Racism, leadership and commonsense, meet taxes

By Reade Brower | Oct 06, 2016

“Racism tends to attract attention when it’s flagrant and filled with invective. But like all bigotry, the most potent component of racism is frame-flipping – positioning the bigot as the actual victim. So the gay do not simply want to marry; they want to convert our children to sin. The Jews do not merely want to be left in peace; they actually are plotting world take-over. And the blacks are not actually victims of American power, but beneficiaries of the war against hard-working whites. This is respectable, more sensible bigotry, one that does not seek to name-call, preferring instead to change the subject and create a straw man.”

--- Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer and journalist (b. 1975)

The current political climate is creating discourse when it comes to racism in America. The discussion about immigration and much of Gov. Paul LePage’s and Donald Trump’s platforms have brought this front and center.

LePage had the infamous “incident” recently when he “thought” he was called a racist by a Maine politician and proceeded to leave a rage-inspired rant and vitriolic phone message for the legislator, telling him to feel free to share it with the American public.

Presidential candidate Trump has also been accused by many of being a racist.

Both LePage and Trump vehemently deny it, and racism is slippery and hard to prove. You don’t know what is in a man or woman’s heart, you just don’t know.

My quote this week speaks to the subject; some people hide their racism by “frame-flopping” and blaming the victims of racism. I imagine some people go as far as fooling themselves, so the quote above carefully lays out a way to look at what is happening in our country and explains it in a commonsense way.

In the end, we need to challenge ourselves to think about our actions and decide if the action itself is racist; perhaps then we will make further progress in our fight against it. If we can let go of the “righteousness” part of the equation and instead determine whether it is full-force bigotry or “frame-flopping” bigotry, perhaps then we can step up and refute it, regardless of what it is, when we see it. Can we trust ourselves and others to see it for what it is?

Common sense tells me that “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

Leadership is another judgment call and politicians often accuse their opponents of not being leadership material.

First, what is a leader?

Sometimes you can’t define it; you just know it when you see it.

For this election, that is important. It will come down to who you think will be the best person to lead us, both on the national scene, as well as on the international level.

They speak about temperament, experience and honesty/integrity, but it all boils down to who can lead and inspire our nation of individuals to be a team. If we become a team we will “win,” if we do not, we will continue to sputter and be divided in the Senate and in Congress and, if that happens, we will not prosper.

Common sense and taxes collided when I saw my 2015 tax return.

Having a complicated tax return was stating the obvious, as I plowed through it trying to explain it to my wife. Three out of four pages were explained the same; “I have no idea what this means.”

I am a numbers guy and yet my return makes very little sense to me. It is confusing, has page after page of schedules and calculations with things called deductions, minimum alternative taxes, and various expenses mixed in to further confuse me.

The bottom line is that, like much of what our government does, tax regulations don’t fit the common sense model. Loopholes and depreciation allow many to duck taxes legally and, as Donald Trump crowed to Hillary, “it’s business” and “I don’t trust the government with my money, anyway,” implying that even if he did pay taxes, his hard-earned money would be squandered.

My point is simple: we need a tax code that is not only fair and balanced to better support the lower and middle classes, but a tax code that is easy and doesn’t weigh 5 pounds, like my return.

Sales taxes have been long criticized as being regressive, but I think a commonsense approach might be to not tax the lower incomes and instead put a federal sales tax on the books, with federal taxes added in an increasing ratio in proportion to your income. If we had a flat tax, after certain deductions, of half a percent on each $10,000 earned after $30,000, and up to $200,000, and perhaps 2 percent up to $500,000, with a maximum of 25 percent to 30 percent, that would simplify things and be fair.

I don’t know if my figures work, but the idea is to create a simple tax structure that helps us build a stronger economy by fueling it with a “trickle-up” philosophy that if the lower and middle classes have more to spend, the economy will blossom. The rich are already buying what they need. How many mansions can a billionaire buy? As many as they want.

My approach follows the notion that if it is broke, fix it. I think the tax codes are broken.

Speaking of “if it is broke, fix it”, what do you think about ranked-choice voting?

I think this election points out that we need to find a better system to elect our presidents, senators, and congresspeople; holding our nose and voting for one person so another isn’t elected is just bad.

If ranked-choice voting isn’t the best alternative, then someone should have come up with a better one and put it out there for referendum. I have heard the arguments against its passage and there are several good ones. The expense, the flaws, that it isn’t democracy, et cetera.

The opponents even had alternatives, but they failed to put something out there and this feels like ObamaCare all over again. The health-care system was broken and needed to be fixed. Inertia isn’t the answer. ObamaCare was the start and we need to work with it and improve it, not put it out to pasture and go backward. Let’s do the same with our election process

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