Romney Should Use Tax Return Release to Make the Moral Case for Capitalism

Much as it pains me to link to the outfit that threw the odious Keith Olbermann a lifeline when even MSNBC could no longer stomach him, has a useful roundup entitled “List of Republicans calling on Mitt to release returns keeps growing and growing.”

Author Jonathan Kuperberg starts with a lead nearly as snarky as mine on this post, then plays it straight while quoting Rick Perry, Bill Kristol, Haley Barbour, Bret Hume, Richard Lugar, Michael Steele and a dozen more conservatives (or Republicans) calling on Romney to release more tax returns.  George Will describes the perception Romney is creating:

“The cost of not releasing the returns are clear,” Will said. “Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.”

I suspect that when he inevitably releases them, the returns will establish that Romney is really, really, really rich.  Master of the Universe rich.  Maybe “Forbes 400” rich, although Forbes doesn’t currently think so.  In an op-ed titled “Why Capitalism Has an Image Problem,” Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute describes why Romney should not run from the fact of his wealth:

Mitt Romney’s résumé at Bain should be a slam dunk. He has been a successful capitalist, and capitalism is the best thing that has ever happened to the material condition of the human race. From the dawn of history until the 18th century, every society in the world was impoverished, with only the thinnest film of wealth on top. Then came capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn’t take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased.

Capitalism has lifted the world out of poverty because it gives people a chance to get rich by creating value and reaping the rewards. Who better to be president of the greatest of all capitalist nations than a man who got rich by being a brilliant capitalist?

I suspect it also will turn out that Romney has aggressively made use of tax-minimization strategies that are not practical for people of lesser means.  Assuming everything he did was legal, I say good for him.  If Obama supporters want to claim that it is somehow immoral to take advantage of loopholes in the law for financial benefit, they should take a one-question quiz: Who is the first major presidential candidate ever to opt out of the system of public funding of campaigns, even while supporting that system on “principle”? Hint: he’s running again this year, and his name is not Romney.

Granted, any rich man traipsing through a defense of capitalism will encounter pitfalls, and Romney no doubt would blunder into some of them.  But this election is shaping up as the clearest choice in memory between the champions of free enterprise and the champions of bigger government, and Romney should make no apology for playing hard for the team to which he belongs.


Why I Like Jon Stewart While Disagreeing With His Politics

Photo from thedailyshow.comJon Stewart of The Daily Show is a comedian who leans left, not a leftist who uses comedy.  He’s willing to tweak people on his own side of the aisle, which sometimes results in him drawing fire from his left.  Over at The Corner, Michael Potemra dissects a sanctimonious left-wing hit piece in something called The Baffler:

Furthermore, what if we don’t mind laughing even about some things we agree with? Both Colbert and Stewart make fun of some of my own political views. I was thinking of saying that I like them in spite of this; it might be more accurate to say that I like them, at least in part, not in spite of this but because of it — because I don’t want to live in a country where people can’t laugh at themselves, and where everybody takes himself and his own opinions as seriously as the Baffler guy seems to.

Unlike Rush Limbaugh on the right or Michael Moore on the left, Stewart is a likeable guy.  There’s an Everyman quality about him, although he no doubt is in the same tax bracket as Limbaugh and Moore. He also reminds me of the business adage that you should be grateful for your competitors, because they help find the flaws in your products.

NCAA Sanction Emphasizes Paterno’s Personal Culpability in Rape Scandal

Paterno statue

The statue's gone, and won't be back

Any severe punishment ripples well beyond the intended target.  When a wage-earner is jailed, his or her dependents suffer materially, even though they may be entirely blameless.  A corporate fine or legal judgment comes, indirectly at least, out of innocent shareholders’ pockets.  The fines and other sanctions announced against Penn State today will damage the entire university, and the crippling of the football program will even affect the regional economy in Central Pennsylvania.

Such collateral damage is inevitable to some degree, but anyone who hands out sanctions should take care to focus them as much as possible on the actual culprit.  I think the NCAA did an elegant job of this by vacating all of Joe Paterno’s wins during the decade-long period when he abetted and covered up the ongoing rape and molestation of young boys by his former deputy, Jerry Sandusky.

