Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What Should be Done by Governments?

Over the history of this country, business owners and managers have already asked and gotten government (local, state and federal) to do the following: print money, control monetary supply, set interest rates; establish laws and maintain courts that enforce contracts and protect property rights, patent rights, copyrights, trademark rights; build and maintain highways, roads, bridges, harbors, airports; provide police protection, provide fire protection, incarcerate or otherwise contain persons who violate property laws (theft, embezzlement), provide military protection outside of U.S. boundaries and during national disasters; provide flood insurance, disaster relief; establish and enforce standardized weights and measurements; do research and development of new technologies that can create new products; develop and maintain space rocket/shuttle services necessary to create and maintain satellites for telecommunications; provide basic education to produce a work force that can read, write and do basic mathematics. Which of these things should government continue to do? Which should government stop doing? How should we pay for the cost of doing these things?

What are other things [aside from what government does to promote business profit] that you as a citizen, want government to do? What do you want your local government to do? What do you want your state government to do? What do you want your federal government to do? How should we pay for the things that you want government to do for you?

19 comments:

Jessica G said...

I would love to see the state of Kentucky offer more than just a "basic" education. More money needs to be invested in early childhood education all the way through college...and even then..opportunities that include 4 year institutions of higher learning. I'd like to see more money invested (as well as more faith) in welfare-to-work programs that actually work for the individual, instead of keeping them dependent on the system.

How to pay for it? Casinos....which I think would provide more jobs and more of an economic stimulus than coal. :D

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America"

Too bad we didn't stop there.

Progressive said...

Some random questions -

How have we not stopped there?

Why do people want a strict reading of the Constitution, considering that it was written hundreds of years ago?

Is it possible to follow the constitution in a "strict" sense, within todays issues, challenges, and Worldy view?

What does a strict constructionist mean? How can a person be one, considering the general nature of how the document was written?

What is wrong with using the Constitution as a basic starting point to attending to societies issues?

How do you think the World would be under a strict reading of the Constitution? (For example, science would not be funded by taxpayer money - so at what stage of development would be stuck in?)

Would the U.S. even be a superpower, historic nation under a strict viewing?

Is social Darwinism fair and just?

Why is it that every state constitution has been rewritten or heavily amended, yet the U.S. document has not? Each individual state constitution reflects the values, needs, and wants of the state constituency, and includes many of the programs, devices, and understanding, most hated by strict constructionists.

Is it fair for those that have met materialist needs to harp on those less off for needing help?

Consider that the federal government largely works incrementally - small changes over time, so as not to allow for quick, drastic change. Why, then, are the programs that make the U.S. a cultural and governmental leader in the World deemed an abomination and should be eliminated?

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Prog: Some questions in return:

Is it fair to take from one who has plenty and give it to someone who has less? What if the one who has plenty worked hard for what he has and the one who has less refuses to work?

Should the judiciary rely on precedence when making decisions?

Why should taxes be progressive -- as in the current system -- as opposed to a flat rate?

Why should the government subsidize persons who are in the country illegally -- such as through medical facilities?

Why should we have so-called sin taxes? Should such taxes be applied directly to fund programs such as medical treatment for alcoholics and smokers rather than placed in the general fund?

The words "promote the general welfare" leave a huge opening for things like infrastructure and basic scientific research. I'm not sure I understand your questions in that regard. They in fact somewhat conflict with your first question.

"Strict construction" is a label supplied by the liberal media. I think more accurately the words "original intent" describe those you refer to as strict constructionists. There are a few issues that are antequated -- such as slavery, enfranchisment -- that have been addressed by amendments to the Constitution. Other than those issues that have been addressed by ammendment, in what way does the Constitution not fit today's world? That is the beauty of its flexibility and its construction -- just as it was originally intended.

What programs are you referring to that are deemed an abomination? By whom?

Sue said...

Chris, it would be nice if you answered the question. Which things on the list of things government does for business should it continue doing? Which should it stop doing? How do we pay for the things we want it to do? What SPECIFIC things other than those for business do you want government to do (you've listed things you don't want government to do, how about listing the things you DO want government to do) and instead of telling us what you don't like about taxes, tell us how we SHOULD be paying for the things that YOU think need to be done.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Sue: Maybe you didn't catch what I said.

What government should be doing is pretty well enumerated in the preamble to the Constitution. Namely, provide a justice system, provide a police force, provide for defense, allow us the liberty to pursue our hopes and dreams. The sticky one is the one that I mentioned -- "promote the general welfare."

As to paying for it -- a flat tax on goods and services (which I also mentioned). That way those who consume more pay more.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Sue: Maybe I should have asked, which question?

