Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Sound Bite for the Day

I don't want socialism, I just want businesses to be more concerned about people than dollars. I don't want anarchy, I just want a government that listens to its constituents instead of lobbyists. I don't want communism, I just want the poorest of the poor to have a fighting chance.

{Remember me on election day}

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Man Can't Keep Good Men Down

My town of Cedar Rapids Iowa has a small but committed Occupy movement. Unlike Oakland and New York, the Cedar Rapids occupiers have kept the area clean, and they have collectively decided on zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol and so forth at the occupy site. Furthermore, the site is in a location that in no way impedes the day-to-day operations of the city or its inhabitants. Yet, for some reason I can't quite figure, the City of Cedar Rapids has decided to evict the Occupiers, who are, in my opinion, exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I have stated previously that I generally support the fundamental ideas of the Occupy movement. Corporate greed and government corruption have undermined our collective ability to improve the average family's quality of life. What I envision is not a welfare state, but a country where industry puts the interest of people before profits, and where politicians listen to their constituents before kowtowing to corporate conglomerates.

I generally disagree with Oakland and New York in their disbanding of the local Occupy movements, but with the reported violence, assault, and other law violations, a small piece of me can understand their decision. However, based on what I have witnessed firsthand at the Occupy Cedar Rapids location, I see nothing other than a blatant power play on the part of local bureaucrats, and I believe that it an absolute infringement on the Constitutional rights of those who choose to Occupy Cedar Rapids. I support the Occupiers, and actively denounce the actions of my elected officials and the employees who carry out the order forcing Occupy Cedar Rapids to leave their site.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More About Dave

In my last post about my presidential candidacy, I invited people to ask questions, and Sunny seized that opportunity and asked me a couple of questions. Below are her questions, and my responses. Furthermore, her questions brought to mind a few other items that I will address.

Question 1: What is your stand on drug testing for welfare benefits?

I am personally opposed to drug testing for welfare benefits. In fact, I am personally opposed to a lot of our country's drug laws. I believe that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. This would be a major blow to organized crime, would free up our police force and prisons for bigger issues, and would be a financial boon to our economy through reduced law enforcement and increased tax revenue. Furthermore, there is the slippery slope argument. Should we prohibit welfare recipients from purchasing alcohol and tobacco? After all, they are addictive and mind-altering, despite the fact that they're legal. I understand that people don't want their tax dollars being wasted on drugs. Hell, I even AGREE with this prospect. But this is a question of liberty in my mind.

With all of this said though, I wouldn't consider this one of my bedrock issues. What that means, in plain English, is that I am willing to defer to the will of the people in this instance. If a large majority supports drug testing as a condition of receiving welfare, then I am willing to support it. I know that sounds a bit wishy-washy, but I hope this illustrates that I am open to discussion and compromise.

Question 2: What exactly is your tax reform plan? Is it based on a (percent) of income for everyone, or something else?

A percentage tax is also known as a flat tax. In plain terms, workers are taxed a flat percentage on every dollar they earn. In principle this is a great idea. Everyone pays their fair share, and everything is gravy. But in reality, this doesn't work. Let's take a strictly hypothetical 10% tax rate. Tax on $20,000 is $2000. Tax on $2 Million is $200,000. The problem with a flat tax is that the poor guy is going to suffer a lot more over the loss of $2000 than the rich guy will suffer over over the loss of his $200,000. With this illustration as my base point, I support a graduated tax, which is far more stimulative to the economy. After all, the poor guy is going to spend all of his extra money, which circulates through the economy. The rich dude is going to be as likely to save that money, as opposed to spending it, which doesn't circulate through the economy to the same extent.

My big difference is that I want to extend this philosophy to the business world as well. Business should be taxed in the same manner as the family. Close the loopholes and pay your fair share, based on the amount of money that you made. There would be a few benefits from this approach... Businesses would be encouraged to spin off in to smaller (and leaner) entities. This would effectively eliminate the "too big to fail" connundrum we currently experience, and it would make business more nimble. The closing of existing loopholes would also allow a given business, industry or technology the opportunity to succeed or fail in its own right. The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in technology. This would also undermine a lot of the special interest lobbying in Washington.

