How Multiple Choice Testing Is Ruining Elections

Here in America we love our multiple choice tests. They are easy to administer and grade, which is why we are introduce to them in school at a very early age. Multiple choice questions even make up the majority of the material on the SAT, which nearly every college freshman has taken. Probably the most common advice given to a multiple choice test novice is to just guess when you do not know the correct answer. This is because there is typically no penalty for guessing the wrong answer, so you at least give yourself a small possibility of getting some points that you may have left on the table by not answering at all. I fear that it is this familiarity that we all have with filling in a guess when we do not know the right answer that is leading to some very dangerous voting habits.

The founders of our country intended for average every day citizens to have a lot of sway over how the government is run by giving us the ability to directly elect most of the people in government, whether it is the mayor of your town or the US Representative that you send to Washington. There was an understanding that when you go to the polls in November and are presented with a choice of candidates for office, you would have already done your homework and learned who would best represent you. You might decide that since you only researched the candidates for state legislature, you would just leave the other races blank, because unlike a grade school multiple choice test, if you guess wrong, it would actually impact you negatively, and if you leave it blank, then you are saying that you are leaving the choice up to the other people in your community who did look into those other races and reached an informed opinion. You are better off trusting your neighbors, who spent time getting to know the candidates, to decide who to elect, than you are guessing with no real information on who is the more appropriate candidate.

The bottom line is, if you insist on voting then just make sure to study up on all of the candidates before the election; and if you did not even bother to learn the names of the candidates running for office then do not vote. If you are only interested in the Presidential race, then spend some time determining your favorite candidate, vote for that person, and then leave the rest of the election ballot blank. It is OK to do this. When you take a guess for a race without knowing anything about the candidates, you are negating a vote by someone else that actually spent the time to learn who the better one is, which just helps put politicians in office who are wrong for everyone.

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Voter ID Laws: What’s the Point?

I often hear complaints about laws that require photo ID to vote. Typically, these derisions state that the laws are not intended to solve any problems, other than to keep poor people from voting, despite the fact that these laws typically have provisions in them that allow individuals to obtain voter identification free of charge. Lawfully, not every person is allowed to vote, so what I do not understand is why we would not take measures to enforce that law.

Now, what is it that I am so afraid of happening if we do not put any controls in place for voting? Is it really that I just want to keep inner city riffraff away from the polls? No, I am actually concerned about the end of American civilization at the hands of a foreign power.

Imagine if China decided to take over an American city. They could send in the troops, but that would get bloody, as we would see it coming and counter their attacks. China could just try to outright buy the politicians, but how could they guarantee that someone under their influence gets elected? If China could come up with enough people willing to vote favorably for their candidate and transport them to the voting polls, what could possibly stop these people from voting in the election, despite the fact that they do not live in that city? These could either be people already living across America that descend on one particular city on election day to become an overwhelming voter block, or these could be people who pour over our open borders.

We already know that China has extensive records on Americans that they have obtained from various cyber hacks in the last couple of years. They could simply give each of their imposter voters the name of a valid voter, so that he can impersonate that identity and cast a ballot. Once the election is ratified, it becomes law. We use a secret ballot in this country, so there would be no way to differentiate the legal votes from the illegal ones after the event, and without any kind of photo identification required to vote, what kind of argument can an election judge make that the voter is not who he proposes to be?

This does not even have to be China. What if a Mexican drug cartel just wanted to propose a law in a local American election that would turn a border town into a “sanctuary city”, so that it would be easier to smuggle narcotics into this country? They could come over, cast their ballots, and then head back South before lunch.

Heck, let us totally ignore the foreign concern for a minute. What if a very wealthy American corporation wanted to give itself a competitive advantage by changing the tax laws in a city election? It might be hard to convince the citizens of that city to vote in their favor, as they would have to live with the decision, but if they could just convince enough people who do not live in the city to show up on Election Day and help them out, what does it hurt them? This corporation might have enough employees or loyal customers that they could completely sway the vote in their favor. None of this is legal, but without any kind of verification that the people casting ballots are who they say they are, what measure is in place to stop this from happening?

I am really not that concerned with Americans voting in their own elections. One of these days our lackadaisical immigration policies and unwillingness to enforce our own voting laws is going to open us up to a complete takeover by a foreign power with the money and will to take control of our government, and we will never see it coming.

By law, you are required to carry photo ID to fly on an airplane, drive on a public road, or simply buy beer. It is really not asking much to treat voting the same. Every illegal vote cast disenfranchises a valid voter by negating their legal decision.

It takes a lot of time and effort to research candidates before an election to the point that you can make an informed decision, instead of simply picking the most visually appealing candidate or taking the one with the most memorable zingers. If a legal voter is so disorganized that he cannot dig up his birth certificate and spend a few minutes down at the DMV to pick up a free voter ID card once in his life, then I would be truly afraid to live with that person’s ballot choices, anyway.

