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Tax “reform” or not?
David Brin   May 7, 2017   Contrary Brin  

In Edinburgh I just posed for pictures next to one statue of Hume and then in front of Adam Smith, the founder of liberal economics.

(Oh the handsome scotsman posing with me? Edinburgh science fiction legend Ken MacLeod. Look up his fine novels, such as The Corporation Wars.)
Back to Adam Smith; it’s clear where he would be writing, were he alive today -- at the website that mentions his name most-often. Evonomics is the fast-rising site where liberals and moderates in the commercial and academic worlds of economics offer spirited resistance to fanaticism. 

While the far-left and the entire-right seem hell-bent on betraying the system that brought us all this vast wealth and opportunity, moderates are rediscovering Smith, who knew that creative-competitive markets can only work when they are regulated to keep them flat-open and fair.  

6000 years of cheaters have showed us that vast disparities of wealth do not lead to healthy market enterprise, but stifle it. (Try running a competitive sports league without "regulation." Alas, leftists reflexively despise the word "competition" and rightists despise "regulation" when it is only the combination that works.) See my posting on Competition and Regulation.
If our parents in the Greatest Generation could stymie oligarchic cheaters, spurring lively market competition by keeping things relatively flat and fair, then can't we?  These re-sets have to be made about once per U.S. generation, and the plantation lords - desperate to prevent it - know that feudalism might be prevented permanently, if we perform just one more.  
Which brings us to…
== The Tax Bill: fool me ten times…. ==
The one and only actual priority of the plantation lords is now forefront in the hilariously sob-worthy new 'tax bill':
"Our expectation is that with the growth we create and the elimination of many deductions that we will make it revenue neutral," said Marc Short, the White House Director of Legislative Affairs, doubling down yet again on Supply Side Theory.
Well, it's a theory that sounded plausible when JFK pushed the first big tax cut in the 1960s. It still sounded conceivable when Reagan pushed the next round in the 80s. 
Then ridiculous when Bush Sr. got us to go a third time with this “voodoo” that has never once worked, ever, in any way.
At any level.
Even once.
At all.

Then came the big tax cut for the rich under Bush Junior, when most economists and a majority of Americans asked: “Are you kidding me?” It didn’t work (again) and deficits skyrocketed, along with wealth disparities now approaching those of France in 1789.

So now the Trumpists are doing it again. Read the details, like elimination of inheritance tax so that oligarchy can preserve its feudal power across generations, and the alternative minimum tax, so they do not have to pay for wars they declare. Oh, and you lose your medical expense deduction. And the old excuses aren’t even being pushed hard. The masters want this. And that’s that. It’s no longer “fool me once.”  See: This Isn’t Tax Policy; It’s a Trump-Led Heist.
Heck, there aren't even fig leaves to actual stimulation. R&D credits? Nope. Depreciation for domestic productive capacity? I don't see any. Credits for public-private infrastructure investment? None that I can spot.

What is in the bill is a set of provisions that openly and savagely attack the finances of blue states. The confederates seem determined to wake us up. This is Fort Sumter, guys.

== Tax Simplification? ==
If "reform" means wanting to simplify the system, so it is no longer a 10,000 rule monstrosity, I have long offered an absolutely guaranteed way to do it.  The non-partisan method is technical, using computer optimization. But my "No-Losers" method not only can work... it works almost by definition. 
In contrast the Trump "reform" has one aim. At risk of repetition, in the 1980s and again in the 2000s, "supply side" tax cuts poured wealth from our carotid arteries into open oligarch maws without once, ever, at all, even one time, having the predicted outcomes. 