I do not yet have specific numbers in mind. I DO believe that EVERYONE should pay some sort of tax... even the poorest of the poor. But what are my percentages? I really can't answer that sufficiently because I have not yet done the research (What percentage of Americans and corporations make what amounts of money.) Furthermore, I realize that what I espouse is kind of a pie-in-the sky kind of vision. The fact is, those who have will fight viciously to hold what they have. For this kind of thing to happen, we need to really clean our Congressional house, and get rid of the politicians -- on BOTH sides of the aisle -- who are beholden to special interests.

Okay, I originally planned to write more, but I also expected my answers to be more succinct than they've ended up. With that said, I am going to stop for now.

By the way, this is a Saturday, my day off, so I haven't spent a lot of time proof-reading for grammatical errors. Please forgive me, but my family time is important to me. Besides, I'm more interested in being authentic than being polished.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vote Dave in 2012

Manifesto: : A written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am running for the office of President of the United States of America. I’m a little surprised by the small number of people who have asked me follow-up questions. Perhaps this is because people are afraid to vote for someone who is not a Democrat or Republican, because they don’t want to “waste their vote.” Maybe it’s because people are too jaded to consider an outsider as a real possibility. Maybe it’s because I smoked pot when I was younger. Who knows? What I do know, is that in order to have a real chance at becoming President, I need to keep my name in the press, or my candidacy will disappear. With this in mind, I’d like to rehash some of my policies, and re-invite you to ask questions about my candidacy… and, of course, to ask for your write-in vote come Election Day next November.

First and foremost, I am running on a write-in basis, because I don’t want money to corrupt my vision. This means that you’ll actually need to write my name on the ballot, instead of simply checking a box. I know this is asking a lot, but hey, nobody said that Democracy is simple. And if you believe that voting your conscience is "wasting your vote" when compared to buying in to the false choice of Democrat vs. Republican, then... well, then I guess I don't want your vote.

Though I’m not poor, the Presidential salary is significantly higher than what I currently make. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last I heard it was somewhere in the $300k per year range. In my household, that’s a lot of cash. I’m not doing this for the money. With this in mind, I plan to give somewhere between ½ and 2/3 of my salary away each year. This will be contingent on a few things though. For example, I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy, so if I have to go out and buy a bunch of spiffy suits to impress other heads of state, that will probably come out of my salary. But I won’t need a bunch of new suits every year. I’m perfectly content with my used vehicles, my wife wants to continue working (as opposed to being a full-time First Lady), and I’m happy with the public school my kids attend. In fact, I’d be perfectly content to work from my existing home, only traveling to Washington when it’s specifically required. But if I need --truly need-- this income to be a successful President, then I will reluctantly take it. However, I suspect that my needs will diminish as my Presidency progresses. (Like I said, I won't need new suits every year.)

I want to abolish our existing tax system and go with a simplified, slightly progressive tax rate that will apply to everyone… individuals and businesses alike. This means that the well-to-do will probably pay higher taxes than they do now. In conjunction with this, I plan to slightly reduce government assistance for the poor. Like I said earlier, everyone needs to suck it up in order to get our country back on track.

I do plan to continue saving for retirement. With this in mind, I will hire a money manager to make my retirement decisions. This way there will be no conflict of interest between my retirement and pending legislation.

I am ardently against spending more than we take in. It’s time that the government cut up its proverbial credit card and start working toward financial solvency. This is going to REALLY SUCK!! And for the people that are my age and younger, who have never benefited from the government’s coffers, I’m sorry! With that said though, I oppose a balanced budget amendment. Such an amendment would prevent deficit spending during times of bona fide National emergencies (such as if someone were to declare war on the U.S.).

For those of you who have crushing student debt, and are demanding relief: Sorry, but you’re on your own. I used the GI Bill AND took out Student Loans. I also worked part time. I’ve been paying back my debt for a decade, and will continue to do so for the next decade. Nobody ever promised you a job after college. Furthermore, it’s your responsibility to know what you’re getting yourself into when you apply for these loans. And finally, the government is more than flexible and fair when it comes to paying your debt. You have many repayment options, you can get deferments, and you can get part of your debt forgiven by doing grunt work for little money.

