Sustainable Development (environmental, population, economic, resources wars, ext.)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Yuthura, Jan 4, 2010.

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  1. JediSmuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    Part of the right to property is the right to pass on the fruits of your labor to your posterity. Certainly that would include the wealth you have accumulated, would it not?

  2. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Perhaps, but those fruits given to posterity are generating a positive feedback loop where the wealthy become wealthier without actually making much progress themselves. I do believe it's important for Americans to save money, but the problem with the wealthiest people is that they will stash so much of their assets away and they will never be used. It would be like pumping oil out of the ground, refining it, and then storing it for an indefinite period of time. The problem is that oil has a shelf life after it's been extracted and refined, so storing it is just wasteful. Rather than letting it go to waste, the best kind of solution would be to reduce drilling altogether. You'd still have the reserve underground, but you would only be tapping it as it's needed.

    The problem with investing instead of earning your money is that it generates positive feedback. You earn interest on your interest and it compounds faster then you can spend it. The purpose of the progressive taxes from the New Deal was to allow for the establishment of the American middle class. Giving the impoverish a break and taxing the wealthy more heavily is exactly how economic stability came about after the Great Depression. Many of the programs which came from the New Deal put incentives out that allowed individuals to pursue their own dreams while also benefiting the state. As the wealthy earned more, the state could progressively receive increased taxes without hindering the progress of those who are struggling to get by... bringing more stability to the state if people become richer while not restricting the majority of Americans from the pursuit of their American dream.

    Before the counter claim is made that it's all the same... it's not. By taxing the billionth dollar earned more heavily than your first, you establish a form of negative feedback where the wealthy come closer to stagnation as they earn more. It doesn't mean they have no incentive to keep working, but it gives the government access to more federal funding as personal earnings increase. At the same time, you prevent the growth of unemployed who can't afford a living. Lowering the number of people on welfare is beneficial for everyone at every income level.
  3. Cheveyo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2001
    star 5
    I get the premise behind it, but the focus, in my opinion, is in the wrong place. I disagree with estate tax because it's redundant tax for the express purpose of generating income for the government when someone wealthy dies. There should be no cap on how much wealth you can acquire by legal means, and there should be no subversive taxation with ulterior motives of capping one's ability to accrue wealth.

    What concerns me most about such vast wells of wealth is what can be bought with it; namely, our government. That is what needs to be curbed, not the acquisition of wealth.

    URGENT and IMPORTANT ADDENDUM:
    That is not to say that I, in any way, shape or form, agree with anything posted now or in the future by JS. [face_mischief]
  4. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    I agree with this. Wealth in and of itself is not the problem. Using one's wealth to effectively rule the country is the problem. Using one's wealth to gain power is the problem. If the wealthy are on equal footing with the poor regarding making rules that affect everyone in the country, particularly if they are on equal footing regarding funding our politicians, then by all means, accumulate a trillion dollars of personal wealth if you can do so by legal means.

    That being said, regarding taxation: the government needs a certain amount of money to fund its operations. We could debate all day regarding what should and should not be under the operations of the government, but even at bare minimum operations, the government needs money to fund them. It makes more sense to take that money from the upper 5 percent than the lower 5 percent.
  5. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Last Post Updated/Changed.

    I agree with you on taxing the transfer of assets each time you 'inherit' something that had already been taxed. When you inherit something, it's not the government's property and shouldn't be taxed each time you die and pass something on to your children. This is only a very minor problem, though.

    The problem with the loss of progressive taxes is that they act as a moderator to prevent anyone from ever becoming too powerful. Progressive taxes don't harm anyone. Those who struggle to get by are given a break. Those who are taxed heavily can afford it.

    This facilitates the movement towards a middle-class society because it distributes the wealth over a much more diverse range of people of different income levels. If the rich are the ones who buy everything, then it would make just as much sense to say you can get more people who can buy goods and services with a larger middle class. They won't be as ravish in dough, but you'll have many more consumers and less social conflict as everyone earns as much just as easily with or without astronomical inherited assets passed on by their parents.
  6. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Another aspect of this is the media. Because the media are out to make money, they will actively filter anything to the mass through any and every medium imaginable. Seriously, do you really need to hear that Michael Jackson was dead more than once? Well because we Americans came to desire celebrities so much, that became a 'need' which has been fueled by the media. They advertised his pointless life ever so often because it 'was news' and Americans would pay attention. It was also easier to just use something already created and play reruns of him... easy and cheaply.

