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Posts Tagged ‘United States

Chemical Hell Breaks Lose in the Syrian Civil War – Total War Ensues?

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Things are seriously packing up heat in Syria. After reports from MSF confirming that civilians have been treated and also died from symptoms of a chemical weapons attack, the theories and accusations of who were behind this attack started to flourish, with US Sec. of State John Kerry making pretty bold statements regarding what happened and who did it. The Obama administration is blaming Assad, only hours after UN investigators were on the ground. Russia and China are strongly urging the West to hold off any accusations and attacks until at least after the UN investigators will have been able to say something about the substance and origin behind what is likely to have been the use of chemical weapons.

Today, supposedly leaked secret documents reveal that the American government may have given a blank check in the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those who are hypothesizing about a false flag operation seem confident that this new information means that America orchestrated the whole attack, in order to get the international and domestic support needed to enter the Syrian war. Certainly, the West has been eager to do so for a while, but with growing tiredness of entanglement into wars in the middle east, political leaders have been hesitant to get down and dirty in Syria. That has not stopped them from arming and training Syrian opposition forces in neighboring countries, of course.

We are seemingly offered two different theories behind the chemical weapons attacks: Either Assad went ahead with the attacks, or the Obama administration orchestrated it in order to take Assad down.

What do I think? Sure, it is technically not impossible that the Obama administration gave a blank check for the go ahead of a chemical weapons attack. Not impossible, but highly improbable. At the moment, we don’t know the plausibility of those leaks. It might deserve further investigation, sure, however, I can not see how that fits the motive of entering the war.

There is, of course, no reason to believe what the American government is saying is always true, like with any other government. There has been enough revelations about secrets and lies within the American government to indicate that things are not always what they seem to be. But still, their main motivation to get into the war has been to save civilian lives and bring democracy to the country, in order to bring peace and stability to the region (however extremely flawed that flimsy plan is). Even if there are secondary goals, the main motive seems to fit neatly with the overall goal of positive international relations, or “PR”, if you will. Positive international relations are what ensures America’s position as a trusted hegemon, at least within the western hemisphere. They need that trust. As far as foreign policy goes, they have no greater national interest than that. How would slaughtering civilians in a horrible way serve that purpose? It would not, and I find it hard to believe that they did. There is too much risk involved with that. With the amount of problems they have had in keeping secrets safe from the public. this would be a certain political suicide. PR is important to America. PR is important to Obama. PR is why they want to “bring democracy to Syria”. Chemical weapons are not good PR.

So did Assad do it then? As of now, before investigations have dug up any solid evidence to indicate that he did, it seems equally unlikely that Assad would be behind the chemical weapons attacks. The Assad regime was warned several months ago that if he stepped over the line and used chemical weapons, America could not sit idly by any longer. In other words: He knew that he would automatically forfeit the war and sign his own obituary if he used chemical weapons. For a man fighting to stay in power and keep his cushy, despotic, government job in Syria, this seems like a really stupid decision. Too stupid.

Assad, on the other hand, blames the rebels, and with that enters a new theory that has gone remarkably unmentioned by governments and the media alike. Who are these rebels?

First of all, the rebels are not a unified group of people sharing the same ideals and ideas for a new Syrian state. The West have been communicating and cooperating with the supposedly democratic and moderate faction of the rebel forces, also called the Free Syrian Army. While the West may have been rightfully sympathetic to this group in Syria, what is important to note is that a huge chunk of the rebel forces fighting in Syria are not the Free Syrian Army, but people connected with the Al Nusra Front.

Who, then, are the Al Nusra Front? Wikipedia will tell you that it is an ally of Al-Qaeda operating and fighting in Syria. They are likely the most powerful rebel faction fighting in Syria to date, and they are one of the groups being armed and trained by the West, in order to fight Assad. It would not be worth mentioning the Al Nusra Front in this context, unless there are reasons to believe they were involved in the chemical weapons attack. Were they?

This is where the whole story takes a huge turn for the worse. In May of this year, Turkish authorities caught members of the Al Nusra Front with 2 kilograms of “sarin”, a substance used in chemical weapons. The Al Nusra Front members were in the works of using the chemicals in a bomb. This is why it is key for UN investigators to at least be given the time to look into the matter, even though one should not necessarily trust them to be able to come up with any solid conclusions (not because of bias or accusation of incompetence, but because of the enormous difficulty of such a task). It has already been theorized that the chemical used in the attacks was in fact “sarin”, because it fits the bill. If that is the case, then there exists not only two theories for the cause and origin of the attack, but three:

1) The Assad regime launched the attack.
2) The Obama administration orchestrated the attack.
3) Rebel forces executed a terrorist attack with chemical weapons in order to trick America into joining the war and fighting Assad.