And while we’re talking about college, let’s look at tuition costs. It costs a LOT of money. In fact, it’s cost prohibitive. This is for many reasons… The state governments no longer have the money to subsidize post-secondary education as they once did… Society places an inordinate amount of value on post-secondary education (as opposed to trades like plumbing and so forth), so the demand is higher than it used to be, and professors are (theoretically) the cream of the intellectual crop. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard (or said) that professional athletes, actors and musicians – those who do little to advance our society – shouldn’t be making millions per year when our teachers make peanuts. Well, the fact is, that professors make good money and have killer benefits. But if we’re going to have qualified people teaching our kids, we should expect to pay for it.

I believe that officials in New York and Oakland were looking for an excuse to force the Occupiers out of their parks. Did drug use and violence occur in the parks? Most assuredly. Was there too much trash and uncleanliness in the parks? Absolutely. But I sympathize with the movement. This cracking down is just too close to Totalitarianism for my taste.

I guess that’s all for now. Once again, I invite you to ask questions, and ask that you vote Dave in 2012.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Proving" God's Existence

In addition to my blogging, I am known to occasionally haunt Facebook. Today, while cruising through the Facebook status updates of various friends of mine, I saw that RayRay had written this little gem. The text is unedited other than adding punctuation and spelling corrections...

If anyone can show me one example, in the history of the world, of a single spiritual or religious person who has been able to prove, either logically or empirically, the existence of a higher power that has any consciousness or interest in the human race, or ability to punish/reward humans for their moral choices, or that there is any reason (other than fear) to believe in any version of an afterlife, I will give you one of my legs.

That sounds like a challenge to me... a contest in which I will participate, but I want it to be said up front that if (when) I fulfill RayRay's challenge, I do NOT want his leg... nor any other part of his body. Let the games begin!

Dude... there is a major flaw in your phrasing. According to Wikipedia, empirical research is "a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience." Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed all EXPERIENCED God in a way that lends enough credence (and subsequent documentation) to the existence of a God who is personally involved in, and concerned with, the lives of His children. THAT should be enough for me to be able to lay claim to that leg. But with that said, let me continue...

It seems that the basis of your question revolved around a fundamental belief that life is unfair. Well, let me be the first to acknowledge that life IS unfair. The thing is, God gave us ALL free will at the outset. The consequence of free will is that people can choose to act in a selfish manner, screwing over their fellow man for their own personal gain. This has perpetuated itself -- and even magnified itself -- through the ages. So, the question I believe you're asking is NOT "how can God not care," but rather "how can God let this crappy stuff happen to me?" The answer is free will.

Now, with that said, I would like to submit that you are looking at things from the wrong perspective. Instead of expecting God (the supreme being) to prove himself to you, maybe you should be prepared to do some of the work yourself. After all, how often are you willing to justify your decisions to your kids? Don't you expect them to take your words at face value, at least occasionally?

Still another way to look at things... You are asking for proof. But what kind of "proof" do you expect? And are you willing to look in the right direction? Are you willing to look at all? Let me give you a crappy analogy. For whatever reason, you've spent your entire life underground. You've heard that there's a place called "outside" where there is fresh air, the ceiling is so far away that you can't touch it, that the light is so bright that you need to shield your eyes, and that even the nighttime is never completely quiet. You've never experienced it. But does that mean it doesn't exist? THAT is a crappy analogy of faith. There is no scientific proof for what you seek, based on your hypothetical experience, but that doesn't mean that "outside" doesn't exist. Just because something cannot be scientifically reproduced with our current technology, does not mean that the "something" does not exist.

So, long story short... The Bible IS the empirical proof you have requested. But that's not the answer to your fundamental question. THAT answer can ONLY be provided by YOUR willingness to look beyond your five senses. You have challenged me... now it's my turn to challenge you. Are you up to it??

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Running for President

Today I am declaring my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States of America, for the 2012 election cycle.

I am running on a strictly write-in basis, and this is for several reasons. First (in no particular order), I believe that it's foolish to ask supporters to donate money to my cause. We have more than effectively proven that campaign contributions are a corrupting influence in American politics. Second, the system rewards candidates who toe the party line, not people who think individually. Third, my political beliefs do not fall within the purview of a single political party, so I would not be a good fit within any party; therefore, my candidacy would not thrive if I were to affiliate with a single party. Fourth, I do not want to spend a lot of time polishing my image, my appearance, or my message, only to have a complex issue boiled down to a two-second sound bite, and then taken completely out of context. No, I'd rather campaign by my rules, remain true to myself, and risk losing.

