Thursday, September 27, 2012

Comments Elsewhere: Voting and Morality

They're having a bit of a pile-on over at LGM about the question of voting and moral responsibility. I'm trying to stay out of it, mostly, but I did throw in a few comments (about 1% of the total offered so far) here:
This is a point I made in the last post as well, but voting does matter. It may not matter a lot, but aggregate vote totals affect ongoing political strategy (i.e. selection of battleground states; willingness of national parties and PACs to invest in local candidates) and may play a role in setting national policy (i.e. the current majority vote electoral college reform effort). It is an historic record of an opinion, and affects the way in which we understand ourselves as a society. I don't think these are merely 'psychic' benefits, but we seem to have otherwise divorced the concept of citizenship from any sense of obligation. I think we need to bring it back: membership has its privileges, and it should also have responsibilities beyond merely obeying the law.

And here:

There is no such thing as a non-battleground state. Not voting for Obama in Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, etc., means that these areas will continue to be viewed as non-battleground states where the minority of voters can be safely ignored, where the Democratic party will not “waste” money or other resources to aid local candidates or shift discussions, where Republicans will feel empowered to continue building their New Confederacy. There is a political battle going on EVERYWHERE, and while voting in the minority isn’t necessarily fun, it still should count for something. And people in “safe” states who would throw away votes need to remember that polling is a social science.

Arguments against voting make me very cranky. Though there are really interesting moral issues at work here. Also here:

my vote is an endorsement of the policies of the person who gets my vote better than the alternatives overall. I reserve the right to disagree with candidates I vote for, and to criticize their policies after they win. And while I may bear some responsibility for policies that were discussed in the campaign, policies which were not significantly in play — or easily foreseeable — during the election are not my responsibility. How, in a two-party system — or even in a 10-party system — can anything else be true?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Comment Elsewhere: Romney's Taxes

In a discussion of Mitt Romney's Friday Afternoon Tax Info Dump, I added:
The letter from PWC is a brilliant piece of work, designed to create headlines that lull low-information voters but not actually inform. I particularly like the part where the "effective federal personal income tax rate" and "effective state personal income tax rate" and "effective charitable contribution rates" don't add up: 20.20%, 8.36%, and 13.45% (3/4ths of which is, presumably, tithing), but the "Total" line is "38.49% of your adjusted gross income for the period."
As others point out, the fact that we're getting 20 year averages rather than year-by-year breakdowns, and that IRS rules about amending and correcting tax returns are so generous (which is, arguably, why Romney was willing to forgo some deductions in his most recently filed return: in a year or two, he can amend and reclaim the money), means that a lot of questions aren't answered. Did Romney pay taxes? Apparently. Did he pay a "fair share"? Not by a long shot. Investment losses are deductible, so investment gains should be taxed at least as much as other forms of income. And there's good economic analysis suggesting that higher capital gains taxes are very, very good for economic growth because they discourage short-term thinking and profit-taking, aka gambling.