Do You Trust Your Congressman?

It is a pretty straight forward question. Do you trust your Congressman? Just to help frame your thought process on this one a little bit. Have you ever trusted someone that you never met? I realize that this answer may be different for other people, but for me, I find it nearly impossible to trust someone that I have never met in person. To look directly into someone’s eyes as I am having a conversation with a person is pretty much required for me to gain full faith that the individual means what he says.

So, if I have never, even for the briefest of moments, met any candidate running for Congress, how can I determine who I trust enough to not just use the office for personal gain once elected? Since each Congressman represents approximately 750,000 people, none of the candidates are going to make any real investment in meeting me, so that I can have that conversation where I look him in the eye to gain my trust. Instead, the candidates will completely abandon this attribute all together and simply try to appeal to me in some other way. At best this will result in getting a Congressman with goals in line with mine. However, if he is just going to use his new position to consolidate power around himself while merely pandering enough to the electorate to keep him in office, I will never know, because I never got to meet the guy.

I feel like this is a real problem that has slowly eroded our government’s ability to properly represent the population, because the voters never get a chance to assess whether or not the candidates for office come off as sleaze balls in person. TV is no substitute for face to face, and a rally where one person is addressing hundreds is no better.

So, having stated my problem with the system, how can we ever overcome this issue? I propose that Congressmen should represent far fewer people than they do today. The original US Constitution states that “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand.” While this does allow for a single Congressman to represent an infinite number of individuals, I’m not so sure the founders expected it to stretch all the way up to 750,000 from that initial number of 30,000.

There is a website, http://www.thirty-thousand.org/, which gives a little bit of background on how our government came to its current system that allows so few to represent so many. I am not proposing that we necessarily go back to one representative for every 30,000, but it just really needs to be a smaller number than it is today. And to make matters worse, the current system sets a fixed number of Representatives, so the proportion will simply continue to get further out of whack as the population grows.

As time drudges on, I expect the world’s problems to only get more complicated. Having more Congressmen available would go a long way to helping to solve some of these issues, and if it also means that it increases the percentage of voters that get to judge a candidate’s character by meeting him, first hand, then that will also help weed out more of the fakes, who are just interested in using elected office for personal gain.

My Take on the Iranian Nuclear Deal

I have not read the 159 page deal that the US State Department recently struck with Iran to lift sanctions on their nuclear program. I am leaving it up to my congressman to ultimately decide if it is good or not, though I do hope that it is a good agreement, as I want every nation to succeed, as long as they have good intentions, which brings me to the one provision that I am sure is not in this pact, though it would be the one item that I would hold out for above all others.

I propose that for the US to lift sanctions on Iran, no Iranian government official may publicly threaten America or any of its allies. If anyone is caught doing this, and it shows up in a single newspaper or broadcast, then that official must publicly recant the statement or immediately lose his position in the government. It is one thing to have hushed conversations behind closed doors, but those things should not be said to the public by people in power without being challenged.

The government leaders in Iran have made it a practice to demonize America for decades, purely for political gain. They have trained the Iranian public to hate the United States and many of our allies and threaten war at every turn. This is all well and good as far as political theater goes, but it has been going on for so long that I am afraid the Iranian people have actually bought into it. There are 30 year olds who have been participating in mass “Death to America” chants since birth.

I think that the politicians in Iran are smart enough to realize that no good can come from engaging America in a war, but as the older population ages out, and these new, radicalized youth take control of the country, there will be enough lunatics in power that they will actually try something deadly. We need to ensure that the next generation of Iranians has not been brought up in this culture of hate.

If a 5 year old in America heard Barrack Obama say that China is the devil and needed to be bombed to ash in front of a crowd of 1,000 people, it would have a pretty deep effect on what that child believes as he grows up. Our goal should not necessarily be to stop Iran from having the capability to launch a nuclear attack against the US; so much as it should be to ensure that the people of Iran would never stand for such an attack.

I Am Disappointed in South Carolina’s Government

To call the June 2015 mass murder that took place in a church in South Carolina a travesty does not do the situation justice.  This was an absolutely awful act, and if I were in the government of that state, you can bet I would be working to find a way to prevent such an act from happening again in the future.  I would investigate the mental health system to make sure that there could not have been a method in place to identify the murderer before he acted.  I would make sure to double check the procedures around gun sales to see if there is any possible way those laws could be tightened up to close a loop hole.  I would re-assess the education system to see if there is enough being done to demonstrate to the youth a good example of how people of all colors can work together. With all of these options for tackling the issue at hand, what does the leadership of South Carolina’s government decide is the number one priority? Why, removing the Confederate flag from the State House, of course.