    And it's as though these messages and commercials are played in order to help you seek out what you need and want. You don't need endless commercials to tell you what you need, but every single corporation is flooding the market for getting their messages out. It's so extreme that the various messages from so many corporations overlap and you never really hear individual messages... they're just loading a bigger shotgun to overload your senses with their message, but so are the other corporations. In the end, it's just a self perpetuated cycle of innovation aimed at beating competitors for something that has no real value. The only way commercials will work anymore is if a competitor just stops advertising their product.

    Yet there is a growing industry for advertisement which is not expected to shrink anytime soon. A corporation can't stop putting their message out, as it would be suicide for them to do so. That means the only option they have is to research better ways to make their message louder than all the competition. That's just a pointless waste of time devoted to ******* advertisements we don't want to hear in the first place! Don't call us, customers will call you!
  7. JediSmuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    But why would the rich seek to "buy" the government?

    I'd argue that one reason would be the effort of some people to use the government to take their money, not for the purpose of funding the government, but to redistribute wealth. In essence if they did not face the specter of wealth redistribution, there might be much less "buying" and "selling" of legislators.
  8. Cheveyo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2001
    star 5
    Geez, I'm really sorry, but I think I woke up on the conservative side of the bed this morning. What you're describing, and what I'll wager these tea baggers are deathly afraid of, sounds like you are advocating the government application of laws designed for the sole purpose of defining societal classes.

    The re-establishment of the middle class (something I strongly advocate) is done by maintaining laws that prevent corporations and other nexuses of wealth from eroding an individual's ability to achieve profitability. Reagan, Bush, and Bush Jr all took legal steps in the other direction, setting laws that reinforced company profits over "middle class" individual wealth accrual.

    Universal Health Care, Universal Education, and Superior Financial Aid (Grants and Scholarships) for Higher Education are far better ways of securing the middle class than double- and triple- taxing the top class.

    Now... Because of what I just wrote, I am obligated to note that I do support the idea that people who make more, pay more taxes. I'm a supporter of the flat percentage tax, though, rather than an escalating percentage tax. I pay roughly 25% of my income in taxes. Someone making $3 million or $300 million should pay the same percentage as I do. The only exemption I would advocate would be that of those who make less than x amount of annual income, basically what we have now.

    I oppose taxing assets that have already been taxed.

  9. Jedi Merkurian ST Thread Reaper and Rumor Naysayer

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 25, 2000
    star 6
    [image=http://www.mywebpower.com/graphics/sthumbs/michael-jackson/michael-jackson-thriller-eating-popcorn-animated.gif]
  10. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    I disagree; I think they seek to "buy" the government so that the government can promote their interests. Not so that they can stop the redistribution of wealth. If that were the reason, Democratic politicians would never receive any of these huge campaign contributions. Democrats are usually seeking to "redistribute the wealth," right? Yet our Democratic Senator in North Carolina received big campaign donations from Big Pharma and the health insurance industry.

    The pharmaceutical lobby and the Dorgan Amendment is one example. Pharmaceutical companies made large contributions to many Senators, those Senators didn't dare vote in favor of the Dorgan Amendment. I had a source showing the correlation of donations and votes, I'll see if I can find it again. The pharmaceutical lobby thus bought votes against an amendment which would lower health care costs for the American people, and they did so because such an amendment would cut into their astronomical profits. Screw ordinary people, only profits matter. PhRMA also went to the White House and essentially bullied Obama into cutting a deal with them, although Obama had cosponsored the Dorgan Amendment as a Senator. But it was a case of, "Either you oppose buying prescription drugs from Canada, or we'll use our huge coffers to run ads every 2 seconds opposing health care reform." The White House caved.

    A more local case in point: in Texas they tried to mandate the Gardasil vaccine for all nine-year-old girls, although the vaccine was fairly new. Could there be a correlation with the fact that Rick Perry is a Merck shill and his campaign manager used to work for Merck?