Vacating 14 seasons of the team’s victories may be purely symbolic — but what a symbol.  The beauty of it is that it strips Paterno of his status as the winningest coach in college football history, and permanently ties him to the scandal, without causing any practical damage for anyone else.  The Penn State players from 1998 through 2011 who went on to pro careers will still have those pro careers.

“JoePa” and the other top leaders of Penn State demonstrated what can only be called depraved indifference to the presence of a sexual predator in their midst.  From the Freeh report:

Pages 21-23:

August 1999: Sandusky is granted “emeritus” rank, which carries several privileges, including access to University recreational facilities.
December 1999: Sandusky brings Victim 4 to 1999 Alamo Bowl.
Sandusky assaults Victim 4 at team hotel.
November 2000: Sandusky assaults Victim 8 in Lasch Building shower.
Janitor observes assault by Sandusky, but does not report the assault for fear that “they’ll get rid of all of us.”
February 9, 2001: Sandusky assaults Victim 2 in Lasch Building shower.
McQueary witnesses the assault by Sandusky.
McQueary reports the assault to Paterno on Saturday, February 10; Paterno tells McQueary, “you did what you had to do.  It’s my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Page 103:

Despite Spanier’s, Schultz’s, Paterno’s and Curley’s knowledge of criminal investigations of Sandusky regarding child abuse as early as 1998, they failed to control Sandusky’s access to the University’s facilities and campuses.

Paterno’s family and others will continue to fight a rearguard action to try to rehabilitate Paterno’s “legacy.”  The NCAA’s personalized sanctions will help ensure against myth-making.

Fourth Blogiversary Prompts Reflections on Why I Blog

July 5 was the fourth anniversary of my first substantive blog post,  “I Prefer the Chicago Politician to the Obamessiah“, wherein I rejected the then-current delusion that Senator Obama was “not a politician.” It began:

From the start, my take on Obama has been that he’s a talented and charismatic politician who some day could become an important senator.

We know now, of course, that he will never be an important senator, but otherwise I think the post holds up fairly well.

I blew past another milestone last week without knowing it. My WordPress dashboard tells me that my 500th blog post was on July 1, titled “Who Wins? Q&A on the Obamacare Ruling“.  If I’d known what an auspicious occasion that blog post was, I would have… I dunno.  I guess I would have mentioned it.

Why do I blog?  Primarily for the money, of course. Since August 2011, I’ve been a professional blogger. I’m not supposed to talk too much about my top-secret relationship with Google AdSense, but I think I can tell you that I’m nearly half-way to my second $100 payout.  Ca-CHING!  (I’m also not supposed to generate traffic artificially by asking for it, and nothing herein should be construed as a request for clicks. But take a moment to look at the ads at the top, the sidebar and the bottom.  Do you see anything interesting?  I’m just askin’.)

A snapshot as of July 8, 2012

My modest blogging income reflects my modest traffic.  A majority of it comes via Facebook, where I link to every new post.  Still, I get search-engine visitors from all over the world, and they add up after a while.  My Flag Counter widget in the right column currently shows more than 45,000 total visitors from the United States, and if you click through to it you’ll see I’ve had nearly 59,000 unique visitors from 158 countries.  As a church secretary in suburban New Jersey, I think that’s kinda cool.

If you Google my name, my blog is now the first result.  This is progress!  Three years ago, when I wrote about the six other Kirk Petersens in America, the guy who had registered before I could was the first result.

The bottom line is that I blog because I like to write, and I think I do it reasonably well.  I haven’t ever had the fire-in-the-belly, compulsive need to write on a daily basis — the drive and determination that produces lots of bad first novels, and a few good ones.  I also don’t have the solitary self-discipline to support myself as a freelance writer — a lifestyle that my pal Lori Widmer chronicles inspirationally on a daily basis at Words on the Page.  I thrive in a corporate communications or agency environment where I can be part of a team, and if the economy ever improves I hope to have such a job again.  In the meantime, my blog gives me a forum to write whenever I feel I have something to say, and there’s no consequence (other than vague, self-induced guilt) if a couple of weeks go by between posts.

The real ego boost comes when someone tells me that something I’ve written has prompted them to reconsider a topic.  As an “out” Republican in a deep-blue enclave in a blue state, this often comes in the context of disagreement.  More than one liberal friend has said something along the lines of “you’re my favorite Republican.”