The most striking detail about the third one, if the Al Nusra Front indeed were capable of performing the attack, which – if reports are accurate – they certainly were, is that the Al Nusra Front would have everything to gain and nothing to lose in using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. They are militant, barbaric and immoral enough to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, and not to mention, it would be of great help to their cause to try to trick the West into joining them against Assad. Last, but not least, there are no down sides for them in using such a strategy. They are already armed to the teeth, by the help of America, and America is never going to jump into the war and help Assad after all the diplomatic hate jargon they have thrown at him over the last couple of years. Worst case scenario for Al Nusra Front is that nothing changes and they will simply continue the war as they have been. Their best case scenario, however, is that America hands them the chance to gain power and control in Syria and strengthen Al-Qaeda’s foothold in the Syrian-Iraqi region. That again serves their greater long-term purpose of fighting America and Israel. This does not serve America’s national interest at all.

Update [08/30/13]: While the media depicts the rebels in Syria and the Free Syrian Army as moderates and pro-democratic, it is fair to say – if Libya and Egypt are anything to go by – that this does not necessarily mean they are anywhere close to to being moderate and pro-democratic in the Western meaning of the words – only relative to the Islamic fascist alternatives. We also have no reason to trust the rebel leaders in Syria, no matter how promising they sound. But even if the leaders are honest, soldiers fighting for the Free Syrian Army may equally be members of the Al Nusra Front, or other factions. Indeed, if reports by Full Disclosure are accurate, this is exactly what has happened. This means that just as the Al Nusra Front could be the faction behind the attacks, it is equally possible for the Free Syrian Army and the rebels at large to be behind the attacks, since tricking America into joining the war against Assad means a rebel victory. In the same way, America’s dedication to a diplomatic offense against Assad means that the Obama administration can not lose face by supporting Assad in the war.

Why has this made the third theory more plausible? New information from Russian intelligence and the Assad regime, with videos from the rebel forces in Syria, show evidence of the rebel forces storing and using chemical weapons, some of which are alleged to be of Saudi origin. The Saudis have supported the rebel forces in Syria since the beginning of the war. It now seems possible that they have been dealing chemical weapons to factions within the rebel forces. Whether or not the chemical weapons ingredients found by Turkish authorities in May share the same origin is so far undisclosed or unknown, however, it makes it very likely that U.S. allies have been producing, facilitating and using chemical weapons in Syria, be it the Al Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army or any other faction. It also makes the most sense out the alternatives, and this puts the Obama administrating in a very dangerous and embarrassing position, having essentially enabled the situation to happen through their offensive diplomacy based on bad intelligence and political snobbery.

But it gets even worse yet: Even if Assad’s regime were behind the attack, and the West enters the war to fight Assad, it will still only serve the goals of the rebels and the Al Nusra Front, which not only further undermines the theory that Assad did it, but also means that no matter what America and the West does in this situation, they have already lost. If the rebels win, the civil war will enter phase two, when the rebel factions fight amongst each other. The most radical parts of the rebel forces, most notably the Al Nusra Front, are already positioned to win such a war, leaving Syria ripe for Islamic fascism, jihadists and harboring of Al-Qaeda terrorists. This not only means that America will have to wage even more war in Syria, but it seriously endangers the West and Israel. Ironically, the best case scenario for the West is that the Syrian war will turn out to be somewhat the same embarrassment as the Vietnam war was for America, with the exception that the West will hopefully not intervene in this one.

All in all: Syria has now become the potential ignition source for total war. This is what Russia and China are worried about, and this is what America and Europe are completely ignoring. No one wants a strong Al-Qaeda presence in the region, and no one wants a Muslim world that is being further radicalized, but it seems like Putin is the only leader who is able to see where the chips are falling. Will Russia and China put force behind their warnings before the West? Will they stop a Western intervention in the Syrian war, knowing that enabling a rebel victory means a stronger foothold for Islamic fascism in the region? This is not certain at this point. Beyond UN diplomacy, I doubt it, but I wouldn’t bet against it. What I believe to be certain, however, is that there exists no moral obligation nor authority for the West to enter the Syrian war – meaning there is absolutely no rational reason for the West to put military men and women in danger for a cause that doesn’t exist, and for a victory that cannot be achieved. Ask yourselves: What would our national interests and goals be in a Syrian war? Entering the war would be nothing but a self-sacrifice, on the off-chance of perhaps saving face and hopefully achieving some goodwill within the in-crowd of Western governments and radicalized groups in the middle east, and that is nothing but a perfect example of immoral political elitism.