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Sue: Why the focus on business? I don't believe that was the focus of my response.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Chris,
I think a progressive tax (or similarly relative fiscal measures) currently makes sense over a flat tax. The relative impact of taxation is inversely proportional to the amount of money or income a person has. If we were to create a flat tax-burden that allowed for a decent quality of life for the working poor, the government would not be solvent. Moreover, while I believe it's more common to hear people complain about government services that only benefit the poor, it's important to recognize that there are many government services that disproportionately serve the wealthy. People who work hand-to-mouth don't enjoy the benefit of FDIC protection of savings they don't have, nor government enforcement of intellectual property laws, nor do are their economic interests served to the same extent by police and military protection. If people want services that enable the accumulation of wealth, they should pay for them.

Prog,
I think evolving the US Constitution is within the framework of its original intent. Its authors created a judiciary and a mechanism for amendment that recognized that values and priorities will change. Upgrading the system is part of the plan.

Sue,
I’m most interested in seeing reform of the relationship between government, business, and common property. If a business wants to capitalize on common property, that business should have to make appropriate compensation for it. Common property like waterways and the atmosphere should be considered in this equation.
Peter Barnes suggests the creation of a national fund (akin to the Alaska Permanent Fund) to receive money from the private use of public resources like minerals, timber, and pollution sinks, which would use funds for healthcare and education. This would allow for all Americans (as owners of that common property) to enjoy the benefit of that common wealth. Ensuring the basic need of healthcare and the social mobility associated with education, such a fund may even make Chris’ flat (or flatter) tax system more feasible.
Barnes also suggests the creation of a unit of government similar to the Federal Reserve to manage atmospheric pollutants. This would divorce regulation (to some extent) from the vicissitudes of election cycles, and would couple the shared resource to the economy.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

ERD: I'd be curious to see those numbers related to taxation. Perhaps a smaller government is in order.

"Peter Barnes suggests the creation of a national fund (akin to the Alaska Permanent Fund) to receive money from the private use of public resources like minerals, timber, and pollution sinks, which would use funds for healthcare and education."

I'm curious about this particular quote. Do you not think the public currently benefits from development and utilization of common resources (I assume you're talking about from Federal lands)? I'm sitting at a wooden desk, I drove (oil & gas, metals) my pickup truck to work, I am typing at a computer -- all of which conceivably would not have been possible without the entrepreneurial initiative of some company to utilize basic resources to create them. If those resources came from public lands they were paid for through leases, etc. Many would argue that those leases are below the market value of the extracted resources. I think that's great. It keeps the cost of my purchases lower -- i.e. subsidized by the government that further extracts taxes from me on those same goods and from the corporations (and/or their shareholders) that added value to the raw materials so that I would have goods on which to pay taxes.

"People who work hand-to-mouth don't enjoy the benefit of FDIC protection of savings they don't have, nor government enforcement of intellectual property laws, nor do are their economic interests served to the same extent by police and military protection."

How do you figure? If there is no security of savings (i.e. our monetary system -- loans, transaction facilitation, etc.) the entire economy becomes at risk. With an economic collapse there are no jobs. Intellectual property laws do the same thing -- create jobs -- even new industries. How are the interests of the poor not served by the police and military protection? They are probably most at risk from criminals. What would happen to the poor if we were invaded by a foreign power (some might argue that we have been already)?

Sue said...

Come on Chris -- I'm asking you to tell us what YOU think "promote the general welfare" means. Does it include the list of things in the original post that government does to promote the profitability of business? If not then what should it exclude? In addition to those things already listed in the original post, what other things, if any, do you think government should be doing to "promote the general welfare"?

Being a liberal/socialist type, I think that government should be providing/subsidizing child care, and providing/paying for health care; government should be enforcing mininum wage laws, maximum hour laws, work place and product safety laws, food inspection, drug inspection; creating and enforcing laws to restrict environmental pollution, excess CO2 production; promoting the research and development of non-fossil fuels; providing a guaranteed mininum income to all citizens (like Nixon proposed int he 1960's); building public transportation everywhere in the U.S., and subsidzing its operations; government should be taking over key resources and industries -- government nationalize coal, oil, railroads and steel; and I have a list of at least a hundred more things that as a liberal?socialist type I think government should be doing. To pay for it I think we should tax inheritance MORE, we should do like most European nations and tax increases in wealth (not just income) while people are alive, we should have a more progressive income tax -- go back to where we were in the 1950's when our economy was booming and the marginal tax on really high incomes was 90 percent, and we should have a national sales tax on non-food, non-drug commodities, and we should have carbon taxes.

So come on -- don't hide behind generalizations --- tell us what you really think is included in "promoting the general welfare" ?

Sue said...

