For reasons that I really don’t want to get into here, I’ve been reading on the Web a lot over the past couple of days (more than usual, that is), and I’ve been running across stuff that just triggers reactions.
Here are some of those triggers and the associated reactions:
The Death Tax
While currently a whole series of taxes and regulations covering gifts, inheritance and so on, the Death Tax is, essentially, a tax on a deceased person’s estate. I guess the logic of this tax is that the government takes a cut of it as it sees the estate transfer to heirs as heir income. Since the heirs had nothing before, it’s win-win: Gov’t gets $, heirs get $/property etc.
Repealing this tax has been a Republican goal for some time; under the Bush administration, calls for an overhaul of these regulations have intensified.
Opponents of this overhaul – primarily Democrats – have argued that a repeal of these regulations will primarily benefit the rich – who actually have large holdings to pass on – and hurt the poor, who will suffer because of the decreased taxes garnered by these regulations.
So it’s a rich vs. poor, R vs. D issue, generally.
I’m not rich (nor are my relatives), and – were I a voter – I’d be seriously inclined to Democrats, for the most part.
But I think the Death Tax sucks.
Forget the amount of any given inheritance: An estate is made up of cash or holdings that – at the time of acquisition – were taxed.
Why tax them again? You are penalizing people for dying?
The Not Me Generation
I think it was the writer Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff, Bonfire of the Vanities) who dubbed the 1980s as the Me Decade (Me Generation?).
Today, it seems more like the NOT Me generation.
Lawsuits filed – and any news magazine’s interviews – seem to indicate that people just don’t think there are any accidents (thanks Sigmund!) and – especially – that whatever, it’s not their fault. I’m not even going to link to any of the following, but all are true:
- Sue McDonald’s because I’m fat.
- Sue McDonald’s because I spilled coffee (coffee – not iced coffee) in my lap
- Sue Ford Motor Co. because a tire blew, and when a stranger “helped” my daughter change the flat, this stranger killed her.
- Sue a resort because a big ocean wave knocked me over and I’m paralyzed. The warning signs were posted, but didn’t really spell out the dangers.
While some of these types of lawsuits seem valid, and – sometimes – even the frivolous ones force changes that, in retrospect, are good, many (most?) of these lawsuits are a crock.
The sad part is most of these lawsuits are filed after something horrible happened: death, disfigurement, irreversible damage. That’s never good.
But that doesn’t make it Company A/B/C’s fault. Or the government’s fault. And so on.
Gee, I got fired. It must be because I’m single/married/pregnant/gay/black/not black/whatever.
Maybe you were just incompetent. Hmm??
Yes, Iraq allegedly had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD); apparently, they don’t.
Oops, too late. We already invaded. Our bad.
North Korea says they have nukes; North Korea says they are deliberately renouncing their previous commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Bush has already put the country into his “axis of evil” (like Bush or not, that’s a great phrase), along with the likes of Iraq.
Last I heard, there were no U.S. troops storming into North Korea.
Ah, if only North Korea had extensive oil reserves…
OK, there has been so much flip-flopping on this issue that it seems like a political pancake breakfast. For example, Bush (during the 2000 election run) held that this is a state issue; now he wants to make it a federal case, literally. Like Bush or not, John Kerry – his likely 2004 opponent – has waffled even more. I’m still not sure what he opposes/supports. Bush, even with his head stuck in the Bible, seems a little more understandable on this issue (he’s flipped; now he has flopped to a specific stand, so you can at least agree/not with him intelligently).
Full Disclosure: I’m straight and – to the best of my knowledge – not married; if I did marry, odds are pretty damn good it’d be a woman. As such an individual, I have nothing to gain or lose by however this whole Gay Marriage debate shakes down.
My stance on this issue is pretty simple:
- I’m not for or against Gay marriage. I don’t care. It’s like asking if I’m against orange vs. yellow sunrises. Ditto for heterosexual marriage. Which means, to me, it (gay marriage) is fine, and what’s all the fuss? I don’t even know why this is an issue. (Uh, yes I do, but – for my sensibilities – it’s a non-issue).
- Marriage/civil union/whatever is a government-sanctioned contract. Like a Social Security number, it gives you certain rights from a contractual point of view. It means way more to most people (including me), but – in our current government structure – that’s all it is or should be.