Nothing so well proves the stunning stupidity of these neo-feudal lords, that they think this has any logical conclusion, other than tumbrels.
== The Influence of Propaganda ==
From the new Scout site: Welcome to the age of Weaponized AI Propaganda, by Berit Anderson:
"By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. " 

This company helped elect Donald Trump and helped with the Brexit Leave campaign. "The company is owned and controlled by conservative and alt-right interests that are also deeply entwined in the Trump administration. The Mercer family is both a major owner of Cambridge Analytica and one of Trump’s biggest donors. Steve Bannon, in addition to acting as Trump’s Chief Strategist and a member of the White House Security Council, is a Cambridge Analytica board member. Until recently, Analytica’s CTO was the acting CTO at the Republican National Convention."
This report on the science reporting site “Scout” explains: In the past, political messaging and propaganda battles were arms races to weaponize narrative through new mediums — waged in print, on the radio, and on TV. This new wave has brought the world something exponentially more insidious — personalized, adaptive, and ultimately addictive propaganda.”
Speaking of weaponized info: recall he beat up on Hillary about how incredibly irresponsible she was by allowing her email, and classified documents, to be exposed to hackers, by using email exactly the way her predecessors had. Now a congressman calls for House investigation of Donald Trump's terrible Android phone In the month since he took office, Donald Trump has refused to drop his Samsung S3 in favor of the standard secured phone. That's a huge security problem, since conventional phones are vulnerable...
== A Ray of Light ==
The United States Is Not an Apocalyptic Wasteland, explains Steven Pinker in this interview with Phil Torres. Professor Stephen Pinker, along with Peter Diamandis (Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think) has used evidence to shatter the delusion that everything is spiraling into hell. That mythology doesn’t help inspire us to save the world, but rather spreads nihilism and cynicism. In fact, statistically, there are dozens of reasons for (guarded) optimism!  Which, in turn, ought to inspire a can-do spirit and belief that we can act vigorously, to solve problems.  See his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. One special insight: When people believe that the world is heading off a cliff, they are receptive to the perennial appeal of demagogues: "What do you have to lose?"  Sound familiar?
Yes, both right and left contain critics, who admit the veracity of Pinker’s impressive statistics, yet cast clouds. Conservative writer Tom Nichols’s book -- The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters -- details aims at dangers that he (largely erroneously) believes Pinker is overlooking.  What makes Nichols significant is that he calls the Populist Rejection of Expertise not just damaging, but potentially deadly for our future, with potential to turn large portions of the USA into what are "Apocalyptic Wastelands."
I used to have a fantasy that fellows like this were simmering all over American conservatism. If Nichols' version of Conservatism were to prevail, we could see a GOP that returns to sanity, promoting science, adult argument, mature, success-oriented negotiation based on appraisal of real facts and outcomes. Alas, year after year I see most of the best conservative thinkers just burrow deeper into their ostrich holes of denial. Oh, they are able to admit: “my side has gone insane.” But this only propels them to guzzle the murdochian koolaid rationalizations that “all the scientists, journalists, professionals, democrats and blue Americans are just…as… crazy.”  And of course, that’s plain crazy.

Sure, there are occasional exceptions, willing to stand up and step forward.  Who would imagine that Glenn Beck would be one of the brave ones? But there is no critical mass. No core that is courageous enough to emulate what democrats did to save their party from radicalism and treason, in the “Miracle of 1947.”

== Muddled speech ==

Seriously.  Read every word of this interview with our president. It is verbatim, so he’s not being treated unfairly… though note how many places were marked “unintelligible.”  Transcript of AP interview with Trump.  
Let’s be fair. I am interviewed a lot and I’m well aware that spoken English doesn’t always look so good, when directly transcribed.  I try to speak in sentences and paragraphs, as does any careful and experienced hand. Still – despite lots of practice – I know there’ll be passages that come across either unclear or sounding repetitious or distracted. We should make allowances.  And yet, even so –
-- see if you can pick out one passage, even one, that is cogent and/or uttered as an adult might speak. One. Even one. Heck, find more than a couple that are coherent at any level.

BTW, which seems more likely? That we just saved $70 million on each F35 plane because of hard audits set in motion months ago by the Obama Administration… or because Donald Trump shouted the word “Boeing!” at Lockheed. (The former is what actually happened.) Even if there weren’t firm contracts, does he believe Boeing could underbid the contractor who is now fully tooled and in production, just because the president shouts their name as an incantation?  Bluffing your partners out of some real estate is not the same as managing a complex, 21st Century defense contract.
David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."

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