Thursday, February 26, 2009

Raise Income Tax on the Rich

Obama said that he will limit CEO salaries. It's going to be hard to do. They get money so many different ways -- straight salary, stock options, bonuses, retirement largess, golden parachutes, etc. It's not only the bank CEOs that we are worried about anyway. It's all those obscenely compensated CEOs.

Plus, America has not in the past liked hereditary, moneyed royalty like the Rockefellers, Kennedys, Hiltons, etc. So, tax them when they make obscene amounts of money. A year ago some hedge fund guy named Paulson (not the Treasury Secretary) made over a billion dollars. Nobody needs to make more than say $50 million per year. After $50 million, increase the tax rate to 75% or more. From $10 million annual income the tax rate could be 50%, which is still less than it would have been 50 years ago. If most of the income goes to Uncle Sam, maybe CEO's won't work quite as hard to soak their shareholders, customers and employees. Another test would be the difference between CEO salaries and employee salaries. If a CEO makes more than 100 times what an average worker in his company makes, tax the overage at 100%.

Richard Perle's Ineffectiveness

While the WSJ on Wednesday was publishing the op-ed bashing Amb. Chas Freeman for not being Jewish, another columnist was ridiculing Richard Perle in the WSJ for an article in The National Interest claiming that the neo-cons had no influence on George Bush. Thomas Frank says Perle claims he cannot be "held responsible for the Bush administration's failures." Perle has had few rivals within the US government as a Jew who was one of the most hawkish defenders of Israel. Perle's article and his defense of it prompted the Washington Post headline, "Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence." It's remarkable that men who were so powerful in George Bush's and previous administrations are now so thoroughly discredited. William Kristol, who was VP Dan Quayle's chief of staff, but who has now lost his column at the NYT, shares this distinction with Perle.

Richard Perle was at the pinnacle of power when he was Assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan, where he and his minions were my nemeses, pursuing some kind of America-only foreign policy that abhorred any kind of treaty. There is a lot of schadenfreude felt here. Poor Richard! May you endure many more days of ridicule!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Amb. Chas Freeman Attacked for Not Being Jewish

An op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal criticizes Obama's choice of Amb. Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council because Freeman has "distincitive political views and affiliations, some of which are more than eyebrow-raising." One of these is his presidency of the Middle East Policy Council, which the op-ed calls "an influential Washington mouthpiece for Saudi Arabia," were Freeman was ambassador. One of MPEC's most egregious faults was to publish "an 'unabridged' version of 'The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy' by professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt." Of course the article by these well-respected professors has been published by others, such as the New York Review of Books, and expanded into a critically acclaimed book. The op-ed continues, emphasizing its core point, "Mr. Freeman has views about Middle East policy that differ rather sharply from those held by supporters of the state of Israel."

Amb. Freeman was DCM (#2) at the Embassy in Bangkok while I was there. He had zero interest in my job as embassy systems manager (head of IT), but he was completely professional and certainly not a bigot. His main qualification for the NIC job is no doubt his service as Ambassador to China, which is developing into our most important bilateral relationship. His service as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, one of our most important oil suppliers, is also a good reason to name him. I have no doubt that he will be even handed and fair in all of his dealings with Israel, which may be the reason for the WSJ attack on him. The article by Mearsheimer and Walt points out how Israel is accustomed to preferential, not even-handed, treatment.

Hooray for Obama for pursuing honesty and integrity in intelligence analysis. Maybe if we had had more of that under Bush, we wouldn't have gotten all the hyped-up intelligence claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It was certainly in Israel's interest to have us invade Iraq, at least that's what Israel thought then. In fact, the US invasion of Iraq has probably unexpectedly strengthened Iran to Israel's detriment.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gregg Withdrawal, Patriotism and the Census

Obama has tried to form a team of rivals to deal with the national economic emergency, but the Republican rivals don't want any part of it. Until recently my main complaint has been about John McCain, who has been a particularly ungracious loser, fighting Obama tooth and nail. I have written this off to McCain's stupidity. He obviously doesn't understand economics, something he demonstrated when he left his campaign to devote all of his efforts to working on the first bailout bill. He was a disaster. He clearly doesn't understand the enormity of the problem, despite the fact that the most recent intelligence briefing listed the world economy as the greatest threat to the U.S., greater even than terrorism. You would think that McCain as an old military man would pay attention to intelligence warnings, but apparently if they contain numbers, he can't handle it.

Now Judd Gregg has come along to supplant McCain as the leading anti-American Republican. He decided that he can't work with Obama, despite the fact that America faces its worst economic plight in three or four generations. It looks like a patriotic American would want to do what he can to rescue America from its trials and tribulations, but not Gregg. He just wants to stick his finger in Obama's eye and make it more difficult for Obama to try to save America.

Interestingly, one of Gregg's main complaints was about the census. Apparently Republicans hate the census and see it as politically motivated. Joe Scarborough pointed out this morning that the 2000 census changed Georgia's congressional delegation from being predominately white Republican to predominately black Democratic.

So, apparently the census is just a political sham unrelated to the truth about the American population. Gregg and Scarborough would argue that when the census taker or the census form arrives at your house, lie! They argue that the census is a totally dishonest, politically motivated sham. It's another example of how Republicans hate America and discredit its institutions. Republicans don't want no stinking census, just like they didn't want no stinking regulation of the financial industry. As Ronald Reagan, their saint, said, government is the problem, not the solution. If American shot itself in the head, the Republicans think it would be much better off. Gregg didn't shoot America in the head, but he did stick his finger in her eye, and John McCain loves him for it.

More seriously, Gregg probably dropped out at least partly because of pressure from his Republican colleagues, like McCain, McConnell, Graham, Shelby and various other mentally challenged Senators, who are more concerned about partisan politics than about saving America. They are counting on the fact that their fat-cat supporters have enough gold stashed away in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Luxembourg, or some other foreign haven to take care of them when the U.S. craters as a result of their obstructionism.