    Another example: big agri-business; Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland contribute large amounts of money to several members of Congress, and usually get passed the legislation they want, regardless of whether it hurts the average American or not (in the case of Monsanto's genetically engineering soybeans and corn to take a bath in Round-Up--then who eats that Round-Up? Us).

    Lately Monsanto's shills have been pushing bills through the House of Representatives in the name of "food safety" when many sections of the bill are designed to bring farms and under Monsanto's control.

    I can't vouch for the validity of this site itself but this page is a pretty good summation of what's in the HR bills:

    Link

    Our politicians are paid to do what the upper 1 percent want, which goes way beyond simply not wanting their wealth redistributed.
  11. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Many people may assume that I'm being pessimistic with all these comments on 'destruction of the US economy,' 'we must act now,' 'you don't know the scale of what must be done,' and that kind of thing.

    I'm not in this to win an argument. I seriously believe that the problems with the US economy and environmental issues are more dire than anyone realizes. I wouldn't mind being wrong on this topic, but I genuinely am deeply concerned for the well-being of the US and the world. I recognize that the only way we can hope to survive this century without a major revolution is through resolving our personal conflicts... not intensifying them.

    Probably the most significant of the legal steps you refer to is when Reagan struck down economic regulations which had been in place since the New Deal. You may not realize it, but the US was so close to resorting to socialism during the Great Depression, but FDR's administration was brilliant in generating economic stability with the New Deal during a time of crisis in the US. It established several economic regulations which saved the capitalist economy of the United States and ushered in an era of prosperity that lasted until Reagan sought to eliminate these 'limitations on innovation.' Although each Rep. president has since acted in the opposite direction, it was Reagan who brought about the most damage. At the time, it seemed brilliant, but we're now realizing it had unfortunate consequences that have been long delayed.

    Progressive taxes wasn't just one regulation, but a culmination of several designed to ease the burden of taxes upon the impoverished. For such programs, it required taxing the upper class more heavily. It didn't matter, as it provided more stability than before the stock market crashed. Meaning that more people had the money to buy the goods major corporations produced.

    I agree. Where will the funding come from? You can't tax people any more because they don't have the means to pay for such programs. The US is already trillions is debt. How could such measures be taken without a source of funding?

    Reinstating similar economic regulations of the New Deal is the only way such a future can be provided for. It's not solely taxing the upper 1%, but it's the first step in the process. Providing economic and social stability is going to be a very complex and tedious series of actions that must be taken. There is no universal solution, but we must set our priorities straight so that we can tackle the most urgent matters first.

    Update:

    I consider education important, but it is a long-term investment. Right now, we have trillions in debt which are a very serious liability to the US. We need to end the pointless wars in the Middle East; cut military spending in new fighters and warships. I would advocate compromising environmental priorities if it helps the US to solve its financial difficulties faster. Education is something that can break an economy if forgotten, but it's not as urgent as maintaining the economy. If the economy collapses, then education would collapse as well. Although I favor nuclear over all other forms of energy, I would advocate the US to tap into its sources of coal more heavily for the short-term benefits it provides. Once the economic situation improves, then I would support the drive for nuclear energy. The promotion of universal education and health.

    Hell, I'd even support raisi
  12. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    I don't feel up to typing much , after spending all day cleaning out a store room with about 65 servers piled up (each one weighing about 40 lbs), but I want to reply quickly to a couple points:
    Why does it make more sense to take that money from one group and not another? Yes, the government needs a certain amount (at a bare minimum) to operate, but why should only the top 5% pay for that? It's really not fair to force the top 5% to pay for the government, and then accuse them of "buying" it. After all, if they are paying for the government, is it that unreasonable for them to expect to get something back for their money?

    Personally, I think that everyone who benefits from the government has an obligation to pay into it. I don't care whether you make $10k or $10b. Those who don't contribute (in general) should have no claim upon the fruits of those who do contribute.

    What specific regulations are you talking about? Don't just speak in generalities. Give us specifics, or else there's really nothing to discuss. I'm not going to sit here and try to guess at what you are referring to.

    You brought it up, and so it's your responsibility to back it up. No one here is simply going to take your word for such things.

    You are close here, but you are missing a very simple point that I have already stated several times.