Maybe, just maybe, the West should have listened when Putin warned them about supporting and arming rebel forces, whose soldiers eat the flesh of their fallen enemies. Seems like pretty sound advice to me.

Written by Morten Rolland

August 28, 2013 at 6:29 am

A Little Historical Afterthought – Political satire in the shape of Psalm 23

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Mr. Roosevelt is my shepherd,
And I am in want.
He maketh me to lie down on park benches,
He leadeth me beside still factories,
He disturbeth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of destitution for his party’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the Depression,
I anticipate no recovery, for he is with me;
His policies, his diplomacies, they frighten me.
He prepareth a reduction in my income,
And in the presence of mine enemies,
He anointeth my small income with taxes;
My expenses runneth over.
Surely, unemployment, want, and poverty shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in a mortgaged home forever. Amen.

 

I cannot seem find the author or a proper original source for this, although my lazy 5 minutes of looking for one certainly doesn’t mean an author or proper original source cannot be found. If someone knows, please add it in the comments, and proper citation and respect shall be given. This piece has been around since the 1930s, obviously, yet every word still seems to ring true as we live and breath at this very point on this very day. That is exactly the type of political satire and poetry that I personally find both beautiful and historically important, and that is why I wish to share this. Please do the same. Cheers!

Written by Morten Rolland

May 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Here We Go Again! Recession 2.0 = A New Great Depression

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A couple of years ago the recession struck and everyone were paralyzed. When I say “everyone”, I of course only mean the mainstream nitwits. There were enough of those who warned about the imminent collapse. It was coming, and sure as hell it did.

It didn’t, of course, end there. The same people who warned us first time around also warned that if central authorities would continue what they were doing, we were sure to face something much worse very soon. Of course the wise overlords in Washington didn’t listen, and the FED has been forking out those dollars like never before. Needless to say, it hasn’t been working, and the day the world would realize this were coming at any time.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that time might be right ahead of us as we speak. People with the Austrian School and people who identify with it are in strong opposition to mainstream economists and the FED, saying the response after the recession was the wrong one, and that we are not at all recovering from the financial crisis. All the measures by Washington merely dulled the pain temporarily, and the phoney recovery will plummet to earth in the near future.

It seems like that near future may very well be very near, indeed. As explained by Goldsilver.com, associated with The Wealth Cycle Principle and Mike Maloney, the decline in the banking sector was setting the stage for the recession. It was an early warning sign that a crash was ahead. Those with a broad and correct understanding of economics saw this pattern fall together with what they see as a system built to fail and warned that we were facing an economic crisis.

Today’s economy is overwhelmingly driven by borrowed money.  Whether it is a home mortgage, car loan or simply a nice dinner put on a credit card, in a credit based economy (like we absolutely have today) this bank credit is what makes the economic wheels turn.  If the banks aren’t doing well enough to loan aggressively, not as many loans are made and the economy slows.  So the banking sector is a very important part of our economy to keep a close eye on.

Apparently, the banking sector is showing the same warning signals as it did many months before the last recession.

Even though the stock market has had a nice bounce, the bank stocks are not keeping up with this stock bounce. Compare the charts above again and notice the bank versus S&P 500 chart has bounced along sideways since summer of 09 and have not confirmed the S&P 500 bounce.  Unless the banks join the party quickly we should be in for another very serious round of stock declines or a crash.

Looking back on the article I wrote on President Obama and the coming ’12 election, I was wondering if the central authorities in Washington would be able to push the coming depression enough ahead of them to secure a victory. Well, the next year will be a very exciting one. Will the markets crash before election day or not? What will the FED do with these glooming warning signals? They were rumored to end QE2 over summer, but how is that even likely when things are starting to take a turn for the worse?

When politicians give us a second recession, one facepalm is not enough.