It infuriates me when politicians use misdirection like this to avoid tackling difficult decisions. They know that it would cost a lot of money to invest in the mental health system or education, but if they can convince the voters that moving a flag will have the most impact on preventing this type of occurrence in the future, then they do not have to spend a dime or exhaust one brain cell.

Perhaps, nothing could have been done at the government level to prevent this murder. Human nature compels some individuals to shift attitudes as quickly as the wind, rendering some human acts plain unavoidable, but I guarantee you of one thing.  Whether that flag goes or stays from the Capital grounds, it is not going to prevent one single murder.  Personally, I am not vested one way or the other in whether or not it stays, but this just feels like another instance of government officials avoiding the real problem, because it would actually cost resources to solve, and instead, are diverting the public’s attention elsewhere, because it is easier. Ultimately, I hope this decision is decided by the people of South Carolina, not a national opinion poll, and I hope that if these politicians are ignoring their constituents to play it up for the national crowd, then I hope the local voters remember that in November.

The Fair Flat Tax

I hate April 15th. I absolutely dread putting together a tax return every year. Forget about whether or not I am getting a rebate or not, I just find it completely onerous to have to provide so much information under threat of accidentally committing perjury. When I was a kid, I thought it was fun to fill out the 1040 EZ. Once you fill in your name, you are half way there. Now, that I am older and make a decent wage, I have to use the more complicated methods of filling in the forms to take advantage of deductions or else leave money on the table, and this requires me to pay for an accountant or at least a computer program, adding to my frustration.

What if the tax code were simplified to the point that everyone could just use the equivalent of the EZ form and still get the most out of his return? I would like to see how a flat income tax could make this possible. Now, I know a lot of folks find the idea of a true flat tax to be too regressive, making it even harder for low income families to get by, which is why what I really want is a flat tax with one deduction that levels the playing field. What deduction is that? Who qualifies for such a thing? You might wonder why I would throw any deductions in when my whole point was to simplify things. Well, this deduction is super simple, because everyone automatically qualifies. It is a deduction that you take simply because you are a human being.

Every man, woman, and child needs food, clothing, housing, and health care. I believe that it is in the government’s best interest to allow every person to earn the money required for these things without having to worry about paying taxes on them. That is why as part of my proposal, we would decide what the average cost is of the basic necessities are for a person to get by, and that amount would automatically be tax free.

So, for the sake of discussion, let us assume that we determine a person requires $20,000 a year to survive. If you are single, and you earn $50,000 in a year, then you automatically deduct the first $20,000, leaving $30,000 of taxable income. This amount is then taxed at the flat rate of, let’s say, 25%. You would owe the government $7,500, leaving you the other $42,500. Let’s see how this stacks up at various income levels.

Income Taxable Income Take Home Taxes Paid Effective Tax Rate
$50,000 $30,000 $42,500 $7,500 15%
$150,000 $130,000 $117,500 $32,500 21%
$30,000 $10,000 $27,500 $2,500 8%

Now, I fully admit that I stole this idea of deducting basic living expenses from the National Retail Sales Tax, or Fair Tax, proposal, but why leave a good idea on the table, just because someone else is using it? As you can see, even though I call this a “flat tax”, it is actually completely progressive, allowing individuals at the lower income levels to pay a lower percentage of taxes than those at the top. Over time, the government can adjust these two factors (the deduction and the flat rate) to make sure that the system is fair and bringing in enough funds to provide services. If the government determines that no one can live on a mere $20,000 a year, then they can raise it to ease the financial burden of those at the bottom. They can also manipulate the flat rate up or down to ensure that the government is not losing money.

Now, you might have picked up on the idea that this is all well and good for an individual, but how might this affect families? I propose that the “human being” deduction counts for each person that the income goes to support. So, if we stick with the $20,000 deduction figure for discussion, and your family of 4 is pulling in $80,000 a year, then you deduct $20,000 times 4, which is $80,000, meaning you pay no taxes, because, really, if it has been determined that you need $80,000 a year to support all four of you without use of government aid, then why pay part of that in taxes, so that the government will just have to give you that money back as subsidies or welfare. I would rather allow you to fully support yourself with no government intervention, if at all possible.

Total Tax Due = (Total Income – (Number of People x Deduction)) x Tax Rate

Income Number of People Taxable Income Take Home Taxes Paid Effective Tax Rate
$80,000 4 $0 $80,000 $0 0%
$80,000 2 $40,000 $70,000 $10,000 12.5%
$200,000 4 $120,000 $170,000 $30,000 15%
$1,000,000 4 $920,000 $770,000 $230,000 23%

As part of this exemption, I propose that it applies to every person that your income supports. So, if you have elderly parents who do not work any longer, then you are considered their provider, and they become your dependents and add to the pool of people in your financial family. If a husband and wife with two kids find that their parents do not take in enough money a year to fully take advantage of the annual deduction, then they can add their minor income to yours, and they will provide you with additional deductions.