    The solution isn't to cut military spending. It's to cut all spending. If the government is going to get out of debt, it has to do what you or I would have to do to get out of debt: live within its means. That means that it has to reduce its spending to a level where it can pay off its debt and keep its essential services running. On the federal level, that means it needs to cut things like education (which is a state function, not a federal one), welfare programs (again, it's a state function, not an essential federal one), Medicaid (again, a state function) and so forth.

    One of the biggest problems in the federal budget is that large portions of it exist to do nothing more than funnel money into the individual states. The federal government lacks authority over education, so instead they offer money for education to the states on the condition that they implement certain education programs. The federal government has no authority to set the drinking age, so instead the offer transportation money to the states on the condition they set it to 21. Essentially, the federal government is used as a giant money launderer for the states, collecting mone
  13. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    I wasn't clear. I don't expect the top 5 percent to entirely fund the government's operations. Any adult who lives and works in the US should be taxed. My point is this: let's say it takes $10,000 per person to run the government. (I don't have figures in front of me as to what the entire cost of the annual budget is, so I'm throwing out a random number here.) Does it makes sense to take $10,000 from every person, when some people only make $10,000 per year? Does it make sense to take a person's entire salary from the bottom 5 percent while, from the top 5 percent, only taking 1/5 of the cost of a new boat? That's why progressive taxation makes sense. Ten thousand dollars means a new toy for one group, it means a roof over one's head and food on the table for another group.

    I am not entirely opposed to a flat tax of a percentage of income, however, I would have to see a few other provisions put in place before I could fully support it. One, dividends on investments count as "income" just as money received from the payroll does. Two, no deductions, period, end of story. No giving to charity or reinvesting in one's business in order to avoid paying taxes (two deductions which I fully support in our current progressive tax system).
  14. JediSmuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    The thing is, I am convinced that if we DID devolve a lot of these powers to the state or local level, we would probably come out ahead in the long run, because the federal middleman and the compliance costs both take a lot of money out of the system that could be spent on the intended purpose OR culd be returned to the taxpayers, to whom it truly belongs.
  15. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    I could support this, with two conditions in place:

    One, we do cut military spending. Since the 50s we have had a horrible propensity to start wars in order to flex our muscles and show the rest of the world how it should govern itself. That is not our job, and we can no longer afford to do this, if we ever could. As I said in another post to Smuggler, I fully support paying the troops well and giving them all the equipment they need to do their jobs, however, I also support ensuring that their job is to defend the country. Bullying other countries is not in their job description, nor should it be. If we have not been attacked or even directly threatened, we have no business going to war. Period. Pre-emptive war not only makes the US look like bullying *******, it drives up our national debt.

    Two, we take the 10th Amendment completely literally. Case in point: Dennis Kucinich wanted a provision in the current health care bill to allow states to create their own single payer system. It was struck down. Based on my understanding of the 10th Amendment, Congress did not have that right.

    My only concern about a lack of national education standards is that some kid might move from one state to another and find himself two or three grade levels ahead or behind. However, I'm pretty sure that problem could be solved with a fraction of the budget of the Department of Education.
  16. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I take it you're not in the top 1% of income earners, so why do you advocate against policies that would benefit people like you and the vast majority of wage earners? Do you know that pilots need years of flight school, yet they make less than most managers who work in fast food places? Considering how long and how hard it was for pilots to earn the credentials to fly passengers, they can't make a living if they had student loans to get the education they needed. Such people need a little help in order to pay off those loans. He can't just stop eating and I wouldn't want a pilot flying me around who's working 18 hours a day.

    Your argument about people simply working harder doesn't always apply. I would agree someone who's only working ten hours a week because he's lazy should put in more hours, but someone who's working 80 hours a week and only earns enough to live from paycheck to paycheck... that's what I want abolished. Problem is that the top 1% use their resources to have more employees like that.

    There is no emotion... Oh to the cold hells with that!