But I have questions that the whole debate issue brings up:
- Define “marriage” – I was raised Roman Catholic (but I got over this), so that probably colors my perceptions, but the term marriage always had a religious overtone. Yet a marriage license – a government document – was always required. So I guess, from this, the legal term for a bound couple is “marriage,” correct? Then what about…
- Define “civil unions” – I think this is what Kerry supports instead of marriage (I think Bush opposes any union between same sexes). If the marriage license is what is issued by government, what is the difference between a marriage and a civil union? If the only difference is religious, what the [bleep] is the government doing in the religion biz?
- Define the legal ramifications – What are the legal differences – if any between a marriage and civil union. Health care, child visitation rights, Social Security benefits and so on. And which union – if any – is transferable between states? I.e., a man marries/civil unions another man where it’s legal; if they move to a state where such marriages/unions are not currently legal, which state’s/federal law wins?
- Wedded Bliss – Everyone can pull up the stats or their own examples, but – if marriage between two same-sex partners is bad and heterosexual marriage is “ideal” (Bush), that means the marriage of Lisa-Marie Presley and Michael Jackson was good (and so on..pick Britney Spear’s XX-hour marriage; Dennis Rodman’s I was too drunk to remember marriage [to Carmen Electra in Vegas] and so on). Comments?
- Religious Wedded Bliss – Explicit or implicit, the Bush push against Gay Marriage can be seen as a pro-Bible/religious push. Fine; I don’t agree, but I see his/his supporters’ point. So, let’s say I’m a gay child molester, guilty (by my own admission) and in jail. I get a minister’s license on the Internet or out of the Rolling Stones classifieds. I marry couples (the good, the bad, the ugly). Or I – the guilty, jail-bound, gay, child-molesting bastard – marries a woman (heterosexual marriage). Are these unions ideal?
- Blue Laws – This occurred to me as I was writing this entry. Let’s say some state allows man+man marriages but still has sodomy laws on the books – federal, state or local laws. What happens? Two men marrying (legally) can’t have sex (legally)? Doesn’t anyone else think this is an interesting question?
I had an exceptional Social Studies teacher in 7th & 8th grade (Social Studies is what we called history, U.S. History, geography when I was not yet in long-pants).
He said a number of memorable things – some that would make John Ashcroft cringe, and in a guilty way – but one of the things my teacher said was that the entire black/white history of America – from Plymouth Rock to current date – would be historically viewed as the worst blot on American History. And this was during/around the whole Vietnam War and Watergate debacles (though these then-current events didn’t have the historical weight, for better or for worse).
I believed him.
I still do.
I think we have to get past that, however.
There are still lawsuits peculating through the courts (see the Not Me Generation, above) that attempt to give the descendents of slaves monetary damages.
I think this is ridiculous, but – of course – I wasn’t there. Or, I was not a child of slaves. Or grandchild of slaves.
Either are the plaintiffs in these cases (from what I’ve read; I’m certain I can be corrected. But do the math, OK?).
Slavery was horrible – I can’t even imagine what it was like.
Neither can today’s distant descendants of slaves.
This does not make slavery any less worse, just more distant for anyone.
I (white or not) didn’t enslave you (non-white or not). Unless there is a direct connection between my relatives (doubtful, didn’t come to U.S. until after 1900) as masters and your relatives as slaves, we don’t have much of an issue beyond preseving history, which I’m all for.
Actually, the cases I’ve read about say the descendants of slaves are suing the U.S. Government. While I’m sure there is more to it than I can see – because it all seems silly to me – it’s still a long haul (again, to me). I guess I have the following politically-incorrect questions:
- The U.S. stopped slavery in the mid-1860s. We fought a civil war partially about this. Which government are you sueing: The pre-Civil War U.S; current U.S.; government that did not recoginize the split of the Confederate States (and where therefor at least in part responsible for the slavery during that period)?
- What are your plans – past, current or future – to sue the governments/successor governments in Africa and the Caribbean for these governments’ involvement with the slave trade?
- What are your plans – past, current or future – to sue the shipping companys who transported the slaves, the companies that traded same, the persons/companies that purchased slaves?
- Define “descendants of slaves” – 1) What proof is one required to supply to say one is a descendant of a slave; 2) What qualified percentage of slave blood qualifies one – in this debate – as a legal descendant of slaves (1/2, 1/8 etc bloodline)? For example, I think (*not certain*) one has to be a qualified half-blood Indian [of one tribe] to claim this and live on a reservation as “Indian” for tribe and U.S. tax purposes.
If there is some connection, tenuous or solid, between government/me and former slave descendant, what does this mean roughly 140 years after the event happened? I’m serious, dammit! I don’t know.
If this is the case, at what point – distance or circumstance – do the sins of one generation not reflect on a future generation? That’s a toughie.