What if you find yourself in the position where you have more deductions than income? Does the government pay you? Well, yes, and no. I do not propose as part of this tax plan that you automatically get paid for making less money than is deductible, but I do acknowledge that there are government plans that help support individuals who earn less than the poverty line, so I would expect anyone who ends up with a negative number for “total tax due” after running the above calculation to receive government assistance of some kind through an existing program. It would be expected that if you can earn enough to end up with a positive number for “total tax due”, that you have enough to live without any government aid.

What about charitable deductions? Americans literally give away hundreds of billions of dollars a year to charities, as a way to offset their tax burden. I want to make sure that this trend continues, and this proposal allows for it to. You see, when you give money to a charity, it is only charity if it goes to help another individual, and therefore, any money you give to charity translates to taking on another dependent. Presumably, the person receiving the money would be forgoing a portion of their tax deduction for your gift, but they likely would not be looking for a handout if they made that much money to begin with.

Example time. You give $1,000 to a person as charity. You can increase your annual tax deduction by that much, taking it from $20,000 to $21,000, as long as the receiver of the charity reduces his deduction by the same amount, so he would only be able to take a $19,000 deduction from his income for the year. I know most folks are not likely to do this type of personal exchange. Charitable organizations will be in the middle to arrange it all, which gets a little too complicated to go into here, but it would not be too much to handle.

Keep in mind, you can always just give your money to anyone you want out of the goodness of your heart. You do not have to work out a tax deduction arrangement. After all, aren’t you giving the money way to be a good person, not lower your tax burden? But, the system is in place if you want it to be.

Now, I want you to bear in mind that I have not run the figures comparing this tax plan with the existing one actually used by the Federal government. I would expect that the 25% tax rate that I am using in these examples is probably too low to maintain the current income rate of the government. I am not trying to propose a plan that will lower taxes, merely illustrate that the tax code does not have to be so complicated to achieve a progressive taxation system.

The way the government works now, taxes come from all over the place. Only half of it comes from individual income taxes, which are difficult enough to figure out with all of the deductions and variable rates. Then there are corporate taxes, payroll taxes, and other little taxes, like the gas tax. Americans waste so much time and money simply complying with the tax code. I like the illustration at this website for demonstrating the mind boggling complexities. (http://taxfoundation.org/blog/stark-reminder-excessive-cost-complying-tax-code) To me it just seems that no matter what level of taxation you think is fair, there are better, more transparent ways to collect these taxes. We can never hope to control how much money is taken in by the government, if we cannot understand where it all comes from, which may be exactly why the government likes things to remain as complicated as they are.

Comments on “Food For Capitalist Thought”

I must say, I do believe it is in society’s best interest if everyone is guaranteed an education in whatever field they show an aptitude for. If my neighbor was born with a knack for chemistry, then he should be given the tools to go into that field, professionally, so that he can provide quality services to the public. The real problem I see is in determining what everyone’s aptitudes are in order to provide the right education to the right people. After all, if that same chemistry genius neighbor of mine is pushed into architecture, a field that he is not naturally gifted, then it really does no one any good.

This is where I think capitalism has been able to provide a solution through the student loan system. If you are personally confident that you are good at something, you can bet on yourself by taking out a student loan for college in that field. If you bet wisely, you will come out of school with a job that pays well enough for you to pay that loan back. If, however, you bet poorly, you end up saddled with an astronomical loan and no way to pay it back. Now, if we could just keep people from making the mistake of taking out a huge loan to get a degree in a field that they will end up not performing well in or will just not be happy with for long enough to stick it out and make the money back.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not think this is a perfect system, but I understand how it came into being. Maybe it would work better if there were an agency dedicated to finding gifted individuals and setting them up with grants to get the right education. We already have this going on to some degree, as there are tons of scholarships floating around, but we could probably use more of it.

I totally agree that we should be making more efforts to get the right education to the right people, as long as we do not end up with a system that blindly guarantees a tax payer funded education in any field to any person. I have heard horror stories about Brazil, where they offer unlimited higher education to everyone at free universities. There is apparently a sizable percent of the population that is just perpetually in school and never bothers to use that education in a career. When society pays for your school, if you cannot repay society by using it in a job, then you are taking advantage of your neighbors and friends who funded your education.

The Politics of Writing

Despite where your politics may lie, on the left or the right, the same goal is generally in both forms. Both sides want to provide the highest standards of living and the opportunity for the happiest life achievable within the system. The difference is how the different sides of the spectrum approach this task.

In modern society one of the many debated issues is the role of education in the political system and whether it is a fundamental right or a achievement to be worked towards. It’s a no brainer that in capitalist society a college education is used to as a competitive edge in the job market for the field they chose to study; even though education can provide a fulfilling and happy life, today it is primarily used to get a decent job. One struggle with this reality is the issue of the lower class students being unable…

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