January 10th, 2007

i'm driving!

Tasteful San Antonio: The Tour (#1)

On my commute to work, I have many occasions to remember why I don't especially like this town. Most of them have to do with the shoddy design and layout of the roads, but there's also a few landmarks that are tragically ludicrous presenting themselves to me.

To pick what is probably the finest example, there is, along Broadway, a Vietnamese restaurant of suspect appearance. It is called, cleverly, "Viet Nam". (Hey, honey, get the kids! We're going to eat in Vietnam!). Directly across from it, there is a mediocre deli, which sports on its front gate a banner advertising their Sunday brunch special. The banner directly faces the Vietnamese restaurant across the street, so that when the employees go in and out, they can see it. Here is what it says:


And that's...tasteful San Antonio.
stella stella can't you hear me yella


Today's Ludic Log: the return of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe recaps, as we take a look at the Marvel Legacy 1980s handbook.

These things, by the way, take a ridiculous amount of time to write. There's probably about one good joke for every hour and a half I put into them, which isn't a winning ratio.

Town Hall: The Richening

Over at the clown repository, Michael Medved has deigned to inform the mass of Americans why they, who do are not rich, should oppose tax hikes for the rich.

Disingenuously claiming that he himself does not benefit from upper-class tax cuts*, he trots out three reasons that we should give a shit if Congress enacts a soak-the-rich tax program, as if that's ever a threat.

#1: "Tax hikes hurt the economy". This is the same old trickle-down bullshit we've been hearing for 30 years, claiming that rich people create jobs and stimulate development, while all stupid poor people do with their money is spend it. I'm not even gonna address this, so thoroughly tired an argument it is.

#2: "Higher rates are ineffective in producing higher revenues, and encourage both laziness and sleazy strategies of tax avoidance." Here's a combination of two currently popular notions among libertarian types: first, if you tax people too highly, it provides a disincentive to produce. This is obvious nonsense. Can you recall even one single rich person who stopped doing the thing that made them rich because they paid too many taxes? When George Harrison wrote "Taxman" to protest his 90% (!) tax rate, he had what most people would call a legitimate beef, but curiously, he didn't stop making records and become a garbageman, possibly because the 10% he kept was still enough to make him a multimillionaire. Guys like Bill Gates, Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch are presumably taxed at a very high rate, but you don't see them throwing in the towel and going to work at 7-11; instead, they seem to spend their time trying to make even more money for the taxman to raid. Funny, eh?

As for the second part, the essential argument -- very popular in recent years, so much so that the president himself has advanced it -- is that if you raise taxes for rich people, they're only going to find ways to not pay it. This is the lamest possible argument, amounting to "Hey, people aren't going to obey this law, so we might as well not even pass it." What are we, fucking helpless against the wiles of clever rich people? 30 million law enforcement personnel in the country, and there's not a goddamn thing we can do if a rich fuck decides not to pay his income tax. Sad, isn't it? I guess we're using all those resources to lock up Tommy Chong for selling bongs over the internet. Speaking of which, the "we can't stop people from breaking these laws so we might as well not pass them" argument doesn't seem quite as popular amongst conservatives when the laws in question have to do with theft, or violence, or drugs, or terrorism. I'm pretty sure that neither Michael Medved nor George W. Bush are going to give a speech where they say "Hey, if we pass laws against dealing crack, people are just going to find clever ways to do it anyway, so we might as well just make drugs legal", but it's essentially the same argument.

#3: "High tax rates are wrong and unfair – and only lead to the growth of government." This argument makes a certain level of sense, if you believe that people who have been hugely rewarded by the American system should have no obligation to make a proportional contribution to that system. And, if you believe that, you're likely to accept the idea that government shouldn't grow, because after all, why should government grow? All it's going to do is help people, and since you don't need any government help, why should other people? The big flaw in it, though, is that it contradicts point #2. If higher taxes do not, in fact, create more revenue, then how can they possibly lead to the growth of government? That seems pretty elementary to me, but Medved, who calls these points "the very core of conservative thinking", doesn't seem to mind that there's a big fat contradition right in the middle of his argument.

He concludes, showing his serious side, by reviving the argument -- pioneered by Paul Craig Roberts and not likely to endear him to working people of a particular color -- that taxation of rich people is worse than slavery. Hooray for liberty! Hooray for Town Hall! And hooray for you, Michael Medved; without you, I would never known that the very core of conservative thinking is so deeply stupid.

*: The reason I'm not buying Medved's claim that he doesn't pull down half a mil a year and would therefore not benefit from the upper-class tax cut is that in another column in Town Hall today, Maggie Gallagher cops to a personal income -- just for her, not for her whole family -- in the "low six figures". If Maggie Gallagher, a relative nobody, is pulling down $100k a year for writing her columns, there's no way that Medved, a conservative superstar with a daily radio show, three weekly columns, personal appearances, multiple book deals, and, up until recently, his own TV show, isn't making half a mil.