularity of Tasers and was uncomfortably reminded of the agonizers from all of those Mirror Universe episodes of Star Trek? "Your agonizer, Mr. Sulu." Clearly our world is the goateed, evil one.

This "ADS" thing is just more of the same. A remote-control torture device. Bah. How long until it's used on inconvenient crowds of hippies here? Boy, it would sure be convenient if those protesters could be made to go home and shut the hell up, wouldn't it?

Comment Okay. (Score 1) 277

We are not "stuck here", not by any means.

I didn't say we were stuck here; I said that we're stuck here unless we want politically-infeasible tax increases or massive spending cuts. You're advocating the latter, which would, on the scale you propose, have hideous consequences for the nation, one of which I detailed above.

Sticking your fingers in your ears and claiming that--since you're not proposing anything, I can only conclude that this is your reasoning--magic Free Market Pixies will rapture the worthy off to Galt's Gulch if only we cut taxes and spending enough... that's not an argument. That's rote repetition.

The Federal government needs to be dialed back in scope, influence, money spent, money taken (in the form of taxes, fees, etc.), the whole nine yards.

That's a fascinating assertion. You made some claims up front along the same lines, then showed that you're tragically ignorant of the meaning of Marxism, the history or aims of progressive taxation, the proximate and ultimate reasons for the country's current state of financial affairs and the blindingly obvious consequences of the massive service cuts which have been the objective all along... and now you're just repeating yourself.

You might as well stop responding to me, although I see a point or two where I can agree with you, the rest I completely reject.

You're free to reject whatever you want; you're free to live in whatever kind of weird fantasy world hits your happy spot.

Comment Your ideas are so incoherent as to be meaningless. (Score 1) 277

The tax code should not be "progressive" at all,

You stated that the current tax code is bad, in that it leads to "stratification of wealth and social breakdown". The current tax system, when you count all the taxes people pay, is, on balance, relatively flat. Therefore, you're arguing against flat taxation.

Your idea to tax every individual at the same rate regardless of their income is the definition of a flat tax. (Actually, since one needs disposable income to contribute it to charity, your plan is somewhat regressive.)

You're arguing both for and against flat taxation. I can only conclude that you're rather confused.

stop with the Marxist based taxation rhetoric already!

The word "Marxist" has a specific meaning. Given that the intellectual history of progressive taxation can be traced back to Adam Smith, you're apparently using it to mean "things I don't like".

Unless you're willing to put forth the claim that the vast majority of economists are closet Marxists and that every democratic nation in the world is run by secret Marxist cabals, a progressive income tax is not a Marxist idea.

The U.S. government needs to be restricted, by Constitutional amendment, to stop spending more than it is making *and* to not spend more than 10 percent or so of the GDP. Those two things are necessary and vital to the survivability of this country.

Staving off a second Great Depression was also necessary and vital to the survivability of this country. Massive tax cuts for the already-wealthy and optional military adventures abroad, on the other hand, were not. If you have a history of arguing against unaffordable tax cuts and spending increases on weapons, please do share it with me. I have a hard time believing that this isn't just the annual crop of people whining about how they don't like to pay taxes.

They are either incompetent or the financial ruin is something they are directly causing and planning to capitalize on. Which is it, smart guy?

Honestly? I think the folks who got us into this mess in the first place circa 2000 (not that the current folks seem terribly inclined to roll back the wars and tax cuts) did so out of a combination of naked self-interest and believing their own nonsense about the Laffer Curve or whatever bit of gimcrackery justified their neofeudalistic ambitions.

Of course, the game is rigged so that, without massive spending cuts (I don't think you've thought through your proposal to have millions of impoverished old people descend on their adult children for a place to live) or--perish the thought!--tax increases, for instance, to the insanely confiscatory levels we suffered through in the horrible dark days of the 1950s, we're stuck here.

I mentioned Grover Norquist before, but since you seem to have gaps in your understanding, I'll summarize his ideology, which has been shared by many of the movers and shakers on the right over the last few decades: You want to cut services, but people seem to enjoy them. So, you cut taxes and spend money, preferably on things that don't really benefit anyone (such as totally optional wars with no defined endpoint), in order to run up a gigantic deficit. Eventually, the government must spend every bit of money it can to service the resultant debt, and will, in the end, have no choice but to cut services.

So, to the extent that any one ideological group is responsible for this little pickle, I blame those guys.

Comment No, these ideas are terrible ideas. (Score 1) 277

I am aware of US history since the Great Depression, but I don't think you are.

Here's a chart of income inequality since World War I. Note that it begins to rise in the 1970s. Here's a chart of top marginal tax rates since the income tax was introduced. Note that the top tax on earned income drops precipitously in the 1970s.

