Patterico's Pontifications


A Response to Beldar

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:17 pm

What follows is a long response to Beldar regarding a debate we have had over the morality of SALT deductions. This was initially a comment, but for reasons explained at the end of the post, I have elevated it to a new post, with light edits for those unfamiliar with the previous discussion. (It will certainly help to read the previous post to which I added the comment, and the comments thereto, to fully understand the discussion.) Here is the comment:

I also don’t understand your distinction between the same dollars being taxed and the same dollars being “taken” by two sovereigns. The latter is grammatically impossible.

I believe what you are actually objecting to is having the federal definition of taxable income based on your pre-(state)-tax income rather than your post-(state) tax income. That’s the effect of the deduction.

Yes, of course the same dollar cannot literally be taken by two different sovereigns. But there is a conceptual way in which something like that is happening.

Return to my example of two extortionists on a highway. Imagine that instead of reaching into your pocket, the two extortionists have you line up stacks of dimes. You have one hundred Inflatable football helmet tunnel dimes, and extortionist A goes first. He tells you to set them up in stacks of 10. You do, and he takes one of the stacks.

Extortionist B tells you to line them up in stacks of 10 as well. “Rather than taking stacks, I like to take one dime from each stack of 10.” You line up your nine remaining stacks, and he takes one from each stack. Then he says: “Where is the last dime.” You say: “What do you mean? I have only nine stacks.” He says: “You started out with ten. I want a dime from the stack you started out with.”

You say someone else has it. So he takes another dime from one of your stacks of nine.

Yes: literally he did not take one of the dimes the first extortionist took. The actual dime he takes will be a different dime, possibly with a different date and mint mark, a different state of cleanliness, and a different amount of wear and dirt.

But in a conceptual sense, he took one of the same dimes you gave the first extortionist. And in this world, where money is most often measured by numerical symbols on a computer screen, and the reality behind those symbols is a binary code reducing to a universe of ones and zeros, the conceptual is supreme.

So yes, I believe there is a sense in which it is indeed the same money.

But if that explanation somehow seems like mental trickery, let’s put it a different way. There is a tax base (defined as the universe of income you receive that is subject to taxation) and then the taxes (defined as the money actually paid out of that tax base). And my issue is not that the same dollars serve as the tax base for two different sovereigns. My issue is that the sovereigns each include in their tax base, money that is already gone, as taxes pledged (whether it has already been paid, or will later be owed) to a different sovereign.

Now, granted: some commenters have (in their mind cleverly) tried to analogize this to money paid to private businesses. For example, commenter “furious” says above: “You can no more declare your earnings ‘pledged to another’ than you can deduct from the electric bill what you paid to the gas company, or from Union 76 what you spent at Ralph’s.”

To fully explain why I think this analogy doesn’t work would probably require an entirely separate comment or post for me to explain it correctly. The short answer is that government is not just another “business” and the things it does are not just another “suite of services” that are on offer, the way any business might offer you a suite of services. The key difference is this: you choose to give money to a private business like the supermarket. By contrast, the government indeed resembles a highway extortionist much more than it resembles a private business. There is nothing whatever that is voluntary about the payment of taxes. Ultimately, if you fail to pay them and get caught, men with guns will appear at your door to forcibly throw you into a cage. There is nothing voluntary about that.

I don’t much care if you agree with some or all of what government does. If you are taking Bus A downtown to switch to Bus B which will run you to the City Park, and some guy with a gun hijacks Bus A and demands to be driven to the City Park, you might like where you are going — but that doesn’t really make it “voluntary,” now does it?

And I thought that aphrael’s rather amazing insight was that disallowing SALT deductions really creates a rather unique situation: in which two different government sovereigns, each with the ability to initiate force against me, are each extorting payments from me that are based on a tax base of money that is, in part, only theoretical — not because I used part of it voluntarily to obtain services, but because part of the tax base has already been extorted from me in the form of taxes, or extortion, by the other entity.

And that strikes me as wrong.

Different taxing authorities each set their own definitions. That was what I meant by my comment about highwaymen not respecting each others’ criteria. You’ve instead twisted that into my defending highwaymen.

I promise you, most sincerely, that I never intended to twist your words. I took care to state that I thought I was being fair. I am disappointed that you think I wasn’t. So let me try to see where I misinterpreted you. You said:

Your successive highway robber analogy presumes that highwaymen are supposed to be bound by consistency to respect one another’s tolls. But since when have highwaymen or taxing authorities ever been honorable or consistent or respectful of anyone?

To me, that sounded like a defense — or at least a description of the taxing authority that acknowledges that it really doesn’t need to be honorable or consistent, that it never has been, and that I shouldn’t expect it to be. You seem to say you didn’t mean it as a defense, and I’ll accept that. I suppose, then, that you mean it instead as descriptive: this is how it is.

But I have been arguing about the way it should be. I was attempting to force everyone — at least anyone who defends the concept of taxing the same dollar that another sovereign also demands — to morally justify the state of affairs in which we find ourselves. And I haven’t seen that from you, Beldar. Instead, I find a description of the taxing authority as not caring about honor or consistency or respect.

If that is your only response to my request for a justification, then I really don’t think I was being unfair to say that, in essence, you are making a sort of “might makes right” argument.

I disagree that it’s only “moral” for the federal government to consider your post-(state) tax income whether that’s post-state income tax, post-state property tax, or post-state sales tax. I don’t think you have any right, moral or otherwise, to insist that only your post-state tax income be considered as part of your taxable income for federal income tax purposes.

That is, with all due respect, an assertion but not really an argument. You are simply couching the issue in rather traditional terms and declaring that you don’t think it’s immoral. But why? Why should a sovereign be able to pretend that you have a tax base of x from which to draw tax dollars, when in reality you have a tax base of x-y, where x is what you started out with, and y is what another sovereign extorted from you.