That resonates for me as an affirmation of my belief in the importance of civil discourse.  I was a lifelong Democrat before I became a 9/11 Republican, so I’ve lived on both sides of the Great Divide in American politics.  Each side is populated by similar distributions of thoughtful people and jerks.  The clash of ideas between liberalism and conservatism is part of what makes this a great country, but I try to let the ideas clash while treating the people on the other side with respect.  I find people are more willing to consider my point of view if I refrain from ridiculing them.  Who knew?

Thanks for reading.

Happy Birthday America!

I’m pausing briefly between grilling the veggies and grilling the chicken to give thanks for the blessing of American citizenship, a lottery I won on the day I was born.

On this sun-drenched afternoon, inspired by the Episcopal Collect for Independence Day, I’m grateful for the patriots who lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn.  I’m grateful for the modern-day men and women of the U.S. armed forces, who sacrifice to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace.

A special shout out to Petty Officer Second Class Harry Petersen, aviation boatswain mate on the U.S.S. Nimitz, currently pulling hardship duty… um… in port in Hawaii.  But hey, he’s done two tours in the Arabian Sea, and helped provide disaster relief after the Japanese tsunami.

Be safe, son.  I love you.

“Governor Awesome” Is Unsuitable for Higher Office

With the important exception of same-sex marriage, I’ve been a big fan of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.  Here’s me about a year and a half ago:

I love watching clips of Christie speaking to voters like adults.  Whether he’s describing his own state as a “failed experiment” or jousting with his favorite piñata, the teacher’s union, it’s refreshing to watch him.

Since then I’ve shrugged off a few times when I’ve thought his candor has lapsed into bullying.  But the ugly confrontation on Saturday is simply appalling.

At an impromptu news conference about a major water-treatment emergency in Monmouth County, Christie had specified that he would take questions only about the current topic.  When a reporter dared to ask an innocuous question on a different subject, Christie snarled, “”Did I say on topic?! Are you stupid?! On topic! On topic. Next question.” He doubled-down seconds later, ending the session with “Thank you all very much — and I’m sorry for that idiot over there.”

“Governor Awesome” (an unregistered trademark of Tigerhawk) has been talked about as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney.  I’ve been hoping Romney will look elsewhere so that Christie can continue his efforts to put the state on a more solid financial footing.  But now I’m also very leery of putting a man with appalling judgment and serious anger-management issues a heartbeat away from the nuclear codes.

Who Wins? Q&A on the Obamacare Ruling

Which presidential candidate gets an electoral boost from the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision?

On balance, I think Obama gains a slight advantage — or at least, I think it would have been worse for him if his signature achievement had been overturned as unconstitutional.  The potential downside for Obama is that voting him out of office now becomes the only way to have any hope of overturning the legislation.  But how potent a factor will opposition to Obamacare really be?  It was pretty potent in the 2010 midterm elections, in the immediate wake of the outrageous shenanigans (remember “deem-and-pass” and the “Cornhusker Kickback“?) employed to pass a bill opposed by a majority of Americans without a single Republican vote in Congress.  Now, however, Obamacare has momentum on its side — hey, it’s constitutional!

What does the decision mean for the credibility and reputation of the Supreme Court?

It’s probably a net positive, at least in the long run.  Most people (including me) expected yet another 5-4 decision along ideological lines.  (The mother of all 5-4 decisions, of course, was Bush v. Gore, where many felt the split was nakedly political.)  Instead, the GOP-appointed Chief Justice joined the four liberal justices in upholding Obamacare.  I wish the decision had gone the other way, but conservatives can take some solace in the fact that Roberts’ ruling limits the expansion of the Commerce Clause.

Did Chief Justice Roberts make a political or an apolitical decision?

Depends on whom you ask, of course.  The Chief Justice’s ruling cited precedent requiring that “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.”  So one can argue that the ruling is the opposite of judicial activism, paying deference to the legislative and executive branches.  On the other hand, “Mr Roberts rather straightforwardly legislated from the bench by offering and affirming a construction of Obamacare which the administration itself rejected.”

Will Obamacare be reversed if the GOP wins big in November?

Yes.  It’s mathematically possible, but highly unlikely, that the Republicans will end up with a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.  But a simple majority may be enough, because under the Senate’s arcane “reconciliation” process, votes on tax matters require only 51 votes to pass.

And Obamacare, of course, is a tax.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made it official.