The false recovery was just that; False. It was doomed from the start, but those who thought “we have to do something” and others who currently think “we have this under control” are all missing the very obvious point: You cannot shape the future by your will alone. You lack the tools to know what’s right at all times. Government can only spend stolen money, and the FED can only print new ones. They know nothing about creating businesses; keeping productivity; meet market demands or dealing with constant government regulations.  What is the ultimate outcome by both these actions? They waste resources and place the burden on those who will inherit the system a few years down the line – ultimately the people, under the pretense of helping them. They can only steal resources, destroy savings and weaken the dollar, all of which are detrimental to economic recovery and the prosperity of the ordinary men and women in America.

What do I think? I think the FED will continue with a QE3 and 4, and it seems like others agree. Gloom and doom is ahead, and there will be more stimulus packages. Will the New New Deal perhaps even nationalize banks and private institutions, as proposed by everyone’s best friend, Paul Krugman? Certainly, if President Obama were to win the next election, I’d say the answer may very well be “yes”. The recession never ended. The depression is upon us. You would do well in securing those silver coins while you still can. If not only securing you current savings, it might even earn you a good deal of money as precious metals shoot towards the sky as everything else fall apart. And it might make life a lot easier too, cause I’ve heard it’s bothersome to fill the backpack with paper money when going to the store to buy a piece of bread. Especially when the price has risen to two backpacks since yesterday. You might want the silver coin at that time; the silver coin that says “1 dollar”, but will end up being worth more than a billion of them if hyperinflation kicks in. Ask some people in Zimbabwe. They can probably testify to that.

Yes, there are exciting times ahead. Exciting, but frightening too. The coming presidential election just got that much more important. Do me a favor, Americans: please vote Ron Paul, will you? Thanks.

And So the Race Starts Picking Up Heat

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Republicans are slowly lining up trying take jabs at President Obama lately,  shaping themselves into probable candidates for the upcoming primary elections. A couple of weeks ago, the CPAC straw poll released their numbers on possible contenders, revealing Congressman Ron Paul as the definite winner a second year in a row. It’s quite evident that the Congressman is likely to be cheered on by supporters to take part of the race, regardless of his plans to do so or not.

But it is the person coming in second in the CPAC 2011 straw poll, Mitt Romney, who is the first to kick off the field of potential candidates before the upcoming primaries. From an awkward campaign in 2008, Mitt Romney seems to have revised his platform before a new election season starts, sharping his pencils on attacking what for the first time in decades will be an election almost exclusively based on the topic of the economy. It will surely be the only topic worth talking about for the next two years. The wars in the middle east will not matter, the immigration issue will not matter, American relationships with China, Russia and Europe will not matter. Domestic fiscal policy is where all the debate will all be at, and Mitt Romney has realized this as well. The former businessman and Governor of Massachusetts is already starting to front himself as the only viable candidate to take on President Obama, performing the rhetoric of ethos to a tee.

Governor Mitt Romney of MA

Former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney (Image from Wikipedia).

But is ethos a good measurement for a trustworthy and strong candidate? Generally, voters tend to like a character that is able to talk himself/herself up as the right person to the task, while still being able to appeal to the emotions of voters. But that says nothing about how much you can trust a politician, or how certain you can be that he or she will do what they said during their campaign. A trustworthy politician is the one who appeal to the logic and reason in voters, and has the track record to back that up. Mitt Romney showed none of these traits in his 2008 bid, and neither has he done so while warming up this year. I’ve seen that many people on forums and Facebook groups seem to like his aggressive take on President Obama and the economy, and while it can be said to be promising, can we really trust his words? Is he truly the right man for the job?

Sure, Romney may sound good right now before he is confronted on the issues, but even if he were to answer satisfactory on everything the media would throw at him, I don’t think he will stay true to his words one single bit. There’s nothing in his character that puts him apart from any other ordinary politician, and that’s just the way it is with flip-flopping self-hyping politicians. G. W. Bush had a lot of great things to say back in ’99-’00 too, but he ended up screwing people over and changing his policies immediately after getting into office. President Obama, like all presidents before him (except Bush’s second bid for the presidency) promised to bring change to Washington, but he has arguably brought nothing but more of the same. With this in mind, how can you trust a person that for some reason has been working for the past 2 years with an intent to seem more electable? What has Romney to show for that makes him a trustworthy candidate that offers a real alternative to what is already there? Nothing. It’s a charade.