This is what I am looking for. And it’s why I spent a long time writing this comment.

And why, rather than leaving it as a comment, I am turning it into a new post — to make it more prominent, to open up discussion from more people, and to make sure Beldar does not miss it.

[UPDATE: edited to remove a misuse of the word “normative.”]

Pathetic Defenses Of Roy Moore Made In The Face Of Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:27 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Instead of just issuing an even-handed, nuts and bolts statement of, “If the allegations prove to be true, Roy Moore must step down,” some members of the GOP are eagerly defending the Republican candidate against reported allegations of sexual misconduct, and frankly, it’s not bringing out the best in them:

Alabama state auditor, Republican Jim Zeigler, bluntly told reporters he doesn’t see anything wrong with Moore’s accused behavior.

“There is nothing to see here,” Zeigler told The Washington Examiner. “The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse.

While Ziegler may try to convince others that there was nothing “immoral or illegal” about a 30 year old man dating teenage girls, it should be noted that Leigh Corfman claims that she was just 14 years old when Moore allegedly took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched Inflatable football helmet tunnel her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. That is a far different animal than dating teenage girls.

Ziegler also inferred that because Moore didn’t have sexual intercourse with the girl and that it took place more than 40 years ago, the political fallout would be minimized. Further, he believes that the voters in Alabama will be angrier with the Washington Post for “desperately trying to get something negative” on Moore than they would be for “his dalliances with teenage girls decades ago”.

Ziegler then cited the Bible in an attempt to justify Moore’s alleged actions:

“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist.” Ziegler added, “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

Oh FFS. Really??

Along with Ziegler’s ridiculous efforts to defend Moore, Alabama Marion County GOP chair David Hall threw in his two cents worth:

“It was 40 years ago,” Hall told Daniel Dale, a reporter for the Toronto Star. “I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.” He added, “The other women that they’re using to corroborate: number one, one was 19, one was 17, one was 16. There’s nothing wrong with a 30-year-old single male asking a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, or a 16-year-old out on a date.”

Again, according to Leigh Corfman’s accusation: She was 14 years old when Moore allegedly took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. When Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale pointed this out to Hall, the GOP official dismissed it:

“Well, she said he may have TRIED to. But we’re talking something that somebody SAID happened, 40 years ago. It wouldn’t affect whether or not I’d vote for him.”

There was also this from Alabama Bibb County Republican chairman Jerry Pow:

“I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn’t want to vote for Doug,” he says. “I’m not saying I support what he did.”

But a vote for Moore is exactly that: support for Moore.

And this:

“Yeah!” Covington County GOP Chairman William Blocker tells me he’d consider voting Moore even if hard proof of sexual abuse emerged.

“There is NO option to support to support Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee. When you do that, you are supporting the entire Democrat party.”

Finally this from Alabama Geneva County GOP chairman Riley Seibenhener, who said that “he doesn’t believe the allegations are true, but if they’re true he won’t support him – but, at the same time, it’s not “forcible rape.” Oh. Good to know. Unbelievably, he added: “I know that 14-year-olds don’t make good decisions.” If only that girl hadn’t made the bad decision to let Moore take off her top and pants, and let him touch her over her bra and underpants, and let him lead her hand to touch his genitals over his underwear, my preferred candidate wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in! And what’s that you say about the bad, very bad decisions the adult Roy Moore made? Irrelevant!

More defenses and dismissals at the link.

As it stands, the accusations are just that until proven otherwise. None of us know yet whether they’re true or not. And certainly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this was an optimally timed, down and dirty scheme by Democrats to win an election. But, despite that, it’s pretty awful for GOP officials and local leaders to simply dismiss said accusations as irrelevant, or blame a teenage girl, or determine that even if the accusations are true they would still vote for Moore. Practically indefensible, you might say.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Made Against Roy Moore

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:07 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Uh-oh. The Washington Post is reporting that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct:

Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.

Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.

Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.

Wendy Miller says she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the Gadsden Mall when Moore first approached her, and 16 when he asked her on dates, which her mother forbade. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when Moore spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on the first of several dates Inflatable football helmet tunnel that did not progress beyond kissing. Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18-year-old cheerleader when Moore began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus Rosé wine. The legal drinking age in Alabama was 19.

Of the four women, the youngest at the time was Corfman, who is the only one who says she had sexual contact with Moore that went beyond kissing. She says they did not have intercourse.

Moore has denied the allegations :

“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore said in a statement obtained by Breitbart News.

Separately, Moore’s campaign said in a statement, “This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”


“After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they surely would have been made public long before now,” the statement continued.

Across the board, GOP leadership is calling on Moore to step aside if the allegations are true. A sampling:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”

Sen. John McCain: “The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they are proud of.”

Sen. Jeff Flake: “If there is any shred of truth to the allegations against Roy Moore, he should step aside immediately.”

Sen. John Cornyn, who endorsed Moore and is listed on his website, said the allegations are “deeply disturbing.”

Sen. Pat Toomey: “If there’s a shred of truth to it, then he need to step aside.”

Sen. Mike Lee: “If these allegations are true, Roy Moore needs to step down.”

Sen. Tim Scott: “If they’re accurate, he should step aside.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of national republican senatorial committee: “If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”

According to an Alabama election spokesperson, it’s too close to next month’s special election to remove Moore from the ballot.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


Open Thread

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:44 am

Had to work late, tired now, have nothing. Make up your own topic.

All I have is this muse on the wisdom of the electorate.

Check out how ignorant this guy Inflatable football helmet tunnel is. He thinks Melania actually sleeps with Trump.

Happy Thursday.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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