small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Saturday, February 01, 2003

The Bush expansion is proposing that rich people be allowed to shelter $30,000 per year in accounts that are like Roth IRA's, but without the current income restrictions. They claim that this will "encourage middle- and lower-income workers to save", which is the most transparent piece of crap they could possibly have come up with--why remove the income limits on the accounts, if they're meant to help people making less money?

I've always been a little leery of IRA's, because they violate the principle that if you make money you should pay tax, but in practice until a few years ago the limits on how much you could contribute meant they weren't good for much more than financing a middle-class retirement, and the government does have a legitimate interest in making it easier for people to achieve a secure retirement. And even though you didn't pay tax on the money you made inside the account, you paid tax when you took the money out.

Roth IRA's made the system worse--now you didn't have to pay tax even when you took out money and spent it. And the contribution limits went up, which made it easy to accumulate more money than you need for your own retirement. (I'll probably benefit from this--I expect to inherit part of my father's IRA--but that doesn't make it good tax policy.) But the income limits, even though they were prone to manipulation, were at least a token acknowledgement of the principle that really rich people didn't need this.

Allowing anyone to put $30,000 a year in these accounts, though, is just too much. You don't need to save that much money to secure a comfortable retirement. What this does is allow the investing classes to gradually shelter a greater and greater portion of that income, and then pass that wealth onto their children. Unlike retirement, this is not an objective that the government has a legitimate interest in furthering.

I believe that the tax structure should be progressive--the rich should pay a greater percentage of their income than the poor. Right now the income tax is progressive, but payroll taxes and most state and local taxes are regressive, so overall all income groups pay about the same percentage of their income in taxes. The Republicans, not satisfied with this, are launching an all-out assault on the taxation of unearned income. (They aren't all that concerned with how wages are taxed, or they'd be cutting payroll taxes too.) Capital gains are already taxed at a lower rate than wages, and they're trying to eliminate taxes on dividends altogether. These new personal savings accounts are another way to prevent investors from paying tax. This is wrong, and should be opposed.


The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry earlier today. While a shock, this didn't hit me with the force of the Challenger disaster. Challenger was something I hardly believed could happen. Once it had happened, I adjusted inside, and deep down in my core I know now that space travel is dangerous and tragic accidents are inevitable.

What I wasn't prepared for was this sentence: "In Hemphill, Tex., human remains were found in a wooded area." That's not supposed to happen, damn it. Death at 200,000 feet should be cleaner than that.

Cool & Crazy is a documentary about a choir in a small town in Norway, where fishing and music are the only industries. It was all right, but only the music elevated it to that level. The documentary portion of the film was disappointingly un-alien.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003
I finished watching the first two episodes of Elizabeth R tonight. I really don't know much about that whole period of English history--everything between Richard III and Shakespeare in Love is fuzzy, basically--and this was a good introduction. Events move quickly, with, say, a rebellion lasting only a few scenes, and I find myself wondering about stuff on the story's edge. (Mary Stuart, for instance. What's her history?) The tapestry of history is too complex for them to do more, of course, and I'm happy to see this one thread.

There's a historical commentary I haven't listened to yet. I'll be interested to see to what extent they're fudging events.

This article is the most depressing thing I've seen on the administration's war plans. A good case can be made that the Iraqi people would be better off without Saddam Hussein, even it takes an invasion to topple him. But the administration is doing their best to undermine that case, first by showing more concern for securing American oil contracts than in promoting a democratic regime, and then by putting out quotes like this, from the article:

The main objective was not just to disable Iraq's fighting capacity but to leave the population dispirited and unwilling to support Saddam's regime.

"You're sitting in Baghdad and, all of a sudden, you're the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out," Mr Ullman said. "You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power and water. In two, three, four, five days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted."

Worse, there's this:

According to the architect of "Shock and Awe", military strategist Harlan Ullman, the plan would rely on an extensive array of precision-guided weapons.

"We want them to quit, not to fight," Ullman said, "so that you have this simultaneous effect - rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima - not taking days or weeks but minutes."

Hiroshima. He's talking about using weapons of mass destruction against Iraq, of an attack as devastating as nuclear war, an attack admittedly designed to terrorize innocent civilians. It's as if Bush heard about this cool new club called "the Axis of Evil", and is auditioning to be a member. This can make no pretense of being in the best interests of Iraq. This is not what America stands for.

Today I had a pulmonary function test and a brief pre-surgery exam. I learned that a taxi to the hospital costs $9.60 (plus tip), and that taking the Metro (via the free shuttle) is $1.10. Also, I have an unusually fast heart rate (110 beats/minute), which isn't reassuring. The nurse said I have "veins people would kill for", which outside of Sunnydale is probably a good thing.

Blood pressure: 110/70
Heart rate: 110 beats/minute
Height in college: 5' 11"
Height today: 5' 7"
Weight: 105 lbs.


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