People everywhere need to start electing trustworthy politicians – those who walk the walk. And for Republicans, this does not mean Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or most of the other would-be-candidates that people throw around at this point. They are all sheep in wolf clothing. You might think I have that backwards, but no, that’s exactly what I mean. America doesn’t need another pretend-wolf president that will simply follow the norms of the sheeple in Washington. America should seek a lonesome wolf – one who walks the walk, stands firm on his principles, has worked to spread the message of freedom to people for years, and has the track record to back up his will to do what is necessary, and not get consumed by the usual political games of Washington. You all know who I’m talking about.

The Future For Education

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Image curtisy of Wikipedia

Everybody usually agree that education is important to give our kids. This is why many countries fund public schools in order to give every kid, both rich and poor, the ability to educate themselves and increase the prosperity of their country. Private schooling is often seen as an elite business that only the rich can have. While this may have been the case 150 years ago, it’s not true any longer. Exactly because everybody agrees that education is important for our kids, there would exist a market for educating all of them at an affordable price. Education doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be done cheap, and still be of high quality and perfected to the individual.

The weakness of public schooling is that it’s one single model – one size fits them all. The gifted children are being dragged down by the less gifted children, and those with learning problems cannot keep up with the rest of the class and find education frustrating. This leads to lazy children without discipline who end up not learning very much. I still remember the days at school, and the single most notable thing I remember from those days were how crowded, rowdy and undisciplined it all was. I would try to sit and soak up whatever I could of what the teacher said, trying to make the hours at school worthwhile, while ignoring those who obviously wouldn’t care, but it’s not that easy for everyone, and it’s hardly a cost-effective system.

I grew up in Norway, and before going to University I went through 12 years (9 years primary and 3 years high school) of education in what is called “likhetsskolen” in Norwegian. “The equality school”, or perhaps even “the egalitarian school” – not necessarily equal in rights and value, but equal in skills and abilities. All who are of the same age are crammed into the same classroom of up to about 30 kids, regardless of abilities. You know the drill. The teachers do not wield with discipline or structure, and the result is thereafter. To be honest, it’s chaos – perhaps only beat by American urban public schools in low-income neighborhoods. So I believe I know a thing or two about how dreadful the experiences of a public school system can be.

It’s unsustainable. It’s a waste of time, money and effort. Teachers are taught bad methods and aren’t given authority or challenges. Needless to say, the same is the case for the kids. It simply cannot go on any longer.

What do I think? If we cannot get people to understand that we need to create a free market in education, we need to change the system from within to save what possible future there is for our kids in the public schooling system. We need to individualize and reorganize. I think the future for education lies in open source education material and individualized education with one child – one computer. While you may think buying a bunch of computers will be expensive and impossible, try to think about how far we’ve actually already come in the wasteful public school system with computer labs and even laptops for children? Taking that into consideration, think about how extremely much you could save if no schools would have to buy another text book. Imagine the savings. How would they get their material? Digital! With the great progress in computer technology as of late, and after I learned about Curikki, I immediately understood what the future is. Why do we for instance reproduce old textbooks in maths and reading that have been the same for a hundred years? Why do we print them up in endless amounts and buy new books each and every year? Why are there so many different books created that aim to do the exact same thing? It’s wasteful. How can it be different? Easy solution: Create open source material available on the Internet. Create software for computers that can limit all its functions to educational purposes and have each kid sit in their own “bubbles” in front of the computer and do math, science, history, social sciences etc at their own level. The whole class doesn’t have to do the same thing at the same time. They can progress through the curriculum on an individual basis, with teachers and assistants going around helping the kids. No longer do you have to divide the year into semesters. Kids can learn at their own pace. Why should we stop a kid from excelling two levels in one year if they are able to and want to? They can strive for success and to get high scores, without the teacher having to “tone down the competitiveness” in “respect” for the less gifted children. With this kids can theoretically compare their scores to test scores from all over the world, if they so wish, and teachers can keep track of them digitally and give feedback to the kids and their parents whenever they please.

Social activity and friendships are still made in between classes, and you could have special team projects to teach social skills and team work, where the teacher could mix and match kids of different abilities and levels, by seeing how they do on the computers. Different kids have different skills, so different projects would have different teams, avoiding the problem of creating “cliques”. All they know is that they can excel in their own work at their own pace. You avoid the complete “class distinction” that the left is so overly afraid of, and you still get the skill level matching that the right is so obsessed with. In the end, kids are taught at an individual level with efficient and cost-effective methods, and teachers can be given authority and get back in control of their classes. Education can be made fun for each kid. If some kids need special programs, there are endless possibilities of letting them get this, since those who manage and enjoy the individual digital program will still get what they need – fun challenges in an orderly context.