    They are not paying to fund the government... they are paying for the government. Everyone pays taxes, but the problem is that everyone pays relatively the same rate. You get certain tax exemptions, but beyond that, everyone pays the same tax rate. Wage earners have problems when compared to corporations, because they have resources to hire accountants who can figure out the loopholes in the system which can be exploited. IF there were measures to make accountants available to everyone, then the top 1% would lose a comparative advantage. They pay big for accountants, but those accountants more than return on their investment. If you hired an accountant for ~$500 and he saves you only $80 on your taxes, then it makes no sense whatsoever.

    It is unreasonable to say the top 5% (Where did you get that number from?) pays all taxes. Ever heard George W Bush speak of lowering taxes to give hard-working Americans a break? I work a few hours a week for minimum wage in addition to my classes and I got taxed for what little I made! Don't make the claim the top 5% pay for everything. What they do pay for usually comes at the expense of the American taxpayer.

    Remember when the top three American auto companies were on the verge of declaring bankruptcy? All taxpayers were forced to shoulder the burden of the corporate board members' incompetence. So it is only fair that if the US government needs assistance, it could look to people such as those who benefited from US taxpayers. And it's not like you're unfairly taking money from them... progressive taxes are a condition of the wage/income you're earning. If the rich don't like being taxed 50% after a billion earned, then they have the choice to not work for a billion dollars. If you don't like taxes, you have the choice not to work at all.


    If you're discussing a subject such as this, it is expected for you to know certa
  17. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    KK, you have difficulty understanding what your policies mean in practice. And as often as laissez faire proponents use the extreme example that perfect equality would remove all motivation to produce, let us go to the other end of the spectrum with the way you envision how things should be "fair."

    A disease springs up in some remote African nation. This disease is 100% deadly and threatens to destroy the human race. One man alone in his basement is able to develop a cure. He patents his idea, and is somehow able to maintain a perfect monopoly on his product with differentiated pricing is able to charge each person exactly everything they own. As it is a choice between life and property, they choose life. And as the virus has spread so quickly and no government had previously instituted laws that could take his cure for the public good, this one man through his own hard work and the system that allowed him to own his idea and successfully bring it to market now owns everything in the world. Yes everyone else has their skills and ability to work. But as there is only one man for whom to work for, he is the one who is able to set wages and rents. He owns the means of production. The government still exists, but the people value private property rights and flat taxes. The man is not cruel, and the government taxes just enough to support the people from going hungry, is able to tax just enough land to fit them into small shelters, and generally meet their most basic of needs. It in no way is interested in redistrubution of private property, because everyone knows that such a thing is totally unfair.

    And as education is a priority, it is free for all, and those with more skills and education get to live more comfortably in the many houses the man can never possibly visit. The man pays 99.9% of all taxes, and so most of the police force spend their time making sure his property is safe. Of course they also tend to the tenemants, but as there isn't much to steal they don't need to spend as much time protecting their things. Everyone knows that if they work hard and develop their skills, the man will pay them more than their neighbors. But the man is smart, and always pays his workers the same total amount and rewards based on merit. If one does well and the other worse, then he pays them accordingly. Everyone agrees that if it weren't for him, then none of them would be there. Besides, if you don't like working for him, you don't have to. You can always try to develop something that someone needs or can use. Of course as there is only one customer, and most of the world population are his workers, chances are pretty slim that there is anything for which he has a real need of. Some clever individuals even tried to create a new disease for which only they had a cure, but unleashing a deadly virus isn't legal and besides they had created anti-trust laws for that type of thing. But they didn't want to be unfair to the man so they held to their believes against ex post facto laws.

    One day the man died, and his only son inhereted his wealth. The man had already paid taxes on this property, and it was his to do with as he pleased. His son was a little more vain and decided to build a fleet of wooden ships. This was very good for the shipbuilders as they were able to work and provide a more comfortable station for their families. And when on the man son's birthday he had them all burned at sea, everyone thought of how he had helped all those worker's families. After all, does not a man have the right to be treated the same by the government as every other man and to allow the fruits of his labor to be passed down to his prosperity?
  18. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I think KK is not as concerned with social class conflicts as he is the inefficient nature of the US government and the way it can take advantage of taxpayers without really giving anything back in return. His goals aren't for the top 1% from having to pay taxes, but in not having their money wind up in the hands of people who'd spend it recklessly/maliciously. You would find throughout the US that from the federal budget right down to the local level, people in positions of power will take advantage of a situation. Misrepresenting programs, taking bribes, unequal representation, misdirection of funds... all lead to people who will take the hard-earned money out of the pockets of honest Americans and use it for their own ends.