So, yes, the current tax code is creating stratification of wealth (and therefore, societal breakdown), because it's insufficiently progressive. Your proposals make it even worse.

The U.S. government needs to learn to live on a lot less money, just like everyone else does when the economy goes sour, get it?

No. No, this is absolutely wrong. Basic macroeconomics states that the government can, when things go bad, take on debt and add money to the economy when it "goes sour", as you put it. The idea is that boom/bust cycle is smoothed out by the government filling its coffers during booms and emptying them during busts, spending against the cycle. (This is why blowing the early-2000s surplus on tax cuts for very, very rich people was a particularly bad idea.)

This is out of the Norquistian playbook--funnel cash to the very wealthy to empty out the treasury, then talk about how excessive government spending is and claim that the only solution is to cut services. An extra zero on a balance sheet is, clearly, more important than starving old people.

Comment Depends on your skills and preferences. (Score 1) 277

I do mine the medium-fashioned way, with a text file open in vi, a copy of bc running in another tab, and evince filling out the IRS's fillable PDFs. But I can imagine that some people really hate doing calculation or are terrible at it (a lot of people hate and fear mathematics), and the price is worth it to them in that it would cost them eighty or ninty dollars' worth of time and aggravation to do it by hand.

Comment Your proposals have some issues. (Score 1) 277

The tax return for the majority of Americans is a single side of one page; it's called the 1040EZ. But when you say that tax rates are to be capped, are you even aware that for the majority of wage earners, payroll taxes, not income taxes, are the majority of the federal taxes they pay, and that if you're making less than somewhere around $100k a year, they're 7.65% of your wages? (The EITC makes this considerably smaller, but that's part of the income tax code, so presumably you'd be eliminating that.) If you're self-employed, you pay your employer's portion of payroll taxes, so that's 15.30%. How do you make that square with a maximum tax rate of ten percent?

Your wacky idea about a minimum tax percentage derives, I think, from the "Lucky Ducky" meme, which states that poor people get away without paying taxes, and are therefore getting away with something. (Proponents seem reluctant to embrace the joys of poverty, but I'm sure they'll get around to it.) This is, as described above, entirely false; it can only be made true by defining payroll taxes as not being "real" taxes.

Regardless of the merit of your ideas, they don't have much to do with reforming the tax code; they're more about drowning the federal government in a bathtub. As they say, a social safety net, an imperial military, low taxes: pick any two. Historically speaking, we already have all three (top marginal income tax rates were far, far higher in the 1950s); the first and last are severely fraying around the edges as a result.

The tax code is the way that it is for a reason; flat taxation leads to stratification of wealth and societal breakdown. (Interestingly enough, the current tax system is pretty much flat if you count all kinds of tax.) Your ideas read like a mashup of Ron Paul talking points and a fifth-grade understanding of how taxation in the United States works.

Comment That's a bit over-the-top. (Score 1) 2424

Nobody's going to eat your civil liberties if you don't buy insurance. You just get fined. There are subsidies to help out people who can't afford the premiums.

It's the same system they have in Switzerland, basically. It's certainly better than what we had before; at least it'll no longer be the laughingstock of the civilized world.

Comment It's perfectly natural. (Score 1) 458

College age is the maximum of two trendlines, taken together. As we grow older, we acquire responsibilities, take on power to decide our own actions. But this means that we become caught up in the details; our gaze falls from the horizon; we end up looking at our own feet and just trying to get by without rocking our precarious little boats.

The moment when we're most free to change the world, when the desire burns brightest in us, is that age. No wonder college kids do so much protesting and working--their sharp edges haven't been worn down yet.

Comment Nonsense. IMs can be useful. (Score 1) 322

I'm sure folks said that about Usenet back in the day, and look--apart from the endless shit and spam, it's an excellent resource, containing a great deal which is useful reading even years later.

Similarly, I was absolutely convinced that instant messaging was nothing but a wasteland of lowercase misspellings and canned shibboleths. But like any form of communication, it's what you make of it. The people I communicate with over IM are generally like-minded, and type in complete, grammatical sentences, one thought to a message. It's a perfectly useful form of communication to use when hashing out ideas; if you log your chats, it can serve as an integral part of a project's development record.

Comment Delicious laser printers. (Score 1) 970

My laser printer, an HP LaserJet 6P, was pulled out of a dumpster at some point in the distant past, and is still running strong after all of these years. I print a relatively light workload on it, but it's survived several moves and a lot of accidental nudging over its life. (It's currently eleven years old.) Would that all of my consumer goods performed so admirably.

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