What might have been a problem before is now very easy, especially when it comes to primary education. Of course, the best solutions will always come from the free market marketplace of ideas, and nothing can substitute the great value and success a private school system would bring, not to mention it’s the only choice that is right, since the nature of a public school system is intrinsically immoral and unjust. We deserve and have the right to a free market school system. … But what we deserve and what we have are often two different things. So we need to deal with what we’re being limited to, and there are a lot that can be done in terms of reforming current systems, and liberalizing the children, freeing up wasteful spending and getting rid of ineffective methods. An individual based digital school is something people should fight for. Coupled with a voucher system, the road from this and to achieving a completely private school system would be remarkably small. Of course, what I’ve talked about here may actually not succeed. I cannot know before I’ve tried, and in a public sphere everyone must try. That is the downside. I would be very glad to see if people have specific examples of private schools that run just like this. I’m sure it probably exists in America, and I’m also sure they have had great success with it. I just don’t know about it, so please let me know in the comment section.

I also understand that what I imagine would be harder to realize the higher level you get. In advanced math it’s harder to standardize grading methods, and long individual study papers still need a lot of manpower to get through. But in academia I’m sure the digital world of books will take completely over in just a matter of a few years. No longer will students have to waste money on a whole bunch of books every year. All books will be released digitally, and endless amounts of resources can be spared. Finally I can see the digital age in education creeping in on us, and it’s not a day too soon!

Written by Morten Rolland

February 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm

The Peculiar Practice of Taxing Public Worker Income

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Income tax. Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

With the demonstrations by public sector trade union workers going on across America, there are several thoughts on the topic that have popped into my mind as of late. While the topic of Wisconsin’s public trade union workers is tempting, it’s not my concern right now.  What caught my attention today is the connection between public sector jobs and income taxation. There are many things you can say about income taxes, and there are many things you can say about public sector jobs. The first is immoral, unjust and disruptive to the productive sector of the economy. The latter is where the taxes are inevitably spent. While a discussion on whether or not taxes should exist or whether or not we need public sector jobs is a fair discussion, we’ll leave that for later.

For now, please think about the following question: Why do people in the public sector pay income taxes?

A silly question, you might think. You may also say it’s obviously easier and also fair not to distinguish between private and public sector jobs when taxing people. That is, however, besides the point. What is the economic benefit of having all people employed in the public sector paying taxes? The endless amounts of administration that goes into keeping the system up is already profound, but the waste of collecting taxes from people payed 100% from previously collected taxes is at best a big drain of resources. If those employed in the public sector payed no taxes, there would be less administration going into collecting taxes from these people. Much less paper work and less public sector jobs needed to be filled.

I think all taxation on income should be abolished for everyone, especially for those working in the private sector, but as it stands, the paradox of taxing public sector income baffles me. Why not just pay people in the public sector what they get after tax and not tax them at all? And should these people have tax deductible expenses they today could get back, why not just give these expenses as a bonuses on their salaries if necessary? I don’t like the concept of tax credits – it only creates extra layers of bureaucracy that dabbles in social engineering, but since it already exists, giving bonuses would virtually have the same effect as today’s system. There is to me two very good reasons to why this would make sense to do. First, the administrative costs you’d save by not having to pay attention to taxing public sector employees. Second, if people were given a tax relief, this would only apply to private sector jobs, giving only private sector employees more money in their own pockets. Public sector jobs would never be affected by tax reliefs and this would result in them having received a permanent pay cut. It would also lessen the apparent numbers that make up the excuse by government for receiving smaller tax revenues to use in their spending. Perhaps this would also add another inhibition to increase spending (obviously not the case, since deficit spending rules supreme, but still…). The actual revenues of government would also not be affected, since the only resources they have at hand are what they take from the productive sector of the economy. As mentioned, whatever public sector employees earn is what has already been taxed. There are no real “losses to revenue”, only savings in administrative costs, which should result in more tax cuts for the private sector.