    It's not like he's against the goals in our social class conflict; he's just for having a more efficient government that actually represents the needs of the people. At least that's what I figure of his arguments.
  19. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Another topic I was hoping to cover at some point is the line between public and private spending for certain community programs.

    Public transportation is an example where we may want to consider making a transition to the private sector under certain conditions. As most probably already know, public transportation isn't favored as much as a private automobile. This means public transportation won't be very successful in rich communities, unless traffic congestion facilitates the placement of light rail to overcome the limitations of roads. All that bus services do is reduce congestion, but they don't exactly overcome the limitations of a private automobile, except when using dedicated bus lanes.

    New York City and downtown Chicago are such locations where commute time matters more than the cost of fuel, or the benefits of the private automobile. In New York City, its subway and downtown bus services are regarded as routine, which is why the richest of people in the world are willing to board on a regular basis. In most other cities in the US, using public transportation is often regarded more poorly. This is another limitation which makes public bussing less favorable in the US... the image of those who use it are often less than those who can afford their own car.

    Light rail has recently made a comeback, where Portland was just the first auto-dependent city to successfully implement mass transit. Chicago and New York already had successful systems from before the car came to exist, but cities like Phillidelphia, Boston, and San Francisco have been in decline because there has not been enough demand to justify the expansion of mass transit. Some urban geographic analysts have considered the possibility of dropping public transportation services in favor of transferring responsibility to the private sector alone. In so doing would make a more favorable business investment, attract private customers who are willing to pay higher fares for better services, and reduce the waste which comes from the investment of public funds in services not demanded.

    ------

    My conclusion: If there is competition between the public and private sectors in regards to education, public transportation, police services, private security, and utilities; a decision must be made between one or the other. This depends on the location and the income levels of the population, but you can more easily have a better transportation system if you can promote companies to provide services to their employees. Without the waste that goes into a 'cheap' public bus network, you can promote a higher class of mass transit which higher-wealth individuals would favor. Or you can restrict the private sector from undermining the image of public investments.

    What do other people think of this?
  20. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    Yuthura: I only have a few minutes but I want to address this one. My husband works for the Charlotte Area Transit System. About 2/3 of its funding comes from a .5% sales tax on Mecklenburg County residents. The sales tax was implemented in the late 90s, after which the size of the bus system more than doubled--in response to demand. Most of the buses run at full or nearly full capacity. Additionally, the system CEO at the time (since retired) drew out a 30-year plan for a light rail system. The first leg was built and opened in late 2007, and in spite of negative predictions, it runs at full capacity every day. And by "full," I mean "sardine can" capacity. While cars are still the most popular means of transport in Charlotte, and a ride down I-77 at any time of day will prove that point, the public transit system is well used as well, by people of all economic levels. Buses tend to carry more poor people but there are still some middle class and wealthy riders, particularly on the commuter buses. Some professional people prefer to board in Davidson (about 20 minutes north of Charlotte) and ride into town reading their newspaper as opposed to driving into town. Light rail is very popular among the professional class, many of whom work uptown. I use it to take my kids to the children's library and museums uptown because parking uptown is an expensive pain in the butt.

    The .5% sales tax is controversial, in fact, in 2007, at the same time the first leg of light rail was being constructed, there was a referendum to repeal it. The referendum was defeated by a factor of 2 to 1, but had it passed, light rail construction would have been halted, bus service would have been cut to the same level it was 10 years ago, and half the drivers would have been laid off. The referendum's defeat was by an even greater margin than expected; most people thought it would be a close call.

    There was some discussion of private funding for the system, including running advertisements on the sides of buses, which some cities do--London comes to mind, not sure which US cities do it. I personally would not be opposed to that source of revenue, however, I do not believe it would be substantial enough to cover all the system's operations. Another discussed source of revenue was a tax on people who work in Mecklenburg County but don't live here; I believe there is such a tax on people who work in Manhatten and live outside New York. That idea was quickly shot down.
  21. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I don't mean all cities in the Megalopolis (From Boston the DC) have failing public transportation systems. I just know there are cities which have invested heavily in mass transit and don't see any returns from it.