And I didn't mean to leave out public schools, kindergarten and pre-school, colleges and universities, parks and recreation (from your local community park up to National Parks), space exploration, research, etc.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Chris,
There’s a minimum threshold of income for any person to live on in a given economy. For ease of numbers, we’ll hypothetically set that threshold at $10,000/year in the US. If someone makes $7/hr and has no leave, his annual gross is about $14,500. If we have a flat rate, we can’t make that flat rate more than about 30%, or we’re making the decision that many working citizens won’t be able to support themselves. Suffice to say, that rate wouldn’t pay for the current government. As for a smaller government, I think that is in order. There’s a great deal of waste that could be obviated by market solutions.
As for common resources, the public does enjoy some benefit. The change I’m suggesting is that rather than the current system, in which a timber company gets timber below cost, gets infrastructure subsidies from the government (that the consumer pays for), and then gets to sell the commodities to the consumer (who was a part owner of them in the first place), we instead (partially) free the market to set prices and directly compensate people when private companies capitalize things that belong to the public. Moreover, the sinks I mentioned receive little or no consideration in the current economy. Again, I believe market solutions would waste less (particularly in administrative costs) than regulation and subsidy does.
On the last point, there is a clear disparity between the level of personal protection granted by the services I mentioned. A billionaire stands to lose billions of dollars if the economy collapses. A person with little or no money simply has less stuff to lose. Likewise, if I own patents, patent protection benefits my finances much more than it does someone who may or may not one day have a job related to that patent. There’s a difference between the economy on the whole and each tax-payer’s personal investment in it.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

My list certainly isn't as long as yours.

Again:
1. Government (federal) should provide for the common defense.
2. Government (federal, state and local) should provide a legal system through which disputes may be settled and crimes punished.
3. Government (local, state and federal - in that order) should provide a police force designed to provide for the safety of its citizens.
4. Government (federal, state and local) should provide a mechanism by which basic infrastructure can be provided -- possibly through private means, but coordinated by federal government. This includes highway, rail and shipping infrastructure. This infrastructure should be funded by users -- as it currently is through gasoline taxes, vehicle registrations, etc.
5. Government should provide a framework within which businesses may operate -- i.e. laws related to fair treatment of labor, trade, safety, environment, etc.
6. Government should provide a framework within which schools may operate. These schools should be privately operated under a competitive system funded by federal vouchers. The vouchers are good for 13 years of education (K-12). If a child drops out prior to using all 13 vouchers he retains the right to use the remaining years of vouchers at any time during the remainder of his life. Perhaps he will enter the workforce with 8 years of education. After finding that his opportunities are limited due to a lack of education he may decide to return to school and obtain a degree when he has the maturity and desire to earn it.
7. Government is an inefficient operator. Its operation should be restricted to a minimum in ALL areas. Natural resources in the public domain should be open to competitive bid under the umbrella of a comprehensive utilization plan that includes provision for sustainability, public recreational uses, maintenance of biodiversity, etc. -- much like we currently have.
8. The President should be given a line-item veto option. Maybe we could finally gain some control over pork-barrel spending.
9. Government should be funded by a flat tax structure that is a percentage applied to all purchases of goods and services -- whether by individuals or by businesses. In the case of businesses it should apply only to added value. This structure means a double hit to the consumer because business taxes will be passed on to customers. If you don't use something you won't be taxed on it.

Sue, if you like the European form of government so much why don't you move there? Perhaps China's or Russia's systems of state control would be more to your liking? But then they wouldn't allow you or I or anyone else the freedom to criticize how they do things.

What was booming in the 1950's? The government? How much more might the economy have grown without such a heavy government burden dragging it down? Do you think the tax level fueled growth? It was the post-war boom that fueled growth. It was rebuilding Europe and Japan that fueled growth. It was the utilization of WWII technology in private enterprise that fueled growth.

For the most part our system of government and of economics works fairly well. If we could just control the tendency of our Congress to spend money it would be better. Let me spend my own money rather than paying someone to spend it for me.

Let the government operate on a smaller percentage of a bigger pie. They would have just as much, or possibly more money to spend.

Sue said...

oh yeah, incase I haven't curdled your hair enough -- I'm for legalizing marijuana production and sale (in amounts less than 3 ozs), and then taxing the hell out of it. Let all those poor hillbillies in these here KY hills make a legal and lucrative living, and then tax their income, and put a whopping sales tax on it (like on cigaretts and booze). It would also save a hell of a lot of money wasted on law enforcement and prisons. And no, Chris, I'm not kidding this time.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

ERD: If I risk all, I risk all -- whether I have much or little.

Sue said...

World War II technology that was done by government and paid for by taxes.

I ain't no good at languages.

I done was born here and I intend to die here, and I'll fight to make this place more like the rest of the civilized world with every breath I take.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Sue: I'm not sure what curdled hair is but it would be tough to do on my bald pate!

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Sue: I guess that I prefer to remain uncivilized. ;)