Downsides? Harder to rally public sector employees to the cause of electing politicians that wishes to cut taxes. You would likely also create an even more polarized population dividing the private vs the public sector into more distinct political factions than they are today. Those working in the public sector wouldn’t think twice about raising taxes for their political goals, as higher taxes wouldn’t concern them. The possible good things about these downsides? The enemy is easier to spot and the private sector would be willing to stand more united against government oppression. If supporters of the public sector wished to increase taxes, they would not be able to hide behind the mask of “altruistically suffering from the same taxation”. They would more directly become enemies of the private sector, and unable to portray themselves as servicemen for it. There would be a deadlock between political factions, and raising taxes could become far more unpopular than it is today…

… Or it wouldn’t worry people too much after all. Who knows? It will never become a reality, but I find it a peculiar phenomenon, and the “what if” fascinates me.

Written by Morten Rolland

February 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm

The Most Economicly Sensible Place to Live in America

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In a troubled economy, the worry of many people has increasingly bottled down to the cost of living. It’s easy to understand why more families worry about their personal economy and the cost of living in USA today. As the federal government and states likewise spend more money than they have, there is an increasing demand from government for higher taxes … on everything. Where, then, is the cheapest – or should I say the most economicly sensible place to live in America today? Of course, it’s quite difficult to point out a specific town, as you’d be in a deep ditch of falsification, while working out every little detail in every little part of this vast country. But we need to start somewhere!

For now we’ll limit our search to the different states. This takes down the number of choices to a mere 50. Along which criterias will these 50 states be messured? Taxes, of course, and here we will look at the state income taxes, but there are also some hidden taxes in addition, like sales and property taxes, so we’ll also compare some specific price differences. For this I will make use of numbers from a “cost of living index” put together by MERIC (Missouri Economic Research and Information Center), which are based on values that are reported from different urban areas that participate in the collection of data. This does not give us a proper indication of the rural differences that may exist, but it’s reasonable to think that rural areas in a state with low average urban living costs will have lower living costs than in a state with high average urban living costs, since overall sales and property taxes levels in the states play a part here. It does seem, however, that MERIC do not include income taxes levels into the calculations, although it could be put into consideration for all the different values making up the index, but either way we will take a look at the index numbers and tax levels seperately.

To start off our research we’ll see where in America a married couple sharing an income of $40,000 (as basis for our income  tax levels) will have the greatest opportunity to put off some extra hard earned money for buying affordable precious metals to preserve their precious savings *wink wink*. We are therefore trying to aim this at the regular working class American that wish to focus on affordable quality of life. People more well off would likely live according to similar dimensions, only with a lot more to spend, and truly, that is what we’re all after.

The top states in the MERIC index are situated mostly in the midwestern/southern area of America. We will look at the states that have an average index score under 95, where 100 is the overall USA average. These states are the following (in the order from lowest to highest index score):

Tennessee, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Idaho, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

These have the cheapest living costs, but what are the income tax level in these states? This is important, since taxes can take up such a substantial portion of your pay check. This can weed out some states that are more likely candidates than others. Not bothering with federal taxes, as these are the same everywhere, we instantly take notice of the states without a state income tax:

Map of USA showing states with no state income...

States without personal income tax (Wikipedia)

Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

We see that Tennessee and Texas instantly stick out as states with both low costs and no taxes. Indeed, Texas has always been known to be a cheap “tax haven”, but Tennessee is a surprise. After all, it has the highest minimum sales tax of most states, and likely on an average to have the highest of them all. When adding the level of taxes we’d have to pay in the other 14 states, this is the list we end up with:

Alabama 5%, Arkansas 7%, Georgia 6%, Idaho 7.4%, Indiana 3.4%, Iowa 6.8%, Kansas 6.25%, Kentucky 5.8%, Michigan 4.35%, Mississippi 5%, Missouri 6%, Nebraska 5.12%, Ohio 4.109%, Oklahoma 5.5%, Tennessee 0% and Texas 0%.

Certainly, these levels are all quite affordable. Simply depending on the housing prices or food prices you could save much more during a year than what you’d pay in taxes. Idaho, with the highest tax of the mentioned states, will cost you $2,960 a year, but with the third lowest rating for housing costs it could potentially make up for it manyfolds. What we see about Idaho is that transportation costs are above average, likely because of a low population spread out on a large area. Kansas, placed in the very center of the country, and with a close proximity to Kansas City in the east, can boast of fairly low scores all over, with groceries, housing and utilities well under 90 and health care at only 91.65, which should make up for its income tax. It is no wonder why MERIC lists it as the 4th cheapest state in the country. Important to note is that Kansas is also one of the leading agricultural states in the nation, which will arguably be a huge strength in the future of the overall American economy. In addition, Kansas – even now after the recession began – has an unemployment rate of 6.6%. This is of course the Department of Labor’s own numbers, which frankly can be somewhat understated, but it still gives us a number we can compare with. It’s substantially better than Idaho’s 9%, for instance, and adds a level of social safety and stability to your cheap living. Also better than Idaho are Oklahoma and Arkansas, with 6.9% and 7.7% respectively. Worse off is Missouri with 9.3%.