    Los Angeles is one such city, but that doesn't mean it was a bad idea in the first place. Although a small percentage ride the subway, transit strikes have shown traffic congestion to significantly increase because of an added 1-5% of commuters via car. Mass transit rarely pays for itself in the US, yet many Americans think they base their fares on what it costs to make money. They think 'Why don't they just build light/high-speed rail?' and that will solve all problems with rising fuel costs.

    They don't take population density into account, nor do they any of the other costs associated with mass transit. Building it either must to done to promote transportation-oriented development, or you must drastically change the layout of cities that have already been developed. The Boston Big Dig was an enormous project to increase the capacity of the Boston Freeway, but it did nothing to promote more fuel efficient-methods of transportation. And because it had to be built underground, they spent more per mile than any other project in the world.

    One of the most important aspects about mass transit compared to highways is the relative cheapness for their capacity and effective land use. Rather than building a multi-lane underground highway system, Boston would have been better to bore a new subway line underground. A tunnel-boring machine could go below the established land cheaper and easier than what they did. And the capacity of one rail line (two sets of tracks in opposite directions) would have occupied less land for the number of passengers it carries than a four-lane highway. It was for that reason Portland decided to sacrifice two lanes of road for its light rail in many locations, rather than expand existing highways another two/four lanes for cars.

    The problem with measuring the feasibility of mass transit is that there are direct and indirect rewards that come from it. San Francisco is an example where the subway doesn't pay for itself. But the city does benefit more than if it weren't there. Dallas is building light rail and is seeing benefits from it. Denver, Phoenix, and Minneapolis are all building light rail to follow Portland's example. Of these, only the Twin Cities exercise regional development. Without this, there is the possibility that the construction of light rail may be quashed before it's completed. There is nothing worse than an incomplete system that may or may not be completed because of politics.

    PS: Madison, Wisconsin is one such city where the busses have advertisements on the sides. I haven't ever used it, so I can't speak for the quality of the system.
  22. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    I don't think our bus fares and light rail fares even make a dent in the cost of running the system. Another option for containing costs was raising the bus fares, but that got shot down as well. When we were looking at light rail, we also looked at building a subway, and I'm shocked at how expensive it is to dig underground. It would have been something like 10 to 20 times pricier.

    As far as strikes--the drivers here are unionized, my husband is a Teamster, but in a right-to-work state, unions tend to be weaker, and there hasn't been a strike in almost nine years that we've lived here. There has only been one discussion of a strike.

    One system that seems efficient to me every time I visit is the DC subway system. I've only used the MTA once and it was almost 20 years ago so I can't speak to it, but my husband's stepfather uses commuter rail from Maynard to downtown Boston every day and seems to like it. But yes, it would have been more efficient to expand the subway than to build an underground highway, not to mention more environmentally sound.
  23. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    That depends. If you're building a subway under a developed city, the problem comes with relocating utilities without disrupting them. Subways will always be expensive compared to surface rail lines, but the significant proportion of the Boston Freeway costs were associated with construction in a developed urban landscape.

    Among the feats they had to do was build six sections for a submerged tunnel on site, as they couldn't tow them because of the presence of low over-water bridges. They had to freeze the soil below commuter rail lines to hollow the ground below for 600 meters of highway sections through tunnel jacking, taking three years to complete. They had to dig as low as 120 feet down to avoid interfering with existing subway lines and support the South station from below before they could begin construction of the highway. And they had to build new above-ground highways which could switch traffic from the old paths to the underground system quickly.

    If this all didn't sound expensive enough, none of it could be done without compromising safely. Because they had to build around existing systems while in operation, they risked the lives of commuters and residents with this bold project. They couldn't simply shut down everything without disrupting the lives of these people, so they had to intensify safety measures to perfection. Remember how significant the events where on the Oakland Bay bridge when it was simply shut down for a few days? The Minneapolis highway collapse? Such disasters don't usually happen during construction, but redesigning a new system while maintaining an old one is just... prone to disaster. Few realize it, but the 9/11 attacks could have caused the New York subways to flood, had the buildings not acted as a dam to keep the Hudson from flowing through severed water pipes.

    The point of all these details is to emphasize the complications of working around already-existing systems within a city. Even with something like light rail, the majority of costs really go into planning around existing development. While the rail line itself is expensive, the problem is that there is no room for development. Denver actually got away with this because they used the corridor of an abandoned rail line that used to haul freight and redeveloped around it.

    This comes from paying your workers well. Henry Ford hated unions, yet he had some very happy workers. This came from him paying them so well... they had no reason to strike. Still, the problem is getting the money to pay such excellent wages.

    Well I suppose I should have said something relating to the quality vs. the costs. I would imagine the system there is very good, but there may not be that many who use it.

    New York's subway system is crumbling because there are so many who use it. Just as important to me as increasing population density in the US is knowing where to cap it. France doesn't have any cities nearly as dense as New York and downtown Chicago, yet their cities are only a fraction the urban footprint. Although the Sear
  24. Blithe Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 24, 2003
    star 4
    That's not quite fair, Jabba. Nearly all schools of economic thought--keynesian, neo-keynesian, monetarist/chicago school, neo-classical, RBCT, rational expectations, Austrian school--agree that what the classical economists wrote about were various long-run phenomena. Take, for example, the classical economics principal of the neutrality of money. It states that increases in the quantity of money in an economy has no affect on real variables--only nominal factors are affected. There is no doubt that this is true. However, this is a long-run scenario. The Keynesians pointed out that it did, however, cause business fluctuations in the short-run, and that it could potentially be used to our advantage. Keynesian economics became famous because of its study of the short-run fluctuations in the economy--and how to fight it. This of course later led to the debates over the trade-off between inflation and unemployment that culminated in the Friedman/Phelps work the late 60s.

    Due to the very simple fact that data took a very long time to accumulate in the days of those like Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Jean Baptiste Say, everything they observed was a long-run position. In fact, many modern economist have noted that Smith and Say, in particular, were aware of this fact, and that the study of the short-run fluctuations of the economy wasn't as practical, nor considered as relevant (whether right or wrong).

    The point is that markets are rational. What we understand today is that they are not rational in the short-run. It takes time for the markets to recognize stupidity. When they do, nasty corrections occur, such as the housing market.


    What about millionaires? As I recall, 80% of today's millionaires are first-generation millionaires, meaning that they accumulated that net worth in their lifespan, no inheritance or anything. (source: The Millionaire Next Door) I would agree that there is a lot of illegal activity amongst the super-rich, but I'm not sure how I feel about increasing the tax burden more than, say, just a few percentage points on your typical millionaire. Not all of them could have cheated their way to riches, too.

    As for the Walton illegal union busting. . . wasn't that technically legal at the point in which they did it, because of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947? It may not have been nice, but I'm just curious. I may have missed something here. You probably know more about it than I do.
  25. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    I'd love to be able to answer all of the posts in the past couple days, but I've been dealing with security issues on my servers today, so I don't have much time.
    This comment from Blithe really gets to the heart of why I've asked some of the questions I've asked.

    It's easy to point to Bill Gates, or some other billionaire and say that they have too much money, and so they should be taxes more. Similarly, it's easy to point to someone who makes almost nothing and say that they need he. However, all the discussion at the extremes completely forgets the people who are most affected by such things: the middle.

    Earlier, I asked about how you determine whether someone is paying their fair share or not, and I specifically asked for a quantitative measure. The reason for that is because if the government is supposed to treat everyone equally, then you need to be able to actually express criteria to determine who should pay what. You might think that someone who makes $100 billion should pay most of it in taxes, but what about someone who makes $1 million, or $500k, or $100k? You need clear criteria to deal with the entire spectrum of people. You can't just look to either extreme to deal with it.

    Personally, I think that if you cannot provide a measurable way to determine who has "too much", then you have no business pushing policies that act disproportionately on anyone. If you can't quantify what is fair, how can you determine what is unfair? (And I'm talking about something more than just an arbitrary income limit, like $500k. I'm talking about determining the criteria for what is fair, and determining the actual numbers based on that criteria.)

    If you can't quantify such things, aren't you then basing your policy ideas on nothing more than opinion?

    Kimball Kinnison
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