Besides, I really don't want the job. The fact of the matter is, anyone who genuinely WANTS to be President (or hold any other elected office for that matter) is just a little off kilter. I am not a person who seeks power, fortune and fame. I am by nature a problem solver. I am willing to compromise. I want to keep my integrity. I am announcing my candidacy because I believe that none of the current candidates possess any of the traits genuinely necessary to get our country out of our current mess.

I understand that every candidate is required to take a stand on the issues of the day, so here are my positions on the various issues. If there's an issue that I've missed, please ask me about it, and I will tell you my position.

-The first thing you need to understand is that I don't plan to make any campaign promises. The word promise means a lot to me; I don't take promises lightly. I will tell you what I'd LIKE to do. I will tell you what NEEDS to be done, but I realize that I cannot make a promise that I cannot keep, so I will keep my promises to a minimum.

-I will likely change my mind on issues from time to time. This is not flip-flopping. This is absorbing new information and re-evaluating a position as I grow and learn. Contrary to what some people think, I believe that it's a good thing to be open to new facts, and to understand the necessity of compromise.

-I will vote with my conscience. Sometimes I will listen to what you have to say, sometimes I will not. This is NOT arrogance on my part. It goes back to previous statements that I try to be a man of integrity. Therefore, I cannot promise to do what's popular if it directly goes against what I believe is right.

-I WILL disagree with each of my constituents on at least one issue. If I agree with everything that every single constituent says, then I am pandering.

-I will try to get compensation reduced for politicians. They have voted raises for themselves for long enough. I also realize that there's a small chance that this will actually happen. After all, many of these politicians have grown accustomed to an elaborate lifestyle, and are unwilling to reduce their own standard of living. I understand that such a cut is overwhelmingly meaningless in the grand scheme of our federal budget, but the symbolism is huge.

-I will try to reduce or eliminate foreign aid to all of our allies. If they're truly our friends, they will understand that we need to take care of our own back yard for a bit. If they're not truly our friends, then they don't deserve our aid in the first place.

-I do not believe in too big to fail. The mere idea flies directly in the face of capitalism.

-Given the reality that Washington DID bail out big banks, and that these banks in turn did not live up to their end of the bargain by helping out Main Street, I believe that a bailout of Main Street is reasonable. However, I am also a firm believer in personal responsibility. So people who over-leveraged themselves in the first place through continually refinancing their homes and spending that money, through liars loans, and so forth, do not deserve a bailout. I think that a bailout should require people to prove that they deserve it.

-I believe in Keynesian Economics. The problem is that government is too quick to say "times are hard, let's borrow," and never get around to saving for that rainy day.

-I believe that EVERYONE needs to share in the pain necessary to get America back to where we should be. This means that benefits will be cut AND that taxes will increase. In conjunction with this, I believe in a progressive tax rate, because we are all Americans, and we should all feel an equal amount of pain in meeting the needs of our country. This is NOT a statement designed to punish the wealthy, it's simply an acknowledgement of the reality that a single dollar means a lot less to people who have many of them.

-In conjunction with a progressive tax system, I believe that every entity in America should pay taxes... no loopholes, no exceptions. It is farcical that people and businesses cry about high taxes on the rich and then exploit loopholes to pay lower taxes than the rest of us. Again, this is not a cry against the rich; it is pointing out flaws in the system. I realize that a simple graduated tax without loopholes would cause many IRS agents and CPAs to lose thier jobs. Unfortunately, I don't have a simple answer to that complex problem.

-I believe that being pro-life, yet supporting the death penalty is an inconsistent moral position. I also realize that neither of these issues will be resolved during my tenure as President.

-I believe that personal liberty has suffered too much, for too long. I believe that individuals should be able to decide whether or not to wear a seat belt or smoke marijuana.

-I believe that we have worried about ourselves long enough, and that it's time to start thinking about our neighbors and our country again.

-You need to understand that, when I'm elected, I will say or do things that anger you. I may drink a beer, smoke a stogie, or drop an F-bomb. Despite what you may think, I am not above reproach, and I am NOT politically correct. On the flip side of the coin, I will remain honest, and I will not cheat on my wife.

-You need to understand that I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. You will RARELY see me in a suit, even in my State of the Union address.

-You need to understand that I will still carry an expectation of privacy... for me, and for my family.

-I believe that if you have a question regarding my position on any issue, you should leave a comment.