The zero tax states are also under 10%, but still substantially higher than Kansas. Tennessee has 9.4% and Texas 8.1%. Tennessee is overall pretty much the same kind of state as Kansas, but with higher unemployment rate and a slightly lower cost index. It’s important to note that the cost index difference is only by a margin of 1.44 points, which is caused by the difference in housing costs, however both are far lower than the national average.

Texas, however, is unique in the grand scheme of things. It’s known to be among the most business friendly states in America and it’s also the second biggest economy in America, being among the biggest producers of agricultural and mining goods, while also having a very strong industry in energy and technology. With the 6th lowest overall living costs, no income tax and a fairly low unemployment rate Texas comes out as a remarkably good choice. It is, however, the second most populous state, and with a lot of open desertlands in the west the population density is quite high around the urban areas to the east. This doesn’t have to matter at all, but when one would make the choice of where to live it could be a deciding factor. Needless to say, Texas would leave you with the choice of both extremes and little inbetween, but that might be perfect for you.

Cost of Living Index (MERIC)

So what should you choose? Indeed, any of the low value states is a good choice, but it is important to take into consideration future economic and social stability. You’d do well in staying away from the rust belt, which would steer you away from the north eastern “green states”, as shown on the Cost of Living Index map. The unemployment rate there is currently quite high, as it is among all the states east of Arkansas. Iowa, like Texas, comes out of it in a different way than most other states. As a mostly manufacturing state, with a notable addition of agruculture, it has so far weathered the economic downturns a lot better than most other states. It can with an unemployment rate of 6.8% also offer something in terms of social stability. Nebraska with its agrictultural economy has matched Iowa’s ability to weather the economic turmoil, but with likely the lowest unemployment rate in America with 4.6%.

In terms of these findings we are left with the states that are at the very centre of the country: Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Missouri stand as the state in the weakest economic condition in terms of unemployment rate out of these. It is funny to note how the strongest economic base is in the agricultural states farthest away from the most expensive parts of the country, and arguably farthest away from the parts that are currently in the worst shape, where DC and California lead off as the sunken ships with the highest living costs in the country.

What do I think? There are two things that will affect my choice of where to live among these states. Anti-union legislations and “livability”, where social variables create the safest and most stable living conditions. Why? If I wanna look for jobs for myself and my loved ones, I want a fair game, and if I wish to bring up a family I also want the best surroundings and opportunities for myself and my loved ones. To evalute this I take a look at data in the “livability index“, published by Morgan Quitno Press. Not having the numbers from 2010 I’ll have to assume that the 2005 levels are somewhat the same. What we can see is that several of the mentioned states actually come off quite poorly here, ending up at the bottom of the scale, leaving us with only Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa above the national livability index average, but Missouri can instantly be counted out lacking a right-to-work law and also having the highest unemployment rate of the four.

What we’re left with is Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, which are all above average states with among the cheapest living costs in the nation. The states are also neatly placed in the middle of the country with possibilities of both highly populated urban areas and vast rural areas. I also like the central location of the states in terms of vacations and road trips. I’m an avid traveler and enjoy driving on trips if I have the money and opportunity to do so. The weakness of these states basically lies in the income taxes, but the income taxes are along the middle of the spectrum in America, yet the economies are among the strongest as far as these numbers go. They rely on mild and diverse tax revenues, which doesn’t milk the population too much. The less the better, yes, but all things considered it’s not your worst bet. Further research would include proportion of population in public sector jobs and size of government in terms of expenditure compared to the private sector. Lower numbers for the public sector would be better, of course. Another important variable would be how friendly they are to private businesses and entrepreneurship. The friendlier the better. I would of course also want to see where in the individual states I would like to live the most, wanting to live in fairly close proximity to an urban centre, without having to endure the higher costs and lower quality of living in the middle of a city. There would be housing rents (or prices) and local taxes to take into consideration for this. Since I’m personally not yet looking for a long term place to live (lacking a visa and all) I’ll hold it for now, but I hope my current findings will help others in the right direction